Simultaneously intimate and anonymous

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by unrealnature, Aug 5, 2014.

  1. The photographer who used this post's title ('simultaneously intimate and anonymous') to describe a series of her work termed it a paradox. Do you think that it is a paradox? Do you think that any -- or all -- good photographs of anonymous people feel/are intimate? Is the "good" in that question tied to that feeling of intimacy?
    I'm thinking not just of street and photojournalism, but also of other people's family photos, whose names and identities are, to you, unknown beyond the pictures.
    For me, the answer is, yes, I find that good photographs of anonymous people always seem intimate to me. But, oddly, non-anonymous pictures, i.e. pictures of my own family and friends, rarely feel truly intimate, even when they are good. I would guess that 'intimate' becomes as much about our relationship(s) as about what I feel that I'm seeing as a standalone person.
  2. This is the first time I have posted to this forum (though I do read it often) mostly because I often feel a bit out of my depth. However, on reading Julie's post I found I often felt the same way about photographs of strangers. And particularly family portraits, they seem to me somehow poignant and perhaps nostalgic. This, by the way, also applies to my own family's photos from the past - people who I don't know or maybe just have a name.

    Though I can't give a rational, thought out reason for this, it occurred to me that some of this feeling (for me at least) maybe because we project our own stories on to the anonymous. We, and I guess it can also be unconscious, imagine the character of the person, the reason for the photograph, the history of why they are photographed in that particular environment. With people we know, the "story" is provided by reality because we know them. I don't know if that makes sense.

    Not to sidetrack the discussion but I often feel this about other types of photos. An image of a place unfamiliar to me can draw me. I feel I would like to be there and experience that moment. This rarely happens with images of places I am physically familiar with or indeed images I have taken myself.

    Two more quick thoughts. It is interesting that intimate is defined as "Closely acquainted; familiar"(Oxford Online Dictionary). If you have the same reaction as I have described above, the feeling of intimacy(familiarity) is directly opposite to the actual situation. I think intimacy also implies interaction, relationship - but at most the above reaction can only be one sided.
  3. >>> Though I can't give a rational, thought out reason for this, it occurred to me that some of this feeling (for me at least) maybe because we project our own stories on to the anonymous. ... I don't know if that makes sense.
    That makes a lot of sense. For me, interesting photographs pose questions rather than provide answers. If there are people in the frame where a connection seems to be made (though that's not a requirement), then I think it's natural that a viewer's imagination might be stirred to the point where a narrative, any narrative, might be released. That happens to me as a viewer.
    When I'm out on the street and make photographs of people many times there will be a direct engagement with a stranger with some resulting conversation and ultimately a portrait is made. Sometimes I shoot candidly where a subject may not be aware. And some times there may be a momentary interaction where it is clear I'm making (or made) a picture, but with no further interaction beyond that point - as in the photograph below.
    San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2014
  4. When you look at pictures of people you love, you can fall in love all over again. How does that work with strangers?
  5. Julie, can you provide a link to this photographers work? I need to see it before I can come to a conclusion, at least in terms of her own approach. From the get-go the term she is using strikes me as standard, pretentious artist statement gobbledygook.
    In the meantime, keep in mind that a photograph is simply a description of objects and/or people in a particular place at a particular time. You stated that good photographs seem intimate to you. "Seem" is a word that can imply uncertainty, something may seem one way but in actuality it may be any but. Do you mean you get a sense of intimacy on the part of the photographer in relation to the people in his/her photograph?
  6. Anonymous to the viewer or to the photographer whose work we're looking at?
    I see very few truly intimate photos and I think intimacy in a photo is a significant and also difficult achievement. An intimate encounter or situation doesn't usually translate to an intimate photo, and I think intimate photos are rare . . . and wonderful. Often but not always on the way to intimacy, but not necessarily there yet and sometimes confused for it, are acknowledgment, permission, engagement, familiarity, sweetness, openness, closeness, and sensitivity, even charm and surprise.
    Intimacy often suggests some sense of privacy, which is difficult to convey in a photo.
    Interestingly, the verb "to intimate" suggests delicacy and indirectness, which are often associated with intimacy. Closeness and even a strong sense of engagement will often be in-your-face without being intimate, though the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. I also think a non-intimate but effective and moving in-your-faceness is a significant photographic achievement.
    I think a lot has also to do with atmosphere. Brassai's photos strike me as particularly intimate because the night and the artificial light and sometimes the fog have a depth that surrounds its subjects and me as a viewer. It is enveloping.
    Intimate photos don't have to contain people. They can even be of peppers.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Larry Clark was the master of "intimate" and "anonymous" simultaneous snapping. He did it with a simple method - sit around with people until they forget you are taking photos. I have found this to be a good way for me to work, with both strangers and people that know me. Ultimately, by not participating and relaxing, people eventually lose any awareness of the camera. Simple example here.
  8. Anonymous means unnamed, and authors sometimes use a pen name to write more intimately. A name ties us to time and place and names link us to social contexts that may inhibit the full disclosure that anonymity can provide. We might say some things about ourselves to a total stranger that we wouldn't say to someone we knew.
    So photography could be a good medium of self-expression by a subject in a photograph because no one knows who they are, no one knows who it is that is being so honest in a photograph. We are anonymous in a crowd, the viewers of a photograph are the crowd and we might be more willing to be more revealing in front of a camera than anywhere else. Sometimes being in a crowd is the best place to let it all hang out. Sometimes letting it all hang out just happens, like in a who's afraid of Virginia Woolf type scourging at a restaurant. That's a photo that would create a sense of intimacy, familiarity, that it's all in public is just part of that ritual.
    So I don't see any contradiction. In a sense theater is an anonymous portrayal of the far reaches of everything inside of us accomplished by a ruse about identity. No one knows at which point the actor is or isn't acting, maybe not even the actor. If someone is sharing something about themselves it is usually something with which we are intimately familiar anyway.
    Photography is an art form that has an element of theater and so like in theater we as viewers would try and sort it all out. Do we really know where we begin and end, what is mine, what is yours, ours, a name itself just a convenient fiction.
  9. Intimate means, closely acquainted, familiar, close. That meaning is in contrast to "barely know the person". Opposite of barely knowing a person, being casually acquainted, we know them intimately. Ordinarily to know someone intimately is a positive thing, though if we don't like someone we might say we don't like them because we know them "intimately", an indirect way of saying the person is unreliable, tedious, etc.
    That's why intimate also means private and personal. An intimate picture isn't of a person smiling, not to me, it isn't a picture of two people sitting next to each other. We don't know as viewers what's going on just from proximity and any story we attach will do. For me there has to be something in the picture that makes it personal about the person or person's pictured, not that I might feel personable about them from their picture.
    If we feel intimate toward a picture of someone smiling and don't know why they are smiling? I mean, we know they are smiling because their picture is being taken. What else? What else? Part of the reason a picture of a family member doesn't look intimate to us is because in those pictures we know the person too well to think of the capture as of the person we know.
    Right now my dog is having a barking dream. I know him intimately, I know why he is barking. He wants a thing and can't get it, it's a frustrated bark.
    Some of the pictures I take frustrate me. I know what I want and can't get it. The intimacy I knew was in the moment is unrecognizable.
    Here's an example. I know what this coyote is feeling, I know it precisely. The precision isn't quite in the photo. The story just isn't there in one single frame. I was sitting at my look out point with a friend. We waited for the nightly return of the coyote who would pass under us, we on a bridge. The coyote knew we were there and wouldn't pass under the bridge. My friend and I were keeping her from meeting up with her youngsters, she wouldn't take the risk of passing under so closely even though she was taking a risk in not going to her youngsters. My friend got tired of waiting and left. The coyote made a mistake. She thought we had both left. When my shutter clicked she stopped. She knew she had made a mistake and that the silly man had accomplished a "gotcha". But her routine isn't just a hobby to her. It's life, it's growth, it's danger, it's keeping family private and protected. We all know the "look into the distance" of an exasperated parent that we have childishly bothered with some unwanted prank when the parent is seriously busy. With our infantilism they are exasperated and pause before giving us "the look". Yeah, you got me. I couldn't believe the coyote was messaging me in such a parental way. The thing is, she knew I was old enough not to do such a silly thing, to play a gottcha on her. That she wouldn't just run away on hearing the shutter? I wasn't a danger. But I was an unnecessary annoyance, unnecessary because she is all about necessity at her age. Stared into the distance long enough for it to seem like forever. Just long enough to make me feel some shame. I did. From a parent bothered in this way, we know they are going to turn their head to look at us and the suspense makes us wonder if all they are going to do to us is look. It's edgy. The thing is, in the picture she looks like she is looking at something when she isn't. A different story is suggested, a false one. All she was doing was delaying her look at me, she accenting the look she will give me. Boy did she! But I don't think the picture shows it without me writing the story.
  10. Here she is again, she isn't about playing, even with her playful child trying to play underneath her. In part she isn't playful because she has a chronic inner ear infection that has taken a toll on her disposition.
  11. sit around with people until they forget you are taking photos.​
    This was also the hallmark of W. Eugene Smith. He had the most uncanny knack of being, seemingly invisible (anonymous), during the most personal of intimate moments. Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath represents this this type of remarkable talent in one of the most intimate photographs I've ever seen. In so many of his finest works from Country Doctor, to Albert Schweitzer, Man of Mercy this quality comes through repeatedly.
  12. On the other hand, there are subjects like Georgia O'Keeffe, who I don't think forgot Stieglitz was taking pictures, and I'm not sure he would have wanted her to. I think the intimacy in some photos is about a kind of connection either to the photographer, the implied viewer, or even the camera itself (and the audience or humanity represented by that camera), likely some aspects of all . . . and then some.
    Stieglitz: "When I make a picture, I make love."
    Interestingly, O'Keeffe was not anonymous either to Stieglitz or to viewers.
    Personally, for the most part, I'd worry that a subject forgetting I was there would create a safe distance rather than something intimate. But, obviously, we all work differently. It all depends on the type of shoot and the situation, but mostly I want that personal connection when I'm shooting. I don't want them forgetting.
    Louis's point is a good one and some of the documentary work I've done would be the exception, where I would remain somewhat discreet and out of the way, at least some of the time.
  13. I agree Louis and Smith gave us contexts and reasons (I understate as does Smith's title) for caring about a subject with such an ordinary title. It's a matter of fact title for a scene intended to move the public to action.
  14. Laurie wrote "Though I can't give a rational, thought out reason for this, it occurred to me that some of this feeling (for me at least) maybe because we project our own stories on to the anonymous."
    So subjects like Georgia O'Keeffe in Fred's linked Stieglitz photo draw out projections since there isn't anything personal in the picture. She looks mysterious and we are intrigued, gets the imagination going and that is probably what both Stieglitz and O"Keeffe intended, avoiding intimacy; and because from that photo we still barely know her.
  15. I also have experienced the phenomenon of people ignoring and/or forgetting you are there taking pictures. This is how my 3rd St Promenade pictures are done.
  16. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    He had the most uncanny knack of being, seemingly invisible (anonymous), during the most personal of intimate moments. Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath represents this this type of remarkable talent in one of the most intimate photographs I've ever seen.​

