The material representing the immaterial

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. We can commiunicate effectively via poetry, fiction and non-fiction our ideas and feelings. Materially, when the person is not in front of us it is done using pencil, paper, word-processor, internet, books, and other material devices. They play a mere supporting role in that communication, which can be of human ideas, perceptions and feelings.. The fact of their material nature is unimportant. When we take a chisel to stone or wood, when we put a brush or spatule to paper, canvas or another surface, when we capture on a silver base emulsion, or on a pixel array of a sensor, and then manipulate and print an image to silver base paper in a darkroom or an inkjet paper, we are also expressing what is on our mind and/or reacting to what we perceive.
    The question of doubt about capturing the "essence" of Paris or any other place raised the question of the nature of essence. Some likened the esence to the Eiffel tower, Edith Piaff or a Haussmann boulevard, and the essence may well be in part some of that. Or, it may be reflected as others maintain in its history or how the history has fashioned that city and, perhaps more importantly, the people who live in it. Or, by one defintion of "essence" that I personally feel to be important, it may be reflected by the spiritual and immaterial that is related to its existence.
    Ideas of the spiritual or immaterial that are contained in poetry, fiction, philosophy or other nonfiction are readily communicated by the physical instruments of communication that are books, internet, word processors, pencil, pen and paper. Ideas or statements of the immaterial have more difficulty being communicated by the physical devices of photography, painting and sculpture, although no doubt they can be, with some difficulty.
    Fast rewind now to the subject of essence, and accept for the moment that essence refers to an immaterial quality that evokes or describes (you may note that I prefer not to use the word define) a place or event. Substitute for essence any other immaterial quality or condition or thesis that you may wish to communicate. Then think of how photography, sculpture or art can describe or evoke those immaterial qualities using a material medium. A simple case. If Paris has all the qualities of the female, whatever than means to you in a social, philosophical, psychological, or even anatomical sense, how can you bring that out using a material medium (two-dimensional, paper, image) that does not relie on the advantage of using a written and spoken language that you have well mastered, and with which you can readily commounicate your thoughts?
    Some quite basic immaterial parameters (but not necessarily ideas or essences), like those of angst or sadness or joy can be communicated in portraits, or in scenes, and are among the most accessible conditions for the lens to communicate. They may make use of the photographer's imagination but also (and especially) very much the state of his subject, which is often read in his or her face or behaviour or in the use of composition, shadow and light.
    Beyond this, expressing immaterial concepts, ideas, or essences, is faced with the challenge of using such a physical medium as a paint brush and canvas, or a camera and print on paper or other material vehicle to achieve the result. If it is a language, it is one that does not have the advantage of the recognised writtten and spoken language eof communication.
    The attached photo is one in which I attempted, perhaps successfully, perhaps not (whichever is ultimately not of great importance to the problem of the OT, of material representing the immaterial), to communicate the immaterial. The material image is of a gravestone of a long dead soldier. He is dead, but remembered. The shadow is of a person who is apparently alive (we do not see her), yet who is being challenged by the gravestone on which her image is thrust. We are being reminded perhaps of an illusion of existence for which we have no better proof than a shadow without a body.
    How can you represent the immaterial by the material constraints of photography, or for that matter, painted or sculpted art? What do you think are the constraints of the medium and its advantages? Can it be done, even by a photographer of ample imagination? Any examples you have may help in establishing the capacity of photography in that regard.
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  2. A start . . .
    It doesn't help me to think of feelings, emotions, thought, consciousness, will, intention, memory, etc. as immaterial. They all have a physical basis, though they do feel distinct from bodily sensations.
    Making photographs is compelling to me because not only is it physical -- like painting, sculpture, etc. -- but it uses the stuff of the world as its raw materials so it's at least in that way tied to its own physicality.
    Signs and symbols are key expressive elements.
    It's ironic that you've used a tombstone which is, to me, a very physical (and literal) symbol of death. A tombstone is more like the word "death" and less like the feeling of it. So it winds up grounding me more than accessing what you're describing as immaterial. I haven't seen it in a long time but I remember Bergman's The Seventh Seal using the metaphor of chess. That seems to approach this "immaterial" aspect you speak of. This is not to say that I think yours is a bad approach by any means. It's direct and literal. And the material and literal aspect of the tombstone may be closer to how I think about death, which is as an ultimate physical occurrence. I've used the term "awe" (in addition to "grief") to describe the feelings I've had around a loved one's death.
     
  3. I agree with Fred. I'll be even more explicit. Perception is always primary. Everything originates in perception. There is no material/immaterial divide; everything that we can/do know originates in perception.
    Words encompass a tiny subset of those perceptions (we are aware of far more than is available to words). Words don't enrich or endow perceptions with meaning; far from it. To the contrary, perceptions endow and enrich words. Words are secondary to perception. Words manage to (arbitrarity, in my opinion) bracket or encapsulate bits and pieces but, to repeat, words and the mental assignment of them to this or that is secondary to perception.
    Perception and meaning are not separable. Meaning is not created by the mind. It's found or assigned or contrived (or distorted) but the perception is and remains what it is; it is not made because or after it is assigned some kind of verbal meaning by the mind. Perception and meaning are not separable.
    This is precisely why "essence" is an artificial construct. It's trying to force a perception, plucked from the current flux, to carry the load of a lifetime of memories of previous perceptions. If a viewer will just be quiet and let a perception happen; listen and stop trying to meddle with what is there in perception, he or she may be lucky enough to find some of what is there NOW, nothing more but nothing less.
    I've repeatedly used "perception" rather than "pictures" or "the visual" above. Whether or not visual representation can or should get what is perceived via other senses is an open question (and not one that I find terribly interesting).
     
  4. Fred,
    I am very glad that you and Julie have taken the time to post your feelings about the difficult if not impossible subject of using material things like a photograph to express immaterial things - ideas, theories, reflections, and so on. I think it is a very important aspect of the constraints of photography and one that is hardest to achieve.
    I disagree that the tombstone is any more ironic than a page one tabloid image of, say, a horribly crashed vehicle, or a person bleeding to death on a Berlin street sometime in the second world war. They are tangible reminders of death. I see the tombstone not as only a death symbol (like the aforementioned examples) but more here as something that is probably the only lasting memory of a young Mr. Langston who left the conscious world in 1824. It's a statement of who he was and what he ultimately did in his short life. It allows us to think of him. However, here it is simply used to assist in the communicatiion of an immaterial idea or statement and serves simply as an astuce for a living shadow, which is (unnaturally) not connected (in the image at least) to a living person. The tombstone is not what is being projected (or attempting to be projected) but a rather a contrast or paradox of sorts, a reflection on what is not just a shadow on a tombstone but something else. It also exemplifies ther difficulty of communicatin something that we do not see You see a tombstone, and a symbol of death, but that is not the unique intent of the image.
    Julie,
    I disagree with you profoundly that words are unimportant. They may originate in perceptions, in internal reflections of the mind, and other inputs, but they are the most important tool we have to communicate and our history shows us that it is words that communicate the most profound, important and elegant thoughts of man, and we could progress on that basis more confidently than if all that was or is communicated between individuals was simply artwork or photos.
    "Whether or not visual representation can or should get what is perceived via other senses is an open question (and not one that I find terribly interesting)." (Julie)
    Again, I disagree. In that case we would be left with just pretty pictures or amusing if not aesthetic photographs, which communicate little beyond their "eye candy" quality. But in defense of your position, I think you missed the point that it is not just what is expressed via the senses that is what the OT is referring to, as we have ample portraits and other scenes that do that (Weston's Tina in tears; Munch's "The Scream"), but rather the difficulty of photography and painting to express, like words do so easily, the ideas, reflections of man.
    Whether attainable or not, I do find that idea terribly interesting. And also the fact that it seems to be controversial.
     
  5. "I think it is a very important aspect of the constraints of photography" --Arthur
    Constraints of photography or the constraints a photographer or viewer puts on himself?
    I hope you can clarify your position on Weston and Munch because I'm not clear on what you're getting at. They express only what's expressed through the senses? That implies a difference between them and others, who supposedly express via other means? What other means do other photographers/painters use to express? Doesn't a visual work imply expressing via a visual sense? Does capturing a tear, which means taking a stand on grief or sadness (perhaps tears of joy depending on context) not ALSO mean capturing the "ideas and reflections of man"?
     
  6. Reading your recent posts, in this thread and elsewhere, Arthur, I feel you're setting up impossible tasks for photographs and then expressing disappointment in photographs not being able to accomplish the impossible tasks you've imposed on them. It's a little like being disappointed when you can't see the face or hear the voice of God.
    A photograph is not going to be your wife, your child, your boss, your psychiatrist, or your Savior. It is a photograph. It will touch you as you allow it and your photographs will touch others to the extent you allow yourself whatever freedom (not the restrictions you seem to be imposing on yourself) you can embrace. As several of us said in the other thread, these "immaterial" and/or "essential" qualities you seek can come in any place, with any subject, at any time.
    Though I don't see them as immaterial or essential (in the way they've been used sometimes in these threads), these things you are talking about are significant, as long as they are not so idealized that they become beyond reach and then, at least to me, insignificant. I'd say it's the idealization that puts them beyond reach, not the act or process of photographing.
     
  7. Also, Arthur, I thought you were getting at the feeling of death, the non-coproreal quality of it, not just a statement of it. I agree, the tombstone is very similar to the front-page images you mention. Those, by overtly representing something, may make me feel a certain way but they usually don't express those feelings themselves. You are talking about actually expressing the immaterial, which for me, might require more than a tombstone or an image of a dead and bleeding man.
    What are the immaterial aspects of death that you may be feeling and how could a photograph/photographer express, signify, or symbolize the actual feelings (of grief, loss, awe, yearning, eternity, etc.)? The tombstone and the front-page pictures represent the material fact of death (and those material facts may stimulate me to feel something, for sure) but they aren't, themselves, an expression of the immaterial qualities I understand you to be talking about.
     
  8. I tried to delete my previous post just above but was too late. I reread your explanation of the photo of the tombstone and think I understand better what you're going for in that photo, though it honestly doesn't accomplish it for me.
     
  9. "Doesn't a visual work imply expressing via a visual sense? Does capturing a tear, which means taking a stand on grief or sadness (perhaps tears of joy depending on context) not ALSO mean capturing the "ideas and reflections of man"?" (Fred)
    Fred, I think in part, yes. Munch and Weston are expressing via a visual sense and deal with what is accessible to our senses (starting with our ability to see what they are communicating and carrying through our notions of grief or angst or whatever that allows us to comprehend the visual message). We get that right away and we can, as you said in another thread I believe, go on receiving more stimulus from the image and how we interact with it as time goes on. Whether it (the tears of Tina) "ALSO means capturing the "ideas and reflections of man", is to my mind quite another thing.
    The photograph is material, just as the scene that was photgraphed is material, although the way the scene was portrayed by the artist to provide a sensation of grief or angst adapts the material to his perception, like the way simple material words can be used together by a writer to create a whole. I am not questioning what Weston or Munch have done, and they may well have gone beyond the expression of human sentiments to the expression of the "ideas and reflections" of man in those images, but that is a point of discussion and a result I am not convinced of.
    The thing to differentiate, I believe, is between the communication of sentiments, like I think I mentioned yesterday in your OT on "what don't your photographs communicate", in regard to the portraits of Weston and Munch, and that of the communication of ideas or values, such as those we cabn also obtain and interact with in reading literary works.
    Portraying ideas and values may well be beyond the capacity of a photograph, but I like to think not. The communication is perhaps obfuscated by the enigma, the uncertainty and the incompleteness of what is being communicated visually. Therein, I think, lies a constraint but not necessarily a barrier.
    Perhaps it is necessary for photography and the photographer to use a series of images, like a writer uses a series of phrases or sentences, to communicate the idea or value he wishes to communicate, that immaterial thing. A series may posibly increase the clarity of what is being communicated in regard to the immaterial.
     
  10. Fred, I hope my photograph doesn't accomplish perfectly (you vary between partial appreciation, originally, and none, as in your last comment) the communication of ideas to you. If it did, and I didn't claim at the outset that it would, I would probably not have felt the need to pose the question, having already achieved that magic state.
    I hope we can avoid discussing particulars of specific images and research how we might attain a communication of ideas and value in our photographs. Perhaps the expression of certain values is more easily attained (like the suggestion of freedom in the famous Iwo Jima flag raising creation, although a Japanese person may think otherwise) than the expression of more involved ideas.
     
  11. The viewer/audience participates in a work of art by interpreting it for himself. This interpretation opens the way for a person to understand and explain what lies before him. This is the very point that will drive an artist preoccupied with his own efforts to convey "essence" nuts. Thomas Langston died January 1, 1824, but what do we know of him now? Any information you get other than the appearance and location of his tombstone will have to be the result of a research project. The sort of thing a modern descendant might undertake to trace his Genealogy. The point is that on closer approach your effort to be reminded of something related to Mr. Langston will lead you to nothing at all.
    The shadow on the tombstone seems to show someone holding their hand up to their head. To shade her eyes from the bright sun perhaps? How do we know that she does not have her back to the tombstone? Perhaps the suggestion here is that she is grounded in the past, the product of her ancestor, Thomas Langston, and now she looks forward into the future. Eventually she too will have a tombstone of her own to lie as a foundation for some yet unknown descendant. In this interpretation we find themes such as the continuity of life and the value and strength of familial bonds.
    But is what is really in the photograph? Clearly from the comments already written all of this would be a surprise to the photographer. It's the old business about the tree in the woods. The artist has a clear idea about cutting down a tree and he goes about his work, but it is up to someone else to hear the sound of the tree falling. You can see that when the viewer shows up the artist has to go away to mind his own business. His work is done.
    Renaissance artists relied on common well known religious imagery and symbolism to guide viewers to the meaning they put in their works. We have symbols and images to rely on today as well. They're all around us. Look at advertising for example. Essence suggests something less well known. Something personal perhaps. As for the tree in the woods, who can say where is the essence of a tree is anyway? Almost every chop of the axe will pop out a chip of the tree. Is it the chip that tells you something important about the very tree you work so hard to fell? Is the last chip holding the tree up more important than the first bit of bark you knock off? Does the hole you're making in the trunk tell you more about the tree than the chips? Once on the ground, how can you possibly tell which chip is which? I get the feeling that worrying about questions like these even with photography is a bit like chasing your tail...
     
  12. "I hope we can avoid discussing particulars of specific images" --Arthur
    Huh? Then why are you posting images to this forum? If you don't want them discussed, you might consider not posting them. I'm not judging them, nor am I telling you whether I "like" them or not. I don't critique photos here. But if they are posted to illustrate a point, I will feel free to discuss them specifically as they relate to that point. I actually thought that's what you wanted out of these forums. In any case, I didn't vary between partial appreciation and no appreciation. The fact that I think your photo doesn't accomplish what you're talking about doesn't mean I don't appreciate a lot about it.
    You asked how we would capture something photographically. I can't just talk about that in the abstract. Talking about the literal aspect of a tombstone and a shadow, the forced nature of their symbolism, and how that doesn't work the kind of magic (for me) that you're talking about seems very relevant. You may well see the photo differently, but I don't see why this kind of discussion of specifics isn't of great value.
     
  13. Albert,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. "Life-cycle", the inevitability of our destiny, and particularly a kind of the surrealism of the "nearness of a tombstone of a long deceased and the "farness" of a living person suggested only by a bodyless shadow was clearly in my mind when I shot the image (yes, her back is against the bench and gravestone), but whether this contributres to any immaterial projection (of ideas or value, etc.) is clearly up to the viewer. I have already achieved my own personal satisfaction with that curiosity, and can happily be remionded of it when I chioose to look back at the image.
    Do you really think that the ability of a photo or a series of photos to communicate ideas of man is simply "chasing one's tail?" Perhaps you can clarify that a bit? I can certainly accept that you think so, however. And you may be right. I have not seen any really clear examples to convince me that the immaterial of ideas or equally complex reflections can be effectively communicated by a material subject and a photograph to date. Why do you think that such an objective is impossible (if I understod you correctly)?
    Fred,
    Thanks also for your comments. I am not critiquing the fact of discussion of particular images (I posted one only to spur other's discussion of their own ideas, photos and experiences that might show that the immaterial of ideas and values is being addressed in photos), which was done in the case of my example. I welcome your comments on my image and what I am trying to do (see my description above to Albert of one aspect of that, the surrealism angle) but I mentioned that I hope we can avoid additional discussion of already discussed specific images simply in order to SUGGEST that we move on from them to attack THE problem of communicating the immaterial and not to cases where you already think the immaterial has not been communicated, as in my photo, or as in my opinion, to my references to the Munch and Weston images that I think do not communicate the immaterial (which I referenced in my appreciation as being of more complex "ideas" than those of individual angst or sorrow). But I am able to accept that I may be wrong and that the Scream of Munch may be a scream against the human condition. We know that Munch's work was being continually rejected by almost every one of his peers and he had immense difficulties in getting his work exhibited. When you go against the habitual you are often very open to attack (When one finds everyone is in agreement one should take that as a warning).
    Do you have an image or series that communicates some immaterial "ideas (other than specific states of being, as in the Weston image of Tina)? Or, can you point to the work of others which communicates an idea rather than a material subject and emotion? That is what I meant by moving on to attack THE question of the OT. Is that of interest to you?. I can assure you that I too will try to contribute as much as I can in that positive sense, and definitely welcome others to do so.
     
  14. can you point to the work of others which communicates an idea rather than a material subject and emotion?​
    Duane Michals ( I'm sure there are other examples ), Arthur, communicates a lot of ideas / philosophy's with his work. Of course being a photographer he does rely on the "material" of his subjects, and he also uses ( "needs" ) text with his photos, in order to go beyond. But, which ideas aren't emotions too ?
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    Doesn't an unexposed piece of paper become *less material* ( immaterial ) after an image is fixed into it ?
    The image itself not being the photograph nor the material photographed after all.
    Everything is consciousness but consciousness is not everything.
     
  15. "But, which ideas aren't emotions too ?" --Phylo
    Good question.
    As to my own photographs, I'd say each and every one (and pretty much every photograph I've ever looked at) has some aspects of material specificity and some less specific ideas attached. I don't know how I'd describe the less specific ideas without getting too specific, which would negate the exercise. In that sense, I do understand Albert's use of the dog chasing its tail.
    Arthur, I don't understand the distinction you're making between immaterial ideas and material ones? Maybe you just mean less distinct ideas and more specific ones. I don't know. I'll take a back seat here and hope to get some clarity as the discussion continues.
     
  16. "he (Michaels) also uses ("needs") text with his photos, in order to go beyond." (Phylo)
    Phylo,
    I agree that his work is very thought provoking, text or not. Does he really need text to go into the realm of ideas? I wonder.
    "But, which ideas aren't emotions too ?" (Phylo)
    What about:
    • Liberty, equality, fraternity" (taken as such, without the great emotions of the desire for change related to the French Revolution)
    • The Canadian Bill of Rights (or other such laws in other countries)
    • The USA Constitution
    • Various principles of religuon, of legalprecedents,
    • and so on
    "Doesn't an unexposed piece of paper become *less material* ( immaterial ) after an image is fixed into it ? The image itself not being the photograph nor the material photographed after all." (Phylo)
    Ah, if you don't think of the image as material, then I think you are thinking of your mental perception of the image and not what is materially presented to you. I could agree with that aspect, but it was not that that I was thinking of as immaterial. Possibly only a very very few images that can evoke the immaterial, in the sense that they can evoke an idea and not just a mental transposition and interpretation of an image to the mind of the viewer.
    "But, which ideas aren't emotions too ?" --Phylo
    Good question. (Fred)
    Fred,
    They are of the type that I mentioned in the text bullets above to Phylo. My responses are not by any means very complete, but they are essentially other than the communication of emotions, namely the communication of principles, values, social reflections or ideas, or other ideas.
    "I don't understand the distinction you're making between immaterial ideas and material ones?" (Fred)
    No, I don't mean anything about less distinct ideas and more specific ones. I guess I am bad at communicating, but I don't think I mentioned "material ideas", just the material (the material presence of a subject, the material known as a photograh) that is the subject or the photograph. The "immaterial" or ideas I refer to are potentially in the meaning of the photograph to the viewer:
    • not simply the emotions communicated by the subject or scene (angst, sorrow, joy, awe, disgust)
    • but expressed ideas (not restricted to, but can include principles, values, social ideas or reflections)
    • and can be things not inherent in each element of the components of a photograph but which, like words in a book, can come together and suggest, communicate, an idea, value, etc. (that being the immaterial or "idea").
    I hope this can clarify the question.
    Can you point to the work of others, or your own work, which communicates an "idea" (idea, principle, value, social insight, etc.) rather than a material subject of simply aesthetic interest (outside of immaterial considersation), or rather than such a material subject combined with expression of emotion?
     
  17. Arthur, I remember seeing this photo a long time ago when I perused your portfolio.

    My overriding reaction to the image, then and now, is that it documents an attitude of plain disrespect toward the dead. The implications of the placement of that bench--its spatial and symbolic relation to the stone behind it--are, for me, stronger than any other visual element.

    Apparently some indifferent (or dimwitted) custodian or landscaper saw fit to position a wooden bench immediately in front of Thomas Langston's memorial stone--only a couple of feet removed--in such a manner that people using it will sit with their backsides to his monument, their heads almost touching it, and their bottoms directly over (presumably) his still-buried remains.

    If a bench were to be found, similarly emplaced, over a grave at Arlington National Cemetery, the ensuing public indignation might fuel multiple Washington Post articles and weeks of letters to Congress.

    I can't imagine such obtuse spatial symbolism finding its way into a Bergman film, unless it was deliberately inserted to make a point .

    (Of course, it's possible that the offending spatial relationship was produced by the distorting perspective of a telephoto lens.)
     
  18. A followup to my last, parenthetical point above, which was added as an afterthought just before the 10-minute "edit" window closed:
    After reconsidering in an analytical way the angle and size of shadows on the tombstone, relative to the bench rails and woman that are casting them, I don't think that the bench-to-stone proximity in the photo was an illusion created by telephoto compression.
    I think, as I had originally, that it's just an in-your-face statement to Mr. Langston (by the landscaper, not the photographer). An "expressed idea" indeed...if not necessarily the one you had in mind, Arthur.
     
  19. Hi Ernest,
    Interesting comment, which I fully understand. It is not what you photograph but the respect you have for your subject that I believe is important.
    Just a few small corrections, though. The photo as such was not in, and is not presently in, my portfolio. I think you are referring to an old post in which I submitted the complete photo (including the lady) and an image of just the shadow and the tombstone. The placement of the benches in the Savannah, Georgia, cemetery are of course not my doing. It is odd that they would place a bench so close, but the grave is actually on the other side of the tombstone, which itself is a few feet, possibly up to 3 feet, behind the bench, and the bench is along a major pathway that allows access to many of the graves, positioned as close to the walkway as this one. It is quite a beautiful cemetery, and the distance between the graves (both civilian and military) are quite distant from each other and a lot less close than the rows at Arlington or our Canadian military cemeteries. A lot of trees provide a very peaceful atmosphere for a city cemetery. I take a lot of photographs in cemeteries, not because I am inclined to show disrespect but rather because I am fascinate by what they say about our communities and their citizens and because birth and death are our primary physical points of reference in this life. One of the photos in my portfolio shows a local couple of gravestones, which seem to be united together. I encourage you to look at it and comment if you wish
    Not sure what you mean by a Bergman film. That was not in my mind when I photographed the tombstone. I have much respect for the dead, especially young military and alksomerchant marine youth who gave their lives for us, and I had no negative intention in creating this image. One good friend in her later years told me recently that she has the intention of being buried in a cemetery overlooking the St. Lawrence River near here. She intends to have a gravestone made in the shape of a stone bench, such that people visiting the site can sit down on it and admire the view. I rather like her way of thinking (for others) and I am most sure that her children would have no objection to people sitting on top of her grave in that manner. They would be after all, her fellow citizens. I guess we can forgive her eccentric attitude. She is an artist.
    Anyway, the question of cemetery planning is not part of the thread, although I appreciate your consideration for the deceased and I hope I have shed a little light on what and why I photograph in cemeteries.
     
  20. but expressed ideas (not restricted to, but can include principles, values, social ideas or reflections)​
    Just about any good documentary or photojournalism expresses - willingly or unwillingly - all of these things, like principles, values, social ideas,.. Or think about Robert Frank's The Americans for example. But these are ideas expressed in series of photographs rather than individual stand alone images, which yes, could be more of an exception in non-conceptual photography ( which photograph isn't conceptual ! ).
    Jeff Wall's work maybe is an example of the expression of ideas in a single image but which go beyond the frame / photograph, and subject. Or, Thomas Demand's photographs of "paper sculpted" replica's of reality.
    -------
    But actually I think any photograph or series of photographs that are taken with some intent are capable to express " not simply the emotions communicated by the subject or scene (angst, sorrow, joy, awe, disgust) ".
    It just depends on your perspective as a viewer. Maybe the question is : how much are you as a viewer and / or photographer willing to let the material represent the immaterial in a photograph ?
     
  21. Arthur, somehow this photo did indeed make its way into your portfolio (uploaded 2010-09-01, according to the 'details' tab). A few hours ago, while reading this thread, I saw and recalled it immediately---but I'd first seen it many months ago, and today simply assumed that it was in your portfolio at that earlier time.
    I never felt that you'd intended any disrespect in making or presenting this image. What struck me, as I read through this current thread and considered the photo again, was the degree to which your own perception of its symbolism and meaning (as its maker) differed from my response to it, as a viewer.
    You wrote, above, that "The shadow is of a person who is apparently alive (we do not see her), yet who is being challenged by the gravestone on which her image is thrust." I perceived no such "challenge" from the dead to the living (and apart from your explanation, still don't). What I saw is a gravestone, carefully carved to honor a man and erected over his remains, that has been fully marginalized by the passage of time--the stone, and the grave itself, now ignored and casually disrespected, in deference to the comfort of passersby, who are invited (by the placement of the bench) to park their bottoms in the dead man's "sacred space".
    It's unusual that a grave is laid rearward from the blank side of the tombstone, instead of extending forward from the engraved side. That factual detail, of course, increases the disparity between the symbolic meaning of the image (to me, that is, as I perceived it) and the reality you photographed.
    My reference to Ingmar Bergman was in response to Fred's comment, above:
    "It's ironic that you've used a tombstone which is, to me, a very physical (and literal) symbol of death. A tombstone is more like the word "death" and less like the feeling of it. . . I haven't seen it in a long time but I remember Bergman's The Seventh Seal using the metaphor of chess. That seems to approach this "immaterial" aspect you speak of."
    I guess almost any image can serve as a Rohrschach-blot test for its maker and its viewers, this being a case in point.
    Arthur, I would stress again that I didn't mean to question or disparage your photographing in cemeteries. I do it too--like many, many others. I made the reference to Arlington and its recent, well-publicized travails, only to reinforce my point about the ill-advised (in my view) placement of that bench.
     
  22. Phylo,
    many thanks for your examples, which are interesting but to me also serve to underrline the problem. Do you respond to the photos of Demand, or to those of Van Gogh's shoes, in the sense of an immaterial message or idea? How would you put one or two of them into words. and possibly even texts, which would elaborate upon what they comminicate to you? I am curious.
    The possibilities of photojournalism seem a priori of promise, though. Can you point to any single image or series of photos that contain a strong commiunication of ideas that can or have moved the viewers? How would you yourself approach the task of transferring the material (the subject, photograph and print) into the immaterial, into a viewer perceivable perceived idea?
     
  23. Ernest,
    Your perception of my image is entirely yours. I wouldn't go as far as you do in sugesting it is, or in truth anybody else's is, some sort of Rohrshach-blot test for its maker, as that is not my style of critique or of personal comments in commenting the works of others. A question of manner. And when one image is given as an example of a postulate that is proposed in a thread, I would rather not get hung up on just that image or critique it and would rather address the significance or not of the philosophical question or argument of the thread (which appears to be the aim of this forum), especially when a remark was made in the OT that the photo is just an example that may or may not satisfy the thrust of the thread. It is of course easy to critique an image in a negative way and ignore the question posed by the thread, also easy to refrain giving one's own opinion on the question, and easy to discuss whether the Savannah cemetery has properly buried their dead. As for a response to the question at hand, maybe I and the readers should not expect too much, judging from your comments. As for your interest in the question of how they bury their dead in Georgia, you can easily contact the Savannah cemetery or city if that is your main interest.
    Although I have not been privileged to have the critique of that image in my portfolio (where you apparently noticed it) by yourself or by Fred Goldsmith (although Fred has graciously commented others of mine, as I have his), some others of have done so in other milieu and without my specific request in the past. Some considered the full image of the tombstone and the person in the chair of sufficient interest to have it included in one unique national retrospective of the anniversary of (Fox-Talbot and Hershel) negative photography (150 years mark) by a Canadian publication. Only a small handfull of non professional photographers (of which only two amateur photographers still living) were chosen among many professional photographers over the period of interest of that publication. I guess they (historian, photo historian, and a provincial museum curator) must have had some minimally compelling reason to do so. Perhaps a photographic Rohrshach-blot test? Heaven, who knows?
    Perhaps we can with a little effort turn attention from the perceptions of my photo by yourself and Fred, which you have conveniently aired, and move on to think a bit about the question I posed, provided of course that you are so interested and indeed have ideas about the communication of immaterial ideas in material photographic images of material subjects.
     
  24. Arthur, the offense you've taken was not intended.
    Without question, my perception of the image you posted as an example (and then expounded on, at some length, in subsequent posts in this thread) was entirely mine.
    I'll demur from further comment.
     
  25. Do you respond to the photos of Demand, or to those of Van Gogh's shoes, in the sense of an immaterial message or idea? How would you put one or two of them into words. and possibly even texts, which would elaborate upon what they comminicate to you? I am curious.​
    Arthur, I don't really get what you mean by "immaterial message". Do you mean a spiritual message ?
    For me there's only the message, and it's not physical obviously, since it's a feeling I might have, a thought, something that strikes me upon looking at a work of art, painting, photograph. It communicates on that level, which is simply beyond words, it doesn't need words, it mocks words.
    So I wouldn't put the painting or photographs into words ( just like I wouldn't put a poem into a picture to describe what / how it makes me feel ), why would I, how could I ?, unless I would want to in a critique context of the given work.
    Can you point to any single image or series of photos that contain a strong commiunication of ideas that can or have moved the viewers?​
    I think just about any good photojounalism visual communicates our relationship with the world and has the capacity to move us as such as viewers. But I don't think it's about communication of ideas, it's about communication of / through photographs, or paintings,etc...which may form ideas, impressions.
     
  26. Short answer: As with any other art form the immaterial is implied. The actor didn't really die. The other actors aren't really grieving. We aren't really being chased down a dark alley as we read the crime novel. The paint on the canvas isn't really Jesus being crucified. The film wasn't really shot during the D-Day invasion. We are given suggestions and our minds fill in the blanks with automatic responses that the author, actor, producer, composer, photographer expected from us.
    The long answer will have to wait.
     
