Is There Beauty in Vulnerability?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. Is there beauty in vulnerability?
    Fred G.'s frequent allusions to "intimacy" raised this question in my mind.
    This photo by Donna Pallotta triggered the impulse to post the question:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/12482852
    I thought that I would just toss it out and see how persons interpret and respond to it. I have no agenda and no script as to how I expect the discussion to go.
    --Lannie
    A note from the management. This is not a "No Words" forum. If you have a series of photos that you think is pertinent, create a presentation, not an inline gallery in the middle of a thread, and provide a lionk. The thread has been pruned to exactly one picture post per person.
     
  2. There is beauty in everything. It's subjective.
     
  3. Lannie,
    That is a question worth pondering. The picture has a nice mood and narrative. I see how it inspired the question. Photographers must all at some time peek over the shoulder of someone in concentration or reverie and steal their moment. The subject's vulnerability may excite prurient impulses. Is that an aesthetic or a compulsion? There is a photo book called "Voyeur"
    00ZCUJ-390463584.jpg
     
  4. Lannie,
    Intriguing question; at first gut reaction I'd reply as William and Frank did; there is beauty in anything if you choose to see it.
    But you add a link to a photo and refer to intimacy. That calls for a more eloborate response than just that. I agree on your linking between this intimacy and vulnerability. Thank you for expressing this.
    Fred, in a 99% certainty you'll read this, I hope you don't mind the below, and sure let me know if you do.
    _____________________
    In my view, this intimacy stretches further than the photos. It's not only a clue to Fred's photos, it's a clue to Fred's postings here. It's willingly and openly sharing inner thoughts, processes, ideas and be ready to be found wrong in them. It's a way of communicating: open minded and ready to discuss.
    There seems to be vulnerability in that, because you let people indoors, and they may try to wreck your furniture. People easily mistake it for being easy to influence, easy to sway opinions; weak. That, it isn't. If anything, it's a case of feeling strong enough to do so, and to not shy away from disagreement or worse. Vulnerable, but with a iron-concrete foundation. Open minded and ready to discuss, but with an opinion and a message. (*)
    This is what I get from the photos as well. The intimacy allows in, but once in you're given enough clues, signals and signs as to what's going on. As a viewer, you're quite well guided to experiencing what is inside that picture (**).
    And now, how does this relate to beauty?
    Obviously that's also a matter of personal taste; in this mix of intimacy, iron will and vulnerability, most of all I get the thought of a human being, communicating with me. It's personal, it is stretching out to other humans and trying to touch and move them. The intimacy is there between artist and viewer. So, when it touches (and Fred's photos frequently do that for me), it does so on a level that many photographers do not reach. One-on-one, human to human.
    ________________________
    The photo that triggered the post for you does not do that to me, though I can understand your reaction to it. The scene has the right intimacy, like being drawn in into her life. For me, however, the presentation (post processing) ruin the atmosphere. As said, taste plays a role.
    Here's an example of a photo that I feel fits the subject. My comments on that photo apply equally to this subject, I think.
    --------------------------------------
    (*) I'd say the same applies to Luca's honest approach is saying he doesn't know in his excellent thread ranks as a same type of vulnerability, and any question raised there is an view into his thought process. An intinmacy in how the thoughts develop and seek. Though I stopped contributing in that thread (because I have nothing useful to add), I follow it with interest and applaud the way this thread has evolved. Rather than stating opinions, it explores and seeks. I get much more out of that than a bunch of fact-oid statements.
    (**) It sounds like I am saying the viewer has less liberty in deciding what he or she sees; this is not exactly what I'd want to say here, though we could argue it's the case. I never yet thought of it like that, so my thoughts aren't sorted yet.
     
  5. I'm not very interested in the beauty part of this question, though I acknowledge it. What is engaging to me is the idea of vulnerability, both in the photographer and the subject, and maybe even in the thinking behind our themes, approaches, etc.
     
  6. I think in some instances there can be a 'beauty in vulnerability'. One 'experience' I captured in a photo might better describe my feelings on this, however being personal, the experience and therefore also the image, may or may not resonate for anyone else.
    I was travelling in Morocco in the mountains, and the few women I encountered were pretty much all veiled and showing only their eyes. But one afternoon in a mountain village where I'd stayed for several days and been befriended by a group of young children, a small boy took me by the hand and led me up a hill path behind the village where we had a splendid view out over the valley.
    As we rounded a corner we came to a small group of young unveiled women, washing their clothes in a little stream and drying them on the sunlit rocks. They were all surprised to see me, but they smiled and accepted my presence as my 8 year old guide and hand-holder was obviously well-known to them.
    We shared no common language but we managed to communicate with smiles and laughter. And after a while when I raised my camera to photograph the view, two of the young women gesticulated for me to photograph them. Which I did, quickly, taking only a couple of frames.
    This is one of the frames. Unveiled, self-conscious, but cooperative and aquiescing to the shared experience of photographer and subject in a way that rarely occurs, but when it does is an experience to savour. And given the circumstances and their normal use of the veil, I think portraying a vulnerability that does indeed bring with it a beauty, and dignity, that I find compelling.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. That's a beautiful story, John, and an even more beautiful photograph.
    I'm glad you got out and lived to tell the tale. One does not want to make oneself too vulnerable.
    I don't think that women were meant to be veiled, and apparently these two would agree.
    --Lannie
     
  8. Anders. I wasn't bothered by the post processing. Possible narratives arose from the details that kept me looking. The vulnerability content was implied by the subject's back being toward the viewer sneaking up unawares and observing intimately. In this case the grainy, gauzy , monochrome reinforces the subject's removal from the moment and the color tells us where her full concentration lies.
    Children are vulnerable no matter what they are doing or where they are. It is a matter of survival for all creatures to instinctively know this.
    John M. I see a child-like vulnerability and beauty in these "un-protected" women. Had I not known the back-story, it would be there still.
     
  9. Beauty and vulnerability? I'm afraid I don't see either in that shot.
    I think the question could just as easily be, is there vulnerability in beauty?:
    http://www.photosig.com/go/photos/view?id=2493354&forward=​
    William, if that is your conception of beauty, you are welcome to it. Beauty to me has something to do with authenticity. She looks plastic to me.
    --Lannie
     
  10. Not especially. It's just a shot that seems to contain both elements. Besides, she kind of reminds me of my high school sweetheart - not an ounce of plastic anywhere...
     
  11. You are "vulnerable" when you are "caught with your pants down", I think English people would say. We all have elements that render us vulnerable which throughtout history has been called our Achilles Heel with reference to Greek Mythology and told by Homer in the epic poem : Iliad.
    Such vulnerability can of course be shot in photography and the link given in the OP is maybe an example. Whether John's shot of two unveiled Moroccan girls (young girls are mostly not veiled) is very touching but whether it shows any vulnerability is a matter of opinion. The older girl might be considered vulnerable, standing unveiled as here in front of a stranger, according to certain islamists interpretations - not mine!
    When it comes to beauty, I have much more problems of linking the two concepts. Vulnerability, in my eyes does not produce any beauty per se, unless feeling of perceived power and strength of the viewer faced with vulnerability of others, can be interpreted as an element of beauty. I doubt it for most of us.
     
  12. Although the two young women may havve experienced hardships within their own lives, their faces still reveal their innocence. Perhaps that's a real sense in which the beauty a photograph expresses derives from the subjects' vulnerability. Then again, vulnerability may be context-dependent. A newborn infant is vulnerable in a different way than a teenage girl going out on her first date or an old person ravaged by alzheimer's disease.
    Another take on vulnerability is from the standpoint of the photographer. A photograph that appears to be off the proverbial track, unconventional, inconsistent with "the rules", etc., reflects the photographer's intent to take chances, which may increase his/her vulnerability. Risk-taking may be the ticket here.
     
  13. People are vulnerable when they are intimate (in a variety of social contexts). That can be beautiful, I think.
    Vulnerable people, especially persons who deliberately drop their social armor, are more appealing to me than those who look like they are psychologically armed for battle. They do not go about with grim looks. They invite communication. I like to be around such persons. I like to capture them once in a while in a photograph. Their faces bespeak a certain openness and tranquility. I find that beautiful.
    --Lannie
     
  14. Lannie - Clearly 'vulnerable' under the circumstances you describe means 'open.' If you consider beauty to encompass authenticity, then I would agree with your conclusion - "I find that beautiful." I'm sure you weren't referring just to physical beauty.
     
  15. Michael, Lannie, sounds to me like you're close to saying what I tried to say before (though maybe I was very explicitely using an example, though I'd uphold the example is a good example). And so, yes, I agree to what you're both saying.
    Openness, authentic, human, direct....as Lannie, to me, it much has to do with drawing in, engaging communication, inviting. That can be the subject, as well as the photographer (or both), indeed. It's not easy, in my view, and I find it little in photos.
    Sure the word 'beauty' (beautiful) is always going to be arguable, and perceptions and taste play a big role of course. Risk (for this thread) is that you're not going to escape this level. So, rather than "just" the appreciation, how does it fit into your process of making photos? Do you feel able as a photographer to create this openness and tranquility, and how?
     
  16. how does it fit into your process of making photos? Do you feel able as a photographer to create this openness and tranquility, and how?​
    BRAVO!
     
  17. Beauty is easy, but your folks gotta ask yourself a real question: "Why do I/You/We like to see vulnerability?" Here your go.
     
  18. I agree that if the subject of the OP is openness, authenticity or intimacy, you can "find that beautiful" but vulnerability would normally be describing a person in a situation where he/she is in danger of being physically or emotionally wounded - correct me if I'm wrong !.
    A person sitting on a small branch high up in a tree is vulnerable - he/she might fall down ! Or an unveiled young girl walking around in a neighborhood where all women are veiled, is vulnerable - she might be harassed by others. In such cases the beauty of the situation might be more questionable, especially if the situation is provoked by the photographer.
     
  19. Ilia, I guess tha you are saying this:
    you folks gotta ask yourself a real question: "Why do I/You/We like to see vulnerability?" Here you go.​
    I've already given my answer:
    Vulnerable people, especially persons who deliberately drop their social armor, are more appealing to me than those who look like they are psychologically armed for battle. They do not go about with grim looks. They invite communication. I like to be around such persons. I like to capture them once in a while in a photograph.​
    --Lannie
     
  20. Anders, you make an excellent point. At first, I was thinking about vulnerability in the positive sense in which I might, for example, allow myself to be vulnerable in the arms of a lover. That's taking a risk, because one can get hurt, but it can also be a source of growth and intimacy.
    The "Achilles heal" sense of vulnerability you bring up is substantial. It's challenged me to think about "vulnerable" in a way I hadn't been.
    Vulnerability can be exploited. Think of gawker shots of "the homeless." But, following what Michael brought up, if a photographer allows himself to be vulnerable, he may portray his subjects differently and perhaps more empathetically.
    Portraits are often seen to be about what the person looks or IS like. They can also be about what the subject is looking at. What the subject may be looking at is, at least in part, the photographer. The vulnerability of that photographer can be reflected in the subject, and it may very well be reflected as strength or some other emotion. I am profoundly aware of the gaze of my subjects, their eyes on me.
    Vulnerability can be created, or helped along, photographically. (We're talking about people, but we're also talking about people photographed!) It can be found in composition, perspective, lighting, depth of field, and texture. (Consider the difference between open and more closed compositions, shooting someone from above or below, having your subject sharp vs. a little soft.)
    Vulnerability can be ugly. Vulnerability can be a dialogue between weakness and strength, both desirable qualities in many situations. Vulnerability is often a challenge.
    A viewer can be made vulnerable. That can be uncomfortable, especially if the viewer is looking for something comfortable and acceptable.
     
  21. Remember V-war time Life mag shot: young girl running over the bridge, screaming, arms rised up, combat situation right behind her? Napalm? Smell of victory? Empty shells, plenty all over the ground? Sally Manns stuff? That's vulnerability. Somebody seating on thin branch or take "social armour" off is but a play for the better word.
     
  22. "To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability." --- Susan Sontag
    Putting Beauty aside, a few thoughts: Vulnerability lacks protection and invulnerability has it. The latter, being armored, shielded, etc. would also be insulated, fearful, removed from unforeseen possibilities and isolated from sensory input. This can be useful if one is on a "roll" or tracking. But all protection/armor has its price. Being vulnerable means increased sensitivity, mobility, courage, visibility, grace, transparency. It doesn't have to mean high literal drama of the imminent death/disfigurement/dismemberment kind. For a photographer, pushing, putting oneself beyond your own horizon or comfort level is to make oneself vulnerable. Vulnerable to discomfort and failure, but also to exploration, new ways of seeing things, and success. In the subject, invulnerability isn't always a negative. The exterior of the insulation/camo/armor conserves information about what's inside. Sometimes very interesting info.
    All of these things can be of great use and/or significance if one can synergize with them.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
     
  23. Yes, Luis. People put up armor all the time. It's a truth and one worth making a photograph about in many instances. So armor (or our personas?) are very much their own kind of truth and pop up in my photographs all the time.
    I'm not sure my own armor doesn't pop up as well, which can be honest and revealing also.
    Beauty, in some of its uses, provides the armor, the white wash.
     
  24. Yes, Luis. People put up armor all the time.​
    Your strength, Fred, is your willingness to drop your intellectual armor--since there is armor and then there is armor. Obviously you are "well-armed" by training and intellect to defend yourself in argumentation, but you much more often open yourself up, which keeps the conversation going. Thinkers who do not open up don't say much, after all.
    Along another line, sometimes armor qua clothes can be safely dropped, especially in a communal/familial/tribal context. Here is a truly classic self-portrait by Roger Keagle and friends from the 1960s:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/2039293
    I saw a glimpse of some of the counter-culture in Gainesville, Florida in the early 1970s, albeit as a bit of outsider.
    The book The Holy Goof just popped into my head at this moment. I am not quite sure why. I think that I read it in the eighties or early nineties, when it came out. Maybe the "beat generation" knew something about vulnerability.
    --Lannie
     
  25. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179381
    Is being willing to lose the freedom referred to near the end? There is, after all, social armor in winning. Or is it about truth, authenticity, above all?
    How would one capture such an idea in a photograph?
    I think that certain expressions caught in a photo give us a momentary, unguarded glimpse into the psyche. Is that why we value candids, when we do? The only photo I liked of George W. Bush was made when he was finding out about the attacks of September 11. Although I disagreed vehemently with his politics and his response to the attacks, I can relate to the feeling of being caught with the necessity to make a decision in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge--or with the feeling of being surprised in a very disagreeable way. We are vulnerable, it seems, in the face of our inadequacy to deal with a situation.
    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/schoolvideo.html
    --Lannie
     
  26. Not that any of the above had a thing to do with beauty. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  27. Oops! Wrong link. This one is closer, although it is not quite the one I was looking for:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2020215/President-Bush-explains-blank-face-told-9-11-attacks.html
    Please note the third picture down. Exactly when it was made is not the point. What I am trying to get at here is that even my political opponent, in a moment of surprise and vulnerability, can somehow--for at least one brief moment--reveal a glimpse of humanity that I can relate to. That person in that situation, although not beautiful, can reveal attributes of humanity that I can relate to. Perhaps in some sense that essential humanity is beautiful. The unguarded psyche, that is, is more interesting--and more approachable--than the political, public relations, or bureaucratic mask.
    As for what which is approachable, I confess that I do find the approachable woman to be more inviting and thereby more beautiful than a woman who, though physically beautiful, seems the more ugly by reason of being unapproachable. The smile invites. The haughty look repels.
    --Lannie
     
  28. I confess that I do find the approachable woman to be more inviting and thereby more beautiful than a woman who, though physically beautiful, seems the more ugly by reason of being unapproachable. The smile invites. The haughty look repels.​
    I try (try, don't always succeed) not to see women, or men, as being there for me to feel invited or repelled by or for my sense of beauty or ugliness to be fulfilled. Seeming unapproachability often is just that, seeming. The reality is often very different. There is great challenge and there are great rewards, and even beauty, when the unapproachable is approached.
    A vulnerable or a non-vulnerable person or subject of a photo, or any other subject, may demand or require empathy, not attraction or repulsion.
    The question has been asked, "How would one capture such an idea in a photograph?"
    I start by not judging my subjects (to the extent that's possible for me) and wanting to know something about them and show something about them. If I want vulnerability, or think I see glimpses of it that I want to explore, I try to meet my subjects on an equal playing field and offer something of myself to them. I also consider how I will photograph them . . . perspective, focus, background, lighting, mood, tone, texture. I'd have a hard time determining whether this photo shows a vulnerable man or not. For me, it shows vulnerability and armor. Both of us felt, though, that it captured some sort of truth. (It's also very much a considered and intentionally-made photo, not "a candid" but candid nonetheless.)
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6778475
    You mentioned the beat generation.
    "I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness." --Kerouac​
    Photos tell profound truths. They also lie. Or at least they alter reality significantly. I do well to remain always aware of all that. A stopped clock, when it's stopped on the current minute and hour, can fool you into thinking it's telling the time correctly. A photo of George Bush and anyone else, candid or not, can do the same.
     
  29. A vulnerable or a non-vulnerable person or subject of a photo, or any other subject, may demand or require empathy, not attraction or repulsion.​
    This is so true, Fred, but sometimes our first reaction is what it is, even though it may be something that we should overcome. I have had many a hostile student enter my classroom, and the trick is to disarm them, to make them want to be there, to make them feel welcome. This is all the more true at the African-American college where I decided to teach after I reached my sixties. Some students probably see me and first think "the man" or "my high school vice principal," etc. I try to get them to get beyond their first impressions and reactions, too. I love to see the hostile or fearful look melt away.
    A smile generally works pretty well. Sometimes a question that draws them out works, too.
    On the street, the camera can provoke a defensive reaction. Getting past that is no doubt an art unto itself.
    --Lannie
     
  30. A smile generally works pretty well. Sometimes a question that draws them out works, too.​
    Yes, but in the case of photographing or being in a situation where you're not the teacher, this may not be about what you can do for the woman you were talking about. This may well be about the woman herself, who seems to you more ugly because she looks unapproachable. It may be about why she looks that way or that she looks that way. And it may not be about changing that. It may be about accepting that as what it is. That might require you to be (no matter how you may look) more vulnerable, and willing to approach what you find ugly or unattractive.
    People often ask me how I get my subjects to relax for the camera. I often ask back, why would I necessarily want them to?
     
  31. Lannie, sometimes the haughty look is absolutely perfect.
     
  32. You're both right, of course. If I were seeking a vulnerable visage (not to say that I ever consciously have), then that would not be the one that I would try for.
    If I am just going for reality, on the other hand, then haughty is definitely a reality, and it can be a beautiful one, too--and sometimes one not so beautiful, but still worthy of being photographed.
    --Lannie
     
  33. It's also the difference between people and pictures of people.
    Apropos of this, I'm watching In A Lonely Place on TV right now, directed by Nicholas Ray, with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame (one of my favoite filmed women). He's a writer and she's his girlfriend, currently typing and reading his scripts.
    Her: I loved the love scene.
    Him: Well that's because they're not always telling each other how much in love they are. A good love scene should be about something else beside love.
    The same is likely true for beauty.
     
  34. Fred, it sounds like the analog of happiness: he who seeks it will not find it. Happiness has to be the by-product of some other undertaking.
    --Lannie
     
  35. Lannie, for me, it's not so much about seeking it (though your quote about happiness seems often true), it's about what love, happiness, or vulnerability looks like.
    The shot of Grahame is from the movie. She looks vulnerable (to me), and often plays this type. A part of the vulnerability is the shot itself, including the woman in the background. That's a directorial decision, not necessarily about Grahame the woman or actress or subject.
     
  36. I missed the link before, Fred. Yes, I think that you are right. In any case, if we are talking photography, we have to get back to how it looks. In the case of the shot of Grahame, the presence of the figure in the background does seem to increase the sense of vulnerability of the woman in the foreground--all the more because she has her back to the other.
    --Lannie
     
  37. Here is a video of a woman in a variety of vulnerable situations who shows no sense of vulnerability on her face:
    http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=49981
    --Lannie
     
  38. If I set my camera down in the middle of a busy street, is it beautiful because it's vulnerable to being crushed by a bus?
     
  39. Dan, I was thinking only of persons, and so I shall have to think about your question. I am not sure that danger increases a sense of beauty--but a psychological sense of vulnerability qua openness in the face of a person might conceivably enhance the beauty of the person.
    --Lannie
     
  40. I might have better begun if I had asked whether the sense of vulnerability is visible only on the face, or whether it also inheres in the situation portrayed in the photo.
    Fred, the example you have given seems to involve a directorial decision to create a situation in which the woman appears to be vulnerable, heightening the sense of vulnerability that might already be there on her face. Are there faces that look more vulnerable than others, in and of themselves (excluding children)? Is beauty a factor in heightening the sense of vulnerability, as William Kahn seemed to suggest at the outset?
    If one were out to set up a photo in which either the hero or heroine appeared vulnerable, how might one go about it? Here is a video clip in which the characters all seem to appear very vulnerable at times:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJiZKoGxj8c&feature=player_embedded
    --Lannie
     
  41. Fred, thanks for directing us back again to photography, as you always do. I appreciate the digressions and tangents that we go off on, but it seems more useful to the Photo.net community if we can always finally tie it all back to photography. I sometimes seem to forget that, and it seems that you have to keep reminding me.
    --Lannie
     
  42. Lanni, you wrote with reference to the French Alpinist Catherine Destivelle,
    woman in a variety of vulnerable situations who shows no sense of vulnerability on her face​
    She does not look vulnerable, but she surely puts herself in situations that make her experience what vulnerability is - as a mother with a teenage daughter. She has had two big accidents, one of which with an open broken leg at an altitude of more than 4000 meters in the Antarctique where she climbed alone with a friend - and survived ! She at least knows that she is vulnerable - one of the reasons why she limbs.
    Here is an interview with her in English from 2008. No vulnerability there either !
    Personally I'm much more, as photographer, interested in showing social situations where people manage their vulnerability (we all carry it) by acting as expected or unexpected in the social context according to social conventions. To believe that a simple smiling face is a sign of openness (as used above as synonym of vulnerability), is in my eyes to the extreme, simplistic. In some social contexts, smiling is what is expected of you, so you better smile ! In other social contexts and places, smiling is sometimes contradicting social conventions and could be perceived very differently (playing games, falsehood, naivety, "being foreign" etc). Our role as photographers, as I see it, is to shoot these very different social ways of acting and living. Shortcuts are not an option. Such photos convey beauty if they can convince the viewer that they are at least part of Truth.
    See: untitled Laughing girl (1968) of Winogrand.
     