    Posed photo. Hardly anonymous.
  17. Todd pick one of those of yours, display it this thread and please tell us in detail where the intimacy is? Because this thread isn't about candid photos and how to take them, it's about intimate and anonymous. I get the anonymous part.
    Here's how your photos look to me, here's one of mine.
    Do you see anything intimate in it? I don't. It's familiar all right. But unlike the great photographer W. Eugene Smith, I don't give the viewer something more than the familiar to care about.
  18. Jeff she isn't anonymous because she is posed. She isn't anonymous because we know her name.
    From what we glean of her from that photo, she might as well have no name, there isn't anything intimate about her being disclosed by the photo, whether posed or not. We only care about that photo because we know her name.
  19. I think there's a lot that's personal in the picture of O'Keeffe. Her hands, for example, which read almost as do many of her painted flowers, graceful, shapely, female, her eyes appearing to see just beyond her hands, the mostly subdued tones allowing the sensuous fingers a ground, the light drawing us from those fingers to a place just beside and beyond her eyes.
    The visual connection is from the hands which are a part of her to the flowers which she makes. The narrative connection is from the abstracted visual shape and texture of her hands to those same very real hands which are the tools that help produce her art. The photograph is very much her story . . . and Stieglitz's love for and photographic appreciation of her. Her hands—in literal, visual, and metaphoric ways—are her.
  20. OK. I didn't notice the hands because I thought she was an actress; had her confused with Marlene Dietrich. .
    Do we generally have to know her name to gain a more intimate insight into her character in that photo? What do we see in the photo if we don't know her name?
    From the O'Keeffe text quoting her: "Stieglitz had a very sharp eye for what he wanted to say with the camera."
  21. Do we generally have to know her name to gain a more intimate insight into her character in that photo? What do we see in the photo if we don't know her name?​
    I think the photo, and not her name, is telling me to notice her hands. They loom large. They are so much of the expression. I see a lot in the photo if I don't know her name, but it's more abstract. Because I do know her name, I get to see and know even more. And the hands become even more meaningful, though no more sensual than they already were. The known connections make me feel something more. The photo, without knowing her, is beyond her character. The dance-like fingers and soft yet focused eyes give me an immediate sense of body and soul, no matter who she is.
  22. OK, so seeing through your eyes we know to look at the hands, the pose of the hands is a nuanced device. Her name gives us context with her life. And a third element that is a reflection of body and soul regardless of who she is.
    In one sense her hands are a prop, but the prop is important because it has a special meaning as her hands. Hers are the hands of an artist. Her contributions to art are drawn into the photo by association to her hands, her art touching many and our wonderment at her abilities and her entire being, expressed as body and soul using Fred's language. OK. I think I get that interpretation. O'Keeffe said Stieglitz used his sharp eye to construct what he wanted to say and its plausible that we're within the territory of viewer experience that he intended when he posed and took the picture. He used elements of a visual language to express something like that to us.
    Still, though illustrative, she is not anonymous, we do know her name. In the bath photo referred to above, we also have a name. My coyote is anonymous, but I missed the shot.
    I'm still looking for something similar in an anonymous shot. Am I overlooking something already presented? My people at creek shot didn't have it, the people were props with only a sentimental, sappy intent and any body would have done.
  23. Before I give the source of the title quote, I'm going to try starting with an example (one that I love) of photography, a photographer, who works very, very hard to de-anonymize her subjects. This will be Mary Ellen Mark and I'm using her Prom project as example.
    Mary Ellen Mark is a documentary/photo-essayist. In the Prom series, and in her work in general, she gives a ton of background information, including lengthy interviews, names, dates, places and so forth. An interesting "marker" for me of this kind of approach is the multiple levels/instances of permission that she needs. Each school, each student and their parents, each location, each time, gets asked and terms agreed to (sometimes written and signed). But in the case of Prom -- and before it, Streetwise -- she also has an accompanying film of the people made by her Academy Award-nominated husband, Martin Bell. So from the links given below, you can sample not only her photographic essay but can compare/match it to video interviews. Unfortunately, the full-length video has had the sound removed, and the ones with sound are only clips. If you buy the book (available very reasonably used) you get the video on a disc at the back of the book (like you get in computer books). It's a great read -- with not one drop of theory, for those of you allergic to theory. Links below:
    Prom stills
    YouTube video clip
    Full video without sound
    Clip with sound
    Second Clip with sound
    What strikes me re intimacy when looking at the stills and the video, is how the more she tells me, the more interesting it is, but the more the person(s) in the pictures establish/assert claim to their own space; push back on my claims to identify them or "fill" them with my own mood merge them into my own space. This is neither "better" nor "worse"; just a different effect from intimacy in my perception.
    Also, as Jeff Spirer has noted, W. Eugene Smith was not only not an "anonymous" photographer, he was even beyond Mark in his approach in that he had a very strong agenda which he was pushing in his photo essays. I would also note that he was far from invisible to his subjects, if you read his biography.
    Now, to the source of the title quote. It's from Roni Horn, describing her You Are the Weather series. It is indeed an artist's project, so Marc Todd needs to stop reading right now before he breaks out in hives.
    You Are the Weather is an installation (and a book) of about 100 pictures of the same woman sitting in hot springs in Iceland at various unspecified times and places. Changes from one picture to the next are very small. See how the installation looks at links below:
    You Are the Weather installation
    You Are the Weather second view
    Here is further from Horn, following the "simultaneously intimate and anonymous" bit: "The photographs have an erotic edge, but no matter how much time you spend with her you will never get any closer to her. She changes and expresses different personalities -- if you isolate out the different sequences, she looks first like a hockey player, then a pouty sexy standard; she's a multitude of things. Those changes, that range of emotion -- she looks like she's irritated, like she's angry -- were in fact provoked by the weather. It's the sun in her eyes, it's snowing, it's windy. When you are in the room with her it's as though you've provoked those responses; you become the weather"
    "The installation begins anywhere and ends there as well. Its duration is your endurance. I have always thought that the viewer walks into the room and performs the work, although I don't think of my works as particularly theatrical. The more theatrical a work is the more it tends to pacify the viewer. I want the viewer to take an active role." To which her interviewer responds: "It's the difference between watching and participating in the unraveling of an idea." Horn agrees "Exactly."
    In a different statement, Horn said this: "In the end I am not interested in what the viewer knows about my intentionality or identity. I am trying to make the work and one's experience of it the same."
    You are the weather. The woman in the picture is not the weather, you, the viewer are the weather. To which the woman in the pictures -- apparently, in perception -- responds. This disagrees with what Laura T wrote in her comment, above -- and what seems much more logically correct -- "but at most the above reaction can only be one sided."

