"Less is only more when more is no good."

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. Arthur's recent thread "Details, Photography, and The Power of Less" has been silent for a few days, so I felt it best to carry over some thoughts into a new thread.
    "Less is only more when more is no good." --Frank Lloyd Wright
    [​IMG]
    Above, two of my photos: on the left a closeup (detail), on the right, a wider shot with more details and elements. I think they have a similar degree of impact but are different visions and expressions. The photographs and their styles aren't in competition. They each are what I desired to express and they convey what I want.
    I was moved visually at the time and can attribute that to some sort of gut response (and I believe a perhaps unformulated intention) with regard to each situation. The space Mark inhabited moved me and his accidental dress (as well as various details) when I met him seemed to play well in a room I was enthralled by. On the other hand, Juan and I were in an uninteresting environment and I found his eyes and expressiveness enticing, so that's what I went with.
    As per the Wright quote, there can be advantage in maintaining economy when one can. There are clearly cases where "more is no good" and the savvy photographer or artist will tune into that. That same photographer or artist will know when more is desired/necessary and may tune into that as well.
    Photography is well suited to many views. I doubt I'll ever explore the full range of visions that a camera has the potential to access in my hands. But I make an effort to be open to all of them.
    Some may prefer one of the above photos over the other. I think that's a matter of taste, not economy of detail.
    I know I am moved by and often really respect a quote -- for example, Wright's quote -- that captures in only a few words the essence of a grand idea. It can be powerful. Good closeup and less busy photographs can have that kind of power.
    The reason I like Philosophy books and discussions in addition to pithy quotes is that the immediate capturing of essence of the latter co-exists nicely with a more detailed, more wordy explanation of and argument about it. I don't think Philosophy and short quotes are aiming at the same things. I don't think Baroque and Japanese architecture are expressing something similar and I relish each for what it achieves.
    In the previous thread, Arthur rightfully reminded us that there's a difference between "less is more" and "seeing details that others fail to see." A good distinction. I think good photographers will sometimes see a big picture that others fail to see as well.
    How do you find yourself using less and more, detail and big picture, respectively in your photographs? Though you may not think about it in the moment or in advance, do you see it in your work when you look at it? Can you talk about it?
     
  2. I've caught myself, more than once, trying too hard to un-busy or avoid seeing a background or environment, and have wound up with a subject lost in space, time, and unanchored to a concept. Sometimes less can definitely be less.
     
  3. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Dec 23, 2009; 02:24 p.m.
    How do you find yourself using less and more, detail and big picture, respectively in your photographs? Though you may not think about it in the moment or in advance, do you see it in your work when you look at it? Can you talk about it?
    Fred, here's an example of when "more" is the whole point of the photo. Total congestion, yet a tranquility in spite of itself. That's what I saw, that's what I felt and that's what I captured. Fascinating topic.
    Bill P.
    00VKHc-203185584.jpg
     
  4. jtk

    jtk

    Wright's ideas have value only (IMO) in the context of his work...which I happen to admire.
    Without considering Wright's work (the actual buildings, not mere photos or dissertations) his quotes are just one more cult leader's hot air. That's my impression, and it's what I've heard from two of his Taliesin-experienced architects, one of them a long-ago client. I happen to be moved by his work, as were both architects...
    I think that if someone comments on Wrights ideas, rather than his architecture, those comments need to be weighed against that person's own work (photos on Photo.net specifically) and her/his direct experience with Wright's work. No photos, no direct experience: no value.
    My experience of Wright's architecture (a couple of homes, Guggenheim Museum in NY, and Marin Civic Center in CA) is of profound simplicity. They're rich and multi-dimensional, lots goes on, it all works: they don't feel like a busy designs to me. They feel profoundly simple in the same way many organic forms feel simple (conch shell, for example).
    Photographically I don't want "less." I'm attracted to snarly messes rather than simple graphics because the obvious is absolutely less. The pleasure comes from finding a whole. I don't even think of photographs as graphics so much as, perhaps, theatre or poems...
    I enjoy the thrill of finding a whole experience in complexity. That's what photography's inherently about, for me.
    On another thread there's a little discussion of David Hockney. I've enjoyed his work for a long time: His individual photographs (Polaroids), like his swimming pool paintings, seem nearly worthless taken as individuals, but in multiples they acquire value. The same is true for me with Warhol's work...in fact I think that's fundamental to "Pop Art" generally: it's "less" in the absolute sense when it's taken out of context or as individual pieces, "more" in context and in collections of related pieces.
     
  5. Sometimes more really is more...like Rococo art...and some photographs require more as that is what the photograph is all about...
    00VKK5-203205584.jpg
     
  6. While other photographs may require less...you look at what you're photographing and make the photograph reflect what you are seeing.
    00VKK8-203205784.jpg
     
  7. i like less because i have tasted more and it left a sad after taste. there is another reason for my distaste to the more. i can never do well with more. i don't see the more well and i can't compose with more. somehow, less is within my spectrum and all the more achievable.
     
  8. There are different kinds of detail; different kinds of "less." For example, I recently ran across a sentence in an essay that I was reading:
    ... the fetish is that fragment that initially receives special attention because it refers to an absent object in order to hide it and to occupy its place.​
    I think this is interesting to think about -- a fetishistic detail displaces, nullifies the thing in order to represent some alien concept/desire/intent as opposed to the kind of detail that is particularly expressive of some greater whole and therefore is sufficient to evoke that whole.
    I also think that a photographer's style can become a fetish, or a "detail" in itself. The stripping down to almost nothing can be done for its own sake. I won't call names, but if you think of well-known photographers where the style is often the first thing you notice and sometimes the only thing you remember, that visual "stamp" overwhelms and therefore simplifies/reduces the content.
     
  9. jtk

    jtk

    "Above, two of my photos: on the left a closeup (detail), on the right, a wider shot with more details and elements." - Fred G.
    While some may agree when Fred asserts that one photo has more "details and elements" than the other, I don't see them that way.
    The background trinket and the attire in the wider shot might be easy to dismiss as costumery and decoration : friends might think them important, but someone else might think them artificial and dismiss them (stop noticing them).
    Maybe the tighter shot has more information: facial information, hand details, skin details, age, balding, tension from pose...and of course. the B&W may be a significant statement of photographer's intent (another symbol at very least, but to me it seems conceptual symbology, holding far more information than a mere dangling motorcycle trinket)....
    So...for me those aren't examples of "less" and "more." They're just tight and loose. As well, one's a portrait, while the other may be more of a collection of symbols.
     
  10. Starvy--
    Cool! As good a reason as any. When I first started shooting, I was more inclined to stay tight as well. I challenged myself over time to step back some and see more context and story and I'm feeling good about doing that. Thanks for the candor.
    Julie--
    A good point. I agree that less and detail do not need to act symbolically and do not need to suggest more. They may be simply what they are. Sometimes simplicity is simple. I can say "less is less" without the second "less" being a value judgment. Less doesn't have to go beyond itself (though I often like when it does).
     
  11. I like the "economy of detail" notion, because to me it touches exactly on what the point would be: enough is enough.
    OK, so no one-liners....It's not about less or more, or less being more than more. It's about what you want to tell with the photo, and/or what we want to see in it (oh my, somehow I always end up with the matter of intent). But the phrase 'economy of detail' does to me simply catch what it is about: get the framing right, include what needs to be included to show what you want to show. If that means getting a lot in the image, to show chaotic environments, that that's needed. If it means a tight-framed portrait, to amplify character, then that's it. To me, it seems like means to an end.
    In a way, of course also aesthetics creep in; we cannot always control the environment of what we shoot, and the composition as such needs to be pleasing (and/or aligned with the intent), if that means a detail creeps in that you did not need/want, it's a simple pro/con story.
    Whether I use less or more in my own photography.... well, I'm not disciplined enough yet, to be honest. So I can only say what I'm aiming for. I am aware of the bigger and the smaller stories around me that I could/try to capture, and my preference is definitely with the smaller stories, the details. But I need to learn way way more before I'll be any good at showing those stories. But the learning curve is enjoyable, and ultimately that's why I have this hobby.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    I'm with Wouter on this. He's talking about photography, not using words to chase their own tails. As well, he writes coherently and honestly...a breath of fresh air...
     
  13. Wouter has said a lot of what the intention of the parallel "details" thread is concerned with and very appropriate in this thread.
    Wright says it from a rather negative viewpoint (when more is no good, although it applies well to much architectural design), whereas Carle (the cinematographer) has a very different take and says it from a positive or opportunistic viewpoint (sort of like the search for the details in life, because the truth may be found there). I prefer Gilles Carle's viewpoint.
    I enjoy Fred's two images, and I wouldn't describe either as being too much (more), unless one might feel that the hands in the left portrait are too much (possibly distracting from the real character of the individual, or déjà vu) or the background in the right photograph is too much (the orange certainly isn't, it IS the detail, although another approach might have been to have painted it BLUE, ...but then that might simply constitute an alternative level of fantasy).
    Anyway, thanks to Fred for catalysing the discussion of "details versus", as I for one think that this is a good subject for photography.
     
  14. I just noticed the presence of the second orange in the background. This alters the perception of what is essential to the image. Blurring or downplaying the background would remove that element (as would painting the orange blue...), and perhaps also the context that Fred wants to show for his subject. So, perhaps there is too much in the left portrait (in my opinion) and just enough in the right one. Or is the second orange too much? Ouch. Subjective, n'est ce pas?
     
  15. Here is a group of images that I think show uses of less and of more. They are listed from less to more, though the last two are about equal:
    priest
    priest
    priest
    priest
    priest
    [Linked photographs are by Ralph Gibson, Renate Scherra, Ezra Stoller, George Rodger, and Harold Chapman.]
     
  16. jtk

    jtk

    I'm glad Arthur emphasized the photos over the word-play.
    The pose of the man on the left, along with what seems (to me) to be his expression of discomfort, may tell a complex story, along with the B&W conversion and perhaps-flattering post-processing (re skin).
    The pallid skin of the man on the right, along with his fireman costume and soft build (the firemen and women at my gym are obviously muscular, required by their departments), his decorative beard, and the motorcycle trinket, may tell a story. The oranges (I missed earlier) may simply be nice color...or they may be a dada reference.
    The symbols in the "fireman" image might be more interesting without him. By contrast, the man in the portrait is presented as a complex human being, directly presenting himself ... his complexity and issues crowd the frame.
    One man seems barely be there in his own photo: that's "less" in my book. The other man fills his photo, may even over-fill it: "more".
    Both are fine photos.
     
  17. Julie, why you reckon they are ranked less to more?
    My impressions, if you take the word "priest" only: the first one, yes, it says priest and priest alone. The second, a priest, as a person, individual. The third, a monastery, the priest giving away the "use" of his surrounding. The 4th and 5th tell complete stories with a priest in it (both about the tension between the priest and the surrounding).
    So frankly, in my view, not a more/less exercise, but different messages, different stories and probably different intents.
    Maybe I look upon it different... the notion of a priest is nice though, while I type this, christmas has started here. To those who celebrate: happy christmas.
     
  18. Julie, why you reckon they are ranked less to more? -- Wouter Willemse
    Let me try to explain, because I believe Fred's initial intent is being seriously misunderstood (and he will correct me if I'm wrong ... ). Think about his core quote:
    "Less is only more when more is no good."
    He's interested in investigating the difference in the varieties of gesture. The words less and more are unfortunate in that they are so tied to value which is not what this thread is about. I think we all agreed, in Arthur's preceding Details thread, that value does not correlate in either direction, to more/less detail. What I believe Fred is interested in is simply considering the difference in the less/more gesture. The difference between a wide sweep of the arm with a "Behold!" statement versus the sharply pointed finger tapping insistently on one particular spot that says "Look at this!" -- right here.
    This is about the photographer's gesture (more/less; expansive/precise); not the "quantity" of meaning of the content (value; more/less) that the photograph contains. It's about the difference that the specificity of focus chosen by the photographer makes in the resulting image. What difference does it make when a photographer allows or permits (intends!) you to see less -- or more? When the viewer's gaze is more or less actively, insistently directed by the photographer? And so forth. Such questions are what I think Fred is interested in exploring.
    One's comparative valuation of Fred's two example photos, or of my priest examples was not the point -- or rather, the fact that the pictures' value does not correlate to less/more just proves his starting point (see the Wright quote) and should allow this discussion to move beyond that to considering the difference between the two approaches.
    This is not a better/worse discussion! It's simply about considering or filling out one's awareness of what specificity of focus does to a picture.
     
