To what extent is photography a solitary pursuit?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, May 30, 2010.

  1. A lot of spin-off questions come to mind:
    Are the best photographers loners?
    Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude?
    Is the creative process an individual process or a social process?
    Do the best photographers/artists play to popular demand, or to an internal voice or vision?
    There are many others, but I would prefer that persons make up their own questions, or else modify the question(s) to allow for the fullest expression of their own ideas.
    --Lannie
     
  2. Yes. For the most of it, anyway. Socialism is a killer of creativity.
     
  3. "Solitary" v. "socialism." Hmm. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  4. >Are the best photographers loners?
    Some are, some aren't. It is also dependent on what they do. Guys like Frans Lanting are in a type of work that almost requires a solo effort. Street photographers (famous ones) tend to be more social. It is easy to give examples of both.
    >Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude?
    Both. Again, history has examples of both.
    >Is the creative process an individual process or a social process?
    It can be either or both.
    >Do the best photographers/artists play to popular demand, or to an internal voice or vision?
    The best? Most do not. But many, if not most, are aware of, and play/riff off of/flirt what is floating around out there, and/or make it their own. Successful commercial photographers and many artists do play to demand.
    There are many others, but I would prefer that persons make up their own questions, or else modify the question(s) to allow for the fullest expression of their own ideas.
     
  5. jtk

    jtk

    The OT consists of popular, odd presuppositions: Somehow "we" know who's a "loner"and who isn't, and we assume best-known (to "us") relates to "best." Somehow popular demand (eg Kobe Bryant? Bach? Ansel Adams?) precludes "inner voice." Somehow individuals are one way or another, unchanging, consistent. Don't we know a little about the wildly different creative processes of the photographers we recognize, and don't we all have our own individual processes?
    fwiw, I have personal photographic urges that are evolving and becoming more clear to me, but I am very happy when someone unknown to me responds to my work in their own way. I might (or might not) do more to appeal to people other than myself if I had more time at my disposal.
     
  6. Are the best photographers loners?​
    The "best" portrait photographers tend to interact well and often with others. :)
     
  7. Ever since I closed my photo business 7 years ago I have been very solitary in my photography. Even when I had the business, although I enjoyed my customers, I never hired anyone and did weddings by myself. This gets difficult when you are trying to load MF backs, carrying three cameras around your neck and trying to stay up with a large wedding. So this past Winter in order to break my solitude I was successful in teaching a series of beginning photography classes and the Artists Association I belong to started a photography group. I enjoyed teaching the classes but have no desire to do it anytime soon, again. I lasted three meetings with the photography group. They went out in groups to take photographs accompanied by each other. Gag me with a spoon. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand the unmitigated BS in the meetings. I have decided it is better to be alone. I do other things in groups but not photography. Solitude and absolute independence about what I do, I find, is extremely important to me. Yes, photography is a social process but only with me and my subjects, not with me and other photographers except on photonet where I enjoy the dialogue and I wind up learning a lot. Now that I don't have many(I still have some) customers my inner voice determines my satisfaction with my images.
     
  8. Speaking philosophically and in broader context of this forum we have to realize there is no such a thing as ""best" photographers". The attempt to term it this way is misleading, dangerously primitivistic and meaningless. There are popular or successful ones in one way or another, usually in narrow frames of specific local culture and time period.
    Matter of destiny, talent and determination? Sure. But you don't have to be less/more creative to make a successful commercial photographer then a prolific artist one.
    To be popular one has to have a talent for keeping half a step ahead of crowd but no more. Maybe even fall back every once in a while. Measure of success in this case is instant recognition and nice pay if it works. Which is not necessary granted btw. And you compromise your ID which is bad for the soul.
    To meat you own personal creative requirements, keep up with it and develop the case towards usually unknown goal, use time and resources is essentially antisocial and seldom meat aproval of general population or whatever you got. Need lots of determination, luck and stamina, actually. And you have to pay the way too, somehow ...
    Want to get it done - stay off.
     
  9. To what extent is photography a solitary pursuit?
    To the extent of actual shooting...meaning looking into the VF, compose, adjust and click of the shutter. Even then...if using liveview these days, actual shooting process can be done by two people. Everyhting else mentioned is a combination of both, social and solitary.
     
  10. When you think of the famous photographers pre-WWII, they all had a creative relationship with their peers. Today even Magnum is apparently an impersonal organization. Perhaps the desire to have a creative "product" to differentiate yourself is more important today given the rise of a market for photography.
    I personally find it discouraging that, at the highest levels, creative collaboration has been replaced by gallery demands and PR campaigns.
     
  11. Most of what I photograph ends up with a lot of beer drinking and socializing so at least in my case it is anything but a solitary pursuit. To put it another way I like to photograph people, to do so I have to be around people and I sure enjoy interacting with them a whole lot more then standing on the sidelines just photographing others enjoying life.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    IMO many photographers produce decorative products labeled "art." Scenic pretties, travel, colorful characters, kittens etc. Since these are conceptually not individualistic (ie not actually art in the traditional sense) they entail "gallery demands" (gallery=retail store) and PR campaigns.
     
