Photographic Statement and Purpose

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by fjaygoldsmith, May 18, 2011.

  1. Do you make statements and have a purpose with regard to your photographs? I do, though it's come about as part of an evolving process and the statement I'm making has become more focused over time. I expect it to continue evolving. I'm not talking about abstract purposes or general themes. I'm talking about something you can talk about with at least some degree of specificity.
    I set out on an exploration with my work, after first taking a more passive and distant approach, shooting from literal and metaphorical shadows on the street at people I found interesting. That grew into engaging with people, usually people in the gay community that I met through friends, social situations, ads placed in various places, word of mouth, joining a photo club, etc. I found myself mostly interested in shooting men around my age. Slowly, I realized I was wanting to say something about aging and, especially, the physical side of that. I saw our bodies related strongly to the visual aspects of photography. So photographs seemed a great way to communicate about this. I found that many of us were still quite physical, though physically changed in so many ways from when we were younger. I found a lot of men willing to assert their sexuality, still play with it, and still willing to be very physically oriented. They were willing and in some cases anxious to explore that with me photographically. That often helped us open up emotionally as well. One way to put this statement, this purpose, into words is that I am making these men -- physically and emotionally viable even as we age -- visible. We seem to disappear to younger guys, who often have little use for us. Many of us seem to disappear even to ourselves. We don't recognize ourselves because we continue to picture what once was. I want to remind us that we are still here . . . and remind others.
    Brief slideshow: MEN (includes nudity)
    Many photographers aren't message oriented and can't, won't, or don't want to translate their work into a coherent and specific statement or can't, won't, or don't want to state a particular purpose. Many do. I do. One photographer told me today that he wishes he had gone in a photographic direction of "giving something back" in addition to creating photographs for their own sake.
    I think bodies of work can be evidence of statements and purpose and I think individual photos can be so as well.
    I don't think it's necessary or better than many other ways of photographing.
    Do you have a photographic statement to make? Have you done so in your work overall or in some specific photo or photos? How has that come together for you?
     
  2. I see a mix regarding statements and find that because of where photography has developed that it is harder for one person to fully understand the vast number of concerns being explored--and visual solutions- out there by only looking. So I generally look first, then read a statement, and then look again. Sometimes when there is no statement I just find it harder to connect with the work. On the other hand, overly explanatory statements can ruin the life of the work by defining it too specifically. One that I read recently was not all that specific over all but specific enough that looking at the work created a disconnect with what was said versus what I was looking at--and the work was familiar enough as to the idea and presentation that this was not what I would have expected. As such, my conclusion was that the work had a disconnect with the intent.
    I have a statement attached to all of my series of work on my website. I try to discuss generally what my motivations and concerns are about but let the work take it from there. Personally, I think developing the statement is part of the process of making sense of our own work and then allowing others to at least get oriented in the direction we at least thought we were heading. The viewers experience might be different as they bring something unique to them to their viewing of the work and I don't have any interest in controlling what they see or experience--good or bad. Over time, I find the statements change a bit or are modified, but also provide insight into how someone's ideas and concerns evolve--even my own.
     
  3. *John, I may have been unclear. I wasn't talking about written statements accompanying photos. I was talking about making a statement and having a fairly specific purpose with the photos themselves. I was asking whether people attempt to make more or less specific statements with their photos, NOT WITH WORDS. Thanks. And sorry that my post wasn't more clear about that.*
     
  4. jtk

    jtk

    The Nan Goldin video (other thread) was a revelation to me, and far more than a "statement."
    Fred's photography conveys much more than he's able to convey verbally. If he was ever able to make a clear statement in words I wonder if he'd have accomplished as much as he has photographically, or as much as he will.
    I'm not adept with written poetry. More ephemeral, spoken or sung, it can come close to what I want in photographs. But moments of song or spoken poetry have no value without engaged listeners, just as photographs have no value without momentary engagement of viewers. Everything I want is fleeting and it often "upsets" me : http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hardin+upset+the+grace&aq=f
    Sometimes photographs seem to convey those fleeting moments.
     
  5. jtk

    jtk

  6. I knew John Kelly wouldn't be able to get the point. Now that he's out of the way, I hope we can proceed.
     
  7. Fred, I think I might have gotten drawn that way because of the words you posted regarding what your concerns with your work are--essentially the written statement you ended up making above about your work.
    But in some ways I suppose these two things are connected. Generally, I find that I tend to work in series and the work has a point to it, although maybe as I said above, not something that is closed ended. As such, I can certainly discuss my intent with the work but I do shy away from absolutes with regard to any piece or group.
    The word statement has a certain power behind it to me when it comes to a single image, I have a harder time wrapping my arms around that in most cases. Sometimes it might be closer to a statement but maybe more often a suggestion to a "direction" or concern or thought of some type--specific or more ethereal in nature.
    So, maybe it is the way I view "making a statement" in an image versus being able to discuss what an image is about generally--or part of--that causes me some pause here in my way of viewing this question.
     
  8. jtk

    jtk

  9. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, your made your own case twice, I'm sorry you don't understand my response.
    John A hit the nail on its entirely verbal head. I agree entirely.
     
  10. John, I can't keep up with your changes here :))
     
  11. John A, thanks. Good points. I agree with you about how absolute a statement can be and I know that as soon as I put it into words the words seem inadequate and I feel like I want to take them back or say more. I hope you didn't take my own words about my work to be any kind of absolute statement or finished product. It's where I am today . . . and part of a continuing process . . . and the words are necessarily incomplete . . . but they should give some concrete idea of where I'm at or at least the ballpark I want to be in.
    At the same time, yes, the work has a point to it and I do sometimes think it's a copout not to take a committed stand about what we're doing, if we are, in fact, taking some sort of photographic stand, which I think I am or at least am moving toward. We can understand the inadequacy of words but I don't want to rely on that inadequacy to be non-committal when I'm discussing my work and intentions with other photographers. We all know (well, most of us seem to know) that words are no substitute for photographs. But most of us are willing to articulate things about our work in order to further that work along and help solidify our aims and how we achieve them.
    I understand that photos and images do have more suggestiveness than words, which are often more precise, but I think limiting our discussions to suggestion could be limiting, at least in my own case. I think forcing myself (or at least encouraging myself) to be a little more specific about what I'm doing (even if it's still somewhat at odds with the more suggestive nature of pictures) will help me articulate and communicate that even further with the photos I make, which will still maintain their suggestive nature.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    John A, your caution (reference to "parsing") holds the key. I add written commentary to photos but they're not "statements," they augment (or perhaps confuse). That commentary could, and perhaps should, be organized in a blog rather than appended to individual images.
    I think the desire to make "statements" has to do with needing to draw attention to oneself in a way that may not be accomplished by one's work alone. I think strong photography, like yours and Fred's, stands on its own for the anticipated viewers, and they'll make their own statements about it, verbal or otherwise, if they feel the urge.
    The viewer matters more than the photographer. How's that for a statement?
     
  13. John K, you consistently talk about the strong work of others and denigrate your own work comparatively. That may well be because of your own unwillingness to articulate more specifically not just about your goals (which you've done) but about how you might go about accomplishing those goals visually. I don't see the evidence of what you abstractly talk about (commitment, the importance of exceptional printing, risk taking) in your photos. If you were willing to actually discuss the relationship between those goals and the imagery you put out, you might become more in tune with what you yourself are doing and be less distracted by the inconsistencies and philosophical and literary shortcomings that you perceive and obsess about in others.
     
  14. Fred, I didn't take your words as absolute in any way. I think the type of statement you made is the kind that helps the viewer get more connected to what you are doing with the work rather than flailing around too much. It orients us in a direction but we can still find the richness that each image can hold for us in that context--or maybe allow us to see more than you might see yourself--which I believe is the magic of art anyway.
    I think if one were to delineate that my image says (a),,,,,,,,,,,,,,(b),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,(c),,,,,,,,,,,,,,, then it closes off the very dialogue the work should stimulate, sort of like "end of discussion". I don't find that very productive. (not saying you suggest this sort of thing, but wanted to suggest the extreme of 'making a statement")
     
  15. John, yes. I love hearing most ways others choose to talk about my photos. Sometimes, they do open a lot of doors for me. I'm sometimes not so in touch yet with stuff I'm doing and a genuine and heartfelt reaction can make me see things in a different way, even my own things. I think a lot of things we might say about our own work and we might say in reaction to another's work can close doors. But I think it's better to get it all out on the table and then look at it all than to be overly cautious about looking at it out loud, as it were. Yes, I knew you didn't take my words as absolute and I don't and won't take personally all the ideas you put forth. I know some of what we all say is not specifically directed at each other but at the general idea of photographing.
    I love getting the kind of feedback you're offering on what I've said and would also reiterate that it was also meant as an invitation for others to offer whether or not they want to articulate their own specific purpose with a particular photo, series, or body of work. I'd learn a lot from hearing that from others as well.
     
  16. I would rather make an evocation than a statement, regardless if the purpose of such an evocation contains or is driven by a statement. In a series or body of work each subsequent photograph is a ( visual ) statement that enforces or questions the previous one. Like songs or music tracks on a conceptalbum.
     
  17. jtk

    jtk

    "If you were willing to actually discuss the relationship between those goals and the imagery you put out, you might become more in tune with what you yourself are doing and be less distracted by the inconsistencies and philosophical and literary shortcomings that you perceive and obsess about in others."
    Fred, I've never commented on anybody's "philosophical and literary shortcomings."
    You began this thread with C- writing, tried to make up for that by shouting, then attacked me personally, then discovered you could write skillfully: A+. That's not a "literary" matter, but it does demonstrate something. I wouldn't call it "philosophic," but I wonder who you thought would understand? Neither John A nor I did, at first, as you saw.
    I've always expressed appreciation for your photography, never needed to distill that from your writing. You can make all the statements you want, but that won't hint at your photography's commitment or merit. I doubt it will contribut to your ongoing work. You seem to have used "statement" as some kind of commitment engine. Why do you think that's valuable?
    I think the potential to do badly and be unpopular is intrinsically diamond-like, far more valuable than general agreement, high ratings and the like. Does explanation, photo-labeling reduce that potential? Is that the point of statement-making?
    My own work is far inferior to yours in every respect, at least online (I'm a pretty-good printer). If I was as committed as you to online imagery I might post a lot more....but I don't respect the glowing screen sufficiently.
    I post online images to illustrate some life-long frames of reference, and I don't think reducing them to a "statement" serves well. If someone else sees a statement I won't argue, will find that fascinating.
    My photography boils down to prints, made mostly to let others see hints of what I find interesting. Shallow, huh? I love the connection, no matter how brief: click my earlier Tim Hardin link.
    I gave a pair of portraits to someone today ... giving is my greatest photographic joy. I refused money. Is that a statement? Yes, perhaps it suggests pure ego.
     
  18. John, you've mistaken me for a student of yours. I'm not interested in your grades of my writing. This is not the place for it. It's really annoying, and habitual.
    John A. misunderstood, and I took some responsibility for that, and we immediately recovered. He didn't harp on it. Instead he tried talking about photography.
    You've expressed appreciation for my photography which is nice. You then use it as an excuse to derail threads and make pointless assertions about things that don't matter. Given who you are and given your own work, I really don't care at all about your relationship to my photography. I'd much rather hear about others' relationships to their photography and how their goals are reflected in their work. That was the point of this thread, which you still don't get.
    The point here was not to discuss in the abstract whether or not statements can be made about photographs or bodies of work. It was to hear about people's purposes in photographing, in somewhat specific ways, and to talk about actual ways that can happen photographically and visually. Instead, you took it to your comfort level, which is to grade writing. If you want to emulate Nan Goldin, emulate her. I'm Fred, not Nan. And I wasn't after doing what she did in that link. I don't have to rely on faux heroes like you do in order to make a move. You see, I am truly willing to take risks. I don't just spew out hollow talk about it like you continually do and I don't demand it of others like you do. You take no risks here. You are as predictable as the day is long and you rely on demeaning others so as not to look at yourself. You attack, attack, attack and then feign surprise when others attack back. I won't stand for it.
     
  19. Phylo, do you have photograph goals that you can articulate?
     
  20. What I do is take pictures of my family, friends, our lives and the places we go and see. It's a chronicle of our lives. It will not be a book, a show or anything. Just photos in albums, and pictrures in my home.
    Fred: Thanks for the warning on the link. It's appreciated and I chose not to enter the site.
     
  21. Fred,
    They are mainly goals of the practical kind, right now.
    I haven't been photographing seriously for some time now. It has been mostly a photographic reflection that I've found myself in, of how to take what I've made so far to the next logical step. That step is one of more concentrating on one particular scope of subject.
    The goal is to set myself limits in order for the work to breath more freely, rather than scatterable.
    An example, the goal is to make photographs of the "visual iconography" of my country, starting in Brussels. And also playing with the Walloon and Flemish part of the country. Photographs taken in the manner of a photographic dead pan neutrality that has eluded me so far. This doesn't mean losing every personal subjectivity, but those kind of photographs I've been taking enough already in the past.
    I don't want to lose subjectivity and synchronicity but it has to grow more subtle visually in order to be more profound I feel.
    Anyway, I figured, while it is always stimulating and inspiring to travel and take photographs in and of "exotic" places ( both literal and metaphorical, places of the imagination too.... ), I want to start dealing with what's photographically directly in front of me. Something which can be seen with the eyes and touched by the mind, and which is both personal and universal.
    And symmetry, I need to regain some photographic symmetry, in process, methodology, etc...
     
  22. I am late to this party, but a few observations...
    Perhaps I am mistaken here, but the impression I get from Fred's original post as it relates to his work, is that the "statement" is an ur- conceptual and visual kernel around which many other things accrete (and erode), and it goes much further, functioning as an analog to messenger RNA, guiding, building, informing the work as it grows. I guess it could function contemplatively within the work, too.
    In my own work, while I have some overriding concerns or golden threads that run through it (see the Goldin Post), I'll have a statement/kernel for any given series. For example, I did a series ( still not entirely happy with it, could use a few more shots) on retention ponds. They are small reservoirs that supposedly compensate for the area the footprint of a building removes from the watershed and its flood-prevention and filtration effects. I wanted the ponds, in part, because they are the most banal-looking things I could think of -- to challenge myself. I also wanted something that is quotidian, accessible, out in the open, artistically invisible and commonplace, and one day out on a bike ride, I saw the ponds.
    The kernel/statement here was that this is a sham idea that enables developers to proceed unimpeded while pretending to be concerned about the environment. What happens is the ponds do not compensate for what is lost, and thanks to their inability to filter impurities, each becomes a micro-toxic site with a concentration of heavy metals and other evil chemicals. Lots of other things wrapped themselves around that idea, just as they have around Fred's 'statement".
     