  27. I will apologize for taking so long to reply. It's been a very busy day.
    Some questions are too complex to answer effectively. Identify and illustrate the essence of a cemetery is one of them. At some point you must produce a photograph to do the job. That is to say that the assignment requires you to stop thinking about abstract ideas and push the shutter button. I used the analogy of a woodcutter. Suppose the wood chips he chops out of a tree trunk were pictures instead. Which one does the best job of telling you what a tree is?
    My approach to this sort of thing always leads me back to the same place. I must think through my camera for the result to be photography. Perhaps pursuing the best picture to show the essence of a scene is too difficult to attempt. Any number of them might do. But as I pointed out earlier the success of a message or idea in a picture requires the cooperation of the viewer as well.
    I think it would be more practical to follow a slightly different course of questioning. Rephrase the question about the essence of the subject into " What is important about the subject?" Then, "What do I want to tell you about it?" Then, "Here. Let me show you." Now you have converted a passive quest for an insight into the nature of the subject into a directive leading to action on your part which takes you directly through the processes necessary to make a picture. The essence you suspect lies at the heart of the subject will have to wait for later.
    Let's say for a minute that you truly believe that the comments you made about the photo of the tombstone in the cemetery describe the essence of the scene. The elements are all there. It's a tombstone with a shadow on it all right, but what are relationships among the parts? The head of the shadow reminds me of the little boy found in so many Hummel figurines. He has a round head with hair swept up in the front. You say the figure is actually a girl. How can one tell from the photo itself which one is correct? You talk about some impact the tombstone makes upon the girl, but it turns out that she has her back to it. How does the photo sort his out? What impact? How do we know a connection exists without your explanation? This is the sort of thing I mean by chasing your tail. The explanations lead you in circles. Instead of clarity they lead to more questions and story making. I'm having a hard time seeing the merit in this spiral of speculation.
     
  28. Also Arthur, I don't think that because each viewer will have a different trigger / interpretation to an image, that that means that the image isn't communicating something immaterial, something beyond what it depicts physically. The immaterial is precisely not a checklist of what's in the photograph and doesn't need to be something that we can and must all agree on.
    00XDPn-276647584.jpg
     
  29. I find that Julie's very categoric approach to "perception" and it's predominance to other forms of relationship to our surroundings is fairly radical and of little help for us to understand photography in general.
    I can follow Julie in her arguments if I try to understand her own photographs and constructions but this can only represent one approach among others to what can be done by photography. In the moment our scenes are not simple forms and textures but human life and settings, PERCEPTIONS can only be one first step that has to be complemented by WORDS whether pronounced, written or thought in order to reach a level of understanding that makes communication between us on what is going on, possible giving meaning to the scene.
    So, surely one can formulate that :
    Everything originates in perception. There is no material/immaterial divide; everything that we can/do know originates in perception.​
    However, in some way I find this way of presenting the question like the old story of the hen and the egg. Julie chooses the hen - or is it the egg?
    I get somewhat confused when Julie then writes :
    "essence" is an artificial construct. It's trying to force a perception, plucked from the current flux, to carry the load of a lifetime of memories of previous perceptions.​
    For me one cannot jump between "perception", "meaning" and "essence" without loosing our mind or at least the reader. This is why in our recent discussion on "essence" no-one (I think) dared approaching the concept of "meaning", apart from with reference to context, and even less the concept of "perception", apart from maybe with the word "feelings".
     
  30. Ernest (et al),
    Upon re-reading your thoughts, I perceive of them differently. Thanks for your time in putting them down very well. I must have some neurotic genes that cause me to jump to defend my viewpoint in making the photo, not always acknowledging its limitations, in either fact, or in its accuracy of communication of an intention. I think there is a sort of concensus begun by Fred, Julie, yourself, Phylo and Albert (and perhaps others, with Phylo and Dan providing their observations regarding other images possessing their out of frame viewer perception of ideas (or other immaterial thoughts)), that the additional meaning we take from a material image depends upon the ability of the photographer to stimulate that, but also to our own subjective perceptive abilities or biases.
    If I correctly remember seeing a re-run of the film The Seventh Seal, Bergman's knight or crusador is playing chess with death, and elsewhere a chariot (a hearse) is running wildly through a town square, the clock of which has no hands. These are strong visual metaphors which strike us immediately, which we can think about and extend to our own mind, outlook and situation. In that manner, as I think Fred pointed out, we are effectiively and quite unequivocably called upon to think about the immaterial ideas of life and its meaning, and of death (although the presence of death as a character is very materially evident in Bergman,s film and requires no elaborate guesswork by the viewer, in that sense like my tombstone), and to create our own mental perception of what the cinephotographer has shown us from the material world (I guess Julie may argue, perhaps with some reason, that we do not create mental perceptions, but have them upon viewing the image. Whatever the case, the interpellation of the image itself is strong).
    I think I understand the problem with the word "immaterial", which may be too much related to legal jargon, to "unimportant" or to a ninteenth century religious philosophy (immaterialism). I am accustomed in using the Quebec equivalent of the language of Voltaire to think of "immaterial culture" as being that distinct from matter (poetry, essays, etc.), as opposed to our constructed heritage. Read instead "ideas" or mental perceptions (the type one creates from the "springboard" of a visual stimulus) instead of "immaterial" in the OT, if that clarifies the original question.
    Albert,
    One of your comments was "You talk about some impact the tombstone makes upon the girl, but it turns out that she has her back to it. How does the photo sort his out? What impact? How do we know a connection exists without your explanation? This is the sort of thing I mean by chasing your tail. The explanations lead you in circles. Instead of clarity they lead to more questions and story making. I'm having a hard time seeing the merit in this spiral of speculation."
    The girl or woman has her back to the tombstone, indicating that she is not at all aware of its projection upon the tombstone, a "symbol of death". That is important to me. If she had her shadow projected while she was looking at the tombstone that might be analogous to a hearse running through the town with a clock indicating the exact time, rather than a clock with no hands, as Bergman shows. What I am trying to do in this set-up, as it was a set-up rather than something perceived and snapped on occasion, is to relate life and death.
    This part of the original concept doesn't show the person (need we?) to tell the story. It was shot a few years ago, under a different height of the sun in the sky (different month), whereas the original I took (shown below) was done 20 years ealier, with same model (one who I need not pay, except by affection). Although I hate concept titles (too invasive) I called it "Life Cycle" for the publication I mentioned to Ernest. An artist in our region saw the image and prefered the croped version, but he works mainly with fragments that he works into more complete images with other elements. I don't know which one I lean to, they both (to me) accomplish a similar thing, although I sometimes think the whole picture (the 1988 or 89 one shown here) is too indicative of the meaning, requiring less effort.
    Albert, I have to digest your other welcome thoughts, as those of some of the other's more recent posts.
    Phylo,
    I absolutely agree with your last post (and thank you for your contribution of an interesting image), but, like the posts of Ernest, Albert, Anders and yourself, I need to reflect more on your comments. My thanks to you four for maintaining and advancing the discussion.
    00XDVy-276741584.jpg
     
  31. Arthur, my immediate reaction to the photo is based on religion and my relation to death. I think that any interpretation of the photo of the tomb and the shadow is very dependent on our religious affinities. With my protestant background (I'm however a convinced atheist) I find the shadow somewhat heavy-handed. What the image strive to express is memories, lost relationships, loneliness, loss of orientation in life after the death of a relative. A tombstone is the symbol of all these feelings and more. The shadow is unnecessarily as I see it because the tombstone already represent the link between the dead and the living.
    The photo below has the same orientation but is somewhat less heavy and even with a touch of irony and distance - as I see it.
    00XDY4-276769684.jpg
     
  32. "What the image strive to express is memories, lost relationships, loneliness, loss of orientation in life after the death of a relative." (Anders)
    Anders,
    You are refering to my 2nd photo I think. I find your comment most interesting in that regard, as my own intention/perception has little to do with those thoughts. It is perhaps less personal and more existentialist (heavy handed) because it has simply one hard fact, the "life cycle" that we are not always aware of, and its inescapability.
    I do not feel that at all when viewing your nicely composed image of the cat. I enjoy the pleasing textures and tones and the "point" composition of the cat in the image, increased as it is in its effect by its strong dark-light contrast with the other elements of your image. On an immaterial level of ideas I might be inclined to think the cat is beside the remains of his owner, but that doesn't work as the remains are ostensibly of a much earlier time. I have trouble fitting the cat into the image, not from an aesthetic material viewpoint, but from the immaterial one. Could you elaborate a bit on the presence of the cat and the cross and on your "immaterial" as opposed to material perception or intent?
     
  33. No problem, Arthur, that was a graceful recovery.
    I'm no expert in semantics and its jargon, but the metaphor of "a visual language" is often applied to photography. And, according to my crude and limited understanding of semantics, when language and meaning are considered, it's accepted that there is no such thing as an "absolute meaning" or "essence" of any statement, visual statements included. Rather, there always are multiple possible meanings--corresponding to "interpretations"--which are generated by, thus dependent on, the individual perceptions of those involved. In short, a statement can be said to have an "intended meaning" (on the part of its creator) and a "received/perceived meaning" (on the part of a given reader, listener, or viewer)--but never, except in a poetic sense, an "essence".
    With your uncropped earlier version of this photographic statement, your intended meaning is--for me--much easier to perceive. My eye goes instinctively back and forth between the woman's head and the shadow of her head on the stone. The fact that she's looking off to one side communicates--to me--that she is oblivious to the tombstone that looms three feet behind her. But because her body language seems--to me--rather rigid, and possibly apprehensive, I could imagine, without further prompting, that she is subtly aware of the tombstone and is uncomfortable because of it. To me as one individual viewer, this uncropped version comes much closer to communicating your intended idea of a living person "who is being challenged by the gravestone on which her image is thrust." In it you've presented all the visual elements of that idea, and they form a balanced composition as well.
    However. (And please don't be offended.) When I consider the gestalt of this photographic statement, whether cropped or uncropped, I perceive an additional strong visual element that interferes with, and overpowers--for me--your intended meaning.
    The intrusive element is what I cited in my first post: i.e., the strange spatial relation between the bench and the tombstone. They're much too close! Why? That question follows automatically, and my thoughts and unconscious feelings are diverted instantly into possibilities that you clearly did not intend.
    With the uncropped version, it is easy for me to imagine a Gahan Wilson cartoon brought to life: as the hapless victim sits on a bench on a sunny afternoon, pretending all is normal, a hungry tombstone moves silently across the grass, slipping up from behind, ready to gobble her. The weird proximity of the tombstone, coupled with the dark, large, centered shadow, yields an overall unsettling, heavy-handed (to use Anders' term), questionable visual statement--for me.
    Yes, I know you had nothing to do with planning that graveyard or positioning the bench. But by using those specific elements to make the visual statement, you have incorporated them into the statement you made. And the questions raised by their odd spatial relationship tend to crowd out other, subtler thoughts that might have been raised--at least, for me.
    Please understand I'm not trying to beat a dead tombstone, only to clarify my own "intended statements".
     
  34. Arthur the photo of the cat and the tombstone is by superstition first of all conveying the symbol of death, the black cat and the symbol of the dead, the tomb stone.Superstition also tells us that cats are in the league with the devil, can predicts death and bring bad luck. A black cat on a tomb stone is therefor not innocent. Nothing can be more immaterial. This is the first level of message.
    The photo has another level which you also hint at. It conveys an agreeable message of esthetics by presenting the scene in balanced composition and with oh so nice colors and light effects. Had it been in black and white it would maybe have stayed on the first level of message.
    Of course the relation between the cat and the dead is present also as another immaterial dimension but exactly because it is immaterial it does not "count" that the cat is very much alive and the tombstone seems to stand over a person that is dead since very long, that the cat cannot have known.
    Finally the photo is also material by necessity because these immaterial aspects of the scene need to be presented in a photo. A cat, a tombstone and half a small wall of a tomb, a stone wall i the background as well as green grass.
    If I referred to the heavy-handedness of the photo with the shadow if is maybe because you here force a one-dimensional message on the viewer by shouting on the rooftops for all to hear of a relationship between the stone/the dead person and the shadow/the woman. The cat scene is in four layers immaterial/immaterial/immaterial/material for the viewer to appreciate by layer or together in pairs or all together - like a book to open.
     
  35. Ernest,
    No problem for me at all with your own perception of my images - on the contray. When someone has explored all the ramifications (like the question of the person relaxing but not knowing her shadow was being cast, which came later in your analysis). I do think you are quite sensitive about the proximity of the bench to the tombstone. When I next see her I will tell my artist friend about that, although I doubt it wil change her mind about having her own tombstone crafted in theform of a stone bench for her progeny or others who come to the cemetery and wish to relax (like my subject) and have a view down onto the river from the cemetery heights.
    Anders,
    Your "book" is interesting although I could not relate to that in this case. However, the layers in an image are often those that unfold in our minds after an initial observation, as much as those that might come from a return to an image to see if therre are other things of interest. I am afraid that in the short timeI have been looking at it that hasn't happened (maybe I should look further, my fault), but it is a pretty image and the cat myth is recognisable now that you mention it.
     
  36. Yes, Arthur, we (you, I, your artist friend) all have our differing perceptions and values, which inform our differing ideas of what is "normal" or "usual"--in life, and in photographs. Memorial benches are not uncommon.
    I want my remains to be cremated when I die. I have not the slightest qualms about the flames involved.
    But if you were to present on Photo.net an image of someone stoking a fire 3 feet in front of an ornate 19th-century gravestone, I would (like many people, I suspect) look at your photograph and think, "What's up with that fire?"
    Maybe I'm just hypersensitive.
     
  37. Arthur, you asked for my way of relating the cat/tomb photo to the materiel/immaterial dichotomy. Personally I don't think it is very productive approach helping us to understand photos.
    I see photos as the contrary of "what you see is what you see" (Frank Stella) and can only refer to photos as a images that have to be "read". If the viewer is illiterate or doesn't wish to invest the needed efforts he/she cannot see the meaning behind the appearance. Immediate perception is therefor almost always false or at least a superficial approach to images according to my approach to photography and image-making. It would be like perceiving the content and quality of a book by its dustcover.
    It is also here I see the interest of the discussion on "essence".
    However Arthur, I don't want to try to direct the thread in another direction than the one you search.
    A quotation to chew on, if I dare: "we see in images what is missing in the perception"
    or in the original langage "nous ne voyons en image que ce qui est absent dans la perception" (Sartre "L'Imaginaire")
     
  38. Anders
    The material-immaterial does not in my mind represent a bifurcation or dichotomy, but rather a co-existence of the two. That is the raison d’être of my OT and the question of whether the material can effectively represent the spiritual or the ideas.
    I wouldn't be bothered if your image is not understood as you may wish it to be. I have looked at it carefully and have thought about it, not just superficially, as I am sure you did with my example. Each person brings different experience and aesthetics to viewing and like it or not we are each subjective in our evaluation.
    Your OT on essence I thought interesting, although I don't think there was any consensus of all on what essence means to each. I tend to view it as you do, I think, in the sense that the essence of Paris is much deeper than the material evidence we see in many photographs of it. While I have only had the pleasure of about a month and a half in the city, split on various occasions, my perception of Paris has been also been via a handful of Parisian friends who have visited us in Quebec City on various occasions, who communicate with us regularly by email (le "mail") and who have transferred to us some of the human essence of that city. Because there are so many cultural connections between Quebec (the second largest French speaking entity after France) and France, the sense of France and Paris is quite on going and alive.
    Is Sartre's quotation (it should read in translation "only see" rather than "see") referring to the viewer's perception, or the photographer's perception, or both? If mainly the viewer's perception, I guess he is thinking about what happens in one's mind in terms of perception after seeing something that does not hint directly at that during the act of seeing.
    If that were the point, I would agree in the sense that the generation of a mental response in the viewer is part of the process and need not be related to what he perceives in the material image.
    Anders, I think that the thread is quite related to your essence thread and to Fred's thread on viewing potential. We all bring different baggage, including cultural perceptions and values, to the reading of an image, a sculpture, a book or a film. The ability of a photo to generate immaterial from the material is fascinating, variable with the individual, and perhaps the highest level it can attain. Notwithstanding yours and other contributions, I would think that would be of more interest than it seems to be in this forum. Well, it's not over 'till it’s over, as my old hockey coach would say....
     
  39. Possible need for precision on my prior English text:
    "I have looked at it carefully and have thought about it, not just superficially, as I am sure you did with my example."
    or perhaps in better English (?),
    I have looked at it carefully, and have thought about it, as I am sure you did with my example, and not just superficially.
    The two mean the same, and I want to be sure they communicate the same. Thanks.
     
  40. Arthur, first of all you are right that the Sartre quotation should read "only" but it should be a "not only". I think it should read: "we see not only in images what is missing in perception". It makes a difference. Sorry. I will still leave it to you and others to interpret it!
    Be sure that I have no regret if others "read" my pictures in other ways than mine - not to mention that my own reading changes with time, mood and learning.
    In fact (my) photos are never simple statements, but images that should invite for an active reading which we may be sharing due to common cultural, philosophical, political affinities, and levels of knowledge and experiences, or not. What is important for me is that they are "read" not treated as fast-food products and rapidly consumed by immediate perceptions. I cannot and wouldn't dream of controlling this process of reading by the viewer apart from introducing in the photos some appetizers that make the viewer look at the photo at least twice (colors, compositions, beauty - you name it) because it attracts - it is attractive, (if I succeed). I'm seldom using the chock effect of something ugly or repulsive - but it works surely too for attracting attention. The photographer can as you have tended to do in your shadow/tombstone photo or I in my cat/grave photo use all the tools available to us as photographers, only limited by our skills, competencies and experiences and to a certain degree by our equipment, which I would not underestimate.
    I agree with you that this discussion is closely related to the essence discussion which was far from finished when we all got somewhat exhausted.
    My previous comments did not in any way suggest, or I did not intend to suggest, that you have not looked at the photo in question with attention. I'm sorry if it was interpreted like that.
     
  41. Arthur and Anders, a naive question:
    Doesn't that quotation mean in English, "We do not see in images, what is missing in [our] perception?"
     
  42. Anders,
    Yes, I understand your objectives and I do the same (or try to), on the subject of picture statements and added dimensions to images. Otherwise, photography for me would only be a so called "pedestrian pleasure".
    Ernest,
    I believe an accurate translation of Sartre's statement
    "nous ne voyons en image que ce qui est absent dans la perception" (Sartre "L'Imaginaire")
    is rather:
    We do not see in (an) image but* what is absent in the perception
    (in other words, the "ne - que". rather than the ne - pas" grammatical form)
    * (or you can probably read) "except" instead of "but"
    Is he alluding to the fact that our mental perception deviates from our visual perception, or perhaps that we want to fill in the visual perception with things that we believe are missing from it? Possibly the latter? It would be best to see the accompanying text of his statement before deciding what context is being considered by Sartre.
     
  43. Arthur,
    So a loose translation of Sartre's intent might be, "We 'see' in an image, what we do not perceive"?
    Or more explicitly, using an English idiom, "We 'read into' an image, that which is missing from our perception"?
    (Obviously the second formulation would not apply, if Sartre was making a formal distinction between "seeing" and "perceiving". I haven't read the work you cited, nor do I have it close at hand.)
     
  44. Ernest "ne-que" means "seulement" and can be translated into "only" or maybe here "not only" - I would believe.
     
  45. Anders, thank you. Maybe: "We only 'see' in an image, what we do not perceive"?
    Stated in this way, it would make a strong distinction between Sartre's (presumed, here, on my part) definition of "seeing" as a higher mental activity, and "perceiving" as a lower one.
     
  46. I did not dare say it Ernest - but I agree. However both are necessary.
     
  47. My reading of the "ne (voir)-que" is translate to "not (see) - but", or, in English, and related apparently to what he is saying:
    "We only see in the image what was absent from our visual perception of it"
    Again, the mental perception or analysis of the image differs from our visual perception of it, or we are adding to the basic information received.
    If so, Sartre is talking about the immaterial, in addition to the material of what we see.
     
  48. Yes Arthur, that is how I read it too. We get nearer and nearer to something between perception and what we see and can identify in images - might it be essence ?
     
  49. I think essence can certainly be one of the immaterial qualities. There are as well other ideas, values, concepts, or statements about man, humanity or the spiritual, in addition to the essence of a place or a material subject, which are of that immaterial nature.
     
  50. Anders, you really opened my eyes with your statement about the cat/cross/cemetery photo: "oh so nice colors"! Until you said that, I was a bit lost in symbols/clichés. What could be more obvious than a black cat in a cemetery, with a cross? So, honestly, I had closed off to the photo quite a bit. But the words "oh so nice colors" then suggested the potential for an extra level that would layer the symbolism and clichés and provide a note of subtlety and nuance, a photographic comment on those very elements.
     
  51. Anders, your reference to past discussions of "essence" prompted me to search for and read through (quickly) several past threads in this forum.
    While reading, I was struck again by the extent to which disagreements here often seem to hinge on implied/inferred definitions of the terms being discussed. Frequently, words with multiple accepted meanings-- words being applied in different ways by different posters--are at the core of long-running arguments
    "Essence", "material", "immaterial", "see", "perceive", etc...they're all words used in everyday conversation, as well as in academic jargon, where they have special meaning (but whose jargon? Philosophers argue about their meanings, too). Each word has a variety of accepted definitions, which lead in different directions to different conclusions.
    For example, the conceit, from an earlier thread, of the "essence of Paris". Why not "the quintessence of Paris"--alluding to that extra, indefinable natural element in addition to the basic four (earth, air, fire and water)? In the 21st century, long after the periodic table was formulated, does "essence" make any more sense than "quintessence", when used literally, in a rigorous discussion?
    Used in a casual, metaphorical, non-jargon sense, "essence" refers to something (e.g., an idea, memory, sight, scent, sound, taste) that is perfectly evocative of the larger idea or reality--e.g., the early-morning smell of a Paris bakery in a light springtime rain, or the memory of a flirting couple loitering at a sidewalk cafe in the late afternoon, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower. Used in this way, "essence" is easily understood--but that's only a "poetic" kind of usage, meaning, basically, "the perfect encapsulation of a larger whole, into the smallest possible representative part."
    So it would make perfect sense to say (metaphorically, poetically) that a photograph has captured "the essence of Paris" . Similarly, one could say that a photograph displays "the essence of a photographer's style", or that a portrait captures "the essence of the subject's personality". (Such characterizations remain dependent, of course, on the interpretive agreement of those viewing it.)
    But to say that a photograph, itself, possesses a specific "essence" seems very different, and not supportable. Every photograph is a deliberately created artifact, a piece of visual communication--at the very least, it has included some information, while excluding other information, about the events or objects it depicts, and their original context.
    The same kind of reservations would seem to apply to "material" and "immaterial".
    Ignoring the question of whether images existing in pixels and stored on magnetic files (versus those on film and prints) are themselves "material", etc., etc., and considering the issue only at its simplest level (the distinction in a given image between the material things depicted, and the "immaterial" realities they imply)....is this really anything but a commonplace, dressed up in elaborate language?
    Consider, for example, a photograph of two people--a married couple, man and woman--with animated expressions, looking at each other. She's scowling; his head is slightly tilted away from her, his eyebrows raised.
    We only see the facial expressions of the two people, their clothing, their relation in space, their postures. (Isn't this the "material" content of the photo?)
    What does the image mean? (Isn't this the "immaterial" content of the photo?)
    - Maybe they're clowning for their friends at a party.
    - Maybe the man has questioned his wife about her desire for an expensive purchase.
    - Maybe they're arguing bitterly over terms of their pending divorce.
    - Maybe the whole image was staged to sell a product.
    Assuming this photo was made by a great photographer, well-known for his thoughtfulness and philosophical inclinations--what would be the "immaterial" content of this photo (if not its meaning, which is a matter of interpretation)? What would be its "essence"?
     
  52. "Assuming this photo was made by a great photographer, well-known for his thoughtfulness and philosophical inclinations--what would be the "immaterial" content of this photo (if not its meaning, which is a matter of interpretation)? What would be its "essence"?"
    Ernest, judging by the example given - probably not very much, I would venture to say. I doubt if an image of a scowling wife, and a husband once again passively reacting to that (with the tell tale eyes lifted up) is going to communicate anything that transcends the scene, if for no other reason than its lack of subtelty (as described, at least) and seeming banality. I would doubt that a "great photographer, well-known for his thoughtfulness and philosophical inclinations", as you mention, would be interested in that type of situation. I believe he would be operating on a much more subtle and higher plane of perception and communication, and dealing with more complex and enigmatic subjects than that described (yes,it can be embellshed by other things happening in the scene, but that wasn't described).
    I think we are quite far from the discussion of the considerable challenges and subtelty of the immaterial or spiritual expression in phtography. Some mention was made before of heavy handed visual presentation. While I don't agree with the comment in that case, the example you give of expression of the immaterial is anything but a subtle and profound one. Please don't take offence, I mean nothin personal, but I feel compelled to mention this when we are placing the bar so low in our notions of criteria.
    Consider for example what makes some of the best literature, poetry and art operate on the immaterial and sublime levels (of which essence is but a sub category of that), which most of us must be familiar with, and try to imagine a photograph or a series of photographs accomplishing something close to the same level of communication. You wil find yourself being removed from visual clichés, obvious statements, and near the surface meanings and venture into a more unknown, enigmatic and challenging area of expression. As the master violoin maker might say to his student, "make me not a well made violin, but one which transcends the obvious perfection and challenges the musician to extract its highest quality every time he picks it up. As for a photograph that transcends the obvious (whether it be the perhaps too obvious presence of a living shadow on a tombstone, or that of a black cat in a cemetery), it is certainly something much more than what we have been discussing to date, or comfortably patting ourselves on the back for.
    I do agree with you that in this forum we brandish words and concepts in a very free and often diluted or meaningless fashion, sufficient to merit a locust of X's on a first year philosophy exam. Thanks for that necessary call to sense.
     
  53. Arthur, with very little effort I can think of numerous scenes from Shakespeare (to use but one example) in which the two central actors are a scowling wife and a dubious, cowed, or supercilious husband (e.g., Lady and Lord Macbeth; Lear's elder daughters and their spouses; etc.)--in profoundly complex dramas that somehow have escaped, over the centuries, being dismissed as merely "banal".
    Moreover, I can think of great still photographers who might have been pleased indeed, if given the opportunity to carefully photograph such scenes, as they were given life by the best actors of their age, in rehearsal or performance. And of course, great cinematographers have given much thought and effort to exploring the motion-picture possibilities of such classic scenes and their modern counterparts (e.g., "Kiss me Kate","Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf", etc.).
    You write:
    "I believe [the photographer] would be operating on a much more subtle and higher plane of perception and communication, and dealing with more complex and enigmatic subjects than that described. . .
    "I think we are quite far from the discussion of the considerable challenges and subtelty of the immaterial or spiritual expression in phtography. Some mention was made before of heavy handed visual presentation. While I don't agree with the comment in that case, the example you give of expression of the immaterial is anything but a subtle and profound one."
    My point, simply stated, is that qualities like "material/immaterial" and "essence" (as used in many of these threads) seem to be mostly vaporous and subjectively defined.
    Arthur, if you posit the existence of such qualities as an inherent characteristic of some images--images of your own choosing--but not of others that you dismiss, as I think you have, then you need to define exactly what you're talking about, in a way that is logically coherent and has general application.
    It seems to me that clear, general definitions of the terms you're using, have been lacking.
     
  54. How can anyone dare writing anything after Arthur's call to order? He is of course right that these discussions are not up to levels if our ambition would be to pass "first years philosophy exam". However, I don't think any of us have that ambition with our endeavors. Personally, I don't think it would help us, if we did.
    When Arthur states that:
    I think we are quite far from the discussion of the considerable challenges and subtelty of the immaterial or spiritual expression in photography​
    I'm sure we all agree, but then again we have turned around the question now in several threads and no-one seems to be able to bring it significantly forward. I'm not saying Arthur should do it, but it seems to me we are several still searching with the means we have. As concerns "clear definitions of concepts" we are using, I would not have the illusion. Decisions or even discussions on definitions have never been a success among us as far as I have experienced.
    One conclusion I would draw from what we have been discussing on essence/material/immaterial is that it seems to touch something important or interesting for many around here.

    There is always a danger when we try to illustrate points in the discussion by uploading pictures that so obviously uses clichés. Black cats in a cemetery is such a cliché (the whole image I uploaded is a cliché and not only its elements) while Manet's black cat in the bed Olympia might not be (I hope noone would believe that I need to warn about nudity in this very admirable case!).
    To come back to Ernest's suggestion of referring to "quintessence" (the fifth element). I agree that it might be a way forward. The whole neo-impressionist movement in painting has been analyzed with reference to quintessence. Examples would be Seurat or of course Cezanne.
    In fact if you look attentively at the painting of Seurat (Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) it might be a good case for analyzing the question Ernest and Arthur discuss above based on the scene of the couple described by Arthur. In the scene of Seurat you have multiple micro scenes like the one Ernest hint at that here outline the French classes in the late 19th century.


    But, if you look at the (re)search these painters did and the development of modern painting that followed, one could say that it went in the exact opposite direction than the one we have chosen by using photography. The development of abstract painting and neoexpressionism reinforced that development. The more or less straight photography that we have at our disposal as photographers, or at least that I personally mostly use, plays on scenes and composition and does not "decompose" reality searching the quintessence as for example Cezanne does in the painting I linked up to above.
    Photographers are in my eyes in most cases doomed to use symbols, clichés and indices of the real world as we see it with our eyes for producing images that for the viewer approach the quintessence of a place or event.
     
  55. Here is a picture to illustrate at least the use of symbols.
    00XE4Y-277281584.jpg
     
  56. Arthur, an afterthought to last night's post:
    Judi Dench, Ian McKellan (Macbeth): http://www.mckellen.com/images/1121.jpg
    Taylor, Burton (Taming of the Shrew): http://www.life.com/image/3239828/in-gallery/22453/elizabeth-taylor--richard-burton
    Sandy Dennis, George Segal (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf): http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4253390848/tt0061184
    Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh (Macbeth): http://www.enotes.com/macbeth/pictures/macbeth-lady-macbeth-shakespeare-memorial-theatre
    Will Keene, Anastasia Hille (Macbeth): http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/mar/25/macbeth-review
    Stacy Ross, Jud Williford (Macbeth): http://www.calshakes.org/v4/media/photos/2010_Macbeth/prod/more/Images/4.jpg
    Dench, McKellan (Macbeth): http://www.mckellen.com/images/1122.jpg
    Ross, Williford (Macbeth): http://www.calshakes.org/v4/media/photos/2010_Macbeth/pub/_TPH3967v2_web.jpg
    Taylor, Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf): http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3901069312/tt0061184
    (N.b. -- Katherina and Petruchio in "Shrew" (Kate and Fred in "Kiss me Kate") are, of course, spouses-to-be, not yet spouses in fact.)
    These popped up in a quick search. I didn't bother looking for scenes from Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, Strindberg's A Doll's House, Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis, or any of the (many, many) other dramas that include this visual theme.
    For many people (including me), images of humans interacting naturally can be even more compelling than such stage photos or "created" images. They're more difficult to anticipate and capture, of course--increasing the degree of challenge to a photographer.
     