  13. Long ago, I started photographing when I bought my first Nikon. A friend and I went the hour after I bought my first camera, on board the Staten Island Ferry, and out of the first roll of film was a keeper, still show and in my B&W gallery today.
    However, when prowling streets of NYC then as a Columbia Student, then as a guy with a camera following my nose around Manhattan and boroughs, I found that no one really was interested in following me, nor should they have been; I had no real well thought out creative process or ideas, just some ideas, many of which are still shown in my B&W gallery, as early B&W.
    Then came the twin assassinations: First Bobby Kennedy and a street photo I took ended up the day after his assassination in the front (not the cover) of the NY Times; I happened on a street (barrio) celebration/memorial of Bobby's with a cross and his photo together with that of his slain brother. I just walked into the NY Times and said 'I have some film' and in I went and a month or so later got a check that was big even by today's standards (or especially by today's standards).
    Martin Luther King got assassinated, Harlem got torn down, I did not go in (it was torn down at night and I as not equipped personally for safety there, as I knew the territory well and knew I'd be torn limb from limb, but ventured to the outskirts the next day and got a great photo of a black, a Hispanic and a white copy putting together the riot barrio in front of a drug store with great lines (no one was with me of course -- who had the gumption to go such places.
    That evening (or a following one) I decided to go to Washington, D.C. which was then in full riot lockdown (curfew) and took a night train (rescheduled to get there when curfew lifted.
    The coach was cold and when a merchant seaman got up (leaving his concealed gun in a paper bag on the seat to complain about the cold just as we were about to enter Trenton, another merchant seaman lay down across the seat (and across the gun as well)
    A fight ensued, I broke it up (after all they woke me up with their fisticuffs and I put and end to THAT I thought)
    BOOM! the bullet went through the first merchant seaman (the white one, and into me, and down went the first merchant seaman, and I was facing the second (no one was with me, and strangely enough, though the train coach was packed with people there was NOT ONE WITNESS).
    The assailant escaped past me at the vestibule where I ran with my leg in shock so I didn't feel the immense pain that would follow, then jumped off the train, but in the wrong direction, I fetched my FILMLESS CAMERA, from its seat, went to the platform, hung between two conductors and the assailant (perhaps not knowing he had hit me?) came right up to me and asked how was the 'guy who was shot on the train?)
    'All right' I said, 'he'll be all right' and the assailant wandered down the platform, and soon a woman ran out of the stopped train coach shouting
    He shot him again
    In the head.
    He pistol whipped the second merchant mariner, then fired, point blank (and the other guy jerked his head)and the bullet grazed his cheek a little and his ear, drawing an enormous amount of blood, concussing him and rendering him deaf, causing him to fall to the train floor.
    The assailant walked away and soon enough was arrested.
    The other victim and I shared an ambulance, then an emergency ward.
    I HAD NO FILM and NO FRIENDS WITH ME. LUCKY FOR THEM.
    A couple of days later, when released from the hospital, unable to walk without a cane, the cops drove me through THE MIDDLE OF AN INCIPIENT RACE RIOT.
    I gave my statement to a northern look alike of Bull Connor as the police station emptied and reinforcements took to the streets, leaving me, the dispatcher and this guy.
    Rioters broke into the first floor and my cop (Bull Connors look alike) held them from coming to get me and him with a shotgun at the top of the steps.
    I had a camera and lens.
    NO FILM
    STILL.
    I went back to Columbia.
    Later infection almost cost me my leg.
    When, during an interregnum during long hospital stays, I was out, students took over Columbia in the first major student riot (film sold to Time Life, NY Daily News, etc).
    There I had friends.
    Friends or no friends, it was really no different, except that if photography comes first, one must make the decision:
    'Does this photo count more importantly than my need to satisfy my friend's need to get going to talk to this person or go to that place?'
    I went to Viet Nam with a camera and mostly filmed alone but often in the company of other people.
    But always I was the only one who could see through the viewfinder, and there was no instant sharing, so a friend either had to be pretty easy going and happy just to go wandering or tag along, or the friendship became strained quickly.
    I joined Associated Press after stringing in San Francisco for AP and UPI (they both gave me offers).
    There I photographed side by side with their staff photographers: it was very collegial: Sooner or later if you go to events, and such, you get to know everybody.
    Recently, during a disaster I was driving by, I got out with big lenses and intermixed with the huge TV camera guys and the local and regional dailies, and soon I was one of them. They saw that I got good captures and knew how to act, and just accepted.
    Photographing documentary, PJ, and 'street' is something that can be done and sometimes must be done solo and sometimes must be done in a group, depending on circumstances.
    Sometimes long teles are necessary and the subject never knows he/she has been photographed; other times, it is necessary to gain trust and intermix and with digital show results to a subject, then get in close, real close.
    Now I often get in within six to ten inches of a subject's eyeballs (the object of my focus) with a 12-24 Nikkor f 4 DX on a D300 often after first (1) taking a photo to show them the wide angle and/or (2) letting them or encouraging (often forcing) them to peer through the viewfinder to view the wide angle so they understand what a wide angle does and how it frames, to allow them to feel comfortable with my getting so close.
    I can easily go out with a friend, and sometimes do.
    I recently tutored a MFA graduate who wanted to hone his street skills.
    His feedback was positive.
    He seemed to make enormous progress during two days of shooting in the LA area.
    (I won't name him; it's his personal privacy, but he wrote me kind thanks and said encouraging things about the time and effort).
    And I think the effort has shown in work he sent me shortly afterward.
    Also, I enjoyed shooting with a fellow photographer.
    I always remember that it is amazing how one can take a small group of photographers, have them all photograph the same scene and be amazed at the sheer variety of photos that each produces.
    I think he made substantial inroads to his fear of actually encountering people that he was going to photograph, as it is my habit sometimes to walk right up to them (now); something I seldom did before the amazing treat that has been PN entered my life and gave me such a great worldwide audience of photographers, and so many subjects whom I know (because they tell me later) who click in to see my work later and then maybe look at yours too.
    I have a special friend, who can walk with me, knows my work and just points (or makes a noise) at a circumstance my friend often knows I will be interested in photographing.
    That's a special treat.
    No long sentences or explanations from my special friend, just a finger pointed and away I go, camera at the ready.
    It takes a special friend and friendship who can go and shoot street like that and make a positive contribution and such friends are rare indeed.
    One reason I mostly gave up photography (besides having met Cartier-Bresson and knowing I could never reach the caliber of the work he was exhibiting when I saw him at age 22) was I had a wife who did not enjoy my photography much.
    Now I have a test: If someone in my life who might be prominent does not like my photos or being around photography, then they are not going to be prominent.
    End of subject.
    I tried it the other way, not taking photos, stifled myself for too long and it didn't work.
    When I recommenced taking photos and was much more unsure of myself, I often shot alone and for substantial periods, often with a telephoto.
    Now it's different.
    I can interact with almost anybody.
    I remember a member here commenting on the street style and manner of Magnum Photographer Bruce Gilden who then invited that member to Gilden's home to dinner (I think I recall) and to meet Gilden's wife.
    It all seems truthful to me, that Gilden who can take such outrageously intrusive photos should have such an engaging and outgoing personality.
    In fact, it's probably a necessity, I now realize.
    Now, I can shoot solo, or with another, it makes no difference, so long as the other person doesn't try to drag me away from my shooting.
    I even took one great shot (man in recliner seated in front of line of extremely buxom mannequins) while engaging in chat with a person behind me and while apologizing for sticking my buttocks in his face while I was trying to get the perfect angle for that shot, and in that conversation, didn't miss a beat. (Adult Expo, Las Vegas about three years ago).
    The same test for me still counts: A friend makes little difference if he/she comes along, just so long as the friend does not interfere with my photography, try to drag me away or interfrere with the creative process or my subjects.
    A friend or companion can be a great help with digital in helping edit the good from the bad if that friend has decent taste, also.
    But one has to choose one's friends well if one is to take a friend along when photographing 'street', documentary, or PJ, as I do, as it's not like going on long camping trips or hikes and then stopping to take a great landscape photo (but that can make stress, too, I am sure, as a great landscaper must wait for that great light and others may want to go hiking, or do other things and NOT hang around).
    It helps to have friends who 'get along well' and are not 'demanding' if one is to take one along photographing.
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  14. Erratum:
    I shot the Martin Luther King, Jr. photo then went to Washington, D.C. first. (it was cold, April, 1968)
    Later in June 1968, after the Columbia riots and campus shutdown, came the Robert Kennedy assassination. I apologize for the error. (it's been a long time). (it was warmer, June, 1968)
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  15. Wouldn't the counterpoint for the solitary pursuit of a project be a collaborative one? Aren't photographers ever part of teams of people carrying out their assignments for (what one hopes would be) the eventual success of the whole effort? How would a solitary photographer ever make a whole commercial movie all by himself?
     
  16. The need to pursuit creative photography as an individual AND BY NO MEANS a social process is perhaps one of the strongest indications that photography may after all be an act of art.
     
  17. I have personal photographic urges that are evolving and becoming more clear to me, but I am very happy when someone unknown to me responds to my work in their own way. I might (or might not) do more to appeal to people other than myself if I had more time at my disposal.​
    John (Kelly), wouldn't it be nice to have all that time! I am still grateful that you had the time and generosity to send me a print of a photo that many of us have seen and appreciated ( http://www.photo.net/photo/10498465 ). The print still stands magisterially above my fire place, inspiring me from time to time to want to go forth to capture or create something of my own.
    --Lannie
     
  18. Now I often get in within six to ten inches of a subject's eyeballs (the object of my focus) with a 12-24 Nikkor f 4 DX on a D300 often after first (1) taking a photo to show them the wide angle and/or (2) letting them or encouraging (often forcing) them to peer through the viewfinder to view the wide angle so they understand what a wide angle does and how it frames, to allow them to feel comfortable with my getting so close.
    I can easily go out with a friend, and sometimes do.​
    John (Crosley), you give a whole new meaning to "in your face." You also give a whole new dimension to the "social" aspect of photography, as well as the extent to which pure physical courage and social courage are often mixed up together. As I recall, you had to be shipped back in pieces from Vietnam in one point in your life of PJ sorties. I've only been seriously shot at once, but you have been shot at--and hit--at least twice, as I recall.
    Thanks for the stories, as well as the other commentary that has such broad applicability to all kinds of creative pursuits:
    One reason I mostly gave up photography (besides having met Cartier-Bresson and knowing I could never reach the caliber of the work he was exhibiting when I saw him at age 22) was I had a wife who did not enjoy my photography much.
    Now I have a test: If someone in my life who might be prominent does not like my photos or being around photography, then they are not going to be prominent.
    End of subject.​
    Amen, brother (although in my case it has been more about my writings than about my photos, which are little more than amateurish snaps, when they are even that). There are also the "control freaks" who would also make us all over into their suburban, Sunday-morning-church-going selves. (I was married to one: they and their churches destroy more relationships than all other institutions combined. If marriages are made in heaven, they are surely destroyed in churches--but I digress.)
    Something else in a related vein spoke to me as well:
    I tried it the other way, not taking photos, stifled myself for too long and it didn't work.
    When I recommenced taking photos and was much more unsure of myself, I often shot alone and for substantial periods, often with a telephoto.
    Now it's different.
    I can interact with almost anybody.
    I remember a member here commenting on the street style and manner of Magnum Photographer Bruce Gilden who then invited that member to Gilden's home to dinner (I think I recall) and to meet Gilden's wife.
    It all seems truthful to me, that Gilden who can take such outrageously intrusive photos should have such an engaging and outgoing personality.
    In fact, it's probably a necessity, I now realize.​
    I had no idea when I opened this thread what a range of perspectives I was going to get. (The thread started out of frustrations at having no real photographic record of my wilderness ramblings,whether on foot in the mountains of North and South America, or waterborne in my paddlings off coastal Georgia and even--once--off the coast north of Camagüey, Cuba.)
    I do know that the kind of private and introspective activity that much of my work has required has also involved a paradoxically very different kind of going out: the going into my own self, and the retreat (or is it foray?) into the self in order to write about darned near anything. Writing can be such a lonely activity--whether it is fiction or philosophy. I think that I was nowhere so bold as when I was venturing into the world of human beings, even though I told myself as a young man that there was something really bold about going into the mountains alone. That was psychological child's play compared to putting myself on the line as a writer. The mountains were simply an escape, something that I needed at the time(s)--but they can be much, much more than that, too, as many nature and wilderness photographers know.
    Those who know your work, John, know also your commentary, which comes like a flood tide upon each picture that you have posted here. ( http://www.photo.net/photodb/user?user_id=888636 ) Thank you for showing up here, at this time--but you always had that PJ talent of being exactly where you were needed, exactly when you needed to be there.
    --Lannie
     
  19. ...give a 12-year-old a set of Craftsman tools, he or she won't be a talented auto mechanic on the first day.
    ...give a 16-year-old a trumpet, he or she won't be a soloist on the first day.
    ...give anyone a film camera or a digital camera, and they won't be a fine photographer on day one. Nor will they see each interesting thing in the sky or in the yard or in the flowers or along the shore, that they might consider a photographic subject.
    There is not an exact answer to the questions.
     
  20. Photography can be seen in it's historical and social context. It's misleading to regard for example the work of Ansel Adams (I'm not particular fond of his work, but he is regarded as one of the masters) as singular, rather then seeing it in context with Weston, Strand and the like. Or name some germans like Renger-Patzsch, Sander and his precedor Hugo Erfurth. Newer examples may be the Dusseldorf School of Documentary Photography (Becher and their pupils Struth, Gursky...) or the new american color photography. The artists are individuals, but they certainly influence each other.
     
