The future ...

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by The Shadow, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. In what ways can photography and does your photography move toward the future? We often hear of photography related to memories and to stilled moments of the past. What about it’s foretelling or projection toward the future?

    There are, for example, photographic documents which may help the world see what to look out for and avoid in the future. The Jewish cry of Never Again is emboldened when accompanied by the haunting and almost impossible-to-fathom images of Auschwitz.

    I often think of my own work in terms of possibility into the future rather than a recounting of past experience, sometimes even how I want things to be instead of how they were. Some of the friends and new acquaintances I’ve made portraits of, often creating more theatrical characters with them rather than trying to more literally and expectedly capture their likeness have told me they’ve seen sides of themselves they were not necessarily that in touch with. That’s the ultimate compliment to me, who’s not as interesting in accuracy of likeness as in opening new doors.

    Of course, some of the photographing I do changes me and teaches me quite a bit and I see that as very future oriented.

    Some of the greatest artists have helped change cultural and societal ways in which we see, even moving seeing into the unknown, such as the Impressionist and Cubist painters did and the Avant Garde and Dadaist photographers did.

    Can you add to this?
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  2. Like so many others, I use my images as an aide-mémoire- a sort of visual version of Proust's madeleine.

    But I also have made an effort to capture the things and moments that are rarely photographed because the observer becomes "used" to them because they are too common. In anthropology, these are "the feet of the natives are large" moments (The Feet of the Natives are Large: An Essay on Anthropology by an Economist on JSTOR)

    These every-day things are one of the elements that make "vernacular photography" like Disfarmer's (Mike Disfarmer - Artists - Steven Kasher Gallery) so striking.

    We can do little about the future, but we most assuredly can help to preserve some aspects of the past.

    Bob's car and the Kids, 1921
  3. To be blunt, if I'm trying to 'future project' and want the best document to remember a person or event by I shoot video. I don't try to fool myself that a still is going to be cherished more than an MP4.

    My family has boxes of pictures and slides of relatives I lost decades ago, and I would trade every one of them for a few minutes of smartphone video to hear their voice and watch them move.

    When shooting still for pure art purposes and there's a sales intent I just try to stay away from things than are cliche', including technique. One of the best aspects of Pre 60's photography (when smaller formats and unstable dye technology started to take hold) is that those larger film formats hold massive amounts of detail and tone, and that helps give the image so much longevity. JD's shot is a superb example of this. I've always been a detail nut and try to incorporate as much detail as I can in an image I want to stand out and still be pointed out in 20 years.
  4. Topic: How can photography project us into or foretell the future?

    One answer about the past.

    One answer about shooting video to remember dead relatives.

    A place where imagination goes to die.

    Landrum Kelly likes this.
  5. Really, Gary? Seems like a sweeping generalization to me. Speaking for myself, there are elements of my past I've tried as hard as possible to forgetful and still others I always will cherish. I value photos of both, because they represent my past, which - taken as a whole - is partly responsible for who I am.
  6. I’m not denying photography’s connection to the past. But that’s talked about a lot. I thought it would be challenging and somewhat imaginative to consider photography relative to our future. Bad call.
    michaellinder likes this.
  7. I have no doubt about photography in connection with the future. But, your last sentence gives me the idea that you're taking an all-or-nothing approach.
  8. No. Just wanted it to be the subject of this thread. Isolating something to discuss should not be taken as a rejection of the myriad of other possibilities in life.
  9. Many street photos are in the form of an unfolding story, which includes what happened before, as well as the possibilities afterward. Some photos stress one over the other. I get a feeling seeing photos of unrelated people walking past one another, of future spreading it's branches. We all have our own personal futures which while unrelated to most others, are still part of a greater fabric.

    I think, the final photo of 'The American' alludes to the future. We discussed this in a different thread (#123)

    I think, this photo refers to the future, again in reference to people following different paths. The mosaic pattern (to me) resembles the fabric of spacetime (with knots and distortions) through which human figures are moving in different directions. Notice, how much we like to be in pairs. Although, its not clear, whether that reflects how much we want to share our futures together.