    This idea of viewer/photo-subject interaction also goes to Brad's " a narrative, any narrative, might be released. That happens to me as a viewer."

    I love thinking about the idea of viewer as weather because weather encompasses, surrounds, permeates, but also, is just always there, effecting/affecting, participating, and making what's happening happen in one way instead of another; in short, intrinsically intimate. Note also that, in contrast to Mary Ellen Mark's levels of needed permission (legal and personal), weather not only needs no permission, it would be absurd to suggest that it did.

    The viewer-as-weather provokes the picture's response; permission is an absurdity; boundaries don't exist; "I am trying to make the work and one's experience of it the same."
  24. So Horn found a way to invoke in the viewer a false sense of connection to an unnamed woman in a series of photographs. Calls that false connection intimacy. Sounds familiar.
  25. Ahh...narrowly avoided breaking out in hives...thanks Julie. I'll have a look after I back from work tonight. In the meantime, a quick comment to Charles: I have to disagree with your comment regarding "Tomoko in Her Bath" by W. Eugene Smith. Knowing her name does not make a person (or at least myself, I certainly cannot speak for everyone) care any more or less for the picture; and yes, Jeff is correct, it was a posed picture that Smith took many exposures of until he felt he got it right. Regardless, it's still a powerful picture and deservedly one of Smiths best.
  26. An interesting topic that touches on my own take on my “casual” or “documentary” portraiture. To me, anyone looking at a photo I took of one of my family members or friends, is anonymous: They don’t know this person. I typically do portraits by carrying a camera around and snapping photos during back yard barbeques, family events, such as reunions, etc. People typically get used to me taking pictures and tend to be relaxed if I approach them or if I am standing nearby focusing my camera on them. To me, this achieves a certain intimacy, because my subjects end up not “posing” as much as just noticing me or making a visual connection with the camera. In other words, I’m trying not to interrupt their “flow” of what they are doing except for a 1/30 of a second or so. My people folders are full of examples of what I am talking about. Here is one example.
  27. I understand Marc that your, our, deep feeling evoked by "Tomoko in Her Bath" by W. Eugene Smith wouldn't be diminished if we didn't know her name. And yes it is a posed picture, but both posed and candid photos have subjects that are either named subjects or unnamed subjects. Anonymous means unnamed. Anonymous doesn't mean posed, it doesn't mean un-posed. There isn't a paradox in saying posed intimacy or un-posed intimacy. There may or may not be a paradox in saying 'simultaneously intimate and anonymous'. To determine if there is a paradox or not we have to explore those words by their definitions.
    The definition of intimacy is complex and nuanced. The definition of anonymous is straight forward: it means unnamed. It doesn't mean unknown subject. Unknown, like intimacy, is a matter of degree. The degree to which we know someone is intimacy. EG, I know so and so. Do you really? I know your name I know more about you than if I didn't. But I don't know everything, and compared to what I do know your name may not be very important. Or it may be.
    In "Tomoko in Her Bath" we know her name and from that picture's publication we know that her injuries were caused by a community's employer. Government was complicit also. World awareness was done by putting a human face on both victim and victimizer, social action resulted, in part because of international condemnation, in a large part because Japanese leaders had been shamed by that picture. I say shamed in cultural context: generally speaking, in Japan you can endure anything except shame. To state that extremely, you would rather die than experience public humiliation. Public praise is a form of humiliation to that sort of mind set. Taking the last piece of anything on a plate in a meal with others is shameful, so the last piece is endlessly divided and offered to everyone, the last piece is hot potato because if you do take it (and we do unwittingly) it is shameful and you can endure anything except shame. "Tomoko in Her Bath" is a public shaming by the less powerful of the powerful. That's taboo, it just isn't normally done in a society where mutual respect and a degree of obeisance is a sort of social lubricant. To name Tomoko is to name and shame her victimizers and to understand Tomoko fully in a social context, rooted in time and place by her name.
  28. Steve Murray - "To me, anyone looking at a photo I took of one of my family members or friends, is anonymous: They don’t know this person."
    Here's a second dictionary definition for anonymous: having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal.
    With the word anonymous, what is unknown isn't the person, what is unknown is their name. Alternatively, anonymous means unremarkable or impersonal, having no features that stand out from the features of anyone else, nothing individually identifying.
    Posed photos can look unnatural compared to candid shots. We like photos that look more natural. But there are a lot of photos of people who look natural and are still anonymous: even though they are un-posed or natural looking. Even so they still can have no features that stand out from the features of anyone else that is photographed more naturally than if they were just posed. Even so there may be nothing to identify them individually, identify them more intimately.
    We all have hands. What do my hands say about me? What could a photographer make my hands say about me? Without my hands being made to say something about the me the photographer knows, they might as well be a picture of your hands.
    A agree that in your photo Steve, there is a hint of a complex personality. I don't think there is a device in the photo that would clue us into what exactly is hinted at. The O'Keeffe photo uses the hands to hint and to make use of what we know about O'Keeffe to make a more pointed statement. With your shot, we know there is something there, we just don't have a clue as to what it is in the photo. Getting another clue in there may have taken some props and posing.
  29. Julie - "Also, as Jeff Spirer has noted, W. Eugene Smith was not only not an "anonymous" photographer,..."
    Smith wasn't an "anonymous" photographer because we know his name.
    Julie continued: "..., he was even beyond Mark in his approach in that he had a very strong agenda which he was pushing in his photo essays."
    Julie, was the fact that Smith indeed pushed an agenda with photo essays lessen your enjoyment of his photos? Does just the fact that Smith had an agenda create a noise for you that is so loud that it get's in the way of how you prefer to evaluate his work? In other words, your objection isn't to Smith's agenda. Whatever Smith's agenda was, it stands or falls on its own merits if I understand you correctly. Is it the mere fact that he had any agenda that gets in the way of how you prefer to assess this or that particular photo of his? Too much agenda coloring for your taste? Does it just make you explode sometimes when someone does that?
  30. Um, so Charles, an effective portrait requires a number of "clues" and a head shot isn't enough? Eyes, expression, posture are not enough? First I heard of that!!! You're too much "in your head" Charles! Get out of your head and shift to your heart (emotions). In your analysis, Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl" is missing some elements. Too bad, because its rated as one of the 25 most famous photos in the world.
  31. Good choice. At the time, "Afghan Girl" was a photo of an unnamed subject. Perfect. Is there more there than eyes, an expression, her posture? Were her eyes, expression, and posture enough, or is there more there than eyes, expression, and posture? Is there more there that would get me out of my head and make me care?
    It's on the cover of National Geographic. It has a title. It has an agenda. It places the girl in relation to what isn't in the picture, world affairs. She is specifically used to represent young girls in her country. There is much there to make me look and care besides eyes, expression, posture.
    I have a heart. Here its expressed. It works for me. It was taken with intent to express emotion. Does it? If not, why can't you see it? Possibly because I'm not very good at speaking with a visual language?
  32. I think it's fine if someone wants to take a very rigid approach to their making and viewing of photographs - after all it's very individual.
    But for me, I have no use for checklists and strict dictionary definitions, either in making photographs or viewing them. With respect to the making side, I try to rely on getting to know the person I'm photographing even for just a minute (they are strangers I meet on the street) and then doing my best create a photo that captures an aspect about them that I'm feeling at the moment. With respect to viewing photographs, it's generally about reaction and emotional pull, and then contemplating the subject's personality, although with incomplete information
    Steve's beautiful photograph up above speaks to me being pulled in on initial reaction starting with her striking blue eyes (complimented by blue hairband and shirt), and then thinking about what his subject might be like in person. I love photographing people and looking at the photographs others have made.
    San Francisco • ©Brad Evans 2014
  33. Brad - "I love photographing people and looking at the photographs others have made."
  34. Intimate is different from good. Intimate is different from effective. Intimate is different from astonishing. Intimate is different from excellent. Intimate is different from profound. Intimate is different from pensive. Intimate is different from beautiful, from striking, and from colorful. Intimate is different from conveying something of significance.
    Intimacy, IMO, is rarer and harder to achieve than all those other qualities.
  35. >>> Intimate is different from good. Intimate is different from effective. Intimate is different from
    astonishing. Intimate is different from excellent. Intimate is different from profound. Intimate is different from
    pensive. Intimate is different from beautiful, from striking, and from colorful. Intimate is different from
    conveying something of significance.