  43. Laughs and smiles are related but different, right, Anders? That said, smiles can at times be as spontaneous as laughs--although both can be affected. Even so, there is a type of laugh that is so spontaneous that there is no mistaking its authenticity.
    Personally I'm much more, as photographer, interested in showing social situations where people manage their vulnerability. . . .​
    Anders, I never much thought about many of these things until the thread began to unfold. (One always learns from one's own questions, I think, especially if others will respond and teach one.) What I mean here is that I have not thought about whether or not I like to show persons managing their vulnerability--or "betraying" it, revealing it. I started out with the rather simple-minded implicit premise that a certain vulnerability on the part of another is often linked to my own perception of his or her beauty--or at least appeal.
    We have all seen the "bureaucratic mask" or the "public relations smile" that serves to hide real feelings and thoughts (and then there is the old "poker face"), all of which serve to protect us in certain situations by hiding actual (authentic?) feelings and thoughts. Feeling vulnerable is something that we all know something about, and we justifiably do not always reveal evidence of our vulnerability or anger (or fear or whatever) by too-open expressions.
    I guess that, now that you have raised the issue as to what is more "interesting," I would prefer to capture the unguarded moment in which a person's (perhaps) fleeting expression tells the real story. I also like persons who seem to wear no masks, whose feelings seem to instantly show on their faces.
    Such marvelously expressive faces are, I think, more interesting to me, and they are typically the faces of those who are not really trying to manage the impression of vulnerability. In spite of the fact that there can be great survival value in masking one's real feelings and thoughts, persons who risk themselves by dropping the mask interest me more, I think.
    I love the Laughing girl (1968) of Winogrand! She seems so spontaneous, so real, so unaffected! But is she? In any case, I want to get beyond the mask, now that I think of it.
    Here is a series of shots of a young woman who seems to have dropped the "mask" and pretty much every other symbol of self-protection, and in a public setting at that. I especially love the third shot, although I admittedly do not know exactly what is going through her mind. It looks as if she is just realizing that she is being photographed, but I see no sense of horror upon that realization:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11161673
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11161672
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11161671
    (Yes, I think that clothes are often largely symbolic, for what that is worth. As for their link to shielding vulnerability, yes, there is that social and psychological function, too. Nudity can be linked to the perception of vulnerability, but clothes are hardly the only thing that we wear to protect our vulnerable psyches--and they are arguably not even the most important things that we "wear." Expressions can be a lot more suggestive--or not, depending on the message that one wants to convey. I guess that we are talking about "protection" here, regardless of what it is that we "wear." Discussions of vulnerability are, I suppose, logically linked to discussions of protection--vulnerable to what threat? protection from what threat? Social condemnation, ostracism?)
    --Lannie
     
  44. In the movie, Gloria Grahame's vulnerability, as in so many good films noir, turns to paranoia. Vulnerability often has something else lurking behind it. It's suggestive. It has potential.
    .
    "Are there faces that look more vulnerable than others, in and of themselves . . ." --Lannie​
    Yes. Your Jo Stafford video features Julianne Moore, expertly filmed by Neil Jordan in The End of the Affair. Moore has a naturally vulnerable look, which I've seen in most of her films. I do think a lot of that is in her face itself.
    .
    Is beauty a factor in heightening the sense of vulnerability​
    I don't find the two very related. Sure, vulnerability and beauty can co-exist, casually rather than causally, IMO. Montgomery Clift was beautiful and often vulnerable, demur eyes, a bit of a twitch in his smile, a kind of reticence. (In THIS PHOTO, he seems more vulnerable than Liz, who has the more sure gaze.His eyes have a less focused gaze accented by the strong shadows, his head a slight downward tilt against Liz's more strengthened upward direct look at him.) George Peppard has a vulnerable look. John Gavin is beautiful and rarely looks as vulnerable. Check out Gavin's strong-lipped, sturdy appearance compared to Janet Leigh's wide-eyed vulnerability.
    [We may, of course, disagree on who looks vulnerable and who doesn't. Nevertheless, I think many of us find it in the faces themselves. Whether or not we agree is secondary.]
     
  45. How does vulnerability (or invulnerability) look? It varies. Vulnerable and fearful/anxious looks very different from vulnerable and trying to control it, or vulnerable and at ease or peace with it and the potential consequences. How one looks at it determines how it looks to others.
    As photographers, it would seem that we have more control over our own vulnerability (how far are we willing to go out on that limb?) than we do that of most subjects, though there are many ways of manipulating the subject in that direction, too.
     
  46. Lanni
    Laughs and smiles are related but different, right, Anders? That said, smiles can at times be as spontaneous as laughs--although both can be affected.​
    Right ! Although it is very difficult in photography to tell the difference between spontaneous and "affected" (agonistic) smiles and laughter. Other elements in the frame might provide the needed additional information. In the case of the Winograd shot, the dinner dressed mannequin behind might be such an information - or just the ice-cream in her hand.
    I have not thought about whether or not I like to show persons managing their vulnerability--or "betraying" it, revealing it​
    I expect that several others in this thread have not thought about it either (Fred an exception, if I understand him right), and yet it is an essential question if one believes that smiles indicate vulnerability. The questions is as essential to be aware of, as a viewer, of course.
    I would prefer to capture the unguarded moment in which a person's (perhaps) fleeting expression tells the real story. I also like persons who seem to wear no masks, whose feelings seem to instantly show on their faces.​
    It would be nice just to agree with you on such common sense agreeable viewpoints, but, as far as I see it, real life is more complex. What one would interpret as the "real story" or "masks", others would describe as "projection" (good Freudian standard) and noone can be sure who is right. "Those who are not really trying to manage the impression of vulnerability" might just be better in hidding their games to the photographer or the viewer. The Laughing girl of Winograd is such a border case, as you rightly describe it yourself, Lanni, but most, if not all shots, are such border cases, which makes photography and all visual arts so complex and challenging.
    By the way, when I wrote:
    Personally I'm much more, as photographer, interested in showing social situations where people manage their vulnerability (we all carry it) by acting as expected or unexpected in the social context according to social conventions.​
    the message was not an attachment to concealing vulnerability, but an interest in scens tat show how "managing it", in terms of living with it in different social context, like smiling or laughing in worlds where smiles and broad laughter, are the norms.
     
  47. Whenever we feel in real or imagined jeopardy our expressions reveal it. Bare naked or hanging over a precipice obviously makes one feel and look vulnerable. That's the point of thrill seeking and common themes of nightmares. A perpetual vulnerable look such as some actors have (M. Clift, I agree, being a good example) comes from deep in their personality. Who wouldn't feel vulnerable in some way or another being photographed? How would you like to have had Avedon's crew fussing over you just because he thought you were interesting looking? All his subjects look vulnerable as hell! Lost in reverie or concentration is THE most likely vulnerable place in the everyday world that might attract the lurking photographer, or worse.
     
  48. Lost in reverie or concentration is THE most likely vulnerable place in the everyday world. . . .​
    Alan, your words brought back a couple of my own family snaps that no one would consider great photos, but which manage to capture that sense of being "lost in reverie or concentration."
    Here is my mother, now housebound because of arthritis at the age of ninety-one (very soon to be ninety-two), still living alone and managing to make her own meals. This photo was made last year, and I really have no idea what she actually was thinking about:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11564795&size=md
    And here is my younger daughter caught deep in thought back in November, 2009:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10231711
    --Lannie the lurker
     
  49. "I would prefer to capture the unguarded moment in which a person's (perhaps) fleeting expression tells the real story. I also like persons who seem to wear no masks, whose feelings seem to instantly show on their faces."
    --Lannie​
    I'm unclear here whether you're talking about people or people photographed.
    For me, it's about photographic reach. An expression is candid or posed, tells the "real" story or is fabricated, is masked or not, or somewhere in between. Any of these can get to the viewer, can provoke sympathy or empathy, fear, love, etc. It's about the working of the expression, in its photographic totality. By "photographic totality," I'm talking about the expression, the subject's awareness or lack of awareness of that expression, and the photographer's stance toward that expression and what he is able to convey with it, which can be more than the expression itself. It may be a TAKE on the expression. Photographs often have that kind of depth beyond the first level of the expression.
    Take again Grahame. She is ACTING. She might be a very strong, invulnerable woman who plays a type or a role well. When I watch her movies, I don't ask myself whether Ms. Grahame is likely or not vulnerable. I stay with her character. That fabrication reaches me just the way it should. It is, in its own way, quite real.
    The "beauty" of photography may be in the tension found in its being tied to the "real" world but so readily able to leap away from it; it is created and, by nature, at least somewhat manipulated (in good and bad ways).
    I don't prefer candids to posed shots or vulnerability to armor. Seeing the truth and power of armor (exaggerated and perhaps even caricatured by Leibovitz) or viewing a well-conceived, posed, dressed, and heavily coiffed and made-up Robert Richee shot of Marlene Dietrich can be as powerful as the most candid Frank "street" expression, for me.
    Speaking of Frank, it can be complicated. Here's an example of CANDID ARMOR, as I see it. And, as an alternative, what about THIS ONE by Frank? Is the woman in the foreground armored, candid, both? Does the woman with the somewhat distraught expression help offset a different perception of the woman in the foreground? These women are united by THE PHOTOGRAPH. Is that real? Does it matter?
    It's about what the PHOTOGRAPH is doing, not just what the PERSON is doing. Photographs have a variety of purposes and a variety of effects. Art is about creation and sometimes (often?) re-creation. Photography is often taken to be and sometimes, in fact, is more about re-creation (is the scene real, am I seeing someone's "essence"?) than creation. I just try to be open to what's going on, what the game is. In each of these games, there is something profound to be seen and experienced.
    _______________________________
    Lannie, why do you think those two photos wouldn't be considered great? You partially answered the question when you referred to yourself as "Lannie the lurker" (whether serious or tongue-in-cheek). To me it shows the importance the PHOTOGRAPH can have above and beyond the person photographed. I, too, am probably more conscious of the lurking feeling (which, for me, creates distance) than the particular look of either person. Now, I and others have played plenty with lurking, or what I might call voyeurism, and it's interesting territory to explore. But it seems clear that's not the "game" you were playing here. You wanted a close, genuine, feel for these people and these two moments. You might have engaged them and arrived at a photo you'd prefer or you might have remained hidden to them but done some things differently. What, in your mind, would make these great (and not undermine what you wanted out of them)?
     
  50. Lannie,
    the picture of your mother - quite lovely BTW - reminds us that after a certain age - don't know when that is - we return to a child-like and vulnerable innocence.
    Fred,
    Your "game" theory with the fine examples inform the practice of and appreciation for street and portrait photography. Bravo.
     
  51. "I would prefer to capture the unguarded moment in which a person's (perhaps) fleeting expression tells the real story. I also like persons who seem to wear no masks, whose feelings seem to instantly show on their faces." --Lannie
    I'm unclear here whether you're talking about people or people photographed.​
    Fred, the first sentence is about photography, the second is about people in general. I'm sorry that I did not make that clear, although very often I find that I do prefer to photograph persons who are like the ones I describe--but I certainly like to photograph or "capture" other types of persons as I find them. In a portrait, I would probably prefer to capture the person beneath the mask, or with no mask. In a candid, I am the opportunist, in that I rarely go out just to shoot people, but, if I am out taking other types of shots and a nice candid appears, then I will often try to get it, as occurred here during the intermission of a play:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13087452
    The picture of my mom I did indeed take when she was looking away because she never likes to be photographed any more. I can get on family members' nerves at times. This one of her was made just after the one already posted:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11407950
    The one of my daughter was actually made at my mother's ninetieth birthday party. There were several of us with cameras around, and so there was not really any likelihood that one would not be snapped by someone. I rarely take photos of persons on the street, but sometimes at campus gatherings I will wander around and get a few shots for myself or for the yearbook. Most people at such gatherings tolerate me pretty well. Some shots turn out pretty well:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11299844&size=md
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11034737
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11312971
    Still, my preference is for the few gems that I have gotten at family gatherings:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10232031
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11565066
    http://www.photo.net/photo/5379382
    As for "great" photos, I am not sure that I have any really memorable ones--except the ones that are memorable or meaningful to me.
    I really would like to make just one photo in my life that would be instantly and generally recognizable, even if persons had no idea who made it.
    --Lannie
     
  52. Lannie, the picture of your mother - quite lovely BTW - reminds us that after a certain age - don't know when that is - we return to a child-like and vulnerable innocence.​
    Thanks, Alan. I cannot convince my mother that, the more wrinkles she has, the more beautiful she is.
    --Lannie
     
  53. except the ones that are memorable or meaningful to me.​
    Important point. BUT . . .
    When I was an intermediate-level Philosophy student, I discussed a paper with a professor who extolled my writing ability and the freshness and insights of many of my ideas and approaches to the particular subject. At the same time, he pointed out substantive problems with some of my invalid or unsound arguments. I wouldn't have accepted for myself and he, thankfully, wouldn't have accepted my saying that the paper was meaningful and memorable to me. Or, let's say, that would have been a starting point. What he would have said is that better details and substance of arguments will make the papers that much more personally memorable and meaningful in time. He would have been right, which I have learned as my logic and argumentation improved. (This applies more to your answer to my question about what made them not great photos than it does to the photos themselves, though they are worth considering in this light, as is any one of yours or my photographs.)
    Photos are and are not like Philosophy papers. I don't know how specific one can get and how much one can learn about inspiration, creativity, and talent (though I suspect there is a significant amount that can be learned). But those things are all buoyed by visual "argumentation." And about that, we can be at least somewhat specific, objective, and we can learn and improve.
    This is not about making great photos. It is, to me, about making good ones. And, as important, it is, as you say, about being self satisfied with our own work. For me, it's also about expression and communication to others (though those others may remain unknown and generic). Not about pleasing others, but about reaching others in some way.
    I have found it a benefit and very satisfying to be open to dissecting my photos beyond the fact that they do or don't have meaning to and hold memories for me alone.
     
  54. I was wondering if the above was kind of a tangent, but decided it can relate.
    Luis pointed out the importance of vulnerability in the photographer. That goes for the time of shooting, the case in general, and as a viewer of his or her own photos. Some of my most vulnerable, traumatic, exciting, and transformative photographic moments have been in viewing and assessing/analyzing my own work and in viewing them along with my own and others' often quite specific feedback.
     
  55. Actually, Fred, what you are saying makes a lot of sense to me. I could use a lot of tutoring on the specifics as to how to make my photos better, but, as you know, what we get on photo critique forums is too often empty praise rather than substantive criticism. My own photos would, of course, mean even more to me if they were better processed (not that that is all that is wrong with them). I have a tendency to use a heavy hand on processing. I look at photos by people like Carlos H. with their magnificent airy treatments, and I have yet to figure out how they get the results they do.
    I can relate to Luis' comments, also. We can as photographers be vulnerable even in the taking of pictures, especially at night, as I often am when I jump out of the car, set up quickly, take the shots, then take down the tripod really fast and get out. My shots at night of the railroad depot did not get me mugged, but they did get me (seconds after I took the following shot) in a pickle with a local businessman who wanted to make an issue of it when I started shooting pictures of his building without asking permission. (It was dark. Who know whom to ask?) Before it was over he had shoved the camera and tripod back into my face. It was the last problem that I had anticipated:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11778912
    The greater vulnerability that I gather that Luis is talking about is artistic undertakings or treatments. Every "going out" has its risks, and sometimes things go sour in all kinds of unpredictable ways.
    --Lannie
     
  56. Alan, thanks!
     
  57. I see emotional vulnerability here--and beauty, too:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11386970
    --Lannie
     
  58. The one above was a self-portrait. I wonder if there is some tendency for self-portraits to show more vulnerability by virtue of being self-portraits. If so, do we have to know that it is a self-portrait in order to feel the vulnerability?
    Here is another self-portrait. This one catches the viewer "in the act" and thus seems to indict the viewer with a penetrating stare back in the viewer's direction:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/199717
    Because of the "return stare," the sense of vulnerability is negated, I think, in spite of the nakedness. Others might see fear in the stare and thus see an increased sense of vulnerability.
    --Lannie
     
  59. Lannie, Fred, with regards to the 'lurking' and distance it may create, and the vulnerability of the photographer: do you think that the results will be the same?
    The two family portraits Lannie showed are to me directly recognisable as showing a vulnerability of the subject (and not of the photographer). It gives them a dreamy atmosphere which I think is what started this thread. Would these photos have been possible if the photographer was closer and more present? Or would most people notice the lens being aimed at them and respond in some way? That would make the "intended photo" go away.
    The vulnerability in the photographer creates a 'different' tension between photographer and subject. I do not know whether a self-portrait is ideal to underline that, nor did I interpret it as the "risk of being mugged", "getting a truck hitting your tripod at the side of the road" or things like it. More an emotional openness and sharing; not just being a photographer, but rather a human being, who happens to hold a camera. No idea whether this is a right example, but to me, this is a photo that would not be possible if there wasn't a directness and openness between photographer and subject, and to me it seems to point more towards a vulnerability of the photographer rather than the subject.
    To me, it seems two different things; both can give great results but their dynamics, and the results, are a bit too different to put them together as two expressions of the same idea.
     
  60. (Sorry for another double posting. My internet connection has been slow and irregular for the last few days.)
     
  61. Wooter, I used the term "lurker" tongue-in-cheek in referring to getting candid shots of family members. We all know that the candid aspect is lost if the photographer's presence or intention is announced in that familial context, and so there is an element of vulnerability present on the part of the subject when caught off guard in a candid shot--but that was not the concept of vulnerability that I was originally referring to when I started the thread. In fact, I was not thinking about the circumstances of the capture of the photograph at all. The question kept morphing and expanding as other persons reformulated the question.
    In relating "beauty" to "vulnerability," I was actually thinking simply about the various expressions on persons' faces. Others have introduced more and more varied ways that the concept of "vulnerability" might figure into the making of a photo--things that I was not thinking about at the time but which certainly are relevant to the concept of "vulnerability" in photography.
    So, I was thinking simply of expressions of vulnerability only because that was pretty much the only thing that I saw (at the time of posting) as being related in any way to beauty--thus did I start talking about an air of "openness" and the absence of a "mask" or poker face (defensive mechanisms which persons are going to tend to put on, especially if they know that they are being photographed.). In other words, for me it was the appearance of vulnerability which I found most appealing and thus tried to relate to beauty, since I find open and approachable subjects more beautiful--not because beautiful persons or expressions are more worthy of being photographed, much less to say that all photography of persons should strive to capture an expression of vulnerability. I did not mean to sound prescriptive in the least, but "value-neutral" language is difficult when discussing any aspect of human behavior.
    As is so often the case when one frames a question, I did not think about all of the possible meanings that persons would read into the question.
    Thus it was that the circumstances of the capture of the shot were not originally in my mind. I was assuming that some persons exude that air of vulnerability, and that one does not necessarily have to catch them in a candid situation in order to capture that sense. One can even see it in portrait photography. One might or might not strive to capture it, although I think that catching persons with their psychological defenses down could be a worthy goal of a given photograph. Other techniques besides the candid would include putting persons at their ease, getting them to talk or to be expressive, so that their personalities might shine through.
    --Lannie
     
  62. Its interesting reading these various thoughts and deliberations and its forced me to revisit a few personal images which held 'something' I'd not fully understood or even realized. My 85 year old mother was recently forced through ill health to give up independent living and be moved into residential care. It was a big move for her as she's fiercely independent, but now sadly suffering from Alzheimers and has periods of considerable confusion. I recorded the removal of her belongings from her home (which she had left several months earlier in an ambulance and never returned to), and then made a few more images of her as she settled into her new residence.
    Revisiting this series I've realized (I think) that what I'm seeing in these images is real 'vulnerability' as Alan Z describes above - the loss of independence, the loss of physical health, and the loss of memory too. I guess its been hard for me to separate my feelings of empathy for my mother's situation from my own feelings about what I'm witness to, and complicit in.
    But is there beauty in this vulnerability? Hmm. I think so, if you regard life as special, and view a life lived long and well as something to rejoice in.
     
  63. Lannie, I get the spirit in which the question was originally phrased, thanks for clarification there. I agree to it (as I tried to outline in my very first response as well). And yes, it's a worthy goal, though the exact reverse can be equally true: the mask / external appearance, psychologically armed to the teeth, can be equally interesting and revealing.
    Other techniques besides the candid would include putting persons at their ease, getting them to talk or to be expressive, so that their personalities might shine through.​
    I think you're summarising very well here how one could reach it.
    Which does leave me with the same question still: would the result be the same? A candid photo removes the photographer far more from the result than an interaction which may get the subject to talk; candid does not require anything from me as photographer; interacting and getting this vulnerability to shine through in a subject requires quite a bit more of the photographer. How do you experience this in photos, how do you try to work on this as a photographer?
     