  57. Anders,
    "How can anyone dare writing anything after Arthur's call to order?"
    Excuse me? Are you writing this ironically, or seriously? Did you read the second and third paragraphs of Arthur's post?
     
  58. Anders, after re-reading your post more carefully, it seems obvious you were being ironic.
    Sorry I jumped the gun.
    I should clarify, too, that my intended point in reference to "quintessence" was a purely rhetorical one.
    But hey, "quintessence" would be fine--as would "essence"--as long as the intended meaning of the word, in the context in which it is used in this forum, is clearly and unambiguously defined.
    My problem is with the lack of clear definition, not with the word itself.
     
  59. Ernest, I read the mail of Arthur careful and surely he calls us to order - and he is not in fault doing so. I'm dead serious as always - seriously !
     
  60. It seems to me that commenters to this thread are repeatedly conflating essence with myth. Those two words, "essence" and "myth" are polar opposites. The essence should refer to the thing itself, as it is experienced; it is individual and entirely not-universal and not-general. It is, or attempts to be consonant with the experience of the thing itself. For example, Ernest B.'s description, "the early-morning smell of a Paris bakery in a light springtime rain, or the memory of a flirting couple loitering at a sidewalk cafe in the late afternoon, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower," points to essences of those experiences.
    The function of myth, on the other hand is, to quote Barthes: " ... to empty reality: it is, literally, a ceaseless flowing out, a haemorrhage, or perhaps an evaporation, in short a perceptible absence."
    Further description of myth from Barthes:
    "... the materials of mythical speech (the language itself, photography, painting, posters, rituals, objects, etc.), however different at the start, are reduced to a pure signifying function as soon as they are caught by myth. Myth sees in them only the same raw material; their unity is that they all come down to the status of a mere language. Whether it deals with alphabetical or pictorial writing, myth wants to see in them only a sum of signs, a global sign, the final term of a first semiological chain."
    " ... Just as the cuttlefish squirts its ink in order to protect itself, it cannot rest until it has obscured the ceaseless making of the world, fixated this world into an object which can be for ever possessed, catalogued its riches, embalmed it, and injected into reality some purifying essence which will stop its transformation, its flight towards other forms of existence. And these riches, thus fixated and frozen, will at last become computable: bourgeois morality will essentially be a weighing operation, the essences will be placed in scales of which bourgeois man will remain the motionless beam. For the very end of myths is to immoblize the world: they must suggest and mimic a universal order which has fixated once and for all the hierararchy of possession. Thus, every day and everwhere, man is stopped by myths, referred by them to this motionless prototype which lives in his place, stifles him in the manner of a huge parasite ... in the fullest sense a prohibition for man against inventing himself. Myths are nothing but this ceaseless, untiring solicitation, this insidious and inflexible demand that all men recognize themselves in this image, eternal yet bearing a date, which was built of them one day as if for all time."​
     
  61. There's a "Birth of Impressionism" show currently at San Francisco's De Young Museum, works from the Musée d'Orsay, which is currently being renovated. This statement hangs on one of the walls:
    "Delighting in the realities of the physical world, the Impressionists practiced a new type of objective realism. They sought to convey the transitory effects of shifting light and movement inherent in the world around them . . ."
    Ideas and interpretations often come to me after a photo is made. I've just added a series of three recent self portraits to my portfolio. They seem to generate a lot of ideas, for others and for me. But, for the most part, those ideas come after the fact. When shooting, I was addressing light, reflection, pose, long exposure, dealing with a tripod, low light and its potential for digital noise. I was involved in what was in front of me, both regarding the scenes, my own person/body, and the tools I was using. It seems almost ironic that these photos could look idea-like.
    On occasions when I am more aware of trying to shoot ideas, I usually come closest to what I may be after (or to getting some result that works for me at the time) when I stay in touch with what I'm actually looking at. My photos are, therefore, usually a counterpoint of intended and unintended ideas, all of which I am responsible for, whether planned or not. Rather than being responsible for the photos, ideas often get revealed by them.
    "Impressionism" seems like an idea, but I think it's much more significant than that.
    [I'm not inviting a discussion of Impressionism per se or a debate on the merits of the quote and how it may vary from our own understanding of Impressionism. The point here is to address the relative significance and place of ideas in my/your work.]
     
  62. The essence should refer to the thing itself, as it is experienced; it is individual and entirely not-universal and not-general.​
    Julie, this would only be right if you believe that each of us are totally profoundly different from one another - living on different planets. We would not have much to communicate between us unless each of us has an intense interest in the other as person and individual. When I look at images of Ernest as above or self-portraits of Fred, I'm not here specially interest in Ernest or Fred as persons, I'm interested in their images. Images live their own life in the moment they leave the private sphere. They somehow gow up and become independent.
    We share certain cultural, ideological historical contexts and indeed certain myths, that make us see certain (not all) dimensions of an image in a way that is understandable to others. In sociology it is call socialization and maybe (at least some few years ago) the social construction of reality. This social world is where images are viewed by others and where essence, present or the loss of it, is appreciated by the viewer. At least that is the essence that I'm interested in. Not the individualistic essence of things and beings, but the shared essence of the public space.
    Fred the type of "objective realism" that impressionist were trying to develop was what others have called searching for the quintessence which might be a better term because to can be carried on to later developments in painting (neoimpressionism, abstract and lyric expressionism)
    I'll take up the discussion on myth of Barthes a little later on if still relevant.
     
  63. Anders, they were doing it with brushstrokes and were often talking about brushstrokes, even as they commented on each others' work by painting something in response rather than talking about it. Just as you were doing it in the cemetery photo with an approach you had in mind to color. Objective realism and quintessence comes after the fact. First comes mixing the paint and the way in which you get it on the canvas. I'm afraid that if Pissarro and Cézanne had been too caught up in the idea of objective realism, I might not have had the viewing experience I did yesterday.
     
  64. Apologies for not replying immediately, after provoking by my challenge some most thoughtful statements. When one has one's head elsewhere on other projects ("in the clouds" my partner would say in its French equivalent), it is hard to do justice to a careful reading of comments, so I will abstain for the moment and will comment later.
    Except to say that I appreciate Ernest's examples (although most deal with known persons or known productions, which tend to direct our thoughts perhaps a bit too strongly) and also the images of elements of Place de la Concorde and other sites of Paris, skilfully superimposing and contrasting by telephoto three architectural styles (from ancient Egypt, the start and the end of the 19th centuries, as well as superimposing memories and history of Paris and France and Egypt of the Pharaohs. What I find interesting in the image is not just the three vertical spiritually evocative architectures, but the faint spire one sees (or perhaps not) in the distance to the right. It is that which for me takes the image to a communication beyond the thoughts of Egypt or Paris or the Reign of Terror in the square below one or more of these elements. I don't know why, exactly, but the endeavours of man to the left are given a resonating harmonic in the faint steeple in some Paris neighbourhood way off.
    What is an immaterial communication? What are we looking for here? More to reflect on that, "bien sur", but for the moment perhaps we should consider the expression (I think it is from Nobel scientist Enzo Tiezzi, but I remember hearing it from the mouth of an arts teacher), which I am taking the liberty to paraphrase:
    Our planet (and its beauty or significance) appears to me as a “blue orange”.
    Is not a "blue orange" what the artist or photographer searches for in transcending from the subject matter to the matter in his perceived subject and then to his communication of non-material nature?
     
  65. Anders, I wrote quickly and forgot to say that it was your photo I was referring to. Error here corrected.
     
  66. Arthur: "I do agree with you that in this forum we brandish words and concepts in a very free and often diluted or meaningless fashion, sufficient to merit a locust of X's on a first year philosophy exam."
    Anders: "How can anyone dare writing anything after Arthur's call to order?
    Ernest: "Are you writing this ironically, or seriously? . . .Anders, after re-reading your post more carefully, it seems obvious you were being ironic. "
    Anders: "Ernest, I read the mail of Arthur careful and surely he calls us to order - and he is not in fault doing so. I'm dead serious as always - seriously !"

    Yet Anders, you keep writing things. In this forum! In this thread! You dare!
    My biggest reservation about this and similar discussions, which I've tried at some length to express, can be illuminated a bit by the exchange between Anders, Arthur, and me (Sep. 5, from 9:11 AM to 3:21 PM) concerning Sartre's concept of "perception" vs. "seeing", and by Julie's comment, just made. I'm using these only to illustrate my meaning, no criticism or hostility intended.
    A simple way of presenting information objectively, and stating one's own beliefs in a noninflammatory manner, would be: "In Sartre's view, the act of 'perceiving' is a lower order of mental activity, and 'seeing' is a higher one. In fact, Sartre reserves the act of 'seeing' for those attributes of an image that cannot be 'perceived'. In his view, 'perception' is just the first gateway to understanding, and 'seeing' follows, for those capable of it; and I agree with Sartre on this." (Implying: "Thus, dear reader, when I subsequently employ these terms, I will be applying them as Sartre did.")
    Or, in the case of Julie's comment (very close to what she wrote, except for a key omission): "In Barthes' view, 'essence' and 'myth' are polar opposites. The essence should refer to the thing itself, as it is experienced; it is individual and entirely not-universal and not-general...
    "The function of myth, on the other hand is, to quote Barthes: ' ... to empty reality: it is, literally, a ceaseless flowing out, a haemorrhage, or perhaps an evaporation, in short a perceptible absence; and I agree with Barthes on this distinction."
    But it's a different effect when Julie writes, without no qualifying clauses: "It seems to me that commenters to this thread are repeatedly conflating essence with myth. Those two words, "essence" and "myth" are polar opposites."
    Well okay, in Barthes' lexicon they are polar opposites--but many people familiar with Barthes' works do not agree with his view of the world, and do not conform their use of language to his views; and many, many more are completely unfamiliar with his ideas. In the history of thought, many insightful people have written about myth; and in the traditional definitions used by most people, "essence" and "myth" are not polar opposites.
    I tried to imagine, just now, some analogous conversational dynamic, unconnected to photograpy or Photo.net. The image that came to mind was a convention of psychologists, circa 1970, with a succession of speakers holding strong, fixed, conflicting views: in this imaginary scenario, members of the Freudian camp couch all their ideas in the specialized jargon of libido/id/ego/superego; the Jungians reject their assertions, and talk past the Freudians using their own jargon of animus/anima/shadow/collective unconscious; the Skinnerians insist that conditioning trumps all, of course, and that everything else is mumbo-jumbo. All the participants in this tower-of-Babel conference insist that the jargon of others is meaningless; it's their own jargon that unravels the mysteries of the world.
    Of course, that's a highly exaggerated analogy--but I think it conveys my general idea.
    Conversation here would be so much easier, and more productive--it seems to me--if posters would simply define their own key terms in an objective way, when introducing those terms into a discussion.
     
  67. Anders, something else, which I just realized:
    You wrote earlier, "Ernest, I read the mail [sic] of Arthur careful and surely he calls us to order..."
    Until a moment ago I'd misread your sentence to mean, "I read the post of Arthur carefully, and surely he calls us to order..."
    If Arthur earlier sent you a private email, he didn't send it to me, and I'm unfamiliar with its contents.
     
  68. Ernest, I admire your efforts trying to make some reason out of the cacaphoniecal noise (is that English?) of syllables and words in many threads that produce an unagreebal effect in our heads. It seems to me to be very like what often happens in e-mail exchanges. Everybody desperately try to be heard and to make a point by simplifying viewpoints and positions to the extreme and writing with capital letters. This is very different from what would happen if we sat around a table.
    I'm not sure the rules and methods for discussions that you formulate would have much chance of being respected. PN fora are far from being a perfect rational world of exchanges. I think the only way forward is that we learn to read, interpret and react well knowing the rules of the game as they have turned out to be. If we are many that participate in these exchanges it is probably because we profit from them even within their obvious limits.
     
  69. Ernest, in my third language, I sometimes write "mail" when it should be "contribution" to the thread.
     
  70. Fred when you write
    they were doing it with brushstrokes and were often talking about brushstrokes, even as they commented on each others' work by painting something in response rather than talking about it.​
    you are right about the interactive relation between many painters in that period, but they certainly discussed others things then technicalities. The brushstrokes were in the centre of a new way of expression. I can only recall one major painter that painted without formulating intentions, challenges and without signing manifest or participating in expositions to support a school of thoughts and artistic practise: Cezanne and Picasso and the latter had certainly periods where he went in dialogue with other painters (with Braque especially).
    Many, if not most, other major painters that made the development from the realism of Courbet or Corot, that already was revolutionary at that time, towards impressionism (Monet, Pissaro, Renoir), Fauvism (Matisse, Derain) and further on toward cubism (Braque)and surrealism (Picasso) possible, were very articulate about what they tried to express in painting. It was not just after the fact, it was before and during the act of painting, which they often did together and in dialogue as you mention, that their painting was made and the search towards quintessence was made. It happened however, that one of those that painted almost all his life mostly alone, Cezanne, showed the way forward better than many others.
     
  71. Anders, thanks for clarifying.
    I'm not suggesting the adoption of "rules"--only advocating a general way of expressing one's ideas, an approach that might reduce the frustration and static that are generated in these threads.
    Most of the discussions in the "philosophy" forum involve a relative handful of people. This thread, for example, has involved only eight posters; and most of the posts have been carefully composed, not slapped down in "message-texting" format.
    When trying to communicate about complex subjects--and especially when doing so across continents, languages and intellectual divides--clarity (in both language and viewpoint) would seem to be requisite for success.
    If most of the (relatively few) people who post intensively in this "philosophy" forum were to take greater pains to provide clarity in their own posts, their influence would likely spread--at least, within the forum--leading to a calmer, more inviting place to exchange ideas.
    Just sayin'......
    (Anders, I think you and I had a similar dialogue, with a similar denouement, while discussing a different subject in a different forum a long time ago.)
     
  72. Maybe a way for me to consider it is this: painters think and talk about ideas . . . and paint pictures.
    There's a difference between expressing an idea in a photograph and photographing an idea. Often, I think trying to photograph an idea fails and at best comes off as heavy-handed. Not always.
     
  73. Addition: I tend to do better at expressing rather than photographing ideas. [I don't say this dogmatically. It's a new and somewhat unconsidered formulation I've come up with as a result of reading parts of this thread.]
     
  74. Fred, maybe "expressing an idea through a photograph" (i.e., through decisions about subject, lighting, spatial relationship, color, mood) ?
    That would connote that (1) a photographer's idea ("intended meaning") informs those decisions; (2) the photograph is his medium for expressing the idea; and (3) subsequent viewers may (or may not) perceive ("see") the idea in the same way (or at all) in the photograph he has produced.
     
  75. Ernest, "through" seems good to me.
     
  76. Now I feel like a killjoy for posting the Barthes quote. Can we leave "essence" and go for "trace"? While the immaterial may not be in a picture, its traces, its marks, its damage, its formations and deformations, can be.
    From a poem, by Kay Ryan, "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard":
    The passage
    of a life should show;
    it should abrade.
    And when life stops,
    a certain space –
    however small –
    should be left scarred
    by the grand and
    damaging parade.​
     
  77. Julie, please don't feel that way.
    That's a nicely conceived poem. (When life stops, will we get extra points for extra scars on the nasty things we ground against, and on ourselves? Where can I apply?)
     
  78. There's a difference between expressing an idea in a photograph and photographing an idea. Often, I think trying to photograph an idea fails and at best comes off as heavy-handed. Not always.​
    Fred and Ernest, for me this is especially interesting. I don't "have an idea" I try to express by photography. Scenes and images present themselves in such a way that they call my attention - and I shoot to the best of my abilities.
    I'm not using photography for expressing an analysis of society or interpersonal relationships. I can write articles using the methods and theories of social sciences for that. No, when I shoot photos I work on another level mobilizing all my capacities of observation and my openness for seeing unexpected scenes. It is anything but programmed. This is why I find it intriguing that I see such, for me, shoot worthy scenes, in some places and cities more than others and I ask myself: What is it that makes some places and cities more fertile for such an exercise. I have called that, cities with a soul and therefor search for the elements, perspectives, contrasts, colors, events that mark them.
    This way of working is maybe symptomatic to the very medium of photography. It invites to use the seen reality for image-making whereas painters (read the impressionists) tried to invent another seen reality by their paintings - one not being more real than the other.
    Barthes is maybe especially interesting here because he started his analysis of photography by writing
    Le noème de la Photographie est simple, banal ; aucune profondeur : « ça a été. » ... mais telle évidence peut être sœur de la folie​
    Which, if I risk an eye, can be freely translated into:
    The noema of Photography is simple, banal, and without depth: it was/it has been. But such evidence may be the sister of folly​
    Where noema means something like: elements that gives it a sence (Husserl)
    If we stay in the world of Barthes, what we may be discussing is how this folly is made in photography and what it expresses.
     
  79. Anders, sorry. I thought the paragraphs of descriptions of Paris and its history were things you felt you were expressing or trying to express in your photos. Arthur had asked about communicating ideas and that's where you and he took the conversation, so I assumed it was all to further the question of what you were trying to communicate. Your description of your cat/cemetery photo and talk about the ideas it was conveying also influenced me to think you were talking about ideas the photos communicated. Sorry for my misunderstanding.
     
  80. "Fred and Ernest, for me this is especially interesting. I don't "have an idea" I try to express by photography. Scenes and images present themselves in such a way that they call my attention - and I shoot to the best of my abilities."
    Anders, your description makes perfect sense to me: it's what I usually do, too. But sometimes, like Fred, I start off with a definite idea or feeling, and try to give expression to it through the medium of camera and film. Long before picking up the camera, I'm thinking about the image I want to create, and the characteristics I want it to have, and what will be required to produce it.
    Maybe there's a rough correspondence to the dichotomy between general strategies for food production in primitive societies: on the one hand, the roaming "hunter-gatherer"; on the other, the "farmer-herder". Either approach can be highly productive, given skilled application and the right environment; either will fail, with poor application or the wrong environment.
    Where photography is concerned, one might substitute "appropriateness of subject" for "environment". The choice of approach, by a given photographer, would seem to be largely a matter of temperament,
     
  81. Ernest,
    The choice of approach, by a given photographer, would seem to be largely a matter of temperament​
    But it is also a question of medium. In fact when I paint (abstract) I start always by/because of a feeling, attractiveness of colors, of forms, of movements and textures, and then I start. In photography reality, the seen, leads. When writing, it is always an idea or hypothesis that gets it starting.
     
  82. Anders, well, there you are.
    When you're using a camera, you're using the same medium as Fred.
    And "candid street images" are a lot tougher to pull off, when your tools are a palette, easel, brushes and abstract forms on canvas.
     
  83. Ernest - "When you're using a camera, you're using the same medium as Fred."
    ...and working very differently. Only Fred can be Fred.
    Ernest - "And "candid street images" are a lot tougher to pull off, when your tools are a palette, easel, brushes and abstract forms on canvas."
    You might be surprised. What some painters do is make quick sketches, which they later turn into paintings. I often do candid street drawings. If I can do it, it can't be all that hard.
     
  84. Luis, and maybe Anders can only be Anders, just to continue your arguments. I'm sure you agree.
     
  85. Anders: "I don't 'have an idea' I try to express by photography. Scenes and images present themselves in such a way that they call my attention - and I shoot to the best of my abilities."
    Fred: "Anders, sorry. I thought the paragraphs of descriptions of Paris and its history were things you felt you were expressing or trying to express in your photos."
    Anders and Fred, I think your exchange highlights a specific disconnect, related to the lack of clarity in earlier posts in this thread.
    I'm not trying to speak for you, Anders, but according to my understanding of your posts, you made images of many different subjects as you walked the streets of Paris. You made them without having in mind any specific theme or goal. Rather, you were continuously observing and were ready, when you perceived ("saw") something promising, to capture it on the spot, to the best of your ability. When you pressed the shutter, you were not attempting to make any particular statement; you were just concentrating on the elements before you, trying to combine them into a good photograph.
    Later, as you studied the images you'd made, you found one or more that seemed, to you, to convey "the essence" of Paris. The syntax here is important: you created an image, but the image expresses the essence of the city.
    Fred, this is a different idea from your formulation: "I thought the paragraphs of descriptions of Paris and its history were things you felt you were expressing or trying to express in your photos."
    The difference lies in the presence or absence of intentionality: "the image (which Anders made) expresses the essence", in contradistinction to "Anders (through his image) was trying to express the essence".
    At least, that's how I interpret your respective comments.
     
  86. Luis G. wrote: Ernest - "When you're using a camera, you're using the same medium as Fred."
    ...and working very differently. Only Fred can be Fred.
    Luis, my original point precisely. ("The choice of approach, by a given photographer, would seem to be largely a matter of temperament.")
     
  87. "Luis, and maybe Anders can only be Anders, just to continue your arguments. I'm sure you agree."
    What an agreeable group!
     
  88. Anders - "Luis, and maybe Anders can only be Anders, just to continue your arguments. I'm sure you agree."
    I do, and thought it was implicit, but glad to clarify that.
    Ernest, I think what you call temperament, I would use something more comprehensive, maybe the word "being". In photography, I believe we continually project who and what we are through forms. I even got Anders to agree that one's world-view (as in weltanschuung) expressed through forms was close enough to pass for "essence".
    To go back to the theme of this post, in my opinion, some people are fluent in the use of (as opposed to recognizing) symbols. The overwhelming majority, who aren't, become self-conscious about incorporating them into their work & simultaneously eliminate their own access to their subconscious, clumsily attempt to mechanically insert symbology into their images. Like trying to converse in a language you really do not speak, the exchange is awkward and full of lacunae.
    The moment you feel the need to resort to philosophy-class-like justification via words for an image, the one thing you should know is that the picture did not work for that viewer.
    Ernest - "What an agreeable group!"
    Who? Where?
     
  89. Luis G. wrote:
    Ernest - "What an agreeable group!"
    Who? Where?
    Luis, gibt es in Ihrer obenerwähnten Weltanschauung keinen Platz für Ironie?
     
  90. Yes. I thought my reply indicated that.
     
  91. Luis G. wrote:
    Ernest, I think what you call temperament, I would use something more comprehensive, maybe the word "being".
    Luis, what I've been advocating in this thread is clarity, and the use of words that have a shared definition. Many words could be substituted in that sentence--"personality", "inclination", etc.--without compromising its original meaning. But..."being"?
    Let's make the substitution you suggest: "The choice of approach, by a given photographer, would seem to be largely a matter of being."
    How many people, if they read or heard that sentence, would grasp the intended meaning?
    --------------
    "Luis, gibt es in Ihrer obenerwähnten Weltanschauung keinen Platz für Ironie?"
    "Yes. I thought my reply indicated that."

    It did.
     
  92. Ernest, thanks. Even when Europeans sleep profoundly, business as usual is assured. I think you formulated perfectly what I would have written to Fred.
    The intentionality of my shooting is only at stake if you accept an unconscious feeling of essence when shooting. This is (badly formulated) where creativity of the artist (sic) comes in.
     
  93. I love the irony of ironical responses between Luis and Ernest. Communication is a difficult art especially when we wish to exchange something more than the most one dimensional (small)talk. Irony might be the first to suffer if we try to clarify and rationalize our communication.
    Without irony, it would be a great pity!
     
  94. Ernest - "Let's make the substitution you suggest: "The choice of approach, by a given photographer, would seem to be largely a matter of being."
    How many people, if they read or heard that sentence, would grasp the intended meaning?"
    In reality, I would have re-written the sentence, of course. The problem for me is not one of clarity. Ernest's clarity is good, but that was not the issue for me. The photographic approach is not dependent only on temperament. It depends on who you are. On the totality of being. I, being a naturally agreeable fellow, as Ernest astutely pointed out, actually agree with the idea of temperament, but only as part of what determines our approach. By itself it is, in my opinion, woefully incomplete.
    Ernest - "How many people, if they read or heard that sentence, would grasp the intended meaning?"
    Sometimes the learned principals in this forum completely miss the mark on far simpler sentences, such as Anders' on how they photograph. Usually because they misread one another as agreeing with them (thereby furthering their arguments, or adding adherents) when they don't, and the mistake continues unabated until someone calls it, as Anders did, and then comes the usual oops-type post. We're human. It happens.
    It's not a sin, sign of intelligence, shame, or intellectual, PoP macho one-upmanship. Not a big deal.
    The difference between what Fred thought was happening: "I thought the paragraphs of descriptions of Paris and its history were things you felt you were expressing or trying to express in your photos." (bold added by Ernest), was not what Ernest posited: "absence of intentionality".
    Anders - "In photography reality, the seen, leads." [My bold]
    I think Anders (and I hope he will jump in here) has intentionality. He is photographing reality intently. What he is not doing, unlike Fred, Arthur, (sometimes) Ernest, and others here, is consciously pre-empting vision. Seeing is the Alpha. How refreshingly neo-retro (there's irony for you, Anders)to find someone who admits to not illustrating a pre-conceived idea. Or putting the (thought) word before seeing. Visualization...what a subversive notion that is these days.
    [Required PoP disclaimer: No, no merit badges will be available today for tying your undies in a knot over this one. This is neither superior nor inferior to anyone else's wonderful and valid ways of working.]
    Anders - "I love the irony of ironical responses between Luis and Ernest."
    I did too.
     
  95. Luis, it's just so gosh-darn wonderful how you sum things up so neatly. I picture you sitting back in your heavy, wooden teacher's chair in front of your sixties-style bulky desk minding the kindergarten as you describe it to all of us "principals."
    Let me quote something I wrote quite a ways above. Not obvious to you has been the fact that I've been surprised at Arthur's approach in this thread because of the amount of emphasis he's put on the idea leading. Yes, I did mistakenly think Anders was saying something similar because he had spent so much time saying he was hoping to catch the "essence" of a city, and most of the descriptions of "essence" he gave were ideas (the history of Paris), rather than these so-called visualizations you give him credit for. Since the search for essence seemed to be leading him, I thought these ideas relative to essence were part of that leading. I don't hold him to my take on his words. The thread evolves as does what we say, how we characterize what we've already said, and how we understand each other.
    Before you so neatly characterize how others in the forum shoot, listen to what I say.
    From my post above:
    "Ideas and interpretations often come to me after a photo is made. I've just added a series of three recent self portraits to my portfolio. They seem to generate a lot of ideas, for others and for me. But, for the most part, those ideas come after the fact. When shooting, I was addressing light, reflection, pose, long exposure, dealing with a tripod, low light and its potential for digital noise. I was involved in what was in front of me, both regarding the scenes, my own person/body, and the tools I was using. It seems almost ironic that these photos could look idea-like."
    I think any photographer or armchair quarterback who doesn't think there's a constant tension between thinking and shooting (regardless of how much focus you give either when you write) is kidding himself. That's why when Anders says "In my eyes none of the photos I shoot and even more less the ones I upload are conceived as postcards" he is talking (whether he will admit it or not in his summations) about conception that guides his work. When the suggestion is made that thought has something to do with photographing, that doesn't take away from the oh-so-magical nature of being in the moment when you're shooting. It just means you're human, which many photographers and artists are loathe to admit.
    If you ask me whether ideas or vision lead, I throw it back at you and say it's a dumb question.
     
  96. If you ask me whether ideas or vision lead, I throw it back at you and say it's a dumb question​
    Sorry Fred, you offered the response: that is a dumb way of answering a (maybe) dumb question.
    More seriously
    That's why when Anders says "In my eyes none of the photos I shoot and even more less the ones I upload are conceived as postcards" he is talking (whether he will admit it or not in his summations) about conception that guides his work.​
    No I'm not! to say it blankly. You can logically say on the basis of that sentence, that the part of the whole that is not uploaded logically could have been conceived as postcards, but I don't want to show them. The fact is that some of my photos could be by the viewer seen as standard postcards, so I choose not to show them.
    When you, Fred, goes back to a previous series of exchange on the historical and political context of Paris I have before in that thread (on doubt) mentioned that I did not contribute with historical facts about the city because I found they could contribute to our understanding of "essence". To say it bluntly, the history and politics of Brussels that I would know just a as well as those on Paris, do nothing to me in terms of bringing the feeling of essence to the fore in that city.
    You can say that because I openly express my "project" of photography when it comes to cities like Paris by referring to "essence" or "soul", my shooting of photos in these cities are "intentional": I shoot because I have a project of showing something I feel about the place. This is not wrong of course, but it is on a very general level. What makes me write that : "In photography reality, the seen, leads" is due to the fact that I do never ever go out in order to illustrate by photography a specific relationship between the reality I meet in the city every day and event and knowledge I have on the history and life of the city. I don't shoot the Luxembourg garden to illustrate that: Marie de Medicis strolled in the park while the castle was build 399 years ago; that the communards were executed in the park some 150 years ago or to illustrate that a (false?) assault on the future President François Mitterrand happened 51 years ago, just beside. No, I shoot it because it for me has atmosphere and - sorry again "essence" and "soul". Whether others that are totally ignorant about the context and accumulated history of the place feel the same, I cannot say, but I do not with my photos try to illustrate that context. I shoot because the place communicates to me.
    I'm deeply convinced that the "essence" I'm talking about, because we do not have a better term for it, is to be found in the" gutters" of the city. Not in monuments or cityscapes or even street-scapes but in the smallest and most trivial elements of the city, it's parks and it's inhabitants - or it is to be found in a totally novel way of "seeing" the most known views of the city - like the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame Cathedral or the Louvre Museum (or rather the pyramid of Pei).
    My test of fire is the following. If viewers when viewing my photos feel something special is going on, I believe I may have succeeded. If they only see the real thing, the "gutter" or the city landmarks, I have failed. I know,I mostly fail. If I go on, it is because of the small word "mostly" - without irony!
     
  97. Aw, Fred..."armchair quarterback"? [I thought Arthur had that patented. Thanks for the insult.]
    Fred - "Yes, I did mistakenly think Anders was saying something similar because he had spent so much time saying he was hoping to catch the "essence" of a city, and most of the descriptions of "essence" he gave were ideas (the history of Paris), rather than these so-called visualizations you give him credit for."
    I don't give him credit. He doesn't need any of us to do so. It's what he said. "...the seen leads." If he says that is how he photographs, who am I (or Fred) to deny it?
    However, in all seriousness, Fred hit on something less-than-neat about his own pictures (that can be applied to anyone's, I know) that linked to something I had written about before regarding Anders' pictures. I sensed while looking through them, that they look as if they are conveying a few persistent, overarching ideas. I believe Anders when he says he is not consciously carrying them, but instead, I believe they're simply part of who he is. They emanate from him naturally.
    In other words, ideas find multiple paths leading into our pictures.
    The tensions between thinking and photographing are not universal, just because Fred (and many, many others) experience them. It may seem impossible, but this tension can be reconciled via acceptance, and thus relaxed, dissolved, and/or synergized. Or, many are so far on one side that the other is negligible.
    Stephen Shore and Martin Parr have explored and played with the idea of postcards. Everyone else distances themselves as far as they can from these art-averse signifiers. That Anders did so is hardly surprising.
    Ideas and seeing, whether conscious or not, do intertwine and leapfrog each other often, but not necessarily in a conscious manner, and perhaps not in everyone. Many people have seriously questioned and factually explored the difference between visualizing and pre-visualizing, working intuitively vs. thinking, the relative dominance of these things, and many other questions.
    [What time is the marshmallow roast and Kumbayah hip-hop session tonight? ]
    PS. I was typing this and didn't see Anders' post come in...
     
