The intrinsic and extrinsic matters of photographs

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jan 24, 2009.

  1. 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.
     
  2. For myself, at least, I would say that the context of the photograph and photographer have little or no influence on my reading of the photograph; to that extent, the extrinsic is irrelevant. My own context, however, cannot be separated. There is, in a real sense, no intrinsic matter to the photograph; only my extrinsic response to its triggering signs.
     
  3. jtk

    jtk

    As humans, we are designed to frustrate "intrinsically moving experiences"... we are designed to absorb information constantly and to view all experience through it. Zen pratitioners attempt by passivity to escape that reality (calling it a delusion, veil of Maya)...like everyone else, they may touch on intrinsics, but they realize the joke and move beyond it. So it seems.
     
  4. The extrinsic factors often have an overpowering affect on my assessment of a photograph, even when I try to set them aside. I cannot, for example, develop an appreciation for any of Annie Liebovitz's work, knowing as much as I do about that artist"s colorful(?) background and how it influenced the creation of an image . The same for Diane Arbus, because of the tinge of exploitation that seems to lurk in the background. I think that if I had no knowledge of those two artists and saw any of their photographs with which I was not familiar (and without attribution to the artist) the intrinsics might cause me to respond more positively. I suppose in that respect I am - like many Americans - a victim of cultural acclimation, perhaps to the detriment of my fundamental artistic sensibility.
    There are, on the other hand, photographers whose work only seems to affect me at the intrinsic level. Kenna, Evans, and Salgado, for example. William Eggleston is another, although there are certainly significant extrinsic elements behind his work.
     
  5. Felix--
    Good point about your own context. The phrase "getting out of myself" comes to mind. I know it's not meant literally, but I think the idea behind it is pertinent. I sometimes feel like I lose myself in the photo I'm looking at or the music I'm listening to. It's a different way of attending to something and I think we can lose our context (to a greater degree than we're accustomed to).
    "no intrinsic matter to the photograph"
    Philosophically I agree. Intrinsic properties are problematic. That's why I kept saying "seems" and talked about my relationship to the photo, with external matters as secondary. I know these qualities are not intrinsic, but they feel as if they are. I allow myself that kind of liberty.
    John--
    " . . . are designed to absorb information constantly and to view all experience through it" seems like it is true for you. Many of us don't have that kind of relationship to information. I can let go of it (to a degree that allows me to forget it and be in the moment . . . the zone, as it were). I respect the difference and your perspective, because of it, is often enlightening. But it's how you operate, and likely not representative.
    Rick--
    I've experienced that powerful effect you talk about. I once thought Mel Gibson gave a superior performance in The Year of Living Dangerously. I've grown to hate him as a man over the years and really couldn't bear to watch his performance again. Maybe because I didn't live through Riefenstahl it's not as personal somehow, so I can tolerate her stuff. Also, maybe because I don't have to look at her when watching her films. There may be something visceral there. I think, as you've said, there is a tension between information/knowledge and artistic sensibility. They need each other and they struggle.
     
  6. For me, extrinsic matters only become a factor when the subject of the photograph (or movie) and the sins of the photographer are directly related. For example, if any of the well-known photographers of nude children turned out to be paedophiles, that would fully color my interpretation of their images.
    Likewise, I have not watched any Woody Allen movies since his domestic problems with Mia Farrow -- because his movies are usually about domestic problems. (In fairness, I was never a big fan even before that.)
     
  7. Julie--
    That's an interesting approach which makes sense to me. I guess it's different than mine, given how I feel about Riefenstahl's craft and artistry even on films where her proclivities and the subjects of the films are closely tied.
    It strikes me that a lot of photographers/artists use their modes of expression to explore their darker sides. I think good work may often be related to that darker and edgier side (I refuse to call it "sin"). What sometimes does not see the light of day in polite company will be expressed in novels, paintings, and photographs. I'm often drawn to and fascinated by that kind of work. It may be why I have a tendency to recognize the importance of the moral aspects of photographing but also often approach it amorally (to the extent I can and within what I consider to be reason).
     
  8. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you seem to define "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" in conscious, perhaps even moralizing terms...you seem to think *conscious awareness* of Riefenstahl's Nazi history may be relevant (one way or another) to appreciation of her photography by others, but that you can personally rise above it.
    I doubt you would have posted this if you weren't heavily concerned with the Nazi dimension...you're addressing something that for you may be only secondarily perceptual.
    Riefenstahl's brilliant work with Nuba (African) wrestlers seems (to me) substantially about masculinity.. it's more powerful than her Nazi work (IMO), and I'm sure you've viewed it, so I think you'd have used that as your example, rather than the historic Nazi work, if you really meant to address "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" in perception (I think those are distinctions between non-phenomena).
    "Intrinsic" seems a theoretic impossibility (save arguably for Zen practitioners) because virtually all of our perception is colored (flavored, heated, interpreted, amplified, muddied, repressed) by the accumulated hologram in each skull, only a tiny amount of which is conscious.
    We commonly imagine that "moral" decisions are wrestled with consciously, but it may be that the embedded histories of our respective races (eg Talmudic, Roman, local mullah's Islam, hillbilly-Limbaugh-O'Reilly) more commonly outweigh conscious struggle and carry us along our near-innate stream of goodness/badness without any effort on our part.
    Some say Freud's key ideas were fundamentally Talmudic, despite his own secular intentions. It's said that he brought a Japanese person, a proto-Nazi (Jung) and an American wasp into his school in order to establish that his ideas weren't inherently Jewish. He dressed British and thought Yiddish http://www.freud.org.uk/INpics.htm :)
     
  9. John--
    I am really curious to hear people's approaches to this. Please don't derail the thread. Thanks.
    --Fred
     
  10. Fred,
    I think I agree with you about enjoying explorations of darker and edgier sides of one's (or humanity's) nature.
    Thinking further about my previous post, the turn-off is when the pictures become a lie because of what I know.
    If a paedophile made pictures that were openly and explicitly about the nature of paedophilia I would quite possibly be interested (I'm not sure that's a good thing, but that's precisely why you're interested in this issue, yes?). Or if Woody Allen made a movie about what a complete, unfunny jerk he is (some of the time), I'd probably enjoy it.
    -Julie
     
  11. It's fascinating to watch what happens when a painting in a gallery attributed to a famous 17th or 18th century artist is proved to be the work of his student. Why does the value suddently drop from millions of dollars to thousands, and find itself taken off the gallery wall? Doesn't it have value as a work of art regardless of who made it? Perhaps we have a tendancy to both over-value and under-value works based on what we know of the author.
    Years ago (when I was still a kid) I travelled interstate to see an exhibition of "150 Years of Photography". I knew nothing of any but a couple of the photographers, and as I wandered around I kept thinking to myself, "This is crap - I could do better than that!" I bought a book of the exhibition (hey, I needed a souvenir of the trip), and came to appreciate some of the works I'd earlier derided as I learned more about the photographers.
    A few years later, I went back to the same gallery for an exhibition of Monet and Renoir. I'd only seen reproductions in books before, and liked Monet more than Renoir based on that. But when I met the paintings in person I reversed that opinion - some of the Renoir works were so rich that they just couldn't be reproduced in a 4-colour process. Even now, when I see reproductions of those paintings, I try to substitute the real colours and textures - that is, what I'm "seeing" in my mind is a blend of what's before my eyes and my memory of the original.
    What do you do when you walk into an exhibition without knowing anything about the artist/photographer? Do you look at the picture first, and try to interpret it, or be moved by it, or have some kind of response to it? Or do you read the title and the blurb first, and then step back and look at it with that knowledge? Do you have a preference or habit? Do you think one way is "better" than the other (at least for you)?
     