  21. stp

    stp

    I can only speak of my experiences, not those of famous photographers. When I go out to take photographs, it is to experience landscapes; the photos are secondary (but still of tremendous importance). It's an experience of landscapes, not a social engagement with other photographers in a landscape. Occasionally I will engage in photography with a friend, but even then it's two solitary individuals who get together at the end of a walk to talk about the experiences each just had. For me, photography is simply a wonderful way to experience landscapes and the natural world more intensely than I would if I didn't have a camera. And that experience is a solitary one, and it is understood and shared only by others who pursue solitary experiences in and with landscapes and the natural world. Mine is just one of many ways of living; human beings are incredibly diverse.
     
  22. Stephen. You said it better than I did.
     
  23. Don't know about the best photographers, this does not apply to me, but
    I believe it is an absolutely solitary pursuit, even if there is somebody helping you.
    In the end most if not all decisions are individualistic and individual. The photographic dynamic - be it fast or slow, walking ahead or staying behind - is strictly individualistic. Unless tethered to the photographer - physically, but most of all mentally - those staying with him/her have hardly any chance.
    As a counter-factual proof
    • when I am around with friends, they say that I tend to be asocial when I photograph, and
    • when I try not to be asocial, I miss a lot of photos.
    Saturday morning I was going around in the centre of Roma with my wife. I got one shot which is probably good, but missed at least a couple of other photos because I failed to stay "photographically focused" all the time [I was also handed some stuff to carry at a certain stage, and also this does not help ... :)].
    But I looked around a lot and now I have an idea for a photographic project.
    Photographing, at least my approach to photography, requires concentration on what goes on around and on the act of photographing itself.
     
  24. I just shoot pictures, don't confuse me, I'm confused enough already.
     
  25. Stephen, I have come full circle in just over the five years since you got your Photo of the Week:
    http://www.photo.net/photo-of-the-week-discussion-forum/00BKZ2
    I first went out into the wilderness to explore wilderness and to commune with nature. Taking pictures was entirely secondary, if it occurred at all. I would go out by myself because there is something about solitude in the wilderness that heightens the senses and reveals one's vulnerabilities in a way that being a member of a party could not do. I found fairly quickly that I was quite at home in the wilderness, and I did not feel lonely simply because I was alone. Nor was I often afraid, as I had expected to be. I took solace in the wilderness and felt that I communed with God and nature there. There was more than anything else a spiritual awareness in nature that I had not and have not found anywhere else. The few photos that I took were primarily for my own sake, to help me remember where I had been and what I had seen.
    Of course, the few photos that I took in those early years cannot and could not show the wilderness experience itself, which is very subjective and is a psychological state which cannot be shown or shared in anything approaching its fullness. One can only recommend the wilderness experience to others, not show it to them. The pictures may inspire them to go out, but the description of the wilderness experience is very difficult to convey in either words or pictures--a fact which was and is very frustrating to me.
    In any case, what started out as a purely private quest became very nearly a social cause. I found the wilderness experience to be so over-powering and wonderful that I wanted to share it with others and to encourage them to want to go out and have it themselves. Toward this end I invited a person or two with me on a number of short day trips in the late 1960s, which typically did not quite work, since the spell of solitude was now broken, and because I was now someone's guide--a fact that I did not mind, but which kept them from realizing and experiencing the fullness of going out on their own. By my very presence, I tended to prevent them from experiencing, say, hiking up a mountain as if it were a virginal experience for themselves--the real essence of a wilderness experience, in my opinion. That is, in going out alone one gets the sense (or illusion) of being the first human being to be in a particular place. That is lost when someone else shows the way. The day trip also tends to give one only a sense of wilderness. The fullness of it typically takes a while longer, although I have found no set rule as to duration. A fleeting sense of it is better than no sense of it at all, and I do not disparage those who can manage nothing more extensive than an afternoon's trip into the mountains or a brief foray into the ocean on a kayak. There is something about both mountains and oceans that can make one feel alone pretty fast, and the awe and majesty of nature often come at one when one least expect them--sometimes not always pleasantly at the time, although always meaningful and thus memorable.
    The wilderness experience is thus for me in and of itself a very solitary experience, at least in all of its fullness. The taking of a photograph is not in itself a necessarily social act in the fullest sense, since the first few photos that I have of some of my wilderness experiences were made solely to help me remember them. We do not always take photos in order to share them, but we typically do later share them. Later, when we go out into the wilderness, we typically know from the beginning that we will share the photos. If I were to go back into the Andes with my present cameras, for example, it would be in part expressly for the sake of bringing back photos which I could share with others.
    I am saying this not to start a whole new foray into one type of photography as much as to convey what motivated the present thread. It came out of a sense of frustration that I simply do not get "out there" like I used to, a function in part of where I now live, as well as age, but hardly only these. I am no longer in tune with nature as I once was, amidst all the press of other obligations which make me feel pretty good about myself if I get a mile or two of walking in on a given day. I am reminded anew of John Muir's maxim: "Walk a mile in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer."
    I googled the saying just above to be absolutely certain that it was Muir's before I posted this, and, lo, here is what I found:
    http://www.photo.net/photo-of-the-week-discussion-forum/00BKZ2
    It was at that point that I realized that I was repeating myself, and so I will shut up now, except to say that, although sharing photographs is an inherently social act, and even though we carry an enormous social tradition when we both go into the wilderness alone as well as when we take a photograph, there is yet something solitary about taking a photo for me (or in any creative work, for that matter), just as there is something solitary about going into nature--even if one does try to do it in couples or even with a larger group.
    I suppose that as long as i do not repeat myself more than once every five years or so, then my mental powers are not gone quite yet.
    --Lannie
     
  26. It might be a valid question for a researher. For personal use, it hardly has any value. You are what you are. Deal with it.
     
  27. It might be a valid question for a researher. For personal use, it hardly has any value. You are what you are. Deal with it.​
    Igor, "walk a mile in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer." If that does not work, then climb a mountain, any mountain, on trail or off. Take a photo or two to try to capture what you felt or saw.
    Then come back, read the thread, and say that.
    --Lannie
     
  28. Popular demand...fame and fortune and the girls. In truth, look at any real talent.

    They always walked their own path; just doing their own thing, not trying to prove anything to anyone.

    Never part of the vocal masses.
     
  29. stp

    stp

    Lannie, I hadn't read those old posts for years; I enjoyed revisiting that thread. You contributed much to that discussion then and this one as well. I appreciate the ideas folks have offered, and I do hope Igor comes back in several years with a bit more insight and less cynicism.
     
  30. Hi Lannie,
    Thanks for the fine words. I really am not so courageous, when people shoot bullets at me, and I have time to reflect later, I start to shake sometimes. Otherwise, it has been 'in the moment', and often I've been too busy trying to save my hide then cowering, as cowering will get one nowhere but knocking at St. Peter's gate. although it may be a natural instinct.
    I tried to follow your link, but it failed me. Here is a link to my work to replace. I hope it works.
    Give it some time as my portfolio is HUGE and PN is slow. It's to community member page with link to portfolio actually:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/user?user_id=888636
    Lannie, I really was only shot and wounded once (and that same bullet felled another guy too - two for one, not a bad deal for the shooter -- very economical!)
    The incident in the train in Trenton caused my hospitalization three times, once in Trenton, discharged to police in Trenton, delivered to cops there who drove me through the middle of an incipient riot the only night in their history that their police station was assaulted by rioters (two rioters were killed), and my cop was the lone cop upstairs and the one who held off the rioters with a shotgun as they tried to charge us after breaking into the police station (the frantic dispatcher was the only other cop on duty in the station, all others outside).
    There followed in NYC two more hospitalizations, one of very long length (weeks) and another for an operation.
    Later, I worked my way to Viet Nam (with camera(s) but my leg became worse over there after a while, as I went about photographing and had separated from my civilian ship.
    So, there I was, my leg finally healing but my ship had sailed back to the states (unloaded with 16,000 tons of bombs and mortars it had hauled to Viet Nam), and left me, now more able, but I was scheduled anyway to be medivacced to the United States.
    So, I am assuredly the ONLY person to be medivacced to the USA (with $28 and no passport) from Viet Nam, as a result of a bullet wound suffered in the United States, and therein lies my claim to surrealness.
    ;~))
    Then followed in the USA more campus riots, bombings (I almost got blown up by one of those), police sweeps of campuses by truncheon wielding cops, and literally NEVER got hurt. I have a very highly developed sense of 'street smarts' having spent a youth as a student at Columbia College (Columbia Univ. in the '60s).
    (As a result of my SF/Bay Area riot experience, I have a very good idea of who killed that guy at the 'Gimme Shelter' Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Pass, CA, though I was not there (I was working for AP in their office at the time, taking film from motorcycle couriers; I remember one guy who came to each riot just to 'cause trouble' and he was a rough dude . . . . . everybody knew he was up to no good and extremely dangerous. Everybody who shot was warned against him and to be far away from him when the shoving and pushing started!!! I always feared him more than cops or rioters, and I think for good reason.
    I have not a scintilla of proof, of course, but I have a very strong feeling that with today's video cameras I would be able to offer some proof . . . . . and solve the 'Gimme Shelter' mystery slaying.
    I can see that guy's face to this day (photographic memory).
    john (only shot -- physically connected -- once)
    (I was shot at a lot more than once, however, and chased once at highest speed and long too, through LA's South Central until cops stopped my chasers with a shotgun: 'FREEZE MUTHUS -- HANDS ON WHEEL" with shotguns in my chasers' car windows!!!!)
    It's been an interesting life for a guy who practiced law once 16 hours a day, kissed the wife and kids then did it again day after day after day after day.
    I put more that passion into my photography; I hope it shows.
    john
    John (Crosley)
     
  31. Socializing is for pussies. Eagles hunt alone.
     
  32. I think the serious, wandering photographer is a loner at heart. Not always but often when two serious shooters bump into each other, equipment in hand the meeting is awkward at best.
     