  64. Then there's the viewer's vulnerabiity. As Anders wrote a while back, some images make one want to run away. Is the viewer willing to stand their ground, confront the image and let it run through them? Is the image maybe too much and turns them away?
    As Lannie correctly pointed out, I'm also concerned with vulnerability in the conceptual/creative choices we make. The degree to which we are willing to take risks defines aspects of the work. By this I do not mean getting mugged, or taking a bullet, but putting ourselves in a position with few visible means of support, out of our comfort zone, etc. So much regarding creativity has to do with dealing with our own energies.
    John's picture tells me more about his feelings and vulnerability than it does (as a single image) about his mother.
     
  65. John,
    a very good example; a difficult subject for sure. Like Luis, I think the photo you show, tells also something about your vulnerability. And that's, I think, a good thing. One cannot witness this happening to somebody close without feeling vulnerable him- or herself too.It makes it a very humane photo, because it directly appeals on something that does not need deliberate thought or interpretation. It shows what people can mean to each other.
    Is there beauty in it? For me, tons and tons of it. Care, affection. Little things on earth are more beautiful than that.
     
  66. Yes, rereading my post I realized that the other thoughts that accompanied what I wrote, but did not put down, were about being aware that I too am vulnerable and also prey to the ravages of time. I think I was hinting at it here:
    "I guess its been hard for me to separate my feelings of empathy for my mother's situation from my own feelings about what I'm witness to, and complicit in."
    Luis G
    "By this I do not mean getting mugged, or taking a bullet, but putting ourselves in a position with few visible means of support, out of our comfort zone, etc. So much regarding creativity has to do with dealing with our own energies."
    Good point Luis - one etched in my mind after I stumbled across it when reading Arthur Koestler in 'The Act of Creation' where he mentions this 'tension' and says "Better the pangs of creativity, than the comforts of sterility" (or words to that effect).
    I like the implication that 'comfort' will not lead to truly creative work, that by accepting the comfortable one's work is doomed always to remain in the realm of the ordinary.
     
  67. Would these photos have been possible if the photographer was closer and more present? --Wouter​
    Let's take the one of Lannie's sister.
    No, the photographer wouldn't have to be closer or more present. I think the photo of the daughter would be better if more distant, and I think she could appear more vulnerable with such an approach. (It looks to me like it might be a crop. I suspect this because of the color noise on the cheek, which is often a case when digital photos are enlarged to crop in on them. But that's a little beside the point.) As it is now, I'm met by an overwhelming area of cheek and ear, a very invulnerable part and large square-footage area of the photo. I have to work my way through that in order to get to the lit expression, which I find more thoughtful or pensive than vulnerable. I think thoughtful gazes can be more readily vulnerable but they aren't necessarily. Vulnerability goes well beyond pensive.
    Physical closeness doesn't have to do with vulnerability. This, I think, could have been a more vulnerable shot from a greater distance that would have risked less his sister being disturbed by his shooting her. Seeing more space around her might increase her sense of vulnerability. Closeness almost protects her.
    By the way, I have learned that one of the most vulnerable moments (at least in my experience) is that moment just when someone discovers they are being photographed. That often puts both the photographer and the subject in vulnerable positions, both being discovered by the other. So it is possible that Lannie was shooting not for vulnerability here but for pensiveness. Had he wanted his sister truly vulnerable, she might have had to discover that she was being watched and captured, but captured in the moment before her armor went up.
    But, for some reason, candidness seems to be important to Lannie. So he can't rely on playing as direct a role as allowing her to discover him in the last second. He must then find a truly vulnerable moment. I don't think this was, IMO.
    Wouter, I think the willingness of the photographer to be vulnerable (not in the sense of being mugged but in the sense of opening up his own emotional take on things and relationship to other people and situations) can be related to the vulnerability we see in the subject of the photo. It's not just the subject's own expression. It's how that expression is photographed that reaches the viewer.
     
  68. Fred: I picked up on your mention of your dialogue with a philosophy professor. The fellow I allowed to chase me from finishing my dissertation, while I was filled with youthful righteous indignation, had a pet response to overly enthusiastic graduate students. "That's either trivially true or interestingly false." At the time, I opted for the latter, especially since my ego wouldn't accept the former.
    How does this apply to the current thread? I think that earlier posts on it show concurrence in vulnerability being connected with openness. But being open is not only emotional, but also is conceptual. Being willing to offer up statements that, upon analysis, may be interestingly false clearly is an indicator of risk-taking - " ... in the sense of opening up his own . . . take on things and relationship to other people and situations." In quoting you, I deliberately omitted the word "emotional". I prefer to be more holistic.
     
  69. "a 'mask' or poker face (defensive mechanisms . . ." --Lannie​
    I don't agree. Masks can be very much a sign of strength and confidence, not necessarily defensive at all. That's especially true of people who know they are wearing a mask and intentionally do so, but it can be true of any mask. Masks can be as offensive as they are defensive, and they can be neither, they can simply be a part of life, and often are. Masks, in fact, may in many cases be a default.
    .
    "In other words, for me it was the appearance of vulnerability which I found most appealing and thus tried to relate to beauty, since I find open and approachable subjects more beautiful" --Lannie​
    Openness and approachable aren't the same as vulnerable. An important aspect of vulnerability is the potential of some level of harm, physical or emotional. Neither openness nor approachable has that same connotation, IMO.
    I can see more beauty in openness than in vulnerability.
    I think trying to categorize vulnerability as beautiful, for me, would sidestep vulnerability. Beautifying it is making it palatable and pleasing, which makes it way too easy. Vulnerability is way more complex than that. Simplifying it into something beautiful or not, I find, destroys it. What are we actually saying when we say it's beautiful? Nothing that doesn't need a lot of further explaining. And why not just explain the intricacies of vulnerability rather than seek to tie it to as abstract a concept as beauty. Homeless people are vulnerable. Sick people are. All of us are at times. To say to ourselves, that's beautiful, what in the world is that saying? It's certainly not saying how it makes you feel, which would have to be more specifically an emotion or feeling than calling it beauty. Is there fear in vulnerability? Is there a lot of ugliness? Is there temptation, desire, frailty?
    A more useful exercise, for me, than worrying about whether vulnerability is beautiful, is looking at Lannie's photo of his sister compared to some of the links (Montgomery Clift, Gloria Grahame, many others we could probably find) and trying to see what is the difference between vulnerable and pensive and between vulnerable and open and between vulnerable and approachable.
    Jeff Spirer's subjects often appear to me as extremely open but not particularly vulnerable. I can think of more that he's posted in various threads (his portfolio contains more performances) but here's an example.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/7303081
    What makes her open and, IMO, seemingly approachable (though she may be performing at the moment) but somewhat invulnerable? What would make her appear more vulnerable? Beauty would not help us answer this question.
     
  70. By the way, regarding the photo of Lannie's mom, are we projecting vulnerability or is it there?
    Old person, wrinkles, sunlight, pensiveness. Do we then project or assume vulnerability? Are old people by nature, just like sick people, automatically vulnerable? If so, then do we care about individual instances of vulnerability beyond that? I watch my own father, who does seem vulnerable merely by his advanced age. So any picture I take will have that sense of vulnerability. But sometimes he appears much more vulnerable than others. And that has more to do with his situation at the time or his particular expression at the time.
    So, yes, I see vulnerability in Lannie's mother. But it is the kind I see in most older people. So it is more an associated kind of vulnerability. I don't think this appears photographically to be a particularly vulnerable moment for her. Again, I think she looks mostly pensive.
    I feel removed from her, as her head is turned so much away from me, this because of the desire for candidness. (I can be made to feel very close to someone who's head is turned, by the way. That's a photographic accomplishment. One out of many, many ways I can feel close to someone whose head is turned away from me is if I see what they are looking at. That can join us together. Just an example.) I don't need greater physical closeness to feel vulnerability. But I might need more emotional closeness, which could even have come if the photographer were much further away and I saw some hint in her eye that some sort of hurt or discomfort were looming or some other visual cue that led me there. Instead, I see a thoughtful, calm, distantly-gazing woman, beautifully lit.
     
  71. I think the willingness of the photographer to be vulnerable (...) can be related to the vulnerability we see in the subject of the photo. It's not just the subject's own expression. It's how that expression is photographed that reaches the viewer.​
    Agreed fully; and I think the other half of what I tried to raise earlier, the candid photos where the subject alone "does the work", is quite perfectly covered with the word 'pensive', and the entire 01:16 p.m posting, which deserves top marks for putting this discussion so far in a better perspective.
    It made me realise that, being an introvert, many people told me I can seem very unapproachable when I'm pensive; while in fact, it's frequently the moments the armor is down and the 'inner world' is more reachable than ever. Pensive indeed may also seem very shielded and distant. Likewise, extravert people being very open can be the exact reverse of vulnerable, rather they make others feel vulnerable. So, yes, it's not all that clear cut indeed.
    Both subject and photographer carry their personality into the photo (even the choice of working candid, you do so in absentia), and how those personalities communicate to us ultimately, I think, will make that openness looks vulnerable or not; whether pensive means approachable or outerworldly, and so on.
    It's also what we hope to see, or think we see, but only to some extend. The viewer does not have the whole playfield alone here. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems incredibly difficult to me to make a portrait that's communicating something so false without appearing so. Not a mask nor a top photographer would be able to mislead us all that completely. On the other hand, if I see what kind of advertisements turn out to work, I might have to take back these words sooner than I'd like to ;-)
     
  72. Openness and approachable aren't the same as vulnerable.​
    You're right, of course, Fred--and it is precisely "open" and "approachable" that better describe the kinds of subjects I typically like to shoot. I originally asked, "Is there beauty in vulnerability?" I would not want to glorify actually being vulnerable, unless it is by a conscious decision of the individual to make himself or herself vulnerable by deliberately taking a risk or opening oneself to risks. If the situation makes one vulnerable, that sounds simply dangerous--not something that I would want to glorify in the least (not to say that good photos cannot be made of persons in vulnerable or even dangerous situations).
    The personality trait that goes into a propensity towards openness, on the other hand, might make for a better model--or a better shot--in a given situation. That would depend on the type of shot, I believe. Depending on the context, the meaning in use of "vulnerable" or "vulnerability" might connote something positive, but surely not by any necessity. In fact, most of us do not like to be vulnerable. You rightly direct us again, Fred, to what makes for the better photo, not for the "better person," if I may so speak.
    I confess that I did not see all of the ways that persons might interpret the question. (I never do.) The meanings and connotations of words move around a good bit in actual use, and so trying to absolutize any particular claim as to the value of "vulnerable" or "vulnerability" could not work. Masks can be interesting, as well, as you rightly point out, Fred. If we are capturing persons as they are, then even the armor (or the ways which persons use it in various social situations) can be interesting. The fact that I might like to capture or photographically exploit the chinks in the psychological armor might simply be a reflection of the kinds of persons I like to be around (or the kind of person I am!), not necessarily the persons who make for better subjects in a given context. I do confess to a certain preference for showing persons as they are, Fred, but you rightly term that as related more nearly to "openness" than to "vulnerability" per se. Again you have brought your highly developed linguistic skills to a discussion and seen far beyond what I even barely glimpsed--if at all. I imagine that you also bring a better grasp of "human nature" or "human behavior" to your photography than I ever could hope to do. You see potentialities in persons or situations that I would miss, which is why your portrait work is so much more sophisticated and insightful than mine. My shots of persons are at best "good snaps," when they are even that.
    Perhaps I would have done better to have asked, "Is there beauty in the appearance of vulnerability?" or even (as you imply, I think) "Is there beauty or interest in openness or the appearance of openness?" I am not sure which version of the question would most likely have invited the kinds of responses I hoped for at the outset. I think that the responses have been very good, and I am glad that there are those who have brought a more sophisticated perspective to answering or rephrasing the question than I brought to the framing of it.
    I do wish that persons were less hesitant to post and discuss their own work (or a favorite photo made by another). Perhaps that makes us all a bit too "vulnerable." We then become the subjects of the discussion, and some of us recoil from being the subjects. Maybe those of us who do like to make others subjects while avoiding being subjects ourselves are being very inconsistent, even hypocritical--and not very "open." The photographer is typically in control of the situation (more or less), the subject not so much. (Gosh, it all sounds so very political, and I am typically trying to escape my day job when I pick up the camera. I guess that there is no escaping power relationships or the way they affect or define us.)
    Are there any "risk-takers" out there who do not mind showing what they like, or explaining why?
    Fred, you once posted a self-portrait of yourself which I recently tried to find in your portfolio, but could not. I wish that you would post it again (and link to it here), since it exemplifies some of the very qualities that I was getting at when I was trying to frame the question. I'm not trying to be "in charge" in so asking. It was simply a very good self-portrait, arguably the best that I have ever seen. If you demur, I understand.
    --Lannie
     
  73. Here are two photos of my older daughter caught in an unguarded moment. I do not think that these capture her with any air of "vulnerability," but they do show her wonderful openness and spontaneity:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10228932
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10229081
    As for openness and spontaneity, there is nothing quite like a kid. Here is my granddaughter:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10229608
    (Yeah, yeah, I know--nothing more "interesting" than somebody else's shots of their grandchildren. . . . )
    I am sorry to post so many of my own. They simply come to mind and are also more easily found.
    Fred, I think that I should (now that you have gently corrected me) have asked, "Is there beauty in openness?"
    --Lannie
     
  74. I do wish that persons were less hesitant to post and discuss their own work (or a favorite photo made by another). Perhaps that makes us all a bit too "vulnerable." We then become the subjects of the discussion, and some of us recoil from being the subjects. Maybe those of us who do like to make others subjects while avoiding being subjects ourselves are being very inconsistent, even hypocritical--and not very "open.​
    Lanni, two points on this.
    My experience on introducing my own shots to illustrate and support discussions is, that the discussions often get off track fairly rapidly. Few can limit themselves to the subject of the discussion and will start comments on the perceived quality of the photos (like above, in my eyes). A pity, but however often a fact.
    Secondly, I have always found that these discussions often are overloaded by contributions that mainly seem to serve self-promotion purposes. Egocentrism, or worse, narcism, might be the greatest enemies of genuine discussions in a forum like this. To say it bluntly. I have no interest in Lanni, Fred or Wouter, as persons, I don't know them and internet is not a trustworthy media for getting to know neither of them - to take the example of the most recent part of this OP. I'm however interested in theirs and others contributions to a discussion like this one on vulnerability/beauty. I might even be interested in their photos, if they can support the discussion (Lanni's shots of his mother might be such a case) and do not derail the subject matter discussed.
    So for my part, "limits to openness" on internet, YES! Hypocritical, definitely NO!
     
  75. Well, now that I am wide awake and thinking of family shots, I might as well get up and pop One Hour Photo into the DVD player:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Hour_Photo (Spoiler alert!)
    I am sorry that I have not had the time to analyze and respond to all of the great posts that came in yesterday while I was at work. Bummer.
    --Lannie
     
  76. Thanks, Anders. I have the same concerns, but decided to risk it anyway!
    If the self-promotion can be avoided, then I do think that the use of photos is appropriate. Indeed, where better than on a discussion board on a photo site to show relevant photographic examples of the concepts being discussed? (My daughter and granddaughter exemplify "openness" but not "vulnerability" in the shots posted.) Ideally, of course, the photo that comes to mind to exemplify the point would be a great shot by a great photographer. This is where other posters with better knowledge of photography can be invaluable.
    I would not to teach philosophy in the classroom with the use of photos, but I do believe that we tend to post too few rather than too many photos in our discussions at times. Linguistic analysis is helpful but gets stale really fast for most persons. Again, however, I would call for those who know photography better than I do to introduce better shots to make their points.
    In general, I do believe that more photos can help the discussion, provided that they do exemplify the point being made. It can be a fine line, but there is some great work out there that cries out to be used--if one could only think of it at the time.
    --Lannie
     
  77. Lannie,
    Are there any "risk-takers" out there who do not mind showing what they like, or explaining why?​
    I've done so, and I think especially on this forum I never much ran away from placing myself as vulnerable. I am not a very experienced photographer and various areas of photography are difficult to me. I have no problem in admitting that, nor a problem in being vulnerable in that.
    If I need my own photos to support what I try to say, so be it. I do not put them up for self-promotion, but rather to discuss what does and does not work about them. Not unlikely I will myself be unhappy about the photo, and say so too.
    Some people, however, seem to see that as an open invitation to preach and teach. This openness and vulnerability is mistaken for weakness, lack of ideas and thoughts, something like a student asking for lessons. That it is not, and such reactions are exactly why openness on a forum like this one degrades.
    Unlike Anders, I am genuinely interested in Lannie, Fred, Anders - as people, appraoching photography, art, philosophy, in how they discuss with others, in how they can accept to be right and to be wrong, in the originality of thoughts and how those thoughts came to be. I find openness and willingness to discuss the own approach far more stimulating and interesting than quotes from others, paraphrases on existing theories or closed statements without showing doubt and vulnerability. If you do not dare to imply that you could be completely wrong, then discussion will run dry quickly.
    Internet is not trustworthy, sure, but fakeness will come through, just like it would in a photographic portrait.
     
  78. Wouter, in a discussion, I can pronounce something to be BLACK, without immediately tell that it might also be WHITE. Others, like you, have all the opportunities for proposing, WHITE, to be the color.
    Always to write: "I think, but I might be wrong..." is not very helpful or interesting, in my eyes, although it does fill out the space.
    When it comes to quotes, paraphrasing and existing theories, I do believe that such writing techniques can be lifting the level of our discussion, although they can surely also be misused. All depends on the writers and readers in question. We all very different.
    By the way, your expression of interest in the contributions of individuals like you, Lannie and Fred, is, you might have noticed, in line with what I wrote myself above.
     
  79. removed, never mind.
     
  80. Anders, I suspect that the hidden issue is how formal we want the forum to be. In formal discussion, we try to maintain an air of detachment and even (where appropriate) "professionalism." Even a bit of levity is sometimes frowned upon where formality is paramount.
    I have been adjudged to be informal to a fault in more than one context, and I guess that it is true. I suppose that I learned a long time ago that in the classroom students related better to me (and to each other) in a more relaxed and informal environment. Now Photo.net and this forum are indeed my classroom, alright, but I am more nearly the student here. I raise questions. I don't actually teach in the strict sense, here or anywhere. I don't know anything--and that is not false modesty. I especially don't know much about photography.
    I personally like to know the people I am interacting with. When I "teach" (and have taught) political theory (my dissertation field), I used to say that I did not care about the philosophers, only about their ideas. I was afraid that everything would be historicized if it became about the writers. Now, for some reason, I find myself wanting to know more and more about the authors themselves. It helps (I believe) to know that Thomas Hobbes was born in 1588 when his mother saw the Spanish Armada coming up the channel. Thus did he say, "Fear and I were born together," and so it seems to be that his authoritarianism seems to derive from his timid nature (although not necessarily because of the circumstances of his birth, although possibly from the circumstances of his life). In any case, the point is that now I want to know more and more about persons--writers, painters, photographers, etc. I think that it is not so much to know intimate details as to understand their work in context--the context of their lives and times.
    In any case, that is my take on the matter. Perhaps Fred might offer a few words, since Fred is often talking about authenticity, intimacy, and context--and "vulnerability" and "openness" seem relevant here, as well as in our work, as Luis points out.
    I don't mind sharing some details about myself, although not for self-promotion. I don't like being pushed to do so, but I believe that both writing and photography are about self-expression. There is vulnerability and openness (both!) in such enterprises for us, not just for our photographic subjects or readers. We all have our own styles. I would not want to impose my own style on others. I hope that my own style does not grate upon them too much. (It sometimes grates upon me when I go back later and re-read.)
    Wouter, I sympathize. Anders, I understand.
    --Lannie
     
  81. Lanni, take the photo above. It includes both authenticity, intimacy, and context" as well as "vulnerability" and "openness". It is a shot that is genuinely personal.
    It's value for others, as photo, does however not change the slightest whether I try to explain the place, the how's and whom's that are concerned - unless I wish to use the photo as a call for telling others here on the web about my life, which I have no intention of doing. Still I find the photo worthwhile uploading. You might disagree.
    As you, I find great interest in reading about and understanding the history of historical figures like Hobbes. I'm too modest to believe that I personally fall into the same category and maybe even Hobbes would have protested, had he known!
    00ZE84-392029584.jpg
     
  82. Wouter, here is one that you linked to earlier:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13791132
    It occurred to me as I went back to look at it that persons who are open (and often vulnerable as a result) are also the least lacking in self-consciousness. I do think that adults who open themselves up by expressing themselves through their art or other work do make themselves vulnerable, even child-like. My mother was always like that, although it does not show in her photos.
    There is a certain vulnerability in every "going out," every "sortie," military or otherwise.
    --Lannie
     
  83. Anders, I do not know which picture you are talking about. Sorry.
    Oops! Now I can see it. Thanks, Anders. It surely was worth the upload, although I am sure that my experience of the picture is different from yours.
    (If I don't respond for a while, it will be because I have to get ready for work.)
    --Lannie
     
  84. Wouter et. al.: Have we yet looked at the OP from the standpoint that volunerability - i.e, risk-taking - on the part of the photographer is a matter of degree. I may offer my hand guardedly to a stranger, or I may shake his hand as if he's a trusted friend. It's up to me.
     