  12. It's an interesting question but I find it hard to answer, I can't easily think of any such intrinsic / extrinsic specific experiences in the context of wich I understand the question to be, well, I clearly can think of them, those intrinsic and extrinsic matters, but only in a way of them to be almost non-existent ( or unexplainable ) in relation to my direct experience of various forms of art, which I believe you recognize your examples also to be in, by the definition that they seem to move you.
    If you're speaking of works of art and recognizing such works of art as being intrinsically moving on a strong emotional level, then I think that that recognition becomes unconditional in it's motivation from the moment one experiences it, whether that motivation could have been altered positivily or negatively on an extrinsic level doesn't matter, not because it doesn't matter ' just because ' but because it doesn't even come into play and therefore I feel it can not begin to matter, or give much weight to the actual experiencing of the art.
    It feels rather strange, impossible maybe, to recognize a work of art, and then step backwards, contemplating it's intrinsic and extrinsic quality's, or contemplating about them beforehand, revaluing the recognition. I think the recognition ignites in an instant and can't be contemplated upon, it's unconditional and can't be or doesn't need to be ' negotiated ' with afterwards.And I don't think there's any real struggle between the intrinsic and extrinsic as they pretty much cancel each other out the very moment the art is experienced and recognized as art. Almost like any preconcieved idea about ones selfimage might be canceled out and leveled flat immediately after approaching and looking into a mirror.
    "Is there something intrinsic to the photograph itself, however, that knowledge, external associations, or information will not be able to change for me?"​
    What you seem to question as that being intrinsic to the photograph I believe to be that what's well, intrinsic to you / in you, me, or anyone who's viewing. Knowledge and the external associations I believe also to be external in you. Me being the viewer, I find it hard to consider this ' triple bouncing around ' between intrinsic and extrinsic parts of the photograph / object and myself.
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, you've posted a pair of words that IMO have no meaning/utility in this context. The other responses seem to agree that there's no such thing as "intrinsic" and don't seem to come close to your issue otherwise...if you think someone else is on "rails" with you, please say who/how.
    It's impossible to "derail" something that lacks rails in the first place.
    I think you're struggling to reduce perception(universal part of human existence) to abstract, impersonal terms (optional game). Words can only sketch perceptions...therefore philosophy can only sketch perceptions, just as it can only sketch existence (which we perceive without words).
    You're trying to deny limitation to one's own (our own) perceptions by inventing an alternative universe, an absolute, external, parallel reality (where "god" was born).
    We can deny our tribal/pack animal reality by proposing a universal loneliness, per Sartre, or can conclude (as I do) that Sartre was a narcissist, glorifying his own pathology. One of the standard, third rails, is academic, objectification, pretending nobody's home.
    Intrinsic/extrinsic notions might ring more bells if you were talking about painting, where it's long been said that some painters show us paint and others show us images.
    We could stretch that point to say that some photographers show us gelatin silver and others show us pigment, but I don't recall any well-informed, well-experienced examples...just the old inkjet vs darkroom stuff.
     
  14. "Is there something intrinsic to the photograph itself, however, that knowledge, external associations, or information will not be able to change for me?"
    "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?"
    Obviously, "light and shadow..." etc are intrinsic to the photograph and are not "extrinsic matters", but I do not think (here I am speaking only of myself, ymmv) they are what attracts, but are instead reasons or rationales that come later as we attempt to explain to ourselves why we are attracted. The origin of attraction has been a matter of personal 'archeology' and I've found a few markers in the lower strata. I think what attracts is formed very early in life, much of it before the individual acquires language and is therefore difficult to articulate.
     
  15. Fred-
    I might suggest that the only true intrinsic value in photography lies in the photographing, not the presentation. Something to chew on.
     
  16. Martin--
    I'll start with you since it impacted me the most. I was just talking to a friend about how the distinction between viewing and making photographs often is not clearly addressed in these discussions. While I don't agree with you -- because I think "intrinsic" can be used meaningfully if not "philosophically correctly" to describe some properties of photographs from the viewer's standpoint — the viewer/photographer distinction is an important one. Can you chew on it some aloud? I'd like to know where you're headed with it. Thanks for adding it to the mix.
     
  17. Julie--
    We're getting deeper step by step. Actually, for me, the "lie" is one of the more intriguing aspects of photography and art in general. While I believe photographs can tell important truths, truths that words can't always get to, I think it sometimes accomplishes that by lying (using the term loosely). An example from my own experience is that viewers often project from portraits of mine onto the personality of the subject of the portrait. Sometimes I go into a "portrait" with every intention of creating a persona, an artifice, rather than conveying what I consider to be the subject's personality. Many a photographic mask has revealed something significant. Is the image of the subject of the portrait a signifier or the representation of an individual? Sometimes both.

    If I knew a pedophile had tried to lie or hide something in a photograph he had taken, I'd be even more intrigued.
     
  18. Tim--
    I usually look and am happy if I'm moved. I may or may not interpret, depending on the piece, the context, and how much I've been moved. Sometimes, the more moved, the less I interpret, sometimes the opposite. I will often read the titles and the gallery information about the painter/photographer after an initial viewing. Sometimes I won't.

    What you get at in the first part of your post is something that comes up in these forums. There's often a sense with art and with commercially successful art that the viewing public does what it's told. If we're taught that a particular painter is good, we generally accept it, and then if we find out a painting attributed to him is not his, we are lost.

    Color is a good example of what I'm calling an intrinsic property. We all know that color needs a perceiver to have meaning. In that sense it is trivially not intrinsic. But as related, say, to the biography of the painter, the way color strikes us is more immediate. There's even a science of color and its effects. Color is much less mediated by information and knowledge than is something like biography, or what awards a photographer may have one, or what year he made the photograph in, or whether he was a soldier or a journalist in the war he photographed.
     
  19. Phylo--
    I don't revalue the original recognition or the immediate experience, but what I learn or what I come up with when I eventually step back and take in more material that's extrinsic to that original experience affects my future experience with the particular photograph, painting, or piece of music.

    The most immediate experience I've ever had with music was my first Grateful Dead concert back in the 70s. You've described adequately with the one word "unconditional" what that was like.

    Four years later, I wrote my undergraduate Philosophy thesis on the Grateful Dead. I made the choice at that time to emphasize what I considered to be the more intrinsic aspects of their music rather than the obvious extrinsic ones. So I philosophized (some of it is a little embarrassing now!) not about their San Francisco heritage, their place among the other rock bands of the time, Jerry's country music bent. I didn't bring Owsley or Jack Kerouac into it. I stayed with the rhythms, the musical structure, and the specifics of the lyrical stories they told. Rhythmic patterns, high notes and low notes, mournful melodies, all have a different kind of significance than the band's relationship to the Jefferson Airplane or how Bill Graham may have manipulated their trajectory. I still bring my own perceptions, biases, cultural baggage, etc. to all that. Nevertheless, I think it's meaningful to say that my purpose was to analyze their music more intrinsically than extrinsically.

    Since that first concert, I attended about 200 more of them. The experience of the first one doesn't change, but my relationship to it does. It has gotten filtered through more experience and understanding, also through more similar kinds of immediate and unconditional experiences. Over time, I became more critical as I had more experiences with their music. When I listen to tapes of that first concert , I realize that though I was moved and impressed, they were likely not at their best on that night. It doesn't change how I felt that night, but it changes how I think about that night. What I would be moved by in subsequent years became different from what I was moved by on that first night. The same has held true with my love of opera, movies, and photography. Learning and experience has changed, to varying degrees, what I will now respond to when I respond in the immediate fashion you describe.
     
  20. John--
    Read Sartre's Existentialism Is A Humanism. It's a concise essay. You don't understand him.

    The judgment that my approach to photographs and painting is better than the one you're suggesting is meant in the same spirit as your answer to Paul Wilkins on Jan. 7th at 4:50. I'm not morally better because of it. I just think it's better not always to look at photos and paintings through the kind of information filter you say you find necessary.

    You assumed that my choice of Riefenstahl is related to my tribe and that I have some extra stake in Nazis because of it. It wasn't. You assumed that I should find the masculinity in her Nuba work more compelling and a better example. I don't. You assumed that I was better equipped to discuss Dorian Gray than you. I doubt it.

    Felix understood that by extrinsic I was talking about context and that by intrinsic I was talking about a more personal relationship. Julie and Rick engaged me on how biographical information can get in the way of their appreciation of a photo or photographer. Tim addressed the matter of how what we know about who created the painting influences our assessment of it and wonders about its value aside from such a consideration. Is there something in the painting to respond to? Phylo took issue with the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy, with merit, seeking to move "intrinsic" toward being internal to the viewer or the viewer's relationship to the photo and "extrinsic" toward external to the photo. It's a good way to state it. Don comes out and says he buys the distinction but also doesn't see the two working as I do.
     
  21. Don--
    Like you, I'm convinced that the origin of attraction is to a great extent a matter of personal 'archaeology.' I've never heard it put that way and it's a nice formulation. Nevertheless, although I think that those early personal formulations influence how we will respond, I find a qualitative difference in the kind of response I have to things like biography, status in the art world, awards won, era lived in, circle of friends of painter, influences on painter and influences painter had on others and color, light and shadow, perspective and composition.
     
