Road and Street (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, May 20, 2017.

  1. Michael,
    The OP seeks to distinguish between a road and a street, where road is the main conduit connecting cities and towns, while street is the smaller capillary within each city. I was going by that definition, but I agree with you, some roads do evoke feelings of familiarity especially with familiar places that the road connects to. But, in my mind, the road extends further, transcending the familiar into the unknown territory. Street on the other hand, confines itself within the town, it's people and neighborhoods, and hence more to do with the familiar. This is just my feeling. Also, I didn't want to stress on every road, rather road in general. I would accept exceptions to what I described.

    I like your example. I don't know whether it qualifies as road, or street, probably both. Such a road (or street) does evoke the sensations of peace and contentment.
    DavidTriplett likes this.

  2. Just to reinforce what Supriyo has written, something can have multiple symbolic meanings or suggestions or inferences, and those multiples need not agree. They may be divergent or even in contradictory. That's what makes them so much fun to feel out and play with; the infinite variations of different inflections and combinations. I'll try to dig up some good examples in the morning.
  3. What difference does any of this stuff make to your photography?

    Interpretation(s) (meanings)* are from essences and/or are from symbolism. Take your pick.

    Here is Roland Barthes writing against symbolism (our everywhere modern mythology):

    I resented seeing Nature and History confused at every turn, and I wanted to track down,in the decorative display of what-goes-without-saying, the ideological abuse which, in my view, is hidden there.

    Right from the start, the notion of myth seemed to me to explain these examples of the falsely obvious.

    [ ... ]

    The function of myth is to empty reality: it is, literally, a ceaseless flowing out, a hemorrhage, or perhaps an evaporation, in short a perceptible absence.

    ... every day and everywhere, man is stopped by myths, referred by them to this motionless prototype which lives in his place, stifles him in the manner of a huge intestinal parasite and assigns to his activity the narrow limits within which he is allowed to suffer without upsetting the world: bourgeois pseudo-physis is in the fullest sense a prohibition for man against inventing himself. Myths are nothing but this ceaseless, untiring solicitation, this insidious and inflexible demand that all men recognize themselves in this image, eternal yet bearing a date, which was built of them one day as if for all time. For nature, in which they are locked up under the pretext of being eternalized, is nothing but a Usage. And it is this Usage, however lofty, that they must take in hand and transform.

    ... Here is a language which resists myth as much as it can: our poetic language. ... t is all the potential of the signified that the poetic sign tries to actualize, in the hope of at least reaching something like the transcendent quality of the thing, its natural (not human) meaning. ... [M]yth is a semiological system which has the pretension of transcending itself into a factual system; poetry is a semiological system which has the pretension of contracting into an essential system.

    [ ... ]

    The language of the image is not merely the totality of utterance emitted (for example at the level of the combiner of signs or creator of the message), it is also the totality of utterances received.

    [ * variations in readings [between people or in the same person] is not ... anarchic; it depends on the different kinds of knowledge — practical, national, cultural, aesthetic — invested in the image ... — Barthes]
  4. Blah, blah, blah. Theory. Who needs it?

    One can do very many important and valuable things without theory, such as talking and listening, loving and hating, fighting and making up, taking pleasure and causing pain, but thinking is not among them. Where there is no theory, there is no active thought; there is only impression.

    [ ... ]

    ... it is [the] process of prefiguring a referent, so as to constitute it as a possible object of cognition, which distinguishes interpretation from, both description and explanation alike.

    ... Although an interpretation typically wishes to speak the literal truth about its objects of interest, it is generated by a fundamental sense of the inadequacy of any convention of literalness to the representation of those objects. And this is why all genuinely interpretive discourse must always appear as both a play of possible figurations of its objects of interest and an allegorization of the act of interpretation itself. — Hayden White
  5. “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
    ― John Wilmot
  6. Symbols and symbolism, theories and theorizing can be just fine.

    The problem is that one can start out talking about roads and streets in photography and end up theorizing about theories.
  7. Getting back to roads and streets for a minute, because they generally have corners, stoplights, and intersections, streets have a more staccato feel, emotionally and visually. Roads are more continuous, sustained, more legato and fluid.
    DavidTriplett likes this.