  85. Michael, no, the matter of degree in opening up was not yet discussed, I think, though to me it's implied with all these subjects that there is a matter of degree. People are not fully open or fully closed; or completely vulnerable versus completely guarded.
    As a photographer, sure it makes a big difference. Photographing friends or family is a whole different (and in my view easier) thing than strangers. With friends and family, you know how to get the look you think you should have, you know what to expect and exposing yourself as vulnerable is typically easier because that level of trust is already there. And obviously, with strangers, it's all the reverse.
    Taking a risk is as much taking risk as seeking a comfort zone and safety. Few of us go all the way in taking risks, and we'll always try to safeguard ourselves to some extend, depending on our own assessment of the risk we take. And depending on the reward we think it will give.
    So no arguing it's up to the photographer - as long as the photographer is aware of the impact on the results. I know I won't get openness and directness in my photos, because I don't take the risk. I see in many of Fred's photos he does, because he takes that risk.
     
  86. Going back to Fred's comment on openness and vulnerability, an identical risk looked at differently changes the way vulnerability looks (and feels), both inwardly and externally.
    ________________________________________
    There's a difference between an incoming risk (like a hurricane bearing down on you, snapping twig at 3 AM outside your tent while camping... semi truck hauling flammable liquid squealing its brakes behind you, etc ) and taking a risk, like attempting to make a connection and risking rejection/ridicule. Vectors and experience change vulnerability. Sex comes to mind.
    ________________________________________
    We can deal with vulnerability in many ways. We can share it. Establish that primal quick intimacy that so many top photographers have developed. Appeal to someone's kindness and decency. Or their ego, need to connect with another, or express themselves. Be trustworthy and trust the Other. Appeal to the sense of mystery, or the greater work, something transcendent going on that includes and extends beyond all those involved.
    _________________________________________
    One thing to remember with photos of vulnerability is that all the other things that make an image apply simultaneously and everything contains the seeds of its opposite. A potential invulnerability picture can simultaneously contain open vulnerability as well. And vice versa.
    Being alive is a vulnerable condition.
     
  87. Wouter Williemse - "Photographing friends or family is a whole different (and in my view easier) thing than strangers. With friends and family, you know how to get the look you think you should have, you know what to expect and exposing yourself as vulnerable is typically easier because that level of trust is already there. And obviously, with strangers, it's all the reverse."
    Wouter, I disagree with the idea that photographing friends or family is easier. Access may be easier, but desensitization to the familiar is a major problem. I see little vulnerability in the predictability you sense with regard to family. The unexpected with a stranger makes some things easier, specially getting past your own preconceptions.
     
  88. PHOTO, by Dorothea Lange.
    Where is the vulnerability to be found, visually?
    Expression. Gesture. Lighting (heat). Tonality (adding to heat). Perspective. Implied vastness of background. Subject matter! History . . .
    All of these needn't be present for a photograph to convey vulnerability. But many of these will combine in various photos in varying degrees (thanks, Michael) to suggest it.
    It's complicated. Vulnerability, as with any quality, will be accompanied by many other qualities.
    ____________________________
    Someone following our discussion but not participating just emailed me a link to ONE OF MY OWN PHOTOS ("WILL") along with the comment, "Vulnerability and beauty?"
    Yes, I see the two together here. I'm honestly not sure what the role of the beauty I experience in this shot plays, how causal a relationship there may be between vulnerability and beauty, and why I even agree to the word "beauty" in this case, but I do.
    I appreciate that example of vulnerability more than THIS ONE OF IAN (who I've worked with much more). The first because the vulnerability is so much a part of Will's countenance and the moment we created together. It's in his eyes. It's supported, IMO, by the perspective, focus, and color work, and even the bare neck and shoulder. The second, of Ian in black and white, is maybe somewhat cliché and a little pat. Also lacking in the second shot is the kind of telling gesturing that we see in Dorothea Lange's photo to support the vulnerability. Such gesturing, because we see his body and hands, could have suggested that Ian is in unison with what's going on in the photo.
    [Note the kind, quality, and coloring of Will's skin. Though handled differently in my photo and color-manipulated, it's a similar skin type to Julianne Moore's (who I often find vulnerable-looking) from the video Lannie linked to above. I'm not so sure fair-skinned people don't often start out with a more vulnerable look to my eyes than more olive-skinned folks.]
     
  89. Anything observed is changed by the act of observation. Even more change if the observed is aware of being observed.
    So what we record as vulnerable or as armored, formal or informal--just name any pair of opposites--depends on the interaction or non-interaction of the photographer and the subject's response or non-response to the action of being photographed.
    00ZEAN-392057684.jpg
     
  90. And since beauty and vulnerability was in that opening comment. Do we create the appearance of vulnerability when posing a beauty in a way that we find appealing because we see ourselves (speaking to male photographers here) as potential protectors--or are we just telling a story that reflects the personality of the subject?
    I can tell you that this is a scan of a 30 year-old portrait, one of maybe 36 shots through 2 hours or more of poses and talk until the cat stretched out on the sofa back and and she turned to interact with the cat. No, this not that candid a shot. I said to her, "let's work with the cat for a bit."
     
  91. Charles, these are very different shots, but both very appealing. I do tend to think of women when I think of vulnerability. You have raised an interesting question. I shall have to think on it.
    I do think that it is possible to get candid shots with just about anyone if one can keep the conversation going long enough for them to forget about the photographer's presence.
    --Lannie
     
  92. As a male photographer, I don't see myself as a protector of women, beautiful or appealing or otherwise, and I don't see myself as a protector of men. Maybe there are occasions where I find myself in that position. But it's one that, if I found myself in often, I'd have to question how I saw my own role in life. And I would probably seek to change that dynamic, as I sense both the women and men I dealt with would as well.
    I see more honesty and openness in Charles's first PHOTO (not woman) than in his second. I see more honesty and straightforwardness than vulnerability, which I wouldn't think of had it not been posted in this thread.
    Appealing? Apple sauce is appealing when I'm sick.
     
  93. "Being alive is a vulnerable condition." QED, Luis.
     
  94. These days when I shoot I usually like eye contact, but some people are either hard to shoot in a natural way or react too much to the camera so I have better luck catching them off guard. Both grandgirls have become wary of the camera since turning into teens, so unguarded moments are hard to get.
    The adult woman in the first image was taking a dance class and watching the instructor. As far as I know, since I was using a long lens and had been shooting around the edges of the class for a while, she didn't know she was the subject.
    I've found recently that I can get good shots of certain of my relatives, who otherwise would freeze up at the sight of a camera, while they are thinking deeper thoughts at a funeral.
     
  95. Lannie, I believe this is the SELF PORTRAIT you were talking about. It's in a hidden folder now (was a fairly early shot, about 5 years ago). Looking at it now, I find it a romanticized and falsely beautified kind of vulnerability. It's not real or deep. It almost whitewashes me. It's like a metaphorical kind of photographic air brushing. It's pleasing, alright, but not near enough else for me anymore. It's also flattering, also not usually enough for me. It's a much more palatable kind of vulnerability than what's possible.
     
  96. Fred, you hit the nail on the head. I saw neutrality, concentration, a woman comfortable in herself.
    Although it is looking back almost 30 years, I remember how difficult it was to get the subject to warm up, to get past the facade she had created of herself--and I was much into making a statement with my portraits back then--of controlling the subject.
    Now, I'd much rather capture someone in the act of being, even if is by using the camera remotely as an extension of my reach rather than my eye.
     
  97. In the Lange photo, I would say that it goes past vulnerability and into despondency. That woman's past potential risk IMO.
    _________________________________________
    In "Will", I am not seeing so much vulnerability as a person balanced, open, relaxed and at ease.
    __________________________________________
    Charles Griffin's pictures are dripping with existential angst, but not so heavy with vulnerability, though it's there.
     
  98. My modest contribution to photos illustrating (beyond) vulnerability.
    00ZECb-392085684.jpg
     
  99. Luis, great point about the Lange photo! We differ on the photo of Will, where I do see vulnerability, among other things as you note.
    ______________________________
    Possibly a look at the work of Coplans would help. These are photographs that portray vulnerability. The subject seems vulnerable, and the subject is vulnerability itself to some extent, and the subject, IMO, is not only Coplans himself but aging and aging males and physicality, and body . . . And the photographer is allowing himself to be vulnerable not only in revealing himself but in revealing himself in the way he did. I don't think of pleasing or beauty here.
     
  100. Fred, I know that you think that you have outgrown this photograph, and perhaps you have, but I wish that I had taken one of myself that was anywhere near as good.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/5510480
    --Lannie
     
  101. PHOTOS OF WILL (BY FRED) AND OF MIKE (BY CHARLES)
    Charles, I think that you and Fred have established that the look of vulnerability (if that is what we can temporarily agree to label it for lack of a better word) certainly is not the exclusive province of photos of women and children. I always liked the open look that can make women appear vulnerable (or at least approachable) in photos--and of course children often demonstrate a sense of vulnerability in photographs--but until today I never really saw the value of drawing out that side of a man. I don't mean to say that I believe that men must always be made to appear macho, simply that as a matter of artistic expression I never realized that there is so much to be mined in photos of men that I had never really taken very seriously. I guess that I have taken too many shots of clouds and old barns to be attentive to the possibilities in portrait photography--except in family snapshots.
    --Lannie
     
  102. Anders, I certainly think that you have captured both beauty and a sense of vulnerability in the same subject in that last photo. I am beginning to realize, however, that the two qualities are only contingently linked. They certainly are not linked by any necessity, notwithstanding my remarks that women who appear open, approachable, vulnerable or whatever are more appealing to me both in reality and in photos (and, yes, Fred, I like the word "appealing" in that context, although perhaps it was about sex appeal for me all along when I first framed the question after viewing Donna's photo).
    --Lannie
     
  103. BACK TO INTIMACY AND VULNERABILITY
    From my original post:
    Is there beauty in vulnerability?
    Fred G.'s frequent allusions to "intimacy" raised this question in my mind.
    Fred, I think that what I would say now is that photos that convey intimacy perhaps require that persons make themselves vulnerable to some degree. Without taking off the armor, that is, I do not see how intimacy is possible--and I am talking photography here, not just reality.
    It is conceivable, of course, that I have missed the point of your previous writings on intimacy.
    --Lannie
     
  104. Lanni thanks. As I have mentioned earlier, I'm not that much attracted by vulnerability or beauty. I'm much more interested in shooting ways people manage their vulnerability in social life. As I see it, we are all vulnerable, or at least feel vulnerable, and more or less so, in certain social situations.
    When it comes to the Coplans shots I see no vulnerability at all. Decay and aging, maybe, but that leaves us with the straight forward basic vulnerability: from dust to dust" etc
     
  105. When it comes to the Coplans shots I see no vulnerability at all. Decay and aging, maybe​
    Hard to imagine that photographing oneself and opening oneself up to the view that this is "decay" wouldn't suggest some degree of vulnerability on the part of the photographer/subject.
     
  106. Some of the vulnerability I perceive comes in the presentational quality of Coplans's photos. Some comes in the non-beautifying and non-coy lighting and poses. Also, the starkness and the sense I get of his own awareness (even confrontational awareness) of himself.
     
  107. "Photographer/subject" - hmmmmm.
     
  108. Coplans did not succumb to his ego, hide behind the usual conventions of beauty or put up the usual social defenses. We are all subject to mortality, but not always aware of it, as Michael's pictures point out (BTW, Hujar did a series of portraits of people thinking about their mortality a long time ago, though very different from Michael's). Thus we can be at certain risk without feeling vulnerable to it. Michael's pictures address this, among other things. That realization, the interruption of the reassuring delusions of immortality (or at least "not now") so most of us live under.
     
  109. Luis, I don't know what Michael (Lindner?) and which mortality pictures you're referring to.
    ______________________________
    Michael, I don't understand your "hmmmm." If it's a sort of question mark, these are self portraits by Coplans so he is literally the subject, though I think photographers are often the subjects of their photos, even when not self portraits.
     
  110. Luis, you seem to be talking about Coplans handling of what is a vulnerable situation. Yes, we handle our vulnerability differently. But just the fact that you see Coplans "at certain risk" (or, if not Coplans, anyone) makes them vulnerable. They may handle that in any number of ways, even by not succumbing to it. But what they are not succumbing to is their vulnerability. We can even be very vulnerable and not know it.
    ____________________________
    What is Coplans risking, if he is, while not succumbing to ego? One thing is that a viewer, because Coplans has an older body than an Abercrombie and Fitch model, would think he's taking a risk, precisely because of the body he's photographing. He is vulnerable to society's pre-defined tastes and assumptions even about what is taking a risk. If I take a risk doing a self portrait that shows my 57-year-old body in a less flattering light than I did back in 2007, the risk is precisely that Lannie and Anders will refer to it either as disgusting or decaying. I can deal with that risk and vulnerability any number of ways.
    __________________________
    As I've worked with more and more middle-aged and older men and their bodies, I've realized I've stopped comparing them to younger bodies and see them more as evolving or growing toward something rather than decaying and I'm not so much looking for beauty (though I think beauty is found in older bodies). I'm often looking for and at acceptance and appreciation. If I can look interestedly at the bodies of men my age and older, I can find what I need and what I want and what's actually there. That's, I think, one of the secrets to beauty. The so-called "beauty" or "pleasingness" of my 2007 portrait is hollow by comparison, and it's too often the only level of beauty achieved or sought . . . much like pretty sunsets, approachable men and women, and perfectly-lit suspension bridges.
     
  111. Fred, I would not want to be thought to be suggesting that external beauty is the only kind of beauty that can show through a vulnerable or open expression.
    Much less woud I want to be thought to be suggesting that only perfect bodies can be beautiful--if indeed it has anything to do with bodies at all in a given photo.
    When a sense of vulnerability shows, it is often through the eyes, and eyes can tell a lot about inner states. The strength of your own self-portrait is, to me, precisely there: in the expression, which is surely built around what the eyes are "saying."
    --Lannie
     
  112. In that photo, the eyes are saying "nice" things. It's easy. The eyes don't question, like in Will. They don't connect like in Will. They certainly don't challenge. IMO, they deceive, like the vast majority of false and cliché "eyes-are-windows-to-the-soul" portraits that simply portray the eyes well but not deeply and not with the potential imperfections or realities that might make us less comfortable than my eyes do in that portrait.
     
  113. As for "intimacy," Fred, that is yet another characteristic that for me is not typically about the body. The naked body may or may not be vulnerable, depending on the circumstances, but it is not thereby necessarily intimate, nor does its portrayal in a photo necessarily convey intimacy.
    We have gone round and round on vulnerability as it relates to beauty, but how vulnerability relates to intimacy might have been the more interesting and promising question to have started with.
    I do, in any case, see intimacy related to vulnerability, both in life and (conceivably) also in a photograph. I think that I would have to say that a sense of vulnerability is a precondition for a sense of intimacy in a photo.
    --Lannie
     
  114. As for your own photo, Fred, perhaps you are too close to it--and too critical of it. Just a thought. . . .
    I have yet to see anyone criticize it. As for whether or not it "decieves," are you trying to say that the photo does not in some sense capture the real you?
    Here is the photo again, for the sake of anyone who might have trouble following this exchange:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/5510480
    [The end of my lunch hour approaches, and so it is back to the trenches.]
    --Lannie
     
  115. I'm not always concerned with capturing "the real you" (whether it be myself or someone else) in a portrait as much as I am concerned with expressing something real, significant, and/or meaningful or thoughtful. It can often be either an individual or universal emotion or feeling rather than an "accurate" portrayal of a specific subject. For me, that photo is pleasing, as I said, a little like apple sauce. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy, which I do think is often a deception in photographs. It's not that it's deceptive in terms of whether it's accurate or not about what I look like or who I am inside (though I think it is a bit deceptive in those terms), it's that it's a warmed-over expression and it misses a lot of human potential, not just in terms of me as the subject but in terms of me as photographer and in terms of what it asks of and gives to the viewer setting aside myself as subject or photographer. Simply what it asks the viewer to feel expressively or to think about more abstractly than it being a photo of Fred.
    It is true that most people like it. I have to go with my own assessment and with some assessments of those I talk to outside of PN whom I also trust. I also have to hope that many who praised it back then can now put it in the context of a lot of my subsequent work and see why I feel it's lacking and maybe reassess and find it lacking themselves. Hopefully, we're all here to learn and grow and not necessarily stick with what may have worked for us five years ago. If all commenting were being genuine in their praise (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then it was up to me to demand more of myself and of them, which I think I have as time has gone by. As a matter of fact, when more people start disliking individual photos, not relating to them as readily, questioning them, and not being as easily taken in by them, I'm probably on more of the track that I want to be on. That's why I so appreciated your describing my most current photo as disgusting. I much prefer that kind of unguarded and strong reaction to the universal praise I got on the 2007 self portrait.
     
  116. There was a good thread about intimacy a couple of years ago that John Kelly started based on something I had said.
    HERE'S the thread.
    I haven't re-read further, but I'd still start with at least the first thing I said in that thread, which was on Jun 07, 2009; 02:43 a.m. To sum it up, as I'm sure most people won't feel like re-hashing that thread, for me intimacy centers around relationship. I don't think there needs to be vulnerability in order to establish intimacy and I don't think vulnerability is as tied to relationship. I think the picture of Lannie's mom can be said to suggest intimacy without vulnerability.
     
  117. Fred - " We can even be very vulnerable and not know it."
    True, but is that photographable? Or simply implied because vulnerability is never far from us?
     
  118. It's photographable.
    Imagine an innocent person walking in the street and a photographer captures a purse-snatcher or pickpocket just before the moment of attack, but clearly with intent and in motion of pursuit. The subject, in this case, is vulnerable without having known it and it was photographed at the time the subject didn't know it.
    I've seen street shots of people on the street where those people are vulnerable to the camera's prying eye and the photograph strongly conveys that vulnerability, the invasion of privacy, and yet those people will often never know they were in that way vulnerable as they will likely never see the pictures. Even many of the street snappers who take such pictures aren't aware of the level of vulnerability they are actually creating.
     
  119. As a side issue, this is one of the reasons I seriously consider any candid shooting I do, whether before, during, or afterwards and consider even harder whether I will show them (and I do sometimes show them).
    Because shooting others candidly (without their knowledge), especially if they are already vulnerable in some way, I believe adds to their vulnerability, whether or not they ever know it. I do that with a great sense of responsibility. I consider a similar responsibility in terms of those I shoot who do know it and who agree to it and enjoy it. With my camera and its power and the power of memorializing and re-creating moments and even altering moments with a lasting picture, I can create a lot of vulnerability both for others and myself. I'm certainly mindful of that.
     
  120. However, if you zoomed in to exclude the purse-snatcher, even though the person is vulnerable, no sign of it would be visible, no?
    So either the subject has to be aware of their own vulnerability, or we have to show the potential threat somehow within the frame. Of course, the comment on candid SP is one that Sontag stretched to cover all of photography (which is why I included her quote in one of my responses on this thread). It's all too easy to slide into the position that everything related to being alive is vulnerable, then the v-word loses value and becomes like the aether. Hmm...
     
  121. Can I take the example of W Eugene Smith's photograph 'Tomoko and Mother' (known also under other titles), taken from his 'Minamata' series, to extend the discussion. I consider this to be one of the greatest photographs ever taken. The subject is the epitome of vulnerability, being deaf, mute, blind and severly disabled. The picture is both harrowing and yet beautiful. Does an ethical problem arise in seeing beauty in such suffering?
     
  122. The subject is the epitome of vulnerability, being deaf, mute, blind and severly disabled. The picture is both harrowing and yet beautiful. Does an ethical problem arise in seeing beauty in such suffering?​
    Thats an image that moved me the first time I saw it, and has continued to do so.
    I personally dont have any ethical problem in seeing beauty in such 'suffering'. I know what you meant but I'd not use the word 'suffering'. This is a common response to disability, and the reality is that for the individual their 'suffering' is actually 'normal' for them, its a part of what they are, and to some extent defines them. To deny that fact is I think to deny a fundamental part of their existence. But thats not to say there is no suffering, but its not all about that.
    And of course I'm absolutely sure you know all that, but I'll confess I'm struggling to find a suitable alternative word!
    'Difficulties' seems too trite. 'Problems' even less useful. 'Challenges' - no. Something else to discuss?
    However for me the image does not portray suffering - to me its about devotion and love. Nick Ut's famous Vietnam image of Kim Phuc burned with napalm I think does portray suffering.
    A photographer whose work I particularly like, Abraham Menashe, published a book of images of people with disabilities, 'Inner Grace', which captured the 'beauty' in disability. It worked for me and captured something very special. You might find the link interesting if you've not seen any of his work.
    Interesting direction to take this discussion Chris.
     
  123. Chris/John, some interesting and moving thoughts.
    I find what I often do is describe (and photograph) on an individual basis. One word, just like one approach to photographing, will not cover all who seem to fit a certain group or profile. Some people with disabilities suffer sometimes, some suffer always, some don't. Some are vulnerable in certain moments, some would probably be thought of as generally vulnerable, some would prefer to be viewed as having great strength.
    Best, IMO, to see it relatively. My father and a nephew of mine have different sorts of disabilities and both, relative to their own lives and situations, are alternatively vulnerable and not so vulnerable, alternatively weak and strong.
    I think there can be beauty in anything, including disability. My concern would be that often the photographic beauty found or portrayed is more a kind of pathos and often a bit condescending, almost as if they must be presented beautifully or romantically in order to be palatable. I often find people with disabilities being "handled" by photographers and it very often puts me off. Arbus didn't, I think, do this. Having photographed many folks with both physical and mental disabilities, my approach is fairly similar to the way I try to approach all my subjects, which is not to look for or see beauty per se. It's to find the individual and the humanity and perhaps capture something unique that doesn't even necessarily say something about the particular person but simply expresses a feeling. It's also about discovery, and appreciating what I find. I don't find "beauty" a terribly adequate or informative concept in this regard.
    The more I work with this population, the less inclined I am to see any of them as having disabilities and instead just see them as people who have a lot to offer me socially and consciously and who also come with great expressions, gestures, movement, and are good raw materials for photos.
     
