The role of desire in photography?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Recently, I was asked what I meant when I said I found a photo "compelling."
    My answer had something to do with my finding a connection to the photo. I was saying that my feeling connected to a photo as photo could be very different from feeling connected to the subject or content of the photo.
    But, as I thought about it more, I sort of hit upon desire. That a "compelling" photo aroused in me some sort of desire.
    Desire might seem like some sort of emotion but it's also a physical or sense matter. Hunger is a desire. So is sex, IMO. That's why I used the word "arousal" in referring to desire. Not to limit it to sexual desire, of course, but to associate it with the senses, which I think are significant to my relationship to photos . . . not just senses but sensuous-ness.
    I guess I also think I may engage in the act/process of photographing out of a sense of desire . . . even longing. For what, I'm not sure. Not sure there's a goal there or a particular object of that desire. Let's say the object of my desire is obscure.
    Desire kind of has a nice sense of propulsion for me, continuity, movement or motion. Feels like it comes from within and moves toward without (though it can also move further in . . . why not?).
    And it does seem also to have a sense of potential and potential connection.
     
  2. First sentence from an article in last week's Economist magazine:
    "Held in a hostel for migrant workers, Palestinians who have fled Syria's civil war pass their days exchanging pictures on their mobile phones of the corpses of relations who failed to get out."​
    I'd say it's more 'need' than 'desire.' Desire seems kind of ornamental; optional.
     
  3. Julie, how does that quote tell me that it is need, rather than desire? Can you (or the Economist, a noted authority on the subject matter) read their minds? Do you know what drives them to exchange photos, in their bizarre and terrifying situation?
    __
    Fred, your OP makes a lot of sense to me. Desire seems a very fitting word indeed, and words like longing, wanting, urge all fit in quite well into it. I know every now and then I have this feeling I must go out and take photos, like I am missing seeing things through a viewfinder. I don't know why, and since it's all rather harmless, I do not actively try to find out why. Usually, such days, I return with photos I quite like myself. Like the urge also pushes me to say what I want to say better in my photos.
    Feels like it comes from within and moves toward without (though it can also move further in . . . why not?).​
    I'd say it movement inside is there, while the movement toward without is a "maybe/why not?". The movement outward is more a play between several factors, not all coming from that desire (the viewer being independent enough), not all necessarily a logical consequence of it.
    Speaking for myself, photos shot from these 'rushes of desire' are photos I do feel more emotionally connected to, and which to me reflect a state of mind more than many other photos I make. But that state of mind is not always "inclusive" - it can be an active avoidance of others too. I would not be surprised if people would find many of those images distanced, unengaged, cold, unengaging, empty (yup, they're not necessarily shot during happy days).
    The outward movement, well, I do share these photos, but my own valuation of them is more disconnected from the opinion of others than it is with most others I share (here or elsewhere). Maybe because I knew the desire that drove them, and when I think I came close to nailing it, then any communication value they have towards others just becomes secondary to me. Desire, after all, can also be very egoistical.
     
  4. I have a 16 lb. orange tabby cat named Schrodinger who when picked up or shooed from where he wants to be is able to turn on what I call 'supergravity', apparently tripling his weight. Desire is like that, and sometimes the gravity is pulling on something we cannot detect.
    Sometimes I think that it is not so much a clear-cut objective, but a mystery/the unknown that exerts a pull on me. And desire is but one form of connection, and often intertwines with need all too seamlessly.
     
  5. The visual connects very effectively with emotions. I feel desire when I see some photographs, a common response no doubt for many. The subject of those desires are multiple, including what the french call "la photographe de charme", the sensual representation of a very attractive human being, as suggested as much as illustrated (déjà vu type of mechanical appearing nudity is not normally in that category), the texture of snow or sand or a rainfall that makes me want to be there, the undulating fields of rural France or Italy or Britain that create a desire to visit and sense, the simple uncomplicated but aesthetic images of everyday things that I particularly relate to, are part of that desire as expressed as a viewer.
    Desire as a photographer manifests itself when I feel excitement at being in a crowd of persons who are present at an event that I can easily subscribe to, with the potential of capturing some images of their actions. It is also the desire to return to places where I have pre-digested some of the possibilities of photographing them and desire to return and complete my ideas of images, hopefully under the lighting conditions that permit achieving what I have in mind. Desire is also the sight of a particular early morning or late evening lighting and the vision of some subject matter once ignored but now seen in a compatible light that incites new responses to making a photograph. Exploring a new idea of subject, composition, lighting, and intentional modification (blur, out of focus, new vantage point, fllter use, unusual angle or setting for a portrait) is often accompanied by desire. Wanting to communicate to the viewer something significant about a particular subject matter engages my desire. The desire to photograph something in an as yet to be explored manner by me and in an original way is also compelling. Coming upon a special and unexpected image possibility creates a spontaneous desire. The extent of desire is varied. These are but a few examples for me.
    P.S. Luis, I love your example of supergravity. My equally heavy and sorely missed cat had the same supernatural ability and desire to stay put.
     
  6. Wouter, the "without" I was thinking of wasn't the viewer, though that's an interesting road to take. It was more the object, the photo (more than the subject of the photo), the manifestation, the sensual or sensed part of the experience. For me, desire may be a motivation but it's also a result. When I look at a "good" photo, it stimulates desire in me. Of course, that's a result but also a launching pad. It does sometimes feel like a desire to be outside myself. What does it mean to desire someone or something? Can that be a move outward?
    Luis, yes, I think we have similar experience of the object of desire being obscure. And I agree that desire intersects with need. I tried to suggest that by talking about hunger, which the body needs for sustenance.
     
  7. Arthur, our posts crossed. Thanks for offering your examples, which I will ponder.
     
  8. Luis, the name of your cat will make for easy jokes now on "dead weight"....
    Fred, I was a bit in doubt whether I read the outward without well.
    that's a result but also a launching pad​
    True... and any learning process needs its harsh painful failures, and its glory moments (even if both can go unshared). Seeing those good photos and wanting more of that, to me is a 'glory moment' in learning, and a notification to start pushing my limits a bit more.
    But, reversing a bit your last post: how can desire not be a launching pad? Desire is there for what we do not have at that very moment - else there would be satisfaction. Desire is wanting the missing thing bad enough - and following desires (be it conscious, be it unconscious) means action, changing the current status (= moving outward of myself) into the desired one. These are the main reasons I liked the word in this contest - it's the driving force behind learning and growing.
    There are areas of photography where I just don't get the hang off well enough - portraits for example. But I also feel little desire there, so I don't really push myself across my borders to get better. Maybe it all sounds awfully simple what I say, but I think it is maybe actually that simple, for once ;-)
     
  9. Wouter, hmmm. I'm not sure we're on the same wavelength. (Not that we have to be, of course.)
    To start, the only reason I said "launching pad" is because I mentioned that desire could be the result of looking at a photo, and a result is usually an end, so I wanted to be sure that everyone realized I wasn't misunderstanding desire.
    The desire I had in mind, though, wasn't seeing more good photos or making more good photos, if I'm reading you right. It is a lust for something sparked by the photo itself, emotion, description, connection, etc. Not for more good pictures or how I could make more good ones or what I could learn from this one, but just the awakening of desire in me, by looking at the photo. For me, it was less about the desire to photograph and more about the desire produced by one.
    When I was an adolescent, I might often awaken with an erection, a sexual desire, even if it weren't pointed (pun intended) toward anyone or anything in particular. I simply had a sexual desire that could have been fulfilled in any number of ways. It's kind of like that . . . the sensuousness of the desire itself . . . the physicality of it . . . the being in touch with that state . . . regardless of its object and regardless of "for what."
     
  10. By the sensation of desire when you see certain photos, do you mean that you in a way are being 'charged' by the photo, Fred? Like I have said before, I think they emit energy.
     
  11. Ann, for me, it's a kind of charge or energy that has the sense of incompleteness . . . that there is something more . . . something I do not yet get but can grasp at, feeling that I will (or at least may) get it but haven't yet. That feeling that there is something just out of reach.
     
  12. Fred, its the opposite for me. I find photos to be compelling when there is a sense of completeness, a delicate tension between balance and imbalance, which creates, as I have mentioned before, energy, as Ann refers to. Too much "balance" and the photo becomes boring and cliched and low energy, too much "imbalance" is distracting and the energy is too scattered. Desire? Only the desire for this tension and delicate balance.
     
  13. The pictures I gravitate toward most are ones where I feel completely immersed in its content. It's like watching a favorite movie multiple times and never giving a thought to its cinematography.
     
  14. Sometimes the object of desire is so close you can brush against and/or taste it. A few days ago, a beloved local artist, leader in the arts community, a painter, and friend passed away. I covered the community's response to this. My desire was to do it justice, be accurate and truthful. I knew most of the people involved. If I closed my eyes and pursed my lips I could almost kiss what I wanted, but of course it proved elusive. What I initially thought I wanted was superseded by revelations along the way.
    In my native tongue there is a word used that translates into "comply", but it means more than that. The way my mother used it meant to complete or make good. In the end it proved a nearly impossible task. My desire and the apparent proximity to its object engaged in a kind of danse, and the photographs like one long and blurred exposure of that performance. My readers told me they liked the photos, that they were beautiful. In the end I followed all my hunches, wandered around aimlessly, and some of those pictures served me best.
    At the funeral, I noticed two of them had been "lifted" for the now obligatory slide show at the service. I felt honored.
    ________________________________________________________
    I do not desire a particular balance with photographs, mine or anyone else's. Each one is a small infinity in its own right, a universe with its own laws. Think of a see-saw with a movable fulcrum. With equal weights, balance is with the fulcrum at the middle, but with different weights, balance can be almost anywhere, not that it's required.

    _________________________________________________________
    [Sideboard]
    That slide show at P's funeral was heartbreaking... to see snapshots of my deceased friend's life compressed from his first to the last days. Through the pain and tears once again I felt the power of the snapshot --- and many included the usual "mistakes" so many are desperate to avoid.
     
  15. Fred, I think the late hour made my choice of words a bit more muddy and my thinking lob-sided; I think we're quite on the same wavelength. The kind of desire you describe coming from a photo, I do recognise. Sorry to not have been very clear on that (though I think the desire/learning-cycle I refered to is equally there, important, but probably not as sensual - more like waking with an erection and thinking of your highschool teacher - exit erection, back to doing homework).
    I need to order thoghts a bit on it, it's fleeting thoughts and ideas at the moment. Interesting subject, though. I'like bringing up completeness in this context, ... the word passion creeps into my mind too.
    ___
    Luis, my condelences for your loss.
     