  23. I like to do ( conceptual ) series too, mainly to find out how each will unfold and come together into something broader and more "pure", which in turn enfolds each series. Where the kernel/statement of the series - when mutated together - isn't already known or discovered beforehand.
    But, I want to cut straight away to the enfolding part in the future, containing one single vision already.
    Luis, your kernel suggests, if I understand the way you used it correctly, something in the series of your retention pond photographs that's the very most basic and central thing behind the reason and context, and which you explained, of making them, from your perspective as maker.
    But to the viewer possibly viewing them with or without the preface of a statement, isn't the kernel also the very solely visual forms of the image in the photograph, or the photograph itself, before it may be discovered as what you explained it to be.

    To me the challenge / goal is to make that strictly visual in the photograph as much the statement as the statement which the visual is used for to express.
    ----
    A Luc Delahaye quote, that I just saw on ASX on facebook and which somewhat relates :

    "If there is something in a picture that you cannot explain, it's a sign that there is something interesting "
     
  24. Phylo - "to the viewer possibly viewing them with or without the preface of a statement, isn't the kernel also the very solely visual forms of the image in the photograph, or the photograph itself, before it may be discovered as what you explained it to be."
    Absolutely, and I certainly do not expect a 1:1 correspondence between what I see and what a viewer will see. For that, I would send a text message, not make a photograph. As the work develops, things are attracted to or created by the original statement and change as the work develops. Some of them are near-or just over the horizon of your own awareness, as Delahaye says in that quote.
    Sometimes it is tempting to over-control or choke the work into submission, but I see that almost always as a mistake. As I've heard and read many times, the work has a way of telling you where it wants to go. I think it needs a little room for that to happen.
     
  25. The term "photographic statements" is poor and much too general, like "written statements".
    "Statements" (an expression of a view, a declaration) is inherent in any photography, if it is not done by robotics. They are the very reason why the shot what shot and shown, instead of another shot, no shot at all or ending up in bin.
    There are however many "private statements" in my photos, that I would not share with many, but there are surely also statements of my photos that I try to convey to the viewers, with or without written support by titles or more or less lengthy explanations or hints.
    I don't think I have any folder that is not part of such specific (public) statements. Mostly, as you might expect from the titles of my folders here on PN, my specific statements are related to places more than events or people. When I shoot a city like Paris, which I have done since the late seventies, I try to catch and express my view and feelings of the city, searching for something that I have called it's "soul" (we have discuss (in vain?) that before so it is not the moment to repeat). When I shoot a city like Hong Kong I have the same ambition, expressing my experience and feeling of the place. These are public statements that, if I had succeeded, which is far from sure, are narratives of a place seen through my eyes, guts and heart.
    However, I believe, I'm sure like others, that we all do general overall statements by all our work, not related to specific series of photos or individual photos. Some of us, I'm convinced, have a "grand statement" to make that goes far beyond what happens in our photos. The photos are part of it, but such statements, which surely evolve over time, are expressed in our lives and in our modes of private, artistic and in my case at least professional expressions. Such "grand statements" might not be easy to express in a few word and even more difficult for others to see, but they are statements on our individual relationship to others and to reality in general. Our individual view and understanding of the world surrounding us. These statements are what makes the work of each of us somewhat "coherent" and personal and marked somehow by the same "mood" or "vision" whatever we shoot. I'm not sure that many of us are able to express such grand statements in writing. That is one of the many reasons why we are in photography.
     
  26. Absolutely, and I certainly do not expect a 1:1 correspondence between what I see and what a viewer will see. - Luis​
    Yes, and that's also true between what you as the photographer saw in the subject and what the photograph will end up looking, also to you as the maker. And also what you ( "we" ) possibly see between the first time and the second time, when there has gone some time between the initial seeing and recognition of the subject ( in the case of static subjects ).
    Just this morning I saw to 2 photographs within just 100 meters of my street. By photographs I mean scenes / subjects - which I saw in my minds eye as perfectly printed framed photographs hanging on a wall. And, the photographs were shot with an Atget / Walker Evans / Robert Adams'esque*,...authorative photographic gaze of objectivity.
    Seeing that and acknowledging it as the subject's photographic potential requires some sort of subjective recognition too of course. I recognised it, and thought that I should come back and photograph it, in the way closest as how I saw the scene-as- finished-photograph in my mind.
    This is different than how I used to make photographs ( and still will too ) of having a camera with me and immediately responding to that fleeting subjective recognition and without too much analyses about how to surface the photographic objectivity that's felt in the subject, and in the potential photograph of that subject.
    But it has happened before, that when I had seen something like that and thinking I have to come back to purposefully photograph it, that after a few days that sensing of a potential photograph is gone, faded by time and other things on the mind. For some reason, *it* isn't there anymore, while the subject is still there and essentially unchanged in all of its objectivity, that set the spark for that *it*.
    Just this week also I came upon a scene of an old bridge, and next to it on the land there was this newly finished steel bridge that was waiting to be put in place of the old one, you could almost see it eagerly waiting to be used and put to function. I loved the subject / statement of this blue steel bridge, which because it was on the land next to the water and not yet functioning as a bridge, it had - in all of its purposelessness - the beauty and aesthetic of this giant sculpture and work of art, making its mark and claiming its space in the surrounding landscape.
    Now, all of this conceptualising of what I saw took place in a blink of an eye and an instant of subjective recognition, but to fix that into a photograph as an objective statement which still has this 1 : 1 correspondence to that innitial subjective spark of seeing the scene, is were the purpose and major challenge comes in, to me. I have to go back as soon as possible now before it is made in "just a bridge".
    The term "photographic statements" is poor and much too general, like "written statements".
    "Statements" (an expression of a view, a declaration) is inherent in any photography, if it is not done by robotics. They are the very reason why the shot what shot and shown, instead of another shot, no shot at all or ending up in bin.- Anders​
    Perhaps, but to take my bridge example, while I didn't had time to stop and get out of the car because I was on my way to an appointment, I did had a camera with me, and I suppose I could have quickly taken a shot to see if that innitial spark would stick to the resulting picture. Even if it wouldn't, the photograph in and of itself would still be a statement like you say, because that photograph was taken, and not another.
    But, I saw the futility in that, and knew that I had / have to go back to make a STATEMENT, at least as much and photographically as possible.
    --------
    *Adams approach to photographing these landscapes was to take a stance of apparent neutrality, refraining from any obvious judgements of the subject matter. His images are titled as documents, to establish his neutral position. However, in the words of John Szarkowski, Adams... "has, without actually lying, discovered in these dumb and artless agglomerations of boring buildings the suggestion of redeeming virtue."
     
  27. Luis said, "... the "statement" is an ur- conceptual and visual kernel around which many other things accrete (and erode), and it goes much further, functioning as an analog to messenger RNA, guiding, building, informing the work as it grows."
    Wrong.*
    The statement is never "in" the work. It is always outside of, not a part of, the work. When Luis or Fred or Phylo or Anders or JohnA formulate a statement, no work appears; no pools or men or whatever. A statement is not the sand around which a pearl forms or the dust that precipitates the rain. It's not that primal shiver that generated matter out of the void.
    The statement (I use "rule" but everybody has hissy-fits when I do, so I'll use "statement") is a cage, a detector; it's the means necessary to get stuff to be present to you whether it be cats (as in herding), birds or neutrinos -- whatever your statement encircles.
    I have never made any picture anywhere at any time that did not originate from the rudiments of a statement to myself. But my statements are not "in" the work. The cats do what they will within the cage that I use to catch them (the neutrinos usually get away).
    [*Ah, the joy of being able to say "Wrong" to Luis first thing in the morning.]
     
  28. Reading you Julie, when you refer to "the sand around which a pearl forms" where the sand is surely in the pearl , why should "the means necessary to get stuff to be present to you" not equally be in the "stuff"? Your statement is in your work by your own definition, as far as I can read.
    In both cases you refer to what I would maybe call the "Initial statement" or the "ur statement" ("ur" meaning : "you are"), which answer the "why" a photo came to be. But why should that statement not be "in" the work? Why refer, at all, to this initial statement if it is not connected to and "in" the work? For me it always is, because photography is a human act.
    What I at least talk about is the statement conveyed or intended to be conveyed to the viewer. Such a statement is surely "in" the work - or the work is failed, which might often be the case, I admit. Statements such as, in ultra short versions: "There is suffering!"; "Alienation is daily urban reality"; "Embezzling reality", "Beauty is decivious" etc. etc
     
  29. When Luis or Fred or Phylo or Anders or JohnA formulate a statement, no work appears; no pools or men or whatever. A statement is not the sand around which a pearl forms or the dust that precipitates the rain. It's not that primal shiver that generated matter out of the void.​
    The pearl is in the statement, rather than that the statement is in the pearl, or, the statement "in" a pearl is the pearl in the statement.
    A photograph of the pearl is neither the pearl nor its statement, but the sand around the pearl, formed by the photographer's statement, which is "in" the photograph-as-statement. Or not ?!
     
  30. In Fred's description of why he photograph's the subjects he photograph's, he has given his motives. The photographs are a statement of those motives.
    Just like I was decribing the motives for wanting to photograph the bridge scene that I mentioned. The statement is the ( to me ) best possible photograph of that scene, whether or not that photograph tells a statement.

    What also happens, is that I make pictures and afterwards look for a motif in them, by which to make a statement with.
     
  31. JH - "[*Ah, the joy of being able to say "Wrong" to Luis first thing in the morning.]"
    ...and the joy it brings to read it... now I know I wasn't kidnapped by aliens last night. My idea of the conceptual part of the 'statement' dovetails more or less with Julie's. So, there's zero visual encoding/manifestations of your inner statements in the work? If so, why bother with them at all?
    One thing we could agree on, and then only to a degree, is that for many of us, Julie included, the 'statement' precedes the work, and if it's not too much to suggest, has a causal relationship of some kind to it.
    JH - "I have never made any picture anywhere at any time that did not originate from the rudiments of a statement to myself."
    "Originate" is the operant word there. So by saying that there's zero manifestation of the statement in the picture, those origins are then disconnected, excised, left behind, (?) when you make the picture?
     
  32. Ross, I looked up chronicle and got this definition: "An extended account in prose or verse of historical events, sometimes including legendary material, presented in chronological order and without authorial interpretation or comment." Obviously, it should have included pictures! I was surprised to see the last phrase included, "without authorial interpretation or comment." When I read your post, I immediately thought of a diary, which would be somewhat more personal. I'm curious, do you feel more removed when you're taking these pictures, as if it is as objective as the word "chronicle" as defined implies, or is it more like a personal diary? Either way, taking pictures of one's family and life is probably one of the most significant uses of a camera. Thanks.
     
  33. Phylo, it sounds like you're taking a pretty grounded approach, kind of doing what's in front of you, yet still incorporating a kind of "discovery" motive you've developed over time. (?) Sometimes, trying to do something "more" gets us a lot less. One of my best shoots came on a day when I set out to experiment with a combination of flash and movement. Something Luis said seemed especially at play that day: "the work has a way of telling you where it wants to go." While I was being practical, I seemed more open to listening.
    I think that can also relate to your approach of "dead pan neutrality" without losing your already somewhat ingrained ability to include subjectivity. It might lead to a personal yet not self-conscious approach. Or maybe even more like the very objective reading of an account by someone whose voice is very distinctive and seductive.
    I was in Leuven (Flemish part of Belgium) a couple of years ago to get a Dutch friend's son settled in the dorms there and I remember at first thinking what an un-exotic place it seemed to be and that if I had the time to take pictures (which I didn't), I would go for the unassuming aspects of it. Then we took a walk to the town square, and that big ol' town hall kind of smacked me in the tourist face. Mesmerizing building and iconic in its own way but I imagine not in the way you're seeing right now.
    I love your idea about limits. I'm suspicious of claims of absolute or even radical freedom and I think it is often our willingness to be in touch with and even create limits that sets us free.
    Phylo, you also bring up something important in talking about your seeing two photographs this morning. I think there's a big difference between taking a picture of a scene and seeing a scene as a (future) photograph. You're seeing possibility and, perhaps, even artifice. That may make it all the more real in the end. And they may help you in accomplishing one of your goals: "to make that strictly visual in the photograph as much the statement as the statement which the visual is used for to express."
    And I like your very last line above: "I make pictures and afterwards look for a motif in them, by which to make a statement with." It strikes me that's a kind of dialogue (which may capture what I'm talking about better than the word "statement." Again, going back to what Luis said, the work tells you where to go. My own experience has been, as I said in my OP, that it was when I opened myself up to a different kind of exploration, somewhat unformulated, that a statement started congealing. Now, I play back and forth with that and it plays with me. I develop the statement but I'm more attuned to listening to what my photos and subjects are telling me.
     
  34. One thing we could agree on, and then only to a degree, is that for many of us, Julie included, the 'statement' precedes the work, and if it's not too much to suggest, has a causal relationship of some kind to it. - Luis​
    I'm beginning to view it now as the photographs being the statement, with a motive preceding the photographs or statement. I have many photographs that were not made without a motive but certainly without a motif, which was only to be revealed afterwards, to propel the statement or work with.
    I think there's this *thing* between motive and motif and the statement being the work that is derived from both.
     
  35. Fred, I got the sense from some of the opening volleys here that you were talking about trying to define the work in a statement that you could then discuss with others--like a sort of validation that what you think you are doing, your statement about a piece, is what the others are seeing as well. Something more specific--and maybe more defining of a specific image and what it was specifically about, although you did add group to that. Did I misunderstand you? The current dialogue here all seems to go back to the "artist statement" sort of mode or framework or making sense of the work in that way.
     
  36. ross b. - "What I do is take pictures of my family, friends, our lives and the places we go and see. It's a chronicle of our lives. It will not be a book, a show or anything. Just photos in albums, and pictrures in my home."
    I suggest there's at least one implicit statement in family snaps: An obvious affirmation of life.
     