  8. Yes. Thanks. I was trying to give an "other side of the story" which I think he does very well. If I'd quoted further (screams of horror) I could have given a more balanced treatment.

    I like symbols; they seem to me to be delicious multi-faceted, multi-faced motifs that I can play with and see and not-see as I imaginatively "turn" a picture in my mind.

    I "know" it's there, and it falls "into place" according to that intuitive recognition, but I think I find all of the "turnings-into" when it's a picture. Pictures are so different ...
  9. Dorothea Lange has a picture, Tractored Out, that has no road in it and which I find terrifying because of the missing road.
  10. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    that's a great picture.
  11. It was a fair trade
    I took away some dust on my boots from that road
    And left a piece of my heart in its place
    The dust is long gone from those boots
    And I am long gone from that forest
    But part of me still beats on
    In that country road
    Country Road 2  1997.jpg
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
  12. Thanks, Supriyo, for your thoughtful response. A road may be unfamiliar initially to the person who travels it, but this does not prevent the person from returning to it, perhaps on multiple occasions. In such instance, familiarity does not distract from traveling the road; instead it may enhance it.
  13. ... these joggers sleepwalking in the mist like shadows that have escaped from Plato's cave.​

    I ran across that in while skimming Jean Baudrillard's America for his views on our streets and roads. It made me laugh — as did his many other acrid, over-the-top comments on joggers (and America).

    Baudrillard's jogger, our joggers would pretty much ruin the photos posted to or linked in this thread. That is, except for Steve Murray's picture. I think a sleepwalking jogger in his street picture would make a lovely variant.
  14. But . . . if there had been joggers on the roads of the photos posted to this thread, the pictures would be different pictures, not the same pictures with joggers in them, at least if they were being made by discerning photographers, which I suspect would be the case. Joggers, like telephone polls, don't have to be a blight on a photographer's sense of purity of land or moment.
  15. Julie, I wonder if Baudrillard's interpretation of the Cave is correct. If memory is at least a little accurate, didn't Plato's allegory address the cave-dweller, rather than the shadows per se? If "cave-dweller" were substituted for "shadows" in your quote, would that make a difference in your comment?
  16. Michael, I think Plato, in his allegory, was addressing both the cave dweller and the shadows. The cave dwellers' perceptions and knowledge were in question and the reality represented by the shadows were in question.

    The way I read Baudrillard, from this snippet, is that he's attributing an unreality to the sleepwalking joggers, since they are likened to the shadows of Plato's cave, which represent a removal from reality. Things, not just joggers, in mist, can take on an almost unreal guise, as if they are mere apparition.

    There's likely an element of put-down regarding joggers at play here as well. Plato had a lack of respect for things removed from reality or true knowledge, like shadows and representational art.
    Last edited: May 24, 2017
  17. Michael, in any case, though I do think the image of the joggers in the mist is faithful to Plato (even though I disagree with Plato while still loving so many of his ideas), for me the visual and mental photographic images conjured by
    Baudrillaire's analogy are important notwithstanding their also being accurate with regard to Plato.
  18. Also, to answer the question you posed, had B said the joggers were like the cave dwellers instead is the shadows, to my mind it wouldn't have been as effective or visual an analogy and would have suggested more the joggers' cluelessness. The idea of shadows conjures up imagery more than the idea of cave dwellers, I think. [Caveat: I don't think joggers in America are clueless and don't know if B does.]

    I do love roads in mist, photographed or otherwise! Driving home on Route 1 in the fog can be an adventure.
    Last edited: May 24, 2017
  19. Fred,
    In addition to the visual imagery and irrealism portrayed by the shadows (which you nicely pointed out), I am wondering the following: Plato's shadows exist only inside his cave, because they need the wall and the fire behind the wall to exist. Although they are a twisted projection of reality, they are no doubt existent there.

    However, once out of the cave on an open road, there cannot be any existence of Plato's shadows (fire and wall missing), even in the unreal form in which they exist in the cave. Doesn't that give rise to an extra layer of irrealism, a fallacy even, separate from the unrealistic form they represent?
    Last edited: May 24, 2017
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