  98. Anders, I respect adamance a great deal. I think it can be necessary to accomplishing things, including compelling photographs. It can also become an albatross. Adamance is similar to both thinking and seeing in that respect. The strength of each, even separately, is of great moment. Yet, at some point that strength can quickly turn to weakness.
    There is sometimes great strength evidenced in the more extreme approaches taken to these either/or questions, which often becomes a competition or at least an unfounded dichotomy (material/immaterial, seeing/thinking). More often, I feel my own weakness in the adamance of choosing a side. I much prefer to talk adamantly about the way I approached a given photograph than about the way I approach ALL my photographs. I value freedom, especially from my own self and especially from the last photograph I may have made.
     
  99. Anders - "I'm deeply convinced that the "essence" I'm talking about, because we do not have a better term for it, is to be found in the" gutters" of the city. Not in monuments or cityscapes or even street-scapes but in the smallest and most trivial elements of the city, it's parks and it's inhabitants ...."
    For the essence-ers, the literal gutters and the trivial elements sound like a great project. Ewwww, I like that, a holographic view of essence (and no, I haven't changed my opinion of what I think of the word, just using it in a mutually agreeable way), like when one cuts out a little piece from a holograph, and, incredibly, it still contains the original image, only in a far reduced resolution. Could it be done in macro? Something like "Paris @ 1:4? Just thinking out loud...
     
  100. Luis, you may choose to see "armchair quarterback" as an insult. I see it as a statement of fact. You have often judged what other people do (i.e., your reviews* of Josh's and Arthur's work, your comments about the ham-fisted use of symbols by some in this thread). I, myself, do it all the time with sports, even ones I've played. I do it when I comment on landscapes, with which I have very little experience from behind the camera, though quite a bit more as a viewer.
    *You, yourself, used that word.
    Here's a definition of "armchair quarterback": someone who thinks that he or she can make better decisions than the coaches or players while watching a competitive sport on television.
    You are like the guy watching television. You're not in the photographic game (at least so far as any of us can see) but you're reviewing the photographic decisions and statements of others. It's allowed here. And you do come up with many great insights. But it still is what it is.
    You've chosen to make yourself at least a bit of an outsider by not showing your work, a decision you're entitled to make. But I'd think you'd recognize that it has to compromise you on a photography website at least to some extent. I'm not suggesting you post photos. I'm suggesting you be realistic about some of the ramifications not posting photos has.
     
  101. Thanks again, Fred. Be advised that unlike you and the others who engage in the traditional PoP Meow Mix cattyness, that my commentary on the im/material was not aimed at anyone. It was made in general, and from personal experience. Compromising positions are OK by me, now that you mention it. I hereby accept all the ramifications you and anyone else cares to throw.
    It's true I did not do what I would have considered full reviews of Arthur's and Josh's pictures, only a few honest comments. Josh and I have made the peace over this in public, so I think it is safe to assume since it is a moot point between us, that it should be for you, too. Thanks for your generous, heart-felt suggestions.
    ...And you had the temerity to rail against my proper use of the word "principal" (no, not in the big guy at grade school sense, silly) ? LOL!
    _______________________________________
    [What's easier? To get a 2nd account (is that taboo?), or changing my name to "armchair quarterback"?]
    ______________________________________
    Fred, it would be better to continue this hissy-fest in email, don't you think? I won't reply, but it really has nothing to do with the thread. Methinks you're compartmentalizing.
     
  102. Luis, I'm surprised you didn't notice that I was making a visual pun on what I knew was your proper (and surly) use and spelling of the word "principal." I've always thought of you as professorial, as an outsider to the class, so it seemed the perfect picture to draw.
    Yes, indeed, Luis, take the higher ground and call an end to the cattyness, just as you yourself are finished practicing your own brand. No thanks, I'll address it head on when it rears its ugly head and I won't do it in an email.
     
  103. It is significant I think how many of the recent OPs (about 8, including this one) are concerned with aspects or qualities of the photograph that seem to go beyond the apparent or physical side of what we view, in that transition from subject matter to subject and to the realisation, the latter of which often addresses the viewer in non material terms. That is part of the power (or potential power) of the image, what Tiezzi seemingly refers to when he describes his beautiful world of experience (visual or otherwise) as the "blue orange". Some idea, or other immaterial aspect, that leaks out of the image, and whether intended by the photographer, or not.
     
  104. Arthur, I don't think the other recent OPs are concerned with "aspects or qualities of the photograph that seem to go beyond the apparent or physical side of what we view . . . which often addresses the viewer in non material terms." I think that is YOUR concern. Please note, I'm not putting that down, I'm just saying I think it's your perspective and the terms in which you think of these things and put them. It's not my perspective nor are they the terms in which I would put them.
     
  105. Arthur, when you say "... an immaterial aspect, that leaks out of the image, and whether intended by the photographer, or not.", is it correct to assume that you implicitly meant immaterial aspects also leak into the image, whether intended or not?
     
  106. Fred,
    Among recent OPs, those of Doubt (in which Anders and others talk of essence, something which is immaterial as much as material), Viewing potential, Character, and What don't your photographs communicate have several entries relating to immaterial aspects of the image. These are the contributions of others, not only me. That they may not be part of your photography or approach, Fred, I can understand. None of this is subject of "putting you down" or "putting me down". Neither is a serious option in my books when I'm discussing and appraising for myself various different ideas. Some simply wish to talk down to another - a waste of valuable time!
    Luis,
    I was referring only to those ideas that "leak out" of an image to the viewer. Instead of leak out you might prefer to apply a similar phrase, "appear upon further viewing". Some believe that great photographs have that potential, to transcend the apparent visual message by suggesting to the viewer some immaterial idea or statement. I can live with that, in fact am inspired by it.
     
  107. I much prefer to talk adamantly about the way I approached a given photograph than about the way I approach ALL my photographs​
    Fred, me too I can ensure you ! I do many things with photography. If you go to my homepage here on PN you will see three photos that surely were not shot in the way I have argued in this thread. I have spend most of the day shooting the demonstrations that took place in Paris against the government's retirement reforms. In this case I surely went to shoot very intentional photos like most would have done. Shooting "PARIS" is totally another story.
     
  108. Rather than a 'leaking out' or a 'leaking in' I view the photograph ( or the viewer's experience of the image in the photograph ) as the entanglement between physical fact and psychic effect.
     
  109. Just another thought snippet, there's no any more or less "essence" ( of a subject, material or immaterial ) to be found in one photograph compared to another, than there's an essence to be found in a temperature reading. They are all units of / on a scale, but never quite about the scale, unless "essence" simply means giving the definition of something.
     
  110. unless "essence" simply means giving the definition of something.​
    It seems to me that it surely does not simply mean that, Phylo, reading what we have discussed throughout the last days in this and other threads.
    A problematic that I don't think we have had on the table up till now in the discussions is that "essence", "quintessence".... cannot be expected to be found in one single photo, but might more likely emerge for the viewer in series of photos.
    Photos showing essence are then like words in a poem or like strokes in a painting.
     
  111. I have a question, mostly for Anders and Arthur, but also for everybody else. This is a genuine question, not a rhetorical or leading question. It requires a longish example to get to what I'm wondering about:
    When you think of Proust's stroy about the madeleine cookie, what is it in that story that is so effective? It seems to me that what that story does *for me* is not located anywhere in the precise immaterial experiece that the cookie provoked in Proust (it reminded him of his childhood visits with his aunt); rather it is the generic shared idea of "remembering childhood" or even simply "a remembering that is provoked by taste or smell, etc." It provokes me to think of similar experiences of memory, but, of course, my memories are not of Proust's aunt. What Proust's story does, why it works or is affective to me is that it touchs on a common sort of sensation (in fact, though I thought I have clear memories of reading Proust's story, upon just looking it up again, I find that I had the details wrong; I had remembered it as being his mother that he was reminded of, not his aunt -- but that makes no difference to my affect ... thereby confirming my feeling that the details are not what "works" in this story).
    Finally, getting to my question for Anders and Arthur. In your pictures of Paris or whatever you are using as examples in this thread, is it really "Paris" or whatever that you are expecting or hoping will be conveyed or is it something more generic; sort of a "this is what it's like to be in a place you love" or "doesn't this remind you of that time/place where you felt ... [whatever]"? In other words, like Proust's story, it's not about the aunt and the tea, it's about the sort of amorphous child/eating/being-loved experience? The former is not, cannot be known to a reader who did not know Proust's aunt; the latter will be knowable to anybody who was a child in comparable circumstances.
    It seems to me that if this is true, then "immaterial" is simply an attempt at "reaching across" to find memories of shared experience which is pretty much inevitable in almost all photography that does not make an effort *not* to be so (art-photography often tries *not* to be so). Any claims to locate the particular source of the sensation (Paris or Proust's aunt) depend entirely on the viewer also having experience/memories of that particular instance of Paris, or aunt/tea/cookie event -- and would mean that only very few people (presumably none, in the case of Proust's by-now-dead aunt) would be able to "get" the picture.
     
  112. Julie, for me there's often a play between the generic and the specific. When I do a portrait, I use a specific person and am aware that a generic expression may be expressed, that people may relate it to an expression or memory that is meaningful to them. But, just as I am aware that Proust's story is very much about the aunt (whether I can access that aunt or not), I am aware that my photo is also very much about the particular person who is the subject. And also about a lot more than that, as it's about light, pose, gesture, me, you as viewer, etc. True, those who don't know the subject cannot really verify their projections onto that subject. But they at least know that I was in touch with the subject, and their ability to empathize will put them in touch with the fact that they are looking at a subject and not simply a reflection of themselves. Whether their projection is accurate can be of greater or lesser consequence to me as photographer and to the subjects themselves. Sometimes, a comment that a viewer will make will be of profound import to one of my subjects. Other times, comments get dismissed with a knowing smile. It's not the accuracy of the projection that matters (usually) in the scheme of things. But that there is a sense of something being there, even if it's a sense that the photographer and the subject have a relationship, is significant. I think that mitigates the universality or generic-ness of what we see in a photo or what we read in Proust's story.
     
  113. jtk

    jtk

    IMO Julie's commentary on Proust seems more relevant to photography than other posts here. Most others have chased words rather than ideas, memories, or anything related to images ("essence" etc).
    Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White both addressed these issues from photographers's perspectives.
    1) "Equivalent." Surely we're all familiar with that? Stieglitz's concept has been avoided here because it's photographic and visual, doesn't provide much opportunity for bloviation.
    2) A fundamental Minor White assignment was to "capture the essence of" a certain place, such as the town in which the class was working: find the image, photograph, process, print it in one day/night, bring the finished print to the group the next morning.
    The teacher (selected and appreciated for her/his obvious accomplishment, not a mere "authority") would say little, send the group back to try again: like the famous zen master/student/one-hand-clapping koan story. After several days of this, the teacher would draw attention to the image that least relied on the sappy/symbolic/"pretty" stuff, therefore might be closest to the otherwise-meaningless "essence"
     
  114. While working on an answer to this very well formulated question of Julie, you might appreciate a image of Proust's cookies of his aunt Léonie, des Madeleines de tante Léonie, that you can find in any baker shop in France.
     
  115. John, without starting a ping pong exchange, is it not possible to communicate without insulting those that have tried to advance this debate?
    chased words rather than ideas, memories, or anything related to images
    Bloviation​
    ..........
    For those especially non-English speakers (me for example) Bloviation means: To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner.
    Not withstanding the form you choose, which does not help communication between us, you are very right that we couldt go "back" to the "old masters" that certainly were working on the same project - not least in the case of Paris.
     
  116. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, thanks for emphasizing my points so precisely.
    Incidentally "the same project" to which you refer (really the parallel approaches of Stieglitz & White) was "photography," which they didn't accomplish with bloviation. Perhaps we should remember that photography and "equivalents" are still pursued today, just as are many other fundamental ideas, such as focus, clarity, and significance.
    Note that I didn't refer to Stieglitz and White as "old masters". I mentioned them only because they directly addressed the "essence" question, and did it in their own individual ways with photography.
    Julie's reference to Proust (memory, evoked by scent) entailed her thought and perception, was entirely lucid: the parallel to photography is perfect...whereas wordplay with "essence" has been related to photography only at the most primative (symbolic) level.
     
  117. Thanks John. Always appreciated. Your sincerely.
     
  118. Julie, first a side comment.
    To me, the question you just asked, and the way you asked it (in a non-snarky, non-dismissive manner, framed clearly, simply and openly, inviting additive responses) represents the kind of communication that can make threads like this worth reading, or worth getting involved in.
    Earlier in this thread, I was trying to make a point similar to the one that (I think) underlies your current question--which I interpret to be, roughly, "what the heck are we talking about?" These terms (essence, material, immaterial) have been used in non-congruent ways throughout most of the thread.
    According to my best understanding of the word, an "essence" can be said to exist in a literal sense only in the context of chemical compounds, perfumes, etc.
    When used in any artistic context, that term is being used metaphorically, poetically--the word doesn't refer to anything whose existence can be objectively confirmed. (What may represent "the essence of the mystery of love" to some, may be meaningless dreck to others.)
    And when applied to images, "essence" would refer to attributes of the subject of the image (e.g., to the essence "of the city of Paris"), including the way the image is presented (dreamy, poignant, bitter, whatever)--not to the image itself, not to the photograph itself.
    Even the best images can only only suggest (or evoke) in a viewer, these "essential" feelings about a given subject.
    Similarly, the term "capture" is only metaphorical (just like "essence"), when used in an artistic context. To say, for example, that Anders' image "captures the essence of Paris" (a perfectly reasonable thing to say, between photographers) actually means, when articulated more carefully, that Anders' image "is strongly evocative" (to a receptive viewer) of "essential qualities of Paris". (There's no literal capture and no literal essence, and the entire statement is entirely subjective and metaphorical.)
    To me, the term "essence" is analogous to the term "character", when that word is used in discussing a portrait. A skillfully-done portrait may suggest the character of a person; a skillfully-done photo of Paris may suggest the essence of the city. But "character" doesn't reside in the portrait itself, and "essence" doesn't reside in the photo.
    I haven't read the Proust story (shocking, I know) so I can't respond with any more precision. But as I understand your post, I agree with you. Since no two people share the same subjective experiences, and everyone's memory is different, I think you've stated it well:
    "It seems to me that... 'immaterial' is simply an attempt at 'reaching across' to find memories of shared experience which is pretty much inevitable in almost all photography that does not make an effort *not* to be so."

    I would go a little further, perhaps even suggesting a modification of your statement to say:
    "It seems to me that... the 'immaterial' is simply those aspects of a photograph which transcend material depiction, and depend on memories of shared experience for their effect on a viewer. Almost all photography involves this kind of 'immaterial' dimension."
    Even family snapshots.
     
  119. A small correction to one of my paragraphs above:
    ------
    And when applied to images, "essence" would refer to attributes of the subject of the image (e.g., to the essence "of the city of Paris"), including the way the subject is presented (dreamy, poignant, bitter, whatever)--but not to the image itself, not to the photograph itself.
    ------
     
  120. jtk

    jtk

    "Even the best images can only only suggest (or evoke) in a viewer, these "essential" feelings about a given subject."

    Without commenting on "best," I don't think it's correct that "the viewer" is necessarily experiencing "feelings" related to a "given subject."
    Photographs are not necessarily references to "subjects," though they certainly are much of the time: "The Grand Canyon." "My cute cat." etc. Those are not similar to photos of people involved in mysterious emotions...they're qualitatively different. As well, some photographs stand on their own, simply as photographic prints/displays or as questions.
     
  121. Julie,
    in regard to your well-presented argument, I believe that the generic immaterial concepts or feelings, memory induced or other, such as that of family love, are those at what I might call the first level of appreciation. Many photographs, paintings and sculptures seem to me to work primarily at that first level, if they do so at all. They don't need specific reference and their message is quite clear, but simple. I am looking now at one of Harold Mante's images from his text on "Color". Dozens of primary school Spanish children (girls) playing on a beach and hamming it up a bit (the fun of children) for the camera, each one distinct but unescapably wrapped in her formal school costumes. Distinct or a collectivity? The first level of appreciation is one of the joys and innocence of youth. Looking further, one recognizes that they are all not just individual but also part of an ordered society and one might extend the thoughts to how will these kids function in that very ordered society, albeit their individuality before the camera? How will each unfold as an adult?
    A book can involve us in more complex suggestions of immaterial ideas and concepts, but for a photograph or a series of photographs to do that is rather a tall order. For Mante's photo to do that, it might have to be accompanied by other views into the life of these children, or other images confirming, contrasting or extending the opening visual phrases of the former one.
    Ideas communicating through photographic works is challenging. Essence of a place is but one idea amongst many ideas. The generic case you mention conveys something to more people than your more specific case, perhaps. However, the problem is that both may communicate ideas on only the first level of appreciation and not go farther. Whether of a generic or specific nature in the beginning is probably unimportant, but in order to go further than the first level of appreciation, an image, or series of images, has more work to do than the cases mentioned. Does this mean a more complex image with several layers of meaning (like various sentences of a written work, combining and leading to the enshrinement or deposition of an idea?), or several images in an overall work of communication, I don't know? It may even be possible in one excellent if complex image, whereas a simple image can communicatec effectively to the first level of idea (or feeling) appreciation.
     
  122. "Photographs are not necessarily references"
    Yes. Thanks, John.
     
  123. Okay, John, I'll gladly modify:
    "Even the best-realized images can only only suggest (or evoke) in a viewer, these "essential" responses to depictions of a given subject."
     
  124. jtk

    jtk

    On another thread somebody said it was easier to evoke a desired response in writing than in photography.
    Certainly there's a lot of unevocative photography (simply beautiful or purportedly symbolic), but I think there's even less evidence of evocative writing, here or anywhere else (for context, I'm reading Melville and can't yet say what's going to be evoked in the depth and complexity).
    Here, unless someone's making a clear and felt case, or asking genuine questions (eg Fred), we see opinions or interminable, heavily hedged paragraphs, which seem intended only to get (rather than evoke) a primative a talk show kind of response: agreement/disagreement. Which is not similar to "evoked." What I'm writing here may draw emotional responses but that is unintentional...my words cannot be as evocative as what I hope for from occasional photographs.
    Julie, through her use of simple analogy (re Proust recently), evokes more from me than she does when she assembles elaborate written constructions. In other words, one skillfully expressed concept has (for me) evoked more than elaborate chatter could have. And of course, her images evoke even more.
    Over the past year or two, Fred has moved a conceptual mountain by asking questions rather than relying on opinions or answers....his writing is increasingly evocative, and I don't think my usual agreement is even relevant.
     
  125. John wrote:
    "Photographs are not necessarily references to 'subjects,' though they certainly are much of the time: 'The Grand Canyon.' 'My cute cat.' etc. Those are not similar to photos of people involved in mysterious emotions...they're qualitatively different. As well, some photographs stand on their own, simply as photographic prints/displays or as questions.'
    Your point eludes me, John. What if the intended subject is "mysterious emotions"? Let's repeat your statement, substituting the means of artistic expression:
    "Books are not necessarily references to 'subjects,' though they certainly are much of the time: 'French cooking.' 'The World of Cats.' etc. Those are not similar to books about people involved in mysterious emotions...they're qualitatively different. As well, some books stand on their own, simply as tombstones of good intentions/displays or as questions."
    Okay, granted. But what has this established, about photos or books?
    I wasn't delimiting the term "subject" to simple subjects, or even literal subjects. The subjects of art, including photographic subjects, can of course be complex and profound.
    A well-realized photograph may derive 98.375% of its impact on a responsive viewer from its "immaterial" attributes (i.e., its "suggestions", in the sense of Julie's post and my response to her) and only 1.625% of its impact from material depiction. (For example, a few side-lit contours, seen within the borders of an otherwise completely black background and foreground, might--depending on what the shapes are, and how they're presented--suggest birth, death, isolation, beauty, pain--or nothing at all, depending on the intentions of the photographer who made it, and the response of the person viewing it.)
    If the photographer intended his photograph to "capture the essence of isolation", then the intended subject (as I would use the word) would be "isolation".
    And I would say that the image "is strongly evocative" (to receptive viewers) of "essential qualities of isolation."
    But--and this the point I was trying to make--that "essence" would reside in the feelings ("response") evoked, not in the image itself.
     
  126. What if the subject, simple or complex, isn't significant? What if an understanding of the photo isn't significant? Lots of questions are being asked on the critique pages about my recent self portraits. The whys and wherefores, my motivations, my intentions, the so-called symbols. What if it's not the about that's key? I was in touch with something. Perhaps the viewer will be. I may not want the viewer to get anything. I may not want a meeting of minds or hearts. I did my thing. Now you (viewer) can do yours.
    Often, dwelling on the "aboutness" of a photo distances me from it and can even distance me from its subject if I care about the subject.
     
  127. "What if the subject, simple or complex, isn't significant? What if an understanding of the photo isn't significant?"
    What if a composer's musical theme, simple or complex, isn't significant?
    What if an understanding of the sculptor's finished work isn't significant?
     
  128. Ernest, what I said would apply to many types of expressions . . . music, drama, poetry, photos. I'm not sure why you're posing the further questions you just did. Above, you asked what has been established. That's what I was answering. My post is trying to establish the possible insignificance of reference, in photos, music, drama, etc. I called one alternative "being in touch." I was experiencing something that night I made the self portraits. I wasn't connected to a "subject" or an "essence." I was taking action. As a viewer, I can do that and/or be in touch with that as well.
     
  129. Fred, of course. I wasn't expressing hostility or challenging your sincerity, only trying to place your questions into a larger art-historical context.
    What do you mean, when you use the word "significant"? Do you mean significant in the eyes of others, in your own eyes, or in some other, absolute or timeless sense? Between the black holes and the wormholes-between-universes of the cosmos of semiotics, the terms "significant" and "signification" have specialized meanings. I assume you don't mean that.
    Asking only rhetorically, how many composers have labored in obscurity; how many paintings did Van Gogh sell in his lifetime? Your photographs may have more significance than you realize.
    I guess my intended point was: Are these answerable questions?
    ------------------
    Fred, I think we've both edited our posts within the 10-minute window, so my response no longer fits yours in the way I intended. But I'll just leave it, without further change.
     
  130. Ernest, I wasn't saying my photos lack significance. I was saying that "reference" may lack significance.
    Honestly, I don't want to get into a discussion of significance. We've had other threads on it and I even though of a thread revisiting it. I do use it with a specialized but also a more popular meaning. Though I think "significance" is something way more complex, let's just use "importance" here. I don't think reference has to be that important. A photo IS. It is light, texture, pose, gesture, composition, beauty, color, abstraction, . . . Those are seen. They don't necessarily reference something ELSE. The guy you see in the photograph may reference the guy sitting and typing here now or NOT. The guy in the photograph may just be forever the guy in the photograph.
    P.S. I had originally mentioned sincerity not because of anything you said but because it was brought up in a critique under one of my photos which I was talking about here. I decided it wasn't that relevant so deleted that part of the post.
     
  131. Okay, Fred.
     
  132. Ernest, I'm curious to hear your further thoughts on stuff that transcends material depiction and depends on shared memories of shared experience, at least as it relates to photographs. Is it not some sort of visualization (depiction?) that gets these two who are having the shared memories on the same wavelength? Is how that occurs what we're discussing? A lot of time has been spent discussing the shared experience side (what we know of Paris, what the Impressionists talked about). Not nearly as much time has been spent on how that shared experience is relevant to photographs. Where does it come from, how is it accessed, how presented? If not directly depicted, how is it suggested by a photograph?
     
  133. I think I will go to a concert tonight. The music (Sibelius) will probably suggest more to me than what I am reading. What Julie says was important came close to the OP and I think I took that to the next step of immaterial content of some photographs by talking about levels of appreciation of the immaterial. That is what the OP is about. I have no intention to turn any of my own coments into a personal discourse or navel gazing. Maybe the thread has run its course, or the subject of the OP has lost the attention of its adherents?
     
  134. Fred, I'm no expert but here's my best shot.
    As a starting point, I think images affect us in the same way that language affects us, but more directly and more immediately than language.
    Our brains are hard-wired by evolution to scan all incoming visual data for patterns, meanings, threats, opportunities. When we focus our attention on a created image, we're instinctively (as well as consciously) trying to make sense of all the visual clues before us. In the same way our brain handles language, but at a more instinctive level, we're trying to resolve, to our own satisfaction, the meaning of all the elements of the image--elements that may convey ambiguity, certainty, contrast, conflict, harmony, appeal, threat, satisfaction, etc. Our brain must either resolve or dismiss uncertainties (rejecting them for being too unimportant or sometimes, too overwhelming). It's been established that the functioning of one small, specialized part of our brain is focused exclusively on facial recognition and the interpretation of human facial expressions; it's capable of making an extremely fine discrimination between two faces, or of identifying the presence of a barely-suggested human face in deep shadow. Who knows what other specialized parts are simultaneously at work when we "see" (or perceive), and what else is going on in there? Most of our brain's functioning is still unexplored.
    All symbols (English words, Chinese characters, stick-figure drawings of humans, the American flag, the cross) rely on "shared experience" for their ability to convey meaning. I think Julie's recent post expressed it pretty well: although our individual (subjective) experiences are unique, to a large degree they overlap with the experiences of others. The part that overlaps constitutes our "shared experience" and forms our "shared memory". So to apply John's allusions, above, to the Grand Canyon and cats: I've never personally been to the Grand Canyon, but in my lifetime I've seen it in countless photographs and films, and read about it many times in words. Among the cats that John has seen in his lifetime, I've probably never laid eyes on a single one; yet I've seen enough other cats to have a "shared memory". Because of our overlapping experiences, when John use the words "Grand Canyon" and "cats", his words evoke (in me) mental images and ideas that are fairly close to his own. So we communicate, however imperfectly. And I think the same dynamic is at work with images.
    Our "shared experience" as humans shapes our visual interpretation of almost everything. For example, most small children have had the experience of fear when left alone in a dark, silent room at night, and most endure at least a few nightmares, and see at least a few horror films. Most adults have experienced, at least once after adolescence, the sensation of genuine, imminent danger. These "shared memories" can be evoked (intentionally or unintentionally) by specific visual cues. Imagine we're looking at an image of a dimly-lit room in a decaying building, whose interior is mostly dark (triggering uncertainty); now, we notice in the shadows, a partly-seen face, whose expression may hint at cruelty or malevolence (triggering anxiety); we scan the whole image, and see no evidence of "normal" activity or of other, friendly people (no countervailing clues to reassure us); and now, we notice a shadowy pointed shape that could be a large knife--and by our interpretation of its spatial relationship to the shadowy face, it could be a knife clenched in his hand, raised in preparation to slash (prepare to fight or flee now)....and so on, and on.
    Obviously that's an exaggerated example (with apologies to Alfred Hitchcock) but the same process of symbolic incorporation of symbols that evoke "shared memory"--or their deliberate manipulation--can be applied in any film or still photo or painting. There are, for example, visual cues (from subtle to blatant) that most people in a shared culture associate with innocence, sincerity, generosity, desperation, loneliness, greed, happiness, etc., etc.--and there are many visual cues that are almost universal.
    In short, think we have an innate human need for meaning--to find meaning in the world around us, to resolve ambiguous meanings in the situations that confront us, and--to the extent we can--to impose order on disorder. So in visual communication (as with spoken or written communication) there's a lot to work with.
    This is just my opinion, Fred, provided because you asked.
     
  135. Julie, in your text (6.57a.m) where you made the reference to Poust's Madeleine cookies of his aunt Léonie, you ask a direct question on whether I bake Proustian cookies in my photography of Paris. I would love to. Nothing is more satisfactory then to express and reproduce ones deepest feelings and precious memories with whatever means, being it poetry, music, writing or photography. However, if that was the case, I would fully agree with you that it would be a very private endeavor and few could be expected to be much interested or have any chance of "getting" the pictures.
    I'm convinced that many photos presented here on PN and in my portfolio included, have the qualities of Proust's cookies. I find such photos among those I have shot myself, but also among photos of other photographers on PN. My shortlist of photos in the "favorite image folder" could be such photos that evoke some (forgotten) memories and feelings that I take pleasure in recalling. When I shoot trams in the streets of Hong Kong I feel the joy of riding trams as a small boy in my hometown. I remember the sound of the chime and the steering wheel, the noise of the rails, the movement, and the bras color of the brakes, the smell of the seats etc. When I shoot the carrousel in the Luxembourg garden surely I take pleasure in recalling the feeling of incredible speed when I was small etc.
    As you write, some of these "recallings" are highly individual but others are generic and photos evoking them can be appreciated by others. There is therefor a purpose in showing also such very personal photos to each others even without telling the story.
    However, I think it is not at the individual level of the photographer that we get nearer to understanding the concept of "essence".
    I started at a very early stage of this discussing by referring to the experience I have when visiting and living in different places. In some places (mostly cities) I'm inspired and and find photographic scenes all over the place. in other places I see no scenes and my camera stays in the bag. I expressed, as hypothesis, the idea that the difference between such places was a difference in terms of essence or soul of the place. I admit one could imagine that some places were more fertile grounds for finding scenes that could somehow play the role of Proust's cookies, and others do not have that quality.
    Because of my educational and professional background, I have a tendency of trusting a social science type of approach of seeing and understanding societies more than an individualistic, psychological approach. My frame of reference when I see cities, live in them or visit them, is therefor that of social organization and interacting between people together with the physical setup, which attract me and my photographical eye. My eyes have a unconscious tendency of catching the materiel manifestations of the theatrical show being played in front of my eyes. With reference to a term referred to earlier, I believe that the essence of a place is to be found in the "social construction of the reality" of the place.
    Julie, I'm therefor not convinced that your reference to Proust story tells what is at stake with the "essence of Paris". I don't think that what is the subject matter is "the essence of the photographer, illustrated by Paris scenes".
     
  136. jtk

    jtk

    "I think we have an innate human need for meaning--to find meaning in the world around us, to resolve ambiguous meanings in the situations that confront us, and--to the extent we can--to impose order on disorder." - Ernest B.

    I don't think I agree with that "innate human need" idea...I don't think I feel Ernest's meaning-deficiency. It seems distinctively Abrahamic, ie Jewish/Christian (don't know Muslim). Probably springs from deism (belief in "gods") and central "holy" book/s.
    Viktor Frankl wrote "Man's Search For Meaning" and although touching, it seems inconsistent with the views of most of humanity, or at least Animists, Buddhists and Taoists (and maybe Hindus, from what little I've been able to discern). I can't/won't comment on Islam, but it appears (to me) that it's mostly Jews and Christians who experience anxiety about "meaning." http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/0671023373
    Buddhists, Taosts, and (perhaps) Hindus seem more focused on direct engagement, meditative or worshipful/ceremonial, rather than "interpretative," "search for meaning" and the like.
    I wonder if non-practicing (temple, church) Jews and Christians are more likely to be photographers than their practicing co-religionists?
     