  16. "You must learn, Grasshopper, that desire is unquenchable, therefor rid yourself of it."
     
  17. H.P., in reading about desire, I noticed there are some Buddhist traditions and Christian traditions that frown on desire and indulging desire, especially particular kinds of desire. (In some forms of Buddhism, liberation is achieved by stopping the flow of sense desire and nurturing what is referred to as skillful desire.) I, on the other hand, find your quote a non sequitur. I wouldn't get rid of something simply because it is unquenchable and doubt I could even if I wanted to, which I don't. Having said that, I can certainly recognize there are good desires for me and bad ones. It's up to me to sort those out. As to the more Christian refusals of desire, I think such refusals are often just plain silly (not always, of course) and, as we see time and again with priests who "stifle" themselves into pedophilia and "family" guys who wind up in bathroom stalls, the attempt to avoid desire can be unrealistic and even harmful.
    Wouter, there was this one high school teacher, the first male teacher I had who ever wore jeans, and well . . . er . . .
    Steve, more power to you! I like ending up with a question and an itch. There are, of course, times I do stop to rest, feeling at least accomplished if not complete.
    Luis, "elusive" paints a nice picture.
     
  18. There can be a little bit of the bad boy in desire . . . desiring what's forbidden. No coincidence that some religions, therefore, see desire as a problem . . . (and perhaps at least part of why I'm drawn to it).
     
  19. The desire told by Luis is something that doesn't occur very often but which is something that can bring out the best in us despite the difficult task it addresses. My condolences to Luis as well. My best friend 15 years ago unexpectedly succumbed to a heart attack while we warmed up on a tennis court. Resuscitation was to no avail and I later learned from his medical doctor brother who came over from India that Ajit had a heart defect. Desire takes many forms and the desire to talk again with my former friend in the relaxed and explorative manner that once existed will probably always be there. Desire is a lever on our thoughts and a precursor to our actions. Photography is not alone as a communicative medium in benefitting from it. A snapshot can be made memorable through its presence.
     
  20. The sensation of desire, if it is strong enough, would make one act, I believe.
    When it is related to photography, enjoying photographs that other have made, might create a sensation so strong that we run off to buy equipment, load ourselves up with gear and start chasing that dream that this sensation of desire has created in us. It has sparked a dream and maybe a vision of how we want to express ourselves. If acted upon, and if one is willing to do the hard work, the dream might come through. I believe, that if the sensation of desire is not strong enough, the dream will not come through. Even if you work hard to make it happen. I think the creative part is dependent on how strong the desire is.
    How often have we not heard people say in the media that 'this is a dream come through'. I believe most of those people were driven by a strong sense of desire in the first place. A desire is an emotion, and emotions seem to be creating motion. You get in motion, and you find yourself creating your dream. IMO it is all about energy. Everything is energy, energy can not disappear, it can only change form. And since everything is energy, everything is interrelated, even though it doesn't feel that way to most people most of the time.

    And Luis, my condolences to you. The funeral must have been beautiful. I hope it brought you some kind of comfort or release. Take care.
     
  21. Gæd knows, Fred - I try hard not to be ironic beyond the measure but if you put *internal* before *desire* and then abbreviate it in to *ID* you may find you self on a pretty well known *terrain*, repeatedly charted, left and right.
    And, yes - they shoot DBs. Often, repeatedly. What does that tells you?
     
  22. "To look at a photograph beyond a certain period of time is to court a frustration: the image which on first looking gave pleasure has by degrees become a veil behind which we now desire to see. It is not an arbitrary fact that photographs are deployed so that we do not look at them for long; we use them in such a manner that we may play with the coming and going of our command of the scene/(seen) (an official of a national museum who followed visitors with a stop-watch found that an average of 10 seconds was devoted by any individual to any single painting -- about the average shot-length in classic Hollywood cinema).
    "To remain long with a single image is to risk the loss of our imaginary command of the look, to relinquish it to that absent other to whom it belongs by right -- the camera. The image then no longer receives our look, reassuring us of our founding centrality, it rather as it were avoids our gaze, confirming its allegiance to the other. As alienation intrudes into our captivation by the image we can, by averting our gaze or turning a page, reinvest our looking with authority. (The "drive to master" is a component of scopophilia, sexually based pleasure in looking.)"
    -- Victor Burgin (1977)
     
  23. A special note of thanks to everyone for your condolences.
    ________________________________________________________
    Many of us remain long with images on our walls and those elsewhere. To fixate on one single image, as Barthes did with the snap of his mother, lends credence to the saying that 'anything looked at long enough becomes everything' -- and perhaps via habituation, sometimes flickering into nothing at all.
    ________________________________________________________
    Throwing out a few loose thoughts on this... desire serves both as connection and motivation to make further connections. It can be thought of as an analog of gravity, a connecting force pulling between things, some of which may not even be known, or maybe as building a suspension bridge to a distant, perhaps invisible shore. An act of faith? The idea of gravity appeals to me in the sense of, as the saying goes, 'that which you are seeking is also seeking you'.
     
  24. It ("desire") is a reifiying word for a non-thing; it's a solipsistic circling.
    Obstacles create desire; desire creates obstacles. (What is an obstacle? Something that prevents you from fulfiling a desire. What is a desire? Something from which you are barred by some kind of obstacle. Absent desire there is no obstacle; absent obstacles there is no desire.)
     
  25. [I know better than to do this, but...]


    de·sire (d[​IMG]-z[​IMG]r[​IMG])
    tr.v. de·sired, de·sir·ing, de·sires 1. To wish or long for; want. 2. To express a wish for; request. n. 1. A wish or longing. 2. A request or petition. 3. The object of longing: My greatest desire is to go back home. 4. Sexual appetite; passion.
    _____
    Hmm...says nothing about being barred by obstacles. While I understand what Julie is driving at, I guess one would have to consider any form of absence, physical distance and/or time an obstacle.
    ____________
    ob·sta·cle ([​IMG]b[​IMG]st[​IMG]-k[​IMG]l) n. One that opposes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress.
    _______________
    I do not consider simple, easily traversed distance/time spans or processes obstacles. If I desire a new lens, and the only thing separating that from happening is a few keystrokes to the B&H site, is that really an obstacle?
    I realize that desire in a romance novel, dramatic script or epic foundation myth objects of desire often do involve titanic obstacles, that is not always the case. It's not required, though it sounds good, almost worthy of a French theoretician.
     
  26. I doubt that desire is exclusive to extreme egocentrism. The challenge of obstacles can often be absent (a desire for the simple taste of maple butter, sitting in a tin on a back shelf of the fridge) although without desire and obstacles (two more or less independent entities) many of the greatest achievements of man, and the photographer, would not have occurred, except perhaps the few that did so by chance.
     
  27. This obstacle/no-obstacle vs. desire/no-desire situation is otherwise known as extinction, ... which some consider as final point of arrival for creative investigators unless they figure one better on the way.
     
  28. <<<I doubt that desire is exclusive to extreme egocentrism.>>>
    Arthur, I doubt this as well. But it wouldn't surprise me if the lost and lonely person, perhaps one who is isolated and operates mostly within himself (can't get outside of himself) would project some sort of solipsism onto desire and particularly onto others.
    IMO, there's a relationship between desire and empathy. I wonder if the desire awakened in me isn't that empathetic connection to the photo that many of us feel (and we've talked about here before) when we are looking at a photo that really moves us . . . whether for a long or short period of time.
    Ann, I think there's something to what you've said about others' work stimulating our own. So often, I am inspired to make photos when I've returned from a museum or when I've opened a good photography book of pictures. Even when I've been to a good concert!
    And yet there is also an awakening of desire not for what I, myself, might do but for a connection to what the other guy has done. Along these lines, I'd say desire and looking at a photo is more like an embrace and less like masturbation. The latter seems to me what Julie is proposing.
     
  29. Obstacles create desire; desire creates obstacles. (What is an obstacle? Something that prevents you from fulfilling a desire. What is a desire? Something from which you are barred by some kind of obstacle. Absent desire there is no obstacle; absent obstacles there is no desire.)
     
  30. desire serves both as connection and motivation to make further connections​
    Luis' sentence pulls a few things together nicely - for me anyway. Much of what came up reading this echoes in Fred's last post too.
    Potential. Passion. Completeness.
    I left the thread a bit with those words echoing in my mind. There is a spark-like thing about desire - it comes, it does not necessarily have a logical ancestor (but connects to something already lingering in me), it moves and awakes things - it ignites. There is something very creative about desire. Energy, already mentioned - good word in this context, but I prefer creative for its Latin roots - it's about making something, something you do not have today. That's both connecting to your potential (and if all goes well, unleashing it), and raising your passion - it drives to act, change, do, learn - to create.
    Completeness is the odd one there. Not sure why it stuck in my head. I don't like "complete". Complete is done, finished. Boring. Static. Nothing to add. It leaves nothing to want. Completeness to me is the opposite of desire. Desire is about flaws, coming from a flaw and hoping to remove it. But "complete" (and its worse neighbour "perfect") - they might seem goals, but somehow for me, they aren't. Incomplete and imperfect are human qualities, and somehow I prefer it that way - it leaves things to desire. And desires make me feel more alive than complacency.
    I know, I am being quite incoherent here, but these were some left-over words from earlier posts that were still brewing in my head.
    In practise it's a bit as what Fred said above after visiting a museum, concert, or reading a good book. Inspiration makes me want to use what I've seen/heard/read, and apply that into something I create - there is a sort of literal link between the two. Desire, on the other hand, makes me just want to create. It's far less directed, less precise. It has an 'inspiration'-like quality, but it works out completely different.
    The first time seeing Brassaï photos inspired me; they still do (and i do fair amounts of night photography, so that helps). Those photos have qualities I hope some day to achieve in my own. The first time I saw Serrano's Piss Christ, I just wanted to see, feel, catch light. I wasn't (and still am not) going to do a photo like that one. But darn, that radiant light. It just makes me want to make photos, of whatever. See sunrays. Enjoy light. It doesn't inspire me, it makes me want to create. As much as I adore Brassaï, that photo really makes something happen.
    (it is kind of hard to explain the difference; it's subtle, but hopefully the above makes some sense)
    ____
    In my view desire does not create obstacles, it creates - it awakens potential and passion to use the potential. Desires can be fullfilled - to awake other desires; Julie's repeated statement suggest otherwise, but I see it more as cynicism than anything else. If everything you deeply want to do is an obstacle, then there is nothing left to do. Maybe it's me, but I miss some vibrance there.
    ____
    I doubt that desire is exclusive to extreme egocentrism​
    Arthur, I did bring in egoism earlier, and while I fully agree with what you say, there is a hint of egoism. My desire is about what I want - the desire as such is not necessarily empathic and antipathic. To me, it just is. In some cases, it does take a bit of rationalising to not follow a desire or to shape it into a more socially accepted shape. But i do see a dash of egocentrism at the core of any desire.
     