  124. I meant to correct this earlier: I erroneously attributed a Charles Griffin picture to Michael Lindner. Sorry about that.
     
  125. I referred earlier to Peter Hujar's portraits being heavy with mortality. A few links...
    http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article2999845.ece
    http://www.amazon.com/Portraits-Life-Death-Peter-Hujar/dp/0306800381
    http://www.matthewmarks.com/exhibitions/2002-11-06_peter-hujar/
    http://ps1.org/exhibitions/view/92
    http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=zc462&i=&i2=
     
  126. Luis G,
    I'm just glad I haven't lost my angst.
     
  127. And I fear that any image of purity or vulnerability....
     
  128. ...can turn on you in an instant.
     
  129. Charles, you're going to get Lannie all riled up....:)
     
  130. Um, was that "turn on you" or "turn you on"? It can be a fine line, I confess. I feel a bit like W right now, a bit confused, feeling a lot of things, but nothing that I would characterize as angst. . . .
    Serious question: Which is the more beautiful? Why? (Extra credit: How does eros inform conceptions of beauty, openness, and vulnerability?)
    --Lannie
     
  131. Luis
    It's all too easy to slide into the position that everything related to being alive is vulnerable, then the v-word loses value and becomes like the aether.​
    You are right, but never the less, it is true. The rest is stereotyping and chinese shadow theatre: Smiles, open eyes directed towards the viewer, reflective faces, people in situations perceived of making them weak (in relative terms vis-a-vis a self-perceived stronger person, the viewer) etc etc, can all be interpreted as stereotypes of openness to the soul and "real self" of people. So be it ! Photography is anyway just a two-dimensional image of the world and not the real thing.
     
  132. Fred
    My concern would be that often the photographic beauty found or portrayed is more a kind of pathos and often a bit condescending, almost as if they must be presented beautifully or romantically in order to be palatable.​
    I agree. To 'reduce' this to an aesthetic - I find the assymetry of (some) disability very striking and in many ways fascinating - its fundamental to the character of an individual, but all too often the visual portrayals we see of disability seeks to wrestle symmetry from this 'awkward' reality - (the 'sanitizing' you infer). This approach (for me at least) strips away a lot of the core essence of the subjects. There's no beauty for me in such 'prettiness'.
    Ironically the role of photography in our 'appreciation' of disability is a schizophrenic one - photography undoubtedly reveals, provides insights, influences, but as a genre charities advertizing has historically portrayed disability as a problem, as 'un-beautiful' because it needs to make us feel guilty enough to give money, to salve our concsciences by helping the 'unfortunates'.
    The more I work with this population, the less inclined I am to see any of them as having disabilities and instead just see them as people who have a lot to offer me socially and consciously and who also come with great expressions, gestures, movement, and are good raw materials for photos.​
    Could not agree more with you. My professional background includes over 20 years front-line hands-on work in Disability Services, with people, individual characters, too often lumped together into broad categories that say little about the realities of their true, and very considerable, potential.
     
  133. Ironically the role of photography in our 'appreciation' of disability is a schizophrenic one - photography undoubtedly reveals, provides insights, influences, but as a genre charities advertizing has historically portrayed disability as a problem,​
    I would totally agree with you John. I have also during my professional work, for years been working to better the situation, in my case, in educational terms, of "people with special needs" - which is maybe a more correct term for what you name as "people with disabilities". As you write yourself many of them have in fact numerous "abilities" to draw on.
    I have seen many photographical works on such groups of people and few I feel at ease with. Too often they seem mainly to be considered as good shooting opportunities for photographers in need of being noticed.
    Personally, I have always put my cameras away when being together with people with such "special needs".
    To distance ourselves from what you describe as a "schizophrenic role of photography" vis-a-vis such people, I have not seen any fully convincing solutions mainly because of the, in my eyes, obvious prejudices of most viewers with great ignorance on the subject.
    Whether, discussing such people with special needs, in a thread on "vulnerability" is the right place, is another question. As we know, many with special needs have a great ability of protecting themselves against the "outer world" and "opening themselves up" to influence from others is not an obvious characteristic of them as a group (they are highly diverse so the term "group" is surely not optimal). It is not their "disabilities", whatever "visible" they are, that per se show "vulnerability", as discussed above.
     
  134. It is not their "disabilities", whatever "visible" they are, that per se show "vulnerability", as discussed above.​
    Absolutely agree Anders. I was involved in some work on 'hidden disabilities' which was fascinating, dealing with such things as epilepsy, which is not a 'problem' (for everybody else) until the individual has a seizure. It might be fair to say that this is real 'vulnerability' - given its concealment from the 'audience' but prominence in the mind of the person who must deal with it, and who must therefore trust in those around them to provide the appropriate care if they suddenly head for the floor. There's something authentic for me in 'vulnerability' being a hidden quality, in possession only of the vulnerable and not necessarily open for all to see.
    I smiled at your point on the terminology - 'special needs'. In the years I worked in the Service the terminology continually changed, from 'spastics', to 'students' to 'attenders' to 'differently abled' to 'people with sepcial needs' to 'people with disabilities' to 'people with learning disabilities' until I got thoroughly pissed off and decided that I would simply use 'people with special names' and described the building I worked in as a 'centre for people with earning difficulites' which I could forcefully argue was exactly the case given my clients exclusion from the workforce. It did not go down well with my superiors.
     
  135. John you have got humor, and your former employers are somewhat restrained !
    I have been smiling for years about the changing names, but came to accept that whatever term was used, it became rapidly a stigma difficult to live with for those concerned. Names changing is a way of preventing the trap.
    That photographers sometimes (always?) are part of the stigma doing thing is one of the problems we have to consider before we fall in admiration for all these photos of so very vulnerable people ready to open up to our mostly well meant "involvement" and "protection".
     
  136. Um, was that "turn on you" or "turn you on"? It can be a fine line, I confess. I feel a bit like W right now, a bit confused, feeling a lot of things, but nothing that I would characterize as angst. . . .
    Serious question: Which is the more beautiful? Why? (Extra credit: How does eros inform conceptions of beauty, openness, and vulnerability?)​
    Lannie, If I had been a little quicker at one point in the W shoot, I could have had brother Jeb picking his nose as he watched W speaking. Alas, we see, but we often fail to record.
    As for the girl. At that time she was an aspiring model. She won a little online contest at a modeling site and I was passing through her area and provided a quick portfolio shoot as a prize for her. In a series of sequential shots she could change her expression from charming to sultry to wry to innocent, all very subtle shifts. As far as the shoot being a turn-on--not with her mother, father, sister, brother and my wife all looking on.
    However, we know that our sexual orientation influences how we see and how we respond to certain things--to our concepts of beauty, for sure. In the process of creating an image for a purpose, we can employ the performance ability of a model and our own directing ability to give the illusion of what we feel is beauty, openness and vulnerability. The image may have no bearing on the real personality of the subject.
    Given all that, I have to say that the direct gaze of Burning Fire is more to my liking.
    As you can see, I avoid being too serious, but the conversation has turned to another direction, so here's a different image. This being a candid capture and just a moment that I think shows more than vulnerability, much more...
     
  137. Many reactions, like the ones I'm hearing to a photo of a woman above, rarely have to do with sexual orientation and have more to do with overall sensibilities and some amount of cultural impress.
    Empathy allows many gay men to react to sensual photos of women and "get it." It allows many straight men to react to sexualized or sensualized photos of men. Cultural hangups can prevent that kind of empathy in some cases, both ways. It's not sexual orientation, but male horniness or overly repressed desires, that allow men to react sexually to so many photos of women, which seems often the case. Same with gay men reacting like adolescents to certain photos of men.
    The undercurrent is clear.
    I doubt very much whether, at any serious level, concepts of beauty vary based on sexual orientation. Not being sexually aroused by the same situations or people doesn't mean we differ when it comes to beauty, unless we confuse beauty with hormones.
     
  138. As far as photographing populations one worries about exploiting or has seen often exploited by other photographers, I find allowing myself to be vulnerable and intimate (and the intimacy is established through the kind of relationship I make myself part of) helps me photograph genuinely and effectively.
     
  139. Somehow, I expected Fred to be critical of that. I must be very hormonal for I have spent many hours in my lifetime marveling over Botticelli's Venus and her many guises in other of his paintings. Far more so than on da Vinci's Mona Lisa or any of his representations of male or female forms, although his is the superior art.
    As for Rubens...
     
  140. Fred
    As far as photographing populations one worries about exploiting or has seen often exploited by other photographers, I find allowing myself to be vulnerable and intimate (and the intimacy is established through the kind of relationship I make myself part of) helps me photograph genuinely and effectively.​
    Yes, well put. For those of you not necessarily following this aspect of the thread, this (in my experience) can be as simple as kneeling down to a lower level than the (wheelchair-bound) individual I'm engaging with. Fred can describe his own experiences, some I'm sure will be complex, others incredibly simple and yet for all their simplicity can foster quite memorable interactions.
     
  141. I hate to do it, but it is worthwhile re-reading what Susan Sontag wrote about gender and beauty:
    A beautiful woman, we say in English. But a handsome man. “Handsome” is the masculine equivalent of—and refusal of—a compliment which has accumulated certain demeaning overtones, by being reserved for women only. That one can call a man “beautiful” in French and Italian suggest that Catholic countries—unlike those countries shaped by the Protestant version of Christianity—still retain some vestiges of the pagan admiration of beauty…In every modern country that is Christian or post-Christian, women are the beautiful sex—to the detriment of the notion of beauty as well as of women.​
    The beauty of Botticelli and of da Vinci (of end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century in Florence) is that of the latin type.
     
  142. I am leaving the forum to protest the heavy-handed editing.
    The deleted photos were very helpful and did promote the discussion.
    --Lannie
     
  143. And here I always thought a picture was worth a thousand words. I guess a thousand words are better than photos of the human condition.
     
  144. Lanni, the problem about a place like this is that if one want to protest about anything, you have to enter the forums, not leaving them.
     
  145. Very well, Anders.
    Perhaps the readers can remember Charles Griffin's two head shots of the same woman, one of which seemed very fresh and "innocent," and the other of which seemed sultry and more overtly sexual. (These labels do not begin to do justice to the actual expressions, but they will have to do for now in the absence of the photos.) Charles had posted the two pictures, as I recall, in order to draw attention to the issue as to which was more "beautiful"--or whether the more obviously "sexual" picture evoked a greater sense of beauty. Neither was a nude, and so it came down to evaluating beauty based on expression, to the best of my recollection.
    Thus it was that one of the last substantive issues being discussed (before the pictures were removed) was the role of sexuality in assessing beauty. That line of discussion had not gone very far before Fred wrote the following by way of reference to the same photo:
    Many reactions, like the ones I'm hearing to a photo of a woman above, rarely have to do with sexual orientation and have more to do with overall sensibilities and some amount of cultural impress.
    Empathy allows many gay men to react to sensual photos of women and "get it." It allows many straight men to react to sexualized or sensualized photos of men. Cultural hangups can prevent that kind of empathy in some cases, both ways. It's not sexual orientation, but male horniness or overly repressed desires, that allow men to react sexually to so many photos of women, which seems often the case. Same with gay men reacting like adolescents to certain photos of men.
    The undercurrent is clear.
    I doubt very much whether, at any serious level, concepts of beauty vary based on sexual orientation.​
    I am not sure that I would have cast the issue as one of sexual orientation so much as whether sexual attraction affects perceptions of beauty. Fred's comment certainly merits a response, but I think that the lead-in by Charles needs to be discussed a bit more first:
    As for the girl. At that time she was an aspiring model. She won a little online contest at a modeling site and I was passing through her area and provided a quick portfolio shoot as a prize for her. In a series of sequential shots she could change her expression from charming to sultry to wry to innocent, all very subtle shifts. As far as the shoot being a turn-on--not with her mother, father, sister, brother and my wife all looking on.
    However, we know that our sexual orientation influences how we see and how we respond to certain things--to our concepts of beauty, for sure. In the process of creating an image for a purpose, we can employ the performance ability of a model and our own directing ability to give the illusion of what we feel is beauty, openness and vulnerability. The image may have no bearing on the real personality of the subject.
    Given all that, I have to say that the direct gaze of Burning Fire [the second photo] is more to my liking.​
    I think that I know what Charles is getting at. I do not need to compare a photo of a man to one of a woman in order to see the issue as to whether or not (or to what extent or by what mechanism) sexual attraction plays a role in assessments of beauty. I can compare (as Charles was doing) two photos containing women--in this case the same woman, since that simplifies the issue. Since it was obviously the same woman, it was clear that her expression bore upon the interpretation and evaluation of the photograph as to its beauty.
    Frankly, Charles, I am not sure that I would say that the "sultry" photo of the woman was more beautiful. I liked both, and I can find "appeal" in both--and perhaps the appeal in this case is simply a matter of degrees of "sex appeal." (I confess that I hate the phrase, though I have now used it twice in this very thread.) That is, I liked them both, and I do not doubt that my hormonal levels (or sexual orientation) might affect my evaluation at a given moment. Neither was a nude (both were head shots), and yet there was a more pervasive sexuality in the second version--or was there? Was that lust that she was exuding or simply smoldering anger?
    In any case, the two photos set the issue better than I can with mere words, since the subtleties of the expression on the second photo are really the issue here. It was mostly about reading the eyes, since eyes convey most of the direct "messages" (ouch!) that we get from a photo. I confess that I do believe (counter to Fred's view, as I understand it) that sexual attraction does affect my evaluation of the beauty. The issue is complicated in this case, however, not by sexual orientation so much as by what one reads into the expression. Did the second photo contain a suggestive expression? The first one certainly did not, although I would never try to desexualize it. The model was (or was portraying) the kind of wholesome sexuality and freshly inviting attitude which I find darned near irresistible. If I had been on the verge of a romantic encounter with the woman who was modeling, then it certainly might not have been long before the one expression would have been replaced by the other, to which I would have no doubt responded as well--in real life.
    But the pictures are not "real life." If I speculate on my potential response(s) to the actual woman, I am into the realm of sexual narrative, fantasy.
    At this point, although I admit to not being able to factor out completely the various forces that affect my aesthetic evaluation, I have to say that the force of Fred's objection comes to the fore. Can I not set aside my lust (or whatever) and evaluate the photos simply by virtue of which of the two I find to represent beauty in the abstract, or is "beauty in the abstract" always a will-o-the-wisp?
    That is, can I set aside my sexual nature (mood, orientation, whatever it is) in evaluating such pictures? I am not sure that I can, Fred, when evaluating "beauty." On the other hand, I cannot easily dismiss what you are saying.
    What is beauty in the first place?
    I shall have to leave the issue there for now. A busy day awaits. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  146. A note from the management. This is not a "No Words" forum. If you have a series of photos that you think is pertinent, create a presentation, not an inline gallery in the middle of a thread, and provide a lionk. The thread has been pruned to exactly one picture post per person
    Scratching head, what manner of creature be a "Lionk?"
     
  147. One of the vulnerabilities often obvious in viewers is an inability to see beyond the subject of a photo, often conflating subject and photo. It's why lousy photos of gorgeous sunsets are often mistakenly thought to be great photos. Same for photos of attractive people that show no vision and have little photographic interest.
    Another way of looking and photographing is to involve oneself with the integration of subject into the photographic medium. How is the person or thing or scene shot? Why? How does the subject relate to what else may be going on in the photo? Can I see beyond the mere good or plain looks or attractiveness of the subject (be it woman, man, sunset, landscape, flower, old person) and appreciate this as a photograph? Is there something to appreciate that warrants this being a photo or would I just rather meet the person (or do the person and get it over with)?
    Do I want different things from photographs of people, on the one hand, and the people I look at or spend time with on the other? [My answer: Yes.]
    _______________________________
    Lusting after pictures of decades-younger pretty people opens the vulnerability gates on both ends. It makes the subjects of the photos vulnerable (to the horny gaze of viewers) and it points up a vulnerability of the viewer (perhaps even more than just a vulnerability). It's not a rare occurrence that older folks objectify and drool over younger folks they find attractive. Does clothing the younger object of desire in wholesomeness answer the question of how wholesome the lust is that's coming from the viewer?
    Perhaps being vulnerable is recognizing that our desires are not always wholesome, our thoughts not always pure, that issues of morality and photographic aesthetics are not always clean or clear-cut and that we are motivated by conflicting desires. There's beauty in being in touch with all that, beauty in photographs that may address such human -- rather than misleadingly godly -- issues . . . more beauty than in a pretty or wholesome face.
    John Keats thought Beauty was truth and truth beauty. Plato thought beauty was the realization of love. They both knew the difference between Beauty and lust.
     
  148. Can I see beyond the mere good or plain looks or attractiveness of the subject (be it woman, man, sunset, landscape, flower, old person) and appreciate this as a photograph? Is there something to appreciate that warrants this being a photo or would I just rather meet the person (or do the person and get it over with)?​
    That sums it up pretty well, Fred. I know that you are right and that one ought to be able to assess the beauty of the photo apart from the personal attractiveness of the subject, but I doubt that I can do that where pictures of beautiful women are concerned (or even assessments of beauty of actual persons, not photos of them). My wife got more beautiful the more I fell in love with her, and I was never ever able again to see her as merely "attractive but ordinary" (my first impression) as we fell more and more in love--she had become beautiful and stayed that way, even as her wrinkles began, even as she lost a breast to cancer, etc. Love is strange, and beauty is, well, ephemeral, but then again sometimes it is not. I am mystified by the whole issue.
    As for relating to photos, I am not sure that I was different in my aesthetic assessments of photos when I was younger--even though I myself am arguably more vulnerable as I enter my late sixties, as you suggest for all of us as we age. It is clear enough that hormones play a role in sexual attraction, but nothing negates the fact that my perception of beauty is, I believe, OFTEN (but not always) affected by how sexually attractive the person is. Setting aside the attraction when evaluating beauty is very difficult for me, if not impossible. I am not even sure that we do not find water (lakes, rivers) to be more beautiful because of the survival value of proximity to bodies of water in terms of our evolutionary development. That is, may one posit a "hard-wired" or genetic factor that figures into assessments of beauty? Beautiful women, beautiful lakes, the "security" of nice tree-covered hills, etc. come to mind for me personally. They imply not merely beauty but security, I think--but perhaps security feeds back into our aesthetic evaluations. I simply am not sure at this point. I really am not sure that genetics per se is not involved. Plato would surely have emphasized the rational component. (As a Keats freak, I am not sure so sure about him: "She lives with beauty, beauty that must die. . . and aching pleasure nigh, etc.."--"Ode to Melancholy," my favorite of all of his odes.)
    On the other hand, in spite of my sexual orientation, I can appreciate the beauty of your own self-portrait, Fred, as well as that of the other photo of the male that showed the color manipulations as rich colors in the skin. On one level the latter photo was not "beautiful" to me, but on another level the sense of vulnerability or openness (or lack of a threating demeanor and thus a sense of security, or whatever it is) made a big difference in how I assessed the aesthetic quality of the photo--and this was across the line from what I would have expected based on my own sexual orientation.
    I can see now why Luis fled early on from the "b" word in this thread! Discussions of "beauty" get us into some deep water pretty quickly.
    Perhaps the single word "beauty" really hides a morass of competing assessments, attractions, evaluations. I fear that I shall never get it all sorted out. If beauty meant one thing and one thing always, that would be one thing, but I suspect that the single word has a lot more possible uses than I have ever thought about before.
    I think that, conceptually speaking, we are still stuck in the fly bottle on this one--or at least I am.
    --Lannie
     
  149. Everyone fled the "b" word. It's usually used meaninglessly and often avoids more coherent discussions about photos and accessible ideas. Only when we moved vulnerability away from the attempt to link it to beauty did we actually engage vulnerability in some real way.
    The "deep water" of beauty is often a shroud, concealing what's real and what's there.
    Your mother looks much more beautiful than the more sexually vibrant woman Charles photographed.
     