  19. Julie typed - " This is not a better/worse discussion!
    Exactly. The earlier thread was about "The Power of Less", or "Less is more". This one expands on that considerably with Wright's quote, which brings makes the statement not absolute, but relational, or contingent.
    _________________________
    As to FLWright, I lived in Oak Park, west of Chicago. I have also visited several times since leaving, and am personally familiar with the two dozen Wright houses nearby, some his earliest designs. I've been inside half of them, worshipped in the Unity Temple, and drank from the water fountain Wright designed for the town countless times. I've visited his own house/studio there dozens of times, attended lectures, spoken at length with current owners of some of the homes about their strengths and shortcomings, been to fundraisers, parties, etc. I've toured through the Robie house several times, visited the Guggenheim and Florida Southern College dozens of times, and seen the Marin Civic Center once. I've also visited several homes and buildings designed by his students and employees in Chicago. My father was an architect, and in my immediate family, there's three other architects still practicing. One is a professor emeritus and an authority in the field. I've been familiar with this my entire life, listening to discussions about Wright since I was a child.
    Wright was a brilliant, ambitious and difficult man who burned many bridges in his life, some in very creative ways. One of the things that has always impressed me about him, right from the beginning, is how he managed to step into the shoes of the residents and visitors to his homes, creating a very natural, uncontrived-feeling, progressive spatial, textural etc narrative as one enters, moves around the house and exits, too. Extremely conscious of the play of light, color and space throughout the day. He also crammed a lot of things down the throats of his clients, and many of the houses, while being virtuoso pieces, are not very livable. Nor is the furniture, climate control, or the closets. There are lessons in FLW's work and life any photographer can benefit from. With Wright, one has different dimensions of less and more. The genius that went into his works was definitely of the 'more' variety, but its manifestations are often of the 'less' kind.
    __________________________
     
  20. Luis, Julie, I am not trying to make it a better/worse discussion. My point is: I feel it's not about more or less that is just one of teh details and choices made while creating. It's about the message, or intended message. So, a comparitive does not work if the messages are different, because different intents require different inclusions and exclusions.
    How can we seriously seperate the gesture of the photographer from the content? Isn't the final content defined by those very gestures? I'm not against raising awareness of these things, and like discussing them, but aren't we over-analysing if we try to keep content of a photo out of the discussion?
     
  21. It is interesting how a subject dealing with the power of details in art becomes one of more or less, a question of comparison rather than of a profound analysis and synthesis of why details may be important in a visual communication.
    Philosophically, the power of less is not one of "more" power, but a different power, an opportunity to say something different and perhaps significant through the use of details in life. In that sense, the "details" thread, perhaps moribund due to the Christmas season (My best wishes to all who celebrate this event, or simply the end of the year!), only briefly and superficially responded to the topic I raised, and seemingly spent too much time in the "comparison mode" rather than in the investigative mode (vis-a-vis the opportunities of details of life in the art of photography).
    If it is indeed dead, I hope at least that someone will bother to pursue the topic in a more investigative intellectual manner at some further time. Sorry if this hurts anyone's feelings, but I think it is important to say ("a spade is a spade is a spade").
    Wright's statement is probably "right on" for architecture (which at best I feel is in a navel gazing state at present, especially domestic architecture). As I think Luis intimated, Wright didn't fully succeded in that sense, although he brought a more organic approach (relation of land to architecture) to his structures. I find that approach as amusing as the 300 year plus infatuation with the Rennaisance forms (finally and justifiably dethroned). We already were aware of the humble (non-classical) but beautiful vernacular architecture from Medieval times, where the local materials and earth-water-climate context greatly inspired the building styles, (and assymetry of design was simply a consequence of function), much as Wright was to "re-invent" many hundreds of years later.
    "Less is only more when more is no good."
    I would approach that quite differently from Wright in an application to photography, with something like
    "Less is more when the choice of less (details) communicates more significant information to the viewer than it would if buried in the mass of more complex, less impactful and/or disorientating information."
    What manner of making photographs benefits from that? Not a subject over-explored to date (sadly). It would be nice to hear from others on that, either in the "detail" thread, or here.
     
  22. "Less is only more when more is no good." --Frank Lloyd Wright
    Wright was talking about architecture, not photography. Secondly, Wright speaks for more, but not over-doing it. It is about pairing down- pulling things out of an overwhelming scene where the important part gets lost in a mess of too much visual information. Intent is part of it. Aesthetics is too. What you want to communicate, however, is the real meat of it. Photography is a communication tool, so if the message doesn't come across, you missed your target. Editing- Its one of the hardest parts of photography- and in most things. Get rid of the un-necessary stuff and you'll probably be better off, more focused.
     
  23. Martin,
    Amen! Welcome to the sect.
     
  24. Wouter - Thanks for clarifying. I think we're on the same page. You ask a central question: Will the way we regard details and our consequent decisions aid and abet our vision, or not?
    Arthur - Fred's FLWright quote elaborated on Arthur's original point. It doesn't end up a "question of comparison rather than of a profound analysis and synthesis of why details may be important in a visual communication." There's several sub-threads developing simultaneously here, and sometimes some fall behind.
    Arthur's new quote, ""Less is more when the choice of less (details) communicates more significant information to the viewer than it would if buried in the mass of more complex, less impactful and/or disorientating information." is similar to Wright's, which we all know was about architecture. Maybe it's just me, but the characterization of complexity seems a little biased toward the negative.
    The first thing that comes to mind with details is that they enhance the illusion of looking through the print as a window upon the subject, not a representation unto itself. The "photo-verite'" or you-are-there thing. Most people, including photographers, see photography in exactly this manner.
    This illusion can be played at least two ways, synching with the overall visual momentum of the piece, or contrapuntally, against a surreal or photo with a heavier "mirror" aspect, creating tensions and resonance(s).
    Details hold the eye, specially in a picture with few elements. I think the eye tends to pause at details, and races around complex compositions looking for symmetries and breaks in them. Details are information. I think Fred may have thrown us a pair of ringers because while there are strong lines in the close-up head shot, I can't see much texture in the subject's face. The more complex picture abounds in detail.
    Details are of importance in perceptual processing from 2D to 3D imaging (see Fred's 2nd picture). In strongly graphic pictures, like Gibson's, the detail may add credibility, yet at times can introduce smaller fields within the frame, like his textured rock. I tend to unconsciously hunt for and find subtle secondary geometric relationships in simpler compositions.
    Of course, to what end one utilizes detail, and how it works in a specific image is something else. It can get buried, as Arthur puts it, under complexity, and it can also dissipate in a morass of emptiness (though that can be made to work sometimes).
    Arthur typed "What manner of making photographs benefits from that? Not a subject over-explored to date (sadly). It would be nice to hear from others on that, either in the "detail" thread, or here."
    I would submit that there's no extinguished subjects, only creatively weak minds. Of course, some places do have the bar raised high. Is there anybody left who hasn't been to Havana, Cuba to photograph the old cars, dancing Cubans, colonial and commie signifiers and aging buildings? Or to Disney world? Or Daytona Bike Week? To go to any of those things and come back with something fresh, of your very own, is not easy now that so many greats have photographed these things. It's not what you photograph, or what you photograph it with, but how you photograph it.
    I would have to consider a thing like this on a case-by-case basis. It's difficult to set a formula as to what will work when, and life has a Houdiniesque way of eluding those traps. I guess as close to an answer as I can give you is: "those where more is no good".
    Every subject has been photographed a zillion times.
     
  25. "Every subject has been photographed a zillion times."
    Luis-
    I think we are not at all on the same page regarding details of life. Yes, the half dome and Disneyland may be photographed ad infinitum, but the details of life or of human existence have not. There are many things as yet undiscovered by the artist and photographer, and to think not is to sink into the blasé.
    I am not at all talking about the details that might make up a photograph or the many details that appear in Fred's second photograph.
    What is hard to communicate to others here is the thought that details of life are often those overlooked or poorly understood things that beg to be interpreted (and not just simply reproduced optico-mechanically) by creative artists, and are definitely not part of another image of an overphotographed subject by the me-too crowd.
    Think like Gilles Carle of the "details of life" or "details of our existence", and you will see what I have been trying to get at. Martin has come fairly close to seeing that I think.
    "I tend to unconsciously hunt for and find subtle secondary geometric relationships in simpler compositions." (Luis)
    Yes. of course, Luis, that should be part of it. But it isn't all. A simpler composition does not mean a less powerful statement. I guess we can paraphrase Albert Einstein in his suggestion that the most important relationship (equation) is the simplest possible one. Carle incessantly looked to explore that in his feature films, and I am intent on looking for that in my more recent photography.
     
  26. I'm not sure how much to add to what Julie so cogently said.
    Gesture, yes. Competition, no.
    Though Arthur makes the claim that Wright comes from a "negative" viewpoint ("when more is no good"), I don't see Carle's as any less negative ("see things that other people don't see"). Actually, to be honest, I don't have a problem with some aesthetic negativity, on either of their parts. What's NOT there, or what's MISSING, what we leave OUT of the frame, can be as significant as what IS there, what we make visible, and what we include.
    Selection, focus, framing . . . choice . . . all have negative aspects . . . good, significant negative aspects.
    Life and my vision is sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Tangled webs intrigue me as do clear visions.
    Julie bringing "gesture" back into the discussion is key for me as is her emphasizing, as I tried to do, the desire not to use "less" and "more" as terms of value but rather as terms of expression, vision, and understanding.
    The several "head shots" that I have in my portfolio were motivated by a certain feeling of clarity and intimacy. If the more complex (I see them as more complex . . . others may not) shots are confusing or not as readily accessible or not as immediately impactful, that's cool with me. If a viewer catches the second orange on the second or third look, great. Then the aesthetic experience has the element of time and unfolding that can be very moving, different but no better or worse and no more or less worth seeking than the WOW factor that a blatant and in-your-face closeup might have.
    The interest in the topic, for me, lies not in debate as in sharing how we each make these gestures and what motivates us. I assumed at the outset that each of us does both. The provocative photographic discussion is about both less and more, and what role perspective plays in our approach to each.
    I don't photograph as if I'm God. When I find myself considering whether I capture reality in a photo or whether I want to, I feel like I may be waiting in vain to hear the voice of God. In that respect, I'm very much a non-believer.
    John has mentioned in several threads -- and we probably haven't discussed it adequately -- the ways in which "belief" can get us into trouble. It seems relevant here.
    We've talked recently about adopting a multiplicity of perspectives, which I imagine many of us do (whether at once or in some sort of succession). I tend to think of perspective as a limit that I can transcend in many different ways but also something that keeps me humble. Belief may be a similar thing, to be transcended whenever possible. Perhaps it's all a balance of ego and humility. I wonder if my desire to transcend doesn't lead to the larger and more complex gestures and my humility (sometimes even insecurity) doesn't keep things more simple.
    Does the close-up of Juan allow Juan's face and expression more latitude to speak directly to the viewer, to be more the essence of the photo? Does my pulling back and including more with Mark add more of my own statement about the situation and context, asserting my own expression a bit more while more overtly asking something of the viewer as well? These, for me, are preliminary questions about my own work, not necessarily to be answered by others. Do you have questions about your own work? Can you give examples?
     
  27. "Do you have questions about your own work? Can you give examples?"
    Fred-
    I often wonder if I am really fully conscious of my approach to photographing subjects that interest me, why I select them or present them in the way I do. I think that some aspects of nature or of human intervention awaken in me some feeling of mystery or a need to question existence.
    The following are perhaps not the most representative of my feelings or perpective on my subjects and one is a poor photo of a print. The trees perhap show nature attacked or are portraying human survivors of some atrocious event, the abandoned wartime cement stairs at a former beach armament are framed by drying plants and leading where(?), while the two rusted stainless steel knives are perhaps solliciting some reaction to their awkward beauty.
    00VL7Z-203719584.jpg
     
  28. 2nd example
    00VL7e-203719684.jpg
     
  29. 3rd example
    00VL7f-203719784.jpg
     
  30. On this: " There are many things as yet undiscovered by the artist and photographer"
    I agree there are always many things undiscovered by all of us, but that's very different from things that have never been photographed.
    and this: "and to think not is to sink into the blasé."
    I'll respectfully agree to disagree. My position on this is hardly unique. To think not is....to think not. With the greatest respect, disagreeing with you on this doesn't automatically doom anyone to the blase' any more than it automatically saves you from it.
    Arthur: "But it isn't all."
    I know.
    I've never thought for one second that simpler compositions are necessarily weaker or stronger. That can be true in specific circumstances, not universally. Arthur, by now you should know I have no formulas. In fact, I disdain them for myself.
     