  37. The term "photographic statements" is poor and much too general, like "written statements".
    "Statements" (an expression of a view, a declaration) is inherent in any photography, if it is not done by robotics. They are the very reason why the shot what shot and shown, instead of another shot, no shot at all or ending up in bin.- Anders​
    I don't know about this one, except maybe in a very loose way. Do photographs really have to make any statement? Do they really have to express some viewpoint other than a visual? Can't they ask questions or even ask questions without subject or answers? Is that a statement per se?
    Certainly, I have to decide which images of that sort to show or choose which ones might fit what I am after, but is that a statement or just an offering. To me "statement" is something more limited and the reason I suggest that an artist statement should be more a pointing in a direction, not a map of the route. I might have some work that is more pointed towards a specific point or statement, but I don't think that is necessary in all work.
     
  38. Luis, thanks for your "kernel" description!
    Are their specific photographic maneuvers you made to highlight or show the "sham" part of the ponds? I can imagine approaching them photographically in a mundane manner, my I imagine communicating "sham" is a bit more of a challenge. I also think one can (and maybe this applies to your pond series) be motivated by something (e.g., the sham of the ponds) without necessarily wanting to show it or winding up showing that.
    Anders/Luis, I read something you've each said as counterpoints to each other. Luis talked about an overriding thread running through it and also the statement/kernel for a given work. Anders talked about the "grand statement." Such a grand statement would be hard to put in a photograph (if it were even desired) but photos could help, along with many of the other things Anders mentioned, add up to a grand statement.
    I also think trying to make grand statements can be a trap (which is not what I think Anders is doing) and can lead away from what Phylo seems to be trying to do, which is to put one foot in front of the other. Many conscious grand statements are self-conscious and often seem to miss point. When, on the other hand, they are built out of a number of more specific, smaller statements, they can have an awesome kind of presence and power.
    Luis, I do think the relationship of statement to photo is causal to an extent, but as you also said above ("the work has a way of telling you where it wants to go") the work itself starts to have a causal relationship on itself, or at least on you, the maker. Yes?
    Anders, I can see why you would say that any photograph makes a statement, and on one level perhaps they do, but I approach that differently. I think so many photographs just seem to be incoherent captures. Sometimes, that's a plus, a gem. More often, not.
     
  39. John A, no. I wasn't looking for validation at all. I was talking about defining and being able to explain my motivations for taking photos. I was and am talking about having motivations that I can explain to myself. I was trying to share those motivations with you guys and was asking you guys to share your motivations with me, in fairly specific terms. Not so they could justify the work or accompany the work or stand on their own as an exercise in writing, but so they could help solidify in our own minds what the heck we're doing and why we might be doing it, as opposed to, say, wandering around aimlessly (which can certainly be part of any more directed or intentional work and certainly can be a way to work in itself). And, perhaps even more importantly, and maybe at some later time, we could talk more about how we actually photographically accomplish what we set out to do, what it actually looks like. The question is, does your work, or do your individual works and series have a purpose that you can talk about? Do you have specific aims?
     
  40. Julie, I ask you the same question. Does your work, or do your individual works and series have a purpose that you can talk about? Do you have specific aims? How do you go about accomplishing them?
     
  41. John, I just read your response to Anders and agree. No, I don't think they have to make statements. I was asking if yours do. I think many of mine do. And, yes, I think a question is very much a statement. That may not be so in grammar class, of course. But I'd be very interested in a photographer who was trying to ask a question with his photos. I would probably be dissatisfied with an answer such as, "I'm asking what life is all about." Of course, that would depend on the context and the person and whether I sensed they were just trying to be evasive and whether I also sensed that their photos leaned toward the incoherent. But if I sensed a photographer asking why, for example, we're defiling the environment or how does it feel to work in an office day after day, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about.
     
  42. Phylo, I like this quote:
    "If there is something in a picture that you cannot explain, it's a sign that there is something interesting "
    I was originally wondering, I guess, about not quite the opposite of that but maybe a corollary to it:
    Is there something in your pictures that you can explain?
     
  43. Phylo, it sounds like you're taking a pretty grounded approach, kind of doing what's in front of you, yet still incorporating a kind of "discovery" motive you've developed over time. (?) Sometimes, trying to do something "more" gets us a lot less.
    ....
    I think that can also relate to your approach of "dead pan neutrality" without losing your already somewhat ingrained ability to include subjectivity. It might lead to a personal yet not self-conscious approach.
    ....
    Then we took a walk to the town square, and that big ol' town hall kind of smacked me in the tourist face. Mesmerizing building and iconic in its own way but I imagine not in the way you're seeing right now.​
    Fred, yes. Where I'm coming from with this "dead pan neutrality" is the photographic subject aesthetic found in Stephen Shore's work for example and in other photographers in that realm, Atget of course too --- ( I see it also in many of John A's excellent photographs ). I find that this on the one hand dead pan neutrality gives room to such a rich photographic expressiveness, yet witout being excessive.
    I would love to travel a whole year throughout the U.S. and photograph and experience such "banal" scenes in my own way. Maybe a month or so next year. But then I also realised that from my perspective such Americana - vibrating and oozing in all of its dead pan'ness - is much like your experience when you saw that town hall in Leuven, and much lesser 'dead pan' for me as a subject and photographic investigation as it must have been for those photographers like Stephen Shore, Robert Adams' et all ( or you ), who are operating from within their own cultural visual environment already and to whom such subjects are much less - if at all - inherently "exotic" than they are to me.
    So I figured that if I'm really serious about this visual objective neutrality, that I must find and record it in my own environment first, which from my perspective afterall is banal by the fact that we get somewhat desensitized to our own daily environments.
    It will proof a greater challenge - a more authentic one - for me to pierce through that banal'ness and find the photographic richness behind it, much like the photographers in and from the U.S. worked in that way from their perspective, visually and culturally.
    This is not at all to say that I want to erase my personal subjectivity or 'inner'ness' in photography, but, that is already more ingrained and established, while the other side of that - letting the immediate outside world come in, rather than the inside world go out - much less in comparison, and in someway I want the work to express a balance between the two, yet as one single vision or statement.
    But so far, that has been mostly a model or a construct in my mind, : /.
     
  44. Validation is probably a too loaded word, but I was suggesting from your comments that you had a group of individuals that you maybe "tested" your intent to see if it was communicated. It was these words, from two separate entries that got me there:
    We can understand the inadequacy of words but I don't want to rely on that inadequacy to be non-committal when I'm discussing my work and intentions with other photographers.

    I think a lot of things we might say about our own work and we might say in reaction to another's work can close doors. But I think it's better to get it all out on the table and then look at it all than to be overly cautious about looking at it out loud, as it were.​
    But as to your point, I know that I have different ways of working and that I can shift between them in some cases.
    I don't think there is any question that what I show has some meaning or purpose behind it. As I said earler, all of my series have statements attached to them. But I also think most of it works on many levels, not all will I openly discuss in that way. I know what they mean to me on some level, but I know that they also have some unanswered questions to them as well or I probably wouldn't be showing them.
    But I don't necessarily work with much of any definition or hard statement about what I am doing when I am doing it. I sort of trust that the work will uncover itself and I don't have an interest in forcing any overlay to it. In this way, I find that what I thought I was working on can turn into something else or splinter into different things. That my own discovery and investigations grow this way. Then, when I put a group of work together in the series, it has more complexity to it--hopefully--than that which might be discussed in a statement about it.
     
  45. John, thanks for that response. As I said, I was curious to hear how people work and think.
    BTW, as I said quite a bit earlier, there was an early misunderstanding which I take some responsibility for. Be assured, I wasn't trying to validate or test my intent to see if it was communicated. I was stating my intent to share the fact that I had one. I wanted to see if others had such kinds of intents that they could articulate and if they considered their photos themselves, at least in part, statements they were making. The reason I showed my work is because I think examples sometimes help. I wanted to show what I think photos that make statements look like.
     
  46. Is there something in your pictures that you can explain?
    The question is, does your work, or do your individual works and series have a purpose that you can talk about? Do you have specific aims?​
    So far I tried to just let it flow. But without being too specific, because that would defeat the purpose of the photography itself as a way of communication, both to myself and to a viewer, I want the work, series, or individual photographs,...to be some sorts of a dialogue between the dark(er) and the light(er). Between the vague and the specific.
    But there's no real purpose to that, other than wanting to know, experience and investigate reality and life itself. Photography is just a vehicle to that, a possible alibi to go a bit further than without it.
     
  47. I think so many photographs just seem to be incoherent captures. Sometimes, that's a plus, a gem. More often, not.​
    I'm more modest. I see the same but would normally just conclude that I don't see the coherence and problzbly because I don't know the person or don't care enough.
    Coherence is obviously easy to achieve if you only shoot steam-engines, shot front-wise in sunshine, but that is not what "statements "are about. Statements, at least if the term should be of interest, is the inner message of what ever subject/object matter being shot.
     
  48. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, your coherence and clarity are predictable. Evidently not universally appreciated traits :)
    Using photos to look for "motifs in them" is something many of us do, and perhaps that does lead to creditable statements. On the other hand, once one finds a "motif," does that facilitate further explorations or might it make one static? "I am a railroad photographer" or "I photograph irony" or "I photograph environmental crises."
    Your "sand around the pearl" metaphor is challenging and new (to me). Not the same as saying the photograph and the pearl are "equivalents." It sounds like you wonder if the photograph may be less than the pearl, mere sand. I think most "fine" photographs are like that, claiming to be "art" sometimes but actually remaing windows to their subjects...the "photograph of whatever" syndrome. Nan Goldin does that without embarassment, but also questions the "art" aspect.
     
  49. am first time to forum and what caught my attention was the statement of purpose....have been mentored by a couple of people who are commercially successful in their work and they have taught and directed me along the tech. path.....so now i have the "best brushes to paint good pictures" nikon d3 and suitable lenes........as knowledge grows so does the question what am i saying with all this.......have looked and read about bresson adams lang and get what they are saying but formulating my own has escaped me .......its as if when i shoot its just what catches my eye at the moment ....and i dont find any great connection of substance in them.......... to have some meaningful contribution to those who view my work is important .......pretty is nice but not a reflection of the times we live in or direction to be courted .....it scares me silly to think that i may be one of the many with no purpose to my images except as a hobby to keep time with.... perhaps im overlooking the obvious ....but it feels more like i dont know where to start.........any / all input will be greatly appreciated ..........
    thanks
    dennis
    00Yl2y-360421584.jpg
     
  50. am first time to forum and what caught my attention was the statement of purpose....have been mentored by a couple of people who are commercially successful in their work and they have taught and directed me along the tech. path.....so now i have the "best brushes to paint good pictures" nikon d3 and suitable lenes........as knowledge grows so does the question what am i saying with all this.......have looked and read about bresson adams lang and get what they are saying but formulating my own has escaped me .......its as if when i shoot its just what catches my eye at the moment ....and i dont find any great connection of substance in them.......... to have some meaningful contribution to those who view my work is important .......pretty is nice but not a reflection of the times we live in or direction to be courted .....it scares me silly to think that i may be one of the many with no purpose to my images except as a hobby to keep time with.... perhaps im overlooking the obvious ....but it feels more like i dont know where to start.........any / all input will be greatly appreciated ..........
    thanks
    dennis
     
  51. am first time to forum and what caught my attention was the statement of purpose....have been mentored by a couple of people who are commercially successful in their work and they have taught and directed me along the tech. path.....so now i have the "best brushes to paint good pictures" nikon d3 and suitable lenes........as knowledge grows so does the question what am i saying with all this.......have looked and read about bresson adams lang and get what they are saying but formulating my own has escaped me .......its as if when i shoot its just what catches my eye at the moment ....and i dont find any great connection of substance in them.......... to have some meaningful contribution to those who view my work is important .......pretty is nice but not a reflection of the times we live in or direction to be courted .....it scares me silly to think that i may be one of the many with no purpose to my images except as a hobby to keep time with.... perhaps im overlooking the obvious ....but it feels more like i dont know where to start.........any / all input will be greatly appreciated ..........
    thanks
    dennis
     
  52. jtk

    jtk

    What's wrong with being "scared sillly" about lack of purpose? Might be the right response for you, an energizer at the start of an important quest.
     
  53. Well Fred I guess I really do not think about it much to tell the truth. I just take the pictures such as tomorrow it is my #2 daughters birthday and Saturday my future son-in-law is graduating from UC Berkeley. They are events in our lives and I will take some photos of them. On the 3rd my youngest of 6 will graduate from High School and I will be lurking around trying to get myself into position for some photos. A couple prints will go into albums and the rest will be saved digitally. I must say I never really think about the pictures as a project, art form or anything other then just photos. I used to go on photo adventures to try and find some nice landscapes or just an interesting photo but gas is expensive and with film on the back burner (continous lab problems) I have lost interest in that type of photography. I do have a few pictures framed in my home and they are very nice but one of my kids is an artist and she occasionally gives me something that she has done. I pull down my photos and hang her work up (painting, drawings, etc). The things she does is much nicer then anything I could ever do with a camera.
    I guess I am pretty boring in the photography thing. I just take pictures with no goals with it. I know how to use the camera and my photos are of excellent quality. Basically I know how to do what I do. I do not even always take a camera. Such as tonight we went to the Senior dinner at the High School and I did not take a camera with me. However my wife has a camera and she took care of the photography for me. Maybe I will become more interested in the activity when I retire in a couple years. I was planning on some bicycle touring before it's to late in life but I do not have a camera currently that I can carry on a bicycle. My stuff is all to bulky and heavy. I do envy folks such as you that have such an interest and passion for it.
     
  54. Phylo - ""I make pictures and afterwards look for a motif in them, by which to make a statement with."
    Fred - "It strikes me that's a kind of dialogue (which may capture what I'm talking about better than the word "statement." Again, going back to what Luis said, the work tells you where to go."
    Provided one listens to the work, of course, and everyone has their own way of doing that. For me, reviewing unedited/un post-processed takes seems to do the trick. There seems to be a cascading/branching out thing in the development of a group of photographs, and to a different degree, in individual photographs as well, and one can look at it in a commutative, time-backwards kind of way, too (thinking of Phylo here).
    I do not want to give the impression that I always work from a statement/kernel. I also follow hunches insatiably, have no problems working without a discernable statement or kernel, or intuitively and/or rapidly. Most photographers I know, myself included, have multiple modes of working. A few put them to good use. One can think of it as a kind of artistic schizophrenia, or multiple levels of creative existence.
    Fred G- "Are their specific photographic maneuvers you made to highlight or show the "sham" part of the ponds?"
    Yes, I did it by mostly by relating the comparative size of the buildings' footprints compared with the usual hot-tub sized pond visually. If one focuses on the ponds the point gets lost, though a few definitely help to illustrate how they work. I wanted a problem that was extraordinarily difficult photographically (i.e., a second-order problem) to state, not to mention the aesthetics, and this has not disappointed.
     