  31. Wouter, for me the idea of completeness means one thing seems (nothing ever really is, is it?) finished, or to be abandoned for now, and within that, perhaps implicitly, are seed pods for the beginning of something else. Desire, push or pull, energizes that first step and a vector to start out on. The Tarot card for the Fool, traipsing along a precipice with his little dog comes to mind.
    http://www.biddytarot.com/cards/fool.jpg
    [I want to clarify that this is out of a form of wanderlust, restlessness, mental nomadism (call it desire), not a search for something "unique" or "new", though perhaps new to me.]
     
  32. <<<My desire is about what I want>>>
    Is it about what I want or what I want or the want-ING? Or some of all of that . . . and perhaps more. Wouter, it seems you may be alluding to the wanting itself when you say "incomplete and imperfect are human qualities." Having had that gallery show recently, I was happy with the results all the while being very aware of my own limits (and newfound potential) in terms of where I currently am both with printing and shooting. That incompleteness felt great, hopeful, motivational. I didn't experience this immaturity as an obstacle or roadblock, but rather as part of the passing scenery and my own evolution.
     
  33. That incompleteness felt great, hopeful, motivational.​
    I meant that, Fred - the incompleteness basically is a source for desire.
    With the "human qualities", I chose my words rather lousy. What I was aiming at, is that it is reachable, doable. Completeness (and as Luis said, nothing really ever is - but I mean even as an ideal, an aspiration) is not that - it's not something I can achieve. Too "divine" - it cannot give me that motivation. Something incomplete can. Hence, my desire for completion and perfection delude; desire needs to be doable.
    The reason why I dislike programs for SkinSmoothing is that it perfects women that otherwise would be desirable. Transforming them to something perfected makes them out of reach - beautiful, gorgeous, lovely - but not for me.
    And yes, in a big way it is about wanting. With desires, in my mind anyway, the actual outcome is not all that defined, it's not that rational, more etherreal. It's more a sense of direction than knowing a destination.
    Luis, I'd be the first to admit that my idea on completeness is debatable, or at the least far from universal. If that ends up depicting the fool, I won't mind. The fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer - there is something about foolishness there that's utterly attractive too.
     
  34. Wouter, you misread me, I was citing the Fool card for the way I view myself.
     
  35. Darn, I want to be the fool! ;-)
    Yes, indeed, misread you there. Rereading I see that.
     
  36. Wouter, I think you chose your words well. I agree with you that incompleteness is a human quality . . . it is finiteness . . . it is NOT divine, not perfect, not an ideal.
     
  37. Luis -- condolences on the death of your friend.
    Cats. And I thought my 14 lb black cat was unique in his supergravity powers. Who knew?
    Fred, your initial post definitely struck a chord with me. Arthur enumerated a number of scenarios in which desire is created and at which I found myself nodding in agreement.
    And this from Fred --
    Not for more good pictures or how I could make more good ones or what I could learn from this one, but just the awakening of desire in me, by looking at the photo. For me, it was less about the desire to photograph and more about the desire produced by one.​
    Yes. A photograph may bring out desires (some to which I cannot put a name, sometimes an almost bittersweet yearning, sometimes like being taken to another world or time that doesn't really exist, one which I imagine from the image, perhaps, or like some world or existence from a dream that seems familiar in the dream, but is not so upon awakening), but similar desires may come from a novel, short story, poem, or snatch of music.
    I would like to attempt to contribute more in regard to what others have already written, and in a more coherent fashion, but it is late and I must go to bed. Fascinating topic, Fred.
     
  38. Somehow, this thread seems to be drifting away from the earlier pred.: compassion. It's too soon. Let's go back and examinate it closer.
     
  39. Steve, perhaps even something to do with escape (at least sometimes).
    I can grow weary of the real world. And so the world of the photo, in all its glorious artificiality, can provide solace, shelter from the storm. Then again, it can rage just like the storm and even foment some storms. Perhaps not knowing its power is part of the draw, and my desire. The artificiality of the photo is very real to me, so photos participate as if they exist in two worlds. I like that interplay between what is so real and what is so not, between truths and lies, between the concrete raw materials and what a photo transforms them into.
    I wonder if desire, for me, is wrapped up in fantasy, which is often my own further trespass on reality.
     
  40. Steve and Fred have touched on an important aspect of desire, possibly the same thing in different descriptions: a dream world of imagination and an escape from reality, including evoking fantasy or fantasies. Exploring subject matter as a photographer, or visiting a photograph that presents an enigma that we desire to figure out or be swept up by or challenged by, are parts of a desire to see something beyond the ordinary or the common sight. Desire and arousel, or desire and compassion, as Ilia latterly mentions, are perhaps generally more concrete aspects of the feeling or attachment to desire, although not always so.
     
  41. I believe Wouter mentioned passion, not compassion. I'm not sure how compassion would fit here, and I suspect it was just a trip of the tongue.
    Something I've always appreciated about the loaded nature of passion is its religious connotation of suffering. The passion of the Christ.
    Desire often seems to spring from a certain kind of passion. Wouter says, appropriately, about desire: "It does not necessarily have a logical ancestor."
    Then there's lust, which is a kind of desire . . . sometimes an almost addictive desire. Surely important as well.
     
  42. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Dec 05, 2012; 01:53 p.m.
    Steve and Fred have touched on an important aspect of desire, possibly the same thing in different descriptions: a dream world of imagination and an escape from reality, including evoking fantasy or fantasies. Exploring subject matter as a photographer, or visiting a photograph that presents an enigma that we desire to figure out or be swept up by or challenged by, are parts of a desire to see something beyond the ordinary or the common sight. Desire and arousel, or desire and compassion, as Ilia latterly mentions, are perhaps generally more concrete aspects of the feeling or attachment to desire, although not always so.​
    It is a little as you described (and as Fred described), yet for me it is also different. Fantasy and escape form a part of it, but not in the same way that a good novel or movie might provide me with an escape. Photography which elicits desire from me serves also as an enhancement of reality. I'm not sure I can put it into words.
    In the last month I obtained copies of Koudelka's Gypsies (the newer Aperture reprint) and Klein's Life is Good & Good for You in New York (from the Errata Editions Books on Books series...an original is just a little too pricey for me to justify at this point). Many of the images in these books give me a desire, they transport me, yet they also change my reality, my vision, when I go out into the street or to an interview or event in relation to a documentary I am working on. These books are not the only examples of images and photographers that have that effect upon me (Ishimoto, Frank, Arbus, Faurer, Lee, et al, do the same for me in many cases), they came to mind because they were recent acquisitions and I had just been looking through Klein's New York when I left off to check photo.net and came across Fred's post.
    Some may doubt my credibility or sanity, but when I speak of a change in reality I am quite serious. I don't see differently because I am under a temporary influence of Klein's or Koudelka's viewpoint, I see more...I see things in addition to what I saw before and that is what I mean by enhancement. I can never see as they did (nor do I want to), I continue to see as Steve Gubin, but with, perhaps, a few less scales over my eyes. If that makes any sense.
    That's also why I don't see the "world of the photo", as Fred put it, as a "glorious artificiality". A photo is what it is, and is something unto itself. As a poem, a novel, or a piece of music does not necessarily have to be seen as artificial. They are parts of reality, even while they may mimic, reflect, and fantasize reality. Part of this may be due to the type of photography that, at this point in my life, most interests me and sparks desire and enhancement: candid street photography of a certain type, and documentary photography of a certain type. But I'm not convinced I would feel any different if I worked in a more fantastical, composite based genre of photography and had recently purchased monographs by Jerry Uelsmann and Julie Heyward.
     
  43. <<<Then again, it can rage just like the storm and even foment some storms.>>>
    Steve, thanks for fleshing out your description. I think, when I included the above line as a qualification to a photo's being an "escape" from the storm, I was trying to leave the door open to photos being very real as well, precisely because of the raw materials from which they are made. Photos have that extraordinary ability to put us in touch with the real in some cases and create a reality of their own in others, to be reality-based in an almost hyper sense (as in some good documentary work but also much "art" photography as well, which is quite real and whose springboard are actual events or objects and places) and fantasy-based in other applications, sometimes both of those worlds being touched on in the very same photo.
    I can relate to what you're saying about seeing more when under the influence of having seen an exhibit or looked through a photo book. I guess I'd call it a matter of clarification. And, sure, a change in reality.
    Likewise, for me, when I am holding a camera, my reality can sometimes seem to shift. It's a little bit of the observer effect. How I observe changes what there is to be seen. I can affect the world by how I approach it . . . and then I take a picture of it.
    I'm always hesitant to use the word "artificial" because it does have, for many, some negative connotations (in a world where I, too, put a premium on, for example, eating natural foods, not wearing synthetic fabrics, etc.). I mean "artificial" in the best and most authentic and genuine sense, however, of something being man-made, crafted by the hands of someone who sees, of someone who desires to make . . . a photo.
     
  44. Steve, I want to add that there is a sense in which "artifice" is significant to me, in a way that I might similarly use "theatrical." Now, sure, theater is its own reality. I'm the first to advocate that. But I also think of it has a having a certain relationship to my day-by-day experiences (which I hesitate to refer to as a different sort of reality). So that, in some of my photos I take a purposely and deliberately theatrical attitude, a "staged" vision if you will, different from a candid one though in many ways still somewhat spontaneous, and yet I think that artifice or theatricality can arrive at some very real truths, or what we might call genuinely human emotional depictions.
     
