Small Things

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Phil S, Jun 10, 2017.

  1. It's a question of subject (the things photographed) and subject matter (what the photograph is about). In the 'objective' manner of Atget and of Gossage's topographic landscapes the photographed subject is also very much the subject matter of the photograph, pointing itself to itself. This is also to more or lesser degrees at play in my own way of working and something that I've been consciously aware of at times when making photographs. At other times my approach to the photographic image is more 'subjective' and symbolist. So I wouldn't say my work is the absolute opposite of the objective style, it's more a combination and a conscious straddling between these two sides of the spectrum.

    I'm also not sure that the formally objective approach keeps the viewer in the picture at all times. The paradox being that the precise and detached gaze of the camera is also what can turn even the most ordinary scene into a mise-en-scène. This is also the reason why the surrealists saw so much potential in Atget's images in terms of their elusive meaning even when the subject is so clearly described by the camera.

    The pictures in The Pond when looked at individually all have a luscious matter-of-fact'ness about them in how they point to their subjects while simultaneously also pointing to and commenting on the medium they're made in and with. But the real subject of The Pond must be found in the entirety of the book as one work of art and artistic statement that has been intentionally left open to multiple interpretations.
     
  2. Julie, these books you mentioned and other ones by Gossage that I've looked at online seem to be much more conceptual. Another thing that strikes me about The Pond is that it has the perfect balance between the conceptual and the actual where each one supports the other.
     
  3. The real beginning is the Berlin work:

    Berlin, one might way, is the place where photography became both easy and difficult for him. Easy because there was such a rich vein of subject-matter, history piled up in front of his eyes, one metaphorical layer upon another, like the different strata that can reveal so much to the archaeologist when a trench is cut through a site. But such strata, translated into the archaeologists sectional drawings, are notoriously difficult to read, and that, in a nutshell, was where the difficulty, the challenge lay for Gossage. He was faced with the task of evaluating the evidence, reading it, recording it, interpreting it, and fashioning it into a coherent 'report' — both for himself and for his audience. Of course, as John Gossage is an artist, the 'report' may be oblique, poetic, metaphorical, subjective, and ambiguous. In short, it is a creative interpretation.

    The challenge of new and difficult material, however, is also what stimulates the photographer or artist, and in taking Berlin's challenge, Gossage was spurred into making types of pictures he had never made before.

    ... But the real lesson of Berlin for Gossage — affecting the finishing of The Pond and all his subsequent work — is this. Where history entered his work, so did politics. That did not make his work more preachy or propagandist, but it certainly made it more thoughtful and complex. Gossage's political stance can be characterized not in terms of party ideology, but like that of say, both the great French photographer Eugene Atget, and the American Robert Adams, could be described as individualistic, skeptical, and non-conformist. And that troubled, inquiring stance began to inform his work, filtering into The Pond, becoming gradually stronger and clearer with each subsequent project. Although the seeds were there in the beginning, we can say with some certainty that they were germinated in Berlin.

    Berlin truly politicized Gossage's work. If prior to Berlin, he photographed the landscape with the inquisitive eye of the field archaeologist, after that first visit to the city, John Gossage began to photograph with the darker eye of the forensic archaeologist. — Gerry Badger, 2004
     
  4. Another characteristic in The Pond is how small elements are being introduced as the center of tension and suspense. In one image there's a wooden board floating in the water as we look at it through the foliage and trees it came from (live is circular) . In another image there's a small path running through the foliage and trees and just near the very end of the path there's the subtle appearance of a perfectly straight edge, belonging to a building or other manmade structure. Once you notice it, and it does take some time when looking at the image for our eyes to grapple on to anything that will serve as an effective anchor point, it becomes the gestalt of the image. Something also that feels invasive and comforting at the same time.