    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
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  10. I appreciate your take on the future orientation of this kind of street scene. I also think this Escher-like pattern suggests the future, as well as the pattern in the background left, behind the two guys. In Escher, and here, there's that sense of repeating spiral falling back to itself, like the snake eating its own tail or the artist's brush painting its own hand. We seem to be led endlessly. I also think your perspective, from above, suggests you know something they don't, or at least have a greater perspective than them, so they are limited compared to the viewer who has that bird's eye view. That kind of view can often be more forward looking than retrospective or present.
  11. Here's one of mine that I think suggests the future for a couple of reasons. It's a portion of a hanging pendant light in my bathroom, reflecting the sun onto the walls. This was much more about what I projected the photo to be than what the situation felt like to me at the time. It was a case where I felt the photo could transform things in an interesting way, as opposed, say, to capturing a moment. The result, which to me has the feeling of a celestial body, also suggests the future, since I've always felt things like planets in a galaxy had a futuristic component to them.

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  12. This is a very ingenious take on a regular scene. It looks more like a poster from a science museum than what it was in reality. The orange lamp resembles the surface of a star, while the reflections look like planetary rings. I agree with you about celestial scenes making me think about future. There’s a feeling of the universe moving through time, and me being part of it. Other scenes that evoke feeling of future in me include escalators, train tracks, tunnels, anything that converges at a distance, couple walking through pedestrian crossings.

    In terms of styles and techniques, some people are combining elements of social media with photography to create collages (Warhol paved the way?). Others are experimenting with older techniques like tintype, even daguerreotype combined with modern subjects to produce special effects. Some are following Man Ray’s approaches. As camera technology has stabilized at a level where we can capture clear pictures quickly and easily, there seems to be a move to look back at these older styles and their artistic potential. Also, artists are less willing to accept a clear boundary between photography and other visual media. These are my feeling from what I have seen lately. I don’t know if there is any radical new idea in the making. Perhaps, new approaches will result from embracing elements that we usually avoid, like digital noise and jpeg or post processing artifacts, or picturing scenes that are considered cliche. May be, there is new philosophy in the making, that will lead to a significant school of thought like cubism or impressionalism.
    otislynch likes this.
  13. Supriyo, good points. I was thinking that it's also the way something is photographed that might make a big difference. Take baby pictures. I think they can be taken in such a way as they seem to be more a memento, something everyone will look back on and think about the past, or the moment it was taken. I think some baby pictures can be taken in such a way as to suggest the future of the child, more for the present moment looking forward than for a future moment looking back. Of course, there can be overlap, where the same photo will cause us to look forward now and look back in the future. But I think the pose, the child's eyes and where he or she is looking, what's surrounding the child, will all make a difference. If the child is surrounded by baby things and things that tell of a specific time, that may be more likely to suggest the past to some future time. If the child is surrounded by less time-specific things, perhaps in a more universal way, with eyes less focused, it might suggest the child's future. This is not a case where the specific future of the child will be predicted but rather just a future orientation with which we can think about the child.
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  14. An earlier thread questioned why some of us want to learn about the photographic past. This clear and insightful synthesis is a perfect example of the joy & value of knowing history. The rich context you add also helps us all consider new & different ways of enjoying, thinking about, looking at, and creating images. Thank you!!
  15. Memories….

    The little photo in your wallet.
  16. Or, on your smart phone.