  45. Rather than having a desire to seek out some aspect of reality, or a form of reality that may be rediscovered by my photographic process, or in the approach of another photographer, or a desire to see reality in a photograph, my desire (and yes, I think that passion rather than compassion is at the root of art making and many other activities) is more to see beyond reality, and at what might also exist, albeit sometimes only in the mind and as yet without physical presence. I guess "to see beyond" also describes the desire of a researcher and for anyone else for whom exploration is a game whereby the result is unforeseen. When something is foreseen, as so often happens with reality, it often is accompanied for me by a much lesser adrenolin charge.
    I think that desire needs little psychological explanation or justification, as it is such a key motivational force in the human condition. The precursors to my desire are often supplied by external events or experiences, much like a baton received from another runner which I take up and run with until some point I can hand it over to another (in photography, the viewer) to take it where he or she wants to take it. The external event, whether it is a situation or fact provided by another, or instead simply something I have thought about and which is ready to be constructed (I have often also thought of theatre in that context, or what I call a deterministic process of photography), defines a need to which desire can couple. I think that the term engagement describes the way my desire is pursued or enacted. The engagement is not something as methodical or univariant as that protocol someone might apply to prepare himself to shoot a friend's wedding (of which I am not capable of doing, let alone being drawn to) but a free engagement which is very open to variation as I interact with a photographic subject.
    Fantasy, the unpredictable, and enigma, may have little place in defining reality for many of us, but to me they are necessary elements of going beyond the familiar of what we consider as reality. Just as the future exists only in our imaginations, fantasy can only be a part of what may be "possible realities" and therefore of greater interest than something we know very well. Exploration becomes a child of desire.
     
  46. For me, "complete" is not an ideal, but more of a sense of plateau-ing. Often a signal for change, dig deeper, work harder, persevere, or move on.
    ___________________________________
    Maybe due to my magical realist early upbringing, but reality is endlessly fascinating to me and getting more so as I get older. Photographs feed my (ADD-led) curiosity. They are short vertical movies, subsets of time and space as defined by echoes of light that have branched off, yet remain a part of reality. Escape is part of it, but as an exile that idea seems a double-edged blade. The idea of exploration fits my construct better, though some photographs almost demand one leap in with abandon. The photograph is a magical space with its own rules and price of admission. It is simultaneously a depiction of the subject, implied presence of the photographer, culture, the process(es) involved in its creation, and more. It is also a record of something not so much to escape to but something that escapes all too easily: The boundary layer between what happened on either side of the shutter curtains. That hiding-in-plain-sight, nearly transparent membrane fascinates me.
    ___________________________________________________________
    When I look at someone else's work, spnapshots, advertising, painting, etc., there is a kind of conceptual parallax, similar to getting to know someone, a new place, culture, etc., or doing drugs. That empathetic displacement and the subsequent process of absorbing/resolving it is in my case very similar to what Steve reports about books, and not in a slavish, clingy way.
     
  47. <<<though some photographs almost demand one leap in with abandon.>>>
    Got it. Hits the proverbial nail on the head!
    Also, sometimes taking (and making) photos can demand this as well.
    ________________________________
    In some ways, fantasy (for me) can be a leap into reality with abandon which (again, for me) undermines or at least calls into question the foundations I may have become used to for support.
    For me, intimacy and connection with and to the subjects of my photos needs a strong grounding in reality. The beauty of photography, for me (or at least the photos that attract me), goes beyond what I might call a Disney-like fantasy . . . a photo can achieve depth, even with its important relationship to fantasy and mystery, by also keeping it real.
    I really do believe that, even the most abstract, the most creative, the most strange or imaginative photo is also a document of some sort. The interplay of imagination or fantasy and reality is a fairly significant part of photography, IMO.
     
  48. At the risk that I might actually be talking about a whole different end of the spectrum....
    important aspect of desire, possibly the same thing in different descriptions: a dream world of imagination and an escape from reality, including evoking fantasy or fantasies.​
    For me, desire does not have to do all that much with escapes from reality, or a dream world of imagination. It can be a very down-to-earth real wish. Dreaming is related, but not the same. Reality is related, but neither inclusive or exclusive. I understand what Arthur is bringing up with it, and yes, it plays a role. But it's not the whole story. And I think frequently it's far more down to earth. For me, certainly when it comes to photography - it translates into actually making some more, but other, photos. That's not an escape, nor a dream.
    Going bare-bones thinking about desire (as I see it): there is a current situation where something is not. I want it. The missing thing can be anything - from the material to the most dreamlike fantasy. The one thing driving it all is the lack of its current presence in my life. The lack drives desire.
    That's also where I see it connecting two ways - to the current state, the lack/void, to the desired state and inclusion, and to the process of changing the state from one into another. There is leaving behind, there is moving forward. It's change. But the change can be as mundane as buying a coffee.
     
  49. Wouter, all kidding aside, I think that's why there's often (always?) an element of sexuality and/or lust relating to desire, for me. It's human, of the body, physical. There is something very physical about making and viewing photos. (Of course, all crafts and arts have that sense of physicality.) But the photo's tie to history or to what's occurred or to "what's out there" makes it seem especially of the body, especially corporeal based. Of course, I'm a big believer in the transcendent nature of photos as well, thus my sense of a strong interplay between the photograph and the photographed, be it tension, harmony, or some other state. And it would also explain my desire to connect to what I'm photographing intimately, penetratingly.
     
  50. Fred, I agree; while my photos are not particularly about sexuality or human physics, I can relate to what you say. Just to be clear: I can also relate to what Arthur wrote, it can also be etherreal, and there can be desire for the etherreal. It's to me different ends of a continuous spectrum. I did not want to oppose one to another. Desire rings more bells for me (as a word/sensation/idea) on a physical, earthly level, though. Wanting, rather than dreaming.
    But that's also knowing that in my native language, it has two translations, one being more 'profound' but with a strong background of being used to indicate sexual desire; the other more straight-up ("to want") and used common, without the tension. Neither one really maps to the English word, I'd say. I guess such differences in linguistic valuations will leave their traces on my thinking too, as it may for others of course.
    In my photos, well, it's a bit more a jump. Your photos make much better examples for this point than mine!
     
  51. Another word came up in my mind today that could be interesting in this context: curiosity.
     
  52. <<<there can be desire for the ethereal>>>

    Sure.

    We may be going back and forth a little between the desire itself, the feeling of the desire, its cause on the one hand, and the desire for something on the other hand.

    In using sexuality, I was not necessarily talking about what the desire was for or what the photo was about but rather what the desire felt like. The desire can emanate from a physical source, whatever it is my camera is pointed at, and yet it can move toward that ethereal you're talking about.

    A photo can pass through to the ethereal, be spiritual in nature, transcend the physical subject matter that was before the lens . . . or not. In my own experience, it's through being in touch with what I'm photographing, being intimate with it, establishing a connection (which is sometimes done in a very fleeting and barely noticeable moment) that something ethereal (I might prefer intangible), imaginative, spiritual, or transcendent can ensue.

    _____________________________

    Does curiosity have the passion of desire? For me, no. But I could see how it might for others.
     
  53. Curiosity doesn't quite have the burning passion, true. But as with anything, there are degrees - I just offered the thought as maybe it could lead to an aspect that might well be a driving force behind their photography for quite a lot of people. It wasn't a very "organised" thought yet, though.
     
  54. <<<I just offered the thought as maybe it could lead to an aspect that might well be a driving force behind their photography for quite a lot of people.>>>
    Yes. I think there are many motivations for photographers. Curiosity and exploration seem to have something in common in that there's a sense of the unknown at play.
    Interestingly, while the motivation to photograph for some might be curiosity, that might also be just what a photo stimulates for many viewers.
    Also, I think almost the opposite of curiosity can be at play, motivationally speaking. A lot of photos seem to be taken to preserve a memory or as a sort of confirmation . . . I was there . . . This happened. Of course, there may be elements of curiosity at play even with these motivations as well. And doubly of course, there are many, many other motivations for people to make photos.
    I am thinking there's a categorical difference between desire on the one hand and curiosity, exploration, or memory on the other. I could be romanticizing or mythologizing and would have to think about it more. If anyone has any thoughts to help me along on why or whether desire stands out, please help.
     
  55. So, what your folks are saying, healthy egotism is o'kay and compassion we don't have to bother? Can this be true?
     
  56. Wouter, if you can stand a little bit of poetry, these bits (I'll try to keep it to a minimum) show what I think is the difference between (artistic) desire and curiosity. This is the beginning and ending of Mark Strand's poem, The Idea:
    For us, too, there was a wish to possess
    Something beyond the world we knew, beyond ourselves,
    Beyond our power to imagine, something nevertheless
    In which we might see ourselves; and this desire
    Came always in passing, in waning light, and in such cold
    [ ... ]
    And we stood before it, amazed at its being there,
    And would have gone forward and opened the door,
    And stepped into the glow and warmed ourselves there,
    But that it was ours by not being ours,
    And should remain empty. That was the idea.​
    The "ours by not being ours" seems to me to go to desire; where I think curiosity would be about opening that door, would be the hope of making it "ours."
    [In the middle of the poem, Strand writes, "And never once did we feel we were close / Until the night wind said, 'Why do this, / Especially now? Go back to the place you belong';" -- which is when they see a warm cabin of the poem's ending.]
    Ilia, it seems to me (if you also can tolerate poetry) that compassion would be *from* those inside the warm house looking out at those souls possesssed by desire -- not vice versa. What do you think?
     
  57. Julie. Thanks. I can tolerate poetry very well, even to the point I often enjoy it to great extent.
    Well. I kind of expected, most of folks were not going to hump on compassion like crazy, but hey - that's what poets are for ...
    Thing is, this thread really need to shift the sylabic balance towards wider opening. As a first and coarse prompt these may be concidered: empathy, will, wish, need, talent, urge, destiny, faith, law of nature.
    And, yes. It's Christmas time.
     
  58. Ilia, if you want to shift the thread, I'm sure many of us are open to it. Instead of telling US to do it, why don't YOU do it. Perhaps it would require a bit more than your simply throwing out words here and there, with no context or description of what they have to do with the topic of desire. Form an idea of what you're thinking and talk about it. Then you've substantively moved the direction of the thread and I'm sure will add to it. But throwing out a few generic words that you'd like US to discuss is not likely to accomplish much.
    You've mentioned the word compassion several times now without once saying what you think it has to do with desire or with photography. Does it play a role in your photography? It certainly does in mine, but I don't relate it to desire which is the topic of this thread. So I'd probably be more inclined to start another thread about the role of compassion in photography. But if you think it's relevant to desire or to this thread, please make the connection. If you were to actually talk about compassion in terms of photography and/or desire, you might stimulate some interest in it here.
     
