Music and Photography?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by mikemorrell, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. Thats a vague statement as it would depend on the context. You know it very well.

    I agree, symbols and imagery that initiate a predictable reaction in the majority are usually skin deep. From your initial attitude in introducing the concept of 'universal communication' in this thread, I didn't feel though that you were referring to something thats just superficial. Your initial post seemed to me that you were speaking about communication that appeals to the inner mind and lingers or proves true in a non-transient way. universal in the sense that the effect is not restricted to particular cultures or communities or times in history. I think there are examples that might conform to that, like a dying child in mother's arm or a immigrant mother protecting her daughter from teargas as was published recently. However there is more to art than such straightforward examples and I am not even sure if art has to appeal universally. If it does, nothing wrong, but there can be images that appeal to certain communities due to being context dependent and not others, and I can value such art as deeply as I do those that have more widespread appeal. My feeling, universal appeal may exist and can be useful, but is that really a big deal?

    Your own photo of two chairs being placed on two edges of the frame with emptiness in the middle creates a lot of visual tension and allegory for human relationship in my mind, but I am sure there can be more to it than what I make out of it and others can says things about it that I would not have felt. I don't think, you are communicating anything thats universal but you are opening a portal in people's minds to find their own messages and thats equally good for me.
    inoneeye likes this.
  2. Supriyo, you seem to know more about some of the science or academic study of this stuff than I do. I was reading the article linked below this morning (thanks to the thread for getting my brain going and getting me to do more reading and thinking on these subjects) and this author seems to be suggesting that even emotions aren't universal, let alone symbols related to those emotions. I haven't done enough subsequent checking to know if this might be a fringe theory, a more or less new way to think about emotions that challenges prevailing scientific thought, or a more commonly-held belief among some who study the brain, culture, and emotions.


    When I think of universals, I think in terms of particulars. This chair is a particular chair. The idea of chair, chairness, is a universal. What it means to be a chair, what qualities chairs have that make them chairs, how we know a chair's a chair, those sorts of things. I don't think of predictable reactions.

    For me, the universality of a symbol, if it exists, would not be about predictable reactions to the symbol. It would be about the way the symbol goes beyond the individual instantiation of it. In photography, how a photographer approaches something which causes, allows, or enables it to be something more than this particular instance of it. Not that it's locked into this or that interpretation for the majority, but that it's NOT locked into being the particular thing it is.
  3. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Nah, no offense taken.

    As far as the "LIKES" I give to certain photos go, it depends on my mood. I am a manic depressive (bipolar disorder) on medication. I haven't been depressed in 16 years, but I still get "manic." That is, I get easily agitated when certain buttons are pressed. For example, whenever I read about what the democrats do trying to abolish our southern border, I get furious for a minute or two and then try to change the subject in my mind. On the other hand, If I meet a democrat, I'll greet him/her, shake hands even, and talk about something benign. NEVER politics with a real person LOL.

    How my mania refers to my photo "LIKES" is that I tend to like abstracts and macro shots for a while, then portraits (I NEVER shoot portraits, myself), and then perhaps architectural shots, and so on. I usually don't like landscapes (a few get likes though if they're colorful or majestic). Nor do I care much for flower photos unless they're really unusual.

    I guess that's enough for now.
  4. I agree with you. I usually see my own work as the start of a road than the end of it (a road that can diverge depending on who is taking it). I also appreciate others works when I see that trait there, perhaps more predominantly than mine. I see that in your works using more human subjects and in Phil's using more inanimate symbols may be.

    I don't give too much importance to one-to-one communication in art (I think you don't as well), because many times, artists just throw something in the air and it lands on people in different ways. Some get hit by it, while others can be soothed by it. That it ... can be a rhetorical question or a simple expression that just happens to resonate with others. Even formally commissioned works by some Renaissance artists that are intended to communicate the funder's point of view in the most unambiguous way contain such elements that can be contradictory to how they appear on the surface.

    I agree, combination of symbols that produce a common knee-jerk reaction almost universally, can be used as a hook to make viewers to look deeper, often landing onto a controversy or a contradiction. It also acts as a filter to keep on the surface those, who are satisfied by the superficial meaning.
  5. No, may be post a picture or two.
  6. Thanks. A personal and genuine response. Much appreciated.
  7. Fred, thanks for the link to the article. I was starting to read it with the mindset of a scientific article, but then I realized it is an opinion piece, not a scientific article because it doesn't rigorously support many of the statements with evidence as peer reviewed articles require. However, its an interesting article and the question she raises is definitely of fundamental importance. Human brain and its connection with self-awareness is still a mystery. The author refers to complex emotions such as pride, guilt or ambition, and suggests that the brain provides the support for these feelings, but that to recognize them, one has to be culturally subjected to the relevant situations (repeatedly as a method of learning). This distinction between support vs learned awareness has some evidence I think. There is a lot of controversy about how the ancient greeks recognized color. The ability of brain to distinguish among the different colors was already there, but perhaps the cultural influence was responsible for the way Greeks treated colors differently than us.