  31. I think there is a considerable risk, if one tries to make "detail" or "stripping down to the essentials" a guiding principle of or preference within one's work, of having the tail wag the dog. This goes right back to one of the (or probably THE) perennial arguments of this forum: how/when/if photographs are art.
    I think that there is a common misperception that in order for a photograph to be art, it has to have been, somehow, hard to make. With the emphasis on "make." One must work against the medium in the sense that it requires effort to strip out or only include what you want versus what the camera "wants" to include. Effort, control, making the picture be (show) what you want ... will make your pictures "more" yours (more art-ful). This is all well and good if it's a method in the service of a larger desire/idea, but it's a tail-wagging-the-dog thing when it is done for its own sake, where the idea (if there is one) is secondary or nonexistent and the pursuit, the laborious effort, the stripping down results in an elegant, but greatly diminished, or at worst, so lacking in interest as to be boring -- picture.
    A parallel (though less widespread) mistake, in my opinion, is to equate exoticism with art, and humanism with non-art (or lesser art). The exotic; the odd, the extraordinary, the irregular, the bizarre or grotesque are indeed often seen in good art but that's coincidence, not cause >> effect. To believe that pictures of exotic things = art is to mistake a part for the whole. Again, tail wagging the dog.
    ===============================
    Unrelated to the above, I have a few additional small thoughts on more/less:
    When a photograph is made within (human) reach of a subject, there is a shared (comfortable or uncomfortable depending on the participants) sense of forced proximity.
    There is also, at close distances, some awareness of touch; of texture, temperature -- synesthetic effects.
    And, last, I think that the more controlled the picture appears to be, the more "made" it seems, the more the maker, the photographer, seems to have been outside of the scene. A controller, as opposed to a participant. To me, with a wider frame, or a (seemingly) less controlled arrangement, the photographer seems to have been in the scene.
     
  32. Julie, I wonder if you're moving quickly from using a guiding principle in one's work to something being hard to make. A guiding principle can be applied with great facility and ease.
    I don't agree that working even with stripping down to detail is necessarily a difficult guiding principle and I don't see it as working against the medium. One can focus on detail by working with, not against, the medium. I also don't agree that working against a medium and/or working with great effort will yield belabored-feeling art. Sure, if it yields diminished and/or boring results, that will be a problem, but that won't necessarily or likely be because of ideological methodology that may have produced it. Today's working against a medium often becomes tomorrow's working with it. Creativity is often a working against what traditionally had been seen as the medium's essential purview.
    Something appearing "made" is no more or less likely to be great art or of visual interest than something appearing "posed." If the "maker" is genuine in his or her endeavor and not trying clumsily to pass something off as something else, I see no problem.
    I think most good artists who set out with a guiding principle will choose ways to do it and subjects with which to do it that are in some ways compelling more than just to service their initial idea. Perhaps John would say, and I'd agree, they will explore a guiding principle as a hypothesis rather than adhere to it as a strict belief.
    Finally, a second-thought about belief. Passion about one's beliefs, even if the beliefs turn out to be wrong (not line up with the way things are or not work to produce the desired results) can, I think, produce good art. Passion and religious faith have certainly helped produce beautiful art throughout the centuries. I wouldn't suggest to many religious artists that they "explore" other possible belief systems in order to produce better art.
    I suggested in another thread recently (I forget which) that even malevolent intentions can produce compelling works of art. I think passionate, misguided beliefs can do so as well.
     
  33. I also don't agree that working against a medium and/or working with great effort will yield belabored-feeling art.​
    I didn't say that. I said that it's not sufficient.
    What I am saying, is that it (working against the medium and/or with great effort) is, or should be, the servant, not the master.
     
  34. I understand that, Julie. I just don't agree. I think working against the medium can be the "master" and work out just fine. Just as I think allowing a guiding principle to be the motivating factor can work out well. I don't think it should be one way or the other. I think an artist, a good photographer, a creative person will make it work either way.
     
  35. Luis-
    Disagreement is absolutely fine in my books. I welcome it. That is what philosophy is about, and it's a good thing. My own approach is hardly to try to impress anyone with my academic qualifications, or "vécu", which are in any case in another field, but to simply exchange as sincerely as I can what photography means to me and why it is my presently preferred vehicle of expression.
    To get away from the maize of "word thoughts" of these columns, I have put down a few "image thoughts" as Fred requested of us. They may not represent very well what I am after in my search (an unending process, in any case), but I hope they might do a bit better than any complex or "educated" text that I might construct and communicate on the subject at hand.
     
  36. Julie Heyward- "I think there is a considerable risk, if one tries to make "detail" or "stripping down to the essentials" a guiding principle of or preference within one's work, of having the tail wag the dog. This goes right back to one of the (or probably THE) perennial arguments of this forum: how/when/if photographs are art."
    Working against the medium is a hallmark of much great work. Maholy-Nagy is one of my favorites, making details and stripping photography down to its essentials, exploring the medium creating amazing de-constructivist work. Photography doesn't have to be about the decisive moment either. Although I work to both create photographs and let them occur "organically" , there is no right or wrong- nor is there a "set" of guiding principles that everyone must cling to. As to "considerable risk"- as we all know, the saying goes, "the greater the risk, the greater the rewards." Maybe you should start taking more risks? Sometimes I think I'd rather be the tail wagging the dog, versus being yet another photographic lemming.
     
  37. Lately, Arthur, I find myself thinking less about subjects and more about the photograph itself. Kind of a gestalt approach, I suppose, where subject, lighting, mood, composition, texture, etc. all come together and inform and affect each other. Sometimes I do let the subject dictate a lot. Sometimes I am conscious of relating in certain ways to the subject as the stimulus behind the photo. But sometimes, and it's been increasing, it's the photo I have in mind either in advance or based on the situation I find myself in (or put myself in) that actually guides my relationship to the subject and other elements. Sometimes the situation itself guides everything and the photo just seems to happen.
     
  38. Arthur's previous Less is More/detail thread got me thinking about whether less actually means simple, highly ordered or minimal, or detail was a separate thing again. And in the back of mind was a very relevent idea that has intrigued me for many years, I seem to remember being fascinated by Alain Robbe-Grillet's way of describing scenes - he had a rule, I think, of only describing what he could actually see - with no artistic licence, and he would only do it for as long as he was interested.
    I actually think this is closer to how we "see" than any other philosophy I've ever come across and so far the pictures shown don't quite get to the point as I see it, so I went out the other day to attempt to create some images that go some of the way to explain what I mean. The attached is one.
    I would call this a less is more picture though I acknowledge that many would call it more and that it is a picture almost entirely made up of detail. And from my point of view also allows the viewer to "choose " what they look at in pretty much whatever order they desire.
    A sort of democracy within the one work
    00VLU9-203933684.jpg
     
  39. "what he could actually see - with no artistic license,"​
    Grillet's description of seeing seems like an artistic license itself, a benign imposition, or at least just one way of seeing. I don't find it descriptive of how we actually see. I think it's natural to see subject appearing out of ground as well as foreground and background. I think we naturally organize and prioritize what we see. I think his ideas would yield compelling photographs when used inspirationally and it fits in very significantly with what we're talking about. Thanks, Clive, for offering it.
     
  40. We may be heading towards a discussion about the range of ways we can "see" through our cameras. Implicit in that are the very great limitations of the medium imposed by the depth of field options which run like a series of transparent screens stacked in front of each other. In short the camera orders as much as we do.
    Your point about his (Grillet's) ideas yielding compelling photographs is probably the most useful observation we've had because it really means that as soon as any photographer believes in his or her way of seeing (deluded or otherwise) the resulting pictures are going to contain "belief" which is somehow automatically conveyed to the viewer as a positive.
    I know you intended us to view your 2 pictures as separate propositions to instigate this discussion but I've found myself being unable to separate them, pull them away from each other. They work perfectly together and become an intriguing essay in opposites, one image big one small, one near one far, Black and white v colour, space and no space and what I'll call the 2 "Ys", in the composition on the left a white (ish) Y made by the hands and on the right an upside down black Y made by legs/trousers.
    Although I like my picture quite a lot, it does come with a few problems, none the least being that many people wouldn't really be able to see what they are "supposed" to be looking at, personally I don't mind that at all, but it does bring up the question of how much work can you ask an audience to do?
     
  41. Clive, I'd say it's likely some combination of belief and passion which gets conveyed to the viewer as a positive. As John has said a few times recently, beliefs can be troublesome because they can act like dogma and can cause us to avoid exploration. At the same time, it is Hume (the 18th Century British/Scottish Empiricist) who suggested that belief is to a great extent a passion. We can feel the strength of a belief. So I think it may not be the belief per se that gets conveyed to the viewer as much as the passion, which actually transcends the belief. That's why even a delusional belief can convey or translate through to the viewer as a powerful and even a positive visualization.
    I've often said that there is not necessarily a one-to-one or a simple direct relationship between what goes into a photograph and what is seen by a viewer. The passion and emotion behind even a delusional belief is abstracted through the visual medium of the photograph and the passion and not the delusion may be the significant aspect here.
    Not that we need to dwell on delusions, by any means. I certainly don't think Grillet is laboring under a delusion. He is simply passionate about (therefore he has a strong belief in and may be universalizing his own way of seeing) his description of seeing and may be successfully instilling that passion into his photographs while also focusing his beliefs visually in the course of making/taking his photographs.
    Sure, sometimes the beliefs themselves will be important to me, the viewer. More often, the passion carrying and giving texture and strength to those beliefs will be that much more important. That will be where the aesthetics of the photograph becomes significant as opposed to my judgment of the beliefs themselves. So much religious art reaches me at a very deep level and really penetrates to a core place in me, yet I can easily reject the beliefs behind the work. What I respond to is the passion instilled in the artists by those beliefs.
    Grillet's idea of photographing without a structured order to seeing and where elements don't take on the roles of subject or of foreground and background seems to be a challenge worth pursuing. I understand what you mean when you say that idea could be construed as "less is more." Less ordering, less structure, less visual expectation and perhaps less representational meaning or logic. I would probably, at first, have thought of it as "more" (because of the complex of details) but I am persuaded to consider it "less" given your explanation.
     
  42. "He (Alain Robbe-Gillet) had a rule, I think, of only describing what he could actually see - with no artistic licence, and he would only do it for as long as he was interested."
    Nothing new here. Provide a few images at a juried competition and you will quickly note that the two or three judges will pass over the significant elements of your work quite quickly, concentrating only on those that arouse their purile interest for a few seconds. Yes, they have to look at lots of images, but that is no substitute for intelligent perception, often lacking in supposed critical examination.
    Notwithstanding the attempts of Clive and Fred to"sanctify" this most unintelligent approach, if we take Robbe-Gillet's assertion at its face value (more than apparently he is engaged to do for the images he inspects), we can only assume he absorbed too much Christmas wine, or some bucolic equivalent, before he ventured to make his comment.
    For me it is absolute nonsense, and does nothing for this topic. With all respect to Clive, I think that anything said to support it is a wasted effort.
    The thread apparently derailed at about the point that Fred sought (and I thought sincerely) the photographic responses of other photographers here.
    It now appears that this was as much delusion as those of the Robbe-Gillet comment. I provided some images to complement the postulate of the thread and have received absolutely no comment, only tangential "Art Journal" prose on beliefs and passion and the importance of the absence of structured order.
    Poke me if I am asleep, but in my books "structured order" is an important human intellectual activity and one normally accepted input to artistic design or creation.
    Happily, I know what I wish to achieve, and order my thoughts accordingly.
     
  43. Arthur - No slight was intended, we have afterall recently contributed around 100 posts discussing your photos and we could add the 40 or so in this spin-off thread as being a direct consequence.
    I do think however that you are being a little harsh on the revolutionary French novelist and film maker, Alain Robbe-Grillet whose ideas about perception and time undoubtedly imfluenced countless artists, writers and film makers in the mid 20th Cent. Your "nothing new" statement is only correct in as much as there have been 50 odd years since he invented it, before that it barely existed. A little first hand experience of R-Grillet's work would at the very least reveal that the last thing he could be called is unintelligent.
    The whole question of less is more etc relates directly to the set of evolved philosophies dealing with how we see and how we choose to depict nature, truth or anything else. Image making requires choices to be made about what is important and what is not and in western art 2 approaches have stood toe to toe for hundreds of years and slogged it out, each taking it turn to be in the ascendant, one that goes under the generic title of Classicism sees the greatest human attribute to be the ability order - the other, Romanticism sees humanity as a part of nature and controlled by it. Both streams produced great work up until the Impressionists who really put the spanner in the works by questioning both ideals simultaneously.
    This I believe occured because of 2 separate concurrent events, the invention of photography which changed how people saw, and the rise of the idea of democracy or that people had equal rights. Since art has always mirrored the political, religious and scientific attidudes of the society it finds itself in it is not unreasonable to expect that different types of ordering in art will occur, or that Rembrandt's way of ordering will be somewhat obsolete today.
    It would be a mistake to say one was ordered and the other was not, it only reasonable to say they are ordered according to different values.
    The greatest complicating factor as I see it was caused by the relatively recent invention of ecology which concentrates on the interrelationships between all things which are all seen to be at the very least worthy of existence. How you order your photgraphs when you accept that there is a democracy and inferred equality between the parts of a picture becomes a very interesting puzzle.
     
