Performance

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. I've watched several painters paint. I'm usually struck by how the process affects the results. Like watching them work helps me see action in their paintings, helps me see touch and movement. There is an element of performance to what I see when they make their paintings, and now the paintings themselves are also very much their making.
    I've compared photographing to dancing, especially photographing live subjects. Though we don't often have an audience (which is a considerable part of most performances), there is still a part of performance that seems involved, even the fact that the expression to an eventual audience/viewer will likely be involved. My subjects and I move each other around, respond to each other . . . it is physical. It can be graceful or clumsy. (Yes, "dance" is a bit metaphorical.)
    How that affects me is that it makes me aware of the motions (gestures) and rhythms of a shoot as somehow being incorporated into the individual still photos. It can bring in a time element. It's more than "the moment." It's why I hesitate to think of photos as captures.
    Something I'm unsure of is whether the viewer could or would perceive this without witnessing the making and whether that would matter. So I'm curious to hear your takes on it.
    I lean toward yes. Especially regarding a gallery or museum show, an on-line slide show, a book. These seem very much like performances to me. I was going to ask if the performance can be distilled into one photo. Instead, I'll ask if one photo can be expanded into a performance in its viewing.
    [To be clear, there are two aspects I'm asking about: Do you experience a sense of performance when making a photo? Do you experience a sense of performance when viewing a photo and do you think others might?]
     
  2. I have read many texts by Fred on his "dancing" metaphore, which is a very good term for what seems to be happening when he shoots portraits especially. It is indeed "performance art" but as he writes himself, without spectators. What we have as testimony, or indices, of what happened, are the shots, the photos, the still image.
    As such, Fred's performance art is as other "ephemer art"-forms, where nothing or very little is left behind after the performance." Performance" is a work of art that has no or little perinity. However, Fred's art has got photos, like Christo's or Andy Goldsworthy's "ephemer art". The two latter makes their living from the fact that photos can be sold, but the real artistry is the performance itself.
    To answer the two questions of Fred. Of course I perform when shooting and working on a photo, but I do not do "performance" (it reminds me of the dancing steps of Cartier-Bresson doing street photography). I'm not a performance artist. I would only use the term performance when the performance itself is the means of expression and communication to the viewer. When it comes to viewing a photo, I find it a very poor conveyor of a performance although surely Fred's photos might not be the same without what happened before and during the shooting.
     
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's usually the opposite, which is why photography is so often considered voyeuristic. I'm often reminded of something that happened when I was shooting once. I was backstage in a women's dressing room taking photos. Since most of the women performed with little clothing on, there wasn't any problem with this. A (male) band came in to put on makeup and outfits, and the women yelled "No men" repeatedly. One pointed at me and said "What about him?" The response from one of the women - "He's the photographer, everyone knows they're invisible." In other words, the expectation was that my only "performing" was my ability to render myself unseen.

    This is often the case, even when I interact with subjects, I back off when it comes to the photographing point.
    And shows and books...well that seems to be very un-performance-like. Unless, at the show, I climb on a table with a photo in one hand and a flaming torch that I will fire-eat, it's not a performance. It's a presentation, which is quite different.
     
  4. I'm pretty much the opposite to your experience, Fred. I try to "interrupt" the "flow" of the individual subject's life as little as possible. I do want some interaction: "I want a relationship for at least 1/30 of a second." But for me the act of photographing another person is an attempt to at least minimize my influence on the moment. Of course, my choices as to when to click the shutter, what angle to shoot from, what time and place I do it in is all part of my influence on the final result. Its definitely not a random thing, but done with as much awareness of "image" and emotion and "energy" as I can have. I think of it as having a "light touch" on the moment as compared to a "heavy touch." Ultimately, I think different personalities will experience the whole thing differently, of course.
     
  5. Jeff, often (not always) it is the best dancer (or actor, etc.) who disappears into the dance or the act. The performance is *all* that you see.
     
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Maybe, but the point is that nobody sees anything related to me...
     
  7. So all these years looking for stealth technology and what more at incredible cost, and all that time the answer was simple: give it a camera?
    I'm much like Steve already described. I watch the dance of others, and then hope I can squeeze my finger at the very right time. I have no role in it, I just try to find the best seat in the house, and fingers crossed it will be a good performance today.
    Sensing performance while watching photos, no. In fact, there too, quite the opposite. A performance (to me) implies movement, dynamics, changes. While typically when a photo really captures me, everything seems to slow down, and all that happens is me diving into that photo. Or painting. Or piece of music. Or book.
    Introvert versus extravert?
     
  8. I think you're talking about the time component. The shoot has a time component. The presentation may have a time component (as in a slideshow). But a still photograph has no time component -- it is what it is, no matter when you look at it or for how long. (That's not to say the time of day or elapsed time has no effect on the viewer -- it certainly does -- but it's not directly a component of the still photograph itself.)
    Reminds me of a recent post on The Online Photographer -- No one cares how hard you worked, says Ctein.
     
  9. Photography is action, as in being engaged in the act of photographing. The dictionary defines performance primarily as:
    1 a : the execution of an action b : something accomplished Whether it's Jeff in his cloak of socially engineered/earned access/invisibility, me moving around on a busy street, also apparently invisible, or alone, in a remote wilderness area in the desert photographing a landdscape, or directing a subject towards a portrait, in front of a crowd or by ourselves, it's a performance.
    So what? As someone might say, hey, it's a label, now you've tacked yet another meaningless word onto the gig. Not so. The idea of performance carries a lot with it. The sequencing, decision-making, intensity, grace, speed, duration, agility, focused/or lack of, ingenious, etc. It helps us to understand what we and others do. If you think you have no role in it (that is what sells cameras!), leave your camera pointed at the stage with an intervalometer to time the shots. Also, if we had no role in it, all photographs of the same performance would look alike, save for POV. I agree with Ctein to a point, but you care how hard you worked and about the results. He does. Everyone cares about your ability to see, intent, and the genius behind it. There's nothing unusual about Ctein's shuttle-in gantry shot. It's a ho-hum generic illustration, almost interchangeable with many others.
     
  10. I see what is meant by comparing the gestures involved in painting to a photographic shoot, but I can't agree it's very similar for me. As the painter moves their body, a physical mark is left on the medium - the mark is a direct result of the gesture. Parts of the gesture may be made without the paint touching, or there may be physical space between the brush and canvas (ala Jackson Pollock,) but for us as photographers, perhaps the closest we can get is the movement we impart to a frame while utilizing long exposures (moving the camera for effect) or allowing the world to move within the frame during a long exposure. This brings to mind the image of Picaso playing with his wife and (was it Paul Strand?) and drawing shapes with a torch to create lines on the negative.
    For me, when I'm really fully engaged making images, I am quite unaware of myself and how I am interacting with the environment, be it people or places. I am really fully engaged in the little world on the ground glass, but not so much the actual 3D, breathing world - that world I switch off when I raise the camera and attempt to convert it to planes and shapes and moments. That said, it may be an integral part of your creative process Fred - it may be that the act of "dancing" with your subjects enables you to see more fully, and to make a connection with you subject that pays off in less tangible ways.
     
  11. Anders, regarding my own work, I was thinking of performance in the sense of theatricality. It's that "all the world's a stage" kind of thing. I think photographers accomplish performances even without theatricality. Yes, I don't see most photographers "perform" as I view a "performance" in real time. I see evidence of a performance, the suggestion of one.
    Reacting to what many of you said: The performance may not center on the photographer. Many like to keep themselves out of their pictures (to whatever extent that's possible given that they are taking those pictures . . . so I would say they keep their presence to a minimum). But that doesn't mean their photographs might not read as a performance. I actually find many of Jeff's photos acting in that manner, though his presence may not be felt as much as other photographers. And, no, LOL, it doesn't require his getting up on a table with a torch, though that I would like to see! It would sure break the ice.
    On the voyeurism front, I know the feeling of being photographically voyeuristic. Over time, I have tried to photograph differently, in a more engaged way. But I always carry a little of the voyeur along. It creates a nice tension for me.
    By the way, voyeurs sometimes get caught in the act.
    Steve, I see evidence of what you're saying in your work. I think there can be a performance aspect even as you try not to influence things. Not so much your performance, but your capturing of something like one. You may not influence your subjects but, like Luis, I would say you cannot help but influence, by your actions, the photo of those subjects.
    Wouter, thanks for mentioning the "dance" of others. I was mostly thinking about the photographer as performer. But I think Julie is right that some performers themselves seem to disappear yet the viewer still sees a performance. Could your photos bring to mind a performance without bringing you, yourself, to mind?
    Mark, photos often suggest time. Regarding the quote, I often don't care how hard you work (though it can be significant — I can actually see the hard work in Michelangelo's sculptures and ceiling and it becomes part of the experience for me, part of the content). I was talking about seeing HOW you work (not how hard). My experience watching painters helped me see brushstrokes and feel the movement of arms and brushes when I look at paintings, the caress of the canvas. They don't have to be stars in the work, though they can be. It can mean my being in touch with actions that were performed to create what I'm looking at.
    Luis, I will simply quote you because you've said a mouthful that's significant. "The sequencing, decision-making, intensity, grace, speed, duration, agility, focused/or lack of, ingenious, etc. It helps us to understand what we and others do. If you think you have no role in it . . ."
     