  55. About 2 years ago I picked up photography as a serious hobby and became interested in birds and other wild life as subjects. Fred's question made me stop and think, review the photos I have posted here and query if, in the process of becoming more and more familiar with my suburban wild life neighbors, I've become coherant enough about my feelings towards those subjects to where statements, of sorts, have started to form. I certainly didn't start out with a clear idea of a statement I wanted to make; but I do think that I've become increasingly aware of intent in my picture taking that grew/grows out of an exploration of a part of the wild parts of the world around me. At times, with birds, the only opportunity I have for a statement is to take a picture that says 'this species looks like so'. At times, the statement I want to make about a particular bird: I can't quite capture what I want the bird to convey to the viewer.
    There are times when I work hard with a clear idea of a statement I want the picture to make. For example, in my Nature folder I've a picture of a bee where the statement I wanted to make was that it isn't so easy being a bee, showing one doing some heavy lifting. It took focus and concentration to get the right bee at the right time and there was little accidental in that capture.
    Another example of a clarity in my purpose is in the pictures my dog. There I want to show him living the life of a country dog where, in a developed area, its hard to find places to get him off leash. My intent is to capture him when he is at one with his wild dog nature and convey something of the joy he exudes when allowed those excursions. The areas he can so express himself are, as I've learned, ideal habitat for coyotes. I was drawn to his coyote cousins. I began to document the life cycle/working life of a particular coyote family and have an intent to capture the beauty of the animal and something of the family life in which they are engaged which are statements to encourage tolerance and appreciation of them, to the point where I occasionally post coyote photos on another person's educational urban coyote blog.
     
  56. perhaps im overlooking the obvious ....but it feels more like i dont know where to start --Dennis
    Dennis, sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious, right? What if you've already started? There may already be a statement starting to form in the words you wrote here and it may just take some time for you to translate it into some kind of understanding or further motivation. Reading your post and looking at the pictures included, I am mindful of design, atmosphere, and symmetry.
    I spent a good deal of time wanting to do . . . something, and then to say . . . something. I tried my hand at philosophy, at music, at envy of others who could get out of themselves and free themselves in some way. I for so long felt like a kettle about to boil. For me, it took turning 50 and a few other life-altering events to come to photography and, even then, as has been said throughout this thread by a variety of people, the statement came together out of the work as much as it led the work.
    Perhaps a way to see it is THIS.
    If you were assigned to write a one paragraph statement that no one but you would necessarily have to ever read (unless you wanted to share it), could you (WOULD you) do it?
    [Welcome. It's great to see a new face. Your post gives me a lot to think about.]
     
  57. Ross, go for it! Those photos will be prized, now and in the future. I never tire of looking at old family photos, especially as I get older. There is a connection to those photos and in those photos. In so many ways, you're shooting in the moment . . . and for the future. I've heard the stories of Dad returning from the war, Mom going to her sister's wedding, the friend's club picnics before I was born. They're told with love, intonation, laughter, eyes ablaze with memories. And then there are the pictures. Not trying to do what the words do. Just being themselves. And telling their own kind of story nevertheless. They fill in a lot of blanks.
     
  58. "Yes, I did it by mostly by relating the comparative size of the buildings' footprints compared with the usual hot-tub sized pond visually. If one focuses on the ponds the point gets lost . . ." --Luis
    This seems to me the logical (sorry, that's me!) next phase of the discussion. If we do it, how do we do it and how can we see it? It's not all just hot air. It is visual! It is coherent. That is, if it is. Which, in this case, it is. At least in part.
    _____________________________
    Someone reading the thread yesterday asked me to distill a statement I'm making into a sentence and then choose a photo that illustrates or makes it. I chose this sentence from above: "I am making these men -- physically and emotionally viable even as we age -- visible." We decided that loosely translates to older men being proud of themselves and their bodies (with some amount of resignation instead of or in addition to pride . . . not the sinful kind . . . well, maybe a little sinful). I chose THIS photo [partial nudity alert]. I see a combination of flirty yet demure attitude in Ron. His expression but also his body position conveys that to me. He's turned away, looking back over his shoulder pretty directly at us. The reflection helps enforce the over-the-shoulder glance. It's got a kind of male odalisque quality to it. Recognizing this (it was an early photo and I was obviously led there but certainly didn't have any of this in mind consciously), I can now build on it if I want, directly or indirectly. It's a tool of a different character and quality but not so different from knowing how to set an exposure. The more coherent a statement I want, the more I might repeat (with variations) these kinds of gestures. The trick would be also keeping some kind of mystery alive.
    ______________________________
    A statement (visual statement) can be very much a beginning. It is neither a perfectly direct communication nor is it the end of the road. The photographer and the viewer will, of course, build and riff upon the statement, often in amazingly divergent ways. Significantly, the statement is not all there is.
    _____________________________
    [If anyone is up for sharing examples, including photos or just descriptions, I'd love to hear some more specifics like Luis's and mine to see how others realize their motivations or what they may want to say.]
     
  59. Disclaimer: The above is not something I'd share with most viewers or say to people looking at my work in a gallery . . . should that ever come about! I'm talking to you guys about it as fellow (and lady) photographers. Part of learning.
     
  60. Charles, THIS ONE seems to epitomize what you're talking about with your dog. It's a scale thing. And there's the iconic (recognizable) nature of the leading lines of the path. And he's on his own, moving away from you. And on the hunt. Free. The BEE becomes an explorer as you've shown him. Your relating the coyote story reminds me how photographic tangents can become focuses. We lead ourselves and are led.
     
  61. jtk

    jtk

    Without explaining, I'll just suggest a link. Vintage stuff, may be nostalgic for people who had contact with Esalen Institute near Monterey. It seems pretty naive now, like lava lamps. But maybe there's something in it related to the desire to verbalize non-verbal phenomena. www.fritzperls.com
     
  62. On the other hand, once one finds a "motif," does that facilitate further explorations or might it make one static? - John K.​
    Indeed, I've thought about that too. It would invite further explorations if the motive is for the motif to be such that it's kinda like the river thing,the same but always changing, or changing but always the same.
    Provided one listens to the work, of course, and everyone has their own way of doing that. For me, reviewing unedited/un post-processed takes seems to do the trick. There seems to be a cascading/branching out thing in the development of a group of photographs, and to a different degree, in individual photographs as well, and one can look at it in a commutative, time-backwards kind of way, too - Luis​
    Yes. And re-reviewing "deleted" images. And then suddenly seeing something in them that wasn't there before. It was there all the time of course, but the seeing wasn't.
    I can relate to the branching out thing, because I've rooted images together that - at the time of taking them - weren't conceptually related at all, apart that they were taken by me of course.
    I have a little series going on here and I have no idea what the next image will be in that series. But when I see that next image, I know it is it. Perhaps the series will die and reincarnate into something else. Be Here Now refers to Ramdass' book, and ( how to transcend ? ) the schizophrenia between present and past, past and present, much like your "artistic schizophrenia, or multiple levels of creative existence" perhaps.
    "I am making these men -- physically and emotionally viable even as we age -- visible." - Fred​
    I think this too has a lot about the past <> present in the context that I was talking about to Luis. Except that yours is maybe more from a physical point of view while mine is more from a metaphysical one.
    I like the Bee picture that you choose from Charles' gallery, and your description of it. The void'ness of the black hole really does give the bee a context of an explorer, of something that's driven, and whether instinctually, intuitively, consciously or unconsciously doesn't matter, it's the *driven* part that's the crux of it.
     
  63. If I'm undertanding the original post correctly (as photographic, not verbal, statements) then, yes, to a certain degree. When I first started uploading photos to PN (and other places) I put up images that I thought were "decent" (for lack of a better word), but a hodgepodge of mostly unrelated images. Now I try to organize my photographs in folders with some sort of thematic statement. Some of the groupings are more obvious than others.
    Much of this has come about through postings I have read on the POP discussion board: being introduced to the work of others, the approaches of others, theories and approaches to photography links to other sites displaying "statement" work by other photographers. Examples of this? (not that you've asked for any...) --
    John Kelly (and others) talk of "the print" has influenced me to concentrate on printing out more of my work. I do not yet do my own printing (I don't have a printer sufficient to the task), but concentrate on studying results I do get from the the likes of MPIX, Nations Photo Lab, etc., calibrating my monitor, attempting to improve results. I'm still not clear on what "doing my own printing" entails (buying a "good printer" and paper?), but I am more conscious of it and this has informed my post production and overall approach.
    Some time back Luis G and I engaged in a "spirited" discussion of appropriation and though appropriation is not currently something I engage in, I think I came away with a better understanding, or an alternate understanding, of appropriation, and critical theory in general. Fred, Anders, & Julie have also contributed to this in various ways, as have other photographers on this site who do not contribute regularly to this board (Carlos, Jack, Josh, Bulent, Marjolein...)
    John Kelly has posted numerous links to the work of other photographers that I may, or may not have been familiar with (Tanyth Berkely, Nan Goldin). I think Fred recently posted in the Casual forum that he is interested in viewing websites that touch more upon work, theory, aesthetics, than sites which concentrate on gear and technical reviews. I enjoy and gravitate toward such websites, and these too have an influence on how I approach "statement" in my own work. (Burn, American Suburb X, Fraction Mag, among many others).
    I did not mean for this to turn into a recitation of names, but the influences of those I have come across here and elsewhere have direct and indirect impacts on any "statements" that my photography might make. Sometimes these statements are recognized after the fact, and organized accordingly (Interstices, Ri Hokkai), others are consciously intentional (Bensenville, Graphic Novel). I tend not to be very verbal about my photography, but I think John A makes a valid point in that developing a "statement" (whether one actually places it, as words, with a group of images or not) helps to make sense of one's work. Sometimes I group instinctually, without verbalizing, and only later come to see a "statement". Unless the work is for a specific project, however, I don't seek to make photographs for the purpose of a statement.
     
  64. Ross b. - I appreciate your humility regarding your work, but want you to know that I see one of the all-time primal statements of the graven image in your work: This is who we are, or at least who we were, at a particular time and place. In some ways, that's as good as it gets. Your secondary implicit statement about the pleasures of seeing is also perfectly good and viable.
    _________________________________________________
    Fred - ": "I am making these men -- physically and emotionally viable even as we age -- visible." We decided that loosely translates to older men being proud of themselves and their bodies (with some amount of resignation instead of or in addition to pride . . . not the sinful kind . . . well, maybe a little sinful). I chose THIS photo [partial nudity alert]. I see a combination of flirty yet demure attitude in Ron. His expression but also his body position conveys that to me. He's turned away, looking back over his shoulder pretty directly at us. The reflection helps enforce the over-the-shoulder glance. It's got a kind of male odalisque quality to it."
    photo at:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6436819&size=lg
    This, as many of Fred's other portraits do, also speaks to me of "This is who we are".
    [Personal Note:
    Sometimes in this forum, I feel like one of those frogs who lie patiently buried in the desert, encased in mud, waiting for the rain, and then a thread like this one comes along, and and it rains and rains, and then I feel like when I was a kid chasing dandelions in a light breeze.]
    The statement in "Ron" has obviously functioned as a strange atractant for many other things. Yes, there's an odalisque feel to the image. I love its mirrored duality, how simultaneously he looks at us and looks away, and it works both ways, and how it is at right angles, the light, how Ron is leaning into the molding along the wall, and how it leads to his other image/side. Love that light "C" - shaped section of the background by his head, it is a kind of halo, and the arc also connects with the secondary image. Lots there.
     
  65. Phylo: "And re-reviewing "deleted" images. And then suddenly seeing something in them that wasn't there before. It was there all the time of course, but the seeing wasn't."
    Yes, Phylo, amen to that.
    (Sometimes it pays to read all of a thread before you post...meaning me.)
     
  66. And then suddenly seeing something in them that wasn't there before. It was there all the time of course, but the seeing wasn't.​
    Phylo, this is how it works for me half the time. The other half, the seeing was there, but the something in them wasn't there yet. It took my getting here, my doing the photos I'm currently doing, for those older photos now to have what they have . . . the earlier photos kind of needed the context of my present work to make them what they now can be. Maybe they couldn't have been this before, no matter how I saw. It's like the new photos become the allies of the older ones.
    I like this looking at past <> present. I tend to think of possibility as future oriented. But maybe it's only from here, the present, that we can see the possibility in our photos of the past and do something with them. It's less about the future and more like a reopening of the past.
    Your Be Here Now series is much about what's not here, maybe something just out of reach. Picture of a Dream, for example: you might think it's the void (as you called it relative to the bee photo) of the mirror, but it's more the void in the ghostly draped absence that seems to be not looking in the mirror, just grazing its edge. It's like there's an "almost" in each of these photos. The next frame modernizes the mirror and solidifies its grounds while offering us a window . . . a way out and a way in. The window beckons the counterpart of Be Here Now: Be Now Here. If you don't watch it, it becomes Be Nowhere.
     
  67. "This is who we are".
    Luis, that's a really solid and helpful insight! Worth the price of admission.
     
  68. Steve, a couple of years ago I saw a great exhibition of Man Ray at the Whitney in NY. Among the photos and other work were a bunch of letters between Man Ray and Duchamp and others among the Dadaists and Surrealists. They were thinking about what they were doing, talking about it, sharing it. I think that might be what you're getting at and it is a wonderful use of these forums and the Internet. Influence / cooperation / collaboration/ networking (to bring it up to date) / creative activism. Many other groups of folks (Algonquin Round Table, French New Wave) fed off each other as well. The Internet allows for some wide-ranging groups of influence.
     
  69. Thank you Fred and Luis, I appreciate your comments.
     
  70. I have never consciously set out to make a statement about my subject matter. I wait until something 'proposes itself' to me as a subject and then begin what I can only call an exploration. Much of my early work was purely documentary: I photographed the final years of my former home town, a classic 19th century industrial town of coal mines, brickyards, foundries, railways etc. My prime aim was purely to document, but from the pictures emerges a statement about me. I discover something about myself and say something about myself, but the statement is epiphenomenal - it emerges from the totality of the work but I did not set out to make any specific statement other than to show people what the town looked like years ago. It seems to be a circular process which begins with trying to be receptive to whatever might impinge upon one's mind and then to distill down and refine what it is that lies at the root of the attraction.
     