  44. Thank you, Clive. I am generally a deterministic type of photographer who chooses more often to create the image than one who seeks to observe nature and human activity and then record/interpret them. There is much I do not know about art history and art movements. Your generous enlightenment on some aspects of that gives me a point of reference for further reading and practice.
     
  45. At first glance, some might think there is too much detail in Clive's picture, too much "more". I guess that was my own first reaction, although I enjoyed this unforced view of nature. The presence of the single reddish toned trunk and the less well defined dark trunk in the background capture attention in a different way. I found that when that happens, the rest of the leaf and branch detail, important in a supporting way to the nature of the photograph, don't intrude directly on the viewer's perception. The two tree trunks are quite different and provide for me the main subject and one which I canot ignore when looking once more at Clive's picture. I may be stating what is obvious to others, but it is for me a picture of detail (the two very different trunks and their interaction), a photographer's personal response to some elements within the complex beauty and mystery (or intrigue) of nature.
     
  46. The subjective comments I made on December 27th (8:13 PM) were ill-considered and not very gracious to two Photo.Net contributors whose opinions I hold in high regard. They threw a temporary cold towel on the discussion and I hope that they and others will pursue this most interesting thread at their convenience.
     
  47. Arthur - " The subjective comments I made on December 27th (8:13 PM) were ill-considered and not very gracious to two Photo.Net contributors whose opinions I hold in high regard. They threw a temporary cold towel on the discussion and I hope that they and others will pursue this most interesting thread at their convenience."
    The comment that drove me, one of the "others", away was made Dec. 26th, @ 12:52 PM.
     
  48. [This post is not directed at anybody in particular, or to any previous post; I'm just trying to stir the pot a bit.]
    One morning when I got up, I thought that my bed depicted my life, that it was disorderly enough, so I threw a few handfuls of hair pins in it and photographed it. [ link to photo ]
    -- Imogen Cunningham
    AS OPPOSED TO (or not?):
    It will be seen that the rule of giving equal notice to everything is the necessary counterpart to the demand that he should communicate everything that occurs to him without criticism or selection.
    -- Sigmund Freud, "Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis"​
     
  49. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Less is not really less if less requires a ton of words to explain why it's better.
     
  50. While I don't think less is better, the idea of "less is more" as it relates to a visual medium may be that it takes a lot less visually to show what it takes many more words to tell. (I said "may be" because I don't think that has to be the case every time.)
    Whether it takes more or less words in any given instance, the explaining is seeking to accomplish something different from the showing. The two shouldn't be conflated and aren't in competition with each other.
    Showing with less and explaining "showing with less," even by using more words, can be perfectly harmonious, each being significant in its own way, despite the seeming irony of it. They are different methods of achieving different goals.
    I maintain there's a difference between Photography and the Philosophy of Photography. I'm glad I have both to explore and to feed each other.
    I'm glad Rebecca brought this up because I think it helps emphasize a point I was making above, which is that a "less is more" photograph is not necessarily trying to achieve the same goal as and is not in competition with a "more is more" photo any more than an explanation of a thing is trying to achieve what the thing achieves.
    I use each as needed.
    Sometimes I am moved to strip things down, to economize, to lay something as bare as possible. Sometimes a fullness, a confusion, a complex will overwhelm me. Less and more seem to act in counterpoint for me when it comes to making photographs.
    Surely, the close-up of a facial expression can be a very complex and detailed matter. In my own photographic vocabulary, I would often still say that including surroundings with that expression is including more and is usually trying to tell a different story.
    The way we show figure and ground, subject and predicates, details within an environment may really key into a different emotional component than when we isolate something to show. Leibovitz's portraits are not reaching the same place as Avedon's portraits (for a variety of reasons, one of them being the role of surroundings and environment shown).
    There is one kind of beauty in the close-up of a tree bark, the intimate detail and texture, etc. There is another kind of beauty when we see the forest for the trees.
     
  51. [Geezus, Julie....where is my decoder ring? Barely stirred, not shaken. I've been dealing with the bigger questions these past few days, like how to get rid of the weird gifts without slighting the good people who gave them to me. Can't do it on Ebay, they know who I am. Maybe a big garage sale in the Spring...]
    Going back to your previous post...
    Guiding principles like Arthur's can be great motivators, are directly connected to how one wants their pictures to look, and in this specific case, easily applied. I understand Julie's comment about potential dangers stemming precisely from that facility, but in the end, it depends on the individual, and if it results in a lot of pictures being created, even ones that suck, and the maker learns something from them, I would still consider it to the good.
    I agree with Julie, specially when people are involved, that as one crosses the defense perimeter threshold perspective-wise, things tend to become intimate or really intrusive and tense. Sometimes both, as in:
    http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artist,show,1,35,0,0,0,0,0,0,henri_cartier_bresson.html
    In general, as one goes closer, things usually, but not always, shifts toward increasingly decontextualized content. It's like the difference between Arthur's knives and showing silverware in their drawer. This idea is very similar to some from the Neue Sachlichkeit , the Magical Realist branch.
    ______________________
    Arthur, I think you misinterpreted Fred's comment: " Do you have questions about your own work? Can you give examples?"
    From the sentence that preceded that, "These, for me, are preliminary questions about my own work, not necessarily to be answered by others."
    I think he was enjoining others to do as he does, to talk about yourself and your work, not so much to have questions answered by others. This is why there were no comments to your pictures. Now, if you'd asked the others what they thought about or saw in your pictures, I suspect the results would have been different and much more to your liking.
    Clive's astute mention of Alain Robbe-Grillet's work and ideas was obliquely related to the topic. Perhaps not direct or literally connected to your original topic enough for you, but I and others here got it. The New Objectivity preceded Robbe-Grillet, (and he had antecedents in writing as well). In photography, those ideas re-emerged with the collaboration between Szarkowski and Winogrand. The novel has moved on since Robbe-Grillet's day, as has his influence in the arts.
    _____________________________
    Rebecca typed: " Less is not really less if less requires a ton of words to explain why it's better."
    ROTFLMAO! This is the Philosophy Forum, Rebecca. Everything requires tons of words, and the right words, too. Hmm, could you expand on that, please? At length? :)
    _____________________________
    Inspired by Julie, my cryptic observation du jour goes back to Fred's rebop of Arthur's post. When Frank Lloyd Wright designed Florida Southern college, he did not include the walkways between buildings in his plans. The bigwigs at the college were perplexed. Wright calmly explained that he wanted the students to naturally make trails by walking on the expensive, brand-new lawn of the school, and that is where the walkways would go, instead of laying them down and forcing or expecting people to use them. Maybe there's something to be learned from that with regard to this forum.
     
  52. Luis, you put that part about your Christmas presents in there just to make me all sympathetic. Maybe I should just ship all mine to you and let you deal with them.
    Decoder rings do seem to be in order. Every comment to this thread seems to have gotten waylaid in the translation. Compound misunderstandings. [Martin Sobey, in your comment, you are agreeing with me.]
    In his college paths story, Luis is giving another (nicely cryptic) take on my (tail wagging the dog) claim that style should not, will not, cannot rule or confine or lead the way to the best -- the (presumably) most desired choices. It prevents or at least hinders, gets in the way of, one from finding the best way.
     
  53. Fred,
    I use each as needed.
    Sometimes I am moved to strip things down, to economize, to lay something as bare as possible. Sometimes a fullness, a confusion, a complex will overwhelm me. Less and more seem to act in counterpoint for me when it comes to making photographs.​
    So, wouldn't this say that the message defines the inclusion (or exclusion) of details? It seems to boil down to the intent of the photo, or do I misinterpret?
    Luis worded it nicer than my earlier attempt:
    Will the way we regard details and our consequent decisions aid and abet our vision, or not?​
    Not more or less, but choices within a total picture that speaks the words we want it to speak. For me, that is what it should be about in the end.
    Julie, yes, I think despite some lively discussion here, most of us are mainly on the same page with some (minor) details left to be discussed. That said, to me, bringing some thoughts into words and trying to formulate what "feels" logical is very beneficial. It forces me to consider my thoughts and structure them, and to use a somewhat decent verbal structure to communicate those thoughts. Selfish reasons to have a discussion, sure, but I think I'm not the only one why likes these kind of discussions for such reasons. So even if it was a "battle for a square millimeter", I still regard it useful. But maybe that's just me. (if somebody sees a new topic start in this, feel free)
     
  54. "Less is only more when more is no good."
    There's no less or more it's only about how the photo works. Every photo is unique with its own story and personae much like us sad lot. It can be exciting and clever with a message to reach the heavenly hosts or as boring as hell…….that is, if hell is boring.

    But one thing it does, in majesty or banality, and that is........ it tells a story.

    Very nice to see some photos on this forum.

    Thanks enjoyed.
     
  55. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    If a contemporary work requires vast amount of exegesis to be comprehensible to an average member of the anticipated audience, it's got problems, or the culture/sub-culture/anticipated audience does.
    More can be more if there's a simple way into the work, perhaps. I like more that has a trail marker or two.
    That's more words than I wrote the first time.
     
  56. I'm pretty much with Wouter here, the philosophy thread about the only venue where you can selfishly sort out your own thoughts.
    The fact that we dart about in, out and around a topic is very good - I, for one, have benefited from the random injection of the sub-topic of the role of explanation or "if it needs words it can't be any good" line. In this respect I realise the biggest problem my picture faces is that almost nobody would bother to look at it. I think its an awfully good idea but that can be very dangerous because there is always the chance that it can be really deluded, so I road test everything. I even posted the same picture in another forum and set up a different context for it by giving the contribution the catchy title "Tell me I'm nuts".
    The first four replies simply said "you're nuts" but when I started explaining it many people started to "appreciate" what I was up to, that in itself just shows that I have the ability influence people through argument. The more artistically ignorant the viewer is the more likely it is that you'll get a clear cut opinion about what is wrong with your contribution. I actually think that's very helpful.
    In the process I got the "why not use a fisheye that'll make it interesting" or "crop out the clutter and just leave the 2 "main" trees" or "why not use even shallower DoF" or "what about macro a leaf". All reductivist suggestions which could lead us to conclude that romantic* minimilism is by far the most acceptable photographic format.
    * romantic is this context alludes to subjects that concentrate on "the smallness of mankind in relation to nature" or "the wildness of nature" or phenomena. Maybe exotic minimalism would be a better title.
    Arthur's title "Stainless" influences how we look at a picture of 2 knives, the requirement that we caption pictures has a massive effect on how people see these web images. I wonder how we would have seen it if he had called it "2 knives"
    Steve's Santa Fe Yard has really got me thinking - One bit of me wishes that I could let myself go to that extent, another says it really throws in the idea of a democracy of parts in a picture in a pretty uncompromising way - the other has me wondering if my taste is becoming quite perverse through viewing so many "normal" images.
     
  57. As Luis shows, Wright was also about freedom. Freedom of the architect to create something that is not constrained to being a single and unalterable statement, and freedom of the viewer (or in his case the user of his architecture) to follow his own footsteps within that creation and to re-interpret it in his own way.
    I think that the open-endedness of an artistic creation, and the freedom of the creator or the participant, is a valuable aspect of art, and perhaps an interesting future topic of discussion in this forum.
    One of my vacaton reads was "The Architecture of Happiness", by that most curious and probing of young popular authors, Alain De Botton. I think we can find parallels between the movements of architecture and those of photography, how some persist without apparent reason, how others support rationale that is societal but non-artistic, and how others are evolved to repudiate existing norms.
    Clive has a very good point. "Stainless" is not the right title of my third image. It should be either "Two Knives" or "Untitled". The image, and indeed many others, should not be handicapped by a 'directive' title.
     
  58. "The Architecture of Happiness",
    The book reveals Proust’s thoughts on how to revive a relationship, choose a good doctor, enjoy a holiday,
    Funny.
    Freedom of the architect to create something that is not constrained to being a single and unalterable statement.
    True, or, a variation on the theme.
     