  33. So, I am assuredly the ONLY person to be medivacced to the USA (with $28 and no passport) from Viet Nam, as a result of a bullet wound suffered in the United States, and therein lies my claim to surrealness.​
    So that's the rest of the story, John. . . . Glad to get it straightened out. I was shot at while driving a cab in Durham, NC after the murder of Martin Luther King, although it was a very confusing situation. Lots of stories to tell from that epoch in my life, while my wife-to-be was at UNC (ten miles away) getting her graduate degree in library science. We got married on June 1, 1968, just days before RFK was shot in L.A.
    --Lannie
     
  34. Not always but often when two serious shooters bump into each other, equipment in hand the meeting is awkward at best.​
    I know that feeling, Michael. It is even worse in an ocean kayak, I think. One talks a bit about the winds and the tides, then moves on. There isn't much more to say. Then one watches as one's paddle swirls die away behind one, leaving no trace that one was ever there. Talk about a "trackless waste. . . ." I have never done any serious photography in the ocean, however, preferring to take only disposable cameras.
    --Lannie
     
  35. There is a difference between photography being a solitary pursuit, and photographers being 'loners'.
    Photography, as a whole, is not solitary pursuit, since the result is created to be seen, and (usually) shared. So, it is in a way social and unsolitary.
    The photographer self... well, every story is different. John Crosley - many thanks for yours. An interesting read, especially after having seen (and enjoyed) your photos first. But also from the other replies, it's to me sufficiently clear you cannot state so easy the photographer is like this or that. Photography isn't the only thing about us, it's "just" a creative outlet of a person, one of the aspects. To say anything more would be an assumption at best.
    I think in a way the vision and ideas that we (as photographers) put in our photos, is a solitary thing, because it is ours and ours alone. It's how the photographer sees it, not anybody else. In that sense, there is something solitary in photography as an activity. But next, we share that solitary vision... So. Schrödingers cat is dead and alive again.
     
  36. I think in a way the vision. . . that we (as photographers) put in our photos, is a solitary thing, because it is ours and ours alone. . . . In that sense, there is something solitary in photography as an activity. But next, we share that solitary vision. . . .​
    Aye, Wouter, there's the paradox, and a lovely one it is. The question for me is how and to what extent the latter fact, that it will be shared with others, affects the former process, the solitary conceptualization and creation of the image. Is the "vision" really, as you say, "ours and ours alone," if we are too conscious of the fact that it is being made to be shared?
    That is, when we are conscious of the fact that something that we create is to be shared, there is also the consciousness that it will be evaluated. To what extent does that fact affect our own evaluation and thus our own artistic judgment and vision?
    --Lannie
     
  37. To what extent does that fact affect our own evaluation and thus our own artistic judgment and vision?​
    A per person decision, I think, mostly. How important is the audience, what are the evaluations, and how are they brought to you? Quite possibly most here heard often enough "really nice picture, you have a nice eye for it" or something along those lines... at photos one does not really like oneself. What does that do, how do you respond, how do you value such feedback? Likewise for negative valuations. Of course, this amplifies when the feedback is eloborated, exemplified, given by somebody who shows some knowledge and insight. What do you pick up? (*)
    I think, especially for those of us doing this as a hobby with enough aspiration or art photographers, there is a bigger need to keep it more "genuinely" yours. Even when that means loosing the audience. If you're in business, the money often enough will speak.
    So, yes, I think it will affect to some extend, nobody is that much of a loner.
    (*) I find this also the risky part often in posting feedback here. Maybe some people really want to hear "oh nice photo, well done!"? Are you condenscending when giving feedback with ideas to improve? Being a good audience shares the paradox in reverse, it seems.
     
  38. "I think, especially for those of us doing this as a hobby with enough aspiration or art photographers, there is a bigger need to keep it more "genuinely" yours. Even when that means loosing the audience. If you're in business, the money often enough will speak." --Wouter
    Wouter
    , yours is a good reminder that there are many motivations for photographing and different photographs, different genres of photographs, and different photographers come with different needs, choices, and intentions.
    _______________________________
    Some of my photographs consider the subject of the portrait, not the outside viewer. Some consider future clients. My documentary work considers the viewer to the extent that the clients want to portray certain aspects of their community and want that to come across to viewers. Some of my portraits are more about self expression, an understanding I establish with the subject. In those cases, my subjects "lend" themselves to me to create what I want: a solitary vision based on a relationship I establish with the person I'm photographing. My solitary vision allows me to be open to my subjects' expressions, poses, gestures, who they are. I wouldn't know where to the draw the "solitary" line.
    I'm aware that there will be viewers. Photographing can be a means of expression and communication. A poet knows his words will be understood by English speakers, say, as opposed to Russian speakers, and he also knows different interpretations will be given to his words, different reactions to the common understandings that knowing a common language assumes. Similar with me and photography. I don't photograph for an audience but I am aware of commonalities of experience and understanding with groups of viewers, etc.
    I think consciousness of a photo's being shared and consciousness of a photo's being evaluated are different. The first doesn't imply the second. Also, consciousness of a photo's being evaluated doesn't mean you care about that or adjust your photos because of that. One can often learn more from reactions than from evaluations.
     
  39. I think consciousness of a photo's being shared and consciousness of a photo's being evaluated are different. The first doesn't imply the second.​
    You're right, of course, Fred. Even so, anytime we plan to put anything on public display we typically do think about how it will be received, and so we tend to anticipate some kind of informal evaluation at the very least--and that fact can encourage us to modify the work we do, even at times to the point of censoring ourselves.
    Perhaps that (self-censorship) is the worst kind of censorship, although I hope that you realize that by "censor" or "censoring" here I mean to imply no particular kind of censorship. I learned a long ago on Photo.net that political commentary is not at all welcome in discussion threads, and yet photographs themselves are often political or have political implications. Does that fact tend to make me censor my photos for their political content? I really am not sure. I hope not.
    I almost want to say that "Photography is inherently political."
    Ah, another topic for discussion: "Is photography inherently political?"
    --Lannie
     
  40. "Even so, anytime we plan to put anything on public display we typically do think about how it will be received, and so we tend to anticipate some kind of informal evaluation at the very least--and that fact can encourage us to modify the work we do, even at times to the point of censoring ourselves." --Lannie
    I could accept this if all "we" were changed to "I" so that you were referring to yourself. I believe and respect that you operate this way. As written, though, I can't accept it. I don't think everyone operates that way by any means. There are many artists, and political activists and messengers as well, and all types of others, who I don't imagine censoring themselves in that way.
    I've had several political discussions, especially on the photo pages of PN. I agree with you that there's a political component to a lot of stuff and there's a sense in which a lot of stuff is political. I consider my own work to a great extent political . . . social commentary, and others have certainly taken it that way, though people tend more to discuss aesthetics in the abstract and in isolation on PN.
    To me, censoring suggests limitations and I prefer to see endeavors like photography, for myself, as more liberating than that. Yes, freedom implies choices and a choice implies something not chosen which can be seen as a sort of censorship or limiting factor. But I don't see it that way. It's probably a cup half full / cup half empty sort of thing. I would find seeing my work and my life decisions as "censorship" stultifying. Others don't.
    When it comes to my relationships with others, I tend to put things in terms of empathy, integrity, respect, and care. Evaluation and censorship are things I'm not that occupied with. I care what you think and feel, but your judgments of me are relatively insignificant.
     
  41. "Is the creative process an individual process or a social process?"
    This resumes much of Landrum's interesting question. The answer, if there is one that might be universal, is no doubt the same as that if you similarily question the writer, the poet, the sculptor or the artist-painter. Individual it must be, I believe, although some creations, often laboriuosly dull, do come out of committees. As for the pressure of society, the great photographers and other artists no doubt lead the way, so they are not being influenced by, but are in fact influencing any social reaction. Lesser artists do require public acceptance or approbation, and are often playing to the desires of others in order to survive, mentally and physically.
    I am certainly not entiurely distant from the latter category, although not always by choice. When you see one type of image being continuously preferred and bought, and those you cherish being ignored, it is sometimes difficult to be completely individual. The occasional or rare "strike" of an individual work does make the game pleasant, but whether it happens or not doesn't deter many, for whom individual creation is the only worthwhile approach. Happily, a lot of those individuals don't need to put bread on the plate through their artistic activity.
     