  12. Matthew, sorry, you were posting while I was writing my responses. I'll need some time but will respond.
     
  13. Anders, I do want to add that gallery and museum shows especially are, to me, like a live performance. The lighting, the framing, the juxtapositions, my attention to the various walls, my needing to walk around, being with other viewers, the excitement, the chatter, the liveness, all feels like a performance to me.
     
  14. Fred, it is such an interesting thoughts and topic you have uploaded. It is after midnight here, I go to sleep with thinking about it and will try to answer tomorrow .
     
  15. Some interesting examples of performance in and through photography :
    http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1100
    Ralph Gibson also did a performance piece called Ich Bin die Nacht
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx1hlvITEqE
    Of course, it doesn't have to be that literal and it is interesting to view the photograph - any photograph -backwards in time, prior to it becoming the culmination of all of these elements that in the photograph's image came together as a single whole. The decisions we make today could directly or indirectly affect the 'performance' of and in the photograph(s) that we may end up with next week. Like an invisible dance.
     
  16. Fred -- In regard to performance during the action of photographing, I understand what you mean by likening your own work to a "dance". For portrait work that probably is not uncommon (one thinks of the faux David Bailey in "Blow Up", gyrating around, under, and with his models -- the cliche of how fashion photographers interact with their subjects -- though I know that is not what you mean in discussing your own style of "dance"). For cityscapes, events, dance rehearsals...I agree with Jeff and Steve in that I want to be invisible. I was able to attend and photograph the rehearsals of a Balkan folk ensemble back in early March. The director of the ensemble paid me the ultimate compliment when, after some 20 minutes of me photographing the dancers up close, he happened to glance down during a break and saw me crouching there. "Oh Steve...I didn't even realize you were here."
    But I suspect you don't intend performance to equate only to visibility. The act of being unobtrusive is in a way its own kind of performance. The physical movement around performers, people on a street, or a portrait subject, can be a kind of performance of movement and intent. I would venture to say that even landscape photography can be a kind of performance. Peter Lik not only photographs the scenery, he chews upon it.
    I don't know that I see performance in a photograph (outside of the obvious and simplistic example of a photograph which is of a performance). Proximity and angle, the subjects relation to the photographer by look or gesture, these, perhaps can hint at a "performance" that may have taken place. Although I normally don't think of the photographer/subject relationship in terms of a performance, it's an interesting concept.
     
  17. Matthew, interesting points. The kind of performance I'm thinking of doesn't demand that you be conscious of it at the time, certainly not self-conscious of it. It just is about your doing it. I agree with many of the differences you allude to between painting and photographing, but I do think that there are direct results of gesture, not only those that are imprinted because of long exposures, though those are significant. When you make the gesture of getting on your knees or sitting down in the middle of the street for a shot, that shows, that is imprinted. I agree it's not precisely the same as brushing paint on a canvas, nor would I want it to be. But there are similarities. I have thought of many other "brushstrokes" regarding photographs. Many of them occur in post processing (e.g. dodging and burning).
    Phylo, I like that idea of viewing it backward in time. It makes a nice connection and way of connecting (to go back to Luis's recent thread). Yes, the photograph as a culmination describes how I experience it. And I'm glad you brought decisions into it. That's a part that is often overlooked . . . dare I say, even denied.
    Steve, your second paragraph hits the nail on the head for me! Though I am most experienced in portrait photography, I think it applies across genres. As for performance as seen in a single photograph, it's a little looser an idea for me, though I am seeing performance aspects of it. Looking at it that way seems to have some potential.
     
  18. jtk

    jtk

    It's well and good to "perform" for oneself (as Fred G describes) but it's not the same as performing for others.
    The "for" in "performance for" is important in photography because unless one is "performing photography" just for the clicks, one is sharing it with others (though maybe at infintessimal risk and cost, as when posting obscurely "online" compared to printing one's own and showing the results to the perceptive people one most cares about).
    "Performing" for oneself doesn't seem like acting on a stage, though playing a musical instrument for oneself, or singing in the shower, or pretending to be a person of a particular type (fine fellow, artist, tough guy etc) might qualify. I don't know if a concert pianist playing alone in her loft would call that "performance."
    fwiw, I don't think of my own photography/prints as performances (they're labor and gifts substantially for myself) but for a long time I've understood that my whole life might reasonably be a novel. I've never heard of a novelist who called the work a performance, but...
    I've enjoyed too much live theatre and jazz to call myself a performer. It'd be bad enough to insist that I'm an "artist," worse to call myself a "performer." Why not be happy with "photographer?"
     
  19. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I figure that "performance" means something that at least one person would like to come and watch. I don't think anyone has ever asked to watch me photograph except students. A good performance is something people would pay for. Other than Richard Avedon and Joel Peter-Witkin, there are no photographers I would ever pay to watch. A great performance is something people would pay for over and over. There's not a photographer I would ever do that for.

    Photographers are voyeurs. That's very simple. They take photos of people doing interesting stuff. If they get them to do interesting stuff, then they helped a photograph, or maybe a performance. But even when I've been pulled onstage by bands, I don't see it as performance.
    I did photograph an incredible performance artist last year. I didn't even realize it until it was over. I've never seen a cello tossed thirty feet, or a guy in so much pain singing that I felt like crying. But it sure wasn't me. I was just the invisible guy up front with the camera. We're friends now, but I don't think he or anyone else would see what I did with him as a "performance." It's time to think about it realistically - a photographer is a person with a camera.
    [​IMG]
    Karma Bomb, Incredible Performance Artist
     
  20. Jeff, it's not that simple for me. I do think there is a voyeuristic aspect to photographing, and I think some photographers are much more voyeurs than others. I see it in your work. I see it in mine. As I said, I have experienced a change about that over time with my own work, as I've moved toward engaging my subjects differently than I used to.
    For me, it's not a matter of being realistic to think of a photographer as a person with a camera. I see that kind of statement as just keeping it simple, though a photographer often also has a darkroom or a computer. Photographers are more than that and they have different ways of working and of seeing. I'm attempting to explore that. And I appreciate hearing your take on the matter.
     
  21. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    No, photographers are just photographers. They are not more than that. And a photographer, in the end, is just a person with a camera. If I was a performance artist, people would want to watch me, but they don't. They want the end product.
     
  22. Jeff, I understand your point of view. Thanks.
     
  23. It depends on how close you are to the subject. If, for instance, you were photographing from the middle of a barroom brawl, a floor full of square dancers, or a street full of marathoners, the viewer is going to perceive your physical location and what was going on in the immediate vicinity. If you are standing on a high overlook and your photo is of a vast panorama, your position and what is happening there is less important to the final image.
    Speaking of painters, I feel a very tactile response to the paintings of Van Gogh. His thick, three-dimensional globs of paint mesmerize me every time I see one of his works up close. It's intoxicating. I don't believe that photographs has an analogue to the surface texture of paintings. Canvas prints don't come close IMHO.
     
  24. Dan, proximity is something I hadn't considered. Thanks for adding it. That makes sense to me, as I read it.
    I agree with you about Van Gogh. I don't know yet whether I have found an analogue to that kind of specific texture in photographs, but I think it's worth considering what might be something close to a brushstroke in a photograph. I don't expect it will be the same, however. I do think photographs are textural, but more in the sense that we can say we experience the texture of an orchestra, how the instruments work together, what voice is given the flute and what voice is given the cello. In a photograph, there may be individual textures of walls and rocks and human skin but those don't get created the way they would in a painting, though they can certainly be enhanced by acts of the photographer, most especially in the darkroom (traditional or digital). But there is also a texture like that of an orchestra . . . what elements carry what light, how various elements and qualities harmonize or syncopate. That sense of texture is a matter of integration.
     