  71. I very much agree that such exchanges have got new and powerful means by internet and that maybe also PN can be a place for genuine and respectful exchanges too. The discussion above is an example that gives hope.
    Among the photos and other work were a bunch of letters between Man Ray and Duchamp and others among the Dadaists and Surrealists​
    You should add Picabia to Man Ray and Duchamps and maybe also Stella, they were together in New York between 1915 and 1923 although they disagreed a lot. The start of the Dada movement on the American soil where it was purely artistic, while in Europe it stayed a widespread ideological movement.
     
  72. Chris, thanks for talking about discovery. Photographs are a lot of things. "Statement" was just an aspect to explore for the moment. Discovery is another significant aspect. And I like the idea of a statement being epiphenomenal, emerging from the photos you take. The sum is greater than the parts. Do you have a sense that that sum, that emergence you discover in your photos after the fact, then gets put back into your future work, whether deliberately or more casually (not so consciously)? So is there any kind of back and forth motion to the process?
    _____________________________
    .
    I have never consciously set out to make a statement about my subject matter. --Chris​
    This idea struck me in terms of Phylo's series and work overall. If there is a statement which either emerges out of Phylo's work or gets poured into it on some level, his work, more than most, is NOT about his subject matter. That's where the metaphysical nature of it comes in. It's about juxtapositions and relationships, about what's not there, about simplicity bathed in atmosphere. 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. In the case of Be Here Now, the series is the subject, if I'd even call it that. There is a dependency of vision, each photo to the others, that isn't clouded by compositional or particularly thematic concerns. 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 if not gravitationally.
    _____________________________
    .
    Anders, thanks for including more references. As Steve was saying, a great thing about these forums is the exposure to additional names to become familiar with. The linking to more and more historical and current figures adds texture to these threads.
     
  73. "Do you make statements and have a purpose with regard to your photographs"
    By observing the world as it is.
    The great Tapestry.
     
  74. Fred, that's a pretty good analyses.
    I think I depart from the metaphysical of it all while you depart from the physicalness from and of your particular photographed subject*. I don't know though where either one of us ( as a kind of photographer ) arrives or aims to arrive at, because as a subject, you can't get any more metaphysical than metaphysical or any more physical than physical and when both are taken to their most possible edge they reflect back to their "opposite".
    It is perhaps this turning point - this ball frozen in the air at its highest point - which is what I would mostly like the/my subject to be about, to make a statement through-true, enantiodromia.
    * The subject - your subject - is of course also the motivation or statement that you were talking about :I am making these men -- physically and emotionally viable even as we age -- visible
    Which as a subject of motivation and awareness, in and of itself, isn't visible either of course, or is about what's not there too.
    There's this thread in the casual conversations forum about subjects. But I wonder, how can one have any other subject than perceived reality itself, or like Allan says, than "the world as it is".
     
  75. Phylo - "But I wonder, how can one have any other subject than perceived reality itself, or like Allan says, than "the world as it is"."
    Yes, one is subject (pun intended) to one's perceived reality but "the world as it is" is a different thing. It is different for all of us. Our personal delusions are bespoke. The eye is also not as simple as a camera. The world is many things.
     
  76. There's this thread in the casual conversations forum about subjects. But I wonder, how can one have any other subject than perceived reality itself, or like Allan says, than "the world as it is".​
    It's the river thing again. It's both. Looked at one way, there is no other subject than perceived reality itself. Looked at another way, and in simple terms, there are many different subjects, as evidence by the answers in that thread. And looked at some ways, the both becomes one or, as we said above, the sum of its parts. It's just as true to say, "I mostly photograph flowers or naked girls" as it is to say "I photograph perceived reality." And I think transcendence occurs in more or less degree. With your work, I am usually transported immediately beyond the "real world" subject. So, in your photo, I'm not terribly concerned with what that shroud-like figure is, where it came from, who it belongs to, etc. With a picture of Grandma (and that's the easiest example I can think of, but this would not be limited to family photos), there may be a transcendent aspect (there is one) to looking at a photo of Grandma, but I am often more concerned with the real Grandma than the photographed Grandma. I think referents can be more or less important in varieties of photos.
     
  77. Luis, yes, that's what I meant and understood too with the "world as it is", perceived, in both the understanding and interpreting context.
    Fred, isn't the photograph always a referent to its subject, whether we're talking about the subject that's in the photograph or the - statement - as - subject.
    There's never that 1 : 1 correspondence, neither from the photographers perspective nor from the viewer ( the photographer of course becomes a viewer of his/her own work too ).
     
  78. How about the world as it's not. It's not this, it's not that, it's not...,
    Each picture ( taking ) can be about what the world is not. And with enough pictures we can hope to deduct of what it is then, that world.
    But there will never be enough pictures of course, that's why we keep taking them.
     
  79. " It is different for all of us. Our personal delusions are bespoke. The eye is also not as simple as a camera. The world is many things."
    Of course we can only perceive the world from our own reality of it. However there is always universal truths such as the horrors of war,poverty, etc. I don't think the camera is that simple which is in a sense is just an extension of our own eyes. Of course a photograph can be interpreted ,taken, in many ways but again there is always the universal truths contained within it. A photograph of your granny is a photograph of your granny. All photographs have these realities within them..."the world as it is".
     
  80. Allen, that's true. The way I see it is that we can understand these realities within photographs. Just like we can understand that these understandings are interpretations, both by the camera and by the mind.
     
  81. Does the subject have to be in the frame of the photograph? Can't the "objects" and the way we arrange and present them be used to create a subject that is not visible or are we bound to photographing physical subjects?
    Personally, I think it can go both ways but I do believe that we can use objects to create subject and that happens in some work and not in others. No judgement there, just a difference in the types of photography that is possible.
     
  82. It seems we are on the same reality on this one, Phylo;)
     
  83. Can't the "objects" and the way we arrange and present them be used to create a subject that is not visible or are we bound to photographing physical subjects? --John​
    John, good question. Do you by any chance have such a photo? It would be interesting to look at it with that in mind. (Or a link to a photo of someone else.) It may be somewhat similar to what I was trying to say to Phylo: That the objects in his picture are less significant as objects or as subject matter themselves (because the subject seems to lie elsewhere) than many other photos I look at. Nevertheless, we are photographing physical things, so they will always to some degree be part of the subject, I think. A way of saying this would be that, though the whole can be greater than sum of the parts, the parts remain visible and can still be experienced as parts . . . of a greater whole. But, yes, many times the subject goes well beyond the details of what we actually see.
    ______________________________
    isn't the photograph always a referent to its subject --Phylo​
    Probably so. What I'm saying is that sometimes the photograph puts me more in touch with the referent of the subject in the photograph and sometimes the photograph puts me more in touch with the statement, or at least something that transcends the subject in the photograph. Your series leans much more toward the latter for me.
     
  84. Fred, this link is to a group where the object, as subject, was less important to me. This first one is a good example, but there are others. Some work both ways for me although object as subject was less important to me than what resulted.
    http://acurso.com/OneMoment.html
     
  85. I have not engaged in the discussion and have yet to read all of what has been said. I really hope to do that as soon as I can get my other current thought projects (those putting bread on the table) out of the way. So, given that perspective I probably cannot add anything very constructive to what has already been said. But I will try.
    One of the photographers interviewed in the recent photography month documentaries this week on TVO was Gregory Crewdson. I could relate very closely to his manner of statement and purpose in creating images (the polar opposite of discovering images as many of us seem to enjoy) in which his sum of life experience, emotional and metaphysical ponderings and desire to communicate are brought into play in elaborate scene and event creation that precedes and envelopes his art. I think his approach is very much akin to that of many artists who are not interested in recording reality (or some subjective derivative of it), but rather are intent on creating images out of their mind. Of course, not all of us can work, or would want to work, with the Hollywood scale sets and intricate set-ups he employs en route to his “perfect moment” (I think that was the term he employed for that situation and moment when everything comes together exactly as it should (as he planned it).
    So I think that Crewdson defines in some way statement and purpose in very real and at the same time artistic terms.
    How do I personally feel, apart from sharing Crewdson’s approach in some instances?
    I feel that I have been spending most of my photographic energy, not always very successfully (from a communicative viewpoint and not a technical photographic, or picture compositional, viewpoint), in discovering what is important to me (a personal statement, if you will, for personal consumption) and how I want to communicate my viewpoint or sense of visual statement via photography. An unfinished process for me, or at least an on-going one. One in which I seek change, if only because I believe that this iterative process will lead me to a more final appreciation/realisation of my personal commitment (personal statement).
    The discovery and application of what is important (to me) sees its next phase of exposure in treating certain subjects, where the opportunity to connect with the viewer is attempted. This is an attempt to an outward statement. Although I have a pretty good idea of my values and preferred approaches I am still floundering a bit, and possibly because I haven’t fully developed my “personal statement”. But connect I do at times and this is useful as a learning experience. On the other hand, different viewers react to different subjects I photograph in entirely varied, sometimes unpredictable and uncontrollable (for me the photographer) ways. That might be construed as a problem, but the other end condition, in which my statement (or that of any other photographer) would be received by most viewers in perfect clarity and simplicity, is not a situation that I desire. I would prefer that my work simply catalyze some issues of thought in the mind of the viewer, perhaps only subtly or abstrusely infer something and not present my statement in a neat package that would risk being too evident, too simplistic. I would rather be somewhere between the two cases, preferably creating statements that are enigmatic and interpretable on different planes. Despite all his planning and perfection in bringing thought to photographic paper, the works of Crewdson are mostly in that vein. An enigmatic statement can also be achieved in less directorial ways, which is more how I tend to create what statements I do in my own work.
     
  86. Very powerful images there John A, especially Buffalo
    I think you expressed what you're saying well - and what I also meant with the statement being the subject, rather than the subject photographed - in your statement of the Under Perfumed Skies series, when you're talking about meaning beyond form, and removing reference to place.
     
  87. John, got it, thanks. Yes, these are less important as the objects they are (or at least a case can be made for that, though I suspect some would disagree). There is a contemplative aspect which seems beyond "object" and the objects themselves are also conveyers of both design and abstraction.
    When you talked about the subject not having to be in the frame, I thought of THE KISS. Though some viewers might see the subject as the kiss itself and the two people involved in it, I tend to see the subject as jubilation, exhilaration, the end of the war. "The end of the war" is really not something that can physically be pictured, so we are led to it through associations and context.
    I can't think of one off hand, but there are also photos which lead me physically outside of the frame, for example a few people who seem to be intently watching something out of the frame, and that something outside the frame becomes the subject.
     
  88. What I'm saying is that sometimes the photograph puts me more in touch with the referent of the subject in the photograph and sometimes the photograph puts me more in touch with the statement, or at least something that transcends the subject in the photograph. Your series leans much more toward the latter for me.​
    Fred, yes. And that's probably also why I'm so attracted to its opposite, or at least where the two collapse into each other. The Memorabilia series attempts to come closer - if ever so steadily - to that objective photographic'ness that I was also talking about in the beginning of the thread.
     
  89. Phylo, sorry, is there a link to the Memorabilia series that I missed?
     
  90. It's the one above Be Here Now in the menu, or here.
     
  91. Arthur, I appreciate what you said about not having fully developed your personal statement. Perhaps no one ever does. I did find it useful the other day when my friend asked me to distill a statement into a quick one or two sentences. Now, of course, I was resistant (and even looking back at it, I have hesitation) because I do realize the inadequacy of a couple of sentences summing one up. But it was worth the try and I know no one is going to hold me to it. I've noticed your absence lately and figured you were busy, but I've been hoping you'd join in because I thought of you a couple of times while reading through the thoughts in this thread. I would love to see a brief statement from you (even if it's not to cover your whole body of work or personal journey but just a photo or series) and then a link to a photo or series that you think might make the statement. The two significant ideas you mention in your post are "I seek change" and "the opportunity to connect with the viewer." I'm a little unclear whether those are statements you are trying to make with photos or if they are statements about your approach itself (or some combination of those two), but they stood out to me.
    And, yes, it's always a crap shoot what the viewer will get out of it, though we can still attempt to put stuff into it that will make a difference.
    Welcome back!
     
  92. Phylo, I wanted to expand a bit on what I meant by something above. In talking about your Be Here Now series, I said:
    "It's more about the watched going right through the watcher."​
    The picture I have is this. 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 you, Phylo, the photographer. So it's as if the vision is coming from behind and through you. Like you're not at the end point.
     
  93. jtk

    jtk

    http://merfeldcollodion.com/about/artistic-statement/
    If you're into photography you may want to look at Ken Merfeld's work first, like you might in a gallery...before the statement:
    http://merfeldcollodion.com/portfolios/portraits1/
    Merfeld's work is so strongly committed that.... perhaps the statement flowed from it...and it helps curators and writers, who may be less visual than photographers often are. Does anyone think his statement shapes his work?
    Cart and horse. Commitment first. Click. Film/file. Print. Statement.
     
  94. Phylo, I meant to mention that Memorabilia still has a metaphysical quality, though it is, to me, heavier and more grounded. It nevertheless bears the kind of Phylo-ness I alluded to in my post above.
     
  95. Fred, yes, perhaps. It's difficult to see our own work through the eyes of others. Your the watched going through the watcher rings true, as it suggests being aware of awareness with the subject as metaphor for/of awareness.
    In your work there's firstly the awareness of and by the presence of your subjects and your interaction with your subject and through that interaction the interaction with the viewer.
     
  96. Statement as pulse, as this central point of energy which transmits from one photograph to another. Until this one picture comes along, the one which forms another pulse.
     
  97. jtk

    jtk

  98. My photographs are their own statements. That's what I expect of them at any rate. Whether they succeed or fail is up to the viewer.
    My website contains very little text save for an introductory blurb and a handful of quotations on the front page. There are always exceptions, but when a photographer's website is full of words, chances are the photographs aren't very interesting. If your images are compelling in their own right, you shouldn't have to recount every detail of the shoot or critique every lens that you've ever owned. Spare me the explanation and show me some photos that knock my socks off.
    If the story of your photos is genuinely fascinating - and sometimes that IS the case - a blog that's separate from your gallery area would be a good forum for such accounts. This provides the viewer with background information that isn't available in your galleries. But in general, photo galleries shouldn't require statements of purpose. Yes, I can imagine legitimate exceptions to this rule. Nevertheless, the challenge of the artist is to communicate through one's chosen art form, not to publish art that requires explanation to be appreciated. Beethoven didn't include 'liner notes' with his symphonies. All that's required of the audience is listening. Photography audiences deserve no less.
     
