Sky (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, May 13, 2017.

  1. "When the soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it." [Meister Eckhart's words are] an evocation of the image as a threshold leading to new dimensions of meaning. Symbolic images are more than data: they are vital seeds, living carriers of possibility." — Ami Ronnberg

    In a sense, I think in every photograph, with or without any consciousness of doing so, the photographer "throws out an image" ... "and then steps into it." Most photographs are not explicitly symbolic. Presence of symbolic content in a photograph is almost always simply an instinctive response to a meaning we "already know."

    I've been wanting to post a thread on Symbols for a while but have had a hard time figuring out how to keep it from being to amorphous and/or too theoretical. I've picked "Sky" to start with because it seems to me it should be relevant to just about any photographer.

    I think "sky" in photographs has made or broken more photographs than any other single ingredient in the history of the medium. Why is that? What difference does one sky make from another? Why do you look at a series of proofs and pick one sky over another?

    Why did someone steal iLOVEnature's sky (see this thread)?
    Why did Ferdi (fwstutterheim) write of his landscape (in this thread) "I went there four times and was not very lucky with the clouds. Eventually the desired clouds emerged but then most of the flowers were gone. I'll try again next year."

    "There was a time when we lived at a great and respectful distance from the sky. The sky was a huge, inverted blue bowl, a vast tent, a great metallic plate arched over the earth. It was the home of God or it was God, or the great goddess Nut bending over, sheltering the world. The sky was so vast, so high, so far away that only birds and mountains could reach it."

    "Now we can venture into the sky on planes and rockets and leave our footprints on the moon. We say now that 'sky' is the upper part of the envelope of gasses (primarily nitrogen and oxygen) that enclose the earth. The old image of 'sky' rests uneasily next to the modern idea of 'space.' "

    "Clouds are part of an endless, reciprocal exchange between the ethereal and the earthly, moving between formlessness and form."

    "Contemporary poet Nan Hunt refers to fog as, "The mummy wrap of soft white / that hints of resurrection."

    "Anyone who has waited in anticipatory silence for the sun to glide like a molten hallelujah out of the sea, or ventured forth as the vast engine of the city comes alive in the morning sunlight reflecting off river and skyscraper; anyone whose creative thought or intuition crosses the threshold from inception to epiphany resonates with the ages-old veneration of the daily or seasonal rising of earth's own life-sustaining star." — all quotes above are from The Book of Symbols​

    What does sky symbolize for you? What makes you wait for it?
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Montana is "Big Sky Country" sky dramatic and endless. A good part of the reason I live here. Not coincidentally New Mexico and Arizona, two favorite photo destinations share the attributes.
    DavidTriplett likes this.

  3. ... and either can be good, depending on ...

    I almost always want a sky that is "airy." If they're post-processed or filtered or exposed to be too dense, to my eye, they coagulate into an enamel surface that is simply a color or tonal shape, not a "sky." The colors or tones lose all transparency and with that lose, they lose all implications of space and place.

    An example of the kind of "airy" landscape sky that I like is Christoph Geiss's (cegeiss) post #12 in this thread in the Landscape forum. But his color is wrong, to my eye. It makes my post-processing fingers twitch just looking at it. But that's his choice, and I read it as given; a different sky from "mine" that I will consider on its merits.

    Phil, your low clouds picture: I don't find it to be "spacious" but I think I can see what you were after. In any event, it gave me flashbacks to how difficult that kind of picture was to print in a traditional darkroom. Arghhh!!!

    Sandy, there's the sky that is there and there's the sky that's in your picture. One of them "means" nothing; the other means something, even if only "sky."
  4. Phil, is this "sky" or is it precisely not sky? (I like it.)
  5. Amanda communal farms
  6. I like that very much JDMvW. I especially like the nutty placement of the sun ("nutty" is good, coming from me). Could I extract *one* word of description from you?

    Confession: I really liked your zebra picture in the No Words > Stripes thread but didn't have the nerve to "Like" it because ... it's ... fuzzy. I actually liked it *because* it is fuzzy. Consider this confession a furtive "Like."
  7. Sometimes, it seems to work for me to look up at someone and use the sky as backdrop. Very different feel for a sky, even when it's incidental, when that kind of deliberate perspective and angle are at play. Somehow, there seems more symbiosis between the light in the sky and the light it casts on the face. Northern California is known for fog and haze which also give both the sky as content and the light it sheds a particular quality.