  137. Ernest, thanks a lot for the explanation. Here's where I'm coming from. I'm intrigued by, but skeptical of, meaning. I know that some images will have common associations for viewers. That's a tool I can work with, though predictability is always variable and tentative. But there's another side to it. I'm aware that when people see dark shadows, even when there's no fear to be had, they may (too) quickly think of Hitchcock and default to trite notions of "fear." What if a shadow is just a shadow? With a rich texture of the moment. That's where I was going with "being in touch." Not understanding, not playing with meaning, but playing with textures.
    Music. Doesn't tend to have meanings associated with it as readily as pictures, if at all. Except for Disney and Fantasia. But leaving that aside. Many listeners and musicians accept notes, chords, musical passages as not representative of something. They are what they are, they are how they sound. Sure, a marking on a page is the symbol of what note to play on the clarinet. But the note played by the clarinet doesn't symbolize something, certainly is not specific to a feeling or emotion. Sure, we'll describe a Chopin nocturne as melancholy and the opening of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto as bold when push comes to shove, but I don't listen to Chopin and resort to thinking "melancholy." I sway and swoon. (Sorry, I know how that sounds!)
    We talk about the color of the orchestral sound. We describe it with words but I really think we don't especially give it meaning. Can we do the same with photographs? Could the texture of a photograph be comparable to the "color" of music? Does the "scariness" of Hitchcock inhibit us when we see a shadow in a photograph? Can we get beyond it? Is Psycho, in fact, really "scary"? Well, yes. That's the beginning. But now I get a big smile on my face and still get a kind of chill when Janet Leigh clutches the shower curtain and the black and white blood circles the drain. Why is that? It's not fear. And I don't think it's funny.
     
  138. John wrote:
    "I don't think I agree with that 'innate human need' idea...I don't think I feel Ernest's meaning-deficiency. It seems distinctively Abrahamic, ie Jewish/Christian (don't know Muslim). Probably springs from deism (belief in "gods") and central "holy" book/s."
    John, you have such an endearing way with words.
    I would categorize myself as "atheist."
    A case could be made that doctrinal religion is the least-demanding way to find meaning (of the sort you refer to), and the way most likely to attract people who don't want to, or don't need to, or can't search for it on their own: i.e., you choose (or you're born into) a doctrine, you learn its rules, you accept its authority, you conform and submit, and bingo! you now have a secure seat belt on the roller-coaster of life and death. (Or at least, some might so imply.)
    But I don't see what any of that has to do with the context in which I wrote of the "innate human need for meaning", i.e., the need to interpret visual cues to make sense of the world--in order to survive.
    Let's imagine two motorcyclists, separately navigating a busy, fast-flowing city street in conditions of poor visibility, in the rain, at dusk. One is a devout religious practitioner, the other a hardened atheist. Q: Which motorcyclist will be killed by a careless SUV driver making a sudden left turn across his front? A: Whichever one is not paying sufficiently close attention to all the visual cues before him, not continuously "making sense" (with his eyes and brain) of the situation that confronts him. The one who survives is the one who continually monitors the meaning of hundreds of constantly- changing visual elements. Our brains are designed (or "created", or "evolved", or "programmed", whatever) for this kind of thing. (In my opinion.)
    ---------
    Fred wrote:
    "What if a shadow is just a shadow?"
    Fred, It usually is.
     
  139. jtk

    jtk

    re motorcycle collisions: "The one who survives is the one who continually monitors the meaning of hundreds of constantly- changing visual elements." - Ernest B (my emphasis/JK)

    No. We're seeing demonstrations of how wrong that is, instant-by-instant, at the current US Tennis Championship. There certainly are some instant considerations of "meaning," but they pale by comparison to instant non-considerations. Non-consideration rules...we remain systems more than head occupants.
    As to "athiest": that is an amusing sub-category of Abrahamic, essentially no different from Christian or Jewish.
    Lack or presence of deity in one's view is irrelevant unless one is hung up, a believer or assertive non-believer. Buddhists and Taoists are generally unconcerned about deities, as am I. The fantasy is no different, embraced or assertively rejected: an "athiest" is the same as a Seventh Day Adventist.
     
  140. John wrote:
    "As to "athiest": that is an amusing sub-category of Abrahamic, essentially no different from Christian or Jewish.

    "Lack or presence of deity in one's view is irrelevant unless one is hung up, a believer or assertive non-believer. Buddhists and Taoists are generally unconcerned about deities, as am I. The fantasy is no different, embraced or assertively rejected: an "athiest" is the same as a Seventh Day Adventist."
    John, always happy to contribute to your amusement.
    Remarkably, given your introduction of the subject and the emphasis you're giving it, you don't seem "generally unconcerned about deities."
    Is there a Church of John? (Just kidding.)
     
  141. Atheist, Jew, or Buddhist, I'm not sure what motorcycle safety has to do with it. I'm not worried about falling off a picture of a motorcycle and I don't put my helmut on to go to a gallery where I think photos of motorcycles might be exhibited. I think that changes the role and applicability of meaning to the situation of viewing photographs.
    I interact differently with photographs from the way I interact with stop signs, plus signs, the alphabet, motorcycles, or people. Photographs act symbolically, more significantly metaphorically, and then some.
     
  142. Fred, what I originally wrote was:
    "Our brains are hard-wired by evolution to scan all incoming visual data for patterns, meanings, threats, opportunities. When we focus our attention on a created image, we're instinctively (as well as consciously) trying to make sense of all the visual clues before us."
    John elevated that to the level of comparative theology, and from there to:
    "I wonder if non-practicing (temple, church) Jews and Christians are more likely to be photographers than their practicing co-religionists?" (John Kelly)
    My subsequent, prosaic motorcyclist analogy was only meant to underline, in a commonsense way, two points: that (1) religion has no bearing on the visual/brain functions I was referring to; and (2) we humans are constantly exercising the visual "sense-making" functions--i.e., we continually, in all our waking hours, are assessing and determining the meaning of the visual elements before us. Assessment of meaning is not a process we "begin" when we pick up a photograph (or upload it) then "cease" when we put it down (or click away from it).
    Of course there are various levels of "meaning". They correspond to various levels of mental functioning. But our eyes and brains respond to visual cues at all levels--from the (almost) entirely instinctive (e.g., professional tennis), to the (almost) entirely conscious (e.g., published analyses of paintings or photographs by professional art critics). Created images can engage us instinctively, or subconsciously, or consciously--or at all levels simultaneously. (Or at no level, if we find them boring at a glance, and simply turn away).
    Again, Fred, just my opinion. If, for you, "that changes the role and applicability of meaning to the situation of viewing photographs"....then hey, that's fine.
     
  143. Ernest, I understand what you're saying. How do you relate it to photos? How does it affect how you make or view photos? Let's talk about Proust for a second. Julie seems to be saying that, for her, it's not about Proust's aunt, or that that detail isn't relevant. It's about something shared. When I look at a portrait, it's not JUST about the person whose portrait it is. To that extent, I can relate to what Julie's saying. But I am affected by the fact that it is a person, that that person was photographed by this particular photographer at this particular time. I am moved by the fact of the individual as well as the more shared sentiments. Avedon's American West portraits have a universality about them. They also have a particularity without which I don't think I'd care as much. I see a snap of an average "homeless guy" on the street and I get a sense of shared feelings . . . usually leaving me cold. When I am made to sense that that "homeless guy" is someone in particular, might be someone's uncle, I'm drawn in.
     
  144. "Ernest, I understand what you're saying. How do you relate it to photos? How does it affect how you make or view photos?"
    Fred, I don't think it affects how I make or view photos at all.
    When I view images in a serious way (unless I happen to be looking for something specific, which usually is not the case), I try simply to allow my mind to relax and absorb ("process") what's in front of me. I have no conscious checklist or template. It usually works pretty well.
    And for the most part, when I make photos, I take the same approach described earlier by Anders. I've always enjoyed exploring places and situations, and with a camera it's even better--I just go out to see what I can find, and when I see something interesting, I try to get it onto film in the most effective way possible.
    But sometimes there are specific visual ideas that I would like to express, and in such cases I approach things from the other direction.
    Quite a few years ago, in my mid-teens, I had an old car, very little money and no camera. I can remember occasionally stopping on the shoulder of the road (a rural area) and trying to frame images that impressed me, within a rectangle made by the thumb and forefinger of both my hands. I remember thinking then that producing an actual photo wasn't really the important thing; the main satisfaction was in being able to "see" it myself-- seeing the thing that I would photograph, in the way I would photograph it...if I'd had a camera. (Of course, I had no clue at the time about technical aspects of photography, so my "seeing the thing" involved nothing more than composition, juxtaposition, etc.)
     
  145. [I am reading Ernest B., Fred, and John's recent exchange with great interest -- and so far managing to resist the urge to quote Arnheim on the psychology of vision...]
    Anders, Anders, Anders ... you're killing me <<< those are crocodile tears; I love struggling to understand other points of view and am grateful that you keep coming back to this thread.
    I have another long example that I hope will make sense. Not least because this one pretty much destroys the previous Proustian one.
    If you have ever watched hunting dogs such as Pointers or Setters at work, you will know that when they find a bird they freeze in a state of almost deranged excitement. They actually vibrate with excitement; every fiber of their body is focused right THERE. This is also true for my Jack Russell Terriers, though they don't point; rather they go insane, digging toward some invisible critter underground.
    To the hunter with the dog, or to me with the Jack Russells, the source of the dog's extreme excitement is not visible. Yet, because I can see the dog, I know *it* is there and the entire scene becomes ... excited. Colored by, filled with the presence of, ABOUT that creature that I cannot see. Before the dog goes on point, I have an empty meadow. After/while the dog is on point, I have, first and foremost, an invisible bird/creature dominating my consciousness with the meadow now far in the background of my awareness.
    If you're still with me, I want to extend this to cadaver dogs. They are used in disasters to find people buried under rubble. The dog "alerts" by barking or digging or otherwise indicating a find. Imagine you are there looking at some huge pile of a collapsed building. A pile of debris. The dog "alerts." From that moment (the "alert") you are no longer looking at a pile of debris; you are looking at a person (dead? alive? suffering?) that you can't see. The not-visible person dominates consciousness while the debris becomes thought of only to the extent that it interferes with or harms or has-to-do-with that unseen person/body.
    Here's the (big!) catch. The dog has to be in the picture. Anders has to be in his Paris pictures; Arthur has to be in his gravestone picture and AND Proust has to be there with his cookie. By "in" I mean somehow positioned in the viewer's awareness. For Anders's pictures, simply a "Paris" caption would find him "indicating" or "alerting" or "pointing." Or if he had a book called "Anders's Paris." But he, and Proust have to be there. You can't "get" to the bird, or the buried body or the nostalgic-via-cookie or essence-of-Paris without the dog being somehow in the picture.
    This, in my opinion, kills the "immaterial" thing because the pictures require an embodied agent in order to make the claim ("this IS ..." or "THIS is ... " or "there >>> it is!..."). The claim comes from the agent, before it (can) comes from the picture.
     
  146. Julie, Julie, Julie how can I do anything than to agree with you. There is a long way before anything tangible, like the dog comes to the fore in such photos. Until then, I can only try to "indicate" or "alert" or "point" at this something that I feel, in lack of seeing it.
    But if the "thing" has to come from the agent it does not mean that its is only the "agent" that is the message in such photos. Hopefully it is something else and more. The agent is not interesting per se unless he is called Proust or the like.
    Surely "Anders's Paris" would be different from "Julie's Paris" but both would find the materiel in what is real in Paris here and now. If, as I believe, the city like some other cities (I have mentioned Rome, Tokyo or Hong Kong) have something special that I dare call "essence" or "soul", and that this something inspires for shooting photos, like for painting or writing, there will however be a shared vision between the photos of Julie and Anders. This is where it becomes interesting.
     
  147. jtk

    jtk

    "Assessment of meaning is not a process we "begin" when we pick up a photograph (or upload it) then "cease" when we put it down (or click away from it)." - Eric B

    "Assessment of meaning" is a distinctly secondary process. It is done in the skull, not by the peripheral nervous system, which professional athletes often rely upon for faster response, without thought (without brain, without "meaning").
    We DO turn assessment on and off. Much of the time we're passive: many photographers aspire to that meditative, non-analytic, non-assessing (alpha-wave) state when they're contemplating a potential image. Buddhists, photographer or not, train themselves to turn assessment OFF when sitting za zen.
    Accomplished tennis players don't "assess meaning" before responding to every ball's velocity, spin, angle etc. They often (or mostly) respond via peripheral nervous systems, not cerebrations. Their thoughts (about meaning) are useful for analyzing the opponent's overall play, but not for every stroke.
    The delays between perception and cerebration, establishment of "meaning," formulation of proposed response, then response are circumvented much of the time by trained response at the peripheral nervous system's level. And not just by Federer. SOMETIMES meaning is figured out, and sometimes that isn't even a possibility.
    I mentioned the athiest/Jewish/Christian religions because they are typically behind some people's desire for/anxiety about "meaning." I think that's what's behind Eric B's ideas on the topic.
    IMO most of humanity is uninterested in the sort of "meaning" Ernest B thinks universal. If I'm right, anxiety about meaning (urge to find meaning), typically accompanied by "analysis" of the image, might distract from other kinds of response, as I think it has on this thread.
     
  148. anxiety about meaning (urge to find meaning), typically accompanied by "analysis" of the image, might distract from other kinds of response, as I think it has on this thread.​
    I don't think that the discussion we have had - a great thanks to Arthur for starting it all , which I think has been extraordinary interesting, distract for anything at all. Other kinds of responses are being discussed continuously in this forum by a number of very active contributors who surely will find occasions to express themselves freely even in this thread. There is room for us all, I would think.
     
  149. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, you would prefer that I didn't mention distractions or that I didn't explore the question of "meaning." Should I apologize for addressing something you don't like?
     
  150. jtk

    jtk

    "Meaning", as emphasized first by Ernest B, does have substantial implications (I mentioned its Abrahamic nature).
    "Essence" does not seem to me to have been addressed usefully here...it's just been tossed around. It's an atmospheric, not an idea. IMO.
    I find it amazing that few here seem aware of Stieglitz re: Equivalent. Equivalent refers directly to implied or inferred links between image and, perhaps, "reality." Meaning has related implications. Essence is nearly useless as a concept, as I think this thread has demonstrated. Note that the OT wasn't "essence," it involved "material and immaterial" which is an odd dichotomy nobody has bothered to explore.
     
  151. John
    Anders, you would prefer that I didn't mention distractions or that I didn't explore the question of "meaning." Should I apologize for addressing something you don't like?​
    I think John that if you just quietly, for once, read what I wrote, you will find answer to your questions.
     
  152. This, in my opinion, kills the "immaterial" thing because the pictures require an embodied agent in order to make the claim ("this IS ..." or "THIS is ... " or "there >>> it is!..."). The claim comes from the agent, before it (can) comes from the picture. (Julie)
    Not sure I follow you. All the « agents », if any, are in the elements of the picture, as well as in the mind of the viewer (some picture elements providing a stimulus for the viewer’s immaterial thoughts). How can they « kill » the immaterial ideas that the image has stimulate in the mind of a (but not all) viewer.
    Note that the OT wasn't "essence," it involved "material and immaterial" which is an odd dichotomy nobody has bothered to explore. (John, with my bold characters)
    Good Aunt Lucy, John, that’s what the OP is all about, except it doesn’t address a dichotomy but rather a linkage, namely, how the material, like the subject of a photograph, can represent or stimulate the immaterial (= ideas).
    Apparently the « life cycle » example of the OP image doesn’t do that for some, so here are a few other examples :
    No. 1 : Untitled, but ostensibly a woman and dog on a lane in a seaside village.
    1 st level of appreciation (Material). A high key image, punctuated by two high contrast points of interest (see also OP on points, line and form) of the old lady and her dog. « Typical » village scene.
    2nd and further levels of appreciation (Immaterial).
    * Despite life’s hardships, it goes on, and the strong manage to cope.
    * However alone we may be, perhaps ignored by others, there is always a domestic pet to support his or her master, as the curb of the dog’s body communicates and his regard of the lady.
    * Is what we are seeing a sick or tired lady (seemingly propping herself up by the side of her house), or simply an illusion of that? Is what we see that what is there?
    * Although the black and whiteness of the image seems to announce distress, perhaps this lady is simply changing a screen on her little window and is experiencing a lovely afternoon in the sun of southern Europe. The dog (her dog, another’s?) seems to enjoy her company.
    * Where does the lane go, it seems to lead nowhere? The lady is dressed in black, typical of widows from the day her husband dies, with no more clear conjugal path to follow.
    00XFiS-278709584.jpg
     
  153. I'm over the top of happiness to see that John believes there is a "useful" way of discussing "essence". It seems though to be obvious to John that it is not the way we have discussed it up till now.
    He suggest instead to discuss Stieglitz's
    Equivalent. which "refers directly to implied or inferred links between image and, perhaps," reality"​
    Does it ? And how is it relevant for what we have tried to discuss. So let's discuss the concept "equivalent".
    As we all of course would know "Equivalent" is the title for Stieglitz cloud photos which he started shooting at the end of his life after having thought about doing it throughout his life ever since a trip in the Swiss mountains in the town of Mürren.
    In a small article "How I came to photograph clouds" Stieglitz writes that at lake Georges in the summer of 1924 he had opportunities of going "more and more deeply into life - into photography" 35 years after his visit in Mürren. He describes in some details how:
    "My mother was dying. Our estate was going into pieces. The old horse of 37 was being kept alive by the 70-year-old coachman. I, full of the feeling of today: all about my disintegration- slow but sure: dying chestnut trees - all the chestnut trees in the country had been dying for years: the pines doomed too - deceased. I, poor, but at work: the world in a great mess: the human being a queer animal - not as dignified as our dying chestnut tree on the hill."
    It was in this situation of despair that Stieglitz
    "told Miss O'Keeffe of my ideas . I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in 40 years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life. To show that my photography was not due to subject matter - not to special trees, or faces or interiors, to special privileges, clouds were there for everyone - no tax as yet on them, free.
    Stieglits continous:
    "I had told Miss O'Keeffe that I wanted a series of photographs which when seen by Ernest Bloch (the great composer) he would exclaim : Music, music. Man, why that is music ! How did you ever do that? And he would point to violins, and flutes, and oboes, and brass, full of enthusiasm and he would say he'd have to write a symphony called "clouds" . Not like Debussy's but much, much more"
    Stieglitz ends this text on how he came to photograph clouds, by writing:
    My aim is increasingly to make my photographs look so much like photographs that unless one has eyes and sees, they wont be seen - and still everyone will never forget them having once looked at them.​
    His very last sentence is wonderful: "I wonder if this is clear"
    I find these writings if not beautiful, then touching. I have looked at the equivalent photos of Stieglitz - I would say "studied", but it might provoke yet another unwanted reaction - and also I "see" music. BUT I don't see "reality" as suggested by John, so where does this lead us. Can one use these unique experiences in our work with photography. Does it say anything about "essence". John offer another term for discussing essence. Equivalent is not the one - as far as I can see - unless all essence is a question of "essence of life".
    The quotations are from "Stieglitz on photography - His selected essays and notes", Compiled by Richard Wylan (Aperture, n.a.)
     
  154. Anders, a very interesting (and well presented) post.
     
  155. Arthur, terms that are being used dichotomously are often linked. Many philosophers linked mind and body, but it was still a dichotomy. Material/immaterial linkage still assumes that there are two meaningful terms being linked. I suggest there aren't . . . two meaningful terms, that is.
    An idea is an idea. There is nothing immaterial about it.
     
  156. Fred,
    The material is both the subject matter amd the subject (the photograph). The immaterial (idea,sense, feeling) is what the viewer perceives from the subject (photograph), stimulated by the subject but concreticized in his brain.
    A few more examples that John has asked for (prior to photo 1):
    No. 2 : Untitled (stairway to ?)

    1st level of appreciation (Material). Cement staircase, black sky, tropical trees or plants in less than well-groomed condition.
    2nd and further levels of appreciation (Immaterial)
    * Is what we are being shown a post tropical storm image of something else?
    * What are the stairs doing there? Do they lead to a once present dwelling, or to the top of some dune? The writing on the stairs is indistinct, is it to warn others to keep out or does it have a different function?
    * Where do the stairs lead? Are they suggesting that tropical beauty is not to be found here? (As perhaps inferred by the state of the plants) Do they say that to climb stairs in one’s life does not guarantee happiness and the probable result is seen in the mangled plants? (Perhaps like the famous painting of David and Goliath, where Goliath’s head is already on the ground, yet David is still holding the stone that killed him).
    * Does the image engender a feeling of stress, uncertainty, or is it simply curious and unusual?
    * Does it hint at a more that we cannot decipher (the uncertainty aspect)?
    00XFj6-278719584.jpg
     
  157. "To show that my photography was not due to subject matter " --Stieglitz
    Admittedly, I haven't read much Stieglitz, but what little I've read has had an impact. Take my impressions of the quotes Anders supplied with that qualification in mind.
    His photographs of clouds weren't about the essence of clouds. It seems to me these quotes almost laugh in the face of the claim that photographs capture the essence of their subjects.
    He uses music in these quotes for a reason. Because music doesn't refer to something, like an essence. He uses metaphor when referring to the musical instruments, not representation and not meaning.
     
  158. And photo No. 3
    No. 3 : Untitled (knife handles)
    1st level of appreciation (Material). Composition of handles in a mirror image type placement, asymmetrically framed. At the same time a sharp and diffuse texture of the metal.
    2nd and further levels of appreciation (Immaterial)
    * Comfort, equilibrium, or peace.
    * « I once had a friend who understood me perfectly. »
    * Sensual communication, reminiscent of a night of satisfying conjugal life or that stranger who knew how to love.
    * « East meets West on a common plane » (or a similar sentiment or idea of understanding)
    * other....
    00XFjE-278723584.jpg
     
  159. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, thanks for the extended Stieglitz quotations. I'm glad somebody stepped up to that plate.
    You've misread me on "essence." I didn't say there is a "useful way" to discuss "essence," I observed that nobody here did it usefully, as they could not have: "essence" refers to a non-phenomenon, non-experience, non-concept ...unless we're talking about scent...Paris does have many perfume shops :)
    Essence and Equivalent are not similar terms, don't exist on similar planes. Equivalent refers to something perhaps parallel, but not the same (cloud and photo of cloud, for example). Essence is a dream at best, referring to nothing.
    The fact that "essence" was used immediately in the context of touristic/Disneyland/architectural-photo Paris, with no mention of RER, Africans, Central European beggars, suburbanites, automobile congestion, armies of cops and thugs illustrates my point. What stands out about Paris for me, and sticks most in my mind, are its diversity of people (less than New York's) and its stony unlivability (the suburbs for me!). I loved Disneyland as a kid. For similar illusory reasons I'd move to Paris in an instant, if I could afford it... but not for its "essence," as it has none...there is no such thing. I'd move there for the City's complexity and the distance its illusions (another word) would temporarily provide from the illusions in which I've lived my life. The coffee in Paris is consistently worse than the coffee in Albuquerque. Coffee has "essence."
     
  160. Fred
    His photographs of clouds weren't about the essence of clouds. It seems to me these quotes almost laugh in the face of the claim that photographs capture the essence of their subjects.​
    I totally agree Fred. These photos have nothing to do with the "essence of clouds" what that might mean, but, if we take Stieglitz on his word, about the "essence of life". However, there is no basis for drawing a generalized conclusion which you seem to make that photographs cannot capture "the essence of their subjects". It was surely not the "project" of Stieglitz to capture essences of clouds.
     
  161. Essence is avoidance. Capture the grit of the gutters of Paris if you like. Capture the postcard-like charm of tourist attractions. Capture the warmth in a Parisian child's smile. Capture the steel graphics of the structure of the Eiffel Tower. Capture the soft hardness of the central staircase of the old Opera House. But tell me you're capturing the essence and it just sounds like you're chasing windmills. A word like "essence" is utterly non-descriptive, empty . . . unlike photographs.
    IMO, Arthur's accompanying words detract enormously from his photos.
     
  162. Thank you, Fred, for this: "I've rarely heard such material and literal "interpretations" of photos as I have from Arthur above. IMO, his words detract enormously from the photos themselves."
    It's almost exactly what I was thinking, but after my last brush with Arthur's pictures, I was not about to say a thing.
     
  163. This is (most likely) a minor point, but I noticed it while reading, and it may be worth inserting into the flow.
    Fred wrote,
    "An idea is an idea. There is nothing immaterial about it."
    Fred, I agree with you (I think). But there's nothing "material" about it either (at least, not in the sense in which you used the word...I think).
    How about:
    "An idea is simply an idea. It would be a false dichotomy to label some ideas as 'material', and others as 'immaterial'." (?)
    The possible difficulty is this: if one of us is, or were to be, using these words (material/immaterial) in a different intended sense (definition 2 or 3, below), the dichotomy would indeed make sense.

    ------------------------------
    (from Merriam-Webster online; take your pick of intended meanings, relative to this discussion:)
    Definition of MATERIAL
    1 a (1) : relating to, derived from, or consisting of matter, especially : physical [material world] : (2) bodily [material needs] b (1) : of or relating matter rather than form [material cause] (2) : of or relating to the subject matter of reasoning, especially : empirical [material knowledge]
    2 : having real importance or great consequences [material to the investigation]
    3 a : being of a physical or worldly nature b : relating to or concerned with physical rather than spiritual or intellectual things [material progress]
    -------------------------
    And John, yes, I'm aware.....this is so "amusingly Abrahamic", to bother about clarity in a discussion on Photo.net.
     
  164. John, I have tried to prevent going by philosophy to outline what the "essence of Paris" is. The reason is that I don't believe a philosophical discussion will lead us nearer to understand and share what photographing essence means and how it looks like in photos. I have also explained that I believe that what has been called "the social construction of reality" is where the "essence" of a social set up such as a city can be identified not like Julie's cadaver dog but as hints, symbols and indices that makes the place specific.

    Yes I know this has been written before in this thread and yet you conclude that all this is b...-s... and that anyway "essence" is a dream at best, referring to nothing".

    I know that probably it is too late in the day to convince you of anything you are not easily ready to accept, but I will try anyway just for the kicks of the exercise, if for nothing else.

    I am among those that have been very inspired by existentialism, the breed of Kirkegaard and not least Sartre if you wish, which led to studies in especially phenomenology and the Californian school of ethnomethodology. I have lost you for my case already John, I know, I'm provoking, but serious!

    Let me, just before you leave John, quote one small programatic sentence of Sartre. I will do it in the original French (because its is beautiful) and add a homemade translation into English:
    L'homme existe mais se donne une essence que par ses actes
    (Man exists but makes only his essence by his acts)​
    What I do, when I dare talking about the essence of cities is to use this Sartre approach to essence in the context of social structures such as cities:
    Cities exist but get only an essence by the acts of its inhabitants​
     
  165. "to convince you of anything you are not easily ready to accept"
    Anders, you're mixing up John and me into a stew, addressing him and quoting me, but that's fine, all part of the essence I suppose. If you're still relying on Sartre regarding this stuff, it may be you who hasn't accepted some other ways of looking at things that have been suggested since Sartre . . . and before him.
    That there are Gods and Essences has been around a long, long, long, long time. One can barely help BUT to accept them. How ready are you to accept an alternative to these mythologies?
     
  166. Ernest, yes, I think material idea / non-material idea is a false dichotomy, even when one claims they are linked.
     
  167. Idea: Notion conceived by the mind
    Essence: An existence or entity (spiritual or immaterial)
    How anyone can suggest that an idea is not immaterial or that essence does not exist is for me completely over the top and counter-indicative in terms of these definitions. This forum has seen lots of lines dedicated to showing that both these qualities are non-existant or suspect at best, orthat there is no linkage between the material of a photograph and the immaterial it may communicate. If ideas and essence are not immaterial, then they necessarily must be material. I prefer instead the above two definitions and they are precisely what I had in mind when this OP was conceived.
    That a photograph cannot (is not able by its nature to) evoke the immaterial is a more reasonable postulate, if that is what you believe. However, we are witnessing instead lots of smoke and obfuscation of the premise of the OP, yet relatively little in support (and photographic examples) of the OP.
    Perhaps potential posters of images are worried about negative comments? I would encourage others not to worry a bit about that. This is a site of virtually anonymous contributors and while I, like many others, occasionally learn some things from it, and enjoy the occasional flashes of clarity that appear from some members, it has little to do with the photographer's work or his on-going evolution. I will post this same OP statement to a future meeting of our local photographic association and sit down face to face with them in discussion, a process that is often quite fruitful. It may not require 160 plus responses to understand and barely attack the subject.
    Anyway, thanks to those who are able to embrace a material - immaterial linkage in art, and to Anders, who enjoys the very essence of Paris, as I do, even though it is difficult to qualify. Keep trying, it's there, and makes that great city enjoyably different from many!
     
  168. "Essence: An existence or entity (spiritual or immaterial)"
    Arthur, some people don't believe in fairies . . . and I ought to know ;)))
     
  169. Fred,
    Fairies exist for children, but dreams, ideas, essence and philosophy exist for some adults. It is hardly a capital offence to believe and practice those. And I agree with your right to think they are inexistent.
     
  170. "I prefer instead the above two definitions [which I never, however, explicitly stated] and they are precisely what I had in mind when this OP was conceived."
    Arthur, you've confirmed the question that I tried to raise at several junctures in this thread. (I.e., "What the heck are we talking about?")
     
  171. Ernest, bravo for your ability to see through the fog of responses.
    Here is just part of the OP:
    "Ideas of the spiritual or immaterial that are contained in poetry, fiction, philosophy or other nonfiction are readily communicated by the physical instruments of communication that are books, internet, word processors, pencil, pen and paper. Ideas or statements of the immaterial have more difficulty being communicated by the physical devices of photography, painting and sculpture, although no doubt they can be, with some difficulty."
    "How can you represent the immaterial by the material constraints of photography, or for that matter, painted or sculpted art?"
    If anyone needs more clarity than that, than I think a re-reading of the full OP statement, or its re-formulations made by me and a few others during the last week, will further clarify what is anything but a difficult concept to think about. For some of us, at least.
     
  172. jtk

    jtk

    Ernest, My impression is that you believe all humans are constantly, continuously, always searching for meaning. I also have the impression that you have been referring to conceptual meaning, ie thought...something done in the skull. And I have the impression that you think humans just naturally seek meaning in the course of appreciating (key word) photographs.
    You seem not to agree that athletes can respond without brainwork, eg Federer can't hit without identifying meaning.
    Do I "understand" your views on those points?
    When you use "meaning," are you referring to a conscious identification or construct?
    Do you think we can identify or convey "unconscious" meanings?
    Some words and formulations are mere place-holders or aids to fluency. Others have "meaning" only if one ascribes to certain beliefs. Some are just filler, bulk, fluff: I think "essence" is such a word. What is your understanding of "essence?"
     