    Is there a better future.
  17. Gary, I have been trying to imagine the way you conceived photographing a child to depict the future, and I think it’s a very good idea. Undoubtedly, a child/baby is in itself a symbol of the future, as much as it is of the past. Often times, photographers and audience focus on the past/memory aspect in baby photos, rather than the future one. I think, more we personalize and identify with the baby (reminds us of our children, or our own childhood), it makes us hover within the past. A future oriented baby photo might shift the focus away from the ‘too personal’ aspect of the baby, portraying him/her as a representative of a bigger community than solely him/her. That’s why, dividing the focus among the human subject and other objects / symbolisms in the scene (as you mentioned) would work. I also agree, the direction the child is looking to and his/her attention away and above the most immediate things would be more suggestive of the future (perhaps photographing during bed time, when his/her attention is less focused on specific objects). Another idea of reducing attention to the personalizing influence in a baby photo is to photograph the child from behind or side and include a part of what he/she is looking, without showing the eyes themselves. That object can be a potential symbolism for the future, a clock, meaningful poster, the country’s leader on the TV giving speech (that can depict both vision or irony), etc.
  18. Hi Gary, there are photographers and photography exhibitions/festivals that have future-focused projects/themes. Just one example is the bi-annual 7-week festival which recently ended in my home town. I was a volunteer for the festival but this isn't a plug: the festival has already ended.

    This year's theme was "To Infinity and Beyond: an investigation of the opportunities and impact of ongoing progress in technology and science. Will it bring nothing but progress? Or are we at risk of opening a Pandora’s box full of unwelcome surprises?"

    Almost 60 international photographers were selected by the curators for the event which drew some 80.000 visitors. The exhibits ranged from photographic visualizations (with supporting documentary evidence) of innovations that have had unexpected side-effects to projected 'future scenario's'. In general, the exhibiting photographers had spent years researching and developing their photographic essays. For anyone interested in the festival and/or the photographers, check out the website. Scroll to the bottom and click on 'Photographers'.

    BredaPhoto aims to exhibit - bi-annually - photos based on a central theme that is socially relevant. I'm pretty sure that this is not the only festival/exhibition (of the 300+ festivals/exhibitions globally) that does this. But professional, engaged photographers don't (as far as I know) publish on 'photo sharing websites' such as

    I've just returned to following an absence of many years. I'm not yet quite sure what it covers and doesn't. There are a couple of lists of international photography exhibitions on the internet. If this hasn't already been covered, short reviews of exhibitions (via internet or by members) might be interesting.

    On a personal note: I've never really understood the meaning of "the philosophy of photography". IHMO, most people just take the best individual photos that they are capable of taking (depending on knowledge and skills). A few people have a personal 'artistic vision' or 'style' (or whatever other preference). Both probably change over time. People may have a personal philosophy regarding how the world is and/or should be. This may affect the photos they take. But IMHO, there is no one overarching 'philosophy of photography'.

    I think that there is room (for a minority) to ruminate on questions such as 'why do we take photographs? what is photography for?' but I strongly suspect that the vast majority of members have their own reasons and just want to get on with it (learning more about purpose and style as they go).


  19. I think that's likely true. Most people. On the other hand, I think most memorable photographers (think of the greats throughout history) do have more overarching themes and questions they explore, whether it's Frank's look at the social ills of America at a given time, Lange's documenting of poverty and unemployment, Arbus's wanting to make visible many of those who have been considered "freaks," Mapplethorpe's wanting to confront the mainstream with sexual situations that had been hidden in closets, Parks exploring race and racism, Clarke wanting to explore life on the streets and in drug dens throughout the country, Salgado wanting to show what harm is being done to the environment, Adams wanting to celebrate that environment, or Eggleston wanting to bring the mundane into an artistic light. I find that most good artists and documentarians have some sort of vision, often focused, and probably more hobbyists are just after the best individual shots they can get.

    As for the "philosophy of photography," I take it many different ways. It's about what photography can hold for the maker and the viewer, what photos can show, it can be about the whys and hows, about what various photos and photographers have accomplished in terms of meaning and appearance, and many, many other things. Philosophy is a subject that also turns many people off. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just the way it is.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
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  20. Supriyo, I'm often impressed with parents who bring babies to political rallies and demonstrations. I think that's a very future-oriented act. Certainly, it makes me think of the kids' futures.


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