No Words forum

Discussion in ' Site Help' started by Tony Parsons, Mar 26, 2021.

  1. I hope there's not an assumption that explanatory information, when provided, is necessarily done to make pictures meaningful and interesting. Explanatory information can be meaningful and interesting on its own, accompanying a photo. The photo can still be the photo, with or without accompanying information. It's up to the viewer whether they want to impose that information on the photo and to what extent and whether they want to allow it to supplement, add to, subtract from or otherwise distract themselves from whatever it is they're doing when they're looking at a photo. Those who want to view photos in a vacuum can try as hard as they like, but there will always be a context in which the photo is found. Simply posting a photo in a thread with a particular theme already makes a statement and adds meaning to a photo. What if it does? Life makes all kinds of things meaningful in different ways. If I see a picture of a beautiful sunset and it makes me cry because I just came back from a friend's funeral, have I somehow illegally added something to the photo that makes it more meaningful. Let photos live. Let photographers who supplement their photos with words live. Deal with the morass.

    It's what God intended. ;)
  2. Sometimes the photographer is the last person who should be commenting on their own photograph.
    ericphelps likes this.
  3. That seems to be a not uncommon attitude on PN. No, I haven't made a study nor do I have statistics. Just a general observation that a group of PN photographers feels they ... and especially others ... shouldn't explain their photos. I actually think a lot of quite decent PN photographers would make more meaningful and interesting photos if they did at least try to explain to themselves what their photos were doing.

    Interestingly, the famous photos most of those same people hold up as excellent examples from their hero photographers throughout history usually have quite a bit of meaningfulness and depth in them, the thing self-searching and self-explanation can help lead to.

    I suspect if you'd taken on the photo club instead of walking away, finding your own way to explain things about your work, your photography might have grown. Now, of course, you may not have wanted that, which is up to you, but it is there for the taking if one does want it. Some thought and out-loud explanation can facilitate one getting to a level that goes to the kinds of places Avedon talked about when he said ...

    My photographs don’t go below the surface. They don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.

    A bit of thinking and explaining (which Avedon obviously wasn't opposed to) goes a long way in helping a photographer find not just an awesomely contrasty or pleasing or pretty surface but a good surface, one full of clues. It's the clues that are often missing but might just be found with a bit of thought and an attempt to explain to oneself what one is, after all, doing.
    Sanford likes this.
  4. now serves as my photo club, and a fine one at that. No more printing, no more matt cutting, and no more left turn onto a busy highway at night.
  5. Sam: "That seems to be a not uncommon attitude on PN. No, I haven't made a study nor do I have statistics. Just a general observation that a group of PN photographers feels they ... and especially others ... shouldn't explain their photos. I actually think a lot of quite decent PN photographers would make more meaningful and interesting photos if they did at least try to explain to themselves what their photos were doing."