  99. fwiw the phrase "be here now" originated with Baba Ram Das​
    Yes, I did mention his book Remember, Be Here Now a few posts back.
     
  100. Hi Fred,
    I acknowledge gratefully your comments and questions. I hope this thread continues on over the next week, after which I hope to better interact in this thoughtful discussion and pursue the discussion of the points you raised and those of your fellow contributors. For the past month my preoccupations have unfortunately not been photographic or philosophical, as goes the occasional work opportunities of a supposed retiree.
     
  101. Yes, Dan, I do understand. And like I said, I wasn't talking about accompanying text in a web site or gallery setting. I was asking if you could put the statement (even loosely) into words just for yourself (and other photographers) here, in the Philosophy forum. As I said at the beginning of the thread, I doubt everyone would want to or even could, and I doubt everyone photographs in such a way as to allow them to talk coherently about the statement that is their work (not that might accompany it). We all work differently and I appreciate your candor.
    Arthur, thanks.
     
  102. jtk

    jtk

    Dan South sees things from a photographer's perspective. That's different than a writer's perspective. The twain may meet, or they may not.
    Statements can become the tail that wags the dog. The word array can overpower comprehension, as with the neurotic habit of thinking in words.
    "A guy gets a new dog, a nice Jewish dog. He names the dog Einstein and trains Einstein to do a couple of tricks. He can't wait to show Einstein off to his neighbor. The neighbor visits, the guy calls Einstein into the house, bragging about how smart he is.

    The dog comes running and stands looking up at his master, tail wagging excitedly, mouth open, tongue hanging out, eyes bright with anticipation.
    The guy points to the newspaper on the couch and commands “Fetch!”Immediately, the dog climbs onto the couch and sits, his tail wagging furiously. Then all of a sudden, he stops. His doggie smile disappears. He starts to frown and puts on a sour face. Looking up at his master, he whines, “You think this is easy, wagging my tail all the time? Oy vey ... And you think it's easy eating that junk that you call designer dog food? Forget it ... it's too salty and it gives me gas!”


    The neighbor is amazed. “I can't believe it. Einstein actually talks. You asked him to fetch the newspaper and he is sitting on the sofa talking to us.”


    “I know, I know,” says the dog owner. “He's not yet fully trained. He thought I said kvetch.”
     
  103. Dan, I used to think a lot like what you describe in the last part of your entry (I agree with the first part about individual or technical descriptions), that photos should speak for themselves. But then I started to learn a lot more about art and photography and the concerns people explore and I realized that I just wasn't probably as smart as I had thought I was all those years. Photography and art isn't always about just what someone makes visible. Maybe, with the right background, one can elicit what the person is doing just from having seen a lot of the work, but then most of us don't have the specific background for all the work we see. Many times, even if we see a piece in person, that is all we see is one piece and don't get a sense of what the person is concerned with in their work--and discount it because it doesn't entertain us on its own--out of context. Also, seeing work on-line or in books isn't the same as seeing work in person. I had someone remark regarding a photographer's work that as soon as he saw it, it just looked like a snapshot. I asked if he saw it in person as I don't think that snapshot would have been my first reaction to a photograph that was 6x8 feet.
    My point really is that for work to be truly understood and appreciated one needs to have context. That context means seeing the work of a person, not just one image; seeing the work in person so that size and presentation can be appreciated, a Thomas Struth portrait at 5x7 feet is going to read different than on screen at 4x5 inches and then having some idea of the concerns that were behind the image making. Having this type of context allows us to grow our visual understanding of things and the work become more appreciated visually. Without this, sometimes things might just look like a snapshot, our shame not the artists.
    This all isn't to say that people can't use words to polish a turd, but many times that isn't what they are doing and it is our own lack of understanding--or ability/willingness to at the time-- that precludes us from seeing or understanding what has been done (I just have gotten more used to allowing that I have my limitations and can grow and it isn't always easy)--and then sometimes it is just our lack of interest in what they are doing.
    With the proliferation of photography and the ability to see what others are doing, I appreciate it when there is a statement provided that allows me an insight into what they were exploring. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn't, sometimes I find it interesting and sometimes I don't. I prefer to have something to orient me--althought there is certainly a lot of work that doesn't need such introductions but I find it generally a bit less interesting overall.
     
  104. "Chris, thanks for talking about discovery. (cont ...) Do you have a sense that that sum, that emergence you discover in your photos after the fact, then gets put back into your future work, whether deliberately or more casually (not so consciously)? So is there any kind of back and forth motion to the process?"
    Fred,
    Thanks for developing that thought. And yes, indeed, what emerges from consideration of a photograph, or photographs, informs future work, sometimes consciously but perhaps more often unconsciously as the idea is assimilated into my general approach to photography. It is indeed a reciprocal relationship, albeit one which I would describe as asymptotic - always approaching but never reaching. The English painter, Robert Lenckiewicz, spoke of his work as 'an exploration' and I am very much in accord with that idea. One always seeks the definitive photograph, the Platonic Ideal, while accepting the inevitable ultimate dissatisfaction.
     
  105. Yes, an evolution and exploration, but always in the present...as that's all there ever is.
    The different styles I have been using in my art must not be seen as an evolution, or as steps towards an unknown ideal of painting. Everything I have ever made was made for the present and with the hope that it would always remain in the present - Picasso​
    Remaining in the present, that's an ideal too of course.
     
  106. "This all isn't to say that people can't use words to polish a turd, but many times that isn't what they are doing and it is our own lack of understanding--or ability/willingness to at the time-- that precludes us from seeing or understanding what has been done"
    Hmm, but a great photograph has always stood on its own,and always will. Perhaps the lesser works need the the polishing to help us understand a "something" about them.
     
  107. jtk

    jtk

    I think the yearning for "context" is better provided by series or body of work than by written material.
    And if the "artist" is confident in her work she will provide it rather than explaining it. If she's not confident she has the option to take the risk of generous sharing (let others evaluate) or of hiding out and not sharing. IMO the reward is in the risk.
    Granted, dumbing down of difficult ideas is ever-popular (that's why theologians natter away, trying to revison the Bible et al. But since when was it important to think of individual photographs as worthy, outside of the context of the photographer's body of work or series?
    Quoting Picasso is always fun, but he didn't do his great work in writing. He was a painter, sculptor, genius and con man. The written stuff was for the rubes.
     
  108. I just knew John was going to sniff at the Picasso quote.
    Yes yes yes, we all know he was a painter, but it would have taken me rather long to make a painting about what he was saying and how he was saying it and how I thought that related to the context of this thread, than to write something and provide a quote . You see, here in this forum we're using words to communicate on all things photography and beyond.
    Maybe the context of a No Words forum serves you better John.
     
  109. Chris, I, too, experience that sort of striving you refer to, though I'm not big on Platonic Ideals. Rather than see this as laced with dissatisfaction, I just kind of experience it for what it is. However, I understand the role of doubt and questioning and maybe that's what you mean by dissatisfaction.
    I was just talking to a friend yesterday about how some music is more of an era and maybe doesn't need or strive to translate beyond the moment. Other music tends to be more universal. The examples we came up with were the Grateful Dead (more localized in terms of the 60s and the following couple of decades, steeped in the times, dependent on the particular mood) and the Beatles (more timeless, universal, certainly steeped in the times but also going well beyond just that . . . in touch with history, past and future). Simple things like clothes in photographs can make a big difference as to whether they seem timeless or not.
    I often find myself thinking small: what I'm directly in contact with. There are things I can do photographically to make those photographs more universal in their reach, but they often start off more directly, perhaps intimately. For me, too much desire for universality would likely lead to a kind of dissatisfaction and missed opportunity. When I get too grand, I tend to miss what's right in front of me. And what's right in front of me may be so human (finite and imperfect, not Ideal) that if I'm really in touch with it, the photo that results can transcend that particular experience and make a more universal statement.
    I try to be in touch with my work as a whole and, though I put a lot into each photograph and value them each individually, I'm very mindful of trajectories and arcs that occur over time.
     
  110. What is a great photograph? Is it a Jeff Wall, a Cindy Sherman, or maybe a Gursky? Or is it Adams or Weston? Or maybe they all are?
    There is a sense I get sometimes on these photosharing sites that people tend to think that being able to see is all there is to appreciating art, especially photographs. With most of the work that is posted that is certainly the case and I guess that conditions one to think that that is all there is to it. We can sometimes get lulled into believe art is only referential and an entertainment. In reality, art isn't that simple or that easy--thankfully. What we see is many times the expression of an investigation of a concept or idea. Without either personal synchronicity to those ideas or some external insight into the ideas being explored, one can only guess and likely misread what the image is, or images are, about. At times, we might get it, or we might kind of get it and at other times we might think we get it--or certainly many times not get it at all. Fred's description of his work way up above adds to how one might look at the work without his words. No, that wasn't his point, but writing those words gives more insight into the work than just guessing at what might be intended. The words add to the images, not detract.
    Certainly, in the end the image might need to "stand on its own", but that might be the product of learning what an image is about. What an image is about could be outside our current awareness and we might need to allow for that when we first see a work.
     
  111. John, nice points. I do think that accompanying statements can add greatly. In the case of what I said above, frankly, I don't know how much it would add to the viewers' experience of my photos. If it did add some texture for you, I would certainly understand and appreciate that, just as many statements I hear add something of value. I imagine many people wouldn't be interested in what I had to say but would still get a lot out of the photos. I'm not sure how easily "misread" my photos could be. I'm pretty accepting of a wide range of readings, and love hearing the variety of ways people see my work. Nevertheless, I do know that my articulating the things I said, to myself, and thinking about ways to communicate, convey, and show these things help make my work coherent and helps me to keep exploring what I want and may help the work have an impact, regardless of what that impact is for each person. This thoughtful articulation, for me, seems to go hand in hand with a kind of physical (of the senses) presence as well. And, whatever I articulate to myself is, hopefully, joined by some amount of spontaneity and surprise.
    I also remember that there are different types of photos. Documentary work can be different from work intended to tell fictions (or part fiction) which can be different from photos of flowers and insects. Photos of flowers, for example, don't often seem to have much "statement" associated with them, however I have certainly run across some that do. I think the statement made by various kinds of photographs are very different, and some are likely much more able to be verbalized than others.
    Again, I know a lot of fine photographers who haven't really made coherent photographic statements. Their photos are more like bursts of impulse and thought, but less connected to each other narratively, though some are very connected visually and in terms of the kind of emotional effect they have on me.
     
  112. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, I don't think you understand the difference between words and images. It's certainly possible to talk about images and to write parallel pieces related to them, but the confusion of ideas with words results in circumlocution, as around "statement."
    "Statement" is only a word. Used in a sentence it can help approximate an idea. Try it, you might like it.
    I "sniffed at" your alleged Picasso translation because you used it rather than personally coming to grips with an idea, and because Picasso was well known for invention of comments that gave the answers his fanboys and fangirls wanted. IMO it'd be better if you expressed your own ideas, rather than larding sentences up with dubious quotations.
     
  113. Do you have a photographic statement to make? Have you done so in your work overall or in some specific photo or photos? How has that come together for you?​
    Okay, Fred, I'll take a crack as summarizing my "photographic purpose," i.e. the "mission statement" that I've never bothered to commit to paper.
    My photographic mission is -
    - To make images that please my own eyes.
    - To enjoy the process of making photographs.
    - To be competent at making images in a variety of settings and genres.
    - To be skilled enough to make competent photographs regardless of my surroundings or the quality of the available light.
    - To create images that stir some emotion, memory, or sensibility in others: a recollection, a sense of wonder or surprise, pride in a well-crafted portrait or "action shot," a sense of place, etc.
    - To be able to convey through a photograph what it was like to be in a particular place at a particular time, or the essence of what it was like to have a particular experience.
    - To improve my skills and my understanding of the medium a little bit every year.
    - To get a chuckle out of the viewer once in a while.
    These objectives above apply to my photographs in general, not just selected images or collections. I would like to have a more voluminous catalog of images, but so far, so good on reaching the listed objectives.
     
  114. Fred ... "Many photographers aren't message oriented and can't, won't, or don't want to translate their work into a coherent and specific statement or can't, won't, or don't want to state a particular purpose. Many do. I do. One photographer told me today that he wishes he had gone in a photographic direction of "giving something back" in addition to creating photographs for their own sake."
    giving something back strikes a chord for me. Until recently I have not presented or pursued a message or question beyond a single image maybe a video or sometimes a loosely wrapped short series... but not an extended series or body of work that was bound by A message(s). I have admired those who do. But it was not a fit for me for my character as a person and a photographer. I have always been driven to look around the next corner and found it stifling to focus on a statement goal.
    Me. self reflection (that comes easy for me) ... no statement or message for others but just for me. selfish, i think so. I think i confused being true to myself with a even greater goal - 'give something back'. As i look back through 36 years of photography I fail to find a 'noble' bound statement... with regret.
    Taking a stand and remaining focused is admirable imo. but it's not me. There was a time when I photographed homelessness from the perspective/ experience of having been homeless. I couldn't stay focused long enough to create a statement. I spurt out my work and move on. Often i revisit familiar subjects but often with a different take or message even a different style. I am a reactive photographer and person. But i greatly admire well conceived & presented proactive works. I wish had found a way to be more proactive in my photography.
    I admire your current (and timely) photographic statement Fred. It has been a pleasure to watch it develop. And Phylo you are one hell of an editor in the making. The significance of good editing is enormous to making statements.
     
  115. Josh, knowing your work as well as I do (and I know you've withdrawn it from PN), I get what you're saying but at the same time think you are giving something back. No, it's not the same as the kind of documentary work or educational work or political activism or social encouragement that others are doing . . . and there is something to be said for that. But you are giving of yourself to this world, honestly and genuinely. That's not something often done by folks. Art (and I do consider your photos unabashedly to be art) gives back by its very nature. It enriches our lives. I figure we each do what we can . . . though we can change . . . at any age. So you may be heading for a change. Who knows? You've certainly given a lot to me over the years with your vision through your photos and your encouragement of my own work. Your photos don't necessarily provide the kind of "comfort" or pleasantry that the general public seems to want, but it does provide a reality check and a gut check. That's something that can have a profound effect on people . . . even if they'd prefer to avoid it a lot of the time.
    Your photos don't seem to be made for the sake of skill or even for the sake of making good photos. I ran up against that recently. I had a shoot a week or so ago where I got some shots with a lot of potential but all of them looked like attempts at making a certain type of photo. I wasn't strictly in tune with my subject and they look like I was more concerned with photography than expression. Maybe I just didn't let go enough. (?) I rarely get the sense you allow yourself that position. That may be your very statement.* I don't get the sense that photography is so much your goal as it is your means. That actually shows in your work.
    ________________________
    *Though I did mean, and I think you do understand, that I was asking about the more specific kinds of photographic statements (thread-like) that you allude to in your post and that I've been talking about throughout.
     