  42. I could accept this if all "we" were changed to "I" so that you were referring to yourself. . I believe and respect that you operate this way. As written, though, I can't accept it. I don't think everyone operates that way by any means. There are many artists, and political activists and messengers as well, and all types of others, who I don't imagine censoring themselves in that way.​
    Fred, I imagine that I am about as courageous as most people and a lot more than most when it comes to putting myself, my ideas, and my photos on the line. The fact is, however, that most persons (and perhaps all) do not say everything that is on their minds that they might have if there were no one around ready to pounce. To what extent this carries over to photography is not clear.
    --Lannie
     
  43. As for the pressure of society, the great photographers and other artists no doubt lead the way, so they are not being influenced by, but are in fact influencing any social reaction. Lesser artists do require public acceptance or approbation, and are often playing to the desires of others in order to survive, mentally and physically.​
    Arthur, I suspect that what we find in the real world is more nearly a continuum than simply two classes: great artists and lesser artists. Intellectual (and artistic) courage is a precious commodity, but does anyone always have it? I'm not sure that greatness requires that.
    In any case, "censoring oneself" was not meant to refer to a conscious process so much as the almost inevitable fact that we are affected by the world around us whenever we decide what to write, paint, photograph, post to the web, etc. It would be nice to think that there is some godlike class, sort of like Nietzsceh's Zarathustra, who are above societal concerns and pressures. Every human being that I know, however, is all too human and a good bit more circumspect than even they might be willing to acknowledge--even to themselves.
    --Lannie
     
  44. Lannie, what you're describing I would simply call fairly natural and evolved social behavior. Likening it to censorship (even the non-political, benign kind you're meaning) doesn't make sense to me. I think calling it censorship makes way more out of it than is necessary.
    But I don't want this to be a semantical discussion nor should it be an either/or discussion. It's not: either we censor or we don't. Given that we all censor (and I use the word in deference to you, though I don't think it's appropriate), how important is that censorship to each of us, when and why do we do it consciously and unconsciously, and how much a part of our photograph making is it.
    Your statements had me thinking it was significant to you. I think to others, it's much less significant a consideration. That's not because they're blind to it or because they would deny it happening to an extent, but I think they would deny the same degree of influence it has or consideration it's given for themselves. Some are influenced by these societal and interpersonal constraints (rules of behavior, moral prescriptions and proscriptions, whatever you want to call it) to a greater degree than others. I'm not suggesting that one way is necessarily better than another. But I am suggesting we all differ on the scale of concern and adjustment of behavior because of it.
    An example is some of the things you said in the nude threads about treatment of models, reactions to certain kinds of "profane" and even so-called debasing nudes, and expectations surrounding behavior of photographers toward models, viewers toward photographs, etc. I think many photographers and artists wouldn't adhere to the same ethical constraints you do. They would express themselves in a manner more freed from those kinds of judgments. I don't think they're any better than you. Some pay the price for it. Some earn a good price for it.
     
  45. jtk

    jtk

    I don't know how it's possible to be a "loner" if one is photographing participating subjects or working within graphic design or art-directed context, or intentionally sharing one's experiences with others. VanGogh and Edward Weston were far from loners.
    In any case, my obstacles have mostly to do with getting myself together and reaching out beyond my habits to do new or otherwise challenging things. "Self censorship" is the least of my worries.
    My feeling is that if one has not done something significant and new recently (eg in the past month), one might be happier with the honest recognition that one has stopped, at least for a while, being a photographer. And who cares about that identity anyway? Isn't the essence of that identity a matter of new images?
    HCB decided to stop being a photographer in favor of drawing, after all, and he always considered his photography a craft or trade, rather than art (according to his wife)
     
  46. Lannie, what you're describing I would simply call fairly natural and evolved social behavior. Likening it to censorship (even the non-political, benign kind you're meaning) doesn't make sense to me. I think calling it censorship makes way more out of it than is necessary.​
    You're probably right, Fred. Although the idea of self-censorship is probably appropriate when discussing a very real phenomenon in the realm of the overtly political, it does read a bit like overkill even to me as I read back over what I have said in this context.
    My feeling is that if one has not done something significant and new recently (eg in the past month), one might be happier with the honest recognition that one has stopped, at least for a while, being a photographer.​
    John, I guess that, according to those criteria, I have to ask myself when I am going to start being a photographer. I can't think of anything significant or new that I have ever done, although my shots have meant something to me personally. I'm just having fun out there. I'm certainly not an artist, and I am still struggling to master the technical aspects of photography. I'm still absolutely terrible where the accuracy skin tones is concerned, for example. It might be time that I learned something about white balance, since I have only shot digital over the last year or so.
    --Lannie
     
  47. jtk

    jtk

    "I have to ask myself when I am going to start being a photographer. " - Lannie

    That seems reasonable. I ask that of myself regularly, but then I realize I don't care...and then I do make photos or I don't.

    Sometimes I make photographs, other times I make pasta con vongole. Am I more a pasta chef or a photographer? How can an answer matter? Are the photos worthwhile? Is the pasta properly al dente?

    Suzuki Roshi wrote a book called "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." I don't read that kind of thing but the title has a ring to it.
     
  48. For me at least, highly individual.
    Creativity is not a groupthink process. I'll go further, as I have read an enormous amount of Jung's work: everything worthwhile in the world begins with an individual. Institutions are unethical entities because all morality resides in the individual as a personal attribute. The larger the institution, the more repressed is the individual, and the less moral is the institution. Twas ever thus. Society turns its back on the individual at its peril.
     
  49. My desert photography is a collaboration with my wife, who is also a photographer. We've worked with geologists, artists, and writers. My city photography is solitary, mostly -- occasionally, we shoot together.
     
  50. It's a loner pursuit for me for one simple reason: I get deep into "right brain" when photographing, almost like a trance, and I would barely acknowledge the presence of anyone who was around me. My wife learned this long ago - if we're together and I start taking pictures, she knows to just go away and leave me alone. I don't do event shooting, I do photos for galleries which means I'm mostly out in wonderful nature, and I don't need an assistant. So I go off in my own little world when I get deep into the camera.
     
  51. jtk

    jtk

    Philip, your commentary on your wonderful photographs, the images themselves (technical exercises as well as visual phenomena), as well as your brilliant commentary elsewhere on fundamental aspects of digital imaging, are all culminations or reflections of the work of large "institutions" (including Microsoft, Firefox, Adobe, Nikon, the Internet itself, the various various ancient and newer cultures for which you express admiration on your website...).
    "Non-ethical" may be what you have in mind, rather than "unethical" regarding "institutions." And in any case, the OT here has been "individual" vs "popular demand/social process" (not just vs "institutions.")
    Using any sort of technology to make images (Ansel Adams: eg Polaroid), posting those images on a website, and writing online in conjunction with those images ...means one engages others as a cog in a social machine.
    As for Jung, his ideas centered on what he believed we as generic humans share. Freud included Jung, as an "Aryan type", in his school partially to achieve group diversity, to expand from his own Talmud-rooted ideas (hard-wired to tribal taboos and practices)...the same reason he included an American and a Japanese ...Jung was part of that "institution."
    What are your thoughts?
     
  52. Creativity is not a groupthink process. I'll go further, as I have read an enormous amount of Jung's work: everything worthwhile in the world begins with an individual. Institutions are unethical entities because all morality resides in the individual as a personal attribute. The larger the institution, the more repressed is the individual, and the less moral is the institution. Twas ever thus. Society turns its back on the individual at its peril.​
    Wow, Philip! Whether you are right or wrong on this or that, these are strong claims--food for thought for at least the rest of this brief life.
    As pretty much of a loner myself, I can relate to what you are saying. I have to consider John's objections, but there's a lot of truth embedded in what you say, I know. I just need to think about this a wee bit more. Wish I had ten thousand more years to figure it out--and to figure out why wilderness and solitude speak so strongly to me.
    What is ultimately at stake, I believe, is independence of thought. I do not think that it is possible to be a virtuous person if one is not an independent thinker. Much less is one going to discover or create anything of value if one is not a truly independent thinker. For me the answer is not escaping institutions so much as learning to live in them without being corrupted by them. I need to recharge my batteries alone, however. Even the biblical prophets and Jesus of Nazareth are said to have sought out the wilderness, and the story of Moses is of a man who was honed into an instrument of God's will through forty years in the wilderness. The literal truth of these stories is not the issue. The point is that whoever relayed these stories to us was trying to tell us something very important.
    We should listen.
    --Lannie
     
  53. My city photography is solitary, mostly​
    What a wonderful paradox, Don! But I think that it gets to the heart of what it is to be an individual and to retain one's individuality, regardless of the social and physical environment.
    Along another line, I think of my older daughter, who happens to be gay, and realize what a tough kid she always had to be--and now she has to be even tougher as an adult. I had her rappelling out of an Atlantic white cedar tree in Florida when she was four (belayed twice, once from above and once from below, with me as the ultimate backup right beneath her), had her riding a bike without training wheels by the time she was five (although none of this was my accomplishment), going out to run with me and running several miles the first time out, going sailing with me the first time on an AMF Force Five on a day with gusts to twenty-five knots--with her at the helm and me as little more as ballast. What a girl!
    She's a music therapist now treating disturbed kids, who assault her from time to time. Where she really shines, however, is music itself. What a wonderfully creative person! She relaxes by studying and doing landscape architecture on weekends, when she is not jumping out of airplanes or running rapids--and she puts the guys to shame. She also just happens to be beautiful.
    The Spirit of Creativity comes through in the Great Souls. I cannot claim to be among them, but I can appreciate them.
    --Lannie
     
  54. Question....
    Do you think a wedding photographer, any photographer that has to work with people, a solitary pursuit?
     