  22. Fred:
    I think a pertinent response to your original question most readily can be gleaned by considering the qualities of a certain genre of abstract photographs. I'm referring to a photograph from which the average viewer cannot discern, glean, or even guess the subject. Sometimes, I produce such photographs by starting with an identifiable object, e.g., a mountain behind a lake. However, when the project is finished, the subject is no longer identifiable.
    The viewer can identify colors, shapes, patterns, textures, lines, exposure levels, contrast levels, etc., but identifying a subject per se isn't possible. As a result, the viewer's experience of the photograph is limited to such considerations and their interrelationships. Knowing who shot the photograph and/or his/her prejudices/likes/dislikes/ethnic background etc. may not add anything to the viewer's experience of the photograph.
    To put something else into the mix, if I view a "representational" photograph, I clearly can discern the subject (if the photographer has done a decent job). Now, suppose that I make a conscious decision not to pay attention to the identity or identification of the subject. I decide to bracket away such considerations (in the manner of Husserl's epoche). As a result, I may experience nothing other than colors, shapes, patterns, textures, lines, exposure levels, contrast levels, etc..
    I'm not sure, therefore, that a photograph has any intrinsic properties, qualities, etc. that exist independently from the intentionality of a viewer.
    michael
     
  23. Fred,
    The last line of your response to me:
    "If I knew a pedophile had tried to lie or hide something in a photograph he had taken, I'd be even more intrigued"
    is extrinsic. That's my point. The nature of the artist has become entwined with what is intrinsic. For you, in a good way; for me in a bad way.
    [Minor side comment to Martin's post: I am reading a book now that claims we don't look at photos, we watch them.]
    This is an interesting discussion. Thank you, Fred, for your thoughtful responses.
    -Julie
     
  24. Michael--
    I think something like color is an intrinsic property, even though it requires processing by humans to be understood or felt. Science shows that certain colors cause certain kinds of brain reactions, also that we humans "read" light certain ways. In that respect, photographs act on us, we don't act on them. That's what I mean by intrinsic. On the other hand, when we associate a certain color with, perhaps, some horrific moment of our childhood, we are responding to color more extrinsically, but still rather personally. When we respond because Van Gogh's use of color relates to the way the Impressionists used it, that is not as personal a matter (though I'm all for understanding color use in its historical context). When we respond more unconditionally or immediately, as Phylo put it, that is my idea of responding to something more intrinsic. All these types of experiences are on a continuum, of course, and I doubt any one can be completely ignored.
     
  25. Julie--
    Yes, I agree that the pedophile example is extrinsic. I am often, probably always, influenced by matters extrinsic to the photographs. I was originally thinking about the degree to which intrinsic properties have significance even beyond those extrinsic or situational concerns, and I think they do.
     
  26. FRED
    To me, Art must stand on its own (intrisically) ... or it shouldn't stand at all.
    Modern society are way too obsessed with the extrinsics of almost every artistic endeavor to really have any artistic opinion. Without getting too controversial, there are a number of quite inept actors, musicians, painters, photographers, etc... that have been "ordained" the IT THING (by media, by critics, etc...). If you don't like them ... then YOU are uncool, and you don't get it. The intrinsics take a backseat to extrinsics ... so much so, that I doubt anyone really knows what GOOD is anymore.
    Your opinion of Mel Gibson sort of reminds me of the danger of extrinsic judgements in the reverse way. I think he is a good actor, I have enjoyed many of his works, I have even heard of many positive things he has done community wise off-screen ... why would ANYTHING he says in a drunken stupor change any of these intrinsic realities?
    They don't, they simply inflame personal prejudice of the intrinsics.
    Objectivity is a dying art itself.
     
  27. Thomas--
    I agree with you about Mel Gibson. I'm not perfect. I gave it as an example of how my lack of objectivity and my own prejudice got in the way of my appreciation of his acting abilities. My point was that I try not to do that too often. If I did, I'd ruin a lot of my aesthetic experiences. Riefenstahl was the personal counterexample of that. Thanks.
     
  28. I think we all do it Fred. I'm just saying that whenever ANYTHING extrensic influences your opinion of intrinsic merit, you move further from TRUTH.
    Now, valuing the intrinsic merit of a work does not mean I that will support the artist if there are too many extrensic issues. We shape our world this way.
     
  29. Fred:
    I do understand your point, and you put it well. Psychologically, I tend to agree. If a viewer expresses like or dislike, approval or disapproval, it is because the viewer is just reacting to a photograph.
    Philosophically, I'm not sure. In my post above, I wasn't talking simply about responding to a photograph; IMHO, that's tantamount to reacting. And I grant, that's extrinsic. I was talking about a viewer's experiencing a photograph, and until proven wrong, I view that as involving, at least partially, an act of human consciousness.
    michael
     
  30. Thomas--
    Yes. Which is why I had stopped paying money to see Gibson act. He has since made some conciliatory statements. In a sense, I think the strong reaction he experienced did shape his world a bit and was glad to see it.
     
  31. If you have never seen a new-born baby and didn't understand the significance of a new-born, and the only knowledge you had of it was a photograph of one covered in placenta goo, all wrinkly and weird, you might think to yourself, "geeees, that's the ungliest thing I have ever seen in my life!" Context is there regardless of whether we realize it. Some artists may tend to use context as a crutch and depend very heavily on your preconcieved notions to determine their meaning.... satyrical and sarcastic works for instance rely almost entireley on the fore-knowledge of the audience to carry themselves, as do many religious and spiritual works which are basically impossible to understand without rigorous specific training. Back to the case of the photogrpah of the new-born baby... if for instance, the photographer let us know that he was the father of the baby... then we are being let in on a very special moment in that person's life and the context had changed dramatically from just being a picture of a screaming new-born naked ape.
     
  32. Michael--
    Yes. I know I am being philosophically incorrect and that currently the whole notion of intrinsic properties has been shown to be flawed. I'm trying to get at a matter of perspective on viewing photos and a matter of approach. I am not claiming that I transcend my own limitations or the ones imposed by the world when looking at photos, only that I find myself letting go of certain stuff in order to appreciate other stuff.
     
  33. Patrick--
    That's a great point. It's actually rare that I don't see a baby picture and cringe at how ugly most of them are. Seriously. It's one case where context doesn't seem to help my gut reaction. I absolute love most babies I see and get along with them really well. When I've seen those raw pictures of newborns you're talking about, my understanding of the significance does little to change my revulsion. I remember back in college being shown the film Window Water Baby Moving by Stan Brackage, a woman giving birth, beautifully naturally lit, in a bathtub. Most of the class waxed on about how beautiful it was. I couldn't stomach it.
     
  34. To address the two peices you talk about... honestly, I don't know much about these two artists. I've heard their names, but I don't take much stock in the cult of personality. The first photo really doesn't move me at all in any way, it looks like a very typical photograph from a very typical fashion magazine. I have a hard time as seeing it as anything other than that and the cultural knowledge I have that moviestars and supermodels are often paired in fashion layouts furthers that conclusion. It looks like a photo I could have seen in a magazine at any time in the last 20 years. Maybe the names of the people involved are supposed to make me think that theres something special about it, and although I really like Johnny Depp as an actor, I don't have any knowledge of his personal affairs and I don't find anything special at all about the photograph itself. If Johnny Depp and Kate Moss are dating or married or had a love child or were secretly brother and sister, I really don't know (and honestly don't care) and there's nothing in the photograph that would indicate that to me beyond two performers doing what they do well, performing for a director.
    The second piece is a great example of German film making. If anything, the context makes the piece somewhat comical to me because every time I think about the Olympics in '36, I can't help but think about Jesse Owens sticking it to those dumbass Nazis. One of my favorite films of all time is Metropolis, and even though the writer Thea Harbou, Fritz Lang's wife, ended up becoming a Nazi and even though some Nazi's loved to say that the anti-capitalist, pro-worker themes of Metropolis are Nazi in character... the reality is that the movie is if anything, anti-totalitarian and equal rights. So really, the joke is on them. I don't find anything disturbing about this beautiful piece of film showing people of all races gracefully diving into a pool. It's an absolutely beautiful film. You could waste alot of time obsessing about the perfectionist nature of the film and how it expouses Nazi ideals, but hey, so do the Olympics themselves! At some point, you have to be able to accept that at a certain level that eventually the context for ANYTHING reflects on some bad person at some bad point in history doing some bad things. So in this case, the film itself transcends context and in the case of the first photo, the only interesting thing (to some people) is the context.
     