    Really. So you're "definition" of intimate is formed by what it isn't? That seems odd to me.
  36. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Most things are different from the things they aren't. Maybe everything is.
  37. The Webster’s online definition #1 of intimate is this: “to make known especially publicly or formally.” When we photograph someone this is what we are potentially doing. Fred, to me “intimate” in a photo of a person, especially done in a street or documentary fashion, means to catch a perhaps fleeting glimpse of the person “underneath” the public persona, or the posed expression. I think our brains are especially sensitive to expression, and when we see various expressions, especially ones that are not so obvious, we become pulled in, in a sense, like Brad stated, trying to get a sense of what the person is like or thinking, etc. Also, as Laurie T pointed out . . .we project our own stories on to the anonymous. We, and I guess it can also be unconscious, imagine the character of the person, the reason for the photograph, the history of why they are photographed in that particular environment.” So, I agree with you, that intimacy isn’t synonymous with good, or serious, or beautiful, or striking or colorful, etc.
    Charles, to me its not about features or clues that add up to a certain threshold of meaning. Its about expression, which is a combination of many things that form a gestalt, a totality, and its very subtle, and yet, we are very pulled in by the subtle.
  38. Good points, Brad and Jeff. What I was trying to convey is that many of these adjectives were used in this thread in talking about posted photos. And I agree that some of the posted photos have these qualities. Some of them are very good. Some of them are effective. Some of them are striking. Some are beautiful. And those can make for significant photos, for sure. But I was thinking the thread was about intimacy and a lot of the photos posted don't feel and weren't even described as intimate or conveying intimacy.
    I already talked about what I think intimacy IS, in previous posts. To repeat, for me, it has to do with privacy and with something personal I get connected to. An emotional closeness, but not as much a universal closeness as a particular or individualized closeness.
    And even though I think you have a point, Brad, I do find that defining things, at least in part, by what they're not can actually be quite clarifying. It can be a little like the use of negative space. Others may not find negation and opposition as useful and expressive as I sometimes do, which is understandable.
  39. To me, intimate is (or can be, among other things) about what Charles said at the top of this thread: "Intimate
    means, closely acquainted, familiar, close."

    As a viewer I sense that in the connection Steve had with his subject. And as a result of certain aspects of
    the photograph I feel a connection with myself, even though I don't know who she is.
  40. Steve, just saw your post. Thanks for adding what you did.
    It's that sense of connection that, to me, is key, personal connectedness, individualized and specific connectedness. For me, it has little to do with a glimpse of the person underneath the pose or public persona. I think actors, for example, create senses of intimacy even while not revealing anything in particular about themselves. My own photographic subjects can be like such actors and/or I can see them and experience them that way. One creates and/or captures a moment of personal connection, and that can be in the pose itself, in the theater itself, in the persona itself.
    In a two-hour photo session, I may not hope to seriously find out anything terribly significant down deep inside the person. So if I can, together with them in a momentary dialogue, create scenes and characters that somehow are organic, meaning they come together emotionally with the visuals and the style I choose, then I can very much fabricate what I'd consider to be an intimate photo. As a matter of fact, I often find that my own thinking that I could really get below the surface of someone in a couple of hours or a moment of shooting would actually make me less likely to find a level of intimacy. Obviously, though, we all work differently.
  41. Yes, Fred, connection. I think we are possibly describing the same crystal from different facets. In other threads I have often referred to this connection as "energy." Hard to describe otherwise. We respond to photos that have this energy between the photographer and the person being photographed. My example above has it; so does Brad's. Is it related to intimacy? Fred, on style, I agree we certainly all have our own way of approaching the subject. Mine is more of a "fly on the wall" approach and I try not to engage myself with my subjects, but just let them be and watch for moments when I can "borrow" them for a few seconds.
  42. Here is another of Steve's pictures of the young woman, Whitney
    Now I feel from having two pictures that from the first one I didn't know Whitney at all.
    So yes there is a hint of the person in the photo by Steve. It intimates, delicately suggests. Hint, intimate, announce. That is a lovely type of photography. Part of its appeal is its delicacy.
    It's just that to me there isn't enough of a suggestion of who the person in private is, not enough information in the photo to reassure me that I am not just projecting. Did I make an accurate connection or did I not?
    In real life, in my coyote picture example, is my story about the inner world of the coyote just my own story, or did I really see into the coyote? Was I just projecting? Even when face to face, we often don't know. It's hard to separate our own projections from the reality of the other person.
  43. Charles, I think all we can do is guess, and project, as you have just noted. Which expressions do it for us can certainly vary from person to person. You "connect" better with the second one you refer to. Great!
  44. Charles, for me accuracy doesn't have that much to do with it. It's more about whether I personally relate to what I'm seeing or how personally a subject and photographer seem to relate (not only in the moment of the shooting but, more importantly, as seen in the photo, in their roles as subject and photographer). What I want from Lee J. Cobb when he plays (when he is) Willy Loman is not to know that what I'm seeing portrayed has any accurate counterpart in the real life of Lee J. Cobb. What I want is for him to get me inside the portrayal. I think a photo can be that same kind of portrayal, where there's a connection among gesture, expression, and portrayed person.
    That, I think, is more than an encounter and, Steve, for me, more than energy. It's a particular kind of energy. An actor may have great expressions but it's when the expressions relate to his character, when there is a nuanced and delicately suggestive relationship between the expression and at least something about the character (which may but does not have to represent the person playing the character or filling the role of the character) that I will tend to feel that intimate photographic connection.
    I think wonderful expressions can make for a great portrait. In order for it to feel intimate to me, though, the wonderful expression won't just pull me in or stimulate me to think about what the person may be feeling or thinking. The expression will tie me to the bigger picture of the overall portrayal and who the photographed (not necessarily the actual) person seems to be. I think the guy in Brad's first photo has a great expression, a little flirtatious and very charming in my eyes, very energetic. But I don't see the expression as being connected to him as a character or as a more fully-revealed person. It's an expression that, for me, stands alone. If the story unfolding put that expression together with more of a sense of his photographic character or his actual personhood, I might then feel that connectedness from expression to being, which for me makes for intimacy. As it is, the expression relates to the woman's expression and I think successfully so, but there's no wholeness to either person that the expressions themselves are connected to. When I feel where the expression is coming from or I am somehow showed that, I tend to experience a more intimate photo.
    Charles, I can appreciate that you, if I'm reading you right, think of an intimate photo as one which is in some way authentically biographical or at least includes that aspect. That can be a very important photographic connection and can certainly create a sense of intimacy. But when we don't know the person and even when we do, it can also be solely in the emotional world of the photo that I'd want that connection to see where the gestures and expressions come from and what they're about. I think there are great portraits built around gestures and expressions more or less for their own sake and not really tied in a personal or subjective or intimate way to the bigger picture of their photographic source, the person as known in the photo. I generally would not call those intimate.
  45. >>> But I don't see the expression as being connected to him as a character or as a more fully-revealed