  55. Being an independent thinker doesn't have much to do with being a loner. Sartre, for example, wrote about existentialism, about loneliness and despair, etc., was an independent thinker, yet was one of the more social of philosophers . . . smoke-filled hours at the Cafe Flor, a substantial relationship with Simon de Beauvoir, grassroots political activism. He didn't wander around alone in nature to develop his independent thoughts. And he wasn't virtuous by many standards of his time. Thankfully.
    That's not to say that some photographers aren't a lot more solitary than others. But solitariness doesn't lead to independent thoughts or visions. I know a lot of solitary nature photographers who don't come up with independent photographic visions. The question was, Is Photography a Solitary Pursuit? Phillip answered that for himself and I get it. But I question any further move to independence of thought.
    And I certainly think one can be a virtuous person without independence of thought. I don't care much how people arrived at stuff or even much about what they're thinking. I care about what they do. Virtue is in my actions, not in how independent a thinker I am. From an entry in one of my philosophy encyclopedias:
    "Virtues can be placed into a broader context of values. Each individual has a core of underlying values that contribute to his or her system of beliefs, ideas and/or opinions. Integrity in the application of a value ensures its continuity and this continuity separates a value from beliefs, opinion and ideas."
    Beliefs revolve around thought and are more abstract. Virtue demands an application and is public.
    Lannie, for me, what would help move the conversation about solitariness forward is to know to what extent you consider yourself responsive to others' evaluations (and how that affects you photographically and personally), as you felt it was important to emphasize the point that we all are responsive to some degree. I find a lot of meat in moving beyond the belief to the application.
     
  56. "The Spirit of Creativity comes through in the Great Souls." --Lannie
    The first counterexample to come to mind is Alfred Hitchcock. He was a letch. No great soul. Roman Polanski, extremely creative and fascinating filmmaker (not all, but many of his films). And a pedophile.
     
  57. "What a wonderful paradox, Don!"
    What paradox do you see? I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean collaborating out in nature rather than out there on a solitary vision quest, or for the experience of being there? We are doing a follow-up on another husband and wife team whose research extended over decades. I think it is a really bad idea to go out there alone, anyway. I've known nature photographers who do that, some had the common sense to tell someone 'If you don't hear from me by Thursday, call Search & Rescue. Here's my route'.
    Mostly we shoot individually. We see different things. My wife is much more detail-oriented. She sees the tiny things I don't. If one of us finds something of interest, we will both work on it. Mostly what we are photographing are "anomalies", things that the geologists have found a label for, and may have theories regarding, but do not fit well into the geological scheme of things...the 'standard model'. We shoot scenics, too -- be fools not to.
     
  58. stp

    stp

    "I know a lot of solitary nature photographers who don't come up with independent photographic visions."
    Fred, how can you look at anyone's photograph(s) and determine the extent to which they are independent photographic visions? Just because a person's photograph may be similar to photographs that have appeared before doesn't (IMO) necessarily mean that the person's photographic vision is therefore not independent. Photographs of moving water captured with a slow shutter speed are very common. Some such photographs may be made by a person who wants to see if he/she can duplicate the process. Other such photographs may be made by a person in whom the blurring of moving water strikes a deep chord, especially when it is combined with other elements in the photograph. Looking at photographs from both of these individuals, there is simply no way to ascertain what's going on in the person's mind, and therefore no way to determine the extent to which a person is following the herd or following his/her inner muse. Independence cannot be measured by uniqueness (although uniqueness may be one barometer of independence). I've found it to be very dangerous (in the sense of being entirely wrong) when one assumes he/she knows what's going on in another person's mind.
     
  59. jtk

    jtk

    Don, fwiw I'm sympathetic with your views about "solitary" and "be a fool not to" and for practical reasons with the wisdom of sometimes having someone at your back for safety.
    I spend a lot of time in wilderness as well, but I'm that "fool" you mentioned: my first concern is with more/other than the staggering beauty I live in (NM). I rarely care to make lovely "scenic" photographs, which would have implications for sales if that was a concern.
    On the "Bias" thread we differed sharply: you seemed unable (technically & experientially) to see the merit in Platon's work...actually ridiculing it after struggling with deficient tech to see only a couple of online images.
    I recommended The New Yorker to you because IMO it is one of the several most important photo venues in print (more than any "art" or "photo" or "outdoor" mag): when a respected venue chooses a photographer like Platon (or Avedon before him, or like Life's Capa and Eisenstadt), I pause, think, look again, take stock of my own photographic values. Values mean nothing, untested and static. Platon took time and reflection, just as did Avedon long ago, before I caught on to his virtuous, stated, lifelong photographic philosophy.
     
  60. Being an independent thinker doesn't have much to do with being a loner. Sartre, for example, wrote about existentialism, about loneliness and despair, etc., was an independent thinker, yet was one of the more social of philosophers . . .​
    Fred, I'm not among those who see in Sartre originality or greatness. What is so original or great about being a nihilistic atheist? As for being a social animal, there is his famous quote: "Hell is other people."
    The first counterexample to come to mind is Alfred Hitchcock. He was a letch. No great soul.​
    I said "great souls," Fred, not "perfect souls." I've never met any of those.
    --Lannie
     
  61. stp

    stp

    "Lannie, for me, what would help move the conversation about solitariness forward is to know to what extent you consider yourself responsive to others' evaluations (and how that affects you photographically and personally), as you felt it was important to emphasize the point that we all are responsive to some degree. "
    Fred, I think this is a key point, and really the better interpretation of the original question. Various responses throughout this discussion have touched on it. Some responses (and even some iterations of Lannie's original question) have focused on physical independence (simply being alone), while others have focused on independence of vision (doing what was felt, regardless of public opinion). Physical independence is easy to see and therefore easy to measure. Independence of vision is much more difficult to see and therefore very difficult to measure. What criteria could be used to determine the extent to which a photographer is a "loner" in the sense of following his/her inner voice or vision rather than popular demand? In partial answer to my own question, I don't think that lack of uniqueness necessarily equates to lack of independence, as I stated in my previous post. But this is only a partial answer; I'm still wondering what you would see in the "application" (the person's actions) to help determine the extent to which a person's photography is truly a solitary pursuit (or, put another way, the extent to which a person's photography is guided, perhaps subconsciously, by pubic responses to the photos coming from that person).
     
  62. "What a wonderful paradox, Don!"
    What paradox do you see? I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean collaborating out in nature rather than out there on a solitary vision quest, or for the experience of being there?​
    Don, I was thinking only of the juxtaposition of words: "My city photography is solitary, mostly." I carefully avoided the word "contradiction." There is a vague sense of paradox in being solitary in the city, although cities can indeed be very good places to become anonymous and to be independent in thought and action. "Alone in a crowd" also comes to mind here. I'm not trying to refute anyone here, simply trying to set forth some of my own views. I like relaxed conversations, not debating contests. I also prefer the easy intellectual atmosphere of brainstorming. Even philosophical argument to me is best carried on in private: it takes a while to formulate a worthwhile response to a worthy challenge. When I am serious, I write, and I write only for me, in the same way that I take photographs only for myself, although others are free to look at them.
    I have been speaking primarily of the restorative power of nature and solitude in my own life, a life where (for some of it) solitude was almost literally out the back door. I do not live in such a place now. Sandwiched between Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem, I see suburbia closing in on the land around Salisbury from all directions. There is no wildness to be found without traveling a ways. When I have lived in sprawling urban areas, I have sought out railroad tracks and other places off the beaten path.
    Yet, yet, I have found ways to get in touch with myself wherever I have lived, including Akron, Ohio, where I spent some of my childhood years. I do think that it is easier to get in touch with oneself in some ways in the wilds of nature than in cities Doing so is a luxury, however, and one that I cannot so easily indulge at the moment in the little burg where I currently live. I was a latecomer to wilderness. I did not grow up with it. When I first really experienced it in its fullness all alone, after I was grown, it astonished me.
    The problem with civilization lies in the distractions that it affords. Those can inspire growth and creativity. They can also inhibit them. When I read of persons taking all of their electronic devices into the wilderness, I have no doubt that they will be safer. Whether they will experience wilderness is quite another thing. A compass and a watch are the most high-tech gadgets that I carry with me into the wilderness. A cellphone? Yechhh!
    --Lannie
     
  63. Lannie,
    I do not think that it is possible to be a virtuous person if one is not an independent thinker.​
    I think the 2 are unrelated. Some people rise to the challenge, not so much thinking but acting. They have and show virtues, but not necessarily an independent mind. Some people with independent minds lack skills to outgrow their own constraints.
    The Spirit of Creativity comes through in the Great Souls.​
    Hmmmm, and what makes great souls great, and why would creativity be with them? Is creativeness a grand gesture? Nearly all people here (on this site) are creative to some extend. Some more than others... true. Likewise, some have more independent minds... or more virtue. But creativeness is not the ability to create world-recognised art.
    I'm by no means the most creative. Nor a very good photographer. But I try, try again, and try another time. I do see growth, and in ways that quite some people would call 'more creative'. Creativeness does not come to you. You build it, the only difference is the starting point (which I'd rather call talent).
    The reason to bring this up is that it seems to create this 'us' versus 'them'; we mortals attempting, and those creative gods. I don't think the differences are all that big, and we're all somewhere on wide array of greys.
     