  35. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, "Intrinsic" doesn't have shades of meaning, despite your usage. It's an absolute.
    I think you came closer to expressing yourself here than elsewhere on this thread: "Color is a good example of what I'm calling an intrinsic property. We all know that color needs a perceiver to have meaning. In that sense it is trivially not intrinsic. But as related, say, to the biography of the painter, the way color strikes us is more immediate. There's even a science of color and its effects."
    That there's a "science of color and its effects" is like saying there's a science of phrenology. It's arguable.
    "Color is much less mediated by information and knowledge than is something like biography, or what awards a photographer may have one, or what year he made the photograph in, or whether he was a soldier or a journalist in the war he photographed."
    For some the color red is beautiful (Krasnaya in Russian, as in the Red Army, means both red and beautiful), for others it seems bloody. For some white means death. Some think "black tomb" when they think about death. Some are drawn to light, at the same time they say that's "where we go." These are cultural responses to color, not "intrinsic." Blue doesn't sooth more than green except in paint catalogs.
    "You assumed that my choice of Riefenstahl is related to my tribe and that I have some extra stake in Nazis because of it. It wasn't. You assumed that I should find the masculinity in her Nuba work more compelling and a better example. I don't. You assumed that I was better equipped to discuss Dorian Gray than you. I doubt it."
    I made none of those assumptions, but it's interesting to see how strongly you reacted to my points. I mentioned ideas that are meaningful to me...as far as I know I'm not in your tribe/clan/fambly.
    Anybody who appreciates photography and cares about the specific case knows Leni Reifenstahl's work with the Nuba is better than her work with Hitler et al... you chose to ignore her best and concentrated on the infamous Nazi associations, therefore you meant to deal with morals.
    Personally, I distrust Bill Moyers because he touted the war in Vietnam (and because of his preening self-righteousness)...it's hard for me to buy his virtue today... something like that appears to be going on with you and Reifenstahl. It infects my me as well, but I do think folks should look for her African work, and I should struggle to get past Moyer's disgraced youthful history when I listen to him.
    Fred, you appear to labor (overheating) to confine your thinking to verbal analysis (philosophy), therefore Freud is one of the most relevant names I could drop. You seem unfamiliar with him.
    I don't think you appreciate the Sartre's life/thought arc or have come to grips with his pathology... I don't think he wrote his own truth except in his fiction. Few writers do, for that matter.
     
  36. John Kelly, Jan 13, 2009; 03:50 p.m.
    "You are in a better position to start a thread about Dorian Gray & Photography than I am."
    "but it's interesting to see how strongly you reacted to my points"
    I react strongly when projected upon.
    Stop the psychoanalyzing and stop personalizing these forums.
    We're all interested in discussing something and, as I said, you are looking to derail the discussion. Stop making it about me. It's not. And it's certainly not about you.
     
  37. "Fred, 'Intrinsic' doesn't have shades of meaning, despite your usage. It's an absolute."
    John, you talk more like a philosopher than most philosophers I know! Talk about getting mired in verbal analysis instead of getting the point.
    "I don't think you appreciate the Sartre's life/thought arc or have come to grips with his pathology"
    This can be used to get the discussion back to what it was actually about. The arc of Sartre's life and his pathology may be getting in the way of an appreciation of the greater significance of his writing.
     
  38. Patrick--
    Am I misunderstanding? You seem to be suggesting in your opening sentence in your last post that knowing something about the artists in question is somehow participating in the cult of personality. Perhaps you are making a more specific point only about Leibovitz and the personalities she photographs, which would make more sense and not be unlike the point many of her critics make, with which I disagree.
    "So in this case, the film itself transcends context and in the case of the first photo, the only interesting thing (to some people) is the context."
    Great summary. I guess I figure another way of saying "transcends context" is "intrinsic."
     
  39. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, I hope you've not been "projected upon" so much as understood, but that distinction is meaningless unless you're implying ill will.
    "These forums" are automatically "personalized" when one builds an argument around eccentric definitions of terms ("intrinsic" in this instance).
    I don't understand the line you've drawn between big and little influences, as if one is less "extrinsic": Nazis on the one hand and pop-psych notions of color on the other. Please clarify.
     
  40. "pop-psych notions of color"
    You're not looking for clarification.
     
  41. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, fwiw I've explored the research on those alleged "intrinsic" color attributes fairly thoroughly. If you have 21st Century support, please provide it (I'm mired in the 20th). It's a fun idea, written about forever in many languages, stymied by differing cultural responses to colors. If one color makes you happy and another makes you sad, relish the responses. Happy and sad make the world go 'round...but they aren't hard-wired "intrinsically" to colors.
     
  42. To all those who contributed--
    I regret the turn this thread has taken. I initially tried to prevent it from getting sidetracked but am afraid I felt pray to the scheme myself. Bypassing the distractions, there is a productive conversation taking place and invite anyone who wants to continue in that vein to return and get back on topic. Those of you who have dropped out, I can't say I blame you and, again, I'm sorry.
    --Fred
     
  43. ok
    "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."
    I note your examples of "external circumstances" are about the photographer. It seems the extrinsic is weighted towards that, and although the contextual is broadly stated ("I'm a strong believer in the importance of context, cultural influence, etc."), the only specific that appears in your op is the photographer -- the photographer is not an "etc". Your examples -- Liebovitz/Mozart and Reifenstahl -- also are in that vein.
    How would you present your thesis to a photographer who has little to no interest in other photographers' lives, even those of their recognized influences?
     
  44. jtk

    jtk

    Don, you've hit the railroad spike on its head. The "rails" have led to a critical point, irrespective the preferences of the engineer. That's how "philosophy" works sometimes.
     
  45. Don--
    Thanks. Interesting that my examples were all about the lives of the photographers. I'll think about why I limited them to that. Meantime, I'll give you a couple of examples outside the biographical.
    There's the art historical context. I was at a piano recital by Rudolf Serkin just before his death where he played a quite mesmerizing rendition of one of the late Beethoven sonatas. I can remember with tingles being so wrapped up in the music until I made the intellectual connection that Serkin was trying not to attach Beethoven to Romanticism as most interpreters do, but instead he was skipping over right to Impressionism, playing almost as if he were calling forth Debussy. After a couple of minutes of this, thrilled though I was with my great critique, I realized that I had stopped paying attention to the music in the same way. And I felt I had missed something by not staying in the moment and doing my critiquing later.
    There's presentation of photographs. I'm aware how much presentation affects how I feel about photos and paintings. So many times, I've realized how used to book viewing I've become and, when I see original works in museums, I am always so moved by how much more there is than what I was seeing in the reproductions. Furthermore, I'm aware how the lighting, the placement on the wall, the framing, the matting, the kind of glass used in the frame, the temperature of the paper printed on, can affect my experience of a photo. Certainly, one can't get away from presentation. But I see it as not intrinsic, like I see shape, color, composition, the internal perspective of the photo, light, shadow. Presentation will affect how I see all that and feels like a mediator between those elements of the photograph and me. So my appreciation will change and may deepen when I am presented with the same photo in different ways and through different media. Nevertheless, I was still able to appreciate much, discuss much, put photos into context, understand themes, stories, and impact from the book viewing. There are certain essential elements which come through very strongly even in a bad reproduction. I've listened, enthralled, to enough lousy quality bootleg tapes to know I can break through presentation . . . to an extent.
    This is a more complicated, and maybe in a certain way, more simple, discussion than I may have made it appear in my initial post. Certainly coming into play is the distinction between talking about these things as photographer and talking as viewer. There's also the time element. Can I be in the moment now, when I'm experiencing the work, and save the thoughtfulness and intellectualizing until later? I feel, especially with photos and with music, that I've trained myself to let go and have more gut experiences when viewing and listening . . . and creating, and leave other matters for when I'm talking to friends, thinking about things, writing in forums.
    It may, for me, boil down to the difference between approaching my photography more viscerally than literally, more from the gut than from my head. Some of this is simply personal.
     
  46. Fred,
    I am about where Don E was/is in his last post. I thought you were asking us to 1) find a photographer or artist whom we found morally repellent, and then 2) see if we could suspend our awareness of that while looking at a (good) photograph that they had made.
    If I'm reading your last post right, then I think Felix Grant answered you quite succinctly in the first response to this topic.
    Nevertheless, to stir the pot a little (hopefully in a good way), I think, from your last post , the fragment, "I've trained myself," is telling. For me, "training myself" means incorporating the extrinsic into my being, to be so automatic that I am not aware of it, but that's not the same as not being affected by the extrinsic. I can drive to familiar locations without having any memory of having done so, but I can't drive to those locations while wearing a blindfold.
    I know what I like in a photograph and I feel what I like in a photograph, immediately and powerfully, but this is not because of anything that lives exclusively in the tones and colors of the piece of paper that is this one photograph. It's about having honed, and "trained" myself to a clarity of vision == and I am not talking about the mechanics of making photographs or of good composition. I mean my conception of what a good photograph is relative to me, to the world, to others, etc. Way back when I was beginning in photography, this was a slow, very conscious, very extrinsic-dependent activity. Now, it seems to be exclusive of the extrinsic, but I am sure it is not. (I can't seem to phrase this the way I want it, but I'm out of time, so here it is.)
    -Julie
     
  47. Julie--
    Would you say that whether or not a photo is digital or film-based is intrinsic to the photo?
    The color red and how I see it is not an intrinsic matter. Whether or not a photo is color or black and white seems a quality intrinsic to the photo.
    Of course, how I react to these things will be based on lots of factors.
    A child viewing a Rauschenberg for the first time will have reactions. He likely will not know of Picasso's influence on Rauschenberg. He will be affected by the results of Rauschenberg having been influenced by Picasso because that all went into Rauschenberg's creation of the piece and he is viewing the piece. But he will not be affected by knowledge or awareness of Picasso's influence on Rauschenberg. Being affected by something and being affected by information or knowledge about something are distinct. The former seems more intrinsic to the photo. The latter seems more extrinsic.
     