    What, besides provenance (who, what, when, where) and materials and technique, explanations are you referring to? What do you mean by "what their photos were doing"?
    Sanford likes this.
  6. I'm thinking of things like possible symbolic expressions a photographer was after, particular or more general emotions she might have been trying to convey, motivations for taking the shot, how the shot might (or might not) fit into the themes of their overall body of work, anything that might have made the photographer curious relating to the photo or the original scene being shot, a mystery that might have shown up for them, a purpose the photo might have or not have, photographic or other influences that seem to emanate from it. As Avedon said, clues ... often more than answers.
    Well, I consider photos more than just dead meat. They're alive in a significant sense. That's me. Every photographer might tackle this question differently and on their own terms. It's what you would mean by it that I'd be interested to hear when talking to you about your work, especially as a fellow photographer.
  7. This thread was started with particular reference to the No Words forum, this seems to have been lost in recent posts.
    There are other forums available which actively encourage "words". Back in the olden days there was an active place where people could post photos and maybe get feedback, OK it did turn into a back slapping affair but was a place for expressing thoughts. Whether what the the photo meant to the author or the observer but unfortunately it did not survive the major upheaval when the site was revamped. A sad event when many long standing members voted with their feet.
    It could recover if people were to participate and use it, but I think that time has pasted. The folks who stayed with PN appeared to migrate to the forums especially No Words.
    Seeking Critiques @ - Where Photographers Inspire Each Other
  8. The thread evolved, a not uncommon phenomenon, going beyond No Words and now discussing explanations in general. I'm not suggesting No Words become a place for explanations. I like No Words as it is. As to this thread, it will go where it goes. Unlike No Words, this thread has no restrictions other than the terms of agreement of the site. Threads often meander to unforeseen places. No worries.
    I'd love to be optimistic about that but, for two main reasons, I'm not. First, I don't think the remaining PN members care about photography or look at it with a "discussion" frame of mind, other than gear and hotly-contested debate topics like film vs. digital. Second, the gallery and photo commenting side of the site is so badly designed and formatted and works so poorly that it would be an uphill battle, even for those wanting to participate, to be able to accomplish much.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
    Gerald Cafferty likes this.
  9. I'm not after any "symbolic expressions" or "trying to convey..." [anything], nor any "purpose". The difference between us on this, afaict, is you privilege the photographer and I privilege the subject. Some photographs I take are due to an allure or seduction seen, which my response is to take a photo of it, as if it said to me "take my photo" and I obey. My relationship is with what is in the finder rather than myself or other photographers. The other photos I take are genre variations...practice.

    You may wonder what was alluring to me, but so do I. Often I don't know. I can't figure it out, but there it is. The genre variations are obvious...the pretty flower in the field of bokeh -- landscapes, nature, street, portrait, abstract etc.

    Considering the discussions I've had here the past 15 years, there haven't been any members interested in what I have to say about it, some could barely endure my demotion of the 'photographer' from being the really important thing about a photograph.
  10. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive or even in competition. I appreciate your approach and will let it stand without characterizing it. If I had questions about what you said, I’d ask, but you were pretty clear. I don’t know why you’ve concluded, because I express interest in the photographer’s own thoughts, that I privilege the photographer over the subject. I can pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Photography, IMO, is multi-faceted. Not only am I interested in both the photographer and the subject, I’m also interested in the photo, which often goes well beyond “subject” and sometimes doesn’t even have one. Sometimes the photo itself, it seems to me, is the subject.
  11. ... which are among the reasons I wouldn't expect or ask you to explain your work. Ironically, because you've explained yourself, I know not to ask you to explain yourself. I'm not familiar enough with your work to have drawn that conclusion just from the work itself. Though I recognize that some photographers don't, many photographers do try convey, express, and work with purpose. Do you recognize such photographers? If so, would an explanation from one of them provide something of substance worth your time and energy? For me, the answer is "yes," which prompted my initial comment on the matter.

  12. I don't know what you think needs explaining in, or what might be an explanation of, a (particular) photograph. It is something I first encountered here on pnet. It has something to do with the photographer, something only the photographer can satisfiy. The photograph itself is not enough "explanation".

    I blame the internet.

    Your reply to Gerald (above): "First, I don't think the remaining PN members care about photography or look at it with a "discussion" frame of mind, other than gear and hotly-contested debate topics..."

    Where did all the others go? I think lots of them had to grow up and get a job. Obviously, I'm not alone in not wanting to discuss the things you prefer.
  13. Knowing the demographic, I suspect many more of them retired than got a job. :)
    Yes, you do. You already asked me, I answered, and you responded to my answer as if you understood me perfectly.
    I’ll take you at your word but it’s hard to fathom someone, photographer or not, never before having encountered explanations of photos. I can only suggest doing some reading on the history of photography or any number of well-known photographers in order to find explanations going back to its inception. Maybe this lack of exposure to explanations sheds light on your self-identified lack of understanding of them.
    No one or thing should be blamed for discussing or wanting to discuss photos. It’s not something deserving of blame.
    Quite right and I’ve already said as much.

    Good night. zzzz
  14. Consider teaching by example. Give an explanation of one of your photos, and take that model and explain one of mine.
  15. No, thanks.
    I’m too old for exercises in futility. You’ve made it clear that you think something is to blame for this part of my approach to photography, so I have reason to suspect you would resist the “learning” you’re purportedly asking for.