  64. "Lannie, for me, what would help move the conversation about solitariness forward is to know to what extent you consider yourself responsive to others' evaluations (and how that affects you photographically and personally), as you felt it was important to emphasize the point that we all are responsive to some degree. "​
    Fred, I think that I just answered that in responding to Don: "When I am serious, I write, and I write only for me, in the same way that I take photographs only for myself, although others are free to look at them." I am not talking egoism here when I speak of "for me," rather being true to myself and my own beliefs so that I am not overly influenced by the differing views, lifestyles, etc. of others.
    --Lannie
     
  65. Fashion, advertising, and event photographers aren't loners. They coordinate their work with lots of other people.
     
  66. "On the "Bias" thread we differed sharply: you seemed unable (technically & experientially) to see the merit in Platon's work...actually ridiculing it after struggling with deficient tech to see only a couple of online images."
    Actually I thought we were ok on that. Sorry, though, I'm not a deep thinker re: critique but I didn't ridicule him, and I've continued to be interested in his style on those presidents. Google Ingre's portrait of Napoleon. That wasn't the only thread on Platon on PN, either. If it is important to you, start a thread about him.
    I'm not sure, but I think you misread what I wrote re: "fool"
     
  67. "Don, I was thinking only of the juxtaposition of words: "My city photography is solitary, mostly.""
    Lannie, I'll layer another paradox on it. My city photography is done in the neighborhoods I was born and raised in. My house is 3 blocks from my childhood home. 47 of my 65 years have been lived in this neighborhood.
    "There is a vague sense of paradox in being solitary in the city, although cities can indeed be very good places to become anonymous and to be independent in thought and action. "Alone in a crowd" also comes to mind here."
    I meant I shoot alone and not with anyone else (except now and then with my wife). I can be haunted by 'presence', layers of time, change, history, narrative. The city is far more an intimate experience for me than is the desert.
     
  68. Hmmmm, and what makes great souls great, and why would creativity be with them?​
    I don't know, Wouter. The idea of "overflowing fountains" comes to mind. I'm not trying to sound too Nietzschean here, simply reflecting on the fact that some persons seem to draw upon a deeper well in most every thing that they do than do many others.
    When I have nothing better to do, I sometimes compare myself to myself: my productive self versus my unproductive and aimless self. The former only comes around when things hold together in my life as an integral whole. That kind of spiritual integrity is what I seek. The words of Dag Hammarskjold come to mind:
    "Shall I ever get there? There where life resounds, a clear pure note in the silence."
    --Lannie
     
  69. jtk

    jtk

    Stephen Penland posted above: His online images and accompanying concise, well-written blog- ruminations are directly to the point re: "solitary". Zero egotism about social independence and "creativity" (after a government career, of course), tremendous photographic substance.
    Take a look: http://www.stephenpenland.com/
     
  70. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Doing it- very
    Evaluating it, preferably not.
     
  71. "Other such photographs may be made by a person in whom the blurring of moving water strikes a deep chord, especially when it is combined with other elements in the photograph. Looking at photographs from both of these individuals, there is simply no way to ascertain what's going on in the person's mind, and therefore no way to determine the extent to which a person is following the herd or following his/her inner muse. Independence cannot be measured by uniqueness (although uniqueness may be one barometer of independence). I've found it to be very dangerous (in the sense of being entirely wrong) when one assumes he/she knows what's going on in another person's mind." --Stephen
    I find it dangerous, too. I talked about independent vision, which I can see in a photograph, not what's going on in a photographer's mind. I'm not projecting how the photographer arrived at it. I brought up action, not in relationship to photographers but because Lannie said that virtue required independent thinking, which I disagree with. I think a person's actions make them virtuous or not. I wasn't saying I'm interested in a photographer's actions to assess their photography. Not at all. An independent vision is something I see in a photograph, and I don't project that onto what I think is going on in the photographer's mind. I'm concerned with their photographs, not projecting stuff onto them.
    What you describe is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind when I talked about an independent vision. (Please note that I said independent vision, not independent photographer!) "Other such photographs may be made by a person in whom the blurring of moving water strikes a deep chord, especially when it is combined with other elements in the photograph." I think there is a visual difference between blurred water when it's utilized in a sort of generic fashion and blurred water when it has some internal relationships (harmonies, counterpoints, and contrasts) with other elements (composition, lighting, perspective, handling of color, etc.). When the blur has photographic relationships to other elements and qualities of the photograph, it feels more independent of cliché and gimmick. That's me looking carefully at elements, qualities, and the full picture of the photograph. It's not me assuming I know what's going on in someone else's mind.
    __________________________________________

    "I'm still wondering what you would see in the "application" (the person's actions) to help determine the extent to which a person's photography is truly a solitary pursuit" --Stephen
    Thanks for the question. As I said above, I wasn't looking at photographers' actions. I was looking at their photographs. Whether they work in solitude is interesting to me as it relates to their photographs themselves. As you and I both described above, I look for "independence" in photographs, visually. I'm in tune with photographic solitude , the expression of solitude, even if the person was in a group when he took the photo. I don't think one's physical aloneness necessarily translates to a photograph that conveys solitude. Photographic solitude isn't dependent on physical solitude. I think that's why you said what I asked Lannie seemed key. Because it's not about whether a photographer was alone when he photographed or not. It's about what solitude, independence, and others' evaluations mean to the photographer photographically. How they affect him photographically. How a photographer might convey those feelings of solitude photographically if he wanted to. It's not me trying to guess whether the photographer was alone. It's me trying to see either an independent vision (one more free of generic clichés or unharmonized already-proven stylistic tricks) or a solitary vision (one that speaks to me of aloneness, introspection, etc.) in the photographs themselves.
     
  72. When I have nothing better to do, I sometimes compare myself to myself: my productive self versus my unproductive and aimless self. The former only comes around when things hold together in my life as an integral whole.​
    " But the paradoxes bug me. And I can learn to love, and make love to the paradoxes that bug me. And on really romantic evenings of Self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion."
    Speed Levitch, Waking Life
     
  73. Phylo, I always wondered who watched that kind of stuff:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aCazIRtG3o
    I was hoping that I might invoke the Socratic dictum: "Know thyself" as well as "The unexamined life is not worth living."
    I had no idea that I would be interpreted as sending out an invitation to a solipsist convention. I was rather hoping, that is, that "solitary" would not be interpreted as a variant of solipsism.
    --Lannie
     
  74. When I was a teenager I got the chance to work as an intern in a photo lab, working with red light and all those smelly chemicals. It was very exciting to see pictures caming to life in developer tray, almost magical! I was fifteen when I started mountaineering and rock climbing and later became a mountain guide seeing natural wonders most people never seen firsthand. Watching birds of prey flying in groups of 6-10 right above my head atop of a 1200 feet scarpment was a treat for the sore eye. Only photos were able to capture those unique moments (if you were ready for them or your camera wasn't frozen!). memories fade for the most part but pictures freeze the precious moments for you. You will be so grateful to your camera for doing that and in turn it creates a unique one-one relationship between you, camera and your subject (in my case mountains and everything in them). Even if you are with a group of fellow climbers this journey has to be solitary and you can't help it but to be a loner. You get into a mindset of chasing the things you deem very important at the moment that you just can't afford any distractions. Interestingly any great mountainer or rock climber I have ever met where loners! Something lures you into this mindset that I can't explain.
    Cheers,
    Hadi
     
  75. Hadi, you might enjoy this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Glen-Denny-Yosemite-Sixties/dp/0979065909/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275702290&sr=1-1
    http://images.google.com/images?ie=UTF8&q=%22glen+denny%22
     
  76. Of course photography is a solitary pursuit, unless your subjects are people.
     
  77. It is solitary during the exposure and collaborative before and after. I doubt any of us picked up a camera without some level of training and support. This still holds true today as I learn from others and places like this. However, when I am making pictures the process tends to be solitary. After the exposure I get feedback on the images that move me the most. I suppose feedback can be from what is selling or hits on an electronic image. A lot of times it is candid responses from those close to me.
    I think most people make photographs to share and I think most people enjoy learning and sharing.
     
  78. Lannie,
    It was way back on June 3rd, lost in time and place, certainly, but here is what I want to refer to:
    As for the pressure of society, the great photographers and other artists no doubt lead the way, so they are not being influenced by, but are in fact influencing any social reaction. Lesser artists do require public acceptance or approbation, and are often playing to the desires of others in order to survive, mentally and physically.​
    Arthur, I suspect that what we find in the real world is more nearly a continuum than simply two classes: great artists and lesser artists. Intellectual (and artistic) courage is a precious commodity, but does anyone always have it? I'm not sure that greatness requires that.
    In any case, "censoring oneself" was not meant to refer to a conscious process so much as the almost inevitable fact that we are affected by the world around us whenever we decide what to write, paint, photograph, post to the web, etc. It would be nice to think that there is some godlike class, sort of like Nietzsceh's Zarathustra, who are above societal concerns and pressures. Every human being that I know, however, is all too human and a good bit more circumspect than even they might be willing to acknowledge--even to themselves.
    --Lannie
    Sure, a continuum always exists. Every dayly decision is neither at one end or the other, but somewhere in between. We may wish it to be at one end or the other, but cannot always manage that. Intellectual courage and censorship or the lack of it are not important considerations in art, at least I don't believe so. What is important, and what is one hundred percent solitary, is our own mental approach when making photographs. This varies with persons, of course. Some will find that super-realistic and clean landscapes and tack sharp imagery are examples of high art (and often cited as examples). They may be fine art sometimes , but usually are not (O.K., who am I to say. However, I am simply bringing a personal aesthetic to the question, and a certain in-bred cultural response, perhaps). Those Adamesque scenics (for me) show lots of technique (like my fine technician of a surgeon who replaced old arteries - and I was certainly glad he showed little transcendence in his approach) but little subjectivity, and little transcendence or fantasy of mind and of re-creation of the subject.
    Being fully independent of thought and spirit may not be easy to attain, but such solitary activity is to me highly important in any art medium. The more solitary and independent the creation, the less likely it will achieve popular appeal, but the more likely it will reward the artist (and hopefully some of the public) and empower him or her intellectually and emotionally. Cookie cutter photography will always exist, of course, but I doubt it is the aim of the solitary photographer, like it is likely not of the solitary writer, poet or philosopher.
    Photography can be a wonderful social instrument, but it can also be our muse in our search to better understand ourselves through our creative actions. I love it for that.
     