  48. I guess I consider myself a cultural outsider in some ways and in this specific case we have a photo that tells us absolutely nothing without having some fore knowledge of who Johnny Depp and Kate Moss are, and what if any connection they have to each other... and it seems to me that any possible importance or significance of this image is almost totally dependant on that knowledge. So without the cult of personality, it's just a photo of a guy and a naked chick laying in a bed looking rather detached as if they had been directed by someone to do this act instead of it being a natural act they were doing on their own. Knowing something about the body of work of the photographer in this case also would inform us that overly staged imagery is part of her schtick.
     
  49. Fred,
    Yes. I see what you're saying. Yes, that is intrinsic. For example, the edges of the image both attract, repel and bind; content on the center is powerfully weighty; content slightly off-center is creates tension to the center; the diagonal is active, higher is heavier, etc. is, I believe intrinsic and naturally perceived without training. Somehow, I had no idea this was what you were after here. I am a big believer in the intrinsic dynamics or "vectors" of what lies within the boundaries of the image frame. (See Arnheim's book Power of the Center, for example).
     
  50. Patrick--
    I actually find that some of the significance is to be found in the obvious staging. Many times, a scene being staged is much more significant to me because of its intentionality than a scene that's "natural." I do understand and accept your criticism. Thanks for coming back to it. But to avoid this becoming about our different tastes, maybe I can relate it to the intrinsic/extrinsic discussion.

    "So without the cult of personality, it's just a photo of a guy and a naked chick laying in a bed looking rather detached as if they had been directed by someone to do this act instead of it being a natural act they were doing on their own."

    "Just" in the second clause gives your opinion. The rest seems like a relatively objective observation (maybe "chick" is a bit laden). Your final thought beginning with the words "instead of it being . . ." says something about what's important to your viewing experience, that it's staged instead of being natural. I look at Moss's eyes and feel connected, not detached. I look at their hands folded together and see something different from you. And I'm certainly not questioning that we see them differently. Of course we do. But those signifiers, to me, don't have to do with their celebrity status or what I know of them or the photographer. I've seen that kind of expression in photos of people I don't know and I'm not supposed to know by photographers I've never heard of. Clearly, knowing about Annie's work and about their personas has an affect on my response, but there are, for me, also universal signs at play.

    Julie--
    I knew I was after something. Have had a few discussions at home and a lot of what's been said by some people here has helped me articulate my thoughts more clearly, both to myself and others. Thanks.
     
  51. "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."
    I feel there's a nuance to make here and that's the one of creative intentionality or the lack of this creative intention in the making of the photograph or in the motivition of the photographer. The question seems to deal indirectly with what you would or would not recognize as something being made with the motivation of creative expression, and if being recognized as such, the possibility of understanding it to be a piece or work of art with significance.
    If you feel something to be significant enough on an emotional level to experience it and know it to be as a piece of art then how is there any possible extent in wich the work ( in this case a photograph ) can or can not be affected by matters extrinsic to it such as the ones you state ? There isn't because these matters will always belong to the piece itself, be present with it and in it, per definition and by default almost of what it constitutes to be a work of art made by an artist.
    Also, in response to Don's reaction to your question : I believe the artists work = the artists life or that what the artist wants us to know about it ( his goals, milieu, technique, the way he treats his wife,... ). How can Van Gogh's paintings not be about Van Gogh ? How can Lee Friedlanders body of work not be about Lee Friedlander, about his life ? How can Edward Weston's photographs not be about Edward Weston's life ?
    Recognizing that there is any extent at all in wich the significance of a work is affected or not by matters extrinsic to it is recognizing it's unsignificance, per definition of the artist envisioning the work through his/her own life experiences. If it's not experienced as art, if there is no such significance to be found by the observer, then there's also no point wondering about the level or grade of the percieved lack of significance. Either way, the question for me, seems to dissolve itself.
     
  52. Phylo--
    What would you say to the distinction I made above about Picasso's influence on Rauschenberg, the difference between the way the influence itself (potentially unknown to the viewer) will have an effect on the viewer and the way the viewer's knowledge of that influence will have an effect?
    I find a difference between what you speak of as the "matters [that] will always belong to the piece itself, be present with it and in it" and matters that belong more to us. The influence of Picasso is in the Rauschenberg, whether we know it or not and we are affected by that influence even though we may not know of it. But the way we are affected by the knowledge of the influence may be very different from the way we are affected by the influence. Our knowledge of the influence does not belong to the Rauschenberg, though the influence does. There seems to me more mediation from us, more of our own intentionality, in the knowledge than in the influence itself (which may remain unknown). The latter seems more intrinsic to the Rauschenberg and the former seems more dependent on matters and situations outside of it.
     
  53. Well, I guess my opinion is that it looks just like hundreds of fashion magazine photos I've seen over the years. Without knowing that we are SUPPOSED to view it as anything other than a strictly commercial piece of ad-art for black T-shirt and slacks by X designer, I don't get much more than that. So I guess what I'm saying is, how were we supposed to know that this is supposed to be a piece of "art" and not a commercial photo? The only thing that tells us that is the context of the photographer and possibly the subjects, although as I mentioned before, these kinds of parings are pretty common with fashion layouts. Is there a lot of great commercial art out there that could easily hang in galleries alongside "art" photography? Sure. Are alot of commercial artists getting more and more adventurous and taking risks that their "fine" art brothers aren't? Absolutely. Hey man, it's a topsy turvy world. But honestly, this photo doesn't even stand out to me as being a particularly interesting piece of commercial art, let alone a powerful piece of fine art. And yeah, that's my opinion... but it begs another question... when is a photo of a guy laying in bed with a naked chick just a photo of a guy laying in a bed with a naked chick, and when is it something more that we are supposed to obsess over and try to find symbolism and meaning in? If you saw this same basic image in a magazine with unknown models by a photographer you had never heard of, would you even stop for more than the time it took to find the caption for who made the black shirt, or is the cult of personality really the only driving factor in any interest in it at all? No offense intended to the artist... not every swing is a home-run you know.
     
  54. Patrick--
    I actually think "when is a photo of a guy laying in bed with a naked chick just a photo of a guy laying in a bed with a naked chick" would be a great way to start another thread. I kind of love that kind of matter of fact formulation of a question and think it would be a provocative discussion starter. I did start this thread hoping to stay away from specific judgments of taste on the examples I chose, though I do recognize it's hard to avoid in a discussion about photography, which is so much a matter of taste. Anyway, it's curious that you feel you are "supposed" to like something. I've always felt liking things (whether vanilla or chocolate or Monet or Pollock) was often a partially inexplicable choice. My giving reasons for what I like is just that, not an expectation that you will follow along and I assume the reverse is true for why you don't like what you don't like. I'll end this thought by telling you that I don't like tomatoes. And, with that, I can relate to your feeling as if you're supposed to like something. No matter who I tell that I prefer no tomatoes in my salad, I always get the feeling, if not the overt comment, that I'm doing something wrong.
     
  55. Phylo--
    What would you say to the distinction I made above about Picasso's influence on Rauschenberg, the difference between the way the influence itself (potentially unknown to the viewer) will have an effect on the viewer and the way the viewer's knowledge of that influence will have an effect?
    I would propose ( not claim ) that such a distinction is hypothetical, not present on the direct observational experience of the artwork as it is presented by the artist. Everything the artist had to offer to the painting is in the painting, that includes Picasso's influence, if indeed being influenced by him. That person A knows about this influence and person B does not, doesn't change the fact that either person sees the same painting in front of them. Their reaction to the painting is set by their own criteria, yes, this I acknowledge.
    But person B can't remove himself from his own persona, his own ( lack of ) knowledge, and slip conveniently into the skin and mind of person A. It can not be done and still that's exactly what would be necessary for person B to measure the effect of persons A knowledge of the Picasso influence in the painting versus his own lack of knowledge of this influence, when he was still person B. And if person B becomes person A, then he is stuck again with persons A knowledge, and not being person B, not having this experience that person B had, a lack of knowledge of the influence, he can't reach, can't possibly begin to grasp, the effect, the difference between the two. Person A and B would have to melt to one person. But you can't simultaneously know one thing and not know that very one thing.
    "They are somewhat inseparable but we can talk about them as such".
    First sentence of your original post Time and it's measuringdevices are somewhat inseparable, but we can talk about them as such, yes we can. But would it change anything of how we are always stuck, bound by our own perception, to the experiencing of time through the use of these measuringdevices ?
     
