Reality and the viewfinder

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by vale_surfer, Mar 17, 2004.

  1. Is what you see through the lens real?Actually, it isn't too
    different from what you want to see or what you may have been trained
    to see.Reality may be transient and the photographer ,in my opinion,
    is faced with the choice of reacting to what he sees through the
    lens/viewfinder or making a conscious effort to peel off "layers" of
    reality to get closer to an honest image. I found this to be the case
    for images of unfamiliar objects,places, or people.Having said
    that,several photographers, much like writers, have managed to
    capture the essence of exotic or unfamiliar subjects in their first
    few attempts.

    Do you always trust your viewfinder?
     
  2. Whatever frame we choose to look onto the world through affects what we see. From within your car or a tourist-bus, from within a cafe or a cliff lookout, looking out of the window of your sea-side hotel room or through your viewfinder.

    As for your question, the viewfinder is just a link in the chain between the world and your brain processing the info. Even my frame of mind affects how I feel what I see through the viewfinder. On a bad day the viewfinder can feel cramped and opressive while on good days it can be expansive and enhancing.

    And yes switching from looking through sunglasses to looking through a viewfinder changes the scene before me. It is not a matter of do I trust the change the viewfinder imposes but does it reflect what I see in the scene, or as you say draw out the essence. Though is "the essence" what we should be striving for? Life is not always about the essence of a moment.

    One of those questions that generates even more questions :-D
     
  3. Percieved reality is actuality filtered through all your individual past experiences. Good artists can learn to either remove preconceptions and try to see the actuality or they can fully capitalize on their perceptions. Unfamiliar objects are more easily approachable for the artist because their aren't multitudes of preconceptions attached to them. If you ever see the work of the Dadaists, they take common objects and juxtapose them in different ways to remove commonly held views. A toilet can be viewed out of its context to be seen as a unique object without emotional attachments. The trick is to train your mind to see with a naivety associated with unknown things.
     
  4. I don't look through the viewfinder until I've already examined the image with
    my eye. First I always carry croppers when I work, when i see something that
    interests me I view it through croppers. Then as I view the image I will start to
    dodge and burn the image in my mind. Sometimes I'll shoot a polaroid and
    then apply the croppers to the polaroid. After I do all of that I'll do my more
    serious composing in the camera. The image in the camera however rarely
    looks like that on my prints as I manipulate the image greatly in the darkroom.


    www.kosoff.com
     
  5. "Do you always trust your viewfinder?"

    Why would anyone "trust a viewfinder"? The viewfinder is part of a tool - the camera. That's like saying to a painter - "do you trust your paintbrush?" The answer, of course, to both of those questions is - I trust myself.

    You defined this in terms of picturing reality. Bad news, your reality is different than my reality. Or, by using the camera differently you may not be trying to show a photo of reality (a scene of some type) at all. Set the shutter for 1 second - move the camera during exposure. Does that make a photo of the reality in front of you? In a way yes, but it has little to do with capturing "an honest image."

    If you're talking about distilling something you perceive to its essence and depicting that in a photograph - the viewfinder has little do with it other than providing the fixed boundaries in which you have to work. The work itself is done internally with your eyes and mind.
     
  6. There is only one reality and perceptions have nothing to do with it. The schizophrenic may percieve that the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover is speaking to him through his microwave oven but that don't make it so!

    I remember somebody in one of my University classes trying to argue that we were all simply figments of his own imagination and that if he closed his eyes then we would all cease to exist. So he closed his eyes and turned his back and said, we were gone! So, I bounced a chalkboard eraser off his head. Wow! I wonder where THAT came from?

    So the fact that you want to imagine that perceptions have some control over reality doesn't stop the bullet from killing you. As they say, Samson was surprised when he was killed by David's stone because such a thing have never entered his mind before!

    There is no need to 'peel off layers' to get to the truth because the layers are part of the 'truth' and every piece you take away moves you further away. What we may think is the 'essence' of a subject is, in every case, an oversimplification of the complexity that comprises the reality. What we see through the viewfinder is nothing more than reflected light. But the photons that comprise that light are real. The objects that reflected those photons are likewise real. Does a photograph reproduce reality? Of course not. Or else a picture of a house would weigh as much as a house and be as big as a house and be 3 dimensional (like a house). A photograph is a capture (by chemical or electronic means) of the pattern of light reflected by an object. It is a real physical process. What happens when we hold the print in our hand is our psychological reaction to the image. It is what we read into it and that may have little or no relation to the reality of the original subject.

    As human beings, we like to tell stories and when we see a photograph, we sometimes make up a story to suit ourselves and tell ourselves that we know something about the 'reality' of the slice of time we have viewed. Do our imaginings and feelings encompass the 'reality' of the subject? No, but that doesn't mean that there is not an absolute reality...a truth...somewhere that we can never hope to grasp...so we settle for approximations.
     
  7. Just because the image in the viewfinder looks in focus. Doesn't mean it is in focus. I do not trust the viewfinder. :p
     
  8. Do you always trust your viewfinder?
    I trust myself to try to translate a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional tableau that I find compelling or at least interesting.
    Reality may be transient
    Reality is permanent. Moments are transitory, peceptions are imperfect.
    a conscious effort to peel off "layers" of reality to get closer to an honest image.
    Honest or truthful images do not need to be faithful to a particular moment in time as caught on sprocketed film.
     
  9. i do trust my viewfinder only in total darkness.
     
  10. "There is only one reality and perceptions have nothing to do with it. "

    Is an interesting but narrow statement. 'Reality' is entirely a matter of individual perception and the chalk bouncing off your skull can be interpreted in any one of a number of ways or even ignored altogether.