  116. . " In reality, art isn't that simple or that easy--thankfully. What we see is many times the expression of an investigation of a concept or idea. Without either personal synchronicity to those ideas or some external insight into the ideas being explored, one can only guess and likely misread what the image is, or images are, about"
    Photography is a visual statement where the viewer uses their own imagination, perceptions. To replace that with anothers vision and concepts takes away their own imagination and replaces it with something else. A bit like showing someone how to view by painting with numbers.
    A good photograph stands alone and is more than capable of exciting an individuals thinking and imagination.
     
  117. Allen, while a good photograph ( who's to define ? ) can stand alone, the question is why should a good photograph have to stand alone ? A rather archaic rule. And I think the viewer never uses their own imagination. That would reduce the photographer to "photograph". And a provided context by the photographer or critic ( read John Szarkowski's accompanying text with Atget photographs in Atget for example ) can be seen as not a replacement but as a great addition to the viewer's understanding and imagination and to the photographic fact or image in the photograph.
    Many photographers also view the photobook as the endpoint, or highest point of their ' statement', rather than the single framed image hanging on a wall, grouped or alone.
     
  118. Josh, remembering many of your photographs here, I too think - like Fred - that you did present a message within them, an undercurrent. And afterall, we all photograph / present / contextualise and view from out of our own reality tunnels.
     
  119. Sometimes I make statements, sometimes not.
    I definitely have a purpose. And this purpose has definitely become more focused over time.
    I have always photographed people, in the beginning for the purpose to record, now for the purpose to document.
    Having a purpose I think is one of my great achievements of the last years, even if I have been photographing since I was 14 years old. Within my purposes there might be making a statement.
    Two conditions need to come true:
    • I have to pre-visualise the statement
    • I need to be sufficiently capable to make that statement.
    As it stands now, the statements I aim at and are mostly bound to edited series of images. My capability of making statements is very much dependent on my "planning" ability. I need to have a statement upfront and then seek for images which are capable of making the statement I have in mind.
    Apparently, I'm developing this awareness now, I need to conceive the statement for myself upfront - well before I start to photograph - and then look for the situations, scenes, compositions and colours which make this statement real.
    As an example, at a certain point in time I started to observe elderly people, to consider them in their essence. This was just about after the death of my parents. I started considering their "evolution" over time, thinking of their past and their future.
    Until then I had considered them "instantly" and not in "evolutionary" terms.
    Upon these reflections I considered the elderly people in a different way. Thinking of how they established relationships with their surroundings and fellow humans. And I started to photograph them.
    This just to say that my eventual photographic statements on elderly people where the outcome of a different view and feeling of what was happening around me and that these statements were conceived outside image making.
    This in respect to making statements.
    Then there is the issue about how my statements are received, provided that they are received at all.
    Of course this is an extremely nuanced question, but in the end it is related to the actual correspondence with my feelings and statements in making the statement and the feeling and receptiveness of the viewer.
    I know how to strike the right emotional "chords" of people in my close circle, as John A had once named it. There are some strong, nearly universal, messages which strike the sensorial and emotional chords of the majority of viewers.
    But it is not always easy to conceive these messages.
     
  120. Luca, thanks. You arrived late but added such a nice personal and real touch. The statement you are setting out to make with your photographs is very nicely articulated (and I'm so grateful for your specificity) and I think it will help you to establish the kind of coherent photos you want to make. Yes, I agree that thinking about it can be an important part of the planning. Planning can be vital for some kinds of photos. Realizing something often requires a plan from which to realize. Of course, it doesn't have to.
    There are some strong, nearly universal, messages which strike the sensorial and emotional chords of the majority of viewers.​
    I very much agree with this. As you recognize, that's not to say that all viewers will react exactly the same and won't bring their own "stuff" to bear on your photos, but communication does take place and that's because of many shared understandings . . . which can be visual.
    Your Elderly People folder shows your willingness to see these folks as engaged and a part of something . . . rather than isolating them in order to gawk at them, which I see as the down side to a lot of photographs of both older and homeless people. It is respectful and seems to show moments of life, their life, not your simply observing them, for example, as curiosities. Your honesty with this work is genuine and not self conscious. From champagne and smiles to a mere drop in the letter box to the criss-crossing of hand gestures and walks on the street, it is textured, not just passively observed.
     
  121. Fred,
    thank you for your words on my Elderly People folder.
    I have a basic difficulty when I pursue my photography, and my statements: I am certain that without asking I take something away of the people I photograph, even if they are not aware of it. Because in a certain way I take control of a certain "slice" of their being. I put my subjects into a certain framework and I definitely manipulate them. And this is outside their control. In the case of elderly people it's even stronger, because many are weak.
    When I photograph somebody, in a way I oblige them, whether they are conscious or not, to entrust me their image without knowing me or what I am going to do with my capture.
    And a person's image is important.
    That's why I need to be engaged in the scenes I photograph, I need to be inside them, it's some sort of moral obligation I feel. And this is often a struggle with myself to frame and press the shutter. I now use mainly wide-angles, which force me to enter the scene and to engage myself directly.
    Coping with my feeling to "steal".
    The only things I can do is to get over myself and - differently from you, who establishes relationships before starting to photograph - try to establish some sort of reassuring relationship after I pressed the shutter.
     
  122. Luca, considering the ethics and effects of what you're doing has the potential to increase its depth. Some would caution you to just shoot and not second-guess yourself, or that you might be getting in your own way by over-thinking. I'm not one of them. What can happen with the kind of thoughtfulness we might put into this pursuit is that, if we are uncomfortable with something, first we can be aware of it and perhaps use it in deepening our photographs. Second, we might actually evolve and change as we assess what we're doing and we will still be on a search and a journey, but we will seek considered paths and solutions.
    Like you, I also feel a responsibility in terms of how I portray someone. It does get in my way sometime. That's OK. I then learn something and usually work through it. I don't feel as though I am taking something away from anyone, honestly, unless I do exploit them. (I do respect that you feel that way and think, over time, you will work that out.) Often, I find myself giving to someone I photograph. Even though they are right there with me when I shoot them, they're often surprised by what I see and come up with. I've had several of my subjects express wonderment and enlightenment about that. It seems I can provide them with glimpses into themselves that they hadn't quite considered before. Also, on a much more simple level, people like to see themselves as the star in a good photo, even if it is no great revelation to them. Nothing wrong with that!
    I think your idea of establishing a relationship after the shutter is pressed is a great one to pursue, whether that means ever talking to your subjects or not. How you view your subjects when you view your photos, the relationship you build to your own work (and that's very much part of the kind of "statement" some of us are talking about here) will have a profound effect on your future work, and therefore on the photographic statement you are making.
     
  123. Photography is a visual statement where the viewer uses their own imagination, perceptions. To replace that with anothers vision and concepts takes away their own imagination and replaces it with something else.​
    If we approach any art this way, then we are only getting a piece of what can be appreciated--or maybe miss it altogether. Japanese is a written language yet I doubt that most of us could look at a poem written in it and appreciate if what we saw was good or bad. We would need to learn the language or have it translated. Why do we think we can relate to a visual just because we see it. Certainly, we can appreciate many things on such a superficial basis and as such it might even strike us deeply--a Japanese scroll might be aesthetically pleasing as well even though we don't understand it--but be glorious once we understand it.
    Everyone has their way of approaching work, I just think it is more rewarding to sometimes discover a better way of looking at something than just what I understand today. If I don't get an artists work by just looking, then I want to investigate it and get a more educated appreciation of what they are doing. I may decide I love it or that it still doesn't ring my bell, but at least I know that by looking deeper, I have grown in the process. Some work that I haven't responded to initially, or even over time, has become more special to me because I kept learning more about it as I grew. There are also times I think I do get the work on my own and yet when I find out more about it, its context, I find that my own appreciation grows--sometimes I even learn that my own thoughts were not on target with the reason it was made and thus find there were two ways to enjoy it, which makes it all the more special.
     
  124. Yes, yes, incredibly late to join the party. I read through the thread with interest, and must say that the personal approaches of people are the most interesting to read. The words do add to their photos (as far as I can see them here), in the sense that it helps seeing the outlines of a 'body of work' (to paraphrase a much older thread).
    Do you make statements and have a purpose with regard to your photographs?​
    No, I think I don't, for both questions. If there is a purpose, it's a journey inwards for myself. I like being behind the viewfinder, observing and being alone there with the piece of world I am framing. It's between me and me, and what comes out of it seems to have the purpose to isolate that piece of world as it struck my attention. In this isolation, I notice I am/become much more receptive.
    Statements, hmmmm.... maybe what I share here? I do try, however, to let my photos just be what they are to whoever views them. On my p.net photos I do use titles, but I actually do not like that already too much. See in them what you want to see. If people find a deeper meaning, a protest statement, an outcry or whatever in my photos, great. I doubt whether I put it in there, but I do not feel a need to dictate the value to others. And vice versa (which happens far more often), people see nothing on photos I do value myself.
    Arguably, the lack of statement and purpose shining through to a viewer is my shortcoming, but well, still plenty to learn.
     
  125. "Allen, while a good photograph ( who's to define ? ) can stand alone, the question is why should a good photograph have to stand alone ? A rather archaic rule."
    I think we can all define what a good photograph is just by looking at it.. Why should it stand alone,why not? if you like to window dress is,why not. Better to window dress it, a bit of spit and polish, rather than being thought of as Archaic...perish the thought;)
    "And I think the viewer never uses their own imagination"
    We are an imaginative species we cannot help but use our imagination.
    One point i would concede is that a body of work with some discourse analysis could be helpful particulary for the Arty type of photography.
    "photobook as the endpoint, or highest point of their ' statement', rather than the single framed image hanging on a wall, grouped or alone."
    Most photographers are known for a small number of great photographs the rest follow along..with some polishing. The statement is always going to be the photograph no matter how many words you wrap around it.
     
  126. "And I think the viewer never uses their own imagination"

    We are an imaginative species we cannot help but use our imagination.​
    What I meant was that the viewer never uses their own imagination only, but also that of the photograph, the photographer who made it, and the context the photograph is placed and/or viewed in.
    Most photographers are known for a small number of great photographs the rest follow along..with some polishing. The statement is always going to be the photograph no matter how many words you wrap around it.​
    Perhaps. There are also artists who "simply" use photography to make a statement with. I'm not talking about whether or not photographers ( or photography ) are or can be artists, but artists in the most straightforward meaning of the word, who use photography to make their statements with, rather than making photographs as single statement(s).
    And then there are photographers who are some sort of blend between those two.
     
  127. Wouter, thanks for your answers to the question, which leave me with a couple of questions myself. You talk about isolating a piece of the world by framing within your lens and then you talk about isolation making you more receptive. Do you, yourself, feel isolated when behind the camera? Can you speak to the difference between the isolation you express and the increased receptivity you feel? That increased receptivity would seem to say something about your connectedness to your subject or at least to your photo-making. If I'm reading you correctly, it sounds like you experience a chasm between yourself and the viewer ("See in them what you want to see. If people find a deeper meaning, a protest statement, an outcry or whatever in my photos, great. I doubt whether I put it in there . . .") Do you ever feel more connected to a viewer when they say something about a photo that rings true for you? Have viewers expressed things to you that remind you of your own feelings about a photo or about your own feelings when you took a photo? Would that provide any kind of counterpoint to your doubt that you put something there that they were in touch with?
    I'm glad you brought up value, because it's not something we talk about a lot. It might be a good topic for a thread of its own. I hadn't really considered whether making a statement necessarily entails values, probably less aware that it might entail dictating them. I'm not sure all statements entail taking a stand. Maybe not. Maybe some photographic statements are more a matter of questioning coherently. One can guide a classroom, a reader, an audience, a viewer to a line of questioning without necessarily supplying answers, and yet effecting questioning can itself suggest values. One can also be more leading toward answers and that might more obviously entail value. Do you feel in any way responsible for your photos and does that responsibility suggest something about values to you?
     
  128. "Do you feel in any way responsible for your photos and does that responsibility suggest something about values to you?"
    Responsible in what way? What are these values?
    The world "as it is" seems to me the greatest responsibility and value. Do we have to hide those values and responsibility because of the current ever changing mores and values of society. Or, perhaps we we should hide them to protect the vanity of subjects we photograph.
    What we see is the honesty anything else is what we are told to see.
     
  129. If there is a purpose, it's a journey inwards for myself. I like being behind the viewfinder, observing and being alone there with the piece of world I am framing. It's between me and me, and what comes out of it seems to have the purpose to isolate that piece of world as it struck my attention. In this isolation, I notice I am/become much more receptive. - Wouter​
    The photographer as wanderer. Wandering, wondering, *click*, got it. A statement to yourself and your self in the world.
     
  130. An open society is a healthy society.
     
  131. If there is a purpose, it's a journey inwards for myself. I like being behind the viewfinder, observing and being alone there with the piece of world I am framing. It's between me and me, and what comes out of it seems to have the purpose to isolate that piece of world as it struck my attention. In this isolation, I notice I am/become much more receptive. (Wouter)​
    Very interesting statement. Aren't we in the end photographing for ourselves? To look at our own statements and viewing our own purposes? Can we just rely on the capability of viewers to capture the tiniest element we want to include in our images?
    The ideal coincidence by two perceptions, the author's and the viewer's, isn't it utopia? If the viewer could exactly read the author's statement, then there would be a perfect coincidence between the two. Is it realistic that this might happen? Wouldn't it imply the con-fusion of the two individualities (producing and viewing)?
    Maybe we photographers are producing statements for ourselves. When others read our statements, they could have a more or less coinciding view. But it's more likely not to coincide because of the different individualities. The more complex the statement, the less
    When others read different statements in our photos than we intended, in some way they betray our purpose as authors.
    I also see a correlation between the elementarity of a statement and the legibility of a statement. The more simple the photo, the more the statement is universally legible.
     