    Looking at my own image of the plastic bag that's stuck in the tree. Tension is a big part of its visual appeal to me. There's tension in it which is made all the more palpable by how it's being rendered within a classic aesthetic sensibility.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  5. I've been wanting to go and photograph in Berlin for the same reason I like to take pictures in Paris. The history (past and recent) and weight of something is what makes it possible to claim it as your own.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  6. "I'm also not sure that the formally objective approach keeps the viewer in the picture at all times. The paradox being that the precise and detached gaze of the camera is also what can turn even the most ordinary scene into a mise-en-scène. This is also the reason why the surrealists saw so much potential in Atget's images in terms of their elusive meaning even when the subject is so clearly described by the camera" Julie.

    Small Things.

    The Photograph Im going to post is a very small thing particularly compared to the surrealist masters whom we can read so much into.

    Just a lady taking her dog for a walk along a country lane and her cat following. The lady was very bothered and was obviously worried something bad might happen to her cat and really wanted it to go home...but cats being cats they have a mind of their own. She turned her back on it hoping it would return home.

    A very small thing in the world but a big thing to the lady in question.
     


  7. Trust in what you see and then state it authoritatively. The photograph is only a small thing if you present it as such. Don't present the photograph as a small thing if you don't think what the photograph depicts is just a small thing.

    The scene of the woman walking her dog and cat reminds me of a series from Paul Graham's A Shimmer of Possibility where a guy is walking his cat.

    Paul Graham:

    "it has steadily become less important to me that the photographs are about something in the most obvious way. I am interested in more elusive and nebulous subject matter. The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness...You can't sum up the results in a single line. In a way, 'a shimmer of possibility' is really about these nothing moments in life."

     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
  8. Small Things can be EVERY/THING.

     
  9. ^

    "And that's what this whole is, it's jazz, you see. This is a big jazz this world and what it's trying to do is to see how jazzed up it can get. How far out this play of rhythm can go."

    — Alan Watts
     
  10. I'm not at all sure if the small weirdnesses of the pictures in the BookTease for the book Reading Raymond Carver can be shoe-horned into this thread ... but I had so much fun snickering at them, I'm posting the link. You may have to be a "certain age" to remember this stuff.
     
  11. "Trust in what you see and then state it authoritatively. The photograph is only a small thing if you present it as such. Don't present the photograph as a small thing if you don't think what the photograph depicts is just a small thing"..

    Lack of trust is what I see, Phil. The fear of hurt to a emotional companion and a fellow lifeform we share this earth with. Authoritarian is subject to a conjecture on your part for me just a seen reality. In the chaos of the world a lady worried about her cat is seen as a small thing when there are so many horrors.

    But the world is made of small things which ultimately join together to make big things both literally and metaphorically.
     
  12. To go off subject that photograph was a moral dilemma for me :what I see I photograph that simple.

    But when the lady was trying to shoo her cat away I felt her distress.....and did not really want to intrude. But on another day I might think in another way.

    A small thing in the world among so many horrors but is it not the small things that make us.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  13. Ishimoto.jpg


    ^ Screengrab from a short video I shot at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris last week. It shows an image by Yasuhiro Ishimoto of a newspaper blowing in the wind. Not a plastic bag moment but close enough. I've known about this image for a long time but it only lived in my mind as I had forgotten the name of the photographer who made it so couldn't look it up except when retrieving it in my mind. And then suddenly there it was in the flesh. The image of it not looking all that different from how I had seen it in my mind for all this time. Of course seeing the actual photograph added a whole other dimension to it. What was also great to find out is that it was taken in Chicago (Ishimoto did a lot of his street photography there), where I shot the image in the OP.

    HERE is the image online for better viewing.
     
    Supriyo likes this.
  14. A courtyard, shadow network from trees, people sitting in the distance, and two flying newspapers. Nice! I like how the distant people seem somehow connected to the foreground newspapers, by virtue of the composition.
     
  15. Yes, the people in the background are key in turning the flying papers into two separate yet connected 'entities'. It's an amazing small moment captured in an amazing photograph.
     

Share This Page