  25. Fred , it is an intresting topic, reading the answers I know that some will not see it as a photographer/performer, but coming from the painting world I do see it as a conceptual perfornance and even a physical one.
    Using an instrument of any kind , like a brash and paint, music instruments, body in a dance, and a camera as well ,dismantling it to its different parts ( like going back) will get the feeling of a "dance" of the brain, hands, body, finger- camera.
    I worked and still do with the performing arts, your question stirred my thoughts why I concentrate especially at them( even though with other topics as well, and I don't see a difference) my feeling is that being a part of a devloping creation ( others and mine,, co -production even with the stree...)), I dance with them, I play with them. What I want to express is that even though I'm not a stage performer, and at the moment have not an audience the time of my" dance'" will be twice, creating it and observing its different parts ,and if I will exhibit my work.
    "The act of being unobtrusive is in a way its own kind of performance. The physical movement around performers, people on a street, or a portrait subject, can be a kind of performance of movement and intent. " I agree with steve.( better expressed than me...;))
    I will upload two examples and I would like to know if my thoughts fit them.
    00Yr40-367105584.jpg
     
  26. Another one with my camera. Yoram Carmi the choreographer.( I call it: expressions)
    00Yr46-367107584.jpg
     
  27. Jeff S. said, "A good performance is something people would pay for."
    Many people find God in His performance. I don't see anybody expecting to pay money to see Him do it.
    Many people find performance in the bird's nest, in the spider's web. There's the way your mother combed your hair; the way your barber cuts it.
    When one of my dogs was almost killed a few years ago, in her wounds, I clearly saw the performance of the coyote that did it (though I did not see the attack). Last winter, in the half-mile blood-spattered snow-trail, I clearly saw the lousy performance of the poacher who took over an hour and four slow shots to kill a deer. In the black eye and bloody lip of an abused wife, I see the performance of her husband.
    Wherever I honor or accuse that which is made, I think of the performer. In a photograph, where I question or admire why, what, where stuff is in that picture (or not), I think of the performer, of the acts that generated it, of the one who lived the scene and made the mark.
     
  28. Pnina, I fully agree with you, that what you are doing in the case of shooting stage performance, as maybe what Fred is doing when shooting portraits, involves the photographer in a process of what could be called "total performance". However, at the moment you show the photos, the performance is gone, finished and with little trace in the photo.
    "Performance art" as concept (we can choose to use the term for something else, of course) is normally used for events where the performance itself (with or without spectators) is the act of art. In such forms of "ephemer art"s, nothing or very little is left behind after the performance.
    Therefor, the photos you upload (as usual I love your dance shots) can only be poor indices and in some case memories of the performance in question, although the quality of the shots, in some cases, depends on what came before and during the shot.
     

  29. Anders - ""Performance art" as concept (we can choose to use the term for something else, of course) is normally used for events where the performance itself (with or without spectators) is the act of art. In such forms of "ephemer art"s, nothing or very little is left behind after the performance."
    What is usually left are photographs and videos which are conventionally put up for sale. And the stories that those who were there will tell, of course.
    ______________________________________________
    In agreement with Julie here. The primary definition of performance has nothing in it about an audience, stage, rehearsals, curtains, tickets or viewers. I understand that too many people are never exposed to the word outside that meaning and perhaps performance of a car or other machine or athlete, thus can't conceive of it, but Fred used the word correctly.
    It is naive to think that the entire performance can or will be encoded literally, linearly bit by bit, in one photo from a session. It's not. But as Julie's and others' posts mention, the traces left show things to those that have eyes.
    Although I understand and appreciate from first-hand experience the question of proximity and its significance, particularly in portraits and street photography, for me the idea of performance applies regardless of photographer-subject distance, particularly because the word does not involve an audience in the way it is being used here.
    Photographs can tell us something about dance.
    http://hilobrow.com/2010/05/11/martha-graham/
    http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/171/1/1
    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2008/03/mikhail_baryshnikov_and_merce.html
    http://balletpony.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/alexey-brodovitch/
    To say that a photograph is a poor index of a dance is to say that photographs are poor indices of anything and anyone. Even rocks!
     
  30. Anders, thanks for your point of view which I appreciate much, I try my best to explain my thoughts in English( you know it...;-)) what I meant by concept I think a better word will be perception .
    I wrote sowhere about it, and found it, it looks like maybe a better explanation, so I upload it ( will save me a lot of time....;-))

    Life as a dance and as an art of expression
    I like the dance (and theater ) especially because they are a transformation. First it is the idea, choreographer or director ( or playwriter), than it is the performers, dancers , actors , musician, and than the last result , which is not the last/least, when I as a viewer/photographer, transform it to a feelings, understanding, impressions and art in itself. The interaction between creators / performers/photographers is a long process that starts from an idea, transforms to creative mode, which is a long process in itself of the nascent. And some '" raisins" that complete and maybe (if well done) are the evident art of the ephemeral, that are standing on its own merite.
    I think that creating (in every genre of art) Is looking at the world's creation/reality with new fresh eyes, as if seen for the first time .
    I think that Fred as well , in his portraiture, is digging deapper for personality layers of his subjects.
     
  31. Photography, painting, sculpture are not performance art. They are a performance, in their making.
    Anders, the photo is left behind. It expands and contracts with each viewer.
    Julie, thanks for the examples. Yes, one sees the performance in the photograph.
    I compared photographing (verb; act) to dancing. One can see the photographing, the painting, the sculpting in the photograph, painting, sculpture. Part of this really is the connectedness that Luis and others talked about elsewhere.
    I do think of gallery and museum shows, slide shows and books, as performances per se. Some shows -- intentionally curated, with live audiences, an experience beyond just the sum of all the photos and paintings in those shows -- do become performance art. They are taking place . . . and I am taking part . . . in something as it happens.
    Pnina, yes. I see it clearly in your painting. Since your photograph is a photo of a performance (or a practice of a performance?), I think that is a special and unique case, as Steve Gubin said above. But, yes, in the sense that any photo can be a performance, that one is as well. Yes, one uses their body to photograph. Nicely said. It can be very much of the flesh. I can relate to your idea of a photograph being a co-production.
    Phylo says:
    "becoming the culmination"​
    Culmination suggests the whole of the parts. Becoming suggests the process: built-in possibility.
     
  32. I was writing while Luis and Pnina posted.
     
  33. jtk

    jtk

    Some photographers, anxious about identity, need to consider themselves something other than what's apparent, want confirmation...
    A sports photographer like that might call herself a coach, a wedding photographer like that might call himself a preacher...but viewers might chuckle kindly, out of respect for the work. Isn't it the work's job, when it comes up to bat, to score the run?

    It's true that "performance art" is still common (was big decades ago in NYC), but some may think it like "military intelligence" ...maybe it's very existence is questionable (explaining its total reliance on "statements" and "critics").

    There also seems to be an age factor.

    My impression is that its older photographers who more consistently insist that they're "artists" and younger photographers more often think of themselves in other terms, often avoiding labels...I was at a show last weekend that featured no photographers but many young people (20s) who identified as busboys, retail clerks, students, skaters...
    Many young photographers make subjective essays about friends or they combine photography and audio or video with enthusiasms and personal dedications centered on activities like environmental politics or teaching or ...
     
  34. I fell on this small article from artinfo on the decay of "performance art" now that it enters into museums. Especially the last sentence might be relevant for what is discussed here:
    “If you don’t photograph it, it didn’t happen.”​
     
  35. I fail to see where what Fred is talking about has anything to do with what is normally thought of as performance art. It does not.
    Many here still cannot fathom that the word performance as used by Fred does not equate with stages, curtains, rehearsals, audiences, etc. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with art or its opposites. No, it's nothing like when you played a sheep at the 2nd grade Christmas play (I was a shepherd!).
     
  36. I had understood that all had "fathomed" what Fred is speaking about. The thread is titled "performance" so i find relevant not only to make reference to "performance arts" but also to "performance" and "art". Dick Higgens (Fluxus) actually invented the term "art as performance" (reference interpretations of music) which could come very near to what Fred, but also Pnina, is actually talking about.
    What is most important when we use terms like "performance art" is to agree on what we use them for, and not what they mean in objective terms.
     
  37. Dance isn't always choreographed. It can be improvised even in a performance setting. It's like the difference between posing a person for a carefully crafted portrait
    and photographing that person in action. In the latter case the photographer is improvising compositions of a moving subject in real time. These images can be as moving and as well constructed as anything that we could plan in advance. I would argue that most sports photography is improvised, because most movements in sports are improvised as well.
     
  38. All that is fine, legitimate and great topics for other threads and discussions, Anders. I am not trying to be obstinate in any way, but in this sense it has little, if anything, to do with what Fred is talking about. And it has nothing to do with engine performance, the performance of countries economically, or street performers, theater, movies, etc. Nothing to do with Fluxus in that regard, either (and the Fluxus story and philosophy are very interesting, I agree. Now if PN only had an Art forum....but I digress...).
    It is the #1 meaning of the word. I could see this coming, which is why I lifted the definition from Webster's and put it in my first post in the thread:
    ''1 a : the execution of an action
    b : something accomplished''
    In this usage, it is the photographer's performance in the execution of his actions involved in the act of photography. Whether you're photographing your cat on the terrace, Putin fishing in his weird outfits, or anything else. It can be used to describe what the people who think they're making themselves invisible are doing, too. It is a narrow and strict meaning of the word, specialized in this use.
    It's like when we talk about 'film', we know we're not talking about oil or soap films on water, etc. 'subjects' are not the underlings of Kings, 'exposure' is not something you do by doffing clothes, 'sensors' are not the same IR sensors used in burglar alarms, types of 'mounts' are not a sexual typology or saddle catalog, 'tweaking' has nothing to do with nipples, 'focusing' is not delving harder into an idea or topic. Is it clearer now?
     
