Shadow and Darkness (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. * shadows require light
    * darkness doesn't
    * shadows have form
    * darkness doesn't

    [black which is neither shadow nor darkness will have form and read as black no matter the light]

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    shadow:

    In symbolic tradition, shadows are not merely the result of obstructions to the passage of light, but rather dark entities with a nature all their own. They are mysterious doubles of the persons who cast them, and are often understood as images of those persons' souls. (Thus some languages have a common word for "image," "soul," and "shadow.")

    [line break added] H. Kolmer has suggested that the often severely elongated silhouette-like representations of men and women in the rock drawings of the early Holocene epoch, may have been taken from shadows cast by the sun when it was close to the horizon — presumably because the direct representation of the human figure was taboo. In many cosmologies the souls of the dead in the afterlife are thought of as shadows — hence the word "shades" in this sense — so as to represent their lack of corporeality. The absence of a shadow (e.g. if it has been sold to the Devil) implies the loss of one's soul.

    ... For the Jungian psychologist, the shadow symbolizes the unconscious layers of the personality that are integrated into the complex structure of the experienced world — and susceptible of transformation — only through the process of individuation.
    the above is from Symbolism: Cultural Icons & the Meanings Behind Them by Hans Biedermann

    Jungian analysis classes as 'shadow' all that which the subject refuses to recognize or admit and which dominates him or her despite this ...

    ... These are not necessarily harmful, but they run the risk of becoming so ... There is everything to gain by allowing them into the light of consciousness. However, the subject often dreads their appearance for fear of having to bear their burden, to master them ... "I feel two beings within me ... "
    The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols

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    darkness:

    Out from the darkness
    back into the darkness —
    affairs of the cat

    [Issa]​

    ... The world comes into being at daybreak. Darkness, on the other hand, as Rilke reminds us, absorbs and merges the many into one.

    ... While light is quick, propulsive, transparent, darkness is still and waiting and opaque. Light beams, transmits, radiates; darkness extinguishes, eclipses, swallows Darkness is tunnel, abyss, maw, the city in blackout, the locked closet, the roach scurrying over the countertop before the kitchen light goes on. ... It is the massive iceberg concealed beneath the pitchy surface of the sea, the miasmic land of the dead, the "nighttime nothingness" of the shadowed edge of the moon.

    ... Yet what appears to be only absence, emptiness and obscurity may actually point to a luminosity, presence and fullness of being peculiar to darkness's domain.

    ... Preeminently, darkness is the precinct of initiation. In the enchanted forest, the shamans cave, the black pool or the well, the darkened theater, the alcheringa time [dreamtime] ...

    Wait without thought,
    for you are not ready for thought
    So the darkness shall be the light,
    and the stillness the dancing.

    [T.S. Eliot]​

    from The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images​


    Links to examples of shadow and darkness to follow.
     
  2. Shadow selfies are everywhere. My favorite is this:

    André Kertész Lion and Shadow 1949

    Lee Friedlander must have hundreds of shadow selfies. Two that will surely make you laugh are these:

    Friedlander shadow selfie #1
    Friedlander shadow selfie #2

    But Friedlander also does serious, gloriously beautiful shadow selfies:

    Friedlander [with Maria, his lovely wife]

    This next one titles itself a selfie, but I don't think it is. See if you can figure out why:

    Charles Sheeler, Self-Portrait at Easel, 1931-32

    One of the most gorgeous photographs ever made has both shadow and darkness [this is a lousy reproduction]:

    Manuel Ávarez Bravo Woman Combing Her Hair 1932

    Two with darkness by Roy DeCarava:

    DeCarava #1
    DeCarava #2

    The obligatory Atget (we must have at least one in every thread). I think this is darkness. Phil will probably disagree (I hope so):

    Eugène Atget La Marne à la Varenne 1925-27
     
  3. . powerlines5015.jpg

    Powerlines
     
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  4. My own shadow selfie, heh heh. 130723_0040.jpg
     
  5. 16x20b sand rocks clams.jpg Shadow, Rock and Clams. El Capitan State Beach, CA 1972
     
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  6. Curtains with shadows 16x20 curtains with shadow.jpg
     
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  7. 16x20 chair with shadow3.jpg One more and then I'll stop! You can see I love shadows.
     
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  8. and yet shadows can show us the way, point us in the right direction- see the fine Converging Shadow NW.

    or maybe they are leading us astray?
     
  9. i always thought shadow and darkness were like grape and grain. i am pleased to have been enlightened.

    P6160066.JPG
     
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  10. Steve, thanks, those are good.

    The last two, the chair and the curtain (but not the shells), remind me of something I should have mentioned in the OP: in black and white photography, shadows aren't necessarily "shadows." They are simply used as black/gray design content, the meaning of which has nothing to do with "shadow" or "darkness." What that black/gray content means is ... whatever black/gray forms can be used to mean in a black and white design — same as the rest of the black/gray content in the picture.

    In Steve's two elegant examples, what do you think that is?
     
  11. I like the idea of darkness as matrix, the possibility of form, of creation, nurture and substance, healing, binding, soothing, but waiting, anticipating. Light is creative impulse, spiritual, dynamic, revealing, consuming, purifying. Light animates darkness, pure light is just light, direction and in union with all light form, but unsubstantiated form, pure darkness is just dark revealing nothing. It is the penetration of darkness with light that animates the potential in each and creates the world of form, mind, consciousness and spirit. Photographically there is no shapes or definition of space or form with out both light and shadow.

    Philosophically it was well said by Jim Morrison's biblical restatement :"The night divides the day, day divides the night, try to run, try to hide, break on through to the other side. . ."

    However, there is an old tried and true methodology to capture the quality that approaches full lightness, or full darkness, and that is in the techniques of so called hi-key and low-key photography. I'll try to find some samples of my own.
     

  12. Shadows can be used as patterns in BW photos, but IMO they still very much maintain their identity as shadows. Also, if they represent patterns in a design, that is also an example of their usage as symbols, hence should be part of the present discussion, isn't it?
     
  13. Low key: not great but..[​IMG]
     
  14. Then more of a hi key. Hopefully some of you can find better examples of your own or others that illustrate lightness and/or darkness.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. Seems like, the last one is low key and the previous one high key.
     
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  16. Is the symbol "shadow"?



    Verbally, there can be no sentences without words, no words without sounds. Meaning is not inherent in either the sounds or the words.
     
  17. Weston's pepper - as just one example - can be looked at as purely the interplay between light and shadow. I agree there's no form without light and shadow. They're one and the same thing essentially. Darkness is the absence of both.

    "I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light. What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light." - Louis Kahn

    Untitled1.jpg

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    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017

  18. There is no painting without paint. Is that what it "is"? Is "paint" what a painting connotes?

    If I have a large block of marble, it's ... a large block of marble, with all the connotations of a large block of marble. After Michelangelo makes a David from it, it no longer connotes "large block of marble."

    If I make rabbit ears from a shadow, such as that, here by Cole Witt, it is no longer "shadow" even though it is made out of shadow and light. If you make something else (rabbit ears; lines or blocks for design purposes) out of shadow, it no longer carries the symbolic connotations of "shadow."
     
  19. What a shadow symbolizes depends on the context. In the heat of the desert shadows and darkness are a refuge. When walking alone at night in an unfamiliar landscape or city they take on a less comforting form, though perhaps not any less an invitation to enter them as one would enter the light.
     
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