  173. Arthur, here's one of your examples of "immaterial" relative to your photo of what are two handles, perhaps handles of spoons or some other kind of silverware, perhaps some other articles:
    "reminiscent of a night of satisfying conjugal life"
    You're making a material simile, using a very material analogy. The two handles are like two naked bodies after lovemaking. What's immaterial about that? It's utterly literal.
    By the way, this may be a difference in language usage, but I laugh every time I read "immaterial" and just took the time to look it up at Dictionary.com. Here's the first definition:
    of no essential consequence; unimportant.
    I think you probably mean "non-material," but the irony of your using "immaterial" is much more effective. ;))) And, yes, I see that the 3rd definition listed is your intended usage. Just thought it was worth a giggle.
     
  174. Arthur, I just re-read it twice.
    Now I feel like a midget walking in the footsteps of giants: the landscape you see so clearly, and the sparkling air all around us, still seem obscure to me.
    I'll just continue to trudge along, learning as I go.
     
  175. Fred,
    "of no essential consequence; unimportant."
    is simply the legal use of the term. I am quite surprised that you have been taken in so readily by that.
    Ernest,
    No problem. You understand the OP, or you don't. Like a lot of discussion that doesn't hold too well together, it is not something to lose any sleep about, or in fact even bother arguing about or exhibiting truly facile sarcasm about, unless that is one's main purpose, of course. One gets it, or one doesn't. There is no panacea that pleases everyone.
    Fred, Ernest,
    ....however it seems telling that a lot of the comments on anybody's contribution in the PoP seems to raise 10% agreement and 90% disaccord, and the only way it seems to avoid those poor statistics is to involve oneself in self-laudatory navel gazing about one's work (looking for no comment, of course), rather than to put up one's work for comment in this forum (funny how comments seem to be more respectful of the photographer in the photo critique forum).
    I think the future of this forum is looking less and less bright, at least for those who still wish to think of it as a good place for sincere ideas exchange, devoid of sarcasm and ego trips.
     
  176. Ernest, I am trudging along with you.
    Anders, Sartre posed a difference between the essence of man and things (cities are things). The essence of man is a nothingness. (I meant it when I said essence is nothing.) Man, in fact, is condemned to create his own essence. It is not given him by a maker. Things, on the other hand, get their essences from utility. Sartre was practical. The essence of a thing comes into play through the purpose for which that thing is made and/or used.
    Sartre was not advancing a distinction of material and immaterial. (I don't say this because I think you may have thought he was. I say it just to make sure it's said.)
    Sartre was concerned with freedom and responsibility. Through our actions we have an ever-changing essence (therefore, a nothingness -- not pinned down or defined). For Sartre, things like religion (relying on the ten commandments) were ways for us to avoid taking responsibility (for creating our own moral codes). This he called Bad Faith. The ways "immaterial" and "essence" have been used in this thread are examples of Bad Faith.
    Here's why: Freedom, for Sartre, is dependent on Action and an Agent, as is determining the essence of a thing . . . a thing's essence is dependent on usage by an Agent, the actions an agent takes with or toward the thing. Yet, when Julie talks about the importance of an Agent in her post of Sept. 9 at 5:15 am, Anders' response seems to put the city's essence, at least in part, beyond the touch of the Agent:
    "Surely 'Anders's Paris' would be different from 'Julie's Paris' but both would find the material in what is real in Paris here and now."
    Sartre would find Bad Faith in the notion of "real in Paris here and now." Because you have separated what's real in Paris from Anders and Julie.
     
  177. Arthur, lighten up a little. I said it was a joke. I refuse to talk in here as if I were a schoolbook. If occasional jokes, sarcasm, and "creative" tones of voice by me and others is taken as insincere, that's your bad, as the young 'uns say.
     
  178. Addition: I've put up plenty of examples to illustrate lots of my points. I didn't add one to this thread because I can't put up an example of something I think is ill-formulated and doesn't apply to photographs or anything else. It's certainly been a worthwhile discussion. Sometimes, there is strong disagreement about some very foundational things. But if I don't find that your foundation applies to the world I know and live in, and can't even really make much sense of your foundation, I can't exactly choose examples to post.
     
  179. Additional addition: I did, however, address one of your photos as far as saying that (and describing why) it didn't well illustrate what you seemed to be talking about. But you didn't respond much about that photo. So, on either side, it didn't seem to function well in this thread, since you ignored it beyond making an initial statement about it and didn't seem to find useful examining it or what you thought it exemplified any further.
     
  180. John, I was going to leave your latest gauntlet lying in the grass. I'm departing on a trip in a few hours and must prepare.
    But before signing off I'll touch briefly on two points:
    (1) I don't think I could express more fully than I already have, my understanding of "essence": kindly read, or re-read, my previous posts, especially those at Sep 5, 7:02 pm; and Sep 8, 01:56 pm.
    (2) I've already described at length--to excess, perhaps--my views of how we "conceive" or "perceive" or "see" or "notice" or "react visually to" the things before our eyes. Since it's always possible that further clarification on my part might make a difference, allow me to retrieve a particular quote from the "motorcyclists" analogy that you liked so much; and within it, to make a simple word substitution. I've substituted, below, "implications" for the original word, "meaning":
    "The [motorcyclist] who survives is the one who continually monitors the implications of hundreds of constantly-changing visual elements. Our brains are designed (or "created", or "evolved", or "programmed", whatever) for this kind of thing. (In my opinion.)"
    And, with corresponding word substitutions in two paragraphs from a subsequent post (here substituting the words "implications" and "assessment" for the original word, "meaning"), we have:
    "My...motorcyclist analogy was only meant to underline, in a commonsense way, two points: that (1) religion has no bearing on the visual/brain functions I was referring to; and (2) we humans are constantly exercising the visual "sense-making" functions--i.e., we continually, in all our waking hours, are assessing and determining the implications of the visual elements before us. Assessment of the implications of visual cues is not a process we "begin" when we pick up a photograph (or upload it) then "cease" when we put it down (or click away from it).
    "Of course there are various levels of "assessment of visual cues". They correspond to various levels of mental functioning. But our eyes and brains respond to visual cues at all levels--from the (almost) entirely instinctive (e.g., professional tennis), to the (almost) entirely conscious (e.g., published analyses of paintings or photographs by professional art critics). Created images can engage us instinctively, or subconsciously, or consciously--or at all levels simultaneously. (Or at no level, if we find them boring at a glance, and simply turn away)."
    The word "meaning", as originally used, was not intended to convey any doctrinaire dictum about which "levels of meaning" the word "meaning" is allowed to connote. I was using it in its normal, everyday sense:
    ---------------
    Motorcycle instructor: "Okay, kid, say you're approaching a four-way intersection at speed, five or six car lengths behind a pickup truck. You have the green light, so you and the pickup truck don't have to slow down. Behind you, much further back, a few cars are following at the same speed. To your front, facing you on the opposite side of this intersection, there's a line of stopped vehicles in the oncoming turn lane, waiting to make a left turn. Just as the pickup truck clears the far side of the intersection, and you're about to enter the intersection, you notice a big SUV--the lead car in the turn lane--suddenly lurches, moving forward and beginning to turn into the intersection. You see this--what does this mean?"
    Motorcycle student: "I don't know. What?"
    Motorcycle instructor: "It means you're dead, if you don't take evasive action immediately.
    "
    ---------------
    John, I hope that helps. I'm outta here.
     
  181. After all this, allow me to make a boring, old-school proposal: What has been called "essence" seems identical to what was once referred to back in the 60's as "a sense of place". Yes, a very plebeian way of putting it, but everyone seemed to understand or accepted what was meant by that, and it is in close agreement (I think, I'm sure I'll be corrected if not) with Julie, Fred, Arthur and Ernest.
    [Speaking of o-l-d...in the early 80's, Time-Life put out a series of books titled "Cities of the World". Some of were extraordinary at the time. Venice by Ernst Haas, Vienna, by Thomas Hoepker, and San Francisco, by Jay Maisel. I now forget who did Paris.]
     
  182. jtk

    jtk

    fwiw I've found this discussion, although "ill-formulated," enlightening. It's important to me to experience how others think and communicate, which is of course a lost cause when everybody salutes the same "givens" in the same way (eg about "art," "essence," "creativity" and the like).
    I do recognize Arthur's personal frustration. But his complaints and resignation clearly don't reflect the experiences of many others, as there would not be so much effort to share individuaistic spins on probably -shared photographic experiences if they did. Why pretend we're posting questions if we're after agreement?
    I'm especially appreciative of the skill (skill) with which Ernest and Anders and Julie and Fred have written. Clean, concise writing accurately measures respect for readers as well as perceptivity. I especially enjoy Fred's exposition on Sartre, so will have to get back to him (I skated too quickly past him, twenty years ago) after I finish Moby Dick :)
    As well, there were Anders' selections from Stieglitz (who, remarkably, was otherwise given short shrift here). And Julie raised something centrally important to human awareness in discussing Proust. Whose writing could be more relevant to photography than his? Wish I was literate in French.
     
  183. Fred, sorry, I was in fact addressing John (02.43p.m.) and not yours which came while I was writing my last contribution which you can appreciate or not with or without Sartre and his "mythologies" (the mythologies of Barthes seems more salonfähig here around). No stew around. As you can see from my last mail "essence" is very photogenic indeed. Almost like "characters" in portraits. As I believe in "essence" as a subject that can be photographed I can appreciate characters in portraits.
     
  184. Anders, I don't think Sartre's use of "essence" is mythological at all. I think many adapted uses of the term, however, employ mythology. I do think there are better ways of explaining matters of "being" than Sartre's.
    You mention character, presumably for a reason. At the beginning of the character thread, I posed several different possibilities for it and throughout the thread expressed skepticism about the whole idea and many people brought up and were left with questions.
    And you?
    Here was something I said in that thread:
    "Deep as I may want to be and am able to get, photographs are visual works. . . . Indeed, the surface has become very important to me."
    Generally, I'd say the character discussion was a pretty material one.
     
  185. Luis, you are right making reference to a "a sense of place" and the books on cities of the world. That series is being continued and some very fine books have come out lately also on the French marked.
    Sometimes when reading and looking at such books they however too often, I find, stand out as sofa-table volumes that are agreeable and glossy, but not very profound. I wonder sometimes whether the photographers have felt the "sense of places" or just shot nice photos of nice views and nice colors. Fred, I'm sure can continue the last sentence, if he finds the inspiration.
     
  186. Generally, I'd say the character discussion was a pretty material one.​
    Fred, generally, I would say that about this "essence" discussion here also.
    I did not participate in the character discussion because I feel badly at ease when discussion start on a somewhat philosophical level and turns into some kind of egocentric ping pong. No critic of others needs here on PN, but I choose not to participate.
     
  187. Anders, actually, as I said much earlier in this thread, I think you're bringing up "oh so nice colors" was one of the most significant things you said about your own photo of the cat and the cemetery. I've been aching to discuss it and have mentioned it a couple of times. You brought it up and then dropped it. I don't know why you dropped it.
    It was the only non-obvious and non-symbolic thing you brought up about that photo and your mentioning it truly did make me see the potential for that photo to capture what you were after. I wasn't sure if you were being a little ironic in saying "oh so nice colors" as if you saw them as somehow exaggeratedly pretty so they would belie the seriousness and grievousness of death or if you simply meant nice colors in a straightforward way that would still add a visual/photographic layer to the symbolism you employed. Either way, or any way you might have meant it, could work to capture something significant about death.
     
  188. "egocentric ping pong"
    No critic taken!
     
  189. Anders, Sartre posed a difference between the essence of man and things (cities are things). The essence of man is a nothingness. (I meant it when I said essence is nothing.) Man, in fact, is condemned to create his own essence. It is not given him by a maker. Things, on the other hand, get their essences from utility. Sartre was practical. The essence of a thing comes into play through the purpose for which that thing is made and/or used.​
    Fred, yes I know and you might have noticed that when I wrote about cities and acts of men I did not refer to him and was/is much more inspired by phenomenologist (Alfred Schütz et als) and "social construction of reality" social scientists (Berger and Luckman, Aaron Cicourel et als). This is the social constructivism school of thoughts, if you wish, which is sufficiently and uncomfortably so far away from philosophy that it becomes immediately relevant for observation and , yes, photography. You might notice that I'm quit critical of philosophical discussion about photography if one wish to learn about photography.
    I don't believe in the "purpose" logic of places you refer to. Makes no sense to me, if you wish. Only actions and inter actions and their materiel manifestations matter when "essences" of places are being made.
     
  190. Fred the "oh so nice colors" work on two levels and that was what I shortly referred to. It works of the level you mention in relation to the subject matter of the scene, the question of death, but it also works on the level of an immediate opener for the viewer, making his eye catch the scene. If I had put it all in B/W I would have very fewer, even fewer, people looking at it.
    Actually I don't like the photo and don't find it very profound or agreeable to look at. I used as part of the discussion only.
     
  191. I don't see "oh so nice colors". I see potential for such an approach to color.
    I'm sure in some worlds phenomenology and social construction of reality are not philosophical.
     
  192. I did not anywhere say the that colors were "oh so nice" I talked about the approach. I me phenomenology is mainly a methodology of seeing and analyzing the world not a roadmap for philosophical discourse.
     
  193. Anders, you parse words.
     
  194. I thought that was your speciality Fred, but I might have picked it up over time.
    You never sleep over there ?
     
  195. Anders - "I wonder sometimes whether the photographers have felt the "sense of places" or just shot nice photos of nice views and nice colors. Fred, I'm sure can continue the last sentence, if he finds the inspiration."
    Fred's inspiration to write seems to know no bounds, Anders. :)
    In my estimation, the specific photographers I mentioned went well beyond niceties, though it is true that the great majority of books of that type are about niceties. A sense of place to me implies what Julie said about the primacy of perception. It comes from the photographer. What his or her senses make of a place (and it is really always about space & time). Very different from the idea of essence, which seems intrinsic.
    One of the best examples of this is George Tice's "Patterson" I & II.
    http://www.candacedwan.com/#Katonah/Exhibitions/George_Tice_Patterson_II
    More of Tice's work:
    http://www.gallery270.com/galleries/2-george-tice-at-seventy?gclid=CNPb94H3_KMCFUNe7AodJlavIQ
     
  196. Thanks for the links Luis. Looks interesting.
     
  197. Anders (or anyone), you said black and white might even have attracted less viewers. I would have thought that black and white might have attracted more people. People on PN seem to think black and white heralds "a work of art." I hear "works really well in black and white" or "black and white is perfect for this" much more than I hear "color is perfect here." Why, in this case, do you think color attracted more attention? And . . . did you say "oh so nice" with irony, as if you were thinking about exaggeratedly pretty colors (perhaps over-the-top pretty) or did you say it just to mean "nice colors" with no sarcasm or irony? What does "nice colors" or "oh so nice colors" mean to you? Since you weren't referring to the colors in the photo, but rather to an approach, can you point to an example in your work or someone else's of "oh so nice colors"? Or can you describe it? How would your suggested approach vary from what we see in your photograph at this point?
    It seems to me this could head in a particularly photographic direction and might get us to what you're calling essence or what Luis is calling a sense of place. Could essence or place-ness be imbued by color somehow working in tandem with the symbols you chose? Talking more about color, in this case a photographic quality, might also be how photographs access what Arthur is calling the immaterial. Of course, there's a lot more that's visual than color involved, and there's a lot more than symbol and interpretation.
     
  198. It is amazing how an OP and a postulate about photography going beyond the material, a thesis claiming that photography might allow something more profound than simple compositional or chromatic attributes, or a simple "f8 and be there", and beyond the purely visual, has run into such an opaque wall of doubt and lack of consciousness of the very photographers who seem to profess that photography can be an art, or if not an art, at least a vehicle of more profound communication. The immaterial of ideas or feelings often transcends the obvious material of a painting or a sculpture. Like certain photographs, it can suggest what is not aparent (whether literally, subonsciously, rhetorically, symbolically or whatever) and suggest something beyond its mere physical presence.
    My own photographic examples may not be convincing (I am glad that at least one observation was one of amusement, albeit a viewer's response conditioned by my own reactions to my image and probably not his own) but that is neither here nor there. If yoiu believe that good writing, better poetry and theatre or some cinema have the power to induce the consideration of ideas and feelings in your thoughts, it is not a huge leap to consider that photography might do the same.
    Brief resumé of positions (non-statistically produced): 90 to 95% consider that the material (the photograph, the subject) cannot invoke immaterial reactions such as ideas, feelings, essence, or spiritual notions. 5 to 10% consider it to be possible, wothwhile challenge and a component of great photography.
    Was the OP worth it? I hope so. Thanks to all who participated.
    I enjoyed it, even if I was left with a remaining appetite for more relevant philosophical and photographic enlightenments on the subject (Sorry, Luis, thanks for the links, but those photographs of Mr. Tice don't go far enough for me, and New Jersey is not an unknown entity for me). Next time around?
     
  199. Fred - "It seems to me this could head in a particularly photographic direction and might get us to what you're calling essence or what Luis is calling a sense of place."
    Which are not the same thing. To attempt to clarify, essence is a quality of the place. Sense of place is a cognate in the photographer's mind, not a quality of the place, which might explain why there are so many Parises in different photographers' portfolios.
    Without a doubt, color enters into the equation in a color photograph, even when it's gratuitous. It's a rare thing that any element in a photograph adds up to a sum zero, so the question is does it add or subtract from the image, and more to Fred's point, how does it affect the outcome?
     
  200. "what you're calling essence or what Luis is calling a sense of place"
    The tribulations of writing and understanding. Yes. The "or" is one of disjunction, not of conjunction.
    Right, Luis, the image and the outcome. Thanks for getting it!
     
  201. Arthur - What happened in this thread is not amazing to me. It's the rule, not the exception. Having John Kelly swoop in at the end to tell us all how off the mark we were was a classic finale.
    I think we would all agree that the medium has the capacity to transcend the literal. Remember the 'transcendence' post?
    The opaque wall you cite has little to do with doubt. Part of the problem is that all of this was tied to the relatively minor (and deserving a thread of its own) of essence. That gummed up the works.
    You have to know that I think photography is an art. In fact, the dominant or most influential art form of the last 2+ decades.
    "My own photographic examples may not be convincing"
    Which is why I think it better to use extraneous examples, as it enables viewers to comment freely without anyone getting bruised, or worse, puffed up. BTW, that's an admirable statement, one not many would make anywhere.
    I consider it a certainty that this medium can transcend literal depiction.
    "Was the OP worth it? I hope so." Thanks to all who participated.
    Yes. Is the thread over when the OP says it is? Or when people stop posting to it? Methinks the latter, though we'll probably see the "Fleas jumping off a dead dog" effect because of your declaration.
    As far as Tice goes, no reason to be sorry. I neither champion Tice nor expect everyone to like, understand or appreciate his work. His is a purposely non-spectacular (pre-banal) aesthetic. I used his work to put forth the idea of a sense of place as opposed to essence. At least you looked, and for that I am grateful.
    One last thing. Suppose I was to ask you on a forum like this one how to do your day job, which is technical and intricate. What would your response be? Something along the lines of "You need at least a Master's in Whatever-Arthur-does". That's the real answer to your own question. I wasn't kidding when I said that in order to use symbols one has to learn their language, and become fluent in it, and change because of it... and that's about as difficult as what you had to learn for your day job.
    Nothing wrong with the thread, I've enjoyed most of it and in spite of the noise, there's enough signal to make it worthwhile.
     
  202. Luis, welcome comments. As "immaterial" (ideas, and communications of a philosophical or psychological kind), and its subset "essence" (An existence or entity -spiritual or immaterial), are connected to "transcendence" in a work of art, it might be useful for us to review some of those latter posts via the PNet asrchives. If you have any reading material on how symbols can be used alone or together in art to communicate specific or broader ideas, I for one would be happy to have that reference. To date, I have read only some of Rudolf Arnheim's text (Art and Visual Perception), which deals with the psychology of creation and seeing, and probably more with the dynamic elements in images than their use of symbols or other astuces to create messages.
    While we agree that it is the quality of photography to speak on a higher than just visual plane, it would be interesting to see some benchmark examples of this, through either single images or photo essays.
    I think that the old art of photo collage and the use of dyiptychs or triptychs can open that door a bit, but they are special cases. Not easy to master, either, as two examples of my triptychs (in my scrambled pot-pourri of a portfolio), created to imagine how a 17th centry explorer/settler felt on arriving in 1603 and 1608 in a strange new land, tried to evoke, but they fall very much short of what I wished to convey.
    As discussion seemed to be winding down, I wished to express my gratitude to all. Should it continue on, so much the better.
     
  203. Fred just a small remark to your 11.28 a.m input and question on colors. When I write "oh, so nice colors" it is an ironical reference to the tendency I believe here on PN (I might of course be wrong) of saturating colors to the extreme which I actually see as an American tradition originating from the Kodak colors, that still sticks. I have no respect for this approach - meaning, I don't like them, not at all ! I think one could find a strong correlation between high ratings and color temperature.
    Consequently B/W photos become rapidly for a select group.
    This being said, or rather written, I have my photographic heart much nearer B/W than color and spent most of my photographical life shooting Agfa B/W films, 100 ISO.
     
  204. Something's going crazy either with language or with meaning.
    Anders, the original statement you made about color referred directly to your picture and could not have referred to PN oversaturation unless you were claiming to have mimicked, in your photo, what you dislike about American (WOW!) oversaturation. Here's the quote from you:
    "The photo has another level which you also hint at. It conveys an agreeable message of esthetics by presenting the scene in balanced composition and with oh so nice colors and light effects."
    You were talking about your own photo. It didn't in any way seem to be about a hypothetical PN photo.
    Like I said, it was an interesting statement. But now, it's become incomprehensible.
     
  205. Sorry Fred but read it again. Surely it conveys an agreeable message of esthetics or is at least meant to, but the "oh so nice etc" is ironical of course. "Oh so..." can only be read as ironical - or am I mistaken.
     
  206. I'm going to drop it. Thanks.
     
  207. Me too, Fred. Thanks
     
  208. Arthur and all the others that have contributed to this debate just one more small remark on the use of photos to illustrate the discussion.
    I find it a pity if we cannot have sufficient trust between us and sufficient levels of self-discipline among participants, so that we are able to use our own photos to illustrate what we are discussing and to underline a point. Verbal ping pong in this forum limits to the extreme the number that participates, as we all have seen, and the discussions are distanced from what really interest at least of us: that of photography.
    When I introduced in the discussion my personal experience with photographing certain cities and dared using the terms "essence" and "soul", I surely ran the risk that someone looking at my photos, in lack of arguments, would rant a: "HA! HA! HA! where is your essence in a photo of the opera of Paris". I don't think that this risk should prevent us from introducing, with all modesty, our own photos. Without them we are condemned to refer to the "old masters" which we might understand even less.
     
  209. jtk

    jtk

    "Sense of place is a cognate in the photographer's mind, not a quality of the place, which might explain why there are so many Parises in different photographers' portfolios." ...Luis
    Luis, is your "cognate" the same as "Equivalence?"
    Different viewers and photographers undoubtedly find different equivalences, operating different sensoriums as they do. Stieglitz did share some specifics that worked for him but, simple as they are, do evidently miss the mark for others (eg there are no symbols in the clouds, no seeming portents (ominous shadows etc), and the titles don't say "Duck In The Sky").
     
  210. JK - "Luis, is your "cognate" the same as "Equivalence?"
    No. I would liken it to a subset of one's world view, that once expressed through form, becomes what others have called 'essence'. Why does the shift matter? Because it removes the quality of the e-word from being mostly in the location photographed and places it in the photographer's head.
    How would an Inuit Eskimo photograph Paris, assuming he'd never heard of it or seen pictures of it? Or an Ituri forest Pigmy? Would the "essence" of Paris work its magic over them?
     
  211. Good question Luis. Send your Inuit Eskimo or your Ituri forest pigmy and I will bet that they at least see something they have not seen before - and different from us. I might take them out for lunch.
     
  212. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, IMO description of most of the "best" non-illustrative (eg non-tourist, non-advertising, non-snapshot) photography seem incapable of useful verbal description.
    Can we usefully describe a Picasso portrait? How perceptive would we be if we insisted upon some "essence" or "soul" in a vanGogh? I think about photography from the same sort of angle.
    But maybe you're more capable or more determined to find essences than I am.
    I apologize for applying my personal discipline to your thoughts. It didn't occur to me to shift perspectives, to play another person's role : I avoid big "important" terms when I think they're meaningless ("essence"). I don't think anybody seriously attempted to explain "essence" until Fred referenced Sartre.


    I don't understand your anxiety about posting of photos, since you've shared many in your P.N. Gallery. I've viewed them, as surely we all have (a matter of respect and curiosity).
    I promise not to comment on your photographs if you refer to specific examples to make your points. It happens that I "like" what I see in your Gallery.
    The fact that I share my own individual perspectives does upset people who need responses in line with their own. This have to do with clash between generations, West Vs East, US Vs Europe etc.
    This is not a "debate" because there are no winners or losers. It's a "Forum," an exchange of ideas. If we all agree, what's the point?
     
  213. jtk

    jtk

    Sorry to repeat this exchange but I like some of its implications:
    "JK - "Luis, is your "cognate" the same as "Equivalence?"
    Luis - "No. I would liken it to a subset of one's world view, that once expressed through form, becomes what others have called 'essence'. Why does the shift matter? Because it removes the quality of the e-word from being mostly in the location photographed and places it in the photographer's head.
    How would an Inuit Eskimo photograph Paris, assuming he'd never heard of it or seen pictures of it? Or an Ituri forest Pigmy? Would the "essence" of Paris work its magic over them?"

    Luis, to play with your Inuit/Ituri idea a bit more, we do know (anthropologists) that in some parts of the world the "natives" do (or did, decades ago) not recognize Polaroids of people as images of people. (I've seen that demonstrated in grainy old anthro films).
    I think your Inuit/Ituri would have missed (before TV) the beaten-to-death touristic "essence" of Paris (to which we've repeatedly referred) and noticed their own kinds of visual phenomena (no walrus! no lions!), but I'm pretty sure Brits, Aussies, Americans, and Canadians, sharing as they do the same overarching culture, would buy into the same cliche's. Do you think the distinction you've made between "cognate" and "Equivalent" would apply for them?
    ...also, it seems to me that Stieglitz's "Equivalent" resides only in the head, just as does "cognate" or even the "e-word." What am I missing in your thinking?
    To be clear about your thinking on this point, do you mean to emphasize that the print and cloud actually "exist" outside one's sensorium? We "know" they do, of course, but do they for the purposes of your argument?
     
  214. John, I respect fully your viewpoint that we would be better off not trying to describe or analyze our photos and maybe even more art. My approach to appreciating art is that I have a great interest or even need for understanding and not only feeling paintings and photography and therefor benefit from the numerous work that is published and numerous conferences that are organized which discussed for example paintings of Picasso, van Gogh or maybe especially Monet and Cezanne. We are all different and have different approaches to our passion for photography. All of them are valid. What is important is that none of them are exclusive and that intolerance for others should be banned.
    My small comments on "own photos" were surely not directed towards anyone particular, and in particularly surely not you. I think it would a pity not to use our own photos when we are discussing photography. This is maybe where we find the best expressions of what we are searching for - or, most often expression of failures to express it. I have numerous times written that finding "essence", what ever it is or is not, has in my case maybe only failed (see the doubt thread for example).
    I have also written that if such an animal exist it might be to be "seen" in a great series of photos of a photographer, or maybe even in photos. It might even only be detectable in photos of many photographers shooting the same place - Paris for example.
    When I talk about "ranting" it is because it is so easy to shoot (sic!) down an argument by pointing at a photo of another instead of concentrating on why the photos were shown in the first place. Be sure however, I have no hard feelings towards anybody for any comments on my photos. My own photos are there to be shot down or admired. If not I personally would never have shown them.
     
  215. Anders,
    There is no "failed" in this forum (I hereby declare!). We are here to pollinate, out of an ideally ridiculous, fantastic, free-flowing excess of fecundity and over-abundance (waste, "bloviation" if you are of the tidy law-and-order sort); to make a rich brew in which who-knows-what may, will! germinate and bear strange fruit. It is or should be a place where stuff grows. (While, one must admit, also being a sort of Thunderdome for nerds.)
    What seems to me to not have been directly addressed in this thread, and which also seems to me to be central to any discussion of the "immaterial" is time. (When I read Proust's cookie-book, it was titled "Remembrance of Things Past" but the current preferred translation is "In Search of Lost Time.") Maybe a subject for another thread ...
     
  216. John, I agree to disagree.
     
  217. Julie and others that are still around, maybe we could see this exercise as similar to the Fluxus artist Georges Brecht's "events" in "Water Jam" by replacing "centre" with, dare I say it, "Essence":
    "Determine the centre of an object or event. Determine the centre more accurately. Repeat until further accuracy is impossible"
    I fully agree that "time" is central in this discussion as it is to any understanding to our "has been" photography - the only photography available to us.
     
  218. Julie, Anders,
    The application of involuntary memory, as in Julie's former madeleine cake excerpt from Proust's major work (major amongst his others, in length at least), and as studied by influential Soviet psychologists in the 1940s, is no doubt very much a part of the immaterial in both making and viewing photographs. In contrast to so-called "intelligent" (I prefer "conscious" as an adjective) voluntary memory, I think that such involuntary memory may trigger the way we perceive certain events, objects (photos), as well as what might induce us to photograph a certain material subject. In that sense, time can be important in the material - immaterial connection.
    I sometimes cannot say exactly why a certain scene has captured my photographic eye and imagination. That may be a clue to involuntary memory vaguely recalled and why I decided to photograph the material subject, somewhat like what Proust says in drinking tea and tasting the cake of the Lorraine region:
    "No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…"
    Perhaps we make some of our photographs of the material with "apparently unrelated" thoughts of this type, from our involuntary memory, or view images of a past (necesarily) time with our involuntary memory, furnishing thoughts that may have no concrete connection with the observed material, but which are involved in our act.
     
  219. Not related to the involuntary memory aspect, but the following very famous London photo of Robert Frank evokes thoughts of life and mortality in the image of a young girl running away from the open back door of a hearse.
    http://www.willprouty.com/?tag=robert-frank-links-images-pictures
    In my more modest manner, my OP photo (and its uncropped version) had a similar intention to what is seen and felt in the Frank photo, although I wasn't thinking of the very important Frank photo when I made the image.
     
  220. This doesn't seem to be about the hearse and the girl. They seem to be integral but casual parts of a scene and aren't pointed to as symbols. If they act as symbols, it is secondarily so . . . for me. He seems to have been moved by a moment and the way the entire scene looked and felt. I don't get the sense his intention was to make a point or communicate an idea, though ideas will surely connect to what is seen here.
     