  132. Luca, the communication between photographer and viewer is only utopian if put in all-or-nothing terms, only if idealized. Sure, the viewer exactly reading the author's statement is unrealistic.
    We communicate without exactly doing anything all the time. The kind of statement I'm talking about is not precise and is not understood precisely. That doesn't mean that some connection and understanding between photographer and viewer doesn't take place.
    More complex statements don't have to mean less understanding or empathy. They can mean more suggestiveness and potential. Connecting through suggestion and possibility is much more the kind of connection I want than connecting through precision or factual accuracy.
    For me, it's not about the coincidence of photographer and viewer. It's a vicarious communication and relationship.
     
  133. Fred,
    you are right and I was thinking of some specific situations where the lack of coincidence is particularly extreme.
    I agree when you mention the vicarious relationship, which seems to me pointing at integration and complementarity. It's very true, a viewer can complement the statement of the photographer.
    However it takes very skilled viewers to achieve this vicarious relationship.
    The problem with my statement is that we are dealing with human beings and their relationships, culture and emotions. A common ground can be there but is not necessarily there.
    A "statement" requires a "common language". Not necessarily all terms of the "vocabulary" are the same, but the more correspondence there is, the better the statement creates a connection between author and viewer.
    Maybe the term "coincidence" I used was wrong, or in the wrong acceptation. I was thinking of some sort of correspondence.
    And of course photographers are able to conceive complex statements and there are viewers who can understand and empathise these statements, they might even be able to elaborate on the statements and expand them.
    But still I believe that this is not very common.
    L.
     
  134. I wrote previously of the epiphenomenal nature of statements that emerge from one's photography and the autobiographical aspect is one such. A former student of mine progressed to take a degree in photography and in her final year show she intended to make a statement about her metamorphosis to the status of 'artist'. Ironically, the work was so perfused with ego and so unsubtle that the autobiographical statement was smothered in kitsch. Hence, I contend that we should simply follow our Muse, see where it leads us and discover something of ourselves in the process.
     
  135. Chris, I appreciate the anecdote and recognize the dangers of overindulgence. At the same time, there are many statements of great significance made with a combination of intention, skill, coherence, and expressiveness. Statements can emerge and they can also be very deliberately hewn. There can also be an emergent character to a carefully-shaped statement. The most intentional of approaches to a photograph or body of work can allow for accident and surprise.
    Luca, yes. There are so many different ways to photograph. I do think some photographers have a more solipsistic approach, which does show in their work and it can be incredibly moving and/or meaningful. I agree that some statements and even some non-statement photographs seem to demand a visually literate viewer. Other statements simply require the skill or desire of the photographer or can be as emergent as Chris describes and will become clear to most viewers fairly readily.
     
  136. jtk

    jtk

    Parallel comments in "Casual Conversations" :
    "What subjects do you shoot and why and how do you photograph them?"

    Most of those comments seem to describe what the photographers actually do, which isn't quite the same as announcing "statements" or finding them in their work. Slightly, but significantly different.
    I think those comments are descriptive, aspiring less to ideas than to photography.
     
  137. Fred,
    Thanks, your questions help me a lot again formulating a bit better (also for myself!) what goes on behind that viewfinder...
    Do you, yourself, feel isolated when behind the camera? Can you speak to the difference between the isolation you express and the increased receptivity you feel?​
    Yes, I do feel isolated. Not in a "lonely" sense, but in some sort of exclusivity. When I frame (sometimes a split second, sometimes I take my time), it seems to close off the rest of the world. It's, I guess, working very intently with the scene I envision to get it the way I want it. So, the increased receptivity I should possibly rephrase a little to be an awareness of the framing I want, which would tell the story correctly as I saw it. In a sense connected to the scene, maybe more to my ideas on that scene. Disconnected, since I'm frequently working from a physical distance.
    I should note, this obviously does not apply to all photos, but even when taking photos of something like birds playing around in the harbour, for example; I am very closed off and somewhat hyper-actively following what's happening, hoping to catch that one scene with the right graphical appeal to me. Possibly this is also because my 'way of working' orchestrates nothing about the photo; so, I don't make the scene look the way I want, I just hope it happens.
    One of the things I feel I am still learning better is to not do *click* when I know it's just not working. Learning to wait more and let pass when it's not what I hoped for.
    Do you ever feel more connected to a viewer when they say something about a photo that rings true for you? Have viewers expressed things to you that remind you of your own feelings about a photo or about your own feelings when you took a photo? Would that provide any kind of counterpoint to your doubt that you put something there that they were in touch with?​
    Yes and no; I am pleased when people pick up on what made me make the photo in the first place. Eventually, I do hope to be an effective (visual) communicator through photos, so if this happens it boosts morale.
    My point here was more about statements, in the sense of people stating that a photo is addressing some social/political/environmental issue. I took some photos on a (for me) nearby archeological spot, with a very ancient Greek village (~700 bC), surrounded by petrochemical industry. I could mark those photos as a protest against that industry, as a sign of changing times, as mark of how the local government disregards these archeologic spots etc. For me, they are just photos of that spot. The place itself tells the story eloquently enough, and I'll leave people to make up their mind on what it signifies. The photo just shows how I've seen it. My opinion may shine through, but whether it effectively communicates it, I wonder.
    When I show people this serie of photos, some have commented it's such a pity. And I'll share my opinion on how I perceive this spot. I like this sequence of events better - it means my photo achieved something, and that's make others think. Now, I do not see this as a statement, since I'm avoiding to stress my point.
    Which indeed leads to a question of responsibility. It sounds like I am trying to avoid that, which is not the case. I hope, one day, I will be able to challenge my viewers. Challenge them into thinking of their opinion, and taking their stand. So, in the end once I grow up, I'd prefer to communicate a question rather than my point of view. Maybe there is a purpose.... Hope this lengthy reply makes a bit more sense on what I was trying to say earlier. (*)
    Phylo, wondering wanderer - now there's a verbal homerun for me. Yes.
    Luca,
    Aren't we in the end photographing for ourselves?​
    Yes, I think so. We express ourselves to confirm ourselves and our self-image, I think. When talking, when writing, when.... so yes, also in photography. But whether that makes coincidence by two perceptions an utopia (I left out the word ideal on purpose), that may be a step further. Totally the same perception, sure it's not going to happen. But as a communicator I could have the ability to guide the viewer where I want them to be. I could be more empathic to my viewer and arrange my work in such a way that I know up front the chances of getting the message across is higher. I would not need to sacrifice myself, while being a better communicator.
    Actually, re-reading your reply another time, it sounds to me you state it a bit harsher than I would, while we're actually not too far apart on this point.
    Fred, Chris,
    a combination of intention, skill, coherence, and expressiveness​
    Isn't this where the Muse took you so far? The intention, coherence and expressiveness as lessons taken from the part where we discover something of ourselves in the process ? Skill being maybe a bit the odd one in the list, though I think we all pick that up to some extend as we grow.
    ________________________________
    (*) Much of what I allude to hear, are aspirations rather than things you'll find in my photos now; as Luca says, it takes a very skilled photographer, and quoting on, I am mostly just following my Muse....
     
  138. jtk

    jtk

    Chris Waller wrote: "... in her final year show she intended to make a statement about her metamorphosis to the status of 'artist'. Ironically, the work was so perfused with ego and so unsubtle that the autobiographical statement was smothered in kitsch. Hence, I contend that we should simply follow our Muse, see where it leads us and discover something of ourselves in the process."

    Yes. Or maybe the same, "should" have enough faith in ourself (the self that evolves over time) to do and respect our work without reducing it verbal formulations. That faith may allow more of the exploration that can lead to discoveries.
    Some highly productive photographers make statements introducing or framing projects, rather than pretending those statements have to do with who they are or what they're fundamentally about. For example, Lee Friedlander does one project after another accompanying each one with its own statement. The statements aren't about LF, they're about projects that stand independently... they're works, after all, not accidents or X-rays of his soul.
     
  139. Wouter, I'm not sure whether "craft" might have been a better word than "skill," maybe even "technique." In any case, I'll use "craft." I see craft as somewhat inseparable from the others, because it is with the craft that I can gain coherence and expressiveness, the kind of subtlety and nuance necessary to do more than the obvious, if I so choose, or even accomplish the obvious if that's what I choose.
    As far as Muse, for me it's a back and forth. The Muse does carry me along, but the intention and thoughtfulness, the skill and expressiveness bring me to the Muse as well.
    I am not photographing for myself (though I do so in small part). Honestly, I'm not all that independent. Perhaps, in some ways co-dependent, perhaps in some ways more community- or socially-oriented. Because I work with live subjects, I often consider it a joint project and am in a position to be photographing with and for those subjects as well as for myself. I do want to reach out to a viewer, so I am mindful of that viewer even if I don't compromise my vision for that viewer. As Luis noted above, I do show something about us as well as about myself. It's why I said my work feels less like a diary and more like a statement than, for example, Nan Goldin's work, which I think appears to be more personal. Though I am photographing people in my close-knit community (in at least the work I'm concentrating on in this thread), they are often not people I know well or am in intimate relationships with. In that sense, perhaps I remain a little more distanced than some others who I also greatly admire and respect and whose work I certainly appreciate and love.
     
  140. Wouter, thank you for the response. It was just enough to convey something significant about your thinking on the matter. I appreciate your sharing it. And it nicely supplemented what you originally said. It does not sound like you are trying to avoid responsibility.
     
  141. "respect our work without reducing it verbal formulations."
    "they're works, after all, not accidents or X-rays of his soul."
    Two good points. It is all to easy to loose ourselves in too much soul searching and trying to reduce our work to verbalization...I cannot help thinking we loose something in the translation. A photograph is a act of creativity both for the photographer and viewer and that is simply the enjoyment of it.
     
  142. Well if it's fixed it ain't loose.
    ( you have to shake it like a polaroid picture if you want to lose it )
     
  143. You mean something like this.
    " This knot is too loose. Please do not lose my book.
    I had better not lose that file."
    Hey, I was typing real quick that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it;) I did not want that gold star anyway.
     
  144. jtk

    jtk

    My sense is that concern with "statement, " unless it's "explaining" a project to non-photographers (as in galleries), is usually intended to focus on the photographer...intended to draw attention away from the viewer's personal appreciation of the work itself. That's why statements are so self-referential.
     
  145. Evans's approach eventually became Szarkowski's essential position on the medium. In 1971 he wrote, "The photographer must define his subject with an educated awareness of what it is and what it means; he must describe it with such simplicity and sureness that the result seems an unchallengeable fact, not merely the record of a photographer's opinion; yet the picture itself should possess a taut athletic grace, an inherent structure, that gives it a life in metaphor." He continued, "Evans at his best convinces us that we are seeing the dry bones of fact, presented without comment, almost without thought. His lesser pictures make it clear that the best ones had deceived us: what we had accepted as simple facts were precise descriptions of very personal perceptions."


    http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/05/theory-master-of-medium-maria-morris.html
     
  146. "were precise descriptions of very personal perceptions."

    The photograph as the statement of those personal perceptions.
     
  147. If the photographs created themselves, some of the comments above might be totally true, but they do not. In the case of Evans, he was a very literary man, and a failed writer. He coujld, and did, talk and write about photographs, and that did not hurt his place in the history of the medium one bit. Anything that we do can be expressed at least partially through more than one of our sensory modalities. Doing so is more fully using our human faculties, not less.
    Fred's original definition of statement has been distended as the thread wears on. It is not an artists' statement, or a short verbal explanation of the work, though it can be expressed verbally, by some, and discerned by many viewers -- even where the photographer can't see it.
     
  148. He was a documentry photograph, a moralist, with linguistic skills. Those linguistic skills helped to give documentry content to his revelations. However, it is all about his photographs, which were his final statement.

    Absolutely, those photographs can stand alone without even a whisper of a word.
     
  149. Alan Herbert - "Absolutely, those photographs can stand alone without even a whisper of a word."
    That's a charming retro notion, circa 1965 Modernist. The truth is that the photograph has real antecedents. It came from someone, who saw it, got it made into final form, using specific materials in a specific culture, and timespace coordinates. It also has conceptual antecedents, in the case of Evans, most notably, Atget (among many others). And descendents, most notably William Eggleston (among many others). You can cookie-cutter/excise anything out of its context, and loudly proclaim: "Look it stands alone" and "Look, Ma, no words", but it's an absurdity. It didn't spring whole out of the vacuum.
    Everything lives in a web of being.
     
  150. Language is fossil poetry.
    The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.


    - Ralph Waldo Emerson​
     
  151. Phylo, very nice word smithing. Thanks for sharing.
    Luis, perhaps I'm not explaining my thoughts adequately,or, perhaps you are missing my point. So, I'm going to take your hand and together we will walk through this until we have a mutual understanding.

    "That's a charming retro notion, circa 1965 Modernist."
    When I hear the world modernist, and other such cataloging terminology I think of an outworldly place. There's a little hunched back man with a handfuls of photographs looking at endless rows of filing cabinets stretching before him. Every photograph taken, every photograph to be taken, he is cataloging to the end of time, in those endless rows of filing cabinets. Not that its got anything to do with our discussion, it just popped up in my mind unbidded really.
    "The truth is that the photograph has real antecedents"
    So, he was influenced by others, to a lesser or greater degree, as we all are consciously or sub consciously. I do not see the relevance in this discussion.
    "You can cookie-cutter/excise anything out of its context, and loudly proclaim: "Look it stands alone" and "Look, Ma, no words", but it's an absurdity. It didn't spring whole out of the vacuum."
    Who has been saying than anything springs out of a vaccum? What I have been saying is the photographs are good enough thay are capable of standing alone without dialogue or even context. Indeed, without a word about them being whispered.
    Of course Evans was doing a documentry, and a documentry is usually occupied with words and a contex. We can take that as given.
    I would like to refer you to the photographs of Vivian Maier a" nanny with a camera". These photographs were found by accident when she was deceased. She was unable to give soul searching intimacies, or, explain why she took this or that photograph. Neverthless, they are great photographs, and like Evans work if found in an attic.......
    " can stand alone without even a whisper of a word regardless of charming retro notions, circa 1965 Modernist.2"



    My case: I rest it.
     
  152. jtk

    jtk

  153. I have statement.
    Share beauty of nature through black and white.
    Photography is art for me , I am trying to record all beautiful shows nature is giving me.
    Fine Art photography is the way to do it , it works for me and I hope I can translate it well.
    Black and white pictures are great way to show that simplicity wins.
     

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