They are somewhat inseparable but we can talk about them as such. To what extent is the significance of a photograph not affected by matters extrinsic to the photograph? When I know things about the photographer, about his goals, about his milieu, his technique, the way he treats his wife, that may likely influence my experience of his photographs. Is there something intrinsic to the photograph itself, however, that knowledge, external associations, or information will not be able to change for me? I'm a strong believer in the importance of context, cultural influence, etc. At the same time, I feel such a deeply personal relationship to some photographs, paintings, pieces of music, films, that their significance seems to reside internally, within them or within my relationship to them, no matter the external circumstances. We recently debated whether knowledge or understanding plays a role in art. I am assuming for the purposes of this question that it does. At what point, though, do we transcend it? Do we go beyond that knowledge and more immediately experience the light and shadow, the textures, the story inside the photo, the composition, technique, visual imagery, symbolic form? Two personal examples: 1) Annie Liebovitz's photo of Johnny Depp and Kate Moss http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_6nsvxb38ykU/SRJfBrCR73I/AAAAAAAADjg/MmEgZiGDbKA/s1600-h/leibovitz12.jpg I might (but don't) take issue with Leibovitz's commercial success and might (but don't) take issue with the fact that many of her subjects are Hollywood stars. Those facts can either distract me or repel me from her work or they can actually explain it, allowing me to appreciate it all the more. Mozart might have been the ultimate cop-out of an artist, writing and playing for the court to whom he owed his sustenance and ability to keep working. But he did it so damn well, didn't he? Regardless of what I know about Leibovitz and about Depp and Moss, there seems to be something in the image itself that captivates me and transcends who she is and who they are. 2) Leni Riefenstahl's Olympiad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwmYFz01MxA Riefenstahl was, indeed, a wonderful, horrible woman. Propagandist and obsessive liar, she was a craftswoman and artist. Tempted though I might be to spit at her if I saw her walking in the street, I can watch Olympiad and Triumph and be moved every time because of something that seems right there in the film, unmistakable and unerodable by what I know to be the case about her life. There is even something horrible in the association between her Nazi films and how she idolizes the bodies in Olympiad, but that horror just goes into the mix of my personal experience of the films. I'm not interested in an assessment or critique of my tastes. I'm interested in hearing your experiences with photos or examples from other media of things that seem to incorporate but also transcend their extrinsic qualities. Do you have intrinsically moving experiences that you can articulate? Thanks.