  221. I find the Frank photo deeply scaring.
    You need to look at it in big format as here and you will immediately fix your eyes on not only the child and the door of the hearse, but on the man observing the running child on the other side of the street. The man happens to be in the open rear window of the hearse and seems to belong there. The scene is similar to that of the short-film "De naaede faergen (They caught the ferry-boat") from 1948 of the Danish filmmaker Dreyer the one that made "The passion of Jeanne d'Arc" (1927). The man on the other side of the street is then the Devil in person waiting for someone for the empty hearse.
    I don't know when Frank shot this famous photo but he might have seen the film of Dreyer and got the inspiration from the short film
     
  222. Fred,
    take away any one element, such as the hearse, or the girl (especially one running in that direction, albeit with no relation to the hearse, simply running to play, but Frank has decided otherwise) or the row houses, or even Ander's mention of the street sweeper, and you have completely different images from that Frank has given us. It's the whole that counts, and symbolism is not all that important in the overall effect, but more the coincidence of an active and innocent youth, an open door hearse, and the inevitability or consistence suggested by row housing. He was obviously moved by the moment, but the intended effect is quite clear. He is not an innocent photographer, simply enchanted by some visual ambiance. I remember you talking about Bergman's game of chess between the devil and the crusador, a very obvious use of symbolism (almost too obvious for the style of Bergman - he usually tries to keep us guessing) which you seemed to enjoy.
    Anders,
    I do not find the image scary, not at all. It has various layers that only remind us of what is life. The street sweeper with his cart does not appear at all to me as a devil instrument in thec photo, but simply a reminder and portrayal of the sense of on-going human activity, often routine, begun at birth and ended at death. "Life cycle", as I have also attempted to portray in some of my work, is so much a part of our existence. But not scary.
    As much as I admire Frank (one of photography's true greats, to whom the immaterial was an asset to his work and his purpose), I sort of regret mentioning him though at this point, as Julie's contribution of time and that of Proust and the Russian psychologists ("Involuntary memory"), and my comment, is a direction I believe of some importance to this OP.
     
  223. I enjoyed the chess game because it produced tension and because chess tends to move in a permutational sort of way toward a finish line, with anticipation . . . not because chess represents something.
    I think photos suggest purpose, but I don't know that a literal connection can be made from what a viewer may want to interpret in a photo to the decision made by the photographer. I wouldn't say Frank has decided that the girl be in relation to the hearse, I would say he framed the photo that way. He decided to (or performed on some sort of instinctive level) snap the shutter when he did, as the girl was running.
     
  224. Chess - a game of strategy, much like that which the devil or destiny or (and I like this better) Fortuna tends to engage.
    "He decided to (or performed on some sort of instinctive level)"
    I can agree with that, Fred, as an instinctive and an instant response can encompass a lot of the approach or philosophy of the photographer, squeezed into it. And its maybe not too much of a leap to consider that perhaps it may also involve his involuntary memory.
     
  225. Arthur and Fred, none of you have obviously seen the Dreyer film and scenes I referred to. If Frank has, I'm sure to be right in my interpretation. If he hasn't at least Dreyer would have loved it.
    The photo works because of all these various readings of it that can be done, all equally valid. It is a photo with, what Fred rightly calls, tensions.
    Look into your respective portfolios and you will rapidly see that you have, we all have, few, if any, that qualifies for that category of photography.
     
  226. Interpretations aren't right or wrong. They're self-indulgent.
    I'm not trying to do Frank's or anyone else's "category" of photographs.
     
  227. I'm sure you are right Fred, and not wrong ! You might have noticed that I did not talk about interpretation in general but whether a deliberate reference to Dreyer by Frank is right or wrong.

    Actually, am I wrong to see some of your B/W portraits as Dreyer type of scenes, which has noting to do with Frank ? Don't jump your horses, it is a compliment.
     
  228. I'd never heard of Dreyer. Just googled him. I'll try to rent something and let you know what I think.
     
  229. He is demanding as film maker so I would suggest that you find his films in local cinemas. At least in Europe they are continuously shown in art cinemas. You can also find lots of extracts if you google/video him and his films. Go here to se some of his filming of faces.
     
  230. Several critics have linked Frank's work to Dreyer's, among other filmmakers. More his films than his still pictures. I've only seen Dreyer's Jeanne D'Arc.
     
  231. A film is to a photograph much as a book is to a simple phrase of words, or perhaps to a short sentence of words. One cannot expect the two to be comparable in their full potential to evoke ideas or complex notions, yet given that and some possible similarities of expression between the film (how many thousands of individual frames?) and a photographic approach, the photo of Frank is close to the limits of the static image in expressing the immaterial. A few other photos that are well known can perhaps also speak in that manner.
    More eloquent than the very fine Jeanne d'arc film mentioned (although I would have imagined a Joan who had seen battle as being much more composed and defiant than the film personnage) is the text of and the replies of Joan at her fake trial, which I think is kept in a library in La Sorbonne.
     
  232. Perhaps this is just a subjective impression, which may have been conditioned by some prior reading about Medieval Portugal before visiting a number of years ago, but the sight in the warm toned late afternoon sunlight of the lone king on a horse in the middle of a vast square in Battalia, Portugal, near the magnificent unfinished monsastery built to celebrate the victory, his sword raised perfectly vertically, does much to evoke the essence of liberation, the birth of a new culture and the beginning of a nation. It's effect can perhaps underline why some static photographic images have the power to represent the immaterial, albeit in somewhat different ways to different viewers (a tour bus soon interrupted the magic on the moment, and its occupants more or less ignored the statue for the monastery).
     
  233. Arthur it is not important, but the originals of the process in latin have all been lost. Partial copies that were made in the 1430s exist and are kept in the French National library. One of five copies of the "process verbal" is since 1811 in the Parliament archives (Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée national). (See below for details in French if useful).
    Le 9 janvier 1431, s'ouvrait à Rouen, devant un tribunal d'église que présidait l'évêque de Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, le «procès en matière de foi» qui allait conduire Jeanne au bûcher, le 30 mai de la même année. Le texte de la « Minute française » (registre où étaient consignés, au jour le jour, par les notaires, les interrogatoires et délibérations) a disparu ; il n'en reste qu'une copie partielle (le «manuscrit d'Urfé») déposée à la Bibliothèque nationale.
    Vers 1435, deux membres du tribunal, Thomas de Courcelles et le notaire Guillaume Manchon, rédigèrent un procès-verbal en latin. D'après le texte original - qui est lui aussi perdu - cinq expéditions (copies littérales) furent écrites et authentifiées par les notaires, l'évêque et le vice-inquisiteur.
    De ces cinq expéditions, il ne subsiste que deux exemplaires sur papier qui se trouvent à la Bibliothèque nationale et un exemplaire sur vélin qui est entré à la Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale en 1811 avec l'achat de la bibliothèque du Président de Cotte. Il porte le sceau de Pierre Cauchon à qui il était primitivement destiné.
     
  234. Luis, interesting. Can you refer to critics that concretely have made the reference?
     
  235. Anders, merci!
     
  236. Anders, that is one of the articles I was thinking of, but there are others, mostly linked to Frank's movies than his stills. It would seem obvious that like the rest of us, R. Frank did/does not exist in a vacuum, or was born whole. His work with the Welsh miners was excellent, as that done in London, but in that done in Peru, there is a shift that is clearly slouching towards what becomes "Les Americans", which was one of those happy confluences of being at the right stage, time and place -- and working his arse off & making the most of it.
     
  237. He has said something about his work as artist:
    "It has to do with life, more than with art".
    Wise words.
     
  238. I'm still traveling and just logged in briefly, curious to see what might have become of this thread since last Friday. Having read the many subsequent posts, a few brief comments:
    (1) Arthur, as much as I disagreed with your views during some of the earlier phases of this thread, I'm in complete agreement with your comments, at Sep 12, 8:17 pm, about the Frank photo. My one caveat is that you seem to assume (or conclude) that the placement of the figures and the hearse was intentional. I would tend to say "maybe, but just as likely it was not intentional"; and that an examination of the proof sheet of Frank's negatives, i.e., the frames he shot just before and just after this one, truly outstanding, image might be informative.
    (2) Anders, your description of the Frank photo as "scary" because of the well-communicated symbolism of death, youth, and age (or of the reaper himself, framed in the rear window) seems entirely reasonable and a plausible characterization--but one that depends, as Arthur pointed out, on the viewer's own subjective attitude toward death. If death and its nearness are felt as "scary" by a viewer, then the image is a scary one; if instead he interprets the imagery as representing the stages of the life cycle (per Arthur's comments), and feels that the life cycle is a natural thing, not threatening, then the image is (for him) "not scary"--though the same visual elements, and their interrelation, are seen with equal clarity. (By the way, Anders, thank you for posting the large version of the image--seeing it makes a huge difference.)
    (3) Fred, you wrote: "Interpretations aren't right or wrong. They're self-indulgent."
    Is "self-indulgent" really the adjective you intended?
    The word "interpretation", at least as I understand it, connotes an unavoidable step in the process of seeing (finding "meaning" or "intention" or "implications" in) an image--any image, every image.
    A viewer may approach the image in the least self-indulgent, most objective manner possible--i.e., he may be a paragon of self-discipline, restraint, understatement, conscientiousness, etc.--yet he still must interpret what he sees, or there is nothing except a mass of dark and light (or colored) splotches and lines, contained within a rectangle border.
    Is it possible that your intended meaning was closer to: "Interpretations aren't right or wrong. They're [subjectively conceived]"? (Or perhaps, "subjectively perceived", or even, "self-referential."?
    If indeed "self-indulgent" is what you meant to write, could you elaborate a bit?
     
  239. I said self-indulgent specifically in response to the way interpretation was being approached in this thread.
    Anders said the photo works because of all these different readings. I don't think so. Anything and everything can be given many different readings. The worst photo in the world will elicit different readings and interpretations. Sure, it may be true of this photo but that's not why it works.
    Interpreting something to be about life, about essence, about the devil seems a way to fill it with "meaningful" cachet. It seems to be puffing up importance. If I say it's a photo of a woman and a man struggling to get a cab on a rainy night in Paris it doesn't sound quite as important as it would if I said it captures the essence of Paris. But, in fact, the first statement is descriptive and the second statement sounds lofty but tells me nothing. When I say something like that guy standing on the street is "the devil" it seems, at least in part, self-indulgent because it puts something into an already familiar and established context that is acceptable to me, it fits it into the already-known box and may not allow me the kind of latitude I'd like in opening myself up to something different.
    I don't like briefly quoting photographers out of context, but I'll do it here since I ran across a good one by Frank which cuts to the chase.
    "I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished."
    Leaves an image on my mind . . . I like that. It's an alternative and/or an accompaniment to understanding and interpretation.
     
  240. Ernest, what i scary in this photo of Frank is the Devil in person and the small innocent child across the street, but only of course having the images of Dreyer in mind - which in this case, at least for me, comes immediately to the fore. It is not death that is the scare part it is the Devil and is open very inviting vehicle. This is pure Dreyer or Bergman (see his film "Die Irae" or "Vampire" and you will understand or see Bergman's "the Eye of the Devil" and you will understand what I'm talking about.
    My own "philosophy" to death cis best expressed by a quotation from Chateaubriand who somewhere in his Mémoires D'outre-Tombe" (which I of some reason or another have read several times) writes that
    we do not live approaching our grave, we live turning around it
    Death in general and our own death is an inherent part of our daily life.
     
  241. jtk

    jtk

    http://www.servinghistory.com/topics/narrative_fallacy::sub::Arguments
    Nassim Taleb's "Black Swan" is probably the recently most widely read book related to "meaning," 9/11, and psycho/social issues such as interpretation, self-deception etc. If you know a statistician or portfolio manager who has not read this book, do not respect her/him. Me, I only listened to the 12 CDs :)
    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Impact-Highly-Improbable/dp/1400063515
    IMO Taleb's "narrative fallacy" applies to most analytic discussion about photographs when "art" is purportedly involved.
     
  242. Ah! that's where you find your inspiration John. Next thing, would be that you start a thread on serendipity in photographic art.
    By the way if you have to choose a trader, don't put too much trust on Talebs around you. You might end up fairly naked.
     
  243. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, you may enjoy reading about "narrative fallacy." It has to do with self-deception about "meaning" and "interpretation."
     
  244. I know (sic!) John but have read more about Taleb and his writings then of him.
    I have great difficulty of taking anyone serious that seriously believe that those who "know" do not also know the limits of their knowledge. Education is all about that. Statisticians are by the way the first to know.
    He is building a world of his own by his pre-justice of others and his extreme narcism. Nobody seem to be more narrative then him. Maybe his real problem is a difficulty listening to others.
    At least he makes us recall Rumsfeld's "unknown-unknowns", but when he takes 911 as example he might be dead wrong, just like the 2008 financial crisis, both great examples of " known un-knowns".
    The only conclusion one can draw from his affabulations is that if you have a million dollars you want to invest, don't forget to invest 20% on highly unlikely events. If you do it would be very unlikely that you don't loose at least the 20%.
    By the way John, what has this to do with photography, essence, material and immaterial .... or did you just want to talk about something else? Where is your thread on "serendipity in photographic art".
     
  245. The connection is simple. It's about coming to a photograph based on pre-contextualized symbols and meaning, coming to a photograph with already-understood ways of looking that might hamper a viewer from seeing something that is actually new, not before seen in this way. If a picture of a man on the street, because he's seen through a hearse, becomes the Devil, that might prevent the photograph from being seen in a less traditional and prefabricated way.
    The great painters and photographers who were dismissed by the public in their own times were likely the few who did gamble (and, at least in their own terms, won) on that 20%. That's taking a risk. Again, most pay only lip service to the age-old cliché that a good photographer thinks outside the box. When a photographer actually does think outside the box, they're usually put down for it or mis-understood.
     
  246. It's about coming to a photograph based on pre-contextualized symbols and meaning, coming to a photograph with already-understood ways of looking that might hamper a viewer from seeing something that is actually new, not before seen in this way.​
    I wondered! So that is the box you want to put me into. Well, better think outside it Fred - and maybe also John.
    I have no pre-contextualized symbols and meaning when I look at photographies. I don't even have the heavy baggage of formalized analytical philosophy to speak about it. I have no training in arts. I only come with whatever I have of photographical eyes. I think, Fred, that the many critiques I have made to your own photos should show you that I do not think "out of the box" and that I very often offer you comments that are somewhat different from what you receive from others. So, me thinking out the the box is an appreciation from a box, if you permit.
    The reference you make, shows that you have not read my comments carefully, that you know next to nothing about the reference I make to Dreyer, and now that you seem not to have any knowledge about our friend Taleb.
    So, let's come back to facts and forget about fiction. What I wrote was the following:
    what is scary in this photo of Frank is the Devil in person and the small innocent child across the street, but only of course having the images of Dreyer in mind - which in this case, at least for me, comes immediately to the fore. It is not death that is the scary part it is the Devil and his open very inviting vehicle. This is pure Dreyer or Bergman (see Dreyer's film "Die Irae" or "Vampire" and you will understand or see Bergman's "the Eye of the Devil" and you will understand what I'm talking about. (corrected some typos)​
    This is pure cadaver dogs of Julie or Madeleines cookies of Proust. Because I have been fed with Dreyer and Bergman since early childhood, I immediately react with reference to it when seeing the scene of the photo: "I smell death" - to stay in the logic of Julie/Proust. What I wrote was, that if Frank, the photographer in question, have seen Dreyer's film "they reached the ferry-boat" his picture makes immediately sense and seems to be a clear reference to it. It seems to have been the case, that Frank at least admired Dreyer. That's all you have for drawing your sometimes too rapid conclusions Fred.
     
  247. "Thinking", whether it is outside the box, or within it (lest we forget that we all have "boxes" constructed of our prior experience, education, social milieu, preferences, and other factors or influences), is for me the KEY word. That "thinking" allows us to see more in a Frank or Munch or Corbet image, more than what is materially presented to our eyes, or through an analytical appreciation of subject matter, brush strokes or colour or composition, and more than what the latter communicate, a priori.
    (Anders et al: What on earth does Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns" have to do with the topic? I may have missed the point ordiscussion of it, although I certainly don't miss the presence of that gentleman.)
     
  248. Arthur, I agree with you on the bees of all of us.
    Rumsfeld only comes in because of Taleb and his writing. I ask the same question as you: What has Taleb to do with this discussion. Fred tried to find the connecting - in vain in my eyes.
     
  249. The "boxes" of course, sorry. No Bees involved ! The d..... 10 minutes !
     
  250. I suppose it's comforting to recognize that we all have boxes. Of course we do.
    Thinking is as likely to help a viewer miss something as not.
    I'm not against thinking. I try to supplement literal and representative thinking with metaphorical thinking and to supplement and even suppress thinking itself by responding to images as much as ideas.
     
  251. "....and to supplement and even suppress thinking itself by responding to images as much as ideas."
    This would make Leo Tolstoy and some others quite happy. In enabling one defintion of what is art, he claimed that what makes something (such as an image) art or not is how it is experienced by its audience, not by the intention of its creator. Is not the creator, in vehiculing his thoughts or ideas within an image, simply engaging in a Ludovig Wittgensteinian "private language" that has no basis for being recognized and for engaging the thoughts of a viewer. Some of the images provided in this thread, for instance, or Ander's "essence" or idea of Paris, may well be communications within such private language.
     
  252. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, you have not actually read or understood Taleb...most importantly you have entirely missed his point about narrative fallacy.
    We interpret (tell stories) about experiences (such as photographs...Taleb actually mentions "art") in order to more easily grasp and remember them. Those stories (interpretations) are conveniences and they're not necessarily good renditions...they may have nothing to do with the perceptions (or the photos), especially they're analyzed by academics (people who are several steps removed from perception).
    btw He didn't simply advocate putting 20% at extreme risk: he advocated putting the rest at ultimate safety. That is approximately what he's done for a long time for long-suffering clients (poor annual rates of return), occasionally rewarding them hugely (9/11).
    In photography many people shoot the same old thing over and over, trying something new occasionally if they've got the cojones or luck. Cats, cute kids, architectural bits, graphics, homeless, sunsets, seascapes...over and over and over. Will they expose themselves to the occasional (20%?) risk, per Taleb's suggestion, or will they just wander the streets looking for more of the same because they can cobble up easy interpretations (point/line, beauty, allusion)?
     
  253. Arthur, I'm not sure artists "vehiculate thoughts or ideas within an image." They have thoughts and ideas while they are making paintings and photographs. I don't think thoughts and ideas are the kinds of things that are within an image.
    From the beginning, the title of this thread threw me off, particularly because of the word "representation." And, it's not just that I'm picking on a word. It's been your approach throughout your posts . . . that something material is "representing" something immaterial. In your latest post, Arthur, you're talking about the viewer "recognizing" the thoughts of the photographer/painter. What if there's no correlation like that? What if it's a much looser kind of connection, rather association, between what the photographer is thinking and feeling and what the viewer sees, thinks, and feels?
    What I'm getting at is that photographs and paintings don't translate ideas or emotions into a visual world. It works differently: sympathetically, empathetically, metaphorically. Photographs may have similarities to language but photographs and language don't mirror, mimic, or echo each other.
    _____________________________________________
    [Wittgenstein believed there was no such thing as a private language. That's the big controversy over his philosophy. Wittgenstein, for example, claimed that even our own pain was not a private matter, which really riles people, who think only they know their pain.
    Two links if you're so inclined:
    http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/6s.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations (scroll down to the section on private languages)]
    _____________________________________________
    I certainly don't think there is a total disconnect between photographer and viewer. Photographs are not a so-called private language. But I also don't think there is a literal and translation-like connection between the ideas and thoughts of a photographer (or painter) and the images she creates.
     
  254. John, as I have admitted above I have only, but extensively, read text on , not by, Taleb. He does not attract me as writer and comes very very low in my priority list of authors to read. His financial discourse, at least his conclusion, is simple and difficult to misunderstand.
    Arthur
    Some of the images provided in this thread, for instance, or Ander's "essence" or idea of Paris, may well be communications within such private language.​
    As I have written over and over again, I'm not interested in "essence" if it was so simple and personal. I'm only interested in it if it is something that is shared by many or at least I'm interested in the part that is shared. Fred, in a more recent thread has ranted indirectly at me walking around "shooting essence" despite the fact that I repeatably have declared that I fail miserably (I'm kind enough not the quote his phraseology here) and that I shoot such places because they inspire me and not to shoot an essence popping up on top of a building or around the corner.
    I actually started the whole discussion on "essence" with describing an observation that some places, and mainly cities, inspire me enormously for seeing and shooting photographic scenes, and others not at at all. I find that interesting. I called that something "essence" or the "soul" of the place. I could have called it the "character" of the place. Any way it inspires me as it, in the case of Paris, have inspired numerous photographers. When John now above describe this inspiration as some sort of obsession it is bluntly off the top. I think my portfolio is way more diverse than many others here around.
     
  255. Anders - "I think my portfolio is way more diverse than many others here around."
    How so?
     
  256. Fred,
    I'm admit that "vehiculing" is a non-word. I used it thinking of the French word "véhiculer" which is "to convey", my "franglais" ("Frenglish") operating to distort it into a supposed English word. A fairly minor correction. However, in considering the word "convey", the title of the OP may better benefit from a title "Can the material convey (rather than represent) the immaterial?" The two words are somewhat similar in meaning, but "convey" is a more active verb and suggests that the material is not the immaterial, but is instead a spokesperson for the latter. In any case, that was my intention in using "represent".
    I'm not sure that makes any sense, and secondly whether it changes the question, as I think we are all agreed that what the photographer or the viewer sees in a material (the subject, the recorded image) can only be immaterial by the manner with which it (and a number of secondary subjects in the image, including compositional, light and colour effects) work to suggest some immaterial idea or thought.
    Fred and Anders,
    On the subject of "private language" (which Wittgenstein attacked, which my reference to him admiittedly obfuscated, a point brought out be Fred), I used it in the sense of the photographer or the viewer getting from an image such immaterial ideas that only they could perceive and interpret, in independent personal ways. Despite the variability of language and single words to convey different meanings to different persons, I assume that there are enough common elements in language to permit that the meaning comes across fairly similarly to many different viewers at the same time. A common language.
    This would seem to be the case also with photographs, but perhaps less convincingly so than for a language that is used by a number of persons of roughly similar experience and education (for instances, a 30ish college educated woman raising a family or the 40ish man working at a nuclear power plant). The language of photography is perhaps less known, or understood, than that of verbal communication. On the other hand, the role of the visual cortex of the brain is a major player for us all. But maybe its interpretative functions are very circumscribed? Limited? Can a number of humans sense from photographs something like the "soul" of a major city? Can a photograph suggest to them something about how a society collectively thinks (albeit not the only parameter of individual thoughts), or how it sees its destiny? The experience of viewing an image of someone in thought, can that communicate anything more than simply recognising that it is someone in thought and the viewer thinking "Ah, yes, I felt something like that on such and such occasion"?
    I cannot argue with what I think Fred is saying, about the limited ability of a photographer to transmit his thoughts through a material subject or subjects. If all the multitude of aspects within a single image (and there are many more of these than what appears at first sight) act on the viewer, is it perhaps a game of faith to assume that they will all come together in some unique way to suggest the same immaterial idea to all or most of the viewers, other than the communicating the very simplest of such immaterial expressions. In creating his image from a multitude of subject matter within a single frame, can the photographer effectively "will" (within the short period of image visualisation and capture) a specific immaterial message to his work? When it does happen and when the message is read by many viewers, is it not the exception?
     
  257. Luis, "more diverse" - nothing very scientific, but just the simple observation that I do not solely concentrate on birds, wildlife, family pictures, landscapes, architecture, bugs, portraits or the like. I try to shoot everything that my photographic eye gets attracted to - however up till now without shooting nudes.
     
  258. Luis, one way of appreciating the diversity of a portfolio is to look at who are the most active photographers on the No words forum; for example. Whether photographic diversity is a virtue, is another story.
     
  259. Anders - "Luis, "more diverse" - nothing very scientific, but just the simple observation that I do not solely concentrate on birds, wildlife, family pictures, landscapes, architecture, bugs, portraits or the like. I try to shoot everything that my photographic eye gets attracted to - however up till now without shooting nudes."
    Around here that's read as a failure to specialize! :)
     
  260. Significant diversity, to me, is about more than a variety of subject matters.
    Is a portfolio diverse in terms of lighting situations, in terms of types of contrast used (is the b/w work all high contrast), types of geometries (if at all), cases in which the photographer seems to include him or herself and cases where the photographer does not, approaches to color (all heavily saturated or more varied . . . pastels? . . . muted colors? . . . ), shooting perspectives, a mixture of more active and more passive dynamics, whether and how framing devices are used, how the edge of the frame is used, varied foreground background relationships, etc?
     
  261. Luis not around here. Specialization is outmoded since long in the real world. Generic skills is what's up unless you strongly wish to be a marriage or sports photographer. I don't.
    Fred, I agree surely, but at least thematic diversity would be what I described. This is actually a good theme of discussion in my eyes.
     
  262. Anders - "Luis not around here. Specialization is outmoded since long in the real world."
    I know. This symbol ":)", means I was kidding about specialization.
    Fred - " Significant diversity, to me, is about more than..."
    There's a balance between the consistency and the range of diversity in a photographer's work. Most photographers repeat a handful of tropes over and over (subconsciously). Only a very few have been aware enough to recognize this and make informed comments about it, though they made peace with it, and did not change it.
    The simplicity of some of those strategies is often humbling. Sometimes a series demands strict visual and/or conceptual consistency. A handful of photographers have what I would consider diversity, which IMO involves state (as opposed to trait)-specific eclectic solutions, and I mean not just in terms of subjects, lighting, etc., but also conceptually.
    There's a great temptation to succumb to sales, positive reviews & pats on the head, and fall into what BF Skinner called superstitious behavior. It is very easy for many to dig into that cozy imaginary coffin unwittingly, and at one time or another, almost everybody does. OTOH, while it can be argued that one lives in perceptual bubbles, they have boundaries with those of others, and lie inside larger (cultural, etc) bubbles as well.
    If one looks at anyone's portfolios or large group of pictures, the consistent, endemic tropes, specially the formal, are few & not hard to see. It's common for great photographers to repeat themselves over and over in significant ways, yet be eclectic in others. It's that baggage thing. Too much, and one can hardly move, too little, and you're soon in trouble. Or variations on a theme, where the artist's being is the theme. While he can boomerang far afield from the theme, he still returns to who he is.
     
  263. "Specialization is outmoded since long in the real world. Generic skills is what's up"
    I don't find this to be the case.
     
  264. Well, Fred, if it hasn't come to your place yet, be sure it will turn up before you expect it. One of the generic skills that has been the most asked for in the US for some years, to stay on your side of the pond, is a few years of experience on the labour marked. How that is translated into photographical specialization, I have no clue about, I must admit.
     
  265. To continue the thread, I will reformulate it's "new age' (page 26) title: "Can the material photograph convey the immaterial?" As I mentioned then, I believe "convey" is a more active verb than "represent", and suggests that the material is not the immaterial, but is instead a "spokesperson" that allows the viewer access to the latter.
    Take the the experience of viewing an image portraying someone in thought. Notwithstanding a perhaps mysterious or intriguing expression of the subject, can that communicate anything more than simply recognising that it is someone in thought, and with the viewer thinking no more than "Ah, yes, I felt something like that on such and such occasion"?
    Does the communication of ideas require a much more complex image, in which there is a perceived "dialogue" amongst various elements of an image? It has been said that successful art requires change (variation) of the elements throughout the image, and change of the change of the elements, to be powerful. But that may be a different thing to the present topic. Back to the latter, how often does our visual cortex allow us to perceive a multitude of signals from a perceived image that might contribute to allowing our mind to perceive an idea? Or are we limited more by our paradigms of thought process which exclude such information? Or, is it simply improbable that a mere image can convey immaterial ideas of any complexity?
     
  266. "One of the generic skills that has been the most asked for in the US for some years, to stay on your side of the pond, is a few years of experience on the labour marked"
    That has nothing to do with making photographs. It has to do with being a successful businessman.
    You began by talking about portfolios and diversity. Sorry, I didn't realize you had moved onto success in the marketplace.
     
  267. You're excuse Fred. When the term "failure to specialized" is used, I immediately understand "failure" within some kind of context: competition between photographers; work as photographer and the labour market. If it is failure in artistic terms that is referred to it would only give meaning within for example your broader concept of diversity of photographic practices - but then again I would disagree. A more complicated discussion, I must admit.
    However as Luis wrote: ":)"
     
  268. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, I'm sorry you don't like Nissam Taleb. Perhaps if you actually read him your attitude would change. Who knows?
    If you must rely on what others say, try this: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/
    It'd be better to get "The Black Swan" or do as I first did (free from my library), suffer through the unedited 12 CD version as you drive. Took me about two weeks (I dipped occasionally into the book, and Taleb's all over the Internet). A terrible and (justifiably) egotistical writer who tries to be amusing, succeeding about half the time. I'm not sure the voice of the CD's reader is better than Taleb's own, but it was undoubtedly cheaper to enslave a reader than to spend his own time blathering in a recording studio.
    If you actually do get around to reading what the man himself says about "narrative fallacy" (rather than what someone else claims he says) and think about how that applies to perception, memory, and meaning in photography (and anywhere else you think you can "explain"), it may be stimulating .
     
  269. Thanks, John, you are of course right. I normally have the principle to read wherever possible the original and in the original language. I have found a more than one hour interview with him that I will find time to see - and thanks for the link. It is sure that the guy is being read by many.
    One motivation for reading him could be just to understand what you are talking about.
     
  270. jtk

    jtk

    Anders, we all have our own odd angles on photography (like mine re: Nissam Taleb). I'll summarize him as crudely as possible here:
    1) Sh... happens when we don't plan for it (Black Swan) 2) Then we invent "explanations" 3) We use those explanations as if they predict the future(analyses turn into projections) 4) Using those explanations and projections we conveniently remove the significance of sh... from our theories, producing comfortable ideas (such as normal curves, diversification, modern portfolio theory) 5) Sh.. happens again and it's back to #2. Black Swans account for much of our experience, but we put them out of our minds using tools (eg averaging). Many people are again investing as if nothing happened recently, and investment managers are encouraging that "nothing happened" idea. Taleb had advised emphasis on safe bonds and a very small amount of wild speculation. As a result his clients allegedly benefitted by 9/11. His general perspective is that downside risk hurts a lot more than upside potential can justify.
    "Narrative fallacy" is central to all of that.
    For me this relates to photography mostly in that I'm decreasingly attracted to pure beauty or to "significant" ugly pictures of "the usual suspects." I think this has resulted in my preference for photos that I find curious, puzzling (potential to be Black Swans)...and photos that are part of larger stories...eg parts of bodies of work or journalistic. I want to be in doubt, given the opportunity to sort things out. This has to do with my reluctance to call individual photos "art."
    If someone hangs a photo as "art" it's probably reduced to a settled matter, leaving too little Black Swan potential (potential for discovery, excitement). Some people who buy photographs do it as "speculation." If their purchase involves the taste of other people, such as critics, the potential is already mostly gone. When photos are reduced to graphic analysis, any significance they might have had beyond that is lost, probably beyond the perception of the person doing the analysis. The same applies to labeling, one example of which involves reference to "essence."
     