  39. Dan, yes, I agree, good point. Some of my shooting is more choreographed than others. And, of course, there is always spontaneity in anything choreographed. The beauty of performances, like theater and dance, is that they are living. I've seen enough operas on several nights in a row as well as repeated performances of stage plays to know how much is a matter of responding to things in the moment, even within a very rehearsed scheme. Each night has a sameness and a difference that are palpable. And, as you say, sometimes theater and dance are simply improvised, which often still has a form of its own.
    How do you* see your own shooting and processing in these terms . . . the balance between choreography and improvisation?
    *This you and this question goes out to all of you.
    Two descriptions of adopted roles stand out to me from this thread. Dance (choreography) and voyeurism. Are there any other descriptions or metaphors that apply to different people's actions and processes? (This might also include post processing.) Is there something comparable to the action of a brush stroke in photography? (It might not result in the same obvious textural realization, but it would be some sort of photographic gesture that you employ the results of which could then be seen or felt in the photo.) Do you see any of your actions? Or, how do you see the results of your actions as related to those actions?
     
  40. As Luis said, this thread isn't about "performance art" except tangentially. It is about our performance as photographers, however we see that.
     
  41. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It is the #1 meaning of the word. I could see this coming, which is why I lifted the definition from Webster's and put it in my first post in the thread:​
    By this definition, going to the bathroom is a performance. Taking the stairs down to the subway is a performance. Driving a car is a performance.

    But that obviously wasn't what Fred was talking about, because references to "dance" make that clear. And I still disagree that photographers are performing. Except maybe Witkin.
     
  42. One of the reasons I want to talk about the performance aspect of making a photograph is for us to share things about our process and see how that process matters to the photographs that result. Whether Jeff thinks what he does with a camera is a performance or not is mostly irrelevant to me. But that he shared his desire to be invisible and unobtrusive, and how he might go about doing that, is significant. Especially when I look at the kind of work he accomplishes with that methodology.
    We can get hung up on the words, or we can be constructive about the spirit. That spirit is about the tone of vision that results from a photographer's way of acting when photographing and processing and the kind of role(s) s/he adopts.
    I appreciate Jeff's constructive contributions about just how he works. That he and I might call that something different won't keep me up at night.
     
  43. Jeff - "But that obviously wasn't what Fred was talking about, because references to "dance" make that clear. And I still disagree that photographers are performing. Except maybe Witkin."\
    Not so obvious, because Fred doesn't seem to agree with you. I think we all know by now exactly where you stand: You do not think performance describes what photographers do. Ok, cool. Some of us find it a useful construct for discussing the act of photography. May we proceed?
     
  44. How do you* see your own shooting and processing in these terms . . . the balance between choreography and improvisation?​
    My approach to photography ia much more improvised than choreographed. Even when I'm using my view camera on a tripod and it takes me ten minutes to focus and meter a single shot, I'm reacting to the subjects and light in real time. Granted, with the view camera, it's real time plus a four to ten minute delay, but I'm still reacting with a time delay factored in. (Where is that cloud going to be in five minutes?)
    With a small format camera, I'm reacting much more quickly. See the subjects. See the light. Make a composition. Reframe. Rework. Refine. Even if I'm patiently setting up the shots on a tripod, it's still highly improvised.
    That said, I would NOT call my photography dancing. This is perhaps because I AM a dancer. I dance the Argentine tango, a structured but highly improvisational partners dance which is "choreographed" in real time just as jazz is "composed" in real time using underlying musical structures (scales, chords, subdivisions of beats). Imagine photographing a model who changes poses, not on his/her own, but in reaction to the photographer's movement. He/she watches the photographer intently and reacts to his every movement, not matter how subtle or forceful. That's a reasonable approximation of what it's like to improvise a tango - except you get to hold the follower in your arms when you dance. ;-)
    To me - and this is only my perception of myself - my photography would be classified as dancing ONLY if I were moving in such a way as to purposely capture the interest of onlookers as I'm in the process of making images. Now that I think of it it sounds kind of fun, and I'll have to brainstorm situations where I could make worthwhile photographs while simultaneously making interesting and purposeful movements (and not falling into an open manhole). I'm not sure that my brain could handle both things at once, but it might be fun to attempt it.
    When I'm taking photographs I'm not aware of my appearance to onlookers. I bend and twist into uncomfortable positions and then later wonder why my back hurts. It's not much of a dance, that's for sure! I give my full concentration to the photographic process. When I finish shooting, I'm often surprised to find that I'm famished or sore or freezing cold. I shut our all self-awareness when I have a camera in my hands.
     
  45. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Not so obvious, because Fred doesn't seem to agree with you.​
    Well he can't talk about "dance" and then use your definition in reference to "performance." There are some expectations of semantic consistency.
     
  46. Thanks, Dan. I loved reading your description.
    I hope I didn't come across as saying all photographers perform like dancers. That was a description I was giving about the way I sometimes photograph. It was meant to elicit descriptions different to my own, like yours and Jeff's. I do think all photographers perform, not for an audience or onlookers. What you described, to me, is the way you perform. I'm not sure you see it that way but, as I said, the important thing is your description, not how we label it.
    As for awareness, I see it in various levels. There's losing all self-awareness. There's maintaining self awareness. And there's self-consciousness.* I am open to all three when I photograph and find playing with the different balances keeps me inspired and moving.
    As I understand them, self-awareness is awareness of oneself and one's thoughts and one's own awareness. It is often accompanied by a choosing of one's thoughts as opposed to simply letting thoughts in that accrue in the moment. Self-consciousness involves one's more objective evaluation of oneself, which is taking it a step further. Saying a photo looks self-conscious is often derogatory. But I sometimes like to play with a kind of self-consciousness. It's easy to fail at it. But it has also really worked for me. I have, by being self-conscious, transformed a very intentional, obvious, even cliché pose or gesture into something that seems to be a significant kind of awareness rather than a self indulgence.
    .
    Imagine photographing a model who changes poses, not on his/her own, but in reaction to the photographer's movement.​
    I don't have to imagine it. I've experienced it. The way you describe and the other way around . . . where I, as photographer, react and change perspectives, angles, exposures, and awareness depending on my subject's changes in movement, position, and expression. And that's what I mean by a dance, and there's no audience involved at the time (unless I'm out on the street with my subject and someone happens to be watching) and no money changes hands. It's a not-for-profit performance.
     
  47. For me, part of my performance (as Fred means it) is choreographed. Things like camera/tripod operation, exposure calculations, technical repetitive matters are so 2nd hand that I can do them without a thought. I can work and reload any of my film cameras literally with my eyes closed.
    The creative part varies a lot. With portraits, if the subject has ideas on how to pose themselves, I'd rather do those first, before injecting my directing into the equation. Some subjects know exactly how they look, and what they want to project. After that winds down, I begin with variations on their ideas, then a mix of direction and cooperation, unless I have something specific in mind, and I often have something in mind, but it is open to revision on the fly. I would consider that somewhat choreographed....but at the same time, I am improvising, and remaining open-minded to anything that arises, and it can come from the subject, light, backgrounds, etc. One thing I want to make clear is that for me, photography is above all play. Yes, I call it work, but it is playful, interactively so, even through the hard times. This is not mindless goofiness, though some times it has been, but focused, intense play.This applies to landscapes, too.
    On the subject of invisibility...I am not literally easy to go unnoticed, yet on the street, surrounded by the usual paranoid strangers, or even among the Tea ****ers, I move in and out, photographing with no problems, candidly when it suits me, and asking them to pose when it doesn't. When I gain access, as I do at many events, it's easier. I find that invisibility is primarily not visual. It has everything to do with the emotions that people interpret from your posture, muscle tone, tenor, movements, micro expressions, etc. Yes, initial information enters through their pupils, but "Invisibility", comes from further down the neural pathways. Most people are on autopilot anyway, as long as you don't trigger their defense mechanisms, which is ridiculously easy to do by projecting anxiety, they go about their business lost in their private reveries.
    I think we all have behavioral as well as aesthetic tropes, things that become part of our performance and photography, sometimes learned others adopted superstitiously, that seem to work for us in some way, and/or we can't help repeating.
     