  59. "So, wouldn't this say that the message defines the inclusion (or exclusion) of details? It seems to boil down to the intent of the photo, or do I misinterpret?" --Wouter
    I don't think the "message" defines the inclusion of the details. I think the photo does. I tend not to think of photos, both when I make them and when I view them, in terms of messages, but rather in terms of visualization.
    Sometimes I can be rather literal both in approaching and in viewing a photo, but not often as literal as an actual message would suggest.
    The reason I like Wright's quote is because I find it more suggestive than explanatory. It allows the visual medium -- which I am using the quote in relation to -- some room not to be overly determined, something I think both Arthur and Rebecca are getting at, each in their own way.
    Wouter, the reason I am stimulated by the less/more quote, even though I understand and agree with what you say about details and the choices we make, is because of the structure of the quote, the way the words are used. By making equivalent and using two opposites (less and more) the way he does, I think Wright opens these ideas up more. He is suggesting to me that I look with somewhat altered vision. Perhaps he's just getting me to pay attention to something, to what less is and what more is, what details are, what a subject is, what foreground and background do, what context provides, the very things we've been discussing (at least to an extent) here. This type of quote I read as I do poetry, not so that I can define the terms used in a fixed, logical sort of way but so that I can let the circularity of the concepts envelop and inspire me. I find the quote asking me to see.
    Circular reasoning in logic can be problematic, in the aesthetic arena, not a problem at all. The very fact that we have touched on less and more having and not having value and perhaps not even referring to quantity is charged with possibility. Creating a circle of less and more, where they come back on each other, is the exploration here. I don't think the quote makes a point as much as it suggests a journey.
    Yes, we could say something similar to what Wright said in some precise terms and we could each, perhaps, reach a definite conclusion as to what he might have meant and what it means for us. Or, we can see it as a challenge or an open-ended starting point.
    So, yes, I do see it as a less and a more question and not just a question of what the photo is trying to accomplish. It's kind of like two or three or four people taking a picture of something. Someone might come along and ask why person number three is taking a picture of something persons number one and two have already taken pictures of. Most of us might laugh at that question.
    "Less is more" may boil down to "whatever details are necessary to achieve the picture" (and for me, it's that but it's also a lot of other things), but there's every reason why it's stated as it's stated and to me, it suggests all that it suggests because it's stated as it's stated.
     
  60. “stated as it's stated and to me, it suggests all that it suggests because it's stated as it's stated”.
    A stated circular reasoning without a logical statement.
    I wonder who is doing the stating….the photographer or the photograph.............. there’s a thought.
     
  61. When I said " . . . to me, it suggests all that it suggests because it's stated as it's stated," I was referring to Frank Lloyd's Wright's quote, not to a photograph or a photographer.
    I'd also like to add to the idea of it being circular logical reasoning, which it doesn't have to be, though it sounds circular, and I think sounding circular adds to its power (not unlike the power of the circular architecture of NY's Guggenheim which I was just in today, to see an extraordinary Kandinsky exhibit). The quote can be understood on some level by contextualizing "less" differently from "more" so that the logic of it will not be circular. Examples: Less detail is more [fill in the blank . . . perhaps powerful, perhaps effective, perhaps whatever]. Less information is more [fill in the blank]. Less context is more [fill in the blank]. Less [fill in the blank] is more [fill in the blank].
    "Less" and "more" can be adverbs, adjectives, or nouns and can have a variety of referents. This makes the quote that much more creative and, to me, stimulating, and open to many interpretations and usages.
     
  62. jtk

    jtk

    I think that alleged quotes by someone famous (without citation of source of the "quote" many would properly begin with doubts about authenticity) it's not as "stimulating" as it would be if the poster expressed his own ideas.
     
  63. Allen "The Architecture of Happiness",
    The book reveals Proust’s thoughts on how to revive a relationship, choose a good doctor, enjoy a holiday,
    Funny.

    Allen, possibly you were thinking about "How Proust Can Change Your Life". Same author, different book. The former was published in 2006, the Proust volume in 1997. My reference was to his treatise on architecture.
     
  64. A good point for discussion and one that photographers, I believe, often struggle with (less is more..or less). For me, I try hard to only showcase what I feel is important in a shot, while placing context at the same time. This is a struggle and only after I look back on my work do i sometimes recognise I have made an image unnecessarily 'busy'.
    Fred, looking at both your images I find their impact equally appealing because both express the humanism of your subjects. Less is more and more is equally balanced in both images. I thrive on the ability to never reach, what I consider the holy grail of artistic expression, the ability to look at a completed work and be wholly satisfied with the end result.
    If I am ever satisfied completely with an 'finished' image I will look for something better to do :) I hope never to fully judge when less is more..or less in any of my work
     
  65. Art, I appreciate your bringing up "looking back" at your images. I often find that when I look back at my own and others' images, ones I had an initially positive response to, I see more . . . in a good way. Not too much, but more of significance.
    "More" can mean not only quantity of details or elements or busyness but more layers to the photo, more depth to the visual relationships, more richness or variety of feeling, sometimes more meaning.
    I especially appreciate seeing more potential. That's why I often post-process my photos over a period of days and usually try to allow a day or two of not looking at a photo before I consider it "finished." After that day or two of rest, I often do find more to do. In that case, it's not a matter of more detail. It may be a matter of more subtlety (which sometimes will mean lessening the processing). It is often a matter of bringing something out more (realizing potential) and often doing that so that it doesn't feel like it was "brought out."
    I wonder if subtlety is a "less" quality. Less blatant. Something calling less attention to itself but nevertheless acting more powerfully on an emotional level precisely because it gets a less obvious kind of attention. I think of digital transitions particularly, which can be tricky and often feel a bit harsh and obvious (the edges of bodies especially in light against dark situations). In many of those cases, where I want a more organic feel, less will be more. Less sharp line, less awareness of distinction . . . will mean, in many instances, more evocative power.
     
  66. In the spirit of the subject, I'll keep this short. If more doesn't support the story, the story gets lost. Id rather have a reason to get lost in the story.
     
  67. Julie-
    I must have mis-read. I apologize- and think your BRILLIANT! :)
    Are people still on about this thing?
     
  68. I apologize- and think your BRILLIANT! :)
    *laughing*
    No need to apologize and thank you the "BRILLIANT". Made my afternoon. If less is more, then perhaps we can twiddle the meaning of "brilliant" ...
    You, Martin, are a ray of sunshine.
     
  69. Fred's mention that he visited the Guggenheim to view the Kandinsky exhibition and Arthur's mention of Architecture has got me thinking again. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the G is responsible for the quote that kicked this thread off but is also responsible for a far more useful one.
    Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
    Frank Lloyd Wright
    His mentor Sullivan being the author of the original Form follows function. The "less is more" is in effect less useful than "the form follows function" philosophy and was probably an off-shoot of it.
    Of course the craziest element in this tale is that the NY Guggenheim is the classic example of an architect failing to notice all of the functions that his form had to be able to perform, he chose to make it easy for people to view the work by walking down the ramp. He imposed his will on viewers because if they felt that had missed something they'd have to trudge up the ramp to have another look.
    Most paintings are rectangular and are designed to hang parallel to the floor something that can't happen in that gallery - so the architect puts unreasonable pressure on individual artworks.
    I have, for quite some time now, believed that architecture is the greatest of the arts not because its better than any of the others but because it controls them all. All art has to work in relation to architecture.
    The wildest thing about the G is that eventhough it doesn't work, and shows that FLW slipped up on the form follows etc - it is an inspirational space.
    Kandinsky, who was a brilliant artist, is responsible for one of the most influential Less is More quotes of all time, he claimed that a triangle and a circle suitably composed within a rectangle could have the emotional and spiritual power of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel "hand of God". Its blatantly deluded but had the majority of 20c artists believing it. I wonder what that means?
    Clive
     
  70. Julie-
    Yes let's. Brilliancy and Rays of Sunshine. More simply, light. Photography wouldn't be possible without it, nor would life for that matter. Little itty-bitty parts of atoms cranking down at us at 186,000 miles per second. The simple stuff makes up the big stuff.
     
  71. "Of course the craziest element in this tale is that the NY Guggenheim is the classic example of an architect failing to notice all of the functions that his form had to be able to perform."
    Clive has raised a point on architecture that is also very valuable in photography. The function of the image (what it is intended to communicate) is often lost in the act of creation. Function does not always interact with form. In those cases, where form doesn't follow function, more is very often less.
    Architecture is one of the great arts because it relates so closely to and is necessary (in either classical or vernacular forms) for human existence, it is in fact predicated on satisfying the human need (Yes, Hitler's proposed "Germania", the late 19th century bank fortress buildings, and buildings made to satisfy power or status (e.g., Brasilia?) are not very closely related to indivdual human needs). For all its beauty and invention, and inspirational value as Clive has noted, the NY Guggenheim fails in some very important ways as a functional building, as does the Disney auditorium on the other banks of America in terms of the other part of the equation, which from my limited viewpoint (I haven't been inside it) is a disaster of external form (more is less).
    In architecture, thare are many notable examples, but the one that parallels the Guggenheim museum example for me is the recent Daniel Liebeskind (of the Berlin Holocaust museum fame) addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, a wonderfully conceived amalgamation of mineral single crystal forms as a museum building structure, growing up and out out of the classical design existing buildings. However, the exhibition of paintings in the interior space is a nightmare for museum curators, as no rectangular elements are present in the trapezoidal type interior and only the sculptures, including Egyptian and Chinese art, can really make efficient use of the oddly shaped interior rooms.
    Contrast that new ROM building to an even more recent addition (2008-2009) to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), a few blocks south. Canadian architect Frank Gehry has utilised on its north side very organic shapes and natural wood beams and wood surfaces with an undulating window surface that mirrors the 19th century houses on the other side of the avenue. In doing so, he has not, like Libeskind, ignored the interior, but instead has created a beautifully lit space for paintings and sculpture, contrasted with metal sheathing and minimialist design to encapsulate an adjoining smaller historic bulding. In my opinion, this is far more appealing than his Walt Disney auditorium in L.A. Of course, the master architect is not new at the approach characterised by Sullivan and then Wright as "Form follows Function". Even before it opened in 1997, the undulating, titanium and glass Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain has been the building for which he is best known and which is perhaps the best known recent modern buiding.
    Does his work exemplify the "power of less"? Perhaps, at least in the cases of the Spain Guggenheim and the Canada AGO.
     
  72. jtk

    jtk

    IMO the NY Guggenheim is a huge success. Why? Because it's stuck in my mind, is always remembered with joy. The inconvenience of curators is a plus, of course: Like museum-goers, they need to be kept uncomfortable.
     
  73. But Martin, Light (Brilliance) is no good without its opposite, the absence of light (otherwise you wouldn't be able to see it) so photograpy is as much about light as it is about darkness.
     
  74. Fred, I think your use of the word 'subtlety' hits the nail on the head. It's the subtlety that impacts on the viewer more so than the blatantly obvious. There in lies the balance of subtle information versus blatant sensory overload. "More" can often be perceived as such over time rather than instantly (I think that's also what you're suggesting but i dont want to put words in your mouth)
     
  75. I don't necessarily think of less-more, light-dark,... as seperate opposites. We can only experience them in continuous relationship with each other. The elusive key to me is more in seeing and recognizing this relationship, than in photographing or using an individual "less" or an individual "more" or than showing less because it may tell or conceptualize more. Less is more, I don't know... Less equals more, yes, absolutely, why shouldn't it.
     
  76. Martin's light comments stayed with me for most of the day and prompted me to take this picture, I've been working with low light for some time now, a bit crazy I know with an Olympus-3 (not noted for low light capabilities) but better than my other digital camera a Leica Digilux 3.
    I guess there's a number of acknowledgements I should make but I'll stick at Ad Reinhardt as he started this genre in painting - though I'm not sure I've seen this before in photography.
    The most interesting thing about this is that apart from it possibly being the ultimate less is more example I tried its opposite and it just didn't work.
    Captioning was also very demanding as I just couldn't work out whether it was all light or no light. Clive
    00VNSM-205125784.jpg
     
  77. Kandinsky seemed to want to strip away the representational (less?) in order to get to, for him, a spiritual essence.
    I am able to relate his personal aesthetic philosophy (something he utilized in his approach to his paintings . . . something many people are reticent to employ and/or express -- a personal philosophy relative to their artistic/photographic creations) to Equivalence, recently discussed here. What I take away from the Minor White discussion is that abstraction can be part of even a representational photograph, the abstraction of clouds, the abstract qualities of shape, color, etc. to achieve the expression (perhaps even the visualization) of emotion even in a depiction of real-world and recognizable objects. Kandinsky took that many steps further, wanting to rid his paintings of as much representation (less?) as could suit his desire for the abstraction of various concepts and emotions.
    Though I don't believe the kinds of spiritual claims Kandinsky made (Clive seems to have a stronger negative reaction to Kandinsky's thoughts than I do), I was more impressed by the obvious inspiration his beliefs gave him, recognizable on his canvasses. For me (as I stated above), the inspiration an artist draws from his beliefs trumps the beliefs in most cases. (Reifenstahl, as always, may arguably be the classic exception, though I have no trouble respecting her art and abhorring her beliefs . . . at least from this distance.)
    Less order and less organization was also significant for Kandinsky, as exemplified in his love for and emulation of Shoenberg's music. As the latter gave up on the traditional musical key, the binding order that had held music together up until that point, Kandinsky sought the non-representational and dis-orderly structure of the kind of music Shoenberg was composing, aiming at what they both considered to be a more passionate abstraction of emotions than could be achieved with traditional harmonies or organization of elements in a painting.
    Music, they both felt, is less tied to a narrative or verbalizable content, so it is a baser (more elemental) medium. Kandinsky was not only inspired by music, he sought to paint what music could provide.
    Interestingly, the Kandinsky exhibit, mostly chronological, began at the bottom and wound its way upward. A painter friend who accompanied me suggested that she likes viewing art "on the go" and so disagrees with many who object to the Guggenheim. There is a linear, dynamic/moving quality to viewing paintings at the Guggenheim that can be exhilarating.
     