  79. WHEN EVERYTHING IS ON THE LINE. . . .
    Being fully independent of thought and spirit may not be easy to attain, but such solitary activity is to me highly important in any art medium. The more solitary and independent the creation, the less likely it will achieve popular appeal, but the more likely it will reward the artist (and hopefully some of the public) and empower him or her intellectually and emotionally.​
    Arthur, such full independence ought to be goal of any life, I believe--and not just in art. It is certainly something I strive for in my own writings in political philosophy. My life in that field (working as a political theorist, a moral and political philosopher, in a political science department) has always been about maintaining my own integrity. If one's work is in the realm of ideas, and if one sells out, what does that say about one's existence as a human being? What does one have left? One will not make money in that realm, and so one's integrity is all that one has.
    In photography, where I am strictly an amateur and not a particularly good one at that, I think that independence of thought is even easier to attain in my own case, if only because so little is at stake: I am in it for fun and self-fulfillment. Those who make their livelihoods from photography surely feel the greater and more immediate stresses of going it alone, intellectually and artistically speaking.
    When I think of persons "selling out," the phrase that I just put in quotes really does tend to tell the story: it is usually (not always) about money or its correlate, social standing. Sometimes (not often) persons may also "sell out" to save their lives. The story of Peter denying Christ (whether true or fictional) is a good example: persons often sell out their own best friends, spouses, etc., to save their own hides or to enrich their bank accounts (or simply to avoid financial or social disaster). When the stakes are high, that is, the temptation to "sell out" in some sense is high. When the stakes are low enough, almost anyone can summon the requisite moral courage.
    I guess that what I am getting at is that, depending on what and how much is at stake, the temptation to sell out (to compromise one's own judgments in thought or action) varies. I like to think that I have never sold out in my work (my teaching and my writing), and maybe I never have, but the pressure has always been there to make me conform. Defending pacifism (in my case) has been a hard road, and the struggle to maintain my own integrity goes all the way back to graduate seminars in the early 1970s, when it became pretty obvious that power politics and the usual rationales for state violence were more "marketable" in terms of who got good grades, got published, got the good jobs after finishing grad school, etc. Even my ex-wife seemed to want to nag me into getting with the flow of what made for career success. The marriage failed. I hope that what I wrote--and spoke--did not.
    It has been said that everyone has his or her "price," but I like to think that I would not sell out under any circumstances--but again I am referring to my work, since my photography is just for fun anyway.
    No rational person would relish the prospect of being "put to the test" of being tempted to sell out when the stakes are very, very high. When one's life is on the line, many people cave in. I am not here to judge them. Life can be hard and the temptations can be almost overwhelming for many persons, and perhaps all of us sooner or later have to prove what we really stand for in our lives, in our work, and in our art.
    --Lannie
     
  80. Lannie,
    In what way / why do you think the Waking Life / Speed Levitch talking scene is expressing a solipsism view ?
    " Life is a matter of a miracle, that is collected over time by moments flabbergasted to be in each others' presence "
    Photography can be the means to capture and show us the miracle, the world outside the self, as experienced from within the self, in that way it's both window and mirror.
    Are the best photographers loners?​
    Maybe the best loners are photographers.
    Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude?​
    Maybe solitude thrives on the creative spirit.
     
  81. Actually, Phylo, I enjoyed the heck out of that little clip from Youtube, but, yes, the entire thing is solipsistic to the core. Dig this part, near the end of the clip:
    As one realizes that one is a dream figure in another person's dream, that is self-awareness.​
    If taken literally, Phylo, that would be the true essence of solipsism. Even so, there is much there that speaks to me, such as this line: "[As Lorca said] the iguana will bite those who do not dream."
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aCazIRtG3o
    Bring on more, Phylo, more, more, more! I like people who speak in paradoxes, and who turn truisms on their heads without creating falsehoods. You are a master at that, you and Don Essedi.
    --Lannie
     
  82. Don,
    Great pictures from a unique setting (Yosemite + extreme rock climbing), I appreciate that. Those photos are kind of abstract in a sense, showing the one-one relation between man, camera (as medium) and the mountain.
    Regards,
    Hadi
     
  83. "such full independence ought to be goal of any life" --Lannie
    No. It may be the goal of your life. Why the ought? And why the pre-judgment of what others' lives should be?
    Why do you associate lack of independence with "selling out"? Selling out is compromising one's integrity. It's got nothing to do with degree of independence, even independence of thought.
    I value solitude and independence sometimes and I value relationships with and even dependence on others sometimes. Some of my photography builds on and seeks to respond to or pay homage to photographers that came before me. I can do that in a substantive and creative way and yet it requires a degree of dependence as well as independence. What most photographers and artists do can't be put in black and white terms, as if what they do is "fully" independent or striving to be. Art is a dialogue through history. It is influence and response, independence and sharing, creativity that doesn't have to be absolute, and usually isn't.
    Art critics are dependent on the artists they critique. Most people depend on their doctors for advice, plumbers to snake out their sinks. Actors feed off each other. If they are "fully" independent they are lousy actors. A good actor listens and knows how to receive, not just put out. Our thoughts intertwine with the thoughts of others. There's independence and intersection, dependence, building on each other, and there's thinking outside the box. None of that is purely this or purely that.
    I'm often much more interested in the community building I can do, even using my photography to do it to a certain extent, than I am in asserting my independence. In doing that, I can develop an independent voice. Fully independent . . . no.
     
  84. Lannie, the line you quoted back to Phylo from the YouTube clip, to me, is anything but solipsistic. It is a metaphor of entwinement.
     
  85. No. It may be the goal of your life. Why the ought? And why the pre-judgment of what others' lives should be?​
    Yeah, Fred, why not just embrace ethical relativism to the core?
    Why do you associate lack of independence with "selling out"? Selling out is compromising one's integrity. It's got nothing to do with degree of independence, even independence of thought.​
    Fred, we are talking independence of thought here. If you cannot see that that virtue is relevant to all kinds of judgments, then far be it from me to try to show it to you. The person who has no independence of thought is a reed in the wind. How can one even speak of "integrity" where there is no independence of thought?
    I value solitude and independence sometimes and I value relationships with and even dependence on others sometimes.​
    Who is speaking of emotional dependency here? I am speaking of independent thinking, which for me is the foundation of all virtue.
    --Lannie
     
  86. This has nothing to do with ethical relativism. This has to do with how each of us lives our lives. What our goals are. How we relate to others. I don't think it's a matter of ethics whether we are fully independent of others or not. I do think it's a matter of ethics to tell others what goals to have.
    The topic I was addressing was independence of thought. I gave many examples where independent thought is not a gaol of mine and others. What do you have to say about those examples and why do you think "full independence" ought to be a goal of everyone?
     
  87. This has nothing to do with ethical relativism. This has to do with how each of us lives our lives.​
    You are not reading, Fred. I have made it clear more than once that I am speaking of independence of thought, which surely is relevant to ethics.
    I stand by what I have written, in any case. Where you are coming from, and have been coming from for some time now, is not anywhere I wish to travel to.
    I gave many examples where independent thought is not a gaol of mine and others. What do you have to say about those examples and why do you think "full independence" ought to be a goal of everyone?​
    Fred, I draw the line at trying to rebut total nonsense. I'm sorry. You're speaking gibberish to me
    --Lannie
     
  88. Lannie, you added your second paragraph after I posted, so let me address your straw men.
    First you say that full independence of thought ought to be everyone's goal. Then you turn that around and say "the person who has no independence of thought is a reed in the wind." I said I don't want, strive for, or see others striving for full independence of thought. That doesn't mean I'm suggesting that I have or others have no independence of thought. My entire post was about a combination of independent and non-independent thought being healthy. Somewhere between your two extremes.
    "You are not reading, Fred."
    You're better than that, Lannie. You don't have to go there. We can both read and still disagree, no? Or does one have to be stupid or illiterate to dare disagree with you?
     
  89. By the way, I know independence of thought has to do with ethics. I said that what you and I were disagreeing about had nothing to do with ethical relativism, not nothing to do with ethics.
    Now you've added the line about total nonsense and I'm done.
     
  90. Fred, here is an excerpt from an e-mail you sent me a few minutes ago:
    I understand that our fundamental difference is that you think in terms of universal virtues and I don't. That's why we disagree so often about many, many things. I don't find that at all hard to understand. I think it's a rather basic difference between us. ​
    Well, if we disagree about universal virtues, then in my opinion we differ on the issue of relativism. All that I can say is that ethical relativism does indeed have the capacity to make me hot under the collar. Cultural relativism I accept as a fact: people do in fact disagree about basic values. Ethical relativism goes further (too far in my opinion) and affirms that there are no universal values about which persons could agree, since that would require belief in God or some other unchanging source of and standard of truth. I am a theist and I am not an ethical relativist.
    Although I cannot say with certainty what I believe it is that God values and believes, I do think that it matters what is in the mind of God--and for me that is what the philosophical and theological quests are all about. The epistemological problems are staggering, but that does not mean for me that the quest is meaningless, or that there is nothing to be found.
    It is well to at least state the grounds of our disagreement, so that others who might happen onto this thread might at least know