  150. Fred, I know that you cited (or alluded to) "Ode on a Grecian Urn," but, in spite of the oft-quoted equation of truth and beauty in that poem, I have always felt that the definitive treatment of beauty in Keats is somehow embedded in the complexity of his "Ode on Melancholy."
    The poem is about melancholy or depression, yes, but it is also about the ephemeral nature of beauty--and it is above all about Keats' angst where his love and desire for Fanny Brawne in the face of his imminent death were concerned. I think that it is not only one of the greatest works of literature in the English language, but also a possible source of enlightenment as to how our feelings and desires affect our aesthetic judgments.
    THAT IS, IMAGINE THIS BEAUTIFUL POEM WITHOUT KEATS' FRUSTRATED DESIRE (BUT STILL SEXUAL DESIRE) FOR FANNY BRAWNE!
    The last two of the three stanzas are awesome to me. I cannot imagine the depth of feeling that went into his evaluation of Fanny Brawne's "beauty" as well as into his comments below about "beauty" in the last two stanzas:
    No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
    Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
    Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
    By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
    Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
    Nor let the beetle nor the death-moth be
    Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
    A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
    For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
    And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

    But when the melancholy fit shall fall
    Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
    That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
    And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
    Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
    Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
    Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
    Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
    Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
    And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

    She dwells with Beauty -- Beauty that must die;
    And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
    Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
    Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips;
    Ay, in the very temple of delight
    Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
    Though seen of none save him whose strenuous
    tongue
    Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
    His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
    And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
     
  151. Your mother looks much more beautiful than the more sexually vibrant woman Charles photographed.​
    Fred, I think that we are simply using "beauty" in a variety of ways in this entire thread (and in everyday life). We seem to want one universal definition, but there are not only connotations and connotations of "beauty," but myriad meanings in use of the same word--but you know all that. . . .
    That does not mean that I can begin to catalog those usages or to sort all this out. This is way over my head--the toughest concept I can imagine tackling on a photo site. I am brought to a new question:
    What is beauty, that I might find it (and photograph it)?
    --Lannie
     
  152. The "deep water" of beauty is often a shroud. . . .​
    A burial shroud, in Keats' case? What killed him, tuberculosis, or the perceived hopelessness of his situation? He had lost a mother and a brother to TB, as I recall, but there were even then those who survived longer than Keats. I would even aver that it was his very intensity that killed him (i.e., that weakened him and hastened his death. (Intensity has more than once nearly killed me.)
    Da capo:
    The "deep water" of beauty is often a shroud. . . .​
    Fred, what a remarkably beautiful phrase! You should have been a poet--but we know that Plato would have been disappointed in your career choice, in your selection of an "inferior" undertaking.
    --Lannie
     
  153. If someone were genuinely to photograph or call upon (or write a poem about or while under the influence of) their lust or desire, as Keats did and, as I imagine Stieglitz did, I'd be intrigued and it would have the makings of something worthwhile.
    Someone simply photographing the object of their desire or lust and expecting that to express or communicate desire or beauty is likely missing the point.
    .
    What is beauty, that I might find it (and photograph it)?
    It's more than the object. Show me the desire and passion. (Show it to me with light, texture, perspective, composition,
    tonality . . .)
    Maybe don't look to find it. Look to create it.
    Creation can be the process and fulfillment of some sort of longing and desire, not just the object of it. It's how the subject is approached and photographed, not just that it is found or that it is photographed.
     
  154. The beauty of Keats's truth is that he was truthful about his desire. No one thinks he resorted to reducing beauty to truth. That was a beginning for him. He then told his truth, which he told beautifully. Photographs can limit themselves to showing beauty. They can also tell truths about it. Reducing beauty to wholesomeness is like calling beauty truth and leaving it at that. Looking at the desire and allowing the reality of unwholesomeness to work its way through would be an attempt at truth, and would probably be much more beautiful . . . and make a better photograph.
     
  155. Maybe don't look to find it. Look to create it.​
    I would write fiction if only I could. (Goodness knows I have tried.) Alas, I do not know how to create beauty using photography. My photography is, at best, "pedestrian." It is my lot in life to be pretty good in a lot of things, great in none of them.
    I think that I must be a professional dilettante.
    --Lannie
     
  156. I get the feeling that Fred likes a bit of manipulation in all things--art, photo or argument.
    I spent 30 years photographing reality, with professional requirements to keep it that way. I've come late to Photoshop and still avoid using most of its tools. Not among my digital images are the photographs of three elderly relatives, each having a multitude of wrinkles. These were women who were important to me when I was a child and in many ways they represent beauty to me as much as any dewy teenage model.
    As Lannie says of his wife, my wife has grown more beautiful to me over the years, even as she complains that she has lost her looks. Since we can put more words into this than imagery:
    THE GARDEN SPIRIT

    She began her transformation slowly
    Always willowy
    her arms and legs
    she covered in earth colors
    wearing an old hat with wide brim

    In the heat of tropical days
    she worked her wild garden religiously
    planting here and feeding there
    and watering without regard to local laws
    her seedlings and shrubbery more precious
    than mere legalities
    Over time her movements slowed
    as her garden grew to sustain itself
    in the heat and the droughts
    and the occasional torrential downpour

    One day a rain came
    and she did not retreat indoors
    She turned her face to the rain
    and felt it imbue her being

    Night came and she rested her hands
    on the rich soil
    digging into the ground
    with her fingers

    She kicked away her sandals
    and spread her toes in the sweet mulch
    Through the long warm night
    she drew from the strength of the earth
    and broke the shell of flesh
    Days passed and no one came looking for her
    Eventually a neighbor saw the profusion
    of growth in the garden and came to admire
    the wild and flowery tangle that nature
    and hard work had built

    In the heart of the garden was a curious shrub
    longlimbed with multiple root systems
    and varigated blooms of unusual beauty
    An old hat lay near the main trunk
    and shreds of clothing all about
    but no woman
    not bone or nail or tooth
    only an exotic shrub with deep roots
     
  157. Charles, I don't know what Photoshop has to do with creating a photo. Certainly it is one tool among many. Photos are created through perspective, composition, use of light, texture, and a host of other very "real" things.
    Please don't make this conversation about manipulation. That's a very tired subject.
     
  158. Charles, what a remarkable poem. Is that yours. (At least they are not likely to delete that.)
    Fred, when we create we manipulate. Can we create beauty with photo manipulation? Well, some can, but I stay pretty close to the ground because of (1) limited PS skills and (2) personal preferences (with some exceptions).
    The thing about vulnerability, openness, is that we do not get it thorugh Photoshop, although we can manipulate other variables, including the envionment in which the photo is made.
    --Lannie
     
  159. Ah, yes. The original path to subjective representation. I probably should have put a paragraph break in there before I mentioned Photoshop, which is both a blessing and a curse.
    Of course a photographer, whether working in film or digitally, presuming enough knowledge and experience, can use all those factors to create an image. I recall doing staged shakes of the developing film so that the developer would completely exhaust its chemical reaction against the emulsion before the next shake, thus giving a defined "edge" to the grain--all to gain an illusive texture in the final print.
    Among your photos, Fred, is a very well done black and white flower that was originally a color image, if I read the comments correctly. I'm sorry if my bringing up manipulation is tiring to you--after all, I'm just getting engaged in the conversation and it is simply stimulating to me.
    I'm not so much an artist, but I am a photographer. I capture moments more than I create images. I stalk reality more than I engage in fantasies. Sometimes I get results that show or illustrate feelings, emotions, truths--whatever--but it is both luck and the perception of the beholder that translates to these values. Which differ among each of us.
     
  160. Charles, what a remarkable poem. Is that yours. (At least they are not likely to delete that.)​
    Yes, I'm very versatile.
    I figure I'll be gone before her and I wrote that for her, since I expect she will one day expire while working in her garden.
     
  161. Can we create beauty with photo manipulation?​
    We can create beauty in how we see and how we frame what we see and how we photograph what we frame and how we process what we photograph and how we present what we process. Whether we call it creation or manipulation or some combination of each is immaterial to me. It's just steps.
    Lannie asked a valid question about how to access photographic beauty and now we're deciding whether manipulation is the same thing or a part of creation.
     
  162. Manipulation can only deal with what is already there. If 'beauty' is absent no amount of fiddling can make it appear.
     
  163. John, I'm not so sure.
    Sometimes a photo is beautiful even when the original subject or scene was not. That is a case of beauty being absent until someone saw something a certain way and did something about it by taking a picture of it.
    Painters fiddle with paints in order to make beautiful things. Sculptors fiddle with marble in order to make beautiful things. A photographer can fiddle with his raw materials (the world) by taking a picture of it or he can fiddle with his capture in post processing in order to make a beautiful thing.
    Beauty is not always simply found. It can be realized.
    Some things are already beautiful and some things are made beautiful, in all kinds of ways.
    Photographic beauty is often in the photographer's vision, not in the world he photographs. The realization of that vision often includes whatever manipulation might already be built into that vision.
     
  164. If it appears Fred, then it was already there!
     
  165. ps meant to say - I was referring only to manipulating already-taken photographs with my original comment.
    I fully take your point about sculpture, painting etc.
     
  166. My point is that the original capture can be not beautiful and the manipulated (I prefer post processed) photo can be.
    No, the beauty may not have been in the original scene. And it may not have been in the original capture. It took the photographer doing a good job of post processing to turn that capture into something beautiful. Unless only cameras, and not people, get to make something beautiful.
     
  167. Fred, you should be aware of Jerry Uelsmann. Before Photoshop, he was the wizard of surrealist photography. In fact, he continues his darkroom alchemy (his own word for his technique) to date.
    Of course, his has been a subset within the field--something not everyone could do.
     
  168. I find myself wondering if post-processing can promote a greater sense (or appearance) of vulnerability on the part of the subject of the photo, and, if so, wondering whether or not that can also promote a greater sense of beauty in the photograph.
    We would need photos to show that, and I know of none to link to. The best example I have might be of the shot of Luke made at his grandmother's birthday party:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10231891
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10232031
    Then again, I am not sure that the more heavily processed black-and-white version actually does create a greater appearance of vulnerability. That was not the point of the processing, of course, but it might have inadvertently created a different mood--or an appearance of greater vulnerability. He actually looks more inquisitive than vulnerable to me.
    Sorry for another "grand-kid" shot, guys. It is all that I can think of at the moment.
    Can anyone think of a shot where the processing has promoted a greater sense (or appearance) of vulnerability?
    --Lannie
     
  169. Speaking of Uelsmann, Charles, I rather like this one--surreal as usual, but with a vague sense of something dark and foreboding to me--but maybe that is just about me. Whether that leads to a greater sense of vulnerability for the figures in the photo is another question:
    http://masters-of-photography.com/U/uelsmann/uelsmann_small_woods_full.html
    What does one make of the missing reflection for the central figure?
    --Lannie
     
  170. Lannie, in the "Small woods where I met myself" of Uelsmann, that you link up to above, I'm not sure I find neither beauty, nor vulnerability. I see surrealism. Everything that touches us in emotional or intellectual terms is not necessarily beauty, whatever definition you use for that term. In fact, as far as I see it, the relationship between Beauty and Vulnerability cannot be understood in terms of the-beauty-of-vulnerability as it is mostly discussed above, but rather in terms of the "vulnerability-of-the-viewer-that-makes-it-possible-to-see-beauty".
    This latter approach to appreciating beauty is, as far as I have understood - "but I might be wrong"! - that of many philosophers such as Kant: "natural beauty" in "finalities without end", from which one must conclude that all discussion on gender oriented desire and beauty swiftly dies away. According to Kant, beauty provokes "disinterested satisfaction". I would tend to agree with him.
    I find however, that the question on how a subject of non-beauty, in conventional terms (a "beautiful woman" with a "harmonious" face) can change into beauty in photography (or painting), by manipulation or simply by framing and light, is interesting. I have uploaded an example, that in my eyes might be of interest. This shot is a shot of a painting of Eugène Carrière ("Tête de fillette au noeud blanc", 1899) painted in a style similar to the pictorialisme of some photographers end of the 19th century. The photo I link to, is however a collage with elements from the Rodin museum in Paris including the infamous sculpture of hands and parts of one of the showrooms and window. The painting is shown on an obscure wall in the museum.
     
  171. What does one make of the missing reflection for the central figure?
    --Lannie​
    It's the only figure in movement, so I suspect Jerry was making a statement about the transitory nature of a body in motion. Now, I laugh--Ha, ha! Because I don't really know. It does make for an interesting bit of negative space-- pun intended.
    I thinks Anders took a flight here, since the Uelsmann image was an aside from the main theme. On the other hand, I really liked the referred detail of a woman's face.
     
  172. Another aside here, folks. I know that converting to black and white can create a different mood. It certainly changes the internal dynamics of the image. In the shots below, it emphasizes the dancers. It was also a chance to employ a Photoshop filter, which I rarely do, to enhance a high ISO image.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/clgriffin/6088532291/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/clgriffin/6088532167/
     
  173. . . . "natural beauty" in "finalities without end", from which one must conclude that all discussion on gender oriented desire and beauty swiftly dies away. According to Kant, beauty provokes "disinterested satisfaction". I would tend to agree with him.​
    I'm not sure what the subject of the sentence above is, Anders, but I always like to read Kant in context, and I don't have the full text of the passage that you cite in front of me. I have to say that I disagree with Kant on so much (glorification of capital punishment, affirmation of the penal law as a "categorical imperative," glorification of retribution in a principle [the Categorical Imperative] that is ostensibly an improvement on the golden rule, etc.) that his attempt to make beauty purely about rationality divorced from feeling leaves me cold. Kant, who spoke so much of logical consistency, was finally inconsistent in his totality, indeed to his very core. I cannot take him too seriously anymore--which is not to say that I am ready to throw in with Hume, the Utilitarians, or his many other enemies. There is yet too much of the stern, austere Prussian in Kant for my blood, and I think that his philosophy suffers as a result.
    There is also for me a kind of neutered asexuality in Kant, as in Socrates as relayed to us by Plato--not that Socrates was asexual, simply that he relegated sexuality to the appetitive portion of his tripartite soul, and I am pretty sure that eros is more than that. I am hardly saying that beauty is about lust, but eros is more than lust for me. When I have my own theory of the psyche, I might venture a serious theory about such things. In the meantime, I see no sense in treating surrealism and beauty as mutually exclusive. There can be beauty or ugliness in surrealism--or meaninglessness or meaning or whatever one finds in it. Surrealism by its nature invites the imagination to go whichever way it will, but bringing Kant into a discussion of all that does not help me.
    I do find the work by Uelsmann linked to above quite beautiful in a mysterious kind of way. I find only the middle figure to be vulnerable. That figure seems to be lost, having lost touch with something--I'm not sure what, but this is surrealism, and one may read into it what one may. It is fantasy, after all.
    You might be right that the sense of vulnerability comes solely from the emotion that is evoked in the viewer, but ultimately that kind of subjectivism simply seems to beg all the important questions raised in this thread.
    As for my still non-existent theory of the psyche, I can only say that a coherent theory of the psyche would for me have to link feeling or emotion with rationality, not divorce them from each other.
    --Lannie
     
  174. Lannie, on Kant
    his attempt to make beauty purely about rationality divorced from feeling leaves me cold​
    With all respect, I believe you misread Kant, and with all modesty, me too, when you write:
    that the sense of vulnerability comes solely from the emotion that is evoked in the viewer.​
    My fault, without doubt. I might not have been clear or complete enough to be understood. I'll try again.
    When I wrote about "vulnerability-of-the-viewer-that-makes-it-possible-to-see-beauty" I tried to get away from discussions on the "beauty-of-vulnerability" that doesn't seem to bring us much further. I admit it is your thread, so you decide, Lannie.
    In the moment you concentrate on the viewer and his readiness, ability, to see something we can call "beauty" I'm not, as you write, referring to emotion only, but doing exactly what you write should be done, looking at both the intellectual and emotional dimensions of the self.
    The intellectual dimension of beauty is in my eyes both relative and objective.
    It is relative first of all in the sense that "beauty" evolves throughout history. The "beauty" of the naked women of Botticelli is not the same as the beauty Rubens or Manet. Relativity of beauty can secondly be seen by comparing beauty between cultures. Beauty perceived by Americans is clearly not the same at that of Japanese or Europeans (despite globilisation). Awareness and knowledge of these relative qualities of beauty is part of our capacity of seeing beauty.
    But "beauty" has also an objective dimension. We can all go back to Pythagorus and Leonardo da Vinci and see their "golden numbers" of harmonious proportions of the human body and see what during centuries (and still?) has been seen as "objective beauty" in reality (natural world).
    Seeing beauty includes these intellectual dimensions (and others) - for those that have the knowledge and experience to draw on them.
    But beauty has also of course an emotional dimension. It is here that Kant, in my eyes, draw some very important observations by underlining that beauty provokes "disinterested satisfaction".
     
  175. Beauty and Manipulation/Post Processing
    I would like to go back to the exchange above between Fred G. and John MacPherson, especially as it related to disagreement over John's statement that
    Manipulation can only deal with what is already there. If 'beauty' is absent no amount of fiddling can make it appear. (Aug 27, 2011; 01:59 p.m.)​
    Fred responded as follows:
    John, I'm not so sure. Sometimes a photo is beautiful even when the original subject or scene was not. That is a case of beauty being absent until someone saw something a certain way and did something about it by taking a picture of it. Painters fiddle with paints in order to make beautiful things. Sculptors fiddle with marble in order to make beautiful things. A photographer can fiddle with his raw materials (the world) by taking a picture of it or he can fiddle with his capture in post processing in order to make a beautiful thing. Beauty is not always simply found. It can be realized. Some things are already beautiful and some things are made beautiful, in all kinds of ways. Photographic beauty is often in the photographer's vision, not in the world he photographs. The realization of that vision often includes whatever manipulation might already be built into that vision. (Aug 27, 2011; 02:13 p.m.)​
    John MacPherson responded:
    If it appears Fred, then it was already there! (Aug 27, 2011; 05:36 p.m.)​
    Fred then responded yet again:
    My point is that the original capture can be not beautiful and the manipulated (I prefer post processed) photo can be. No, the beauty may not have been in the original scene. And it may not have been in the original capture. It took the photographer doing a good job of post processing to turn that capture into something beautiful. Unless only cameras, and not people, get to make something beautiful. (Aug 27, 2011; 09:27 p.m.)​
    The line of argumentation was almost lost because of intervening comments, but Anders Hingel picked it back up again when he appended the following to one of his comments:
    I find however, that the question on how a subject of non-beauty, in conventional terms (a "beautiful woman" with a "harmonious" face) can change into beauty in photography (or painting), by manipulation or simply by framing and light, is interesting. I have uploaded an example, that in my eyes might be of interest. This shot is a shot of a painting of Eugène Carrière ("Tête de fillette au noeud blanc", 1899) painted in a style similar to the pictorialisme of some photographers end of the 19th century. The photo I link to, is however a collage with elements from the Rodin museum in Paris including the infamous sculpture of hands and parts of one of the showrooms and window. The painting is shown on an obscure wall in the museum.​
    Anders, I somehow missed the link in the preceding, but I finally found the photo in your portfolio:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/14097132​
    I presume, Anders, that you were not referring to what you had added to the picture, but to the fact that, although the girl in question was not particularly pretty, the painting by Carriére was; i.e., that Carriére's treatment (analogous but not equivalent to post processing) was more beautiful than the reality (model) which he photographed.
    I find all of this inherently interesting but also interesting as it relates to the original question of the thread, since it seems clear that photographers can use a variety of techniques to try to enhance a particular mood. I think that that is what Uelsmann has done in a rather extreme form, but regardless of whether or not his linked work above demonstrates a sense of vulnerability, it seems clear that post processing (among other things) could enhance the sense or appearance of vulnerability of the subject. Unfortunately, I have come up dry in attempts to find examples.
    In any case, Fred and John were talking about how post processing can or cannot enhance beauty, but I am suggesting that post processing can also (I believe) enhance a sense of vulnerability--regardless of whether or not the final outcome is also adjudged to be more "beautiful."
    If the thread ends with the exchange above, so be it, but the exchange seemed worth untangling from the extraneous comments (some by me) that obscured the real issues at stake.
    I will leave it at that and see if anyone wants to pick up on that exchange between John and Fred--or perhaps might even offer an example of how post processing can also enhance a sense of vulnerability--or not.
    Thank you, Anders, for the example from Carriére. (I never did find that painting on the web in its original form)
    --Lannie
     
  176. When I wrote about "vulnerability-of-the-viewer-that-makes-it-possible-to-see-beauty" I tried to get away from discussions on the "beauty-of-vulnerability" that doesn't seem to bring us much further. I admit it is your thread, so you decide, Lannie. In the moment you concentrate on the viewer and his readiness, ability, to see something we can call "beauty" I'm not, as you write, referring to emotion only, but doing exactly what you write should be done, looking at both the intellectual and emotional dimensions of the self.​
    I am sorry that I misread you, Anders. In any case, the thread does not belong to me!
    I think that you have made a good point, one that resonates with many of the participants, who see the original question as flawed. (It won't be the first or last flawed question that I have served up.) I would have to agree with you at this point, and with Fred and others as well, on many of the most salient points that we have discussed. it is interesting that one can change one's mind sometimes without even being aware that it has happened.
    I do get your point about Kant as well--what is "satisfaction," after all? Even so, I do not think that I have ever read Kant on this topic. About the only thing that I can recall having read by Kant on aesthetics was a relatively short piece (as I recall) about "the beautiful and the sublime," a very different topic as it introduces the element of awe, about which we have said nothing on this thread. I read it in 1971. I can remember where I was when I found it in the "old" library of the University of Florida, in a beautiful wood-paneled small room off an obscure hallway in the old building, but that is about all I remember. The room I found it in has been renovated or incorporated into other "improvements" of the old building, and I could not find it when I was back in Gainesville in 1999-2001. It is curious how memory of philosophical passages can be "tagged" to other quite extraneous memories of value only to the person who remembers them; but a disquisition on memory would take us even further afield, and so I shall shut up for awhile.
    --Lannie
     
  177. Ah, the glories of the internet! Here is a link to the piece by Kant to which I just alluded:
    http://www.wisdomportal.com/Cinema-Machine/Kant-Beautiful&Sublime.html
    Anders, if you have a title or a link to the passages by Kant which you have cited above, I would like to have them as well, if that is not too much of an imposition.
    --Lannie
     
  178. Lannie, I will try to find it, but I took it from notes of mine (old habit !) and they are all in French, but I'll come back if I find the original Kant text in English.
     
  179. Thanks, Anders.
    This is on the front page now as the most recent upload:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/14103557&size=md
    I would not want to be accused of making this a "pin-up" thread, but is there anything more vulnerable than an imperfect body in a bikini (or less)? There is also beauty in imperfection, I think, and not merely vulnerability. Perhaps the beauty is seen in spite of the imperfections, perhaps sometimes because of them.
    ---Lannie
     
  180. I've not given up responding to Fred!
    I'm still mulling over it all. I'm trying to separate in my mind the notion of latent/inherent 'beauty' being released by fiddling (great word!) or beauty being 'added' by post processing. But as I chased it around and thought I was gaining on it, the spectre of 'imposed beauty' loomed large and the further complication of viewer preference and taste tripped me up.
    So as you can see I've got myself rather flat on the floor! I may need some help back upright.
     