    But I do. Perhaps it's from shooting on the street and having encountered and met many different
    people from all walks of life over the years. A different background and perspective, I suspect, than the more structured manner in which you shoot portraits.
  46. Beaches series of Rineke Dijkstra:
    Giving minimal direction to her sitters, Dijkstra relinquishes her role as director of the scene—producing a photographic situation in which the subjects must reveal themselves or a version of themselves to the camera lens.​
  47. Charles, interesting description of Dijkstra's working style. Like I said, we all work differently. I will sometimes direct quite a bit, unlike Dijkstra at least as stated in your description for her beach series.
    My one HOMAGE TO DIJKSTRA was inspired by location and style and how the subject fit into all that. But I evidently approached it differently in terms of how I worked and how Andy and I relate when we're shooting together. I directed Andy pretty specifically up to a point. Then Andy's natural inclinations took over and also, of course, how Andy related to the entire scene and her perception of the portrayal, which was limited since Andy really couldn't foresee what the portrayal would be and Dijkstra was never mentioned at the time of shooting, though it was my intention at the time to make a Fred and Andy version of a Dijkstra beach photo.
    Now, in this case, I think we do get a glimpse of Andy-ness, the clothing and wig tells some of the story, the high heels on the beach in both our minds provided a bit of absurdity or at least awkwardness, both lightly humorous and a little more penetrating in terms of certain felt tensions. The added artificial lighting played with the artifice of clothing and costume while the atmospheric reality of the beach suggested that the artifice meant something real as well. The way Andy held herself and what we read in her face and posture are Andy being Andy being photographed on a public beach and all that went with that for Andy on that day. While I told Andy where to stand, I chose this shot from among many with different expressions, this one telling the tale I thought worked best as a photo. I also liked it when Andy held the red purse in front rather than to the side and I liked this one for the way the shoe looked in the sand at the moment. I continued directing even after the shot, in choosing what I'd post process and how and to show this one out of all we took that day to viewers. It's always an unclear line where acting and directing separate and where acting is a bringing forth of lived experience of the actor and where it's fabrication of character. I'm not too concerned with determining the exact point of distinction and am more into the fluidity and excitement of the process with all its ebbs and flows and overlaps of fiction and reality. When Andy is acting more and when Andy is more herself and the strength of the overlap of those two things is an open question, which both Andy and I grapple with.
    In other instances in my portfolio, KEN AND MARK for example, I get much less a glimpse of who the people themselves are but that doesn't detract for me and it doesn't prevent viewers from projecting all sorts of personal emotional takes on the situation and the feeling they are let in on something personal, which I think they are even though it's not exactly candid. The portrait of Andy seems intimate to me because of the connection of pose, gesture, expression, clothing, and person behind it all. The picture of Ken and Mark, which has little to do with Ken's and Mark's actual relationship, works partly because I feel not only the presence of the photographer in the situation with them but an awareness at least on Ken's part of the photographer, and all the attendant questions, connections, and discomforts that three-way relationship provides. This seems born out both in my own feelings about the two photos and in the various reactions described in comments by viewers.
    I will not expect and would never expect all viewers to respond similarly. All I can give is my own response and what strikes me as intimate in addition to saying that intimacy is something I continually work on but don't often achieve to the degree I aspire to. It's one of the main things that keeps me photographing, a search, a longing, an evolution toward something.
  48. I find an intimacy in the anonymity of photographing strangers that would be difficult, perhaps even painful, to display in people I know and love. I have many photographs of family in the midst of arguments, in pain, and in death. I've shown very few of them to anyone, and deleted most from my portfolio after receiving a few critiques that were considerate and insightful enough to give me an idea that I was on the right track. But I'm still no closer to being comfortable with showing those photos publicly.
    I try to avoid photographing strangers in ways that they might find embarrassing if they were to find the photos online. But I do try to find little details and spontaneous expressions and gestures that seem, at least on the surface, to present a certain intimacy. It's not the intimacy of knowing them or anything about them. It's the imagining that I know something about them in this moment. I don't wish to know anything else for certain. Why spoil a perfectly good fantasy with something so mundane as knowing brings.
    It is, at times, so disturbing a notion, so preposterous a presumption -- to imagine we have some special relationship with these strangers, that they would approve, or at least acquiesce to our passion for capturing moments, merely because we are artists and have good intentions -- so unsettling, that I occasionally must take a few weeks or months away and do something else, to regain some perspective.
    "We know he thinks the act is making him into something different. His 'becoming' ...but I don't know what it is he thinks he's becoming.
    The answer is something to do with how he uses the mirrors. That's what's missing for me. why the mirrors?"
    "You will be better than anything... anything I have ever known. As I see me in your eyes... as I see me accepted there. Reflected there in mirrors.
    And you, you are the fuel for my changing... as this event becomes one more step towards what I am becoming that is different than what I have ever been before...
    As I see me, accepted by you, in the silver
    of your eyes..."​
    --Will Graham, speculating about the serial killer's motivations in the movie Manhunter, adapted from the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon.
    The serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde, works in a film processing lab and chooses his victims from the home movies he sees in the lab.
    I've seen this couple en route to the Bass Performance Hall a few times. I think both are members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Initially I was drawn to the image of her black-clad figure mirrored in the feminine figure of the cello (or is it a bass? I'm not sure).
    Only when I drew nearer at a traffic light did I notice her hand grasping the instrument, like a child between the couple, being safely led across the street.
    For more than three years this next photo sat unnoticed in my computer archives. I remember taking it and, after quickly reviewing it in thumbnail size, thinking it was nothing special. Just a brief moment between a young man and woman, one of hundreds I took that day.
    Then, earlier this year, I looked at it again in a larger size, and noticed the faces of the fellows in the background toward the right. What were they seeing? For all I know they're gazing longingly at a beer and corn dog stand just out of frame. That look of hunger... but I don't want to know anything more.
    But in my head I suddenly heard the lyrics to the Mazzy Star song Roseblood, with vague, unsettling allusions to desire and ominous reactions to feelings of rejection:
    "Capture a smile and then that's all
    You won't know her so it's ok ...
    Secrets in her lipstick mouth...
    I can wait a million days, 'til her smile... goes away."