  78. Architecture either works (for most of the viewers/users), or it doesn't. Architects are not different from photographers or other artists, who can have moments of great inspiration, or less significant ones. Form and function are necessary for most architecture. The Guggenheim and the new Liebeskind ROM fall a bit short on function, but are inspirational in form. Photography can get away sometimes with only one (something purely aesthetic with no function, or, at the opposite end of the "spectrum", a recording of someone's perception of reality, but with little or no form or aesthetic interest).
    Art can get by with only form sometimes (as in abstract art, unless one ascribes function simply to the reaction of the viewer). A good read for photographers and other artists is Kandinsky's famous "Point, Line and Form".
    The ultimate of minimalist photography is an empty white page, or as discussed above, a black hole perception.
     
  79. "The ultimate of minimalist photography is an empty white page" --Arthur
    I disagree with this. This might be the ultimate idea of a minimalist photograph, but it would probably just be a bore to look at . . . nothing ultimate to see, which to me is the point of a photograph. If I were looking to create a minimalist photograph of any significance, I'd look elsewhere than an empty white page. I'd probably use Kandinsky or others as inspiration (as he used others as inspiration). Kandinsky, for example, used a lot of white, suggestively and effectively, but didn't stoop to the obvious or empty. For me, the empty white page would be a case of less being just that . . . less ("less" both in quantity and in aesthetic value).
    I understand the points in your last post about architecture and agree that the Guggenheim, for me, falls short, though I think it does provide some novel functionality (as I already discussed and more) that often doesn't get addressed in the many functional dismissals I often hear.
    I don't think photographs (other than documentary, journalist, forensic and perhaps a few other genres) have the same kind of goal of functionality as buildings. The "function" of expression and communication is different from the function that may require someone to live comfortably inside something or view paintings reasonably inside a structure. A building will also communicate and express, even if only through form. But it usually is made to function in a certain way, by design. I don't feel the same motivating factors in creating photographs (except in my documentary work).
     
  80. Fred-
    I agree about the white page, it has the same artistic effect for me as a black hole picture, virtually none. I was being somewhat facetious when I said minimalist.
    Architecture must have form and function to be successful. My point is that photographic art and abstract art (for instance) do not depend always on the two. The function of a photograph or another work of art for me is what it communicates beyond its form. What was its author attempting to say? Sometimes that function can happen even without photographer's intent. We all have examples of photographs that we have taken somewhat accidentally and which are interesting in form (two dimensional) and also have a function that we had not anticipated at the time of exposure. But function does definitely exist for me as an element in photography.
     
  81. Fred typed - " (Reifenstahl, as always, may arguably be the classic exception, though I have no trouble respecting her art and abhorring her beliefs . . . at least from this distance.)"
    Though of no relevance to the discussion here, Fred can add FLWright to that list. FLW reportedly made anti-semitic statements often in private, but his family, friends and students protected him well enough while he was alive that he got a commission for a synagogue, which he had no problem accepting. He was also openly critical of homosexuals in public, while in private he tapped anything that moved from either gender, and instituted homosexuality among his students. Things were a lot more scandalous at Taliesin than most people imagine. Wright was well aware of the distinction between public and private and how one affects the other. He betrayed many of the people that loved him and those who furthered his career, as needed. He, on the other hand, was smart enough to surround himself with loyal and devoted people. BTW, like Minor White, but in a less direct way, Wright was also affected by Gurdjieff through his wife Olgivanna.
    Kandinsky, btw, is mentioned by William Eggleston (among many, many others) as an inspiration. Given W.E's interests in music and color, this is not surprising. I was influenced by Kandinsky and other Modernists regarding the use of color (Johannes Itten, Luscher, and Albers). Kandinsky's spirituality (but less so the heavy Theosophist notions, with which I was familiar through my paternal grandmother, who was a Theosophist and medium) and ideas about the emotional directness of color touched me, the symbology, color and line/curve ideas, but the geometric form and their links to color much less so. His system is curiously more dogmatic/rigid than the paintings appear. The theoretical strictures didn't do much for me, though they certainly worked for him.
    "All art aspires to the condition of music" -- Walter Pater, 1873.
     
  82. Arthur, for me, sometimes the only "function" or point of a photograph is its visual impact. Even representational photographs don't always "communicate" something to me beyond their form. It is sometimes simply a striking form that I don't really think about though there may be simple recognition on my part.
    There are times when I think about what the photographer was trying to say, to be sure. But as often, I don't go there. I may think about what the photo is saying to me (without considering what the photographer meant) and sometimes I just enjoy the view, basking but not really cogitating. That direct experience of the photograph is different from my discussing that same photograph which may, indeed, involve a lot of thought.
    Obviously, a discussion of function and form would be a long one, with a lot of nuance . . . books have been written. The relationship between "art" and "function", I think, is a precarious one. I don't like to think of form and function as a dualism, much like Phylo was saying about less and more. They can be symbiotic and one can determine the other and they often seem to be on some sort of reciprocal continuum.
    To get back to the topic, I think, perhaps not consciously, I've often viewed form as a "less" and function as a "more." And sometimes, with art, considerations of functionality are too much.
     
  83. Thanks, Luis, for the tidbits about Wright. Private and public are, indeed, two different things. I can't claim not to be swayed by things I hear about people. But sometimes the artistry really just outweighs the nonsensical or even hateful political and social beliefs. So much homophobia, at least, is internalized and thrust upon people by a world that is afraid and feels the need to scapegoat. I tend not to blame, but rather feel sorry for, hypocrites who like to practice the sexual "abominations" they preach against. As a matter of fact, it makes a certain kind of point. They may be blameless for things so natural and innate that they do them even in spite of their ridiculous public beliefs.
    I've been considering a thread about music for time now. I'll get to it eventually.
     
  84. I agree, Fred, that the artistry and genius are the significant parts. There's countless drunks and hikers, but not many Bashos. Innumerable anti-semites, but not many TS Eliots, etc. And it is also undeniable that Wright was a man of his time, hardly alone in all this, like so many people of our own day. Like Fred, I feel compassion for people that struggle with denying part of their being. And it is something all of us do to a degree, at least once in our lives.
    As Fred probably knows, W. Kandinsky was moved by a variety of music beside Shoenberg's. Wagner and Jazz also affected him deeply.
     
  85. jtk

    jtk

    I think it's interesting that instead of discussing Wright's architecture or Kandinsky's paintings, there's a focus here on alleged and unattributed quotations, received truths, and selective biography....
    Leslie Fiedler (onetime famous literary critic) championed the idea that works can stand on their own, be appreciated best for what they seem to be (as primarily intended by the writers), leaving biographic/gossip/contrived titallating bits to sophomores.
    One might guess, from this thread, that the actual life works of Wright and Kandinsky, even including their teachings, were less significant than selective juicy bits.
     
  86. So- less is more, Maybe. As I lived 3 blocks from the Guggenheim for 2 years and was a member, and went at least twice a week- sometimes more just to "pop in" for 15 minutes of world class art and architecture before hitting the reservoir in Central Park- I have a pretty good grasp on the building- and its awesome collection of Kandisnky's. He and his fellow non-objective artists- Maholy-Nagy, Hilla Rebay, Bauer, Mondrian- have left a huge impression on me- so much I can't escape it. The power of abstraction to convey greater things- the potential of life- is overwhelming. As we go back to the idea of less being more, that abstraction gives us- the viewer the power to interpret. It is not all there. Most artists today understand this art/viewer relationship, even take it for granted. In the 1930's though- wow, what a concept. It was moving that way with modernism and the atomic undercurrent of the era- but wow! Initially, the Guggenheim's collection of Non-Objective art was not in the "Guggenheim", it was in the "Museum of Non-Objective Art" in mid-town, and the artwork was in smallish rooms with music and benches to promote thought. What a concept! Of course Wright's absolutely gorgeous and forward thinking building was the perfect place to house the millionaire family's wonderful collection and show off their great taste at the same time;) It isn't, the same for the non-objective art any more, ironically. The building itself is amazing though, and fairly non-objective in its own right: concentric and non-concentric circles, triangles and a lack of adornment. The funny thing is that, although it was orignally conceived in pink (barf), the bright white simplicity stands out against a world of noise and visual chatter. Its like a breath of fresh air.
    By the way, I would start a show by going directly to the 7th floor on the elevator and working my way down. Gravity will always win over looking at art- I like to enjoy it, not work at it.
     
  87. jtk

    jtk

    "It is not all there." - Martin S
    Yes. That is exactly the point, related to the works we call "art".
    To the extent that a work has value, it exists in our ability to remember it and/or add to it as participants in it. Seeing a Picasso, I find myself participating. And I may remember it.
    Without participants in Wright's work, it has zero value. Zero value in any absolute sense. Zero value in itself. And, since his work has no value in this thread (save for odd negativity about Guggenheim), Wright has no value here. All we seem to have here is an alleged, out-of-context quotation and a tasteful selection of peripheral neo-biographic tidbits.
    Irving Mills (immortalized musically by Duke Ellington") was closer to truth than our alleged Wright quote was, with "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." We do know what "swing" is because we can tap our feet to it. Similarly, we know what Wright was about if we take a little time with his spaces, sans pre-digested, proper ideas.
    One failing inherent in "abstract" works is that if we can't grasp them enough to expand upon them or remember them, they're reduced to decorative graphics. In photography, "abstract" seems usually to mean little more than "pattern" or "decorative"...there's rarely much potential for expanding upon or remembering. IMO of course :)
     
  88. I like that addition, Martin. I read you as saying that less from the artist may mean more from the viewer and it seems a relevant concept to the thread.
    In this case, you seem to be talking about the power of the potential that abstraction can suggest. There can be a fullness suggested by what has been stripped down.
    As you, I had also considered potential . . . related to my own photographs. In my case, I was saying that sometimes the potential I wind up realizing in a photo as I'm working on it is finding places where I can cut back. That's not necessarily to allow the viewer more latitude for interpretation, though it might be. It can also be simply to change the emotional impact. There is always the potential for less as well as the potential for more, though I'm not sure I used to consider the former as much as the latter . . . and I currently do. Focusing myself and the viewer can be as significant as using or giving the viewer longer reigns.
    Interestingly, the pink of the Marin County Civic Center seems oddly appropriate set in the changeable green-to-golden-brown northern California landscape as winter and then spring turn to summer.
     
  89. Fred - my reason for bringing up Kandinsky's circle and triangle quote was that I think it has had a very detrimental effect on the course of art, I acknowledge that this is a really stupid statement because we always get the art we deserve and even if WK hadn't said something like this someone else would have.
    My mention of architecture being the greatest of the arts was also a criticism because it always subliminally effects all the other arts, I have a firm belief that there are two not particularly high minded things that an artist can do to cut through and seriously reduce the infinite pile of decisions they are confronted with.
    The first is always consider your work in relation to the newest architecture - quite simply if your work does not cut it in new built spaces it really isn't going to get looked at.
    The second is that although beauty became a dirty word, attempting to create your own idea of beauty is the easiest way to ensure that every value you possess is in your art. Above all it is the most straight forward path to honesty.
    The biggest conundrum for me is a belief that art and the values of society are joined at the hip, so when a society goes through a somewhat un-meritorious phase art does the same. I think we are in one such period, many people can feel it but no one seems to know what to do about it. Art with the same greedy (more) values as the Wall Street Bankers is not something that appeals to me a great deal.
    If a concept of "Less" or "enough" had driven our world we may be in a better state.
    Happy New Year to you all - All the best - Clive
     
  90. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Clive, I agree with you -- art is part of the social world. I think, however, that graphic arts have a better chance of escaping or subverting it than some of the other arts do. Maybe music can even more, but most of us have unexamined assumptions that we share with others in our culture that we're not always aware of.
    William Morris said people shouldn't have anything in one's house that they didn't believe to be either useful or beautiful. At least some people are afraid that they'll be judged by what they find beautiful, that others with better taste will find what they find beautiful to be corny, so they go with what they think they should find beautiful rather than what they do find beautiful. I suspect that if one lies about one's taste, one can't really develop it later.
    Beauty also has an air of escapism to it these days, much as entertainment has.
     