  181. Lannie, after reducing the notion of Beauty to a personal sexual fetish, an accusation of turning this into a pin-up thread's nothing to worry about. Trust me, having been in a war situation and worked in hospitals, I can assure you there really are things far more vulnerable than a faded beauty in a bikini (or less).
    I'm in agreement with Fred that just about any decision at any point in the photographic process can alter the beauty, or the quality of it, in a photograph.
     
  182. Luis, it was a joke. The photo came up on the front page after I had just gone there after working for quite a while on the very serious postings above (which represented some substantial work, by the way).
    I'm in agreement with Fred that just about any decision at any point in the photographic process can alter the beauty, or the quality of it, in a photograph.​
    Did Fred offer that obvious truism, or are you just putting your words into other persons' mouths--and attributing to others your own motives? Running low on real ideas these days, Luis? Your visits are more and more llke drive-by shootings. Then again, what's new?
    Trust me, having been in a war situation and worked in hospitals, I can assure you there really are things far more vulnerable than a faded beauty in a bikini (or less).​
    No kidding? Really? I had no idea.
    --Lannie
     
  183. Anders, since the conversation has turned more and more to discussions of beauty, I feel compelled to post this link:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/12183873
    This has nothing to do with "vulnerability" in the usual sense, but the delicate beauty here is nonetheless worth noting, I think. Congratulations on a fine shot.
    --Lannie
     
  184. Lannie, the text of Kant on beauty comes from his "Critique of practical reasoning" (1790), Second part. The central text on beauty is somewhere around the following passage : see here in French (sorry can't find the English text).
     
  185. Hmm. Dont know about anyone else but the further into this thread I get the more vulnerable I feel.
    I love Ander's pic linked to above, but also think it would look 'better' as a b&w treatment. So I guess Fred was right! (But if nobody agrees with me does that make me wrong. And Fred too?)
    ps war zones for me too. Africa in the late 70's and early 80's, I was young then, too young to realize I was vulnerable. As were a lot of other people, but much of what I saw wasn't beautiful.
     
  186. John, because "nobody agrees with you" (if that is the case) you might surely be right ! Being right is mostly a solitary pleasure.
    Concerning beauty, I remember some of the first color television news that I saw and found the American napalm bombing of Cambodia just "beautiful". I got wiser later on !
     
  187. Lannie,
    this has been a long thread.
    What would you sum up to respond to your original question? Do we have clearer ideas on vulnerability in photography? and beauty?
    Luca
     
  188. Thanks, Anders. The title is usually rendered in English as Critique of Practical Reason. Of his two major epistemological works, I have read portions only of the Critique of Pure Reason (in the original German, but not French)--but that was a very long time ago. Most of my knowledge of Kant, however, does not come from his two major studies of epistemology, but of ethics: the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, and Die Metaphysik der Sitten. The Grundlegung seems innocent enough, but by the time he gets around to finishing the latter he has quite strongly (an irrationally) emoted, "Woe unto the advocate of the serpentiine turnings of the happiness doctrine [Utilitarianism] who would release the criminal of his punishment or any degree thereof!" or words to that effect. At least, those are the only two works that I have cited in my own Conscientious Objections, my quite long anti-war tract and defense of Christian ethics (not a conventional Christian treatment, to say the very least). Kant is a real hoot in my opinion, not (as someone has said) the gray eminence of moral philosophy. (In fact, I read a publication in the eighties titled, "Is Kant the Gray Eminence of Moral Philosophy?") Doing battle with the Kantians seems at times like doing battle with the disciples of Derrida, who would have driven Kant nuts.
    John et al., I have never been in a foreign war, although I have faced down feminists and been shot at while driving a cab in Durham in 1968 right after King's murder, and I personally feel like I am entering a war zone every day when I go to work--but that is another whole different story, not about physical threat. My sense of social vulnerability comes from being a pacifist in a militaristic culture, and my sense of physical vulnerability from having fecklessly (and recklessly) driven into the outer bands of three hurricanes: Camille (1969), Agnes (1972), and Eloise (1975). I have been stopped by a river flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico (Agnes, 1972), etc., and, more important, by the cops. I have also spent thirty-two days in Cuba, where I have had my own sense of intestinal vulnerabilities in the face of microbes. (I have gotten physically very ill both times that I have gone.)
    My greatest recent sense of vulnerability comes from posting on this forum over the last three years. Before that, I returned to grad school in Spanish and Spansh-American literature at the University of Florida in 1999-2001, starting back at the age of fifty-four to face off against fluent native-speaking youngsters. There is war, and there is war. I have even--as I pointed out above--even faced down feminists. Yessir, I know something of war, even if the bullets usually have not been of lead.
    Most poignantly, I was married for thirty years to a northern Virginian who was a direct descendant of Robert E. Lee (and the Lee coat of arms was displayed prominently in her parents' living room on the north side of Arlington). Yessir, I know about vulnerability, especially the social variety.
    In any case, citing credentials of vulnerability seems pointless, as my own tongue-in-cheek "vulnerability vita" just given shows. We all know what vulnerability means, if we have ever risked ourselves, and sometimes even if we have not.
    I do not play the macho game where such things are concerned: being alive is to be vulnerable.
    --Lannie
     
  189. Lannie,
    this has been a long thread.
    What would you sum up to respond to your original question? Do we have clearer ideas on vulnerability in photography? and beauty? Luca​
    Luca, I might venture a serious response to that when you can sum up what you guys learned on "When Is a Photo a Work of Art?" ( http://www.photo.net/philosophy-of-photography-forum/00Z9b3 )
    In other words, not to be flippant in the least, I have no earthly idea. As usual, we have talked past each other for some days now. I see no real convergence of opinion.
    --Lannie
     
  190. Lannie,
    I did.
    On Luca A. R. , Aug 15, 2011; 04:08 a.m.
    I have clearly indicated what struck me and what was important and interesting for me.
    It's not necessarily a conclusion, but eventually a recapitulation of the statements you think are most outstanding in your - or any other - thread.
    To say the least, there must be some sort of knowledge accumulation in this - or any other thread - not necessarily a clear-cut answer.
    Why don't you try?
    I might venture a serious response to that when you can sum up what you guys learned on "When Is a Photo a Work of Art?"
    Can be hardly an argument, because despite being in the same forum, we are talking about different things related to photography.
    As usual, we have talked past each other for some days now. I see no real convergence of opinion.
    I think the method can be improved, maybe sticking to the topic of the original post and trying to keep conceptually consistent when responding.
    Otherwise, I ask, do we do something different than treading water?
    Luca
     
  191. Luca, I don't think the goal of a forum like this is to arrive at concrete, definitive answers. The threading water metaphor is good in the sense that we eventually sink and drown, learn to swim or become stronger, through increased understanding. Hopefully this forum does the latter for most of us.
    ________________________________________
    BTW, as an aside, I read somewhere a few days ago that in academic circles, some think that Kant was color blind because he mostly avoided talking about color in art.
    _________________________________________
     
  192. Whether something had latent beauty all the time just waiting for the right post-processing hand or whether that beauty was added is a semantical issue that may distract us from photography. That post processing can fulfill a photographer's vision, to me, is the significant thing. That post processing can change the mood of a photographed person, thing, or scene, is something that can be learned as one develops their skills both of visualizing and of post processing. The best exercise I've found for this is doing it. I will often take a photo of mine that has potential and post process it several different ways to see how much differently one photo can articulate itself with different approaches to the post work. It's like learning a language, a visual language. The thing that's helped me most with my approach to post processing is looking at paintings. Not so I can mimic painting per se but so I can begin to sense how technique, subtle changes in tonality and light, shifts in foreground/background emphases, changes in where attention is focused can effect the overall feel of and some very specific emotions in a photo. Also how essentially mood can be altered, sometimes with a single shift of levels, with a warmer or cooler color temperature, by burning in a shadow on a face, or by completely altering the sense of lighting, etc.
     
  193. Luis,
    I don't think the goal of a forum like this is to arrive at concrete, definitive answers​
    Sure, we are on the same page here.
    I was rather thinking of a summary of highlights.
    Also impossible?
     
  194. Luca - "Also impossible?"
    Luca, I didn't say any of your ideas/requests of Lannie were impossible. I suppose it would be quite possible to do a summary of highlights, but someone would have to devote time to going back over and re-reading this lengthy thread, and simultaneously decide what was highlight and what wasn't. Any of us could do it, though I suspect that defining "highlight" might take 100 posts to narrow down, and then we'd have to have someone sum up the highlights from that.
     
  195. Luca, when I said that we were talking past each other, I was not talking about you and me, but about that tendency in our forums in general--but it seems to happen everywhere, even in face-to-face conversations.
    As for off-topic tangents, I am not troubled by the tangents so much as are some others, since it is impossible to know in advance what some may deem relevant, and it is impossible after the fact to get agreement as to what was relevant, or even "on topic."
    I think that these forums serve a useful purpose, but I see no way to sum them up, even if I had the time--and I do not, nor (I suspect) do very many others.
    My own philosophy is that one takes what one can from each thread and goes from there.
    --Lannie
     
  196. Double and triple posting--sorry, but the server is very slow right now.
     
  197. I think it is an impossible task to summaries what came out of a thread like this one, and so many others like it. I would certainly not ask the question on what we can agree on, because, at least for me, what is interesting are certain mostly isolated questions and orientations, whether they are marginal or mainstream in the thread.
    I'm aware that I have been off topic up to several times (I'm somewhat used to it !) but it could be that such "off topic" contributions are made because of a genuine conviction that the discussion already has become off-topic and deserves repeatably to be redirected.
     
  198. There's a difference between going on tangents or off topic and avoiding looking at certain issues in depth. I love a good tangent and often see good reason for going off topic, but there's also something to be said for focusing, especially when one finds oneself uncertain or in unfamiliar territory. Tossing out more and more questions or links in that case can sometimes seem to me a little counterproductive, even evasive at times.
     
  199. Ah, still trying to figure out motives, eh, Fred? Sometimes one moves on because one is tired of the line of argumentation or even interrogation. If you see promise in crawling into a cave, go there. Someone else might see a more promising route in another direction.
    My own experience is that, when we start trying to figure out persons' motives, we are wrong at least as often as we are right.
    I see these threads more like seminars, spreading of intellectual seed. I scatter. I typically do not mind if I never get back to see if some of the seed comes up or not. In most cases, I cannot possibly ever know.
    If you are offering a line of close linguistic analysis and Charles Griffin posts an appealing, wholesome picture (in my deviant opinion), I am almost always going to go look at the picture. If I don't get back to you, it is nothing personal. I try to keep feeding the thread through new links in order to keep the conversation going.
    I am not afaid to lock philosophical horns with anyone, but beyond a certain point it can get to be boring or counter-productive. Sometimes it is neither of those things, but I need something light--as I do right now, having just hammered my way through two back to back classes.
    --Lannie
     
  200. avoiding looking at certain issues in depth.​
    I fully agree that certain issues deserve to be looked into in depth. Others are not worthwhile or already off-topic or, which is too often the case in my eyes, issues that has been discussed over and over again and always seem to come back.
    I also agree that "tossing" out questions or links can be counterproductive. Whether we can agree on whether "tossing" is happening, is however questionable. What is seen as "tossing" for one, might, for another, be an honest suggestion of changing track in the discussion.
     
  201. What I think I see on these threads is typically several parallel conversations. There is a certain lack of discipline in that, but there is also a certain freedom. Sometimes I am the one who laments the change in direction, and sometimes I am the one who initiates the change in direction.
    There is no way that one is going to control these open forums, and I do not even try--nor would I want to even if I could.
    --Lannie
     
  202. Anders, I assess for myself what feels like "tossing." I assume you and others do that as well. Some like to say everything is subjective, what one person thinks is A another thinks is B. Well and good, and in some important senses, false. There are many things that groups can agree on. Many experienced photographers can agree on whether or not a particular photograph is well executed while novices will go on claiming lousy work is subjectively great, meanwhile not learning how to see better. Many students can agree on the effectiveness of a teacher's methods. Sometimes, consensus-building and a good understanding of consensus can be very useful. Subjectivity, especially on PN, is way over-rated and overly relied upon. When art (and its so-called subjectivity) is used as an excuse for anything and everything, I get a headache. And when there's too much talk of us not agreeing because everyone has their own take on things (which really seems a bad way to foster actual communication), I lose patience easily. One of the most cliche phrases that seems to be trendy today is "Let's agree to disagree," usually proposed way too early in the game. That's usually an excuse to avoid focus, rigor, and a little tension which is often necessary to both learning and communication.
     
  203. And when there's too much talk of us not agreeing because everyone has their own take on things (which really seems a bad way to foster actual communication), I lose patience easily. One of the most cliche phrases that seems to be trendy today is "Let's agree to disagree," usually proposed way too early in the game. That's usually an excuse to avoid focus, rigor, and a little tension which is often necessary to both learning and communication.​
    I don't know how trendy it is, Fred, and I have certainly heard it abused, too--and for a very long time. Even so, when it is obvious that one is at a fruitless impasse, it is sometimes the only rational way to proceed--whether one invokes the cliché or not. The simple fact is that, when one's interlocutor is in an infinite feedback loop from which it is obvious that he or she might never escape, there is sometimes no alternative but to move on. I am not referring to anyone in particular here on this thread. We have all met the type, I suppose.
    Then there are those who really are too flighty to delve too deeply into an issue. In between are most cases, those who simply are not particularly interested in a challenge to their dominant paradigm--or who are simply bored with the way the conversation keeps coming back around.
    The worst are those who got it "all figured out" a long time ago and who have not had an original or new thought in years.
    --Lannie
     
  204. Fred and Lannie I would agree on most of your various points.
    I also see subjectivity as way over-rated, but so is maybe also the potential for consensus building between people that obviously come from very different intellectual and cultural backgrounds. This diversity between us is the real wealth we draw on, much more than any genuine willingness of agreeing on any specific point.
    Concerning those, unnamed ,that have "got it all figured out" - if they exist, apart from in the head of some that have "got it all..." - I see it differently. I feel often that we are so worry of not explicitly showing our willingness to change our mind and learn, that we do not give enough attention on what actually is believed by some already to be "figured out". We might all learn from it, before we change our mind !
     
  205. Concerning those, unnamed ,that have "got it all figured out" - if they exist, apart from in the head of some that have "got it all..."​
    Anders, you are going to be in the philosophy books with the "Hingel Paradox" if you keep writing things like that. . . .
    That is, do those who have it all figured out really exist? If not, and if they only exist in the minds of those who do have it all figured out, then they really do exist, and, if they exist, they do not exist only in the minds of those who do have it all figured out, unless of course no one really has it all figured out, in which case. . . .
    Oh, never mind. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  206. Are we off topic, yet?
    --Lannie
     
  207. When you see this photo, do you think of beauty or vulnerability? Are they related?
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13791132
    Just kidding. I thought maybe we could just start the thread all over, it's been so much fun.
    Cheers.
    --Lannie
     
  208. Lannie--taking off on a tangent to prove a point?
    Certainly children or dogs can be portrayed as vulnerable or beautiful, either naturally or by the skill of the photographer (a nod to Fred G).
    But dogs, like cats, are best portrayed as being. Children are more self aware, or become so as they age, and can choose to reflect what you expect of them. Dogs, on the other hand, while limited in self-awareness, understand the necessity of looking pitiful when something's gone awry near them--or they've made a mess on the carpet.
    I use my grandchildren enough as examples, but animals can be all of the above and none:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/clgriffin/sets/72157627550851324/
     
  209. Concerning those, unnamed ,that have "got it all figured out" - if they exist, apart from in the head of some that have "got it all..."​
    Lannie, I'm sure you noticed that what these unnamed have figured out, got seriously limited with the exercise.
     
  210. Anders, I am not saying that anyone on the thread has it "all figured out."
    I am still back here wrestling with the distinction between the "beauty of the photo" and the "beauty that is portrayed in or by the photo." Is one just short-hand for the other? I am not sure what a "beautiful photo" really is, even though we use the phrase all the time. Photography wants to (or at least often does) make us forget that the photo is not there, giving us the illusion that we are looking directly at the subject portrayed in the photo. Painting can do that, but painting typically (not always) requires a greater leap of the imagination, I think. By comparison, in a truly realistic photo (not that all photographic efforts should strive for realism), one has a sense of what I can only call the "transparency" of the medium that is not typically found in painting. By "transparency" here I simply mean that one can more easily forget the medium and have a sense of direct perception of the subject. I do not doubt that both painting and photography require us to suspend reality to some degree, but little effort is required by way of suspending reality in viewing many photos, including the lowly snap--or perhaps especially the lowly snap in some cases.
    In any case, when I am viewing the photos of children and dogs (among many other possible subjects), I think that I have a greater sense of viewing directly than when I am viewing photos of adults posing--unless the children are also posing. The very spontaneity of children and dogs coupled with the transparency of the medium of photography makes me feel very much more in the moment when I am viewing the photo than when I feel that I am being manipulated by an artsy photograph. Sometimes the photographic artist seems to try too hard. A capture of a child or dog might in fact require a whole lot of work, but one can forget that as a typical viewer. One is lost in the moment. Perhaps one is also lost in the subject, especially if he is Gordon's "Darwin."
    I guess that what I am really getting at is that the medium can even get in the way of my having the sense that I am viewing or have just viewed something beautiful. I am reminded of what some persons say about Photoshop, that one should strive to avoid the look that the photo has been shopped. Such persons are often trying to portray reality as accurately as possible.
    I wonder if the same thing occurs when one is trying to portray the beauty of the subject (whatever it is) as accurately as possible. Should I strive to make the capture of beauty seemingly effortless (even though a lot of work might have gone into capturing or creating the beauty)? If I succeed, is the photo likely to be perceived as being more "beautiful"?
    These are just some idle, random thoughts that cross my mind this Tuesday morning. Perhaps they have nothing more to do with photos of children and dogs than with any other subject, and they have nothing to do with vulnerability. I am still puzzled by the link between beauty and vulnerability, but I won't press that point, since it does not seem to resonate with others. Most want to factor out beauty from vulnerability rather than to try to see how they are linked. So, I am still left with the questions I started with.
    Luca, if you are back reading this, this all means that I have nothing to report. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have not learned much (by way of grand conclusions) from the thread, since the original question is still with me, even if others have left it behind or set it aside. As usual, I think that I have learned more from the asides--the tangential or even off-topic comments.
    --Lannie
     
  211. Lannie - "Anders, I am not saying that anyone on the thread has it "all figured out."
    Bravo, Lannie. I think that kind of anonymous innuendo/gossip is socially corrosive and best done in private, unless names are named.
    Lannie - "I am still back here wrestling with the distinction between the "beauty of the photo" and the "beauty that is portrayed in or by the photo." Is one just short-hand for the other?"
    Not to me. The photograph is a transform, the original a referent. Not the same thing. I disagree that "Photography wants to (or at least often does) make us forget that the photo is not there, giving us the illusion that we are looking directly at the subject portrayed in the photo." It is one of the main ways we utilize snapshot photography, as a mnemonic fetish of our loved ones, rites of passage, vacations, etc. And sex objects, naturally.
    But photography is a lot more than a Xerox of reality, even at the snapshot level.
    The transparency of the medium nowadays is similar to that which realistic painting enjoyed for a long time. It's transparent because it is pervasive in our culture. It's intimately familiar, what we are used to seeing, what we know.
    Lannie - "Should I strive to make the capture of beauty seemingly effortless (even though a lot of work might have gone into capturing or creating the beauty)? If I succeed, is the photo likely to be perceived as being more "beautiful"?"
    This question brushes against the core of the Beauty thing. For me, for better or wose, it's far more important to actualize my vision than to depict/capture/create "Beauty".
     
  212. Garry Winogrand: "Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.​
    A useful quote, though it doesn't tell the whole story, of course, since no isolated quote can.
    There is a significant difference between a photo and a subject. As Luis suggests, the "beauty" of any work of art (photo, painting, sculpture, film) is that it transcends its subject, which doesn't mean it ignores the subject, but it does usually go well beyond it.
    Consider Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (used in most introductory Aesthetics classes as an illustration of this very point about subject and film). It's "about" Hitler and the Third Reich. It's a stunningly beautiful film. Hitler was not a stunningly beautiful man. How does that happen? Because it's a film. It's not Hitler himself. It's a film of Hitler. Now, of course, there's irony in Hitler being a monster filmed so beautifully and Riefenstahl was part of a propoganda machine, so a sophisticated viewer will realize what's going on here. They will be able to separate the subject from the masterful and beautiful film-making.
    Consider The Star Spangled Banner. Its poetry can certainly be considered beautiful. It even fools some into thinking they're being told about a wonderful fireworks display. It's about war. The subject is transformed through the poetry.
    Consider THIS PHOTO by Frank. This woman may be a subject who brings up sexual feelings in those who approach the world and women that way. Whatever, she may be beautiful to the viewer or not. There's more to the photo than her. Let's take the relationship of the main woman to those in the background. This is a relationship that exists only in the photo. It was not the same relationship in the real world. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. So, we must look at the photographic relationship as something well beyond the real world relationship.
     
  213. double post.
     
  214. Fred - "Consider THIS PHOTO by Frank. This woman may be a subject who brings up sexual feelings in those who approach the world and women that way. Whatever, she may be beautiful to the viewer or not. There's more to the photo than her. Let's take the relationship of the main woman to those in the background. This is a relationship that exists only in the photo. It was not the same relationship in the real world. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. So, we must look at the photographic relationship as something well beyond the real world relationship."
    Yes, the relationship really matters in this picture. One other thing that I love about it is how Frank weighed the relationship by defocusing the foreground woman and keeping the spectators sharp. It makes the relationship metaphorically and literally asymmetrical, it de-emphasizes her beauty, and all of it with a full measure of spontaneity.
     
