Stranger (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Barry, what makes you think Arbus connected with her subjects. Other than the photos is there evidence she connected, ie did she write about them somewhere, correspond with them, interview them?
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    The reason i ask is because of what Phil said about Arbus' photos being 'self portraits' due to her state of mind.
  3. According to the two books I've read about Arbus one being the un-official, un-sanctioned biography and the other being the awesome large tome put out by her daughter, that Arbus herself talked extensively about her relations with many of her subjects. Arbus talked about the frustration of the lack of connection she was able to generate with the patients at the sanitarium she photographed at. It seems to me it was quite well known.

    That doesn't negate what Phil was talking about though. She's a fascinating person, you should read the some of the great books exploring her life.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
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  4. What I've read about Diane Arbus is, indeed, interesting. The photos, exhibits, and books of imagery I've seen are even more so. Whether she connected with her subjects is less important to me than what I see in her photos, which I wouldn't describe as connection, and I think that's why she was so special and also why so many people had a problem with her work. I see fascination. And I think there are positive and negative sides to fascination, and I accept that and think it makes her work all the more important and all the more deep.
    ". . . as if he were an object." That's what I see in her work. A lot of objectification. Brilliant, honest objectification. Whether and how she connected to her subjects, I think her photos show a very unusual kind of distance. A kind of intentionally close distance. I think her camera confronts her subjects and I think she was unflinching in doing that. That's what I find so challenging and rewarding about her work and what I suspect puts many people off about her work.
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  5. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Fred, don't you think that lack of connection and the objectification of her subjects leaves her open to being accused of exploitation?
  6. Actually, she was accused of exploitation. But when you read about her, regardless if it was or wasn't exploitive, and she certainly had an agenda for her photos, there isn't about a lack of connection, though, we may be mis-using that word. You will see that a big part of her projects was basically "seducing" subjects to let her take their picture. She used to talk to people she was wanting to photograph and ask them to take her home with them, or to "tell her a secret". Its easy to say, and may well be true that she wasn't really interested in that word, "connecting" with her subjects. But she did want to learn something of them and I believe she certainly wanted them to feel they knew her enough to drop their "mask", i.e. that front in their mind they want to present to the world. She was known to be almost vicious and un-mercifil with the camera and how she got people to let her take pictures. Read Warhol's starlets Viva's comments or Germain Greer's comments about a photo session with Diane Arbus.
    But for instance, for the circus freaks she photographed, she certainly got to know many of them very well over a period of time. Some of that, I would speculate, was just to gain entry to that world so she could find subjects to photograph. But still, these were people she knew and fairly well indeed. Whether that informs her photography? I think it must to some degree. her approach was unique and her photos are unique.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  7. Yes, it does leave her open and she has been accused of it. I think part of the challenge of her work is dealing with that. I see it as objectification but not exploitation. Exploitation, to me, would mean her deriving some sort of personal or emotional benefit off of the objectification. For instance, I think a lot of photos of homeless people (NOT ALL) are exploitive because they not only objectify other humans but the photos pray upon an emotional pathos that will be derived with very little emotional involvement put into the endeavor. A lot of the stuff I'm talking about comes across as shooting fish in a barrel. I think Arbus's photos show dedication (the opposite of shooting fish in a barrel) without necessarily showing connection. I think because they don't derive that kind of emotional pathos and don't seem to be attempting to derive that kind of emotional pathos they don't, to me, come across as exploitive. She doesn't seem to be looking for either a sympathetic or an empathetic reaction. That's what I mean by fascination. Kind of a more neutral sense of wonder and interest, a kind of irresistible attention without pointing toward a result or resolution.


    Barry, I read you as talking about what you know of her and her methods and not what you see in her photos. Your last post is all about her getting to know her subjects and what you've read about her relating to the people she shot and not about what you're seeing in the photos themselves. When I talk of disconnection, I'm talking about what I see in her photos, despite what I may know of how she worked. I'm not saying you should see her photos as I do and I'm not even sure how you see her photos. It's just that you haven't actually talked about them. Do you see the connection in the photos themselves? Isn't it possible she connected with these people but either chose to or just unconsciously managed to shoot them without portraying or wanting to portray or even being able to portray that connection?
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  8. “If you scrutinize reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic.” ― Diane Arbus
    “The camera is cruel, so I try to be as good as I can to make things even.” – Diane Arbus

    There are an awful lot of people in the world and it's going to be terribly hard to photograph all of them... It was my teacher Lisette Model who finally made it clear to me that the more specific you are, the more general it will be. - Diane Arbus

    I think her photographs reflect her intense fascination for the subjects.her curiosity, her passion to confront her own fears and explore things she hadn't seen before. Her exploitation, if that's what people wanted to call it, was using her personality to gain entrance to people's lives and then exploit the relationships for her own professional gain by displaying the photos. But in a way, every documentary photographer does that to some extent. But no, I don't think her photos are based on pity or even empathy. In fact, I beleve she didn't really think actual empathy was possible to some extent when she claimed it was impossible to get under another's skin and that experiencing one's own trauma doesn't necessarily allow you to understand another's.
  9. ...........
    I think that what she was doing was kind of the inverse of what Phil asked me about earlier in this thread:

    I think Arbus was starting with the given "look like" and finding the "book": finding the story of her subjects by falling into their story. Being there. Letting the teeth of their ongoing life/place gear into hers.