    Photography is at times a terrifying responsibility.
  49. Lex, taking your initial two-photo series (where we see the detail more clearly in the second) . . . Your text, the way your words tell the story, and the second photo slowly revealing what the first one doesn't quite show (keeps more private) because the detail is lost or not obvious, establishes just the kind of intimacy I'm talking about. The gesture combines with the bigger picture in a moving and connected way (and the connection is both literal and metaphorical, obviously, since her hand is clutching the bass he's carrying). By presenting it as a series you kind of delay the gratification, which punctuates the literal connection we're not at first aware of and helps establish that intimacy. The gesture itself, of her hand holding the same instrument he carries, is one thing, but its taking place within a bigger picture and within your narratively-established time frame helps attach it to something bigger and makes the connectedness of gesture to whole palpable and felt. More and more, I'm noticing the brief to more lengthy narratives that accompany your posted photos in various threads and I sense your willingness to open up, which often seems mirrored in the photos (though mirrored in a less literal way in a lot of cases). It's not just telling the viewer to use his imagination and go where he wants to go, though I imagine you are fine with that as well. It seems like you're wanting to connect in some way to the viewer through your words and that you are sharing in that journey. That's an intimate approach.
    You've emphasized the imagination of what's going on in the photo over the knowing. And I made sure to talk about what the photo may offer itself, not necessarily having to be tied to biography, in my response to Charles. For me, though, it depends on the photo, and some connection to knowledge or to the real people remains also powerful in a lot of cases. I see most photos as some combination of representing or at least alluding to their referents AND being severed from them to some extent as well. The pendulum, for me, swings wildly in terms of where a photo may take me and how much connection I may feel to the actual person or scene that was before the camera.
    In a recent weekly thread, we talked about the famous Iwo Jima photo and I wouldn't know how to separate that from knowledge of what it was all about and what the real situation was. That may be easy because it's documentary, but I think so many photos, even ones that are much more art, have that important element of documenting as well, even if that aspect is shaded and sometimes even disguised. The reality still touches me even when my imagination is soaring. In fact, that tie to reality actually may send my imagination even further.
  50. Steve wrote: "Yes, Fred, connection."
    For me, "intimate" is specifically not about connection; in fact, it's the opposite. A connection acknowledges, accentuates the location of, and then tries to deal with, difference. By contrast, to be intimate, IMO, is to be (or feel to be) without difference; to be in a common field. Two violins playing in harmony are not connected; they are intimate. Water in the same current is not connected; it is intimate. Unbounded, undivided, in harmony, in the same field, the same current.
    A frenzied mob is not connected; it is horribly intimate.
    I feel very strongly connected to the subjects of Mary Ellen Marks's and W. Eugene Smith's photographs; I feel no intimacy at all to the subjects of their photographs. Which is as it should be. They are being made to or allowed to make claims on me from their strongly defined, separately built and illustrated identities. Difference is the point. Connection is what is used by the two photographers to carry meaning that is specifically, intentionally disharmonic with my own identity.
    On the other hand, I feel strongly intimate with Roni Horn's work, and with your (Steve's) posted picture and with the other examples posted -- except for one which I'll get to in a moment. But I feel no connection to these strange (wonderful!) fragments of existence that harmonize with my own. How could I? How could I connect to what is not separated from me?
    The one picture that is not as intimate, but which does connect (and both for the same reason) is Brad's very first posting (which is a great picture, by the way). Because the people are smiling, believe it or not. Horn mentions this (she excluded all smiling pictures from her series because, she said, the "broke continuity" and "cohesiveness)." Why does being smiled at make a picture less intimate for me? I think it's because a "smile at" is a way of dealing with difference; it immediately positions me (the "smiled at" person) as different -- and, as I already said, for me, intimate is a release from boundaries of difference.
  51. Fred wrote of his "Homage To Dijkstra", emphasis added by me:
    The way Andy held herself and what we read in her face and posture are Andy being Andy being photographed on a public beach and all that went with that for Andy on that day.​
    I've emphasized Fred's description of what that photo is of. Andy being "Andy" being photographed as I read it. I can precisely write what I see, Fred's words almost completely describing what I see. Precisely, what I see is: Andy knowing that he is being "Andy being Andy being photographed on a public beach". And that for me is where a humanizing kind of humor creeps into the other humorous aspects in the scene, the heels, for example. It adds one more layer of meaning to Andy's participation in this form of theater. As layered as Andy's self-presentation is, that additional layer I suggested adds a little more to the message: in all those layers combined it's Andy saying "This is me, all these layers are me." At some point it isn't Andy being anything other than Andy anymore. At some point for me, Andy from the photograph becomes real. It is theater, but it is also a kind of bas-relief of Andy awareness, photographer awareness, and viewer awareness. The device through which this is done is in Fred having used a Dijkstra photo booth, that is, an ironic frame, a new interpretation of Dijkstra's idea. (I'm not sure ironic is the right word. Nor is satire.)
    Is my description/reading of that picture more true to life than Fred's description which for me misses one additional layer of meaning? I don't know. Fred's description, not mine, may be completely true to life. Is my additional layer to Andy's self-knowing valid, or have I created a story, created my own make believe?
  52. One take away for me from all our descriptions here of how we react and respond to photographs, and in making photographs if making them is what we do: we are reporting to others what it is we commune with.
  53. Julie stated:
    Steve wrote: "Yes, Fred, connection."

    For me, "intimate" is specifically not about connection; in fact, it's the opposite.​
    That was my question to everyone here: is connection related to intimacy? I think perhaps some of our differences in thinking have to do with semantics. Unlike Julie, for me, connection means something more like a sharing, or understanding, which would be more like intimacy. When I look at Mary Ellen Mark's photos of the kids dressed for Prom, I feel neither intimacy or connection. They seem too set up, posed. But, of course we will have different reactions to various images because we are different people. I'm still wondering how others see the similarity or difference between a felt connection with the person in the photograph, and the feeling of intimacy.
  54. I never really thought about it before, but whenever someone sees some of my pictures for the first time (in person which is how I prefer people to see my work) almost always the first thing they say is "Do these people know you are taking their picture?" My usual response is "If they do, they don't say anything" which is the truth. Now that I'm thinking about it, I wonder where such a question comes from. Maybe they just never seen candid pictures beyond the snapshots taken by their friends and family to document a gathering of sorts. Maybe they saw something intimate in some of my photographs that they felt was invasive or inappropriate. Not everyone is comfortable with intimacy even when it is described in the content of a photograph. Anyone else get this question when others look at your work?
  55. Intimacy is all around us even in blurry photos. Is there any doubt this guy is crazy about his girl friend and is having a super time?
  56. There are all kinds of intimacy around us. We only have to look.
    Well, this one is obvious.
  57. Steve, I agree it's more a semantical than photographic question. Each of us talking about our photographs and what we see in them and in the photos of others is an intimate kind of engagement. Not as intimate as some engagements, and more intimate than others. For me, yes, connection is related to intimacy, as is difference, which is also related to harmony and two violins playing. I'm comfortable with two violins being in harmony with each other without going to the next step of their being intimate with each other, though I often sense intimacy between two musicians who play together. Tension and resolution is an important part of harmony. Sameness is unison, not harmony. Substantial semantical distinction, I think.
    Some of the toughest fights are over differences and those fights can be and often are very intimate. It is in part the differences between Andy and me, personality-wise, experience-wise, and the fact that I'm photographer and Andy is subject that goes into our relationship. We are connected and sometimes even disjointed, and we are not the same, and still there is intimacy.
    Steve, for me it's often as much a felt connection to the photo itself (and the expressiveness of the photo) as it is to the person in the photo, for many of the reasons I've already given.
  58. Alan, you have some nice pics there. The intimate one, for me, is of the two people sitting together in front of the big window. It's an intimate photo. The others, for me, are photos of what could be considered intimate moments (though the fun energy the couple on the carousel are having doesn't strike me as intimacy). The reason I highlight the one of the couple with the big windows is because the light reaches back to me as a viewer, as does the depth. I am made to feel connected to the scene not just by the intimacy of the couple but by photographic and visual qualities which work to include me in that intimacy. I'm looking at them but I'm also looking with them, and I feel included.
  59. Alan's photos triggered some of the same thoughts for me as Fred. They make me realize that there can be a photo of people being intimate (with each other), and then there is the feeling of intimacy between the person looking at the photo and the people in it; connection. Two different things. Interesting.
  60. Fred and Steve. Thanks for providing very interesting points about the two kinds of intimacy. I hadn't thought about that. This of course raises the coincidental point that the viewer must have a sensitive feeling of empathy to see oneself in the picture. Lacking the requisite empathy, they'll miss its value.
    Fred: Your comment about getting included into the picture reminds me of another picture I took where the viewer becomes intimate with subject and is drawn into the scene even though the people are missing. I can imagine myself sitting there with someone I care about enjoying a beautiful moment in life.
    I think if the content creates a form of intimacy between the viewer and photo, opens their emotions regardless of the reason, the photo succeeds. Isn't that what we all strive for?
  61. I've been pondering Julie's opening comments...
    "I find that good photographs of anonymous people always seem intimate to me. But, oddly, non-anonymous pictures, i.e. pictures of my own family and friends, rarely feel truly intimate, even when they are good."​
    ...and remembering many of my old family photos, dating back to the late 19th century. Before the 1950s there were two types of photographs in my family collection: studio portraits, rigid and dour; posed upright in front of the homestead against a backdrop of barns, windmills, feedlots and, in later years, simple suburban homes, everyone squinting into the sun.