    Uhooru likes this.
  8. @Julie H

    1 word:
    "symbolic" clouds ?

    not fuzzy, "grainy' - it's a severe crop from high speed color film. Anyway, it's a PICTURE, not a "zebra"

    I've had the discussion/argument about the cult of sharpness before. My mental role model is the combat photographer (approximates "f/8 and be there")
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  9. Nice pic and use of sky Fred.
  10. Thanks, Barry. ;-)
  11. 16x 20 20160504_8809.jpg The sky is one of our great archetypal symbols. Look at all the sunset/sunrise photos everybody does. Perhaps it grounds us, reassuring us that we are on the ground and the universe is aligned as it should be. To me there is something awesome about the depth of a dark, blue sky. Its pure and infinite. Even when seen in a reflection in water as in this shot, we know immediately what it is.
  12. Clouds add another spectacular element with their textures and shadings. Like the sky, clouds are no doubt archetypal, grounded deep in our psyches from millennia of human existence, representing change, rain, storms, etc. I think both sky and clouds symbolize spirit, god, heavenly, those types of things.

    16x20 clouds over santa barbara.jpg
    Uhooru and kenkuzenski like this.
  13. Yes!

    ... and more. I think the sky activates a space. In the same way that you can be walking down an everyday street and step into a church and suddenly find yourself in an entirely different space, an 'activated' space, I think the sky 'activates' an otherwise inactive space.

    Do you think stories are created or discovered?

    That’s easy. Stories are created. It isn’t as if they’re ‘out there’ waiting in some Platonic hyper-space like unread emails. They aren’t. Writers make stories up. It might be that when stories turn out to be good they then achieve a quality of inevitability, of there seeming to have been a previously existing and important space that they perfectly fill. But that isn’t what’s true. I’m sure of it. A story makes its own space and then fills it. — writer Richard Ford in a Granta interview

    Gaseous nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and dust aren't what we're looking at when we see "sky" (unless we're meteorologists on the job).

    We make spaces of all kinds within our built environment:

    Golden Section, Giants Stadium
    by Diane Ackerman

    [ … ]

    Speak to me, Beckenbauer, about the rhythm
    of the mind that searches for perfect order
    in imperfect places: art galleries and polling booths,
    books, sin-bins, and churches:
    and can turn even ceremonial violence
    to the mercy of a workable peace.​

    We photographers 'build' or activate spaces everywhere. Where do those spaces come from? What activates them? Wherever it is present in a photograph, I think the sky is the key ingredient in 'making' a space, and thereby defining the story that can be told there.

    "We create boxes in order to hear, we connect our ear to a conch to hear the sound of the sea, we build spaces with the express purpose of listening, or hearing each other: town squares, vaults, walls, churches, theatres, narrow passageways, alleys, ears of stone. ... [W]e combine spaces through which sensation can pass, hoops, nets, mazes that the fish will thread its way into, unseen and unheard by us, swimming in circles, trapped, ensnared.​

    Resonating within us: a column of air and water and solids, three-dimensional space, tissue and skin, long and broad walls and patches, and wiring, running through them; moorings receptive to the lower frequencies, as though our bodies were the union of ear and orchestra, transmission and reception. I am the home and hearth of sound, hearing and voice all in one, black box and echo, hammer and anvil, echo chamber, music cassette, pavilion, question mark drifting through the space of meaningful or meaningless messages, emerging from my own shell or drowning in the sound waves, I am nothing but empty space and a musical note. I am empty space and note combined." — Michel Serres

    Look at Steve's [sjmurray's] pictures, and/or the ones linked, above them. What are they doing to you? How?

    Thank you Steve for being willing to contribute to the thread's subject.

    All right; you’ve also said that you consciously want your writing to be ‘affirmative’ of the possibility of love, closeness in a life, what makes you hold to that?