  56. Phylo--

    Your premise that "everything the artist had to offer to the painting is in the painting" and that both people see the "same" painting before them seems to be exactly why I'm referring to certain qualities of the painting as intrinsic.

    I think measuring the distinction you're talking about is hypothetical. I don't think the distinction is. I don't think we need person A and person B. Person A is sufficient. I'm Person A. I see a photo. I react. I feel. I think. On my way out of the gallery, I learn about a key connection of that photo to something historical or some other photographer. I go back to look again. My experience of the photo is changed. The photo is not. Of course, for Heraclitus ("you can't step into the same river twice"), the photo would not be the same. For me it is. It will never feel as it used to and I likely will never think about it as I used to. No, I cannot measure the difference, cannot quantify it. Wouldn't want to. But I understand there is a qualitative difference now in my relationship to the photo. In order to understand this qualitative difference, I needn't divorce myself from myself and I needn't know one thing and not know the same thing. I need only remember my initial experience and compare it to the later one. I will be mindful that the second experience will be affected by other things besides my new knowledge. Viewing things a second time creates, in itself, a different experience. But, when this time, I am consciously noting the similarities to Photographer X, saying to myself, "Wow, I see a bit of Photographer X's influence now," I am aware that I have been affected by this new knowledge. This new knowledge is not in the painting, though it will now always inform my relationship to it. This knowledge is extrinsic.
     
  57. First let me say that both persons see the same painting by their own criteria, wich is slightly different than saying that both persons see the same
    painting because it has supposed intrinsic qualities in it.
    And while I understand what you're saying, I don't quite follow the conclusions you draw from it. I would say that your new knowledge is in the
    painting ( as much as that what the artist had to offer is in it ) by the fact that you see it differently, just as much as your old
    knowledge was in it, and in you. But you can never see it again in this old knowledge that lacked your new formed
    knowledge, you would have to go back to your past self, and therefore you can't really compare between the two, the one who's comparing will always be the one with the new knowledge, the ' qualitative difference ' has been consumed by it. Why you would also call this knowledge extrinsic ( vs intrinsic ) is what
    I don't follow, for this knowledge doesn't exist seperately from the painting, it needs the painting and it has become the
    painting for you. Matters you view ' intrinsic ' to the painting are, IMO, the very same matters that you view ' extrinsic ' to
    the painting. The observer is the observed.
     
  58. The photo's being digital or film-based is a matter intrinsic to the photo. If I know something biographical about the photographer, it's knowledge I have. The first quality is intrinsic to the photo. The second is not. I don't think my new knowledge is "in the photo" in the same way that its being digital is in the photo.
     
  59. And yet you say they are somewhat inseparable... But I do understand your point.
     
  60. By the way Fred, have you read The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore ? I'm browsing through it right now and it seems to deal with your use of intrinsic and extrinsic also, but from a softer, maybe less ' black & white ' point of view.
    The book deals for example with the depictive level and the mental level of photographs. A photograph being filmbased or digitalbased would be the formal character of the photograph. The depictive level will always be understood by the mental level and the mental level will always be formed by the depictive level. This way, there is still the seemingly ' dividing ' between the two, like your use of intrinsic and extrinsic, but relative to each other, they are more ' uniform ' and interconnected.
    It's a good read ( The Nature of Photographs ) although quickly finished, as I had expected it to be a bit more 'philosophical', with more text and less images, when I ordered it online.
     
  61. Phylo--
    Thanks for the recommendation. I will pick it up.
    I didn't mean to come across as being so black and white about this. As you noted, I started off being less so, thus the "somewhat inseparable" statement you keenly picked up on with which I began. To get back to that, I was being more adamant in my distinctions of the concepts than I want to be in my distinctions with regard to the experiences. It is very hard to separate all this stuff out and there is a philosophical sense, from the Quinean or Rortyan perspective, in which this stuff shouldn't be separated out. It's clearly what Wittgenstein was referring to by language games. And there may be a big mistake made in trying to separate concepts more than the experiences from which they derive. But, to a certain extent, Philosophy often boils down to definitions and, while I don't think definitions ever have the certainty or universalism that Plato sought, there is at least some point in trying to make our terms as clear to others as possible. I think much of this is about, for me, an insistence with myself when it comes to my own photography, of letting go of that informational/knowledge-based side, to the extent any of us can . . . the intellectual which may seek to second-guess or completely frustrate the instinctual. That's not the same distinction as "intrinsic"/"extrinsic," but they seem related. It might have been a more interesting thread to have explored the relationship between how we shoot relative to knowledge and instinct and how that relates to how we view what Shore's book labels "depictive" and "mental" levels. It's an interesting distinction and I'll be curious to read about it.
     
  62. An interesting forum thread, to say the least, Fred. To that extent I congratulate you on it's inception.
    Fred
    "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?"
    For me, that point is reached the moment I stop (as in move beyond) appreciating the technique with which it is captured and presented, and start internalising it's significance to me. Even the story conveyed is based on judgement and evaluation but the emotions it stirs in me cannot always be put in words or explained with reason and rational thought. I refer to that as the transcending nature of an image because it's something the photographer could never have anticipated or intended when creating it (unless they knew me and how I would react and even then they could never be really sure).
    I too believe in context and/or cultural influences and there in lies the rational, judgemental and evaluative force with which an image is interpreted. But I don't see that as being my relationship with that image. To me context and cultural influences allow me to know and understand things about a photographer, and yes to some extent, interpret their work. As often happens though, we first see the work before we see the worker and so my internalisation of that work often leads me to explore further. That may change my experience of that work (as information comes to hand) but it'll always be remembered (to me) for the feelings it had originally stirred. Kind of like first impressions of people, a gut feeling etc.. As can often happen, my own emotional interpretation of that very same image may change depending on my mood at the time of viewing. This lends itself to another question (Fred has previously asked in another forum) about whether 'art' ,or in this case a photo, can ever be viewed the same way twice. I think it rarely can and so this is the transcending element

    Fred "Do you have intrinsically moving experiences that you can articulate?"
    As I have suggested earlier, I cannot articulate such experiences because I cannot always explain with reason or rational thought why it is that I feel what I feel. Only that there is an emotional significance to me.
     
  63. Art--
    Thanks. I like the way you've put it all and can relate to a lot of what you say, . . . drumroll . . . but . . .
    "I refer to that as the transcending nature of an image because it's something the photographer could never have anticipated or intended when creating it." I'd want to discuss this further.
    It might be true -- to an extent -- for your personal, specific reaction, but a good artist and/or photographer will very much anticipate and intend for you to have such an experience, and can act very much as a guide. The artist will already likely have had a transcending experience herself in the creation. The whole notion of symbolism and significance relies on transcending signs that are somewhat universal and that are often anticipatory and shared. Hitchcock didn't know for sure all my reactions and associations to the (black and white) red blood swirling down the drain adjacent to Janet Leigh's nude body, some based on my own unique history. At the same time, though, he knew just what he was doing, as does any great photographer (whether with intellectual intention or just a good gut feeling). I may laugh at the scene and have personal reasons for doing so, but I would have missed his point. There is communication going on here, not just the movement of emotion in any direction possible. For me, the specialness in art lies in a sort of meeting of transcendence, between the artist and viewer. These forums have addressed this before, and I've never considered art to be a totally subjective or individual experience. To a great extent, it is a bond formed between creator and viewer.
     
  64. "a good artist and/or photographer will very much anticipate and intend for you to have such an experience, and can act very much as a guide. The artist will already likely have had a transcending experience herself in the creation. The whole notion of symbolism and significance relies on transcending signs that are somewhat universal and that are often anticipatory and shared"
    Yes this is true of a great artist. Your example of Hitchcock works well here; but the fear/terror intended by Hitchcock and experienced by his viewers is based not so much in what he allows us to see in that shower scene, but rather on what he doesn't show us. He may very well guide us into that suspense and leave us there to make our own way out; even offer and make innuendos (about how painful and terrifying it would be to be stabbed repeatedly), but I feel that our interpretation and internalisation of such innuendos is based on our own fears of experiencing such a moment. He may have intended that suspense and fear but I don't think he could ever predict the extent and impact of that fear and terror to his audience's psyche. To quote Hitchcock "There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it." This seems to reflect your view (and to some extent mine) but I feel the anticipation he leaves us with is only one part of the equation. Our ability to internalise the terror of being stabbed is the other, as if it's open to interpretation to whatever degree it may be for the viewer.
    "For me, the specialness in art lies in a sort of meeting of transcendence, between the artist and viewer."
    I agree, but I see this as being more about the viewer than the artist. If I do not experience the fear Hitchcock intends me to experience (because of whatever personal experience I may have had to prevent it from being so) then it is merely a work of art of which I can appreciate it's technical cinematic brilliance.
    If a work moves me, whether through fear, sadness, happiness etc... then it has moved beyond it's technical brilliance, however, I think this relies on my internalisation to achieve that objective.
     