  48. Fred asked: "Are there any other descriptions or metaphors that apply to different people's actions and processes?"
    I have one, but/and it's definitely not a dance. Further, I'm going to use it to describe making a *bad* picture (I have extensive experience therewith).
    Have you ever "done" or worked or put together (what's the proper word) a big jigsaw puzzle? A huge pile of loose pieces and a slowly emerging image? In my metaphor, you have most of the puzzle done. You, dear photographer, are one of the pieces (very Zen). You metaphorically look for its slot in the puzzle, turning it this way and that, until you spy a place that looks like a fit. You try to put the piece, yourself, there, but it doesn't quite fit. Impatient, tired, (bored?) you sort of wedge or force it into the spot. Sure, it goes there! you assure yourself, metaphorically looking at this lumpy, buckled disrupted scene with a big blob in the middle.
    If, on the other hand, I am a good photographer, I will find the place where "my" piece, myself, fits perfectly, the place where it belongs -- and in so doing, at the moment of so doing, when I am "in" . . . the puzzle will disappear and the "image" will begin.
    If, on the other other hand, I am shy or new or don't like metaphors or puzzles (or dancing) I may skip the whole "of-a-piece" thing and just shoot the puzzle from the "outside." And what will I get? A picture of a puzzle with holes in it.
     
  49. Thanks Luis for the links.
    "Photographs can tell us something about dance."
    For sure they can,and BTW, I think that dance( performing arts in general) needs photography as photography can do a lot for the dance( theater), dancers(actors), and choreogrphers( conductors etc). The audience is the end product of all genre of smi and/or professional peformance. I think that coproduction is very fruitful, be it in portreature, performing arts , all genre of it, but first and for most it is for the search of answers ,expression of the self, for his own needs to speak/communicate /dialog/ create.

    I do think all photographers perform, not for an audience or onlookers.
    I think you are right, as even though I'm not a dancer, and dancing on stage is mostly choreographed, I feel "dancing" and "performing"in searching to find my place/space in the production (I have a space in the theater so I don't disturbe the audience, and/but I don't see it as a puzzle, Julie).I seat, I stand ,I move, I look for the right light, sometime a saying, always a composition, sometimes a surprise , always try to get a meaning. co -production? yes and no... Improvisation? yes and no....
    (Fred the camera example was photographed the begining of the week in show, not a practice.)
     
  50. Fred, I was only speaking for myself and my own physically awkward photography style. I now have an image of you
    dashing gracefully around the streets of SF like a photojournalistic version of Gene .Kelly. :)


    Luis, great comments on invisibility.
     
  51. Dan, please cleanse yourself of that vision!
    Julie, thanks. Nice description. It gives me insights into your methods and, as with several others here, seems to coordinate with the photos of yours that I've seen. A puzzle has a pre-determined way of being put together correctly, a rightness built into the structure. A strong sense of craft, for me, is apparent in your description, an "in-touchness" between the way you craft your photos and the way your photos look. It also makes me think about the photographers for whom the process might be more like dismantling a puzzle. The jigsaw puzzle is like a mathematical equation that comes with a right answer that one must find, a methodical-ness. I feel that strong sense of drive in many of your descriptions. Of course, for others, the vocabulary wouldn't involve the drive toward a solution or a "rightness."
     
  52. jtk

    jtk

    A few days ago on NPR I heard an interview with one of America's greatest playwrights. I don't think many here are into theatre, which is one of the reasons the word "performance" is tossed around so carelessly, some even resorting to reducto ad Websters and "performance art".
    In any case, the playwright was Edward Albee, creator of the gut wrenching (and wonderful) "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf" and the virtually psychedelic "Tiny Alice."
    When Tiny Alice was performed (!) in San Francisco in 1966 it turned our world of hippies and artists and rabid politicos inside out, we flipped out and stood in line for the "rush" (the last minute cheap or free seats). Absolutely crazed enthusiasm swept the city. Anyhow, Albee in this NPR interview made the point that what counted was the work, not the identity of the artist. Maybe he wrote, rather than performing with a typewriter?
    He was interviewed because he'd just upset a hugely important subset of NYC theatre enthusiasts by stating that he wasn't a "gay playwright" any more than Arthur Miller ("Death of a Salesman") was a "straight playwright." I don't think that 1966 (67?) audience in San Francisco was more than 20% gay because that was about the ratio in my own circle of acquaintance. We were all sympathetic with each other, as I recall. I happen to be straight, so first thought of Tiny Alice from that perspective. But my gay friends saw it as a reflection of something in their lives.
    I doubt anybody thought about the author...who would have cared about him anyway, since they were transfixed by the art and respected it for what it was. I doubt Albee thought much about himself either...he claims to think about his work, which is not him after all.
     
  53. "compared photographing to dancing, especially photographing live subject"

    Épaulement Shouldering could possibly describe Fred's movements from his narrative.

    Of course the subject could been encapsulated by these movements resulting in expression and movement creating an imaginative interlude seldom imagined. Indeed, there could be a joining of photographer and subject in a dance of mutual twining and creative expression.
    This has been done before on the theatrical stage when the audience has been invited to become part of the performance. For instance in a Greek Old Comedy a relationship between the audience itself is presumed to be playing a role.
    Another thought...
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2007/aug/15/interactivetheatreisalltherage
     
  54. If Fred gave his subject a big hug, an intimacy, the participant would also live an emotional experience, which would be a conduit to the photograph.
     
  55. One of the reasons I want to talk about the performance aspect of making a photograph is for us to share things about our process and see how that process matters to the photographs that result.​
    Photographs can be flat and one-dimensional, they mostly are, even with lots of process going on. The performance part, while potentially just as transformative ( both in the negative and positive sense ) to the image as the process, is less specified than the process. I view the process more as a series of controlable steps, from A to B to...The process makes the image or photograph concrete. Performance seems to exist on different planes and levels, adding interdimensionality to this concrete'ness of the photograph.
    Process may be the make-up, while performance is what you do ( become / lose ) underneath it. Performance expands and contracts, while the make-up stays.
     
  56. Fred - "[To be clear, there are two aspects I'm asking about: Do you experience a sense of performance when making a photo? Do you experience a sense of performance when viewing a photo and do you think others might?]"
    I am often aware of My performing while shooting. It changes with the environment of my location. Sometimes i don't give it any thought whatsoever. When on stage with musicians I am balancing my desire to be respectful of the musicians and Their audience. I also have a style that I employ that wants to be upclose with extreme angles to the players. To accomplish that i use a persona that tries to become one of them. I am hyper aware of the audience when i begin. At best I will begin to tune them out without losing the adapted persona and 'performing' what I consider to be required of me.
    I do not use the same persona when street shooting. In fact I have different 'street' personas to use. One is being 'invisible'. another is being social, friendly. and sometimes even overtly mysterious. All performances in a more literal sense if literal means a viewing audience while I shoot. and significantly changing the product/ images i get. As usual a continuum of possibilities. sometimes automatic and others very thoughtful decisions.
    Then I would like to acknowledge the performance (my actions & involvement) in assembling and presentation of the parts of a photograph. A process very much including post for me. I often use rhythms and punctuation, nuance, highlights, motion, space, layers...yada or 'brushstrokes' of light,dark and color, reflection and relationships. metaphoric 'Brushstrokes' at work - as Fred suggested. Writers do it, film makers, painters, architects,
    choreographers, sculptors, etc why not photographers. I perform the actions that create the product & the viewer takes the finished performance and off they go or not. The viewer may even continue the performance by participating in the experience. Isn't that nice when it happens.
    Finally I noted that Fred also mentioned exhibits and books ie collections. As an avid book collector of many years I am especially fond of book collections that go beyond random collections and imo clearly feel like a performance. Often there are many single photographs that are weak as standalone images but integral and powerful as a part of the performance. editing & Presentation can go along way in enhancing an interactive quality.
     
  57. Phylo - "Performance seems to exist on different planes and levels, adding interdimensionality to this concrete'ness of the photograph."
    Nicely reasoned & said- Phylo.
     
  58. Phylo and Josh, your two posts together really help clarify some things for me. Phylo, I think you make a helpful distinction between process and performance. And, Josh, I think you make a good distinction between action and performance. Honestly, when I started the thread, I was thinking of "performance" as having a significant "oomph" factor to it making it more than just action. Since I do deal with theatricality a lot, there was a bit of metaphorical lights, curtains, and stage in my idea of it. I didn't expect others to experience their performances in such a theatrical way. But I also didn't want it to lose whatever extra stuff it had that a simple action does not.
    I agree with you, Phylo, that the process has a concreteness and the performance is more inter-dimensional. So the brushstrokes Josh and I talk about may well belong more to the process though I would want to leave room for overlap.
    Josh, I'm surprised I had never thought of persona from my own point of view. I tend to think of my subjects' personas rather than my own. But this notion of performance is tied up with role. You talk about adapted persona, which seems important to what I'm getting at. It is not just an action, like walking down the street. But it is a coherence of actions or an adaptation of actions to a purpose that creates the performance aspect. And, yes, those adaptations to circumstances (the way we might act differently in different situations) is a performance, audience or no audience, stage or no stage.
     