    I don't know these people. I know their names, where they fit into the family hierarchy, where they lived, whom they married, because my granddad carefully pencilled in the information on the backs of the photos. But I don't know anything about them from the photos. And I don't know much about them from family anecdotes because few or none were told. I imagine generations of people scowling through days of chores, dinner conversations consisting of a few words about the day's chores and the next day's proposed chores, met with grunts of acknowledgement, followed by "Well, mornin' comes awful early, reckon I'll get to the bed."

    Personalities beyond this austere chore-bot existence were superfluous and didn't develop until the 1950s, when my granddad began taking family snapshots. He snapped generously. His rolls of film did not include a Christmas tree on either end, a year apart. That's when people began to develop smiles that didn't crack the stern facades, and could be seen interacting indoors in ways that didn't always involve glowering into the lens. These people, I know. And granddad was among the first to take selfies, tho' most were of his enormous thumb in the frame while he was trying to photograph a baby in the bluebonnets.
  62. Steve - "I think perhaps some of our differences in thinking have to do with semantics."
    Right. And when we're trying to sort through the meanings of our words, we must stop to define them.
    Steve - "Unlike Julie, for me, connection means something more like a sharing, or understanding, which would be more like intimacy."
    And instead of going to the dictionary, Steve, you instead tell us how you use the word, what your definition is. When I go to the dictionary and look up the word connection and I look at the synonyms for the word connection I find these:
    affinity, association, bearing, kinship, liaison, linkage, relation, relationship
    I don't see 'sharing', 'understanding' in that quick list of synonyms. So unless you use words according to their definitions in the dictionary, you have little chance of being understood, and it's presumptuous to think that anyone wants to sort through the particulars of how you misuse words. Or how anyone else misuses them. For example:
    Julie - "For me, "intimate" is specifically not about connection; in fact, it's the opposite."
    Ok. "Intimate" is not about connection. Intimate is about the opposite of connection. The opposite of connection is disconnection. So intimacy is about disconnection. That statement is so obviously untrue I hesitate to read more. Yet I do.
    Next Julie writes: "A connection acknowledges, accentuates the location of, and then tries to deal with, difference."
    I thought that a connection established a relation between two or more things, thought that because that's how the dictionary defines the word connection. For example, without a common ancestor, two people don't share a family connection, a kinship relationship. A connection doesn't acknowledge, accentuate, or try and deal with "no relation". A connection is a relation between otherwise unconnected things. So if we find a family connection between John and Bill, the fact that a relation exists doesn't mean that John and Bill aren't still different people. It just means they are in the same field of family origin. John and Bill didn't merge their identities by being kin, didn't lose their identities by having something in common. A connection is just a fact, and a family connection doesn't acknowledge, accentuate or try to deal with no relation. It's up to John and Bill to deal with the fact of their now established family connection. The connection doesn't 'deal' with anything. A connection just describes the nature of the relation. What we make of that relation is something else.
    "Two violins playing in harmony are not connected;..."
    They are disconnected then.
    "...they are intimate."
    Intimate describes a connection and you just wrote that two violins aren't connected. Intimate describes a relation, but you just wrote that there is no relation between two violins, that the two violins aren't attached by any connection, are not connected, are disconnected. "...they are intimate." If they are, then they are connected because intimate is an adjective describing a type of connection.
    So yeah, when we stick to dictionary definitions of words we can resolve 'semantic' issues down to what is nonsense and what is not.
  63. Lex - " I imagine generations of people scowling through days of chores, dinner conversations consisting of a few words about the day's chores and the next day's proposed chores, met with grunts of acknowledgement, followed by "Well, mornin' comes awful early, reckon I'll get to the bed."
    Priceless description, you've described that life precisely and it is so familiar because of my summers on 'the farm' back then.
  64. Charles W , Aug 06, 2014; 01:30 p.m.: "The definition of intimacy is complex and nuanced. The definition of anonymous is straight forward: it means unnamed. It doesn't mean unknown subject. Unknown, like intimacy, is a matter of degree. The degree to which we know someone is intimacy."

    I think Charles has an important point here. And working in the area of English language I tend to agree that correct definitions are important. However I think that words can also have associations and nuances beyond their strict meaning. I don't mean that the word should be used to mean something else, though that of course happens. The word "anonymous", as Charles has written above, means "unnamed". But beyond that, for me, it does have associations with not knowing. If I don't know a person's name then I am also unlikely to know anything about them. I am no anthropologist but it seems to me, at least in western culture, that it is names on which we hang information.

    Rereading Julie's initial post and the later one, I wonder if Roni Horn herself used the word "anonymous" to mean more than its strict meaning. I know nothing about her so I don't want to misrepresent her, but the main quote "simultaneously intimate and anonymous" is followed by (Julie H , Aug 06, 2014; 06:45 a.m.) "The photographs have an erotic edge, but no matter how much time you spend with her you will never get any closer to her. ...". I take this to suggest that we can't know more about her, not her name nor anything else. She is un-knowable. Just my take.

    Of course knowing about a person is not the same as intimacy. Although a photo may hold some clues to the character and story of a person, allowing us to know something about them - I go back to my initial post - I think we mostly project our own stories, considerations, attitudes, memories etc. onto the person within the photo. Brad's very first photo in this thread is not intimate for Julie. But for me there is a sense of intimacy about it and I think this is because of the many associations, some concious some unconscious, which I have with this image. To put it another way I could perhaps say I have some affinity with this person, or at least with who I imagine this person to be.

    Edit: although my post seems to fit in after Charles' post above I had actually written it on my word processor before reading it. All my references ae to earlier posts in the thread.
  65. Laurie "I take this to suggest that we can't know more about her, not her name nor anything else. She is un-knowable. Just my take."
    Mine too. That's what "no matter how much time you spend with her you will never get any closer to her" conveys to the listener/reader. It conveys that you won't know the photographic subject, the experience won't and can't be an intimate experience. With the photographic subject, you will have no intimacy. Will you feel intimacy anyway? You will if you are delusional (A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.) Or if you suspend disbelief until after the show is over. Should I value a delusional experience mediated by a photograph and name it intimacy? Maybe when having the experience of viewing, but not after I'm done. No. I wouldn't give the experience that value. I might name it as entertainment, but not as intimacy. Julie disagrees with Horn's "no intimacy possible" opinion despite that Julie agrees that Laurie's take is more logical: "... at most the above reaction can only be one sided." But Julie names her reaction 'intimacy' anyway, despite agreeing with superior logical evidence to the contrary:
    Julie [her emphasis]- "I love thinking about the idea of viewer as weather because weather encompasses, surrounds, permeates, but also, is just always there, effecting/affecting, participating, and making what's happening happen in one way instead of another; in short, intrinsically intimate."​
    Later, Julie writes "I feel strongly intimate with Roni Horn's work..."
    That's taking artistic license with words a little too far for me.
    In summary, what the photographer did was to create an exhibit in which to view photographs of a woman that had an provocative/erotic edge. The photographer acknowledges that the exhibit encourages a fantasy experience in the viewer.
    What if I wrote as a man that after having an erotic fantasy from viewing provocative pictures of a woman I felt an intimacy toward that photographed woman?
  66. "good photographs of anonymous people feel/are intimate? Is the "good" in that question tied to that feeling of intimacy?"