  271. I don't usually notice titles of photographs until I've looked at them for a while, if at all. When I do notice the title, more often than not it doesn't add anything to my viewing of the photograph. Sometimes, but rarely, it will actually distract me or detract from the photo itself. Usually a lame title on a good photo won't affect its potential. Sometimes a title gives me important information and context and adds a lot.
    That something is hanging in a museum and somehow heralded as art doesn't reduce its potential. Since "art" and "essence" are words, they more often bother me in discussions, because they seem often to substitute for more specific, committed, and nuanced ideas. When they are used to refer to something, they may tell me something about the referrer, but they usually don't affect the thing being referred to.
    Some things are created with the emptiness of simply wanting to be art or wanting to capture essence. That will usually show up as a lack of potential in the work itself. Likewise, some things are created with the emptiness of those bad (lofty) titles and I usually don't give them a second glance.
     
  272. There are many definitions for art. I have given up worrying about the classification of anything as art, or not, and generally also ignore titles, which relate to the photographer's and not necessarily to the viewer's perception. That is, unless they are impoprtant to situate geographically a scene and possibly also the context of the image.
    On one level, an image can impress me by its compositional attributes, triggering my own personal aesthetic response as well as the more general cultururally induced aesthetic response. On another level, my inner feelings and psychology will also respond either positively, negatively, or simply neutrally to an image, as I also do with regard to the compositional attributes of it.
    On a third plane, the image can occasionally speak to me on a second profound level, that of its ability to spark a reflection or thoughts that are related to what I perceive as an idea or value, often incited by the interaction of elements within the image (contrasting elements, reinforcing elements, equilibrium and disequilibrium of forms, lines, visual points, etc.), the context of the image, the variation of the quality of visual aspects of the image upon repeated viewing, the discovery of elemenbts not seen in a first viewing, and the like.
    Experiences at this third level are rare, but I believe are fully within the power of photography to produce, under the right conditions.
     
  273. Fred, you don't give up easily, do you!
    I think I already have answered your various points on the subjects in your last email, with my input of 15.09 2.32 a.m. I can only invite you to read it.
    When it comes to the following admirable paragraph of yours above:
    Since "art" and "essence" are words, they more often bother me in discussions, because they seem often to substitute for more specific, committed, and nuanced ideas.​
    Fred, first of all you could have included "characters" which is as lofty a concept as "essence" what ever you do with it. Secondly, nobody, unless I have missed something, have postulated that they go out shooting "art". You don't need to invent your own small world of events and arguments, to support your repeated statements.
    You wrote furthermore:
    When they (the words) are used to refer to something, they may tell me something about the referrer, but they usually don't affect the thing being referred to.​
    Would it not have been better if you were honest Fred, and told who you are talking about and what did it tell you about the referrer? He/she might be interested in knowing what Fred actually sincerely thinks and would not be satisfied with self-righteous statements like these.
    I'm not impressed!
    Please don't bother answering !
     
  274. Anders, my response was to John and I had no one in particular in mind. I was thinking of a lot of talk I've heard on PN and around town by a whole lot of people.
    Art and "art" have come up a lot between John and me. And as I have grown to appreciate his stance on the matter and be influenced by it, I am also hoping to communicate to him some of the differences he and I may have and some of the nuances that can be addressed. It's not about me. It's not about John. And it's not about you.
     
  275. John, Fred, Anders,
    If you want to talk about well known "black swan" events (or the often self laudatory and "I","I", "I"- prefaced comments of Mr.Taleb), or sound off on what is "art" or art, or whatever else that seemingly have rather poor "fits" to the purpose of this post, why not start a new post on these concepts or values? It is quite simple to do and I would be glad to engage in those questions there. Or perhaps you could continue your strong personal comments and sparring via e-mail, sparing us the need to read them, while innocently and hopefully looking within them for something that might perhaps be related to the present discussion.
    This isn't some call to order, I don't really care if you want to play touch football on a tennis court. You have all contributed very positively in the opening pages of this little epic about the immaterial, as elsewhere, but are you not risking to evoke the legalistic sense of the word immaterial in the dieing hours of this thread?
    The worship of the celebrity (Taleb, Palin, whoever) seems to be both a religion and a major social issue in modern America (and has been for several decades), and from my humble viewpoint is really part of the rust holding back the gears of evolution. It is not unique to America, but highly relevant in passive public acceptance in the USA. I hope that will change in that dynamic and positive society. In more concise terms, please let us know what YOU think and perhaps not what some celebrity does, who will likely be passée in a few years. He or she is hardly interested, and arguably ineffective, in advancing your ideas or your photography. Please tell me if I am wrong, in respect of the PofP topic at hand.
     
  276. You are right Arthur, let's get out and enjoy some fresh air.
    Not to continue, it is passed midnight in my part of the world, I would like to mention that I do not fully agree on your last paragraph, but that can surely be discussed in another thread.
    Thanks for nicely having guided us through this very long thread.
     
  277. Arthur, I'm surprised you don't see how titles and the word "art" relate to ideas in photographs.
    Did you ask the question to broaden your perspective and the context in which you asked it or to reaffirm the ways in which you have already been used to approaching it?
     
  278. Fred, on the contrary, you yourself mention above something I generally agree with regarding titles, that at best they are often lame ducks in regard to the perception and meaning of a photograph, unless (as I believe) they provide some helpful physical reference such as geography or event.
    Art has been defined in so many ways and at different times as to probably escape a universally held definition. If we can accept as a default position the Wikipedia definition, it is "the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions and/or intellect."
    The realm of, and communication of, ideas comes within the latter, so obviously art is relevant (I would not have posed the question about material conveying the immaterial, had I not thought that), but what I am interested in, as I believe you are, is the capacity of a photograph to evoke those effects, results or products in the mind of the viewer.
    Accordingly, my perspective and context both include anything that can contribute to that. If there are persons who are open to visualising how photography can achieve that aim, I believe it would include me. We have chatted a lot in this thread, much of it very captivating and thoughtful, but have shown but few images that purport to "transcend the material subject and photograph to evoke the immaterial in the minds of the viewer." The "Hors d'oeuvres" or finger food is excellent, but the "Entrées" or main dishes are few on the table. I will agree that it is not an easy task.
     
  279. Naturally, "art" is the central concept for what ever we do unless we merely use photography for registering the materiel and human world around us without willingly or unwillingly adding an immaterial dimension that lifts the photo so that it "influences and affects the senses, emotions and/or intellect".
    The word functions however as a red cloth in most of these threads and transform rapidly whatever interesting discussion into a "procès d'intention" (french), a fallacious reasoning in moral and legal terms arguing about some shameful or reprehensive intensions of someone. The trick is that there is no argument of reason that can dismiss the accusation. That these forums cannot be kept free of such disagreeable writings, I find a pity.
    The same happens unfortunately when mentioning other lofty concepts like "essence".
     
  280. I mentioned before that much of twentieth century philosophy is a rejection of the idea of essences, most profoundly described by Wittgenstein in the middle of the last century. It's been picked up by Richard Rorty and others. With respect to Plato and still able to recognize his infinite contributions, they have undermined and fought with vigor against his idea of "essence" and the way he described "meaning." It is not something unique to or invented by those of us in this forum who similarly reject these ancient ideas. The resistance to letting go of essences is also well known but the move has been slow, steady, and strong away from such a way of thinking about reality and meaning. It's similar to the rejection that's been taking place over the last century of formulations that depend on mind/body or immaterial/material. When a vocabulary has been developed over millennia, it's hard to change our ways of talking and conceiving. It's not just about words. It's about the way we think and can be very much about the way we photograph. There's the counterpart to Arthur's OP, which asks if we can communicate, express, or represent the immaterial: Can the way we think, our ideas, affect the way we photograph and the photographs we make?
     
  281. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, as it's clear you've not bothered to read what I wrote about Nissam Taleb, and you have obviously not bothered considered implications of "narrative strategy." In particular, that fallacy relates to your insistance upon "interpretation" of photographs.
    (that you like to interpret is fine, just as is point/line analysis if those are the only sorts of perception and understanding that are available, but they may not have anything to do with the way anyone else photographs, responds generally, and may not even be significant for others who view your photographs.).
    That you think the strong response to a startling and widely-respected modern economic and philosophic writer means his readers "worship" a mere "celebrity" or that you, of all people, should object to Taleb's his use of "I", tells a particular kind of tale.
    However, I'm glad to see your sudden interest in written clarity, and to see you, of all people, using the term "concise."
     
  282. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, as it's clear you've not bothered to read what I wrote about Nissam Taleb, and you have obviously not bothered considered implications of "narrative strategy." In particular, that fallacy relates to your insistance upon "interpretation" of photographs.
    (that you like to interpret is fine, just as is point/line analysis if those are the only sorts of perception and understanding that are available, but they may not have anything to do with the way anyone else photographs, responds generally, and may not even be significant for others who view your photographs.).
    That you think the strong response to a startling and widely-respected modern economic and philosophic writer means his readers "worship" a mere "celebrity" or that you, of all people, should object to Taleb's his use of "I", tells a particular kind of tale.
    However, I'm glad to see your sudden interest in written clarity, and to see you, of all people, using the term "concise."
     
  283. Definitely, Arthur,Fred and John and others that might still be around , this thread refuses to go away!
    One comment on Fred's latest input.
    Fred, writing about essence and meaning:
    It is not something unique to or invented by those of us in this forum who similarly reject these ancient ideas. The resistance to letting go of essences is also well known but the move has been slow, steady, and strong away from such a way of thinking about reality and meaning​
    I'm sorry, I should have detected that you and others were fighting windmills when seeing to your obvious horror the word "essence", while others tried to discuss "this something" that makes places special in photographical terms. I'm now twice as sorry to have used a word like "essence" and even "soul" to denominate "this something".
    What if it is all a question of light, the very special light that makes creative people become inspired? A Barbizon, a Skagen, a Sainte Victoire, a Lake George or a Cape Cod - all places where "this something" seems to have been present, for some - but surely not for all. Mostly this something was indeed "light" for the painters and photographers involved and not necessarily something lofty and immaterial.
    For me, as mentioned many times, but to little avail, "this something" it is a question of the social organization of a space (a city cross road corner for example) whether material (buildings, roads, spatial organization) or immaterial (people acting and moving around with their: "roles", "authority", private and public sphere actions etc).
    I'm here inspired by the methods and theoretical paradigm coming from the tradition of "the social construction of reality" (Luckman and Berger) analyses. This is a social science approach that surely is based on the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, but further developed (Schütz, Cicourel, Garfinkel etc) rendering it of direct relevance for an interpretation and analysis of phenomena in the real world, and therefor also relevant for photography, whether it concerns the actor (the photographer) or the viewer of photos. "Meaning" (personal, collective or objective) comes to the fore immediately as central to that approach. It learns to see.
     
  284. John,
    how someone photographs is for me no less interesting than what they photograph or the image product of that. We have a small group of school children (26 kids, 11 and 12 year olds) I will take out Monday for two or three hours of photography. While I will give them a few basic thoughts and approaches on photography, I will not overload their minds with that. What will be most interesting is to find out what and how they will photograph a small part of their world here, and show that in a small exhibition at our yearly "Days of culture" during 4 days in late September.
    But the main point is what is your point in mentioning Taleb's ideas? I am trying to understand the connection of your mention of Taleb and his "narrative fallacy" with the present thread. Perhaps my reading of your posts is incomplete? Do you mean to say that what the photographer chooses to shoot or the way the viewer sees it is too much subject to his own misinterpretation? Or what?
    To quote from the entry on "narrative fallacy" in Wikipedia:
    "Narrative fallacy" is also called by some "illusory correlation" which refers to our tendency to construct stories around facts, which in love for example may serve a purpose, but when someone begins to believe the stories and accommodate facts into the stories, they are likely to err."Narrative fallacy" is also known to some as "compulsory illusion"

    "Illusory Correlation - We often mistakenly assume things are correlated when they are not.
    Illusory Correlation - What Is an Illusory Correlation - An illusory correlation is the perception of a relationship between two variables when only a minor or absolutely no relationship actually exists.
    Illusory Correlation - PsychWiki - A Collaborative Psychology Wiki - The concept of Illusory Correlation helps explain how social stereotypes and prejudices come about. They are more likely to occur when distinctive or rare events are being
    Illusory correlation - Psychology Wiki - Illusory correlations are beliefs that inaccurately suppose a relationship between a certain type of action and an effect."
    Perhaps the latter definition relates to your point? That the photographer or viewer sees in an image something that is questionable, because of what he brings (knowledge, experience) to understanding it? That the image may well be a "black swan"?
    John, to try to understand your point a bit better, here is a quote from your reference:
    "Taleb's problem is about epistemic limitations in some parts of the areas covered in decision making. These limitations are twofold: philosophical mathematical and empirical human known epistemic biases. The philosophical problem is about the decrease in knowledge when it comes to rare events as these are not visible in past samples and therefore require a strong a priori, or what one can call an extrapolating theory accordingly events depends more and more on theories when their probability is small. In the fourth quadrant, knowledge is both uncertain and consequences are large, requiring more robustness.

    Why are humans often caught off guard by or slow to recognize the rare and novel? Partly because built into the very nature of our experience is the propensity to extend existing knowledge and experience to future events and experiences. To exacerbate this natural propensity much of our cultural education both formal and otherwise is built upon historical knowledge forced on us by others. Of course both the natural physiological propensity and the cultural phenomenon are somewhat a necessary precondition to learning, since complete openness to every event would be inefficient. Bertrand Russell observed, "An open mind is an empty mind." So we cannot be completely open, but we must guard against being completely closed as well. It would be most efficacious if we could find a balance between the known and unknown and the limits of our knowledge and experience. The effect of unexpected events likely is integral to finding this balance. Thus, the rare and unexpected is far more significant to our formation of knowledge than people often imagine.

    Taleb argues that the proposition "we know", in many cases, is an illusion, albeit a necessary one; the human mind tends to think it knows, but it does not always have a solid basis for this delusion of "I know"."
    Perhaps you can help me (us?) to understand your point as it relates to the OP (and my apologie if I missed it in the preceding threads, but I don't think that I did as references are often quoted without specific connection), as what this means in your discussion of "material conveyiong the immaterial, or not", is abit obscure. Please clarify. Thanks.
     
  285. A Haiku for your delight:
    empty mind ...
    I wonder who is chatting

    inside
     
  286. No "kigo"?
     
  287. Withered autumn thread
    in twilight, essence fading...
    immaterial
     
  288. Double knock-out, Ernest!
    But "withered" suggests old, yet the essence of the thread is hardly walking in long pants.
     
  289. Well, Arthur, it's "287 responses" old.
    In dog years, that's a lot.
     
  290. Speaking of dogs, the bird-pointing dog or the cadaver dog is a mime to us. What is it that a mime (dog or human) communicates? How? (Note that to another dog, a dog is not a mime; they share the scent.)
    If you see a stage actor rocking back and forth and pretending to work an oar, you understand that he's on a boat though there is no boat. If you see an stage actor pretend to get on a horse, then bobbing along as if now on horseback, you understand that he is there. How is that conveyed? What do his motions contain?
    What does the ellipsis in Arthur B.'s poem ("fading ...") convey?
     
  291. Perhaps mime and photography have things in common, as each strives to convey emotions, or beyond that, ideas or meanings, through a limited palette. Annette Lust has reviewed the history and art of mime, the nature of which Julie is bringing to our attention.
    http://www.mime.info/history-lust.html
    In speaking of the 20th century development of the ancient (Greek) and italian art, she says "Through the contributions of Decroux, Marceau, and Lecoq three main schools of mime developed in Europe that had worldwide repercussions. The more commonly whitefaced, illusion pantomime portrayed concrete emotions and situations by means of conventional gestures, creating the illusion of something there which in reality is not. Corporeal mimes rejected this form to express abstract and universal ideas and emotions through codified movements of the entire body."
    Codified movements - a visual language that surely has a parallel in photography. Symbols, or more than that?
     
  292. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, you'll find Taleb's explication more weighty than Wikipedia's, and despite his literary limitations (redundancy, for example), much better-written and thereby more to the point.
    Wikipedia's "Readers Digest" nature isn't always a negative as it can serve as a springboard, but I've found Google and links provided by friends to be more effective.
    My impression is that it was Taleb that brought "narrative fallacy" to the intellectual fore, especially among people who study causality/risk...he did of course cite writers much more ancient than B. Russell. There may be nothing new under the sun, but we do sometimes suddenly remember something old thanks to people like Taleb.
    Those Wiki citations talk about narratives being "forced" upon us. That's not Taleb's point. His view is that our mind constructs narratives in order to compress information into managable packets: a convenience. However those packets (my term, not his) are stand-alones, they may refer to but do not necessarily "explain" their nominal subject. The more obvious and popular the explanations (eg gravestones re time and death) the greater the risk that something is being missed. I didn't say that the obvious and popular are wrong...but they do leverage risk, while seeming to provide assurances.
    I mentioned narrative fallacy because I think our efforts to apply narratives to photographs are often distractions, sometimes intentional distractions. When we apply "meaningful" explanations and labels to images it is us who are doing the forcing. If we're photographers, why don't we first think in terms of our responses to images and potential images, rather than constructing narratives? Don't we trust ourselves and our viewers?
    I've rarely applied a "meaningful label" to a photo, but have slipped, tempted by the obvious. As well, I commonly write essays or notes to accompany photos...to provide background or context. That's skating on thin ice as I don't like to tell people what I claim to see or what they should see.
     
  293. John, thanks for the link between narrative fallacy and images. What you say about essays, titles and other narrative descriptiors by the photographer is correct, they don't allow the viewer a freedom to come to his or her own evaluation of the photograph. My own description of the initial photo of this OP should have been left out of the introduction. Many of us will have encountered the local or the national art magazine essays by the photographer or the amiable critic that, for the lack of a better word, "pushes" the "meaning" of the photograph onto the reader/viewer. When the article discusses the artist's generic approach, rather than attempting to provide a narrative for a specific work, it is somewhat more palatable. What I like about mime and dance is that it is often unaccompanied by narative. It is for each viewer to provide.
     
  294. I'm not sure that it is not too simple just to agree on: "It is for each viewer to provide".
    I don't either think that concept of "narrative fallacy" is of relevance for photography or for "arts" in general - how can anything be labelled as false in the field?.
    Neither, that applying "meaningful labels" to photos is to be prevented.
    I would find it more relevant to see (dare I say "analyze"?) the whole process of making a photo for a viewer to view as a proces controlled by the photographer that to a certain degree always is manipulative. I would therefor not consider a photo as a free standing artifact that has fallen from the sky. There is always a reason for the photo to have been made and present to viewers, and often it has been produced to provoke certain reactions on the part of the viewer. That it may be used for other ends is another question.
    I approach here a problematic that it is related to the highly complex writings of David Davies and his "Art as performance". If we could prevent relaunching an exchange on the word "art", this holistic approach of Davies would support the idea that "meaning" to any work of art is always (mostly?) present in the very conception and execution of a photo and labels can be part of the end product - or the focus point as he names it.
    Have any of you had the opportunity to read and reflect on the work of Davies and it's possible relevance for photography?
     
  295. Anders,
    About five years ago I stopped giving small yearly gifts to the engineeering department of my old alma mater in Montreal and instead directed them to the arts department. It is interesting that they have a person such as Davies on their faculty and that is pleasing to know, as a very minor contributor. He has been working on the idea of the book (2004, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing) since 1979, when he received his Masters. This is pretty intense philosophical stuff and I do not pretend to know anything about it, except to have gleaned a few things from a review quoted below.
    Jeanette Bicknell (who teaches philosophy at Carleton University, Ottawa, and has published articles on aesthetics and on the history of philosophy) says this of Davies' book (very partial excerpt of http://www.uqtr.ca/AE/Vol_13/recension/Bicknell.html:):
    "Davies sees support for the performance theory in our appreciative practices, and he argues that these practices are more adequately explained on the performance theory. When we engage with an artwork we are interested both in its perceptual properties and in how these properties result from the agency of a maker. To appreciate an artwork, he claims, is to appreciate what was done. Here Davies is open to the criticism that can be made of any such pragmatic move: Who is to decide what counts as “our” appreciative practices? Indeed Davies slides between talk of appreciation and “adequate” appreciation. He writes, “to interest oneself solely in what a work articulates is to fail to take a properly artistic interest in the work” (p. 55). This is surely a prescriptive rather than a descriptive claim." (Jeanette Bicknell)
    To get to Davies' theory on art as performance, he takes us through a variety of different views and theories on what constitutes art. Perhaps for that alone it is worth the effort to study.
    Nothing is single variable in this life and I can understand Ander's view that the photographer arranges what the viewer sees and so is part of the equation that gives meaning to a work of art and to the viewer thereof. Assuming the validity of Davies' claims, a question of interest here may be the following: Is not a performance, "the carrying out" of the work, by its very nature something more involved than a simple manifestation of an object (the print, the image), and a simple reaction to it by the viewer?
     
  296. "When we engage with an artwork . . ." and "To appreciate an artwork, he claims, is to appreciate what was done."
    Engage
    and appreciate are not interpret or give meaning to.
    Davies seems, at least in this isolated quote, to say it himself: “to interest oneself solely in what a work articulates is to fail . . ."
     
  297. "Engage and appreciate are not interpret or give meaning to." (Fred)
    They can be. There is no exclusion of subtexts implicit in the words themselves, although the details of his theory may be another thing. Are you familiar enough with with his text to determine that?
    "...to fail...." what? To fail to achieve a more complete understanding or idea of the meaning of the work?
    This is not at all a defence of his position. Like all theories it will be questioned by some (http://www.springerlink.com/content/8thbb97mmutph3pl/), but a full reading of his ideas, like those of Taleb I too hastily commented, is probably needed. If I his thoughts might clarify this thread, I would perhaps attempt that or ask Anders to further elaborate.
     
  298. " '...to fail....' what? To fail to achieve a more complete understanding or idea of the meaning of the work?"
    No.
    [Davies]"To interest oneself solely in what a work articulates is to fail . . ." [Fred]to engage or appreciate the work on a more responsive, more active, more sensual level.
    I'm riffing off the quotes here, not really discussing Davies, except insofar as his words are stimulating thoughts for me.
    A performance is an activity, not an understanding. That seems significant. Performances often construct their own worlds rather than interpreting or giving meaning to existing ones.
     
  299. I do not pretend fully to have understood Davies and neither the review and critics of his approach to performance art.
    As far as I understand him, he tries to cover all forms art and concentrate extensively also on musical performance. His whole project, that, as Arthur mentioned, is a very long term project dating back to his very first academic work of the end of the seventies (interesting, Arthur, that you come from the same higher education institution and department), was directed towards a theory or method for understand and giving meaning to contemporary art, which takes so many difficult understandable forms. Many performances don't have any tangible product you can contemplate. All is then in the process.
    Seeing the comments above, I think it should be mentioned that Davies's holistic approach seems never (?) to be an invitation to "understand" a work by also looking deeply inside the guts of the artist, but to include in the understanding and give "meaning" to for example a photo, the visible or otherwise known intentions of the artist who through the artistic process of creation tries to direct and manipulate the viewers towards specific forms and processes of appreciation and reflections, or even actions (walking away immediately for example!). I think "explanations" by the artist just like titles cannot be used as some kind of objective valid sources of giving meaning to a work of art and detached from the work of art. They would always (?) be part of the "performance".
    Earlier in this thread I quoted an example of such performances (the one on identifying the "centre") where there is obviously no tangible work of art. Apart from the written or spoken words the whole is in the process as well as the reactions of the viewers. Fred is right in underscoring that a performance is an activity and not an understanding. But what we discussed was the "understand" and "giving meaning" and here Davies's analysis tries to give meaning to the performance in what ever form it comes from the artist.
    I thought actually by mentioning Davies I would be bombarded by reactions from people in especially the US and Canada that since years have read him and tried to understand him. This is philosophy, and for me very much relevant philosophical discourses for our discussions here in PN.
     
  300. 300 candle lights, for us all to blow !
     
  301. "tries to give meaning to the performance"
    What if viewing is also an activity, a performance of its own?
    When I'm at the symphony, I don't give meaning to the performance, though things I know and understand about the composer and musical history will be at play. I listen and breathe. I interact. I anticipate and resolve. I feel rhythm. (Do you ever find yourself breathing in counterpoint to the music? Sometimes I even syncopate.)
    Listening to a musical performance and watching a theatrical one is often physical. Is there a counterpart to that in looking at a photograph? For me, yes.
    When I listen to music, experience a performance, look at a photograph or painting, I bring myself to it . . . I participate.
     
  302. Yes Fred obviously in our analysis of what happens we can forget about the artistic process and possible intentions and translate all what happens into very private events, but when Davies present what "art performance" is, he sees it as a much more intentional game from the point of the artist(s). Whether you are able to "escape" this intentionality depends on you and of course to which degree the artist have manege to integrate his intentions into the work of art. We can choose not to know about the "manipulation" - or not to care.
     
  303. I'm not talking about private events and I'm not talking about analysis, nor am I forgetting about the process. I can see process in a photograph and be in touch with it. I don't have to interpret it into something. That I don't approach a photograph in order to divine the intentions of the artist doesn't mean I make that viewing a private event. What the artist expresses may belie even his own intentions. And there is likely much more of significance than just what the artist may or may not have intended. He may have expressed even what was beyond his own awareness at the time. He didn't limit himself to "I want to do this." He did it. And likely he did more than he intended or thought about at the time. I know I do that when I make a photograph. I look at my work later and am often surprised . . . unintended consequences . . .
     
  304. "Many performances don't have any tangible product you can contemplate. All is then in the process."
    Anders, this is an interesting comment, and probably some of what Davies intends (whose project is no doubt as long in its execution as some of my own comments here, although we are of different departments at Davies' present institution, mine having been one that the British refer to as a haven of the "boffin" rather than of the liberal arts student). However, I do think it is difficult to ignore the product in most performances.
    The "activity", as Fred perhaps rightly considers the "performance", is to me very evident in some things, like jazz music, in which the artist is musician and the performance is the thing. The process. Whether this is a tangible product or not, is probably a matter as much for the listener to derive as it is the creator to manifest. The playing of a classical music composition, or even the more abstract or exploratory contemporary music, can be the same, where the conductor and musicians can "extend" the work of the composer in different ways and thus engage in the overall process.
    The viewing of a photograph is I think normally (and necessarily) quite detached from the photographer's methodology or state of mind. As Fred and Anders point out, it is an "activity", but mainly one of the viewer. It differs in that way from, say, a jazz performance. What the photographer said is already fixed (analogous to the darkroom term) and it is for the viewer to participate in it in his own personal manner. Some visual and symbolic elements of the photograph may be ignored, while others are highlighted in his mind. In this way, and with the emotional and thoughtful input of the viewer, the "product" of the photographer is "extended."
    Perhaps what the photograph can best do as an activity and source for inspiration and interpretation is much like the role of our institutions of higher learning, "to encourage thinking that challenges the orthodoxies, and not to succumb to them." Perhaps the photographer who is intent on creating images that hopefully incite the viewer to think is concerned by the paradigms or orthodoxies of how images are viewed by his public? Maybe this last thought is not relevant to our discussion, and perhaps conditioned by the fact that I am listening at this time to a two hour local radio panel and forum on the role of institutions of higher learning in society.
    Fred, I just read your last thread and agree with your thoughts. It is maybe similar to the "extending" that I think viewers do in evaluating a photograph and independent of a knowledge of the thoughts or aims of the photographer.
     
  305. "What the photographer said is already fixed"
    What I am "saying" in my photographs is not fixed, even when the print is dry and hanging on the wall.
    Arthur, the thing is I think photographers make pictures independently (to at least some degree, and sometimes more than others) of their own intentions.
     
  306. "it is for the viewer to participate in it in his own personal manner"
    I see it more as a dance . . . sometimes slow and intimate, sometimes a tango, sometimes like the kind where you don't even touch, and sometimes like just briefly catching a glint in the eye of someone on the other side of the floor.
     
  307. "What the photographer said is already fixed"
    This is almost a tautological statement because the photographers "speaks" by his photos. Whatever the photographer does afterwards is not relevant anymore unless it is communicated to the viewer and then part of the artistic process.
    No, what Davies seems to get at is that photography as "performance art", starts with the conceiving by the artist of the intentions of not only the photo but also making it being viewed and thereby the reactions of the viewer. What ever the viewer does, he/she will to a certain degree always be trapped in the process, all depending on whether the artist has succeeded his "performance" or not. Giving "meaning" to a photo would then be to understand the artistic process of making the photo and the intended reactions of the viewer.
    One can of course decide as individual not to be bothered by anything else than one's own private reaction to the photo, but as far as I see it, it does not prevent others from seeing the process in a more holistic way, true to understanding photography as a "performance". There is no one correct way of appreciating photography or analyzing it.
    Nobody around have read, and believe to have understood, Davies?
     
  308. The photograph does not live in a vacuum, therefore is not fixed. It takes shape according to context and changes over time. The photograph performs as much as the photographer did.
    That one does not necessarily project intentions onto the photographer does not mean one is having only a private reaction. There are many sorts of relationship other than projection.
     
  309. Fred, it is all a question of whether you accept to discuss the "performance" or you insist on concentrating on the photo and whatever it is used for after it has been made. Davies tries, as far as I understand him to make a construct of the process that he calls a "performance" that goes upstream to the intentions of the photographer and downstream to the perceptions and reactions of the viewer. To understand a photo is then to understand the process that gives it it's meaning. I find that interesting as approach and I think it is relevant for understanding the work of many modern photographers.
     
  310. Since I'm not usually accompanying the photographer on his shoot or in the darkroom, I guess I will continue concentrating on the photo . . . and any sense of a performance I have will come to me as I look at the photo.
    It's been my experience that many viewers spend a lot of time trying to divine the intentions of the photographer and unfortunately seem to miss a lot of what's right in front of them. It's not unlike time spent wondering if that was "actually" what things looked like at the time the photo was taken or not.
    The intentions of the photographer may not have all been concentrating on what wound up being expressed by the photograph. There are a lot of unintentional matters that go into the making of a photograph. A photograph is not a representation or direct expression of intention. I see it all as a much looser kind of relationship . . . much messier. Intentions are only one element, and are usually only guessed at, more often than not wrongly. As I said, I see a lot more even in my own photos than my intentions.
    One of the greatest things about a stage performance is the role accident can play. Inspiration. Cause and effect of audience (in the case of a photograph, cause and effect of subject being photographed). Lots of stuff besides intention.
     
  311. A photo may be much more a revelation than a catalogue of intentions.
     
  312. "What the photographer said is already fixed"
    Inefficiently communicated, perhaps, but what was intended by that statement was that the photographer has terminated his photograph, although quite obviously that the work can illicit or induce reactions from the viewer (whether intended by the photographer or not) beyond that. The photograph was born of the photographer, but then lives its own, and to a large degree independent (of the photographer), life. That is what was also inferred earlier by the word "extended" activity or experience, or extended performance if you will. The viewer engages. Accidents also occur. How many times has one of your images created something entirely different from what you had perceived and imagined? It has happened to me on a few occasions, where I have been made aware of the reactions of a viewer.
    Those viewer reactions have once or twice been in the nature of non-material thoughts (ideas, feelings). I don't take any particular credit for it, but there may have been something in the image that conveyed the immaterial, or it may have been other collaborating influences experienced by the viewer at that time.