    In that sense, as Phil also pointed out, her pictures are self-portraits.
  10. ..............
    The issue I see with what Jung found, and, as I said in the OP, is that in making a photograph (as opposed to a painting or drawing), you are in an photo-interaction and you wait until it "makes sense." It's very unusual for someone to see themselves (photographically) as they are not, to see themselves as 'stranger.' It's kind of like trying to see the back of your head: you know it's there, but you can't see it (directly). When photographing somebody else, I think you know the game, and how to play it, as does everybody else. If somebody is not playing, if they are 'stranger,' then I think that most photographers will wait and watch until the person "makes sense" i.e. is not strange.


    Avedon tells a story of going to photograph the, by then completely blind, Jorge Luis Borges and being unable to make a good picture:

    "The first time I saw him in light, it was my light. I was overwhelmed with feeling and I started to photograph. But the photographs turned out to be emptier than I had hoped. I thought I had somehow been overwhelmed that I had brought nothing of myself to the portrait."

    "... In some way, it seemed that Borges had no visitors. People who came from the outside could exist for him only if they were made part of his familiar inner world, the world of poets and ancients who were already his true companions. The people in that world knew more, argued better, had more to tell him. The performance permitted no interchange. He had taken his own portrait long before, and I could only photograph that."​

    By contrast, he also describes photographing the painter Frances Bacon. That went perfectly. I'll skip the story and just give one sentence from Avedon:

    "Without my saying a word, he understood what my portrait was about, what it called for from him, and he still remained true to himself."​

    Note that Avedon says, "what my portrait was about."
  11. ..........

    That would be why Jung did not claim his things were art?

    I thought you were in favor of ambiguity in your pictures. Does ambiguity "make sense"?
  12. ..........
    Would you agree with:

    "... if he is an artist who collides and contends immediately with the raw cognitive-ethical element of a lived life, with the chaos of a lived life (element and chaos from the aesthetic standpoint), ... it is only this collision that ignites the purely artistic spark." — M.M. Bakhtin

    ... and if so, you would not photograph the moment, the state of, the feeling of that collision but would rather wait until you could "map" that territory?

    [I think most photographers do wait (and thus no 'stranger'), but you have said that "no artist" would do so.]

  13. Did I say that? I think not.

    I think it is the spectators, including the artist who made the thing, that enjoy "making sense" out of it, as a finished work. But that's not who or what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the shooter, in the act of seeing. The artist in the collision.

  14. I think just the opposite is often true. I don't think Beethoven's final piano sonatas made much "sense" to him at all. Many passages show madness, not sense. And I don't think they would have made more sense to him than to his listeners. These pieces are quite baffling. Listen to them after listening to those of his early or middle period. They're on a different plane. Had they made sense, they would lack the intense personal outcrying quality they have, IMO. The same can be said for lots of art.
    All you're doing here is changing the definition of "sense" to suit what you want to say. Finding another word would work better. Why use the word "sense" to begin with? Taking it to this deeper level seems to take it out of the realm of sense, so it's not sense anymore. I think emphasizing "sense," at whatever level, is not a great place to go in talking about artists' relationships to their art.
  15. Phil, you've simply started from the back end. You want a phrase (a secret sauce) for what drives an artist to feel he's finished his work and you've decided the phrase "makes sense" is good, so now you're defining the thing that happens when an artist is finished as "making sense." You're declaring that Beethoven wouldn't have wrote his sonatas if they didn't make sense because you've pre-defined finished art as something that has to make sense. Sounds vaguely familiar from another recent thread! I think it's a bad phrase to use. And I think it's a bad idea to lay all this on one particular phrase, because I think what is behind an artist finishing a work will be a lot of different things for a lot of different artists. Some artists will simply declare it finished, without having any feeling that it's actually finished. They just stop, perhaps because they move onto something else. The notion of "finished" here is even questionable.
    I agree with this.

    And, as I said above, putting too much emphasis on strangeness or sense, or any one quality, in trying to cover too many aspects of art, is a mistake.
  16. ..........
    I don't think so. If things "make sense" they, at some point, didn't make sense. When did they come to make sense? Two thousand years ago? A hundred years ago? Five minutes ago? Ten seconds before you press the shutter release ("Aha!")? Or not until years later? Maybe never, but we can't know?

    "Making sense" has to begin somewhere, somehow. Why can't art be that beginning? Or, isn't that exactly what art is? The ignition, the "collision" that initiates, but by no means resolves the process of making sense?

    Mathematicians and scientists relish unsolved problems. Stuff that "makes sense" doesn't turn them on half as much as that which doesn't. Not so for art?

  17. Agreed. :)
  18. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

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  19. I didn't look at more than a few minutes of the linked video (no time at the moment), but I believe it's new? I have seen this one. The first time I watched it, I wasn't convinced, but the second time, I really got into watching him work. He's really out there on his own, but I think he's for real, and a good example to make your point.

    I'll have to make time to watch the video you linked.
  20. "People aren't necessarily inherently strange or strangers. Some get to be strangers due to estrangement/alienation. "Fred

    Strangers are only folk you have not engaged with. Your Mum and Dad were srangers until you had the mind to engaged with them.

    "I may be responsible for your being a stranger". Fred.

    You have answered yor own thoughts.

    "This is a very early pic of mine. It haunts me a little because I took it when I was in a phase of sneaking around the streets stealing pics of people". Fred.

    You are in the mindset that you are a sneaky little bloke who lacks confidence and to be honest scared of your own shadow. Really that simple. If you felt you were being so so sneaky you should have engaged the subject and explained your photography.

    Im only responding to this post because it is a very srong street photo. I would have been proud of it.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017

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