  91. Clive - "... we always get the art we deserve and even if WK hadn't said something like this someone else would have."
    The art we deserve... reminds me of Munson's book.
    Happy New Year's to Everyone!
    I wish all of the denizens of the PoP forum (including John) a happy, healthy, productive year filled with love and wonder.
     
  92. "The first is always consider your work in relation to the newest architecture - quite simply if your work does not cut it in new built spaces it really isn't going to get looked at." --Clive
    I imagine that's quite a bit less true nowadays especially regarding photography, in particular, which is often being created for and looked at on computer monitors, though it's a good idea to keep that in mind, and I wonder how many do.
    I love Kandinsky's painting and admire his philosophy (though I don't share it) and I think it's one prong in many forks in a complex of roads. I don't see it as detrimental to art. If Dadaism didn't destroy it, I doubt Kandinsky and his ilk could.
    I found myself responding most to his early Expressionist landscapes, the rich blues with mountains and suggestions of moving horses, before the abstraction became as complete as it did later on. I found most powerful the suggestion of the abstraction of color and shape with still some representational aspects. His work seemed to follow a natural progression and, taken as a body, I kept being moved even though some of the later stuff wasn't quite to my taste. Also, the simplicity of the watercolors on paper always blows me away. That was probably my favorite room, off the circular winding path of the main exhibit.
     
  93. Photo.net's gone nuts, the whole format of replies etc has changed at my end, log in etc, maybe its 1 Jan and we all have to start again, so I'm going to have to dart back and forth from email versions of postings as I'm not getting the whole thread as usual.
    Luis: Sorry I don't know Munson.
    Rebecca: Sure you're right about the corny escapism etc with beauty but the funny thing is honesty shines through and the idea works for everybody, just we don't have to like it. If you add in another good path "make sure you make your art for yourself" first and foremost, most other beauty issues will just fall into place.
    I have my own art gallery and one of the most interesting things is that I get to see first hand all the time which artworks get a response from the public (in the broadest sense), and though I have no idea how to use this knowledge the most common linking feature for work that gets a very enthusiastic response is the stuff that contains absolute honesty/integrity, I guess it can just be felt.
    Fred: Dont get me wrong I'm not suggesting that Kandinsky isn't a very significant artist, and I'm with you on the early water colours he's just not in my top ten. or so. The outstanding thing about many of these early moderns is that you feel the passion and enthusiasm for the "new world", sad that we're not living through something similar - though it is usual for the first 10 years of each new century to throw something very new up. Something to watch out for!
    Sure the screen has heaps to do with how art and photography get seen these days, you could even add that if our work doesn't hold up at minimum pixels and a few inches across its doomed. My whole interest in photography stems out of trying to make images of my sculptures - 1 Tonne or so of marble - work in a few inches on the net. But the medium is awfully seductive!
    All the best Clive
     
  94. The question of architecture and the viewing of works of art that has been addressed in the preceding posts is an interesting one. I agree with Clive that as seductive as the computer and internet may be to providing some idea of a sculpture, photograph or painting it can only approximate the real nature of the work. The advantage of the web is the additional means of acquainting others with our output, but it is usually a very mitigated form of presentation. The showing of work in a gallery or other place is still the best way of connecting the artist and viewer.
    In recent years I have eschewed most conventional forms of information communication on gallery agenda except for those complimentary announcements of local newspapers, art critics and tourism bureaus. Recent studies by our local tourism and cultural groups have clearly shown that most (well over a half of those polled) who are interested in visiting our area obtain their information via the web.
    In the context of the idea of less is more, I believe that the viewing space for art should be as simple and as comfortable as possible. As a student in London, I would often spend hours in one or two rooms alone of the Tate or other galleries, in front of the images that most interested me. Sitting on the floor is OK for a limited time and comfortable seating doesn't hamper the visual part of the experience. A local sculptor friend has brought many of his larger sculptures out of his small gallery and placed them in an adjoining large garden/park that he has energetically developed through his own labour. The setting is simple. The outside natural lighting and weather is variable, but in terms of the visual experience, less is more.
    My use of an 18th century farm building (coach shed) suits most of the sculptures and paintings I seasonally exhibit of other artists quite well, with a mixture of light toned interior walls and original outside wall spaces. I took the following photo of one portion of my gallery where I held my own small exhibition last summer. In the desire to provide breathing space for the works of invited artists, I used ony a quite small space, and it shows. Normally, this 16 foot wall would contain only 5 photographs or small paintings, positioned usually only at eye level.
    However, I feel that the marriage of old wooden building surfaces provides a warm architectural enclosure that helps to create a relaxed area of contemplation, but that may well be considered by some to be "more" rather than "less" in terms of the viewing experience. The advantage of the NY Guggenheim gallery is no doubt that of a linear viewing experience (albeit helicoidal), performed, as I think John mentioned, by winding one's way down from the 7th floor. An architectural "less is more".
    2009 was from my viewpoint a very good year for POP. Rewarding exchanges.
    A happy, healthy and successful New year to all !
    00VO2R-205493584.jpg
     
  95. Clive typed: " The biggest conundrum for me is a belief that art and the values of society are joined at the hip, so when a society goes through a somewhat un-meritorious phase art does the same. I think we are in one such period, many people can feel it but no one seems to know what to do about it. Art with the same greedy (more) values as the Wall Street Bankers is not something that appeals to me a great deal.
    If a concept of "Less" or "enough" had driven our world we may be in a better state."
    I agree in the sense that art, like so many other things, has a timespace coordinate stamped on it. However, culture tends to lag behind art. And I'm not so sure about that. Only in the past 25 years have people become comfortable with Modernism's less radical works, though when one talks with many, they're still largely clueless, in spite of Hughes' best efforts. Maybe it's not so much a lag as it is a limp lapse into oblivion.
    A lot of people who know better are still hanging on to many Modernist ideas, long after their failure. This is the period I think we are living in. Never mind how much has been said and written about Postmodernism, the number of people in the art world, let alone outside it, who have any grasp of it is tiny. We are living in the Endo-Modernist Period, as far as I can see. The Pope's early edicts against it turned out to be prophetic (before someone suggests it, I'm not a fan of the Pope). The promises of Modernism did not materialize (and why they didn't can and has filled books, way too much to go into here), and what we are seeing when Clive mentions greed is the ultimate extension and mad clawing of a failed pervasive philosophy and, simultaneously, the backlash against it (9/11, fundamentalism, eastern and western, etc).
    Clive - " The outstanding thing about many of these early moderns is that you feel the passion and enthusiasm for the "new world", sad that we're not living through something similar - though it is usual for the first 10 years of each new century to throw something very new up. Something to watch out for!"
    Clive, we have no discernable viable future. Buck Rogers, The Jetzons, Marinetti, et al, proved to be weaker than the constructs they sought to displace. Though I agree with you about the headyness of it all, the tantalizing, Promised-Land aspect of it, etc. but here we are, a century later, unsaved, lost and deeper into the desert we have also managed to expand.
    I also agree that the Next Thing is already here, far from new, largely under the radar and unseen, bounding with an obsidian knife clenched in its fangs towards the fat-marbled, enlarged, tachycardic heart of Modernism.
     
  96. "it can only approximate the real nature of the work" --Arthur
    My point was that monitor viewing, in a great many instances, is not an approximation but is the finished product. And so there is no architecture involved other than the look of the monitor and the house or office the monitor is in, the effects of which should not be minimized.
    I think, in many cases, we need to adapt and change our thinking. Monitor viewing is not just a substitute for prints. Many people no longer print. The photograph as print only is an anachronism. I think of monitor viewing as a separate entity from print viewing and I create two distinctly different files for monitor viewing and for printing. Many of my photographs will never be printed and are not intended to be. Those are not trying to be prints or falling short of being prints or approximating prints. They are what they are . . . digital images that are being viewed on a computer monitor.
    Screen images have their shortfalls (for me, particularly the lack of consistency, not knowing how various monitors are interpreting the info and what exactly people are seeing on the various monitors out there) but it's also an exciting new medium, with its own inherent characteristics very different from the print.
    I am learning the complex process of printing as well, and will be doing both side by side.
     
  97. Buck Rogers? I certainly hope he wasn't an influence.
    The first ten years of the present century have not seen changes like those of the Expressionists, Fauvists, Der Blaue Reiter, Cubists and others, a new artistic enlightenment that Clive and many of us might hope for. We are always in a dynamic flux of change and the benchmark years of change are not easy to predict. The change may be much later.
    Many artists seem to be feeding off of already dead vines, or engaging in a form of intellectual cannibalism. In 2030 or 2050 we will already be well on the way to being hard wired with inbuilt nanocomputers to keep us alive longer and (more fearfully) to "compliment" our very inefficient (if so beautiful and independent) information handling system that is our brain. The 2010 computer is now one billion times more powerful and smaller than it was 50 years ago.
    What will art be in 2030-2050? Surely different, because of these predicted changes. It took us 300 years to shed the overriding presence in art and architecture of Renaissance Roman and Greek classicism, but I think that before we make another major turn on the art roadmap we will be completely overtaken by technological influences on the human condition that are effectively beyond our personal control (Unless we become part of that outer "barbaric" world, away from the influence of the modern society in Margaret Attwood's "A Handmaiden's Tale"). For that, I think that artists are living in the best of all possible times.
     
  98. Regarding form, function and Wright, in spite of what he said, I see him leaning heavily on the side of form over function, particularly in his houses. While the form is stunning and leaves one breathless, their functionality as houses for humans comes in a distant second, according to the very people that lived in the houses originally, and now. But there was one type of 'function' that Wright invariably paid attention to: The spiritual. All of his buildings, whether they're temples or water fountains, have it.
    I see the Guggy in the same vein. Its truncated spiral linearity and literal gravity is like a cattle chute, discouraging an individual non-linear viewing of the art being shown. A precursor to the streamlining/crowd-traffic control that come later in dealing with crowds in places like theme parks, drive throughs, etc. It's an impressive, imaginative, uplifting modernist structure, apparently derived from the design of one of his own buildings at the Florida Southern college. The Guggenheim has generated many copies, btw. In St. Petersburg Florida, there's a bank building that is a clear copy albeit with a rectangular slab cutting through it as a concession to commercialism, to display the bank's name.
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    Arthur, I like the laid-back, inviting, homey space of your gallery. Love all the wood. It reminds me of private loft shows, only more intimate.
     
  99. Arthur, I sense a lack of recognition of or excitement about the potentials of digital photographs and viewing that seem profoundly obvious to me. This means overcoming last century's mindset, parameters, mediums, and genres. I always want to break through my own aesthetic prejudices, what I have taken to be given. I prefer to embrace rather than bemoan new technologies, advancements, opportunities, methods of presentation and, therefore, ways of looking and seeing.
    Whenever I hear how much better were the good ol' days, I smile and live my life in the moment.
     
  100. Arthur - " Buck Rogers? I certainly hope he wasn't an influence."
    He wasn't. He was a symptom of the times, as well as a caveat about human nature trumping technological change.
    Arthur - " The first ten years of the present century have not seen changes like those of the Expressionists, Fauvists, Der Blaue Reiter, Cubists and others, a new artistic enlightenment that Clive and many of us might hope for. We are always in a dynamic flux of change and the benchmark years of change are not easy to predict. The change may be much later."
    How could we, and more to the point, why would we have changes like those nowadays? I think the coming changes are here already, but largely undetected. Neophilia on such a grand (modernist) scale is unlikely to be seen again for a long time, and in retrospect, imo, it was absurdist folly after two World Wars, even more so now. Arthur, you have a lot more faith in general, and specifically in Moore's Law than I do. Technology is now clearly outpacing the genotype, but the latter defines the limits to which the former will be used (one of the lessons of Buck Rogers).
    China and Australia are showing the future of the web, as its wild-west period draws to a close under austere government regulation with -- Google's assistance and predatory corporate practices flooding the web. The last remnants of the hacker ethic are under siege and running out of water.
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    Fred - I'm in agreement on the revolution of sites like Flickr/Smugsmug/ Facebook, etc. as the dominant venues for showing and displaying photographs. The sun has set on the print in that regard, though not as the means of privately owning an image, though that, too, is likely to change in the very near future. Many major galleries have shifted to web-only displays and invitation-only shows. Display technology is rapidly shifting, as is color calibration. How long before we have large digital frames instead of prints on our walls? I embrace and applaud all of this. While I value my small collection of prints, and still plan on acquiring more, I find the ongoing shift exciting and welcome.
     