    Which brings us back to the question: what you see through the lens is a function of what you choose to look at. Most beginning photographers, certainly those using film cameras, are quite surprised when they see the results. "That telegraph pole wasn't there", "Where are uncle Joe's feet?" or "I didn't see a bear, did you see a bear?"

    With practice, photographers learn to select the reality they wish to present by selecting the area, the depth of field and the tonal range. Some go further, inserting people who were never present, but that's probably a discussion for the digital fora.
     
  11. Peeling off layers of reality to get closer to a dishonest image would be accurate as one can't peel off reality and expect to be left with anything resembling reality:)

    What's in the view finder is real. It's no less real then what one sees though the lense of their eye. The only difference is that it's been refracted a few more times.

    I think the question has to do more with, "Is what one sees in a view finder similar to what we see in real life?", as opposed to a question of what's real.

    Another question might ponder, wraps around the concept of how much does the photographer, intentionally or unintentionally, distort reality to serve their personal needs or whims.

    People worry too much about reality because it reflects their insecurities. This philosophical comment might help; "Reality is, whether or not we perceive it."

    Reality is in front of you all the time, at every turn of the corner. No matter how far and fast you run, you're always here and everything else is there. If you consider reality in the same light as a front running shadow, you'll become more comfortable with it:)

    I don't know if my above helps give you an answer or not but I do hope it does by sharing the above insight.
     
  12. All of the answers to your question so far have involved various degrees of personal sophistry.<bR>Your question is best answered this way: set up a tripod, fit a loaded, ready to shoot camera upon it, point it at a busy (beach, corner, walkway or whatever), set it up to make 1 exposure every 10 seconds for say 3 minutes and walk away.<p> Whatever the camera captures in your absence was "Reality" as it was captured at that moment.<br>It is thus folly to ascribe anything more to it.<p>I worked as PJ for 37 years. The first question is moot to a working PJ. Just like an Air Force A-10 Warthog fighter jet, we PJs hunt "Targets of opportunity", shooting whatevr we find assigned to us or falls into our viewfinder. I can't ever remember "picking and choosing" what to shoot: you get to an assigned venue, make your tests, shoot the venue (for venue identificaltion and establishing shots) and get ready for the principles. <p>Only when one has thoughts of being an "Artist" does one have the luxury of philosophical introspection and that, a truly personal struggle in itself and hard to explain to others.<p>I'm lucky: I don't have one "Artistic" bone in my body and my more than 460,000 film shots were mostly unplanned, "on the fly" shots connected with my many PJ assignments.
     
  13. "All of the answers to your question so far have involved various degrees of personal sophistry."


    Really? All of them? What arguments have you found in the responses appear correct but are actually invalid? What is the difference between "sophistry," and "personal sophistry"?


    "I worked as PJ for 37 years. The first question is moot to a working PJ. "

    No, it was just moot to YOU as a working PJ. It's not moot to people like Jim Nachtway.



    "Just like an Air Force A-10 Warthog fighter jet, we PJs hunt "Targets of opportunity", shooting whatevr we find assigned to us or falls into our viewfinder. I can't ever remember "picking and choosing" what to shoot: you get to an assigned venue, make your tests, shoot the venue (for venue identificaltion and establishing shots) and get ready for the principles."


    Once again, that was YOUR mode of operation.



    "Only when one has thoughts of being an "Artist" does one have the luxury of philosophical introspection and that, a truly personal struggle in itself and hard to explain to others."

    Your problem with this is? Spoken like a true machine gun PJ.


    "I'm lucky: I don't have one "Artistic" bone in my body and my more than 460,000 film shots were mostly unplanned, "on the fly" shots connected with my many PJ assignments."


    Yeah, well I guess quantity has a quality all its own...
     
  14. If one real reality exists, we as humans have no way of knowing it. There is no reason to expect rality to be like the images we perceive in our brain, brought about by electrical signals from our eyes.
    A photojournalist does always select images from the zillions presented to him. He (she) does manipulate "reality", it comes with the job. The job is to select that one image or series of images that makes sense out of a situation. To make sense, the photojournalist must understand the situation and have a subjective opinion about it. Then the job is to translate that opinion in an image or a series that communicates that opinion to the viewer.
    I trust my viewfinder as part of my working tool: a camera.
     
  15. I've found the camera to be a fantastic liar. Because by necessity the viewfinder can only frame a fraction of what is before the camera, what is not framed, the rest of the story, can become fictional. The framed image becomes a fragment of the moment, outside the view of the lens the mind can wander where it will. So relationships between subjects and objects can become lost, context can become changed, place can be misconstrued.
    This is the palate of the photographer.
     
  16. In my opinion, everything you see through the lens is real. Despite what happens in the physical universe and avoiding any "if a tree falls..." discussions, there exist multiple realities.

    I have always felt that the same way you can't have an Up without a Down, you can't have a reality without a perception. I have spent the last couple of years learning about photography so I could employ it as a tool. The shots I am about to start creating will all be staged scenarios, but(hopefully) no one will be able to tell just by looking. Instead, the messaged conveyed will be a reality not physically present in the photograph (think sad people in dark suits, without actually showing they are mourners at a funeral, for example). But now I'm rambling on..

    Do I trust my viewfinder? I think that's an incomplete question.
    Do I trust what I see in the viewfinder to be in focus? sure.
    Do I trust my viewfinder to show me what will be composed in the shot? mostly.

    But do I trust my viewfinder to confirm that I'm capturing reality? Yes, but not always the one I wanted it to be.
     
  17. The camera is superior to the eye, and the photograph can, and ideally should, portray the world more graphic than reality itself.
    (No points if you google the answer.)
     

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