  59. I find it interesting that as this discussion has developed, it begins to echo elements discussed in Luis' "Being in touch" thread.
    Performance and roles -- in the way we've been discussing them -- is one aspect of being in touch with one's work. And then there is the nuance of performance in terms of how we play the role as mentioned by Josh: sometimes consciously adopting a particular persona ("invisible", "photojournalist" "devil-may-care street shooter"), or subconsciously, chameleon-like, adapting to the situation and environment in which one is photographing.
    Josh also mentions the performance of post-production (also an aspect of being in touch). Last night I was working on some images in Lightroom/Nik while listening to Thelonius Monk...my "performance" influenced by the music I was listening to.
    And plays and playwriting, ah yes. In another life I was a budding young playwright which, in turn, got me into acting. For a while I worked with other local playwrights for an organization that introduced and taught playwriting to high school students, on campus and in local theater spaces. One of the organization directors was a drama professor at San Diego State and was friends with Edward Albee. We got to meet with him at an informal get together. Quietly passionate and unprepossessing as I recall. And John, don't forget Albee's "Zoo Story", one of my favorites after "Woolf". Mamet and Pinter are among my favorites, though. Mamet like a pushed, grainy b&w street shot. Pinter like some surreal, desaturated juxtaposition of menace and whimsy. I've never thought of it this way before, but among my own photographs the ones which please me the most have (to me) a Pinteresque quality. I often seek out and admire the same quality in the work of other photographers.
    And the performance aspect of how and where one displays photographs. I have a few YouTube vids posted. Some just stills with my own music, some more documentary in style (University of Chicago's Balkan Spring Festival). John Kelly has written about the usage of music, ambient sounds, and words to accompany photographs. I prefer music and ambient sounds to words. Took a walk through the neighborhood with my daughter last weekend during a thunderstorm, taking photographs while carrying a small digital recorder to capture the sound of thunder, rain, cars, footsteps in a gravelly alley. Not sure what I'll do with it yet, but it seems that the performance aspect of photography becomes more evident when one begins to look for complementary elements to accompany photographs. Whether it be sound, or music, or words, or method of presentation. Speaking of presentation, is anyone familiar with Zoe Strauss "Under I-95" Exhibition? Strauss is largely self-taught. She began taking photos of her Philadelphia neighborhood, then exhibiting them amongst the concrete pillars of the I-95 overpass that cuts through her Philly neighborhood. And, whether she thought of it as a marketing ploy or not, it certainly garnered her a fair amount of attention.
     
  60. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I think Natacha Merritt is a photographer whose work seems to be a performance. I look at "performance" as something I would pay for, or at least go out of my way to watch strictly for what it is. Merritt might be the only one. And I would pay, but I would need a big bag of dollar bills.
    I don't think I was clear enough about what I think about the definition Luis gives near the top. Here is a good example of that use of the word "performance." I meet that definition when I shoot commercially. It's one of the things I pride myself on.
     
  61. Steve - I am quite familiar with Zoe Strauss and her under the freeway show. I loved her pictures of capitalist logos in a Commie country, and the storefronts. She's not spectacular or slick enough for a lot of people, but I regard her as a conceptual powerhouse.
     
  62. jtk

    jtk

  63. Yes, indeed. There is an element of what I had thought of as 'theatre' in shooting a portrait, or, when shooting such as landscape, an element of what in that case I would call ritual. When I am shooting a portrait I try to convey to the subject that I am serious about this picture, that it is important to me. So, in the presence of the subject, I set the chair (if a seated portrait), I step to and fro, I take light readings, I go back to the camera and peer through the viewfinder, and so forth. It is indeed a kind of dance and I aim to create a kind of creative dance with the subject. I witnessed something similar in a cafe in France: the proprietor breezed around the tables out on the pavement, tray balanced on hand, his gait was fluid, yes, dance-like, as he engaged in brief repartee with his customers while taking orders and dispensing coffees. It was his little bit of theatre. When I shoot landscape, even thought the subject is, as far as I'm aware, incapable of response, I go through a ritual of setting up the tripod, mounting the camera on it, loading the film, taking the light-readings, as if building myself up to that final moment of firing the shutter.
     
  64. Chris, thanks for your various performance descriptions. What you describe with your photographing of landscapes sounds like coming to a crescendo of sorts. I'm sure the rhythms vary as well.
    Ritual really strikes a chord . . . certainly it is a specific and significant type of performance. Death always brings to mind how steeped in ritual we humans can be. Rituals can help connect us to generations, who we know have performed them before us and will likely continue to do so. I think of death the same way, as something that ties one generation to the next. Obviously, a feeling of connectedness -- not only to your landscapes and to your process, but to those photographers and photographs who came before you and will follow you, going through similar motions while giving their own individuality to them -- can be apparent in becoming aware of such rituals. Just as each of our photos may become part of a greater body of work, our photos and our work as a whole can be seen as part of something bigger as well, links in a chain.
     
  65. Somehow I have a peculiar feeling about this thread.
    As it goes now, I have my camera with me most of the time. Maybe loaded with black and white film, maybe with colour film.
    I'm interested in documenting what's happening around, involving people.
    Thinking of recent experiences I realise that I am busy enough with "getting my photo right" in terms of what I want to have in and what not, and how I would like light to work, how the overall composition works, to realise whether I am performing or not.
    What I can tell is that I try to avoid people realising that I am photographing them before I do, but that I'm definitely inside the scene of my photo, since I am very close when I compose.
    And when the shutter is released, there is maybe a smile and a wave.
    A relationship is built, even if only for seconds.
    More than performance, the first phase is a process.
    The second phase after the release I would define as a momentary straightforward type of relationship.
     
  66. Luca, I like your description of remaining invisible to those you're shooting (to the extent you can) and yet putting yourself in the scene. What's interesting is that one can remain invisible to others when shooting and still shoot in such a way as to become quite apparent in the photograph itself. When you say you are "in the scene," do you mean strictly your involvement at the time of the shooting or do you see that involvement translating through to the photo, so that the photographer's presence (physical or otherwise) is felt (though not necessarily seen) in or through the photo?
    Some photographers do make themselves apparent, not just in terms of emotion or perspective, but in a more physical sort of way (and not by including their reflections or shadows, though that can be a method). Triangles can be important in doing this, where the photographer becomes the implied third point or side of a suggested geometric triangle.
     
  67. jtk

    jtk

    Lest anybody miss it, there's a lot of humor in recent posts by Allen Herbert and Jeff Spirer :) Browse back.
    Back to Zoe Strauss: she's an interesting, daring , deeply involved photographer. Therefore (not just incidentally) she's a creature of concepts (few concepts are verbal). To reduce her photographs and her I-95 exhibit to the hackneyed 70s-80s NY notion of "concept" seems to dismiss the substance of her work.
    And, not incidentally, all sorts of painters and sculptors and performers have for a century or more "performed" in strange spaces. It can be a great thing, even if it does have a "marketing ploy" aspect sometimes...the best part is that it does widen the work's sphere beyond the usual gallery-goers.
     
  68. "And when the shutter is released, there is maybe a smile and a wave.
    A relationship is built, even if only for seconds.
    More than performance, the first phase is a process.
    The second phase after the release I would define as a momentary straightforward type of relationship."
    And that about sums it up.
    The rest discussed is just an emotional introspective arse grazing encore.
     