  101. Thanks Arthur for the insight, somehow I could never have imagined you displaying your images this way. It gave me the idea that "reasonableness" maybe easily be the criteria or ideal we are looking for. I may have called it a "kind of democracy" previously out of fear that other words may imply "compromise" which for some reason I've always thought had negative connotations.
    The character and space of the old coach house is allowed to co-exist with your work and arguably both are uncompromised, but none of us can really make that assumption without visiting the space.
    My own building is a recycled Arts and Crafts style butter factory complete with Guggenheim sloping floor www.cowwarr.com which my Modernist sensibilites found a little confronting as the strong architectural features gave any contemporary artwork a fair run for its money but what it has taught me is that human beings have a fabulous capacity to switch contexes at will.
    This all leads to the idea that as the modernists naively outdid each other in their "less" is more quest, less of less progressively leads to nothing. Inheritant in the process is an inspired use of compromise, reasonable choices, so its never really less or more but the balance somewhere in-between. Now if ever there was artististic dilemma to cope with this is it, as we have to be able to change our view of compromise from meaning cop-out to right, best etc.
    The enthusiasm for modernism in the 60's was over the top - I remember a (London) Times article asking us to value and embrace the looks of a Cadillac (more if ever there was more), over the aesthetics of a Rolls Royce (not exactly less). The key to the argument was that the Cadillac was at least based on a modern form of transport - an aircraft, whilst the RR was an interpretation of the Parthenon on wheels and therefore a rediculous anachronism.
    The public and contemporary art is always an interesting question, the art-world always uses a slightly naughty perversion of the truth, which uses the case of Impressionism and the length of time that it took for it to be generally accepted, say 30 - 50 years and then extrapolates that all avant-guard, cutting edge contemporary art will take the same length of time before its generally accepted. This should be mean that abstract art is as popular as Impressionism was 50 years ago and Jackson Pollock is accepted as much or more than Van Gogh. It just hasn't and wont happen that way, the public have drawn a distinction between Art (Real Art - Proper Art etc) and Modern Art. (modern and post)
     
  102. An impressive artspace, Clive. Your sculptures are given ample space, unhindered, thereby allowed to exist on their own. Very intriguing sculpture art, with the facial details (expressions, or your particular design of noses, eyes and and eye sockets) compelling the viewer to look further, to question. The stone headpieces, somewhat reminiscent of ancient Egyptian costumes, give another meaning to the faces and imbue them with a kind of power that I am yet to fully understand.
    I do not usually crowd the old couch house space with so many photographs together. They are much better isolated from each other, with good spaces between them. René Taillefer, one of the sculptors who exhibits his smaller wall or floor mounted abstract wood sculptures, has worked with us to exhibit sculptures and photographs in fairly open but interacting groupings, as there is some dialogue between the two forms. As for the couch house, like your restored butter factory space, we are trying to get the Quebec government to classify it, if only to preserve a fragile wooden building of the period. It would be a pleasure to show the building to visitors, as there are some rather rare and interesting architectural elements within the building.
    My personal problem is one of concentrating my work into themes and developing themes that have more than a passing interest for me. It may be common to others who also have come later to art and by non specialised education. One aspect of detail that we perhaps haven't discussed is the detail of a particular chosen theme that the photographer or other artist may choose as a sort of approach, to coax out of himself a series of related works. In such cases the simplicity of the choice may have a value that possibly would be lesser had he had chosen a more complex theme.
    I understand Fred's point about the importance of embracing the new technology of electronic images. Two dimensional and three dimensional art media have been around for many thousand years and will likely continue, albeit in co-existence with the new monitor images.
     
  103. Arthur:
    My personal problem is one of concentrating my work into themes and developing themes that have more than a passing interest for me. It may be common to others who also have come later to art and by non specialised education. One aspect of detail that we perhaps haven't discussed is the detail of a particular chosen theme that the photographer or other artist may choose as a sort of approach, to coax out of himself a series of related works. In such cases the simplicity of the choice may have a value that possibly would be lesser had he had chosen a more complex theme.

    As you may have noticed on the Cowwarr Art Space site we have artists in residence, our most recent being photgrapher Janina Green
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/monash_gallery_of_art/3948578089/
    who not only had a show with us but was also completing a project in our district, we had opportunites to discuss "photography" she works like many other photographers on theme based projects which puzzles me a little but when she said, "Since anyone can take a handsome photograph, subject and context is everything, and so the idea of "project" rears its ugly head," things fell better into place for me.
    This is the complete opposite to the way I've always worked - described most simply, I stumbled on an argument that said the main problem with all of the movements in modern art was that they each concentrated on just one aspect of "reality" that intrigued them, so in effect the only way to grasp reality was to put them all together - not practical!
    The flash occured when I mumbled, to myself, "the problem with reality is that you can't see it all at once, so reality is like an iceberg with just the tip of it visable" (less is more if ever there was). My first works were simply practical demonstrations of the idea. Basically everything I've ever done has been around that first idea, I'm always on the look out for things that trigger more possiblities. Hence my involvement with your first version of the topic - the expansive version of your gravestone-woman on a bench picture struck me as a very good "iceberg" work. Subsequent postings have just reinforced that.
    I'd argue that having a very general idea or philosophy is far more useful than a bolt down hard fully formed point of view. Quite simply because it allows for constant discovery.
    I had to go to a 50th birthday party last night and thought that I should take a camera, but I decided against it mainly because I knew that I wouldn't really wind up taking good useful party momento pictures but get seduced by the ghosts of Frank, Friedlander and Weegee + my own ideas of art.
    The point being that I don't think people have to think too hard about themes etc as we all seem to have our own underlying philosophy, values, taste, aesthetics and regardless of what we point the camera at we find a way to put our view forward, whether it be supermarket car park or bug. It often pays not to think too much.
    All the best Clive
     
  104. Clive:
    "I'd argue that having a very general idea or philosophy is far more useful than a bolt down hard fully formed point of view. Quite simply because it allows for constant discovery."
    I very much like that, insofar only as the idea/philosophy is not overly general or non-focussed, which could risk undertaking a non-beneficial line of search, not recognizing a discovery, or (worse), its significance, or diverging from an approach, aesthetic or communication that feels right for us.
     
  105. Architecture is a very different field than photography - glib but it seems to be missed by some. You cannot begin to architect or reproduce the vitality and fractal nature of wilderness. A saying architects have that I am fond of: 'god is in the details'...which sums up how I feel about photography; unless you (really and rarely) need a simple expression of a strong central idea. Most times single theme images are just boring and pretentious, like so much B&W, Michael Kenna's work for example. Maybe this is heresy to say so as he is very successful.
    FLW reportedly had a photo of the Potala on the wall of his office. Plenty of 'more' in that particular building, which contains 1000 rooms (the Chinese will not permit you to visit many of them) and has not a single nail in its construction; it is made of rammed earth, copper and wood for the most part. Tibetan gompas have this magic layout to them, rooms of all kinds appear to tumble willy-nilly in all directions down the hill - until one views the complexes from a suitable viewing distance, when they exhibit an amazing harmony of asymmetry, as each element supports all others, even if, as in the case of the Potala, they are constructed over the passage of centuries. Quite the antithesis of Judeo-Christian buildings of religious worship, which are so formal and ostentatious.
    Can't agree that 'more' is mere clutter or busyness, as depicted in several images above this point. The whole art of images which present high levels of detail is the pleasure they afford the eye, to wander around the frame and gain insights into the visual relationships, shapes, texture and colours on offer. A lot of spare (let's call them that for kindness) images so beloved of p.net's POW editors and so many contributors as well, lack *interest* and do not get anywhere near a pass to the question: could I happily look at this photograph for several years if it hung on my wall?
    A Jungian explanation for the 'plain photograph' phenomenon may be that viewers with that preference crave order and control to compensate the often perplexing and certainly complex business of existence. This view may also account for the predominance of 'made photographs' snatched unceremoniously from the landscape because they feature reductionist, recurring, obvious patterns - waves of sand dunes, misty blue hills, rows of trees and the like. I guess it is all good if someone likes it. At this stage, having been a critical contrarian, let me point to a photographer whose work exemplifies the the appeal of detailed photographs - Eliot Porter.
     
  106. Philip, I don't believe you've been contrarian at all. As a matter of fact, you've articulated much about detail that I fully agree with and think I addressed above. I have said on many occasions that the singular "clean" aesthetic that dominates the POW forum week after endless week shows a limited vision that is stunning for a site like this. I really appreciate your addition to the thread. Thanks.
     
  107. Philip,
    Thanks for showing that other side of the coin, the naturalist/pictorial (if that is the right word) view of photographic purpose/interest. I think I have mentioned before that one of the intriguing things in the "big scene", as in nature, is the difficulty of finding straight lines within it (such as perhaps water falling in a windless environment?). Such complexity, added to the questions of texture, colour, tones, compositional balances, etc., can indeed intrigue the eye and the mind without being "more".
    Such photography is not better or worse, but simply different. The photographer's intention at the moment of exposure is what is important
     
  108. Totally interesting discussion, folks! I'm particularly taken with the use of Wright as a source of wisdom for photography! Hmmm... let me check here for something by Cartier-Bresson on architecture...
    Here's something I like from a photographer I admire - Diane Arbus: "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." Does that imply a view of what is "more"... or "less" or, in fact neither. I like Clive's comment that "all seem to have our own underlying philosophy", and, by extension, what defines "more". For my money - and film - it's all about doing what it takes to reach an essential understanding of the what the photographer wants to convey. Cartier-Bresson could show clutter - but it was never "more" - either more than he needed or more than wanted to tell the story. Steichen's view of the Flat Iron Building in the rain is not a clean, crisp architectural investigation, but what element could one safely remove?
    For my own tastes I want to eliminate. I want to excise all of the elements that do not contribute to "the story", many times including such "distractions" as color. Someone mentioned wanting lots of confusing elements in order to convey disharmony & chaos. In that case is he actually shooting more... or just enough? (Wow... minimalist clutter... there's a concept!)
    In the end I suppose I come down with a fairly minimalist view of photography. For me less probably is more. I don't think leaving a jarring distraction in the background adds to a photo. (And it is certainly avoidable with a little good framing!) Shoot what you want us to know, to see, to feel... anything more is unnecessary for me. Anything less is simply a poor effort.
     
  109. Wes, Nice contribution and I really appreciate hearing the statement from Arbus. For me, it brings something to the table beyond compositional quantity. She seems to be talking about photographers' revelations, perhaps even impositions: how much (of the secret) I want to reveal, how much specificity I envision, how much ambiguity I might want to leave. I just read Julie's last entry in the Langer/White thread, talking about balance (and imbalance) between intention and accident. There's a similar tightrope the photographer walks between revealing and withholding.
    On the matter of color, I have a particular sensitivity and am rarely pleased with the way it's talked about and would like to talk about it a lot more, because it would help me in my own approach to continue to fine tune my thoughts and feelings about it.
    I prefer not to begin from a place of seeing it as a distraction. It's as if color, for some reason, has to prove itself in order to be acceptable in a photograph. What's different about color and shades of gray? Do we start out seeing all gray-tones as distractions, assuming that a graphic black and graphic white are the really pure elements, the non-distractions? And, in what way does color actually differ from focus, light, and composition. Why is it not a basic, the removal of which is actually the radical act?
    Of course, my initial thought is that it's got nothing to do with color itself and a lot to do with the technology of photography. We started out, historically, not being able to process in color. It seems to me that goes a long way in defining our relationship to it. We got used to black and white being the starting point. I think that's dictated a lot.
    Perhaps because I got into photography late in its short history and did not work in a darkroom where black and white was more accessible to most people who processed their own film, I am less prone to see color as an add-on or distraction. I tend to see in color and to consider color as a fundamental, a baseline, which I may strip out if I feel the need or desire, not something I hesitate to include with the assumption that it is prone to be a distraction. Even when I know a photo I'm taking will be converted to black and white, color plays a significant role in my seeing because the absorption and reflection of light and the black and white conversion are so dependent on the color that is there.
    I am no more prone to say that black and white is less distracting than color (or "less" than color) than I am to say that a sharp focus is inherently less distracting than a soft or blurry one or that a dark and shadowy content is inherently less distracting than one with sunlight.
     
  110. Actually, this is probably a good time for a new thread. So I'm going to transfer some of these thoughts and start one.
     
  111. I like what Wes is hinting at it's neither More nor Less but what is needed to get the job done.
    I've often thought that about the best description of how we arrive at the conclusion that something has "quality" is - Firstly you are attracted to it, then you run through a sort check list of the problems that the artist had to address and if all these measure up you've confirmed to yourself that your original decision stands.
     

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