  59. Fred. Many thanks for your kind suggestions. Without going too geopolitical on your prefered capitalizing, have to say: word desire does have synonims and synonims do differ in etymology. I you wish to costrict this thread to "desire" line singular, I will have no problem with it but IMO such a singularity will limit the value, perhaps mislead the thread altogether.
     
  60. Ilia, I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear. I was not suggesting we restrict the thread at all. I was suggesting you talk about compassion, since you've brought the word up several times. I was hoping you could expand the thread by actually discussing compassion rather than telling US to do so. We may then follow your lead.
     
  61. I find myself drifting in and out of this topic, perhaps an indication of a personal lack of desire? In any case, I see the word desire and the feeling of desire as accomplishing the role of a verb in a thought or sentence. Desire is directed to other things or stimulated by them or thoughts of them. So Wouter's example of curiosity is perfectly good and I can imagine it being either weak of very strong depending upon the desirer (or the desired). At the height of an exploration of how some specific chemistry affected a reaction under study I can remember the curiosity being so strong that I slept over in the lab to be able to return to the study as soon as I woke, had dressed and had downed a morning coffee. That level of curiosity can also engage other humans, as it is when you meet someone who fascinates you (humanly, sexually, intellectually, whatever) and you cannot wait to satiate your curiosity further. Same for a subject matter briefly seen and projected for a second visit and image-making.
    Perhaps my sense of altruism and sensitivity to others may not be as high as for others, but I can understand desire driving or being driven by compassion for others, as I think Ilia is referring to. Desire is a function of what is important for each of us and it can manifest itself in many ways, some of which haven't been referred to in this discussion. The object of, or subject of, desire is I believe less important in many cases than the intensity with which desire moves us, and, in relation to photography, how we apply it, sense it and/or are affected by it.
    The desire can emanate from a physical source, whatever it is my camera is pointed at, and yet it can move toward that ethereal you're talking about.​
    The statement needs extension. I am sure that Fred did not ignore the mental source of desire as well, as ethereal is but one small part of that mentally induced imagined desire, which doesn't even need to be sourced in some physical subject matter in front of our lens.
     
  62. <<<The statement needs extension. I am sure that Fred did not ignore the mental source of desire as well, as ethereal is but one small part of that mentally induced imagined desire, which doesn't even need to be sourced in some physical subject matter in front of our lens.>>>
    Arthur, I was talking about my own process only, and not speaking for any other photographer or all other photographers. As a matter of fact, in that moment I was ignoring the mental source of desire. I was talking about a desire which comes specifically from who or what I am pointing my camera at. I understand that this is somewhat limited in scope and perhaps even more concrete than it needs to be, but I was and am purposely avoiding the abstract. For me, and for me only, Philosophy has a level of abstraction that photography does not, or at least that I don't want out of photography. I want that contact, that very physical contact, with my subjects and that's where my desire seems both to point and to emanate from. Photography can very concretely deal with things that Philosophy was not able to do for me. Its sensual (and that is more physical to me than idea oriented) nature is what led me to it and preoccupies me about it. I have actually longed for that in my life and am finding it through my photographing and photographs. It's precisely, for me and at least for right now, not an idea from which my desire emanates. It's from my connection to the person or thing I'm photographing. Now, of course, I can't and wouldn't want to completely separate the idea of this thing from the physicality of it. They both co-exist and may not even be all that different. But, yes, again, I did mean to shortchange the mentally-induced desire in favor of emphasizing the desire induced by my subject, as you say, the very "physical subject matter in front of our lens." Well, not OUR lens. MY lens.
     
  63. Ilia, I did not jump on compassion because to me, it doesn't connect (yet!) to the way I experience desire. I find them different things. To me, desire has something egoistic. Not in a simple, singular "me me me me" way, but in a way where the desire is really about what I want. Now, that does not exclude compassion, but it also does not include it. It lives side by side, and part of being a human being is balancing between them.
    Julie, poetry is usually fine with me, and I think you choose this one well as it seems very fitting in this thread. I see what you mean with "The "ours by not being ours" seems to me to go to desire; where I think curiosity would be about opening that door, would be the hope of making it "ours." - and I can fully understand making the distinction. But personally, I don't. The way I read your words (do correct me if I'm wrong): The ours-by-not-being-ours is inherently strange, un-me, outside. It seems to conclude to me that desires should not be fulfilled, as this would alienate me from myself.
    For me, desires aren't that outside of me. They can be big doors to open, or incredibly small; they can cause change or just give me a new toy to play with. But they're not some sort of discontinuum between me-before and me-after. They're an integral part of me, and some will be fullfilled, some partially, some never. Some make beautiful dreams, some make torment. None of them is really devoid of emotion.
    Arthur, thanks for picking up on curiosity, and how it can connect to others. Fully agree with that. But in my previous post, and in the above reply to Julie, I keep on finding one major difference between a desire and curiosity. One is an emotionally-driven unguided missile. The other is an intellectual want - it can come from a desire, but it is the tamed and guided version. Sensual (to quote Fred), versus the reasoned, is a critical difference here.
    This might seem to downplay curiosity, and to be clear: no, curiosity is a value I much appreciate. I think most of my photos come out of a sense of curiosity, rather than desire. I love learning, I love diving into some subject to gain insight - curiosity drives a lot. But curiosity typically makes me know things; it's a key to physics, mathematics, computer programming and such things. Desire makes me understand - it's the key to philosophy, poetry, art.
    P.S. Yes, a little exaggeration, the difference is more subtle than this.
     
  64. Wouter, you say, "It seems to conclude to me that desires should not be fulfilled " Yes, that's half way to what I'm thinking about (and I understand what you've described; this is simply another path ...). What I am thinking of is desire as an experience in and of itself; to be "in" that condition and to explore it for its own sake.
    Think of Odysseus lashed to the mast as he sailed past the Sirens, begging, screaming to his men to let him go ... He wanted to experience desire. Was that curiosity? Just to have the feeling of wanting to lose himself?
     
  65. Julie, I always figured Odysseus to be curious there; a desire to experience the Sirens, who would invoke a desire - but that desire wasn't Odysseus' own desire. Apparently, it was a generic accepted effect that Sirens have, in those days. Nowadays, sirens makes me want to pull over the car to let the ambulance pass. There, a bit of compassion ;-)
    But true, it's different paths, and certainly interpreting Homer is a thing of many paths. As said, I can understand what you say, I just experience it different.
     
  66. <<<One is an emotionally-driven unguided missile. The other is an intellectual want - it can come from a desire, but it is the tamed and guided version. Sensual(to quote Fred), versus the reasoned, is a critical difference here.>>>
    Wouter, I relate well to this.
    I think it was Thomas Hobbes who said, "Curiosity is a lust of the mind." Now, please forgive me for this, but maybe desire is a lust of the soul -- or at least the senses -- or some combination of the soul and senses.
     
  67. Asking someone if they can "tolerate" poetry seems condescending.
    __________________________________________
    I think I understand Ilia regarding what he has said about desire and perhaps about compassion. SSFM (Speaking Strictly For Myself), desire, although present, is not the biggest thing going on between me and the photograph, or what I photograph.
    There is curiosity, and no, no closed doors, nor the desire to possess or acquire per se, but more to interact with, experience, or know in the sense of gnosis, the Platonic gnostikos, which to me includes both the abstract and the concrete.
    Everyone else's mileage will vary, I know.
     
  68. <<<desire, although present, is not the biggest thing going on between me and the photograph, or what I photograph.>>>
    Luis, agreed. I hope no one thinks that because I start a thread on desire, I think it's the biggest thing going on for me or anyone else.
    What is your understanding about compassion here? I'm being honest when I say I don't know what Ilia's getting at.
     
  69. I did not think desire was ranked at the top by anyone, but just wanted to make clear that it isn't for me.
    ___________________
    Compassion, from the Greek meaning "to suffer (or bear) with". It is close to, but not identical to something we've discussed here before. Empathy is kind of a subset of compassion. The effect of all this is to identify with whatever we imagine the subject is experiencing, narrowing the distance between us and the Other. This collapses a lot of barriers and safeguards we put between ourselves and other people. I am not implying that this only applies to documentary, portrait or other figurative photography, but landscape, still-life, abstracts, etc.
     
  70. Though I think true compassion is a gift, the skeptical side of me is concerned with its sense of bearing with suffering, or feeling sorry for or about. As relates to photos, for example, I tend to relate to photos that are empathetic vs. compassionate. There are many compassionate photos, for example, of homeless people, that turn me off, precisely because of the distance they create between the one receiving and the one providing the compassion. Often, they wind up exaggerating and even caricaturing the "feeling sorry for" aspect and at worst can wind up (if even unintentionally) exploiting their subjects or at least be laden with false or superficial pathos.
    I wonder if Arbus is an example where people expected and may have wanted her to adopt a more "compassionate" view toward her subjects, and she was having none of that. She was roundly criticized and I think a perceived lack of compassion on her part was part of the reason for that criticism. I see empathy in her work, not much compassion, and I'm fine with that. Compassion is often what many think they are supposed to offer when empathy would suffice. Compassion is often NOT appropriate and misapplied, more to gratify the desires of the giver than being of benefit to the receiver. Often the receiver of compassion doesn't need or want it. They'd prefer simply to be seen, heard, recognized, or acknowledged. Some very powerful photos look directly at and don't involve that layer of compassion which can often go awry, IMO.
     
  71. Compassion is directed toward something we're glad we don't have. Desire? I think not.
    Luis says, "I did not think desire was ranked at the top by anyone ..." How about Nachtwey's Romanian orphanage pictures? Salgado's workers? " ... to appeal, to alert, to upset, to cry out." [from Natchtewy's Inferno]
    My feeling is that what Ilia is after is what happens because of compassion. Revenge is possibly the most powerful desire of all. Compassion can motivate revenge.
    "And you, my father, there on the sad height," is compassion for a dying man.
    "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." is the desire to "cry out"; to venge or revenge (however impossible the outcome may seem).
    Nachtwey's work is described as a "moral mission" and *that* is driven by a burning desire.
     