  69. Allen Herbert said: "The rest discussed is just an emotional introspective arse grazing encore."
    What a lovely example of what Richard Rorty calls 'final vocabulary.'
    "All human beings carry about a set of words whch they employ to justify their actions, their beliefs, and their lives. These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt for our enemies; our long-term projects, our deepest sef-doubts and our highest hopes. They are the words in which we tell, sometimes prospectively and sometimes retrospectively, the story of our lives. I shall call these words a person's 'final vocabulary.'
    "It is 'final' in the sense that if doubt is cast on the worth of these words, their user has no noncircular argumentative recourse. Those words are as far as he can go with language; beyond them there is only helpless passivity or a resort to force."​
    As compared to, for example (not the only possible varient, but one that Rorty offers), what he calls the 'ironist':
    "(1) She has radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary she currently uses, because she has been impressed by other vocabularies, vocabularies taken as final by people or books she has encountered; (2) she realizes that argument phrased in her present vocabulary can neither underwrite nor dissolve those doubts; (3) insofar as she philosophizes about her situation, she does not think that her vocabulary is closer to reality than others, that it is in touch with a power not herself. Ironists who are inclined to philosophize see the choice between vocabularies as made neither within a neutral and universal metavocabulary nor by an attempt to fight one's way past appearance to the real, but simply by playing the new off against the old."​
    -- both quotes from Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, (1989)
     
  70. Good observations from Chris Waller. The repetitive motions that we go through with things like the technical aspects described, are ritualized. Sometimes while working on a series, there can be more complex, higher-order forms of ritual involved. I don't bother to convey that I am serious. I am serious (and light-hearted, simulataneously), and think the subjects sense it.
    _____________________________________________
    The quality of performance affects the outcome, perhaps even the way we see. Look at the difference between Weston (who stayed, by his own humorous account, no more than 500 yds from the car trunk), an Ansel Adams, who when young, took mule packs and went deep into the landscape, and a Galen Rowell, who often took very light gear on cross-country runs and climbs, Atget, who took the train and walked into parks and preserves as well as the city. Or in any other genre in the medium. All with very different results. While yes, photography is obviously visual, it is also inescapably physical.
    ____________________________________________
     
  71. Luis, yes. Physical fact, psychic effect. What we don't know - or what the viewer doesn't see - is the getting there, the going and the doing behind and of the photograph.
    I carried an 8- by-10 to the top of a mountain in Estes Park and never took a picture -Harry Callahan
    ---
    Perhaps like meditation, acting, the most solid performance is no performance.
    The essence of Cartier-Bresson is photographic performance. He didn't really need to put the film in the camera - the importance for him is the act of taking pictures ... being in the right position and being fast -Luc Delahaye
     
  72. Fred,
    When you say you are "in the scene," do you mean strictly your involvement at the time of the shooting or do you see that involvement translating through to the photo, so that the photographer's presence (physical or otherwise) is felt (though not necessarily seen) in or through the photo?​
    my purpose is to document, being openly present in the space where the photography is taken, but without being inside the photo. My subjects should at a certain point in time realise that I'm there, but I would like to document without becoming part of the photo.
    It would be illusory to think that my presence is neutral in respect to the photo, but I'd rather avoid being inside the picture. I'm intrusive enough when I take the photo. I would like to be the describer of a situation, but without becoming part of it. Some sort of external actor. In fact, when I recently took a photo in a place full of mirrors, I tried not to be in the picture.
    The reason is that I would like the entire focus to be on my subject, avoiding the distracting presence of myself.
    I realise that this is just a point of view, and that there are cases where the photographer might directly wish to include him/herself in the picture somehow.
    My preference is to limit my "presence" to the mere perception of the subject.
     
  73. Thanks, Luca. I understand. It seems to me it's a desire for as much "objectivity" as you can discern. Your description is clear about not wanting to be a distraction.
    To add a twist, when a photographer does include himself -- to whatever extent he or she chooses or just naturally does -- the subject can become inclusive of the photographer. What can certainly be a distraction (especially if handled poorly or self-consciously without nuance) can also simply transform the subject, which now includes a presence, perspective, or metaphorical (or physical) shadow.
    Taking that even a step further, here's something I recently said to Phylo (check out THIS SERIES and THIS ONE)
    ". . . [H]is work, more than most, is NOT about his subject matter. . . . It's like his subjects don't matter that much. They are casual bystanders or a springboard to the ether in which his photos (and his mind) wander. . . . It's more about the watched going right through the watcher. Phylo seems to complete a circle in his work, one that includes him conceptually [as part of the subject] if not gravitationally. . . . There's a king of triangle. There are two points of the triangle (maybe call them the physical and the metaphysical . . . maybe not) in the photos and the third point of the triangle is somewhere behind Phylo, the photographer. So it's as if the vision is coming from behind and through [him]."
    In many cases, the photo itself is the subject.
     
  74. "an act of presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment:Don Giovanni had its first performance in 1787"
    "I carried an 8- by-10 to the top of a mountain in Estes Park and never took a picture"

    -Harry Callahan
    I think what we are really discussing is the journey and pleasure of. For instance a fisherman will enjoy sitting on a riverbank all day without catching a fish. A photography might not get any decent photos, or even taken any, but will have enjoyed their day of photography. I think, at best, we are stretching the word performance to its outer limits.
     
  75. Why thanks, Julie Heywood. I just thought it had a nice rhythm to it. Even nicer it could used as an example of "final vocabulary" from a Philosopher.
    I also like what he wrote about Nabokov.
    "Nabokov can invent his own final vocabulary, thus freeing himself from the vocabularies of his predecessors..."
    Can we call each other Julie and Allen full names seem so formal and stuffy.
     
  76. I think, at best, we are stretching the word performance to its outer limits. --Allen Herbert​
    Beautifully said! The outer limits. Just where much imagination wants to be.
     
  77. Performance in photography is generally something I believe to be a personal thing. It needs to be. Imagine a body of work being interpreted for the photographer's performance in making it rather than in the visual result as such. Our viewing audience wasn't there (unless as a subject of our images) and cannot partake of our state of mind, spirit and body language exercised during the shoot. Good old Alfred Hitchcock blessed his works by his presence, but his presence isn't the performance at all (not even like Skakespeare's witches in Macbeth), which instead had happened in his mind and his studio while making his films. Music, dance, opera and theatre require performances to transmit the art, but I think that novels, paintings and photographs (for example) are simply performed only in their making by the artist, a restricted personal performance not unlike that of the engineers who design your computer, get you to Berlin or land a man on the moon. Invisible, unknown in detail, although often allowing secondary or spin-off public performances, such as that of Niel Armstrong.
     
  78. Sometimes I wake in the morning and know that it was raining during the night. I see the puddles, I may see drops still on the cars parked on the street, streaks of water may still glide down my window panes, there may be the feel of dampness in the air, and that air smells differently. I don't know all the details of how the rain came down, for just how long it rained, in just what direction the wind may have driven it. Sometimes I can tell by whether or not I get a leak in my basement which direction the wind was blowing the rain. And I can tell by how deep certain puddles are what the extent of the rain was. If the gutters are still running, I know it ended fairly recently. What I wake up to puts me in touch not just with what I see now and feel now. It puts me in touch with the raining, as detailed or as ambiguous as my sense of it might be.
    The photographer (and subject, if alive) are intimate with the performance. The viewer can be in touch with it to whatever extent, as with last night's raining. The photograph may also be viewed as a performance. "Performance" can cast a wide net.
     
  79. but I think that novels, paintings and photographs (for example) are simply performed only in their making by the artist​
    Why leave out the viewer. Especially when reading a good novel, the characters in it vividly come to live and perform in front of my minds eye, stirred by the author's. The words are the writer's but it often feels like the performance aspect of what the words and sentences convey and describe solely comes down to me - the reader - who's left with filling in the blanks and with letting the characters and things described in the story literally perform through it.
     
  80. The photographer/writer creates. The photograph or narrative performs for the audience.


    Playing with words and waxing lyrical is good fun though.
     
  81. The photograph or narrative performs for the audience​
    And the audience conducts the performance.
     
  82. Only within the given parameters already set.
     
  83. "but I think that novels, paintings and photographs (for example) are simply performed only in their making by the artist."​
    Why leave out the viewer(?)
    Precisely, Phylo.
    The disconnect between the photographers's performance and the viewer's performance, even as in the example you give of a novel, is by its nature absolute, the viewer not being part of the photographer's performance. Without knowing the viewer (excluding here the human subject of the photographer), how can the photographer's performance, in that unattended spectacle of the photographer enacting his craft or art, be communicated? What is communicated, of course, is not the photographer's performance, but his statement, and a visual distillation of what the photographer has felt committed to put on paper or screen, or the written text of the writer, to which the viewer adds his own interpretation and imagination. The fact that the text or the photo directs the reader to certain thought processes is part of the art of the photographer or writer, but it is the viewer or reader that performs, not the artist/writer. The latter has little or no control of how the receiver receives, although some simple emotional messages can be somewhat predicted. Is it not plausible to think that such reactions are different from the performance of the photographer (assuming even that his approach is a performance)?
    Some like like to think of some sort of emotional, physical or intellectual dance in which the writer or photographer is there (performing) with the receiver (viewer, reader). It is I think simply the creator's product that is there and to which an interaction can be created between it and the viewer, but the actual performance of the photographer, if indeed there was a performance to accompany his act of creation, is long gone. I am a book, or I am a photo. Now. Independent of my creator.
    Not sure my Niel Armstrong example was relevant, but to carry it further I think that the sense of occasion and the creation by Armstrong of a memorable and convincing performance has little to do with what put him and his co-astronaut on the Moon. The multiple and systematic creations of a line of engineers and scientists who envisaged and computed the equations, designs, material compositions and the like are what made that moment possible and their performance had little relation to, was disconnected from, the courage and boldness of the space pilots.
     