    That said, many of the examples of complex emotion she cites, i.e. pride, guilt or ambition are quite fundamental, and in my opinion would be experienced in every culture whenever multiple humans try to coexist in a community. There may have differences in intensities, but still I think pretty common among cultures. Even more complex emotions such as peer pressure, herd mentality or self esteem that are frequently encountered in modern life have their analogies in remote cultures, but with varied priorities. So, yes its a very important and relevant question she raises, but I just don't know how much weightage to place on cultural influence vs what is already hardwired in the brain. To answer this question, one has to closely compare different cultures possibly by cohabiting with them, which is beyond the scope of the article.

    If I understand you correctly, the symbol should make a viewer think about the greater thing it represents in it's category, not just that particular thing or subject. You are not stressing on how many or whether all viewers get the bigger picture, but the big picture itself. For example, this photo appeared to me about the universal symbol of motherhood, among other things. I was thinking about that particular mother and her particular children and the situation itself, but above all I resonated with the mother's distressed look and her instinctual urge to get her kids out of danger which has a more universal appeal to it. However, I don't think my feeling about the picture is unique and I suspect many people to be feeling the same way, if not all. Given what you said, I am beginning to think now that the common reaction to an universal symbol is an effect rather than the central aspect of the universality.
  8. I think we're on the same wavelength here. Reading your comments and rereading my own words that you were responding to, I want to be clear that, yes, I think universals are a big picture thing and a counterpoint to particulars but I don't think them (and don't think you were saying this either) more important than particulars. I think particulars (that mother and child seen as that mother and child) are vital in bringing us to awareness of universals and I think much art deals directly with individual instances of things even when, through symbols or other mechanisms, the art also goes beyond that to a more universal idea or ideal. So, while I might do a portrait that's, to me and to my subject, about more than just the subject and his or her personality and feelings at the moment, his or her feelings at the moment and personality are also of vital importance both to each of us and to the portrait itself. Even if the subject of a portrait is playing a role for the camera and being made by the photo into some sort of "character", that character is still coming from some true place in them ... and hopefully me. Even a persona adopted for the moment has a personal truth and reality to it. The great thing about effective, meaningful, and moving symbols is that they feel both personal and universal.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    William Blake, countless others in literature - there's even an emoji, sorry.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

  11. I have faced situations where I have cried for being overjoyed, and there were tears and everything. The birth of my daughter was one such incident. Tears of joy isn’t just a figure of speech. However I agree, tears are more associated with sorrow, and smile with laughter - sounds kind of childish LOL. It’s also true that tears in art don’t always represent sorrow. If they did, we would have been bored before long.
  12. I have always felt that tears represented something deeply felt. Aside from onions and dust or wind.
    I would use tears are a descriptive tool. It is not joy that the tear(s) represent... tears are a sign of heightened emotion or response. intensity. The context always guides me. Sad, happy, anger, fearful, pain, nostalgic, laughter, ... .
    Without the context a tear means nothing more than salt water. A tear as an isolated 'symbol' only has a specific meaning to the user.
  13. An ambiguous tear, tantalizing. It would create a question mark for me, generally a good thing. But I suspect there is a place for my mind to go. Lack of descriptive content leaves it open ended more than usual, rare even for an abstract in that The technique is often suggestive. Then the tear might become a quantifier for me. A floating question mark.
  14. Tears of joy I struggle to think of a nicer thought.

    Tears of sorrow I struggle to think of a nicer thought.
  15. "But the more open-ended and ambiguous the image is (like The Shadow's example is rather ambiguous), the more the tear will collapse back into that what it universally symbolizes, rather than shown to be indexical of a certain circumstance (like the birth of a child or something as random as a gust of cold wind). " Phil.

    Universal symbols and the ambiguous are not joined together as you seem to imply. Too simple a thought cloaked in a rectorate of ambiguity and prose.

    Back to the future, or simple understanding, words in different context, have different meanings. Add colloquial English and once again the words can take on a whole different meaning.

    To play word games, is a lack of understanding of words, and where they can take you; little perception and understanding is the thought that comes to mind.
  16. Obvious though, Phil. What are you trying to say other than it will soon be Christmas.

    Pray do tell..

    Point me in a direction...
  17. Phil, Phil, you tried very hard to give a word a specific meaning. Really, it was a about a pride thing. Yes, it was.

    Hey, don't feel bad. We all still love you.

    And post more of your work don't be selfish or shy.

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