    Besides, I’m not here to teach but to share.
  16. "I blame the internet" is a saying intended to be amusing. It appears to be unfamiliar to you. It is also a reference to Baudrillard's Ecstasy of Communication.

    Here is my explanation of some of my photographs:

    I was walking down the street, turned the corner, and this scene appeared before me and I took a picture. Call it a gift of the gods, or as the "come hither" of seduction. And that's it, Sam, no intended explanations or conveying anything, or symbolic expression or any purpose, no meaning intended. The photographer pushed the button, and that is all. Any "explanation" I could give would have to be a made up narrative retrospectively.

    "The magic of photography is that it is the object which does all the
    work. Photographers will never admit this and will argue that all the
    originality lies in their inspiration and their photographic
    interpretation of the world. As a result they take photographs which are
    either bad or too good, confusing their subjective vision with the
    reflex miracle of the photographic act." -- Baudrillard
  17. I understand that. I already said you've stated it clearly and I have no reason to question you on it. Do you think I'm trying to convince you otherwise? Why would I do that? As I said, I'm sharing.

    For me to share that I benefit from explanations, both from others and myself on occasion, doesn't mean that's all I care about and doesn't mean I want you to feel the same. I said, generically, that I do think there are people on PN who would prefer others didn't explain and discuss photos in a certain way. That doesn't mean I think they should. I'm just put off by and suspicious of why they don't want others to do so.

    I like the Baudrillard quote even though I think it's limited. It's a way to look at photography and I can learn from it. But, for me, it's not the be-all and end-all. I've studied enough philosophy to know I can get plenty from each philosopher I read, even those who would fight each other to the deaths over their differing beliefs. I'm not much of an ideologue when it comes to philosophy or photography. All these ideas, even when presented dogmatically as Baudrillard and so many others do, just get put into a pot of my own soup. I appreciate and get inspiration from all kinds of ideas, even ones I think are limited or don't express quite the way I look at things.

    As I said, I do think that no photograph exists in a vacuum and both the taking context and viewing context play a role in what we see as the object in the photo, which I believe not to be the same thing as the object the camera was pointed at, even though they're intimately related. For Baudrillard to think that the object does all the work is fascinating, idealistic, worth considering, worth working with at times, and seems somewhat out of touch to me if not seen as a matter of degree rather than an all or nothing scenario. Again, this is me sharing, not trying to convince you of anything.

  18. It is a specfic kind of "sharing" I can't share, because I don't take photos for reasons you want to share. On those terms I have nothing to share. I am not attempting to "say" anything with my photos. The past 25 years I have taken only taken photos in two locales I know extremely well, down to the bedrock (I mean literally down to the bedrock). If I get around to creating some web photo essays or books, the likely concept would be "change over time" of those locales. My photography is not about art, not about self-expression (is it obvious now it is the subject/object?). I have no "passion" to be a photographer or artist.

    You want to share provenance? Materials and technique? How to photograph far off-trail in the wasteland sites of abandoned uranium or copper mines in the high desert? I'm up for that.
  19. I’ll repeat one last time that I don’t want you to share and understand you have nothing to share in the way I’m talking about. I respect the way you see your photography and your photographing. I’m simply telling you about the sharing I might do and have done with other photographers unlike yourself. I don’t expect all photographers to work similarly or be alike. That I enjoy and learn from explanations doesn’t mean I think that applies across the board. You’ve asked me to talk about what “explanations” mean to me and then seem to keep assuming my answers show that I’m expecting something in the way of an explanation from you. I’m not!


    On a side note, I wanted to add to what I said about the “object.” While many photos are of an object, the subject of many photos is an idea or feeling. The object is used as the means to convey that idea. A friend did a photo series called “Jazz.” There is no visual object known as jazz, so he used other objects and the way he photographed them to express “jazz.” This is likely something you wouldn’t do or care to do, but other photographers do. Object as means rather than end or object as means and end.

Share This Page