  215. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. So, we must look at the photographic relationship as something well beyond the real world relationship."​
    Luis as I see it, the relationship between the sharp women in behind and the blurred main person in front, is what existed when Frank shot it, and not invented by Frank. It is a shot of a very real world relationship. Had Frank shot each of the faces as individuals, he would have invented something beyond the real world in front of his eyes. What ever happens in the process of shooting to the supposed beauty of the individuals, is of little importance. The photo is "beautiful" because it shows real world relationships.
    At least that is how I see this photo, that I did not know beforehand. Thanks Luis for the link.
     
  216. Thanks to all of you guys. I have been out of it most of the day with what turned out to be dehydration, but as usual you brought more to the thread than I could ever have imagined.
    --Lannie
     
  217. Sorry Fred, you brought forward the photo of Frank, not Luis. Thanks to you then. My comments are however the same, of course.
     
  218. Yes, the URL was from Fred, as was the quote you chose to respond to, but I'll throw in my response, since it was addressed to me.
    Anders - "Luis as I see it, the relationship between the sharp women in behind and the blurred main person in front, is what existed when Frank shot it, and not invented by Frank."
    Anders, you cannot be possibly suggesting that the woman in the foreground (a young Kim Novak, BTW) was a blur in real life. Or that Frank's feet were glued to the spot and the one lens to his camera, and the focus. So you think Frank got lucky? I don't. He "got lucky" way too often.
    Frank could have tried for enough DOF for both her and the women in the background to be in focus. Whether he didn't have enough light for both, or not, he ends up choosing to put the spectators in focus instead of the starlet. Although I did not address it in my prior post, though Fred did to a point, RF also chose the relative size of the foreground/background figure(s) via proximity (POV) & focal length, and the ratio of people also via the placement of the frame. He also elected to compose vertically and release the shutter when Novak was not smiling or waving. She doesn't look happy or like a star. Do you think all of that was out of Frank's hands? That it was all chance? I do not.
     
  219. Luis
    Anders, you cannot be possibly suggesting that the woman in the foreground (a young Kim Novak, BTW) was a blur in real life. Or that Frank's feet were glued to the spot and the one lens to his camera, and the focus. So you think Frank got lucky? I don't. He "got lucky" way too often.​
    No I can't, and I don't.
    Do you think all of that was out of Frank's hands? That it was all chance? I do not.​
    No I don't, just like you.
    And yet you seem totally to misread me - or I have lost all capabilities of writing something understandable.

    When I write
    what existed when Frank shot it, and not invented by Frank​
    I refer to the relation between the women in the background and the one in the foreground (Kim Novak) which is the subject of the photo. Frank is shooting this relation between the two and succeeds due his great skills. His skills are shown not by a capability of creating something new (the relationship) but by being able to illustrate something that by definition is immaterial but totally present in the real world.
    This is extremely controlled and it's beauty comes from the fact, as far as I see it, that it is a shot of human relations more than a shot of individual women. Human beings are social beings, first of all, and can only be appreciated (understood) as such. Frank's photo is working on that level, as far as I see it.
     
  220. Landrum Kelly[​IMG][​IMG], Aug 29, 2011; 12:21 p.m.
    Luca, when I said that we were talking past each other, I was not talking about you and me, but about that tendency in our forums in general--but it seems to happen everywhere, even in face-to-face conversations.​
    I know. It's a general habit here and the reason why I often have a tremendous difficulty in following threads. I thought it was due to my language skills, but I realise it is not always.
    I see an enormous difference between "tangential reasoning" and "associative reasoning". When this happens to me in face-to-face conversations usually I am told <<hey, where does this come from?>>.
    • in tangential reasoning you easily loose the thread of the conversation, as you confirm happens;
    • associative reasoning is a good way to accumulate knowledge, on the contrary.
    Landrum Kelly[​IMG][​IMG], Aug 30, 2011; 09:09 a.m. Luca, if you are back reading this, this all means that I have nothing to report. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have not learned much (by way of grand conclusions) from the thread, since the original question is still with me, even if others have left it behind or set it aside. As usual, I think that I have learned more from the asides--the tangential or even off-topic comments.
    --Lannie​
    Point taken. But what have you learnt? My inquiry for a conclusion is more general and not necessarily related to the original question. What did you take away from this thread which strikes you personally?
    I don't think philosophy is talking in circles or in tangents, there is a method and philosophy has given answers.
    The point is bringing in a tad of methodological rigour to accumulate knowledge.
    Otherwise it's just adding words to words
    Landrum Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Aug 30, 2011; 02:44 p.m.
    ... but as usual you brought more to the thread than I could ever have imagined.​
    If we cannot tie together "what was brought to the thread which is more than you could ever imagine" it's just a stream of words.
    Of course it's a free world, and we can write whatever we want and this is good. But a bit more argumentative care helps coming to some sort of conclusion.
     
  221. Anders - "I refer to the relation between the women in the background and the one in the foreground (Kim Novak) which is the subject of the photo."
    That there was a starlet at a Hollywood premiere in 1956 on that day, and behind her the usual gawking fans, I would agree was happening. The relationship, in the proportions you see in that picture was created by Frank. This was not like photographing a rock by the shore in relation to the horizon. Frank, as he does several times in The Americans, manages to nail down the expressions on quite a few people simultaneously. Those expressions are a significant factor and were mercurial. What we see is a choice.
    Note how defocusing the foreground figure rendered it more generic and iconic, while the fans are quite specific. The relationship we see would have been different a few moments before or after what Frank chose. Novak might have smiled, or waved, the fans might have been more or less energized (or bored!).
     
  222. Luca, what I take away from these discussions is mostly food for thought. I rarely, if ever, see any great, hard, Truth-y conclusions that I would adopt and engrave in stone. However, months after the thread, I find myself thinking about it, particularly what I disagreed with, and it affects me, sometimes negatively (in the opposite direction than that which was intended), or minutely. I do not walk away with a list or anything like that, though some gems slip through in spite of ourselves. This is an open internet forum, not one where a PhD in Philosophy is required. Nor do I feel (or see from all the discussions in here) that philosophy can really help very much with creativity and its applications, but like water in spaces between concrete, by expanding and contracting as the temperature changes, it causes cracks, and thus makes me think. In this case about vulnerability. I've been paying more attention to it, though presently mostly in the work of others, though it will leak into my own, I'm sure.
    I would suggest that if you are interested in a conclusion that you should lead by example, do a summary, and show us what you mean. Maybe others will see the value in it.
     
  223. Had Frank shot each of the faces as individuals, he would have invented something beyond the real world in front of his eyes.​
    Anders, can you explain why? I happen to agree with this, but it's part of the same reason I would say that the small group of women as shot is also Frank's invention. First of all, Luis has already given a coherent explanation of how this is Frank's creation, and not simply a representation of what was happening at the time. He saw the particular relationship of expressions we are now seeing. Those expressions were not as "in touch" with each other, not as close to each other, not as aligned, when they were happening.
    As for closeups being more of an invention, why not imagine the photo before you as a closeup as well, and therefore just as much an invention as a single face would be? There was likely a much fuller crowd than what we are seeing in the photo. Frank's isolating this scene from out of that crowd is very much the same as had he isolated one particular face.
    In addition to this notion of relationship, we have to consider that a photograph is still much more than all this. A photograph is not just the capture of lighting that anyone who was at the scene at the time would see. A photograph, depending on exposure and juxtaposition, transforms the lighting of a scene into a still moment of expression. Lighting that didn't blind us, for example, can be photographed in such a way as to scream at us. Depth can be exaggerated or flattened depending on the F-stop, shutter speed, and focusing we do. Depth can brought out or minimized with the right kind of post processing. The element of depth can combine with the element of texture, color, warmth, contrast, etc. all to make the photographic picture extraordinarily different from the real-life scene. Framing the scene, which means leaving out peripheral vision and all sorts of stuff that influence us at the time of viewing, transforms the scene immediately. It is much more a photograph than the scene it was.
    When people tell me I've captured the essence of a person -- and I know they mean well by that and mean they are moved considerably -- I often smile and say to myself, it't not their essence. It's that you're looking at a good photograph and the photograph is adding a whole new dimension that you've not seen before and that feels like an essence to you. Because you're stuck on confusing the person with the picture of the person. A picture of a person is a very special and transformative thing. You don't need to make it into an essence. It is what it is, and a photo is MORE than transformative and transcendent enough.
     
  224. Luca, what do you expect of an online forum? Tangents are not circles, in any case, and so I don't think that it is quite fair to say that we are always talking in circles. Sure, the threads could be more rigorous, but I would not hold my breath for that. I do not want to glorify tangents, but persons are going to reformulate the questions as they go--or post related points as they see the associated links in their own minds. The original poster is not, after all, a moderator in any really meaningful sense, much less a teacher.
    To say the least, there must be some sort of knowledge accumulation in this - or any other thread - not necessarily a clear-cut answer.
    Why don't you try?​
    Luca, perhaps you are a man of leisure. I am not. I do the best I can, but doing what you are suggesting goes way beyond what I am willing to invest in an online forum. Even in a controlled classroom environment, it is difficult to keep persons on topic. There are some lines of argumentation that go somewhere, sure, but there are many more that are at best like little branches with fruit hanging from them. I recommend plucking the fruit wherever and however it grows, if one finds it to be useful. I think that the fact that we find some tidbits here and there that give us new insights is good enough (for me) in terms of what is practicable in an online forum. Allusions to photos or critics whom I have never heard of are also among those "fruits." I take away a lot more than what I put in, but that is just for me. What others take away is an entirely different thing. Each contributes and takes what he or she is able. I see no real practicable alternative in an online forum.
    A tightly controlled thread is not going to happen. I am not even sure that it should. I can post a question. I cannot set an agenda. It would be presumptuous to try.
    --Lannie
     
  225. Death, Violence, and Extreme Vulnerability
    I just found the following while Googling part of this thread (to see if it could be found on Google yet):
    Squeamishness magnifies when images of death and dying show scenes of extreme vulnerability, often those involving women and children. In 1993, a picture of a starving girl in the Sudan, dying as a vulture perched cannily nearby, drove debates over the relationship between decency and vulgarity in news pictures. Though the image appeared in multiple places and was called "a metaphor for Africa's despair," it raised questions about the girl's fate and the tasteful function of photojournalism. The photographer, critiqued widely for not having intervened in securing the child's safety, committed suicide the following year. (Emphasis supplied.)
    http://www.slate.com/toolbar.aspx?action=print&id=2279923​
    This overlaps in part with issues raised in the thread on "Photographic Ethics" started by Susan Langford:
    http://www.photo.net/philosophy-of-photography-forum/00ZEYn
    Death and violence may be about vulnerability, but they are hardly about beauty. Even so, I will simply toss out the passage (and link) at the top of this post and let the contributors to this thread decide if there is anything of relevance here to some of our discussions.
    I am assuming that there is no aesthetic value in pictures of death or dying. There can be poignancy, yes, but beauty or aesthetics of one sort or another?
    ---Lannie
     
  226. I just said that there was "no aesthetic value in pictures of death and dying" when I remembered this famous shot by Edward Weston:
    http://masters-of-photography.com/W/weston/weston_dead_man_full.html
    I had no sooner viewed that one than I thought about this one, which is about anything but death or dying, but does contain elements of both beauty and vulnerability:
    http://masters-of-photography.com/W/weston/weston_nude_through_window_full.html
    Or is it really about vulnerability after all? I think that one has to contstruct a narrative for the photograph before one can decide that. Its appeal might lie in its resonance with the voyeur in all of us, or it might lie elsewhere. I really don't know. I confess that it is one of my favorite Weston photos, whereas his photo of the dead man is one of my least favorite ones. Even so, the photo of the dead man in the desert is strangely, curiously compelling.
    --Lannie
     
  227. I have made reference in another thread to the scenes in American Beauty which portray death from a more pleasing perspective than is usually the case. In fact, when I wrote the above about photographic portrayals of death not having aesthetic value, I had forgotten the scene in American Beauty in which the Ricky Fitts character describes a dead bird as beautiful (thereby explaining to two girls why he videotaped it). There is yet another scene of death in the movie in which the Fitts character is looking on with obvious fascination--and a clear sense of aesthetic appreciation.
    I have no video clips from the movie proper in order to show the photography, but here is the music that is playing near the end of the movie. I have linked to it before because the haunting voice of Annie Lennox (not to mention the lyrics) conveys to me some of our mixed feelings about death and dying--and thus derivatively about the vulnerability that inheres in being alive (as Fred has said somewhere above, although not in so many words):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23aYZf18i-c
    Although the movie came out years ago, I had not seen it until this summer. In my opinion, it is a "must see," but I will say no more about it lest I ruin the ending.
    Kevin Spacey plays a person of extraordinary sensitivity and emotional vulnerability, and his wife (Annette Bening) is a beautiful woman who has become unapproachable and brassy--but she has her vulnerabilities, too. Themes of vulnerability run throughout the film in the various insecurities of the characters, and the film has "beauty" in the title. You guys may decide for yourselves whether there is a linkage between beauty and vulnerability. I still think that there is.
    --Lannie
     
  228. "no aesthetic value in pictures of death and dying"​
    Before coming to photography, Lannie, look at Munch's painting of his dying sister or Monet's of the dead Camille Monet - and I think you would at least reformulate your affirmation. History of art is filled with dying and death.
     
  229. "Had Frank shot each of the faces as individuals, he would have invented something beyond the real world in front of his eyes."
    Anders, can you explain why? I happen to agree with this, but it's part of the same reason I would say that the small group of women as shot is also Frank's invention. First of all, Luis has already given a coherent explanation of how this is Frank's creation, and not simply a representation of what was happening at the time. He saw the particular relationship of expressions we are now seeing. Those expressions were not as "in touch" with each other, not as close to each other, not as aligned, when they were happening.​
    Fred what I tried to express is, that you have to differ between 1/ What is the real world; and 2/ What the photographer (here, Frank) did to it. Luis mixes the two and draws the conclusion that it is all created by Frank.
    What I'm saying is that the real world of the scene is a world of relations (the group of admiring women in the background and Kim Novak in the foreground) and not a random accumulation of individuals that Frank with all his skills have created a scene for.
    The brilliance of Frank is that he has succeeded to shoot the relations in this real world. The relations are not created by Frank, but are the real world in front of his eyes. What Frank has done so well is to use all the means available for him as a photographer (that Luis so well elaborates on), in order to underscore the relations.
    So, with all respect I don't find, as you, that: "Luis has already given a coherent explanation of how this is Frank's creation".
    You argue, in order to support the logic of "Frank's creation", that
    Those expressions were not as "in touch" with each other, not as close to each other, not as aligned, when they were happening​
    As I see it, you, and Luis too, it seems, are mixing up the eye of the camera with the eye of the imaginative real world observer, seeing the scene in question. The "being in touch", the "alignment", and the "distance" are all real world phenomena that are part of the real world relation taking place. What Frank did, so well, was to exploit these elements (and others) making the relation crystal clear for the viewer of his photograph.
    Great work of Frank, but no creation of a new reality.
     
  230. Anders - "...you have to differ between 1/ What is the real world; and 2/ What the photographer (here, Frank) did to it. Luis mixes the two and draws the conclusion that it is all created by Frank."
    That last sentence is not true. I do not draw that conclusion, and here is the actual quote of what I said:
    Luis G [​IMG], Aug 30, 2011; 05:37 p.m
    "That there was a starlet at a Hollywood premiere in 1956 on that day, and behind her the usual gawking fans, I would agree was happening. The relationship, in the proportions you see in that picture was created by Frank."
     
  231. Right! you believe the relationship was created by Frank. I see the opposite as you can see from the rest of my explanations. The photo of the relationship was surely created.
     
  232. Sorry, Luis, the devil is hidden in details, as we all know !
    If the main subject of your argument is "proportions", we start agreeing. Frank created the "proportions" surely, but not the relationship. Based on that I believe you could even agree with me too. The best of all worlds.
    OK ?
     
  233. Anders, at stake seems to be the degree to which the photographer was a creative force in making the photo. The relationship could have been changed in at least three ways by Frank: (1) moving horizontally so that the apparent relationship would change; (2) changing the depth of field so as to give a variety of meanings to that relationship; (3) bending his knees (or not) to change the vertical relationship between the model (Novak) in the foreground and the women in the background (possibly removing the background figures if he had chosen to).
    There may be others--including the most obvious one of selecting the background to be in focus. I am pretty sure that Frank got the effect that he was seeking here.
    --Lannie
     
  234. Yes surely Lannie, as we all do when shooting any photo that is not a simple snapshot. Some do it better than others and some master the span of technical possibilities better than most. This is in my mind the simple facts of serious photography.
    What was on the table in this thread was something more profound and linked to the infamous quotation of Winogrand: "Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed." Or said in a more elaborated way, that Winograd might not have agreed upon: Photography changes what realty looks like, and creates for the viewer, when good, original ideas and transcendent enrichment. The challenge is that mostly we are stuck in the perceived reality of the viewers.
    The fundamental problem we are all confronted to, can, I think, be linked to the fact (?) that most viewers expect straight reality from photography and need to be strongly influenced, manipulated, provoked before something else comes to the mind. We do that by all the means you mentioned, Lannie, and many more, creating effects that clearly are not taken from reality (DOFs, blur or grains for example). Or we do it solely by straight photography and by a careful choice of framing, scenes and light - and hope for an open eye to concentrate on the result, to discover that something special is going on that goes beyond the seen reality around.
    In theatre things are more straight (sic!) forward. Above the curtain is written, for all to see it: "Not only for entertainment" or something like it, and when the main actor declares that he is "Hercules, son of Zeus" we all believe it for the time of the play, at least, and walk out, sometimes, having experienced a life-changing event.
     
  235. Anders, you have reified the issue of "relationship." Luis got it right the first time, I believe. Your reification of his point adds nothing--no offense.
    --Lannie
     
  236. Lannie with all respect and without making this into a competition on "who was right the first time", let me just remark that Luis started with the following text concerning the photo of Frank:
    This is a relationship that exists only in the photo. It was not the same relationship in the real world. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. So, we must look at the photographic relationship as something well beyond the real world relationship.​
    which made me react by stating that the relationship was indeed there in the real world and what Frank did was to highlight it.
    Luis answerd by specifying:
    The relationship, in the proportions you see in that picture was created by Frank.​
    which I agreed on because of the term "proportions".
    Discussion finished by now, I would think, whoever was right from the start!
     
  237. This is a relationship that exists only in the photo. It was not the same relationship in the real world. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. --Luis G.​
    I don't care who is right, Anders, as long as we get it right. There are two separate relationships, and one is in the world and one is in the photo. Winogrand was, I believe, warning against conflating the two.
    Keep in mind, however, that reification can order on a second order level and not merely on the first order level referred to by Winogrand. The Wikipedia entry on "reification" can only carry us so far on this one. The whole issue can get pretty complicated, analogous to what happens in an infinite regress. I don't believe that Luis has committed that error. That is all that I am saying.
    --Lannie
     
  238. Since this discussion has spanned several days, here is Fred's post which triggered the immediate discussion about Frank's photo--for those who might have missed all this amidst all the parallel conversations that have been going on:
    Consider THIS PHOTO by Frank. This woman may be a subject who brings up sexual feelings in those who approach the world and women that way. Whatever, she may be beautiful to the viewer or not. There's more to the photo than her. Let's take the relationship of the main woman to those in the background. This is a relationship that exists only in the photo. It was not the same relationship in the real world. By isolating these women WITHIN THE FRAME, Frank has created a photographic relationship that did not previously exist. So, we must look at the photographic relationship as something well beyond the real world relationship.​
    --Lannie
     
  239. RE Frank's Kim Novak picture. As far as I know this frame was THE wonderful one chosen from several - regardless if it were done by him of Novak. How many frames do you suppose he shot of the scene? Had he only shot this one it could be a credit to his skill perhaps or just luck.
     
  240. Had he only shot this one it could be a credit to his skill . . .​
    Alan, are you suggesting that taking more than one shot at a scene and then editing down to the shot that works for whatever reason somehow calls skill into question?
    Isn't editing a credit to our SKILL? Is a photo more successful in our eyes, or does it say more to us, if we only took one shot and that was THE one. To me, this is one of the reasons photography is so much more than the click of a shutter. It's a process.
    I don't paint, but I've watched painters work. They edit as well. We call it painting.
     
  241. It is good to hear "editing" discussed in some other context besides post processing. I tend to take multiple shots even of stationary subjects, including landscapes. I might even shoot at the same setting for two or three shots, but typically I change the settings as I keep shooting and even recompose the shot. It is amazing to me how many times I can get so much better results from simply having more to choose from--even when the choices appear to be pretty similar.
    When it comes to shooting candids of persons, I can see the value of shooting at many frames per second--expressions change so quickly. Even so, I rarely do it. I suspect that I would get better results if I did.
    I am sure that there are persons who can get the same or better results without shooting so many shots, and perhaps they do indeed have better skills than I do; but, if I have to shoot multiple shots and then choose between them, I am going to do it.
    If choosing between similar shots is considered "editing," well, then, yes, I do a lot of editing long before I get to the processing phase.
    With regard to the theme of this thread, especially vulnerability, it does seem to me that an open, vulnerable expression can be particularly ephemeral, and so editing among multiple shots is definitely to be recommended.
    --Lannie
     

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