  72. The reason I became interested in this thread was it seemed at the time offering an intriguing possibility to investigate the true motive of our photographic and, by extention, creative endevours in relativelly close circuit of dedicated practitioners who are prepared to look deeper without fear and trimbling of denial. The original offer of 'desire' as a start point seemed relevant but functionaly limited because of lacking in deffinitiveness. Yet, there is a rigid structure in the language we use, as we know it, and as instrument of logical construction has to be conformed. Consider, for instance, words: 'desire' and 'wish'. The former, in my understanding is usually used to signify physical or psycho-physiological and rather well determined emotion which can be persuated and rationally fulfilled. It can also be a source of emotional exsess, even to an unhealfy degree. Close synonym would be 'ambition'. The later, 'wish' is more ambient and has to do with fantasy, imagination and may imply creative action of passive kind. Then 'will' is of certainty, structure and action.
    All three IMO do not describe the nature of original impuls which makes us to do what we actually do in the field of creative photography as we / each know from personal experience which, in turn is of a same nature, IMO.
    So, my intention here is to frame this nature in words and therms of language, exposing it in clear and logical way. Say, I am trying to craft a complex syllogism which can lead us to meaningful and acceptable conclusion or, at least, an extended metaphor which might help somebody to arrive to a greater personal understanding in the matter.
    How about that?
    Well. What's up with 'compassion' / 'passion', then? Assuming, logically, we actually do share our creative work with basically anyone who cares to look at it here on PN or elsewhere, I think, it can be presumed that at least one part of mentioned creative nature (CN) is the compassion - in essense, we are trying to share aesthetic emotion apparently with people whom we personaly do not know, never met and most likely are never going to meet in person. In this case there's a strong irrational aspect on the plate.
    Why 'desire' seem to be too simple. The original question Fred has posted can be correctly answered in trivial way without running a chance of discovery of any phylosophical truth.
     
  73. Julie: "Luis says, "I did not think desire was ranked at the top by anyone ..." How about Nachtwey's Romanian orphanage pictures? Salgado's workers? " ... to appeal, to alert, to upset, to cry out." [from Natchtewy's Inferno]"
    Please...I thought it was obvious from the prior post from Fred that I meant anyone in this discussion/thread up to that time.
    ___________________________________________
    Fred, the example of homeless photography and compassion doesn't work for me because I very, very rarely see what I would call a compassionate picture(s) of the homeless, although I see zillions claiming to fit under that rubric. Empathy has a similar, perhaps greater emotional connection, but is passive, maybe less judgmental, and more attentive, which has a deep connectivity with many things, including photography. There is some crossover between the two, or they can alternate in some people, which makes it complicated.
    Although I did not know Arbus personally, I knew a photographer who worked with her during her time at Esquire, when many of her best work was produced (not all for the magazine). From the prints he owned, those I've seen in museums, and the many conversations we had about her, I think Arbus experienced compassion and empathy towards her subjects and humanity in general. Her formal objectivity ( derived from the Neue Sachlichkeit) and prophetic (for the time) non-conformity in manipulating subjects in the service of her vision made it difficult for many (I do not mean Fred in this) to appreciate the depth of her work.
     
  74. <<<The original question Fred has posted can be correctly answered in trivial way>>>
    It certainly can. Most questions can be responded to trivially. Thankfully, in most cases in this thread, I found little to be trivial. I found it an engaging thread.
    <<<All three IMO do not describe the nature of original impuls which makes us to do what we actually do in the field of creative photography>>>
    You speak as if the original impulse that drives all of us is or should be the same. That makes no sense to me. Why are you speaking in terms of "us" rather than in terms of "I"?
    <<<I am trying to craft a complex syllogism which can lead us to meaningful and acceptable conclusion or, at least, an extended metaphor which might help somebody to arrive to a greater personal understanding in the matter.
    How about that?>>>
    That's fine. You have been no more clear, meaningful, or enlightening than anyone else in this thread. Your input is as appreciated as all who have contributed.
    <<<we actually do share our creative work with basically anyone who cares to look at it here on PN or elsewhere, I think, it can be presumed that at least one part of mentioned creative nature (CN) is the compassion>>>
    I don't agree. While there may be compassion at play in some of my sharing (certainly I think there is some compassion at play in my own work at times), I don't experience much compassion in terms of sharing photos on PN. I do it to share. Sharing is not necessarily done out of compassion and doesn't necessarily pertain to compassion. For me, it's about expression, sharing, communication, exchange, connection. I don't see compassion at play all that often. If I experience compassion, it's much more experienced in terms of my relationship with my subjects than my relationship with viewers on PN. I'm not saying there is none at all here, by any means. I'm just saying much of the sharing of photos I do here has little to do with compassion.
     
  75. Ilia,
    The original question Fred has posted can be correctly answered in trivial way without running a chance of discovery of any phylosophical truth.​
    True.
    But so can the outcome of "an intriguing possibility to investigate the true motive of our photographic and, by extention, creative endevours in relativelly close circuit of dedicated practitioners who are prepared to look deeper without fear and trimbling of denial" be very trivial - or (more likely in my view) become too big, and hence all answers start to collapse under their own weight.
    Fred's OP is digging into one aspect out of many that can drive us in our photography and possibly other creative expressions. There have been many threads, including one on empathy that revealed a lot of interesting revelations. They might have a limited scope, but that allows a better focus on the subject too.
    My first questions to your suggested topic, Ilia, would be:
    • is there a true motive, or are there several? Is there a single 'force' driving me in my photography?
    • do they contain a philosophical truth, or do they contain many of those? (and that is carefully sidestepping the actual question, what is truth anyway)
    And I think we'd be at 7 pages of writing before even coming close to an answer on that. I am not trying to ridicule what you're suggesting to look at, but I am having serious doubts about how doable it is, how likely it is we find some common ground to move a discussion forward.
    It's in this light of sheer practicality that threads like this one are valuable. The question you ask (the 'big motive') is in the back of my mind, but the limited scope makes it easier to formulate thoughts, shape ideas and move ideas forward.It gives insight, without boggling the mind - slowly zooming in on the big topic lurking behind it.
    In short, I think where we might disagree is whether bigger questions will lead to bigger answers. I doubt so.
     
  76. <<<I very, very rarely see what I would call a compassionate picture(s) of the homeless>>>
    Luis, I agree. The reason I brought it up is because I think many people who take pictures of homeless people mean to be compassionate, thinking they are bringing something important to light to the general public or thinking they are giving "homelessness" a visual voice of some sorts. In most cases, unfortunately, the PICTURES are not compassionate even if the MOTIVES are. In some cases, the motives themselves are askew and misguided, or at least are worth questioning.
     
  77. Luis, to continue. The reason for my skepticism even about genuine compassion is that it can have that element of feeling sorry for. There is a negativity to compassion that I don't find in empathy. The "I wish you weren't going through this" side of compassion as opposed to the "I stand here with you" side of empathy. Like I said, this is a personal thing I struggle with. Perhaps because my dad's been disabled for most of my life and I have the experiences I do with my nephew, I often see compassion offered when empathy would be more welcome and constructive.
     
  78. Yes, there are implicit judgments often, but not always made with Western forms of compassion. I believe compassion (and empathy, to a lesser degree) come in many closely related but different flavors, and I don't want to get into thin-slicing all this, only remarking that there's a spectrum.
     
  79. Is there a "driving" vs "leading" or voluntary/involuntary division in the idea of desire? Also, what motivates us to pick up the camera (regardless/before any subject is present) vs the immediate "now? now?!" of picture making seems to be adding to the tangle.
    I'm interested (as should be obvious from my poetic fragments) in where desire leads me when I have nothing to go on *but* that desire which takes me by surprise. By responding to or submitting to the desire, I hope for revelation. (As already noted, this is the opposite pole to Wouter's pursuit of a desire-defined target.)
    It's as if I have been exposed to a cogntive reagent. Desire is not the reagent itself, but my sharp and urgent awareness that something latent has been sensorially made present by the existence of that reagent. In crime shows, they put dust on a surface and fingerprints pop into view; this is the cognitive equivalent to that "pop into view" except I don't (yet) know what to make of what has "popped into view." Desire has to do with that "pop into view" sensation.
    What's interesting is to try to locate not just what has been revealed, but the reagent itself. What made this revelation occur just now? Just here? If you can find what that reagent is/was, you can work it, use it, make (better) pictures with it of what has been revealed but also of what else it might be used to reveal. This (the nature of the reagent), to my mind, is at least as interesting as the particular event/thing that has been revealed in this particular instance.
    This is what I was trying to get at in my a previous post where I talked about exploring desire in and of itself. To reverse engineer it; to get to what it is indicative of, of the source of its cognitive reagent, that reagent being of great interest in the creative process and as a means to worlds previously unknown.
     
  80. Julie, having read your post several times now, I simply can only say that I really do understand what you're saying, and that most of the differences we say are down to using specific words, rather than talking substantially different actions/emotions/inspirations. At least, in my view, it's that close.
    You do add a good point in looking into where a desire comes from, what its 'ancestor' is, and to better understand from there what it would be all about. Rationally, I fully agree. Emotionally,... sometimes, it's just not possible. Desires can pop into view with a bang, light, and noise and often are a bit more ferocious than the mind is rational.
     
  81. Wouter, in this month's National Geographic, in a cover article, 'Why We Explore,' they blame it on a genetic feedback loop. Not very romantic, but it's a different angle, and kind of interesting, so I'll give you a few snips:
    "In humans [as opposed to other primates] the result [of our genetic heritage] is legs and hips that let us walk long distances; clever, clever hands; and an even cleverer brain that grows far more slowly but much larger than other ape brains. This triad separates us from other apes and, in small but vital developmental details, from other hominids.
    "Together, says Noonan, these differences compose a set of traits uniquely suited for creating explorers. We have great mobility, extraordinary dexterity, 'and, the big one, brains that can think imaginatively.' And each amplifies the others: Our conceptual imagination greatly magnifies the effect of our mobility and dexterity, which in turn stirs our imaginations further.
    "' Think of a tool,' says Noonan. 'If you can use it well and have imagination, you think of more applications for it.' As you think of more ways to use the tool, you imagine more goals it can help you accomplish.'"
    [ ... ]
    "As we leverage dexterity with imagination, we create advantages 'that select for both traits.'"
    [ ... ]
    "The first time a human ancestor used a rock to smack open a nut, she opened the way to a culture that may have increasingly selected for the genes studied by Jim Noonan that underlie dexterity and imagination."
    " ... pioneer families leveraged their most restless genes and traits by creating a subculture that placed premiums on curiosity, innovation, toughness, and a willingness to take risks ... "
    [ ... ]
    "'When you set sail to find new lands, you became mythologized — even if you didn't come back.' And so Tupaia, riding the DNA of his ancestors, headed east.
    "A proper sailing craft like the ship the Polynesians developed makes a near-perfect metaphor for the larger powers we gain through culture. It gives our malleable genomes, imaginative minds, and clever hands the power to transform even the strongest forces in our environment — wind, water, current — from threat to opportunity. Let the wind rise to a howl and raise a great sea, we needn't stay home or become flotsam, for we can change tack, trim sail, and become what amounts to a different vessel."
     