    All good photographs are intimate; it is that feeling of connection.... that is why the photographer will contemplate the moment to press the big button on their cam. Relationship, is is all about what the subject is communicating to them.

    Some folk like to analysis, use a form of simplistic number put photographs in a bottle with a message.. Most mathematicians will tell you numbers are as much about imagination/creativity as logic.

    Art/Photography communicates in its own is talking to us in its own special try, as Charles is trying to do, to understand it in a one plus two scenario... is just a straw in your mouth hillbilly stuff.
  67. In thinking a little more about Alan's photo, there's a bit of irony or even contradiction I'm feeling. Today, when I looked again, the photo felt voyeuristic to me. Though I still felt invited in by the situation—the light, the perspective, and the depth, as well as the window to look through—I was in some sense also intruding on a private moment of the couple. If not intruding, even just looking on. Never mind anonymous intimacy for the moment. What about voyeuristic intimacy? I think there may be something to that. And, actually, maybe there's an anonymous aspect—and needs to be—to voyeurism which ties a bunch of this together. They don't know my name, or me, but I'm watching.
    I don't use "voyeurism" pejoratively here. It's just descriptive of what the photo made me feel today. And I think it may pertain to photographers taking photos of people in intimate moments, though not necessarily of photographers who make intimate photos (and I've done both).
    Check this out. The second definition for "voyeur" in Webster's is:
    "a person who likes seeing and talking or writing about something that is considered to be private"
    If intimacy has something to do with privacy, some sense of voyeurism might well be at play. I'm not stating a thesis or even an argument here. Just food for thought.
  68. Well, to me Alan's photo's posted here express sentimentalism. (the excessive expression of feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia in behavior, writing, or speech), whether accomplished by the method of voyeurism or not. That's how soap is sold, or gum, or coke.
  69. I guess I'm getting old Charles. When I was younger I wouldn't want to be caught dead being sentimental. Now I've become a softie. Ain't so bad trying to be in touch with my feelings.
  70. Sure, and we all respond to it favorably, that's why it is used in advertising. Yet reality is more complex where we have faults, but our faults also make us human and approachable. Those complexities of human intimacy are hard to communicate in one shot. I mentioned public humiliation by spousal argument in a restaurant, but we don't take out our cameras to shoot that, do we? A dedicated artist might or might not, who knows?
  71. A dedicated artist might or might not shoot that directly. A dedicated artist could also process the feelings and emotions of that scene and put all that into a photo that doesn't involve that particular couple or any couple for that matter. The specific subject matter could be unrelated while the requisite feelings could be dealt with in any number of ways. The artist often does not always draw, paint, or shoot literally, though he or she certainly may. One has hovered under the covers listening to their parents fight. There may be no opportunity or even desire to shoot that. But one can still shoot the darkness, the fear, the anxiety, the sadness.
  72. FLUTE [as Thisbe] O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans
    For parting my fair Pyramus and me.
    My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones.
    Thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.
    BOTTOM [as Pyramus] I see a voice. Now will I to the chink
    To spy an I can hear my Thisbe's face.
    FLUTE [as Thisbe] My love — thou art my love, I think.
    BOTTOM [as Pyramus] Think what thou will, I am thy lover's grace
    And Like Lemander am I trusty still.
    FLUTE [as Thisbe] And I like Helen, till the fates me kill.
    BOTTOM [as Pyramus] Not Shaphalus to Procrus was so true.
    FLUTE [as Thisbe] As Shapalus to Procrus, I to you.
    BOTTOM [as Pyramus] O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.
    FLUTE [as Thisbe] I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.
    BOTTOM [as Pyramus] Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightaway?
    FLUTE [as Thisbe] Tide life, tide death, I come without delay.
    [Exuent BOTTOM and FLUTE severally]
    SNOUT [as Wall] Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so;
    And being done, thus Wall away doth go. Exit
    THESEUS Now is the wall down between the two neighbours.
    DEMETRIUS No remedy my lord, when walls are so willful to hear without warning.
    HIPPOLYTA This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
    THESEUS The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them.
    HIPPOLYTA It must be your imagination, then, and not theirs.
    THESEUS If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men.
    Rationalists, wearing square hats,
    Think, in square rooms,
    Looking at the floor,
    Looking at the ceiling.
    They confine themselves
    To right-angled triangles.
    If they tried rhomboids,
    Cones, waving lines, ellipses —
    As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon —
    Rationalists would wear sombreros. — W.Stevens
  73. If our shadows have offended,
    and our highlights gone untended,
    you that have but pondered here,
    with this doggerel, disappear.
  74. Now die, die, die, die, die. [He dies]
  75. One take away for me from this thread is that there are many different ways that people experience intimacy. What is an intimate conversation? What's involved in intimacy? A feeling of connection, non-anonymity, of knowing someone's name? But what's a name? Is identity rooted in our insights? Our experiences, our relationships? Who are our heroes? This guy is one of mine, Eric Hollenbeck.
  76. The Ox, that video. It's Eric's portrayal of a lifetime. What strikes me about the video is that paradox between anonymity and identity. At the end of his narrative, Eric, by identifying himself, becomes anonymous, becomes indistinguishable from the rest of us, and the world is set to blossom by his anonymity. Is Eric "The Ox?" Or does that moniker refer to the Ox from a Zen tradition, the ten oxherding pictures of the Zen tradition? which link doesn't identify the author as either Johnson or Ruhl:
    "The ten oxherding pictures of the Zen tradition make a wonderful portrayal of a lifetime. In the first, the young man is looking for the ox. In the second, he finds the footprints of the ox. In the third, he sees the ox. In the fourth, he wrestles with the ox. In the fifth, he’s seated upon the ox. In the sixth, he’s riding off with the ox. The seventh is blank. That’s curious. You can make all kinds of things out of that. In the eighth, he’s returning the ox to the field. In the ninth, the ox is in the field and the man is walking away. In the tenth, which is possibly the most beautiful statement I’ve heard in my life, the man, now old, is utterly indistinguishable from anyone else as he walks through the village streets. No one notices him, but the trees all burst into blossom. This is the best definition of enlightenment I’ve found."​
  77. And the most amazing paradox that the film maker suggests is that Eric, in building what he thought was to be his island world, was simultaneously building a bridge. And not just any bridge. A huge one. Not so Eric could leave his world; but so that the world, despite Eric's intention, would find a way to him. About that Eric says there are two good reasons to shower twice a day.
  78. From Roni Horn herself, who probably approached her art in sometimes irrational ways but also wrote quite rationally about it. She seems to wear many hats.
    The narrative involves the recognition of uniqueness through the sequential experience of things which are identical. Then the subsequent and irreversible loss of the unique identity. Obviously the notion of being identical is a purely ideal one since when you have two things, no matter how perfect the identity, you always have a this and a that, a here and a there. In both pieces we’re talking about the critical role of relation in defining the form.
    Might apply to intimacy as well.
    [By the way, my appreciation that I can understand Roni Horn's words about her art and appreciate that those words make sense to me doesn't lessen my appreciation for the very different kind of sense or non-sense the art itself expresses and/or communicates.]
  79. Interesting topic... I think there's photographs of intimacy as demonstrated above and then there is photographs as a couple of said where the photographer captures, or creates an intimacy even with the anonymous. For instance I take a lot of photos of friends with whom I have longstanding familiarity and that familiarity gives me "standing" with them to then capture and create a very intimate. Of course physical and sexual intimacy is one powerful form of intimacy, but there can be a quality of intimacy that doesn't need to be that. To me intimate means very close personal. But also when I shoot candids on the street, I think I maybe unconsciously try to create a sense of that close personal with a (to me) anonymous person. This topic is cool, because I never could find suitable words for that process. Anyways, I like my photos to make a viewer feel as if they "are there" and I think that is a form of intimacy. But then, I'm not sure I'm always a fair judge of my photography:)

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