Subjects that aren't physical objects

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by samstevens, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. In a recent casual thread, someone was musing about the subjects beginners choose to photograph. There were lots of responses, many skeptical of the OP. But in talking about what we photograph, a lot of different physical things or realities got mentioned ... sunsets, flowers, animals, people, rocks, etc. Obviously, the camera will get pointed at something, so this is somewhat a natural response. But I'm wondering if you ever photograph ideas or feelings, using "the world" and the real objects and things in it to portray that idea or emotion. Or, perhaps relatedly, do you have a photo where you think the photo is the subject rather than something in it being the subject? Interpret as you like.

  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    There are several visible, identifiable, objects in the photo - obviously you had an idea and the light lead the way, but...though an interesting photo, presence of objects makes your premise difficult to support, IMO.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  3. You can use paint to create an image of a house. Though the painted house is made with paint, the suggested house is not.
    You can use identifiable physical objects to create an image of something that is not physical (many possibilities. E.g. a mood). The mood is not the physical objects.

    Or as one painter once put it, backwards: ceci n'est pas un pipe.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2020
  4. I was in two minds whether to use this version as my PN 'avatar'.
    The off-centre composition and blur make it ambiguous whether I'm coming or going - something I'm sometimes not too sure of myself these days.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
    David_Cavan and mikemorrell like this.
  5. Emotion as a subject?

    I try, often it doesn't work, at least not without some supporting text, or it works, but only for me, which is pretty much the same thing.

    Another grey, rainy day in Donzenac, after months of dull, grey days:

    For me, it captures how I was feeling at the time, not sure if it really conveys the emotion though.

    Can't decide if it should be colour or monochrome, the original shot was monochrome:

    @samstevens - I like the photo, but I don't "feel" anything from it...
  6. How can you say if the photo itself is the "subject" ? I don't know. Perhaps this one from my wildlife camera.

    Bright Sun.jpg

    Btw, possums and crows eat watermelon
  7. I would say rainbows fit your title perfectly (not being physical objects).
    Your actual question seems very different though ideas & emotions are near impossible to convey without using the very physical objects you want to avoid.
  8. As a true beginner, I still remember experiencing a 'jump in understanding' when I finally realized that photography is more than photographing 'things' (or persons). TBH, I've never done much creative photography, preferring to photograph people. But I still try to photograph mood, fleeting expressions, gestures and interactions, etc. rather than just 'interesting people'.
  9. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I like the photo that's in focus.

    Hmm... me too...
  10. Steve, I think if you are able to put feeling into a photo, it might not convey that precise emotion to all viewers. There’s often not such a one-to-one correspondence. As shown, your first shot does a bit more for me, because the warm toning gives the house in view more presence and impact than in the monochrome version.
    Good question. The reason this can apply to your photo, I think, is that effects such as such strong flare may make us aware of the medium itself, as much as the content of the picture.
    Part of my OP reproduced for your considerations. [Bold added for emphasis] ...

    “But I'm wondering if you ever photograph ideas or feelings, using "the world" and the real objects and things in it to portray that idea or emotion.” —samstevens
    Thanks, Mike. Powerful and welcome when they occur.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  11. I took a photo of a Cormorant flapping it's wings at sunrise on the Coast Guard pier. I sent it to a friend in TN who somehow interpreted it as a bird drenched in oil!
    Monterey 20h_Coast Guard Pier_Cormorants_1.jpg
  12. This is, in a word. NOISE
    Canoscan 4000
  13. Yes, photos are easily misinterpreted.
    Very direct and to the point!
    A worthy visual pun, literal and uniquely photographic.
  14. With a proliferation of black squares in 2020 have we seen the ultimate photo of nothing, that is clearly something to many?
  15. What a great challenge, to convey a sense of “nothing!” I’m inspired to work on that. Seriously. Thx.

    Not to get too philosophical, but Sartre says man is a “nothingness,” not only in the despairing way he’s often understood but in the full-of-potential albeit scary sense he can be read as well ... that we’re able to (actually we must) define ourselves by the actions we take. It relates to this thread in that the unlimited possibilities from which we choose for ourselves, according to him, are different from those physical objects which get seen and utilized by us, not having a choice themselves to be what they want or can.
    David_Cavan likes this.
  16. To convey a sense of nothing through photography, all you have to do is show the lot. Everything that is poured out over the world in galleries, magazines, etc. Then you cannot but wonder why, and what it all amounts to.
    Indeed: nothing.
    tonybeach_1961 likes this.
  17. If we're going to get metaphysical; is light itself 'physical'?

    If not, then no subject is physical at the image sensor.

    However, it is energy, which is just matter in transit. Fast transit mind.
  18. It perhaps fits the title, but if you read my introduction, and without getting into the science of it, a rainbow would be similar to sunrises and sunsets to me, in that it's a named thing we shoot at as opposed to an idea or feeling we're trying to convey through what we shoot at. That's not to say there might not be pictures of rainbows that are more about something other than the rainbow, and if you have one I'd love to see it. What I'm getting at is using the concrete world the camera is pointed at toward a more abstract, internal expression. It's, just for this thread, getting away from subject-as-shown as the hallmark of the photo.
  19. Sam, impressive example to illustrate, compliment your post and meaning. and applicable to photography...

    "poetry" "is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning."
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
    Ricochetrider likes this.

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