  82. <<<Desires can pop into view with a bang, light, and noise and often are a bit more ferocious than the mind is rational.>>>
    Wouter, this is such a wonderfully-articulated personal musing which, to me, itself illustrates and reflects the topic as well as addressing it directly. Your word "ferocious" will stay with me beyond the confines of this thread. It not only describes but conjures at least one important sense of desire we're talking about.
     
  83. I wonder if desire can have as open and unfiltered relationship to going beyond as possible. Would it make sense to talk about going beyond without necessarily getting into curiosity, exploration, etc. It's not why I go beyond but that I do and that I can and that I may. Exploring and being curious seems to nail it to a wall or something, for me. It mutes the colors, tames the ferocity (to use Wouter's word). Maybe . . .
     
  84. The desire to bear (or bare) fruit.
    Generation. Procreation. Gestation.
    Will it be the Second Coming or will it be Rosemary's Baby?
     
  85. For me, the inverse of the desire to fill in the blank.
     
  86. It seems like there are way too many variables to successfully back-engineer the reagents of desire, but it is a good enough reason for a quest.
    _________________________________________
    Where I struggle with the idea of desire is that it is linked to possession, owning or having something. I see myself as more of a conduit. Curiosity and exploration can be and often are about the unknown(s) and certainly about going beyond or elsewhere, but not just anywhere. Even if in an entirely new vector, my history, experience, work carry momentum and direction and are my point of departure. Whether desiring, exploring or acting on curiosity, we all start from somewhere.
    I experience something analogous to Wouter's dramatic moments sometimes. Other times, it is subtle, like a barely audible sound on a moonless night in a forest, or a kind of restlessness.
    I may be wrong, but I think we are all talking about the same thing with personal variations, different sources and/or linguistic preferences. In the context of desire, is it a constant, or a pulse/cycle? What defines the turnover? The quenching of desire? Ownership?
     
  87. I'm not sure what would be the difference between us all talking about the same thing with personal variations and us all talking about different things. That, in itself, would be an interesting thread. Just how different (or the same) are our differences or samenesses. I probably tend to see them more as differences in the strong sense.
    ________________________________________
    I hadn't thought about possession, so thanks for that. It helps, I think, explain both the eastern and western religious objections to desire that I alluded to above, but I hadn't put a name to it. I probably do tend to see myself more as an agent than a conduit, so the "me" part of possession may be stronger for me and less problematic an aspect of desire. In any case, I often find religious objections (especially when it comes from all sides) reason enough to enjoy something and even find it juicy. Telling me there's a bit of sin involved may well stoke my own desires. :)
    Possession/ownership may or may not be realistic, and so even if it plays a part, I may realize that it's a fantasy from the very beginning. I often find myself desiring things (and people) I know I will not have. That in itself can enable and help mold the desire. I don't have to assume that my desire will actually be quenched in order to be in that state. So, I think desire can be decoupled from ownership and, as I said, can just be a moving beyond without necessarily being a moving toward something, certainly something in particular. It can also be a moving toward but not in the sense of having but in the sense of seeing, of something being revealed and not possessed.
    I kind of like this quote from Nietszche . . .
    "Christianity gave Eros poison to drink: he did not die of it but degenerated--into vice."
     
  88. <<<Telling me there's a bit of sin involved may well stoke my own desires.>>>
    Re-reading, I just want to make sure it's understood that I don't think this is what Luis is telling me but what some religious thinking is telling me. I understand that Luis's struggle with desire is about ownership but he hasn't framed that, and I'm sure he wouldn't, in terms of sin.
     
  89. IF ...
    If, just hypothetically, "most people" [I realize what a dubious claim it is to speak for "most people" ... ] love, practice, do photography because it is *unlike* the (other) arts; it does not require arousal, orgasmic climax, spiritual revelation, etc., because it is about the joy of the simple-familiar, everyday communal/shared, the texture, taste/smell/feel of what is "home" both literally and spiritually ... i.e. NONE of what has been talked about in this thread, not even the less demanding curiosty/exploration level of it ...
    ... what's going on with making something hard that wants to be so mundane? Or, to put it another way, what do you do with or about or to or ... whatever, with the mundane which is so indelibly (wonderfully, IMO) a part of photography -- if you're trying to do un-mundane work? Mix "mudane" with "desire" ... You risk having the Russian ballet at your backyard barbeque.
     
  90. Julie, I'm afraid I do see it as a quite dubious claim that most people do photography because it is *unlike* the other arts.
    I do it both because it is *unlike* the other arts and because it is *like* the other arts. For me, photography is both mundane and special. It is the ballet AND a backyard barbecue.
    There's a lot about photography (especially its emotional pulls and pushes) that IS hard, for me, and I like its being hard. Then again, I often liked the harder parts of schoolwork and studying. I am often drawn to hard. But that doesn't mean there isn't also an ease that attracts me as well.
    I like talking about desire and think it's been helpful. I didn't bring it up because I thought it was something unique about photography as opposed to other arts. I think it's something shared by all sorts of artists, and others.
    But, for sure, when I view photography, I view it very much akin to other arts (even though I embrace its differences as well). I feel like I am participating in something greater than what is defined by the boundaries of one or another means of expression.
     
  91. I am not immune to desire by any means. By the very real fact that all we know comes from less than 4% of the universe, I think there is a lot out there about which we know nothing. Some of these things I feel are greater than myself. I also think ideas are not so much ours as they find their way through us. I do not preach this, nor have any concrete back-engineerable proof, either. Right or wrong, I feel like a conduit that connects, at least partially.
    Desire spurs the flow of energy, but possession inhibits it. For me the best part of desire is the obscure and unfulfilled kind, but I realize this is different for others. It could also be argued that the same is true for experience(s) gained through exploration or knowledge through curiosity. Some times, I find myself switching around all these things. They're not exclusive, these means of propulsion/attraction.
    Fred's correct: It is not a question of religion, let alone sin. When I said I struggle with the idea of desire it is because it is often something I do not feel is as applicable to me some of the timeas much as exploration, curiosity, or other things. It is only a personal position, nothing more.
    ____________________________________
    I see photography as an artistic medium in line with the other arts, not outside of them.
     
  92. And then there is the torment of Tantalus - that pain of desire when the object of desire is there but the desire cannot be satisfied. Similar in some ways to Luis's example of desire unfulfilled and yet possibly dissimilar in other ways (less ferocious pain?).
     
  93. Russian ballet at the backyard barbecue happens if "Russian ballet" (which is a form of identity desire) and "barbecue" (which is a form of identity desire) are what you see. If, instead, you arrive with no "what you see" labeled desires, then such a comical conflict is not possible. If you arrive empty, without desire, you may be able, may be allowed, to see what's there.
    Obstacles create desire; desire creates obstacles. It's solipsistic circling. I say this of myself. How to solve this conunudrum; when self is both goal and what prevents that goal? Get rid of both. Remove desire from myself; empty myself of all desires. Rather than taking, allow myself to be taken or overtaken by the desires of the world; to be invaded, infected, developed; a medium in which, on which, through which (a conduit, to use Luis's word) generation, procreation, new fruit can grow.
    For us, too, there was a wish to possess
    Something beyond the world we knew, beyond ourselves,
    Beyond our power to imagine, something nevertheless
    In which we might see ourselves ...
    When Odysseus wants to hear the sirens, he has no idea what "hearing sirens" will be -- there's not identity desire; he simply makes himself available, an empty receptor at the mercy of what they will instill in him. Likewise, in the poetry reposted above, Strand wants to find what is "beyond our power to imagine" and he does this by being an empty vessel:
    But that it was ours by not being ours,
    And should remain empty. That was the idea.
    By being empty, it's like a bell waiting to be struck, a string waiting to be plucked -- by whatever it is that is "beyond our power to imagine."
    When Marianne Moore writes:
    What sap
    went through that little thread
    to make the cherry red!
    She's not interested in all those things that she already knows; cherrys, redness, sap, etc. She's being taken by that which is revealed, given to, sounded in her by the cherry, redness and sap but which, even if surrounded by the net of the poem, yet remains unnamed.
    Or Dylan Thomas, doing the same with:
    The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
    Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
    Is my destroyer.
    And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
    My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
     
    The force that drives the water through the rocks
    Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
    Turns mine to wax.
    And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
    How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
    Or, dare I say it? Fred G.'s own "the inverse of the desire to fill in the blank."
     
  94. I've never been empty. Never want to be. I arrive at the barbecue where I am, knowing all I know, desiring all I desire, a fullness of experience, culture, and biology. I see with eyes that have seen before. I see with all that and I see through all that. When I arrive at the Russian ballet, the main difference is I'm dressed better.
     
  95. Just to add, not being empty doesn't mean my consciousness doesn't shift, from slightly to greatly, and doesn't mean there aren't things as yet unknown and unfelt. While I don't think I can start out blank, I think the object of my desire can be that blank not yet filled in. Potential. Possibility. Surprise.
     
  96. Also, I think there's a difference between saying in a poem "I'm an empty vessel" and saying it in a discussion about photography. There's a difference between a metaphor and an assertion.
     