    Not to keep on quoting famous men, but somewhere in Wallace Stevens there’s a little fragment that says, ‘we gulp down evil, choke at good’. That’s always meant to me that it’s more appetizing to decry, and less appetizing, maybe less simple, to find a vocabulary for affirmation. And also ‘closeness in a life’ and (if you will) ‘love’ seem immensely sustaining to me, and worthy of efforts at articulation. — more from the same Richard Ford interview as at the top of this post​

    Amen to that.
  14. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    s'funny, i would view the church as a de-activated space. likewise stepping from a crowded room into an open space (full of sky).
  15. Also, Colorado.
  16. Living in Texas all my life the sky symbolizes and confirms to me my state's crazy weather moods and its influence on our relationship with each other and our environment with every change of season reflected back by what seems like nature's attempt at free form weather mood expressionism as she paints with the most oddest of sky colors providing a backdrop for some pretty bizarre cloud shapes.

    There are formations like the one below that still haven't been identified by cloud specialists. I've looked. I think with that one and a whole bunch in my image folders, it's pretty evident why I've learned to wait and stick with it in the moment. The sky is a reminder that things change, whether for good or bad is just a matter of timing. It's like hunting, except no one kills anything.

  17. dcstep, I am looking at Richard Misrach's The Sky Book in which he features pictures of just a sky (nothing but air) with titles such as, for example:

    Pyramid Lake, Nevada, 6.28.94, 6:57 AM [which is a lovely pale blue green at the top which fades to almost white at the bottom]
    Paradise Valley [Nevada] 10.5.97 6:39 PM [which is an almost uniform marine blue with a very, very slight reddish tinge about two inches from the bottom]
    Paradise Valley [Arizona] 3.22.95 7:05 PM [which is a rich egg yolk yellow at the bottom grading through pale blue to dark blue to almost black at the top]​

    And the amazing thing is, all the skies are the same size!
  18. "Sky-Watching: In primitive cultures sky-watching was an important part of life, and celestial phenomena were considered highly significant. When these coincided with events on Earth, they evolved into omens." —Signs & Symbols

    Of course Tim isn't doing that. Or is he?

    "... the exit from religiousness had been more or less accomplished. The blinding,dazzling excess of visibility of the spectacle is there to conceal that there are things that remain invisible and that between the visible and the invisible there is no mediation." — Thierry de Duve

    [Those are fascinating clouds, Tim.]
  19. A girl came out of Lawyer Royall's house, at the end of the one street of North Dormer, and stood on the doorstep. It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The spring-like transparent sky shed a rain of silver on the roofs of the village and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it. A little wind moved among the round white clouds on the shoulders of the hills, driving their shadows across the fields. ... [Edith Wharton, Summer]​

    Thus glimpsed, framed in an open doorway giving onto the intimacy of a home, a girl of whom we perceive nothing but her youth, is already revealing the immanence — a captured 'instant' —of a story, of we know not what meeting, what happy or tragic event: she reveals it in the light emanating from the sky, and this sky provides the broad and 'transparent' background, unbounded, against which the successive lines of a street, a house and a door detach themselves. It is less a question of the image, that we cannot fail to imagine, but more a matter of the function of the image, light and correct balance of shadow, framework and detachment, the emergence and touch of an intensity.

    [ ... ]

    Before the sky and the earth, when all was one, there is nothing distinct. The sky is the distinguished par excellence, and in its essence distinguishes itself from the earth on which it sheds light. It is also itself distinction and distance: endless brightness, simultaneously near and far, the source of light that nothing illuminates in its turn (lux) but by which everything is illuminated, and everything takes on distinctness ...

    ... yet the light of an image comes from the image itself. Thus the image is the sky detached for itself, coming with all its force to fill the horizon ...​

    — Jean-Luc Nancy
  20. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Ahsonnutli was the sky father and chief god for the Navajo. He created heaven, Earth, and the sky

    An was the Sumerian sky god and symbolized heaven. In fact his name means "sky". Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia

    According to the Maori people of New Zealand, Rangi was the Sky Father and his wife was the Mother Earth

    Tyr was the sky god in Norse mythology

    In the Rig Veda, which is a collection of antique Hindu hymns, Indra is described as the king of the gods. He has authority over the sky and the power to make rain using his weapon, the
    thunderbolt. Indra is depicted as a man with four long arms riding a white elephant.

    In Greek mythology, Zeus (Jupiter in Roman mythology) was the king of heaven and Earth and of all the Olympian gods

    the sky signifies masculinity, power and freedom


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