  65. Fred" You state above: "I've never considered art to be a totally subjective or individual experience"
    There can only be subjective experience. ...
     
  66. Steve, what I mean by "art isn't a totally subjective experience" is that the experience of art is dependent on some objective factors, factors that can be shared culturally and inter-personally.
     
  67. “Is there something intrinsic to the photograph itself, however, that knowledge, external associations, or information will not be able to change for me?”
    Fred, you have asked a direct question so i will give you a direct answer.
    From my discussions with you and observing your photography is it obvious you are very much into direct personnel relationships with your various friends. So, the set up photograph of Depp and Kate Moss is about interpersonal relationships which obviously would press all the right buttons for you. For me, apart from the flesh, it is just a mundane photo of a couple together.
    Myself i prefer the reality of real world documentary which has a stronger hold on the human condition.
    To answer can you change, yes, it would be about a 'looking outward approach' to your photography.
    00SIc3-107720284.jpg
     
  68. Art--
    Great points about what Hitchcock didn't show. I still think that he had intentions and expectations around what he didn't show and that those intentions and expectations are as significant to Psycho as my reactions.

    We've approached this from different directions but seem to have wandered around the territory productively. Thanks.

    Allen--
    Documentary photographs don't have a weaker or stronger hold on the human condition than other approaches. I draw a distinction between stealing a moment and engaging one. Whether with a posed and staged creation or the most instantaneously-taken street photograph, there can be genuine engagement and there can be significance. (A photographer may be intentionally or unintentionally disengaged and still have an impact on the viewer.) The layers of the human condition can and have been explored and rendered no matter what the camera is pointed at. It's not exclusively the subject matter and it's not exclusively the genre.

    The intrinsic matters of the Moss/Depp photo and your own: Yours, black and white; Moss/Depp, color. Yours, street; Moss/Depp, set up. Each has a perspective/camera angle intrinsic to it.

    Your opinion that real world documentary has a stronger hold on the human condition is extrinsic. It is your response to what the photo offers.
     
  69. The intrinsic and extrinsic matters of photographs.
    I am aware of and therefore use intrinsic characteristics of photography. I use digital differently than film. Large format is clearly different in my hands from 35mm. I am motivated to use my polaroid to create an image that takes advantage of it's unique personality and characteristics. Am i going to shoot indoors or in the street, w/ artificial or natural light. Perspective, dimensions, the borders of the image,......yada. I will shoot, process, present, even see differently under the influence of intrinsic matters.
    All of the intrinsic (there are many others) matters are part of the tool box we use to impact our own and the viewers responses. At the moment of connection to our eyes and brain it becomes extrinsic imo. Is it street, is it studio, do i/you prefer bw or color or how many times have i seen poorly execute sepia. Platinum, wow ! Is it presented on a backlit monitor or silver emulsion. Is red representational of evil or luck in my culture.
    The recognition of these potential tools and their influence on photographer and viewer can be put to good use if you choose to use them expressively.
     
  70. “The recognition of these potential tools and their influence on photographer and viewer can be put to good use if you choose to use them expressively.” Interesting point Josh.
    On the most fundamental level photography is a 2 dimensional medium that captures light in a moment of time. On the most fundamental level a painting is a primarily a 2 dimensional medium that uses pigment to reflect light. Consider the different reactions that are evoked from the viewer.
    The reactions are extremely dissimilar for most. Most people do see photography as an art form through a very different filter than other flat art mediums. What are the intrinsic qualities of a photo? The process of making a photo has unique intrinsic considerations. It can possibly be completed in a very short period of time with what many consider minimal manipulation to have a final product. Painting for most requires much more time and is totally manipulated into existence. Of course that is stating the obvious but the significant impact of this process on the viewer suggest that there are factors that could be explored further.
    The process of capturing ‘reality’ with a camera impacts the viewer in a base way that deserves consideration as a tool. If I am to make sexuality my subject in a photo I am aware of the hair trigger I am employing. If I were to paint the same subject I know I will have much more leeway to maneuver before the trigger is cocked. Intrinsic becomes extrinsic.
    I am not stating that extrinsic matters are universal, or even response to the intrinsic, they are not. But some responses, reactions are common. This common response may be used to target an audience. Advertisers use extrinsic matters for their agenda. As do artists. Sometimes they hit their mark.
    I often intentionally or accidentally use intrinsic / extrinsic ‘signs and symbols’ as an expressive tool. I don’t target my audience by choice. I am my own audience, but I know that some will receive the same impression as myself. I have had real world experience to reinforce that these intrinsic and extrinsic matters have a useful predictable outcome. Not always and not universally. But I am not making photos for everyone. I have experimented with making photos that the majority will respond to in a positive manner.
    An example; I shoot nudes often. A hair trigger subject. When I began to display my nudes the most common response I got was “who is that?” I took offense. I was shooting the nude not portraits. Oh well, that was then. In response, I began to cut off the heads of the models. Sometimes in a very abrupt, tongue in cheek manner. I was challenged by someone to create a nude without a head that was still pleasing to ‘everyone’. I intentionally tried to create a commercially viable image. I did succeed in the opinion of the challenger and many others.. I have more comments and offers for this one photo than all others. I used venetian blinds… What is it about venetian blinds that tickles so many? As an architectural designer I have answered that question for myself but I have seen enough venetian blind images to last me 5 lifetimes. As photographers immersed in images yours and my extrinsic response may not be the common one. But like the simple grace of a calla lily and the mystic of the blinds still commonly trigger a strong response from viewers. Intrinsic but variable human response….? For sure I think exposure to a subject is one dominate extrinsic factor. The more we know the less common, average is our response. Can we set this knowledge aside? I believe we can practice and nurture an ability to do so. I find it beneficial to be aware of these matters as I also find great benefit to set the knowledge aside or tune it out. Having a strong visceral response is a great pleasure to me. One that I would greatly miss if I were to become bound by knowledge.
    There are some subjects, techniques - styles that are more universally appealing. Why? They are good…? Generally, yes. they are good at what they do. Maybe not great and we may not like them but they have probably have found the key to the intrinsic and extrinsic matters that please a large number of viewers. Sometimes this awareness becomes a successful formula. Most of us would agree to disagree on the merits of those styles that seem to be successful with the masses, but it helps to explain success if measured by approval and recognition and/or sales.
     
  71. BTW. If you come across a good venetian blind or a calla lily image let me know. I still privately shoot them myself.
     
  72. Josh
    "The reactions are extremely dissimilar for most. Most people do see photography as an art form through a very different filter than other flat art mediums. What are the intrinsic qualities of a photo? The process of making a photo has unique intrinsic considerations. It can possibly be completed in a very short period of time with what many consider minimal manipulation to have a final product. Painting for most requires much more time and is totally manipulated into existence. Of course that is stating the obvious..."
    Not sure if you too subscribe to the view you feel "most people" interpret a painting and a photo with Josh, but I would suggest, those (viewers) that matter may very well understand that there is nothing 'obvious', and it is NOT a given that a painting and a photo cannot and do not, for the most part, share a common pre-visualisation or time in their creation. Starting with a blank canvas or a scene/subject still requires intent and an idea for art to be 'manipulated into existence' as you have nicely put it. Art begins in the mind and not on a canvas or the 'capture of light in that moment'. The answers an artist seeks are not found in the dark room (or as it may be in today's age, software) or a canvas. Yes one can sit and stare at a blank canvas for months before picking up a brush, but by the same token, one can pass a scene time and time again before finally deciding it is worthy of being captured.
    Your refer to time (taken to create) as being an important factor in why some might interpret one form (painting/photo) with a sense of 'disdain' (I use the word loosely when referring to art) in its approach to being 'art' while marvel at the other. If this is the case then, other than a very select few paintings, most would not be of equal artistic marvel to even the most basic of sculptures if time and effort is a pre-requisit to artistic brilliance. I would suggest the pre-visualisation I referred to earlier is one of two fundamental elements of artistic genius (the other is the actuation of that pre-visualisation). This is particularly true of sculptors who cannot go back and over-paint a mistake on a canvas or delete the last post production treatment in the digital dark room. I do not see time, nor forms of artistic expression as being of intrinsic value, however i see intent and its expression as being so
     
  73. Art, i as a photographer and occasional painter and sculptor, do not subscribe to the viewpoint of most peoples view of the merit of photography as art is any less valid than that of painting or sculpture. As a strong supporter and user of pre-visualization as a tool I do not believe that it is always required, just a beneficial means to an end. I also believe that those who measure quality and value by length of time required to produce, (mostly non practitioners) have a point from their perspective, worth consideration.. A photo in fact is often produced much quicker than a painting or sculpture. I am not quantifying the value myself but it is a consideration for many. I have spent years to achieve a final photographic image. I have also spent minutes, not a frequent common amount of time for a painting. Is this an intrinsic difference,?... perhaps, potentially if the photographer chooses to use it so. It can be used as a tool that differs from other art forms. Fundamentally unique.
     