  97. Julie,

    Too bad I have a subscription on the Dutch edition of NG, they're usually a month behind on the larger cover stories. This one sounds an interesting read - but on discussions like this, I'm always left with a doubt on how much we actually really know on animals and how they experience things:
    We have great mobility, extraordinary dexterity, 'and, the big one, brains that can think imaginatively.​
    And we have no clear proof that animals cannot think imaginatevely. We assume they don't based on comparison to ourselves. A lot of studies like this do have a human-centric angle. It's a context I'm never too sure of (my background being in history studies, where it's certainly worse - judging the ancient Greeks on current-day values is a silly activity and, in my view, showing a lack of empathy). I'll have to read the full article, but I'm cautious around such comparisons where humankind declares itself unique and at the peak of development.

    In the context of desire, though, it's nice to consider animals with our human-centric glasses on: animals seem far more guided by desires than humans do. The (perceived) lack of rationalising seems to remove the roadblocks for giving in to desires.
    Which is an ugly bridge towards:
    Obstacles create desire; desire creates obstacles. It's solipsistic circling. I say this of myself. How to solve this conunudrum; when self is both goal and what prevents that goal? Get rid of both.​
    It's only solipsistic circle because you create it. If you cut out the idea that obstacles create desire, and that it creates more obstacles, you can start working on reaching the goal. Get rid of the idea of obstacles, and the road opens up.
    To me, what you describe is a rationalised reason to not give in to desire, to not let passion guide you, but to let the rational decisions override everything. At least, it sounds that way to me; a fear to endulge, prefering the certainty of logic and reason above the raw and unreliable force of emotions. It seems to impose artificial limits that prevent you from reaching full potential. That, or a pre-imposed excuse not to try.
    __
    P.S. I do not want to imply with the last part that I'm much better at any of this - for sure not. But it's worth trying to let go, worth trying giving in to raw emotions without always considering the logical consequences. Desire, to me, is irrational like that, and I am glad for the few times I let myself be guided by them, rather than my logic.
     
  98. For me the best part of desire is the obscure and unfulfilled kind, but I realize this is different for others.​
    Which is also a sopt of possession, in the sense of being possessed. Is it 'being victim' to our desires? For me, I would not say it is the best part, but it's a considerable important part too. The unfulfilled kind is, to quote Fred, "Potential. Possibility. Surprise". It's what moves, what makes things, what drives things. It's, to use the cliché, what makes the journey worthwhile, but not the destiny. A desire to live life and make something worthwhile out of it. As fuzzy a goal as can be, but it's like coffee in the morning.
     
  99. Desire is omnipresent in the human spirit. Perhaps the unfulfilled desire will always seem to be be the most important. When Cohen wrote his song "Hallelujah" and had it finally released in 1984, it and the album went unnoticed, completely under the radar of the time. And for the first time, Columbia records refused to publish a Leonard Cohen album and he went to a smaller company for that. It took him years and many tens of draft versions before he had gotten the lyrics of the song to say what he wanted them to, then blanko. The mixture in the song between between the spititual and the sensual has been his desire, or perhaps at least a principal one, for most of his life. The first unnoticed unfulfilled desire manifested in Hallelujah grew on the public psyche in the nearly thirty years following (rare are the pop songs that achieve that continuity of expression), with every major singer, and even many American Idol ones, thirsty to sing the lyrics, with K.D. Lang's memorable version a highlight of the Vancouver winter Olympics ceremony. It ain't just the catchy music, virtually every interpretor of that music feels a strong relationship to its message and to the desire it communicates.
    Can a photographer feel the unfulfilled desire that Cohen did (he certainly didn't have that easy a path as an artist, but is a magnificent winner today)? It's possible I guess, but in most cases I think that the desire may be felt inside by the photographer but is only exceptionally exposed in the created image, or perceived as such by the viewer. How many POW images have illustrated a feeling of desire? An image that is pretty, compositionally correct or of a sensual or emotional subject may suggest desire on the part of the photographer or in the viewer, but cannot that be simply massaged and superficial rather than felt deeply. The medium is the message (thanks to McLuhan), or can the message become the medium?
     
  100. <<<Can a photographer feel the unfulfilled desire that Cohen did>>>
    Of course. (I love Leonard Cohen's music.)
    <<<in most cases I think that the desire may be felt inside by the photographer but is only exceptionally exposed in the created image, or perceived as such by the viewer.>>>
    I would say the same about "the musician."
    <<<How many POW images have illustrated a feeling of desire?>>>
    Very few. How many people who pick up a guitar and strum do?
    <<<An image that is pretty, compositionally correct or of a sensual or emotional subject may suggest desire on the part of the photographer or in the viewer, but cannot that be simply massaged and superficial rather than felt deeply.>>>
    Yes, in all mediums, arts, and arenas.
    ___________________________________
    I'm a little surprised you're using PN's Photo of the Week as any sort of relevant example. I'm not sure how appropriate it is to be extrapolating much about photography from the choices of some anonymous Internet elves on a disintegrating web site.
    Maybe I've missed your point. If you're comparing Leonard Cohen's music to the general quality of PN Photos of the Week, certainly Leonard Cohen communicates more desire (and is a very good example of that). But if you're talking about Leonard Cohen's music communicating desire compared to "a photographer" per se, as you suggest in the first sentence of your second paragraph, I'd want to hear why and would find the Photo of the Week discussion irrelevant regarding such a claim. I'd want to compare apples to apples rather than apples to rotten tomatoes. So perhaps you could compare the longing in Cohen to the longing in Lange or Brassai or . . .
     
  101. Fred, I was referring to Cohen's desires (sensual and spiritual, the latter witnessed perhaps by his 5 year enclosure and subservience to his guru within an oriental spiritual group in California) and their evident transfer to his music. He is a magnet for those concerned with what concerned him, a sort of reconciliation if possible between our sensual existence and the questions of what and why of existence itself.
    When I questioned a photographer's desire it was not from the point of did that exist or not within a photographer, which I can believe (and share), but how often does it come out in his works. The POW is not a good benchmark for that research, perhaps, but I think it is interesting to reflect on how many of the multitude of those images over the years have displayed the photographer's emotion of desire. Whether we examine the POWs, or the realm of works of professional photography and art photography, I do not find that many cases of a photographer's unfulfilled desire or longing being manifested in his or her images. Did Brassai and Dorothea Lange have unfulfilled desires, or were they simply focussed in a professional manner on reporting what they observed around them or of other people's desires? Many photographers of mark are brilliant educated technicians (somewhat like a particular surgeon who has perfected a specific technique and applies it with uncommon dexterity and grace, but may not have to struggle with problems outside of and adjacent to that expertise, unless you can simply say that he has an unfulfilled desire, or a personal challenge, to do even better) and such "technicians" (I use the word in a wide sense) can analyze a dynamic situation and create a photograph that is both something of what is there, coupled to what they see as being there. I do not subtract from that the possibility that human desire can also attached to their work, but often I think that it is not needed to be invoked for them to succeed. Of course, sometimes it is.
    If Cohen had penned his song (and others) without having sweated over it for nearly three years and through 70 some versions/partial rewrites, perhaps his desire might have been more easily attained and not in an unfulfilled desire state that he experienced over all that time. When creativity is exercised too simply, or too quickly, without internal struggle, I think it can be a product of a spontaneous creative capability, or chance, and perhaps less connected to desire.
    I might have to think about that a bit more, and I would certainly have to think more about examples of famous photographers who had great unfulfilled desire that also showed in their work. Nonetheless, a few possibilities: Ernst Hass used to go out to create his images on an empty stomache, believing I think that comfort or well-being interfered with his desire to make what he might consider significant photographs, primarily those in which color harmonies or discords were key. I may have read his notes wrong, but I think it was something like that. His work does seem to show an affinity and desire for the power, sensual pleasure and symbolism of color. Atget lived daily by his commercial photography, which might have been enough to satisfy another, but he couldn't stop making, in his spare time, more and more images of the Paris he knew. They were rarely of Parisians, but mainly of what the architecture and sense of place said to him. An unfulfilled desire? I don't know, but I think so, and the products of his vision seem (!) to reflect a desire to be one with his subject matter.
     
  102. <<<who had great unfulfilled desire that also showed in their work>>>
    You might not ever know it because "unfulfilled desire" could manifest itself in so many different ways and not be evident as "unfulfilled desire" in the work. It could be the muse for the work without it being the subject of the work or even noticed as desire in the work. There is so often not a one-to-one translation in the way certain emotional states wind up looking once they've been poured into whatever work an artist is creating. We can't look for literal iterations of desire, necessarily. What we may be seeing is how a photographer used his desire as a source of inspiration but not the desired itself portrayed. And the photographer, like any artists, might use his work as a catharsis of sorts. We may be seeing not the desire but what the desire produced.
    Sometimes, a photographer might specifically want to convey desire, which I suspect both Lange and Brassai may have done quite consciously.
    Part of the desire you're talking about with Cohen is self-reflective and procedural, about the song itself and his relationship to it and its production and reception. But even not knowing the story of the song (which I hadn't up until now) I think it portrays/suggests/elicits/speaks to all kinds of internal desires as well (which you also describe). Most of his songs do. Not because he's waiting for them to be heard or become successful or because he may take time ironing out wrinkles or plodding over what works musically, but because he's steeped enough in his own personal desires (often sexual and sensual) and puts that into his music, long before he ever awaits the results of his labors.
    <<<If Cohen had penned his song (and others) without having sweated over it for nearly three years and through 70 some versions/partial rewrites, perhaps his desire might have been more easily attained and not in an unfulfilled desire state that he experienced over all that time. When creativity is exercised too simply, or too quickly, without internal struggle, I think it can be a product of a spontaneous creative capability, or chance, and perhaps less connected to desire.>>>
    The internal struggle can be and often is but isn't limited to the process of making art or the amount of time it takes to make it. Some of the most passionate songs (ones born of or expressing desire), I'm sure, are written in only a few minutes, the pen almost overflowing with emotion. The struggle isn't only in the making, it is expressed by the making.
    "Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"
    This is the desire I think of when I think of Leonard Cohen. Less so about his process in writing it.
     
  103. Agree totally about both desires that Cohen experiences - the words of his song, and the desire in making those assemblages of words to express best his feelings. I think they are inseparable, but I appreciate mainly his sensual and spiritual poetry, desires and the human tensions that relate so closely not just to his, but to most of our lives. Glad he is still at it, CDs and concerts at 78, with a son Adam following in his footsteps (or trying to make his own).
    I also agree (I must be in an unusually compliant state...) that a photographer's (or any artist's) desire does not need to manifest itself in the work, but can be a driver or catalyst of sorts to its creation.
     

Share This Page