  84. Arthur makes a good point about the disconnect, which is what gives viewers their liberty and necessitates some letting go of the result on the part of the photographer once his photo gets into the public eye. I don't think the disconnect is absolute and probably wouldn't even call it a disconnect since, for me, it's not. It's just one of many different kinds of connection/relationships. The performance is not just the set of original actions in isolation. It's also the photo and the viewing. What's communicated is more than a statement or a message and more, even, than a showing or something strictly visual.
    A very plain example: There are certain photos where I can see and feel that the photographer panned his camera to get motion blur. In that same photo, the perspective may well tell me that the photographer was looking upward and had the camera slightly skewed in order to take the shot. Performance. I can often just feel the photographer's movements and actions, to SOME extent, varying with different photos. It's a dynamic and sensual experience. It's different from the visual descriptions I see or the messages I may get. I will likely not know what was in the photographer's mind any more than I know what might be in an actor's mind when he's reciting his lines.
    Do I think Van Gogh moved his arm and fingers just as I imagine them? Doubtful. This is not a matter of accuracy. It is a matter of being in touch. I can feel Van Gogh making the brushstrokes without visualizing exactly how he did so and without knowing intimately precisely what movements he made. What seems to be a static photograph or painting comes alive with that sense of and connection to movement and gesture.
     
  85. jtk

    jtk

    Van Gogh didn't "perform" IMO. He painted. I think it takes away from Van Gogh's work to interpret it as performance, just as all interpretation tends to (is often egotistically intended-to) take away someone else's works.
    It is paint, color, image...beyond that it is each viewer's personal experience. If we experience Van Gogh's work physically, as Fred did partially, well and good. We may then have done what Van Gogh intended.
    It goes beyond personal experience into active distortion to then interpret the work as "performance." If we must do what Van Gogh did not try to do, we should (IMO) at least honor the painter by respecting his labor. If Van Gogh referred to his work as performance I'll withdraw that, but I don't think he did. Similarly, I don't think it helps to know about Van Gogh's suffering and poverty in order to appreciate his works. Academics and critics do find that necessary, people with eyes do not.
     
  86. I think it takes away from Van Gogh's work to interpret it as performance​
    Then by all means don't. I think it would take away from those I engage with and from myself to summarily reject the imaginations of those who wander beyond narrowly imposed limits to understanding and experience and the exploration of ideas. Click on the names.
    Thinking outside the box helps me to see outside the box. Others may be more disconnected from their work, values, and goals. Talk is cheap. Click on the names.
     
  87. jtk

    jtk

  88. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, think any way you want. You need not defend yourself. "Thinking outside the box" is a specifically corporate expression. Your work is too good to reduce yourself to a corporate frame of reference.
    I don't believe for an instant that you need help to "see outside the box"...you may be boxing yourself in with eccentrically defined words. I notice that you rarely talk about "performance" of other people, and I don't recall you mentioning that your own piano playing is performance. If there's something to that, why would you insist that your photography is performance? I don't think you've made the case for anybody's photography as performance.
    Ideas and goals are not words unless you need to use words to remember them. I doubt you need memory aids. If you do need to rely on words for memory it might be better to use the words with precision.
    I mentioned Albee earlier. Who performs Tiny Alice or Virginia Woolf? Is it Albee, the audience, or the actors?
     
  89. John, you might read Albee's own thoughts on the matter. He actually thinks the director is like a conductor. And he thinks of himself when writing a play as composing a string quartet. He's obviously avoiding being a writer (bold type as homage to John himself) by thinking that way, claiming to be something else. I doubt he's "made the case" for it either. He doesn't feel the need. He's describing what he feels, not entering an intellectual competition.
    I knew you were going to get anxious (another homage to John) about the "think outside the box" comment. As a matter of fact, I almost added a sentence trying to forestall your predictable reaction, but decided against it. It's a perfect gotcha moment for you to dwell on, all about the words I chose. Some critique others words and ideas in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own. They live in a responsive mode, hoping others will take the risk of putting controversial or even just imaginative ideas forward so they can pounce and feel secure in their own pre-determined comfort zone where precision matters more than metaphor or substance.
     
  90. Albee seems to understand the similarities in the processes and rhythms among various beeps.* You, on the other hand, freak out when a photographer dares to refer to his working with a subject as a dance. Albee, I'd wager, would laugh in your face.
    _____________________________________
    *I would use "arts" here but someone would likely pounce. I would use "media", but someone would pounce. I would use "modes of expression" but . . . well . . . you get the picture.)
     
  91. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, Albee is a playwright. fyi.
    I don't think I "freak out" so much as object to pretending that quirky word usage can constitute an idea.
    As I've said repeatedly, you're a fine photographer. It's fully understandable that you would say "working with a subject is dance" ...I'm sure you do exactly that. It's far-fetched to say that the photograph itself is a performance. Comprende?
    I've cited Avedon repeately because I find his approach to portraiture distinctive and effective for a particular purpose. His work isn't a dance. Is that a problem?
     
  92. Not a problem at all. The problem is that you waited to read that Avedon and Tharp used the word "performance" to even consider it. Before you had read THEM, your experts, you rejected the notion out of hand, for any aspect of photography. Had you freed your imagination a bit, you might not have needed their approval to consider a twist on the usage of the word, which you now at least partially accept: the part they have approved of.
     
  93. The rest discussed is just an emotional introspective arse grazing encore.​
    That's a bit strong calling people arse-grazers (perhaps you didn't think we'd realize that arse is a not-very-disguised way of saying a**), Allen. We all have differing opinions.
    Chill out Allen, no need for name-calling.
     
  94. "It has something to do with cowardice." Fred G
    Fred, calling or implying someone is a coward is probably the most offensive personal remark you can make to another human being. I'm sure you understand.
    I'm would like to, and believe, it was an out of character remark. And I believe you regret it.
    The end.
     
  95. I've chosen to answer Allen via instant message rather than disrupt the thread with it, which seems to be pretty much over anyway.
     
  96. Fred, calling or implying someone is a coward is probably the most offensive personal remark you can make to another human being. I'm sure you understand.
    I'm would like to, and believe, it was an out of character remark. And I believe you regret it.
    The end. - Allen​
    I'm allergic to BS, so I kinda have to respond.
    Anyone who follows the PoP forum ( which you of course don't do because you're not interested in all that arse-grazing, right ? ) knows that what you're accusing Fred of doing is what John continuously does here, in subtle ( talking "generically" ) but very transparant ways. And Fred was just talking a la John, a point you seemed to have missed. If anything, you should direct your accusations of 'implying' to John but it seems that he did sucked up on ya quite effective, didn't he ?
     
  97. Jeez, Sir Lancelot has arrived,or, a parody of Bruce Lee. Or, a bunny rabbit.
    I suspect a bunny rabbit.
     
  98. As usual, perfectly sensitive and rigorously considered topics on the PofP forum get sidetracked by the antics of a few who often have little to say except to hassle or bait others (Easy to do when one is not face to face). I guess we cannot really expect a moderator to get involved as he or she might otherwise be in that role within a debating society or in other more formal philosophical discussion panels, but perhaps Photo.Net might do well to consider having some automatic scanning involved that might sense and question attacks or replies of dubious respectability, or at least dubious or unnnecessarily sarcastic quality.
    Photo.Net recently scored last or next to last in the "Black + White Photography" magazine (out of the UK) review of a half dozen Internet photo exhibition sites, but did receive compliments for its quite keen and useful discussion forums. However, their analysis may be a bit out of date....
     
  99. Arthur Plumpton
    An old mucker from the halcyon days of Photo net. Today it's about being prime and proper.
    There used to be some very gifted photographers but unfortunately they did not conform to the commercial aspects of this site. They were banned. Very sad.
    "to hassle or bait others (Easy to do when one is not face to face). I guess we cannot really expect a moderator to get involved as he or she might otherwise be in that role within a debating society"
    Arthur, are you a fighting man. Hard fists and all that. I think it is a very sad reflection on society, and this forum, that we burst into tears at the slightest slight.
    "but perhaps Photo.Net might do well to consider having some automatic scanning involved that might sense and question attacks or replies of dubious respectability, or at least dubious or unnnecessarily sarcastic quality."
    Artthur, it is a problem, and I've noticed some err... foreigner hanging around the forum. Keep that to yourself we don't want to cause panic.
    Anyway, things are going to change, We can the err remove bad elements out soon by ....
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/special_report/1999/12/99/back_to_the_future/kevin_warwick.stm
    Okay, we might all end up in a zoo...but, we can still have handbags at dawn contests
    Hey, Sir bunny rabbit, I hope we can still be friends...words are just words.
     
  100. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I think we're at the end of this one.
     

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