  74. Fred, those things you identify as intrinsic to the photograph "But I see it as not intrinsic, like I see shape, color, composition, the internal perspective of the photo, light, shadow." Those intrinsic things reminded me of classic fine art drawing -- a work made to demonstrate the artist's skills in those matters -- and adopted by some photographers, probably moreso in the past than today. This may be a genre in which only the intrinsic is considered by both the artist and viewers.
    One can imagine a drawing in the 1820s , a nude study, having the caption "Slave Girl" attached to it without much 'extrinsicallity' happening, but if it were captioned Greek Slave Girl it could begin to acquire extrinsic associations, and if it were titled Helas Enslaved it would definitely acquire political and religious associations of immediate interest (the Greek war of independence). We've already considered knowledge about the artist informing one's understanding of an art work.
    If this is a valid reading of your approach to extrinsic/intrinsic, I wonder if it was worth the trouble of starting a thread. Maybe I've missed a nuance or two, but it seems pretty cut and dried.
     
  75. "worth the trouble"
    As much as any thread is worth the trouble, I suppose.
    The nuances added, late in the game, by Josh made me sit up and take notice again. He approached it from the point view of the photographer, rather than the point of view of the viewer. There are tools, intrinsic to photography, that photographers use (intentionally and non-intentionally) to get results. He seems to build on my own more vague ideas of shape, color, etc., and offer more flesh and bones.
    I think my greater point was to check what I often feel is a great emphasis on historical context, cultural milieu, biography, prizes awarded, predecessors' influence, followers' homages in what goes into the mix of our experience of a photograph or work of art. The photographer or painter has used very specific tools in order to elicit some pretty specific responses (or at least types of responses). I don't see as much talk about those things in these forums . . . how specifically what we do with our medium affects our viewer.
    If the thread gets me to thinking along those lines, more as an active photographer than as a bystander to history or just another person on a long line at the museum, then it was worth it.
     
  76. Fred: "The photographer or painter has used very specific tools in order to elicit some pretty specific responses (or at least types of responses). I don't see as much talk about those things in these forums . . . how specifically what we do with our medium affects our viewer."
    All I would add to this is that, as visual creatures, we are susceptible to the impact of light and lack there of, on our psyche. As such, artists use light and shade to promote that impact. Often we (or at least I) underestimate the impact of 'darkness' in a piece of work (but I am learning it's importance more and more) until we reflect on it in a somewhat dissectible manner. Sensory deprivation, or in this case, the substitute of light with darkness encourages a dramatic response because what we don't see is substituted by what our mind's eyes see. Perhaps this visual substitution relies on the cultural, social, historical and background forces both Fred and Don refer to in order to allow us to see clearly.
     
  77. ‘The intrinsic matters of the Moss/Depp photo and your own: Yours, black and white; Moss/Depp, color. Yours, street; Moss/Depp, set up. Each has a perspective/camera angle intrinsic to it’.
    Yes, Fred, and the camera and lens used, the time of day, and what colour shoes they were wearing etc. The only true value is the photographer’s motivation and what effect it has on you: extrinsic.
    “Riefenstahl was, indeed, a wonderful, horrible woman”
    She was a propagandist for a regime whose coin was torture, genocide, and mass murder on epic proportions. If your definition is used of intrinsic is used it is impossible, at least for me, to look beyond the blood dripping from her hands as it would to admire the skills of a torturer.
     
  78. Ooops
    ‘The intrinsic matters of the Moss/Depp photo and your own: Yours, black and white; Moss/Depp, color. Yours, street; Moss/Depp, set up. Each has a perspective/camera angle intrinsic to it’.
    Yes, Fred, and the camera and lens used, the time of day, and what colour shoes they were wearing etc. The only true value is the photographer’s motivation and what effect it has on you: extrinsic.
    “Riefenstahl was, indeed, a wonderful, horrible woman”
    She was a propagandist for a regime whose coin was torture, genocide, and mass murder on epic proportions. If your definition is used of intrinsic is used it is impossible, at least for me, to look beyond the blood dripping from her hands as it would to admire the skills of a torturer.
     
  79. Allen--
    Of what relevance is shoe color?
    What do you do if you don't have access to the photographer's motivation? According to what you say, without that information, no photograph you see has any value. Perfectly valid way of operating. Seems restrictive.
     
  80. “According to what you say, without that information, no photograph you see has any value’
    When did I say that....? What I did say was that the process used, whether bw, digital or film....or, what colour shoes the photographer wears is mostly irrelevant .
    It’s about the photograph, the motivation of the photographer; to try to understand why they took that image, what are they saying,
     
  81. "When did I say that....?"

    Allen Herbert: Feb 03, 2009 06:49 p.m.: "The only true value is the photographer’s motivation and what effect it has on you."
    If we know nothing about the photographer/filmmaker or the history of Olympiad, we could only ponder the motivation of the filmmaker. My guess is we would project some motivation based on what we were seeing, which would be much more a projection than a motivation. Let's say we admire what we see. We then learn of her horrible motivations and our opinion changes. That's kind of what I'm getting at. There's no right and wrong here, but there's something going on that I, at least, recognize.
    To many artists and craftspeople -- painters who use oil or watercolors and photographers who work in black and white or color -- the process/medium used is of great relevance. Have you ever noticed the difference in the way Ansel Adams approached his large format stuff and the way he approached his Polaroid stuff? Quite often, the vision of a good photographer and a good artist is inextricable from the medium used. Though medium or process may not be relevant to you, and yours is an understandable approach, it is false to say it "is mostly irrelevant."
    Generally speaking, however, you are right, that the color of the shoes of the photographer is not relevant, except perhaps in a color self portrait.
     
  82. ‘My guess is we would project some motivation based on what we were seeing, which would be much more a projection than a motivation’.
    My guess is we always project some motivation of our own on what we are seeing it is our nature to do so, however, it is about what the photographer is seeing and what they are communicating to truly understand.
    'To many artists and craftspeople -- painters who use oil or watercolors and photographers who work in black and white or color -- the process/medium used is of great relevance. Have you ever noticed the difference in the way Ansel Adams approached his large format stuff and the way he approached his Polaroid stuff”.
    The tools of expression and creativity are just the tools of creativity and expression. A creative person can project their vision through many different tools of creativity as you pointed out with your Ansell Adams example. Yes, some tools/mediums become part of that creativity but only because the photographer decides so. The vision and creativity is the Art not the medium the individual chooses to express themselves in.
    The red shoes might well be a tool of the photographer’s creativity merely because they give happy feeling wearing them.
    Perhaps you should try on a pair of red shoes, Fred, to see if it is so ;)
     
  83. "The vision and creativity is the Art not the medium the individual chooses to express themselves in."
    I don't see the vision, creativity, medium, choices of the individual as separable. Art, for me, is about all of it. I don't hang photographers' motivations on my wall. I hang phototographs up there.
    "Perhaps you should try on a pair of red shoes, Fred, to see if it is so ;)"
    OK. I promise tomorrow I'll go out and shoot a pic of an unsuspecting guy down on his luck sitting in a doorway. Only then will I know your joy. Give me a break!
     
  84. “I don't see the vision, creativity, medium, choices of the individual as separable. Art, for me, is about all of it. I don't hang photographers' motivations on my wall. I hang phototographs up there.”
    Neither do i, however, choice of medium is the lesser part of the equation. To feel and comprehend the Photograph’s motivation, creativity, and vision is to understand. The Photograph i posted was not just about someone down on his luck; it was the story it tells, not just about a one dimensional simple thought.
    It is very easy, Fred, to be trapped into intrinsic values, the face value, and miss the bigger picture....and, the bigger picture is what it is all about.
    “OK. I promise tomorrow I'll go out and shoot a pic of an unsuspecting guy down on his luck sitting in a doorway. Only then will I know your joy. Give me a break!”
    Cool, will you be wearing a pair of red shoes? The whole experience might be very beneficial doing and wearing something totally out of character. It might give a surge to your creative juices, Fred, by looking and being in the world in a bit differrent way.
    And, hey, take a break. May i suggest a nice cup of Earl Grey tea with one brown sugar;)
     
  85. Actually, if you would stop suggesting what you think would benefit me, we'd get along better. Thanks.
     
  86. Fred, for my part, i thought we were getting on just fine.


    Oh well.
     
  87. Actually, no, many of your comments to me are interesting and stimulating and many of your comments about me come across as condescending.
     
  88. 'many of your comments about me come across as condescending.'
    It's just my style of writing and sense of humour,Fred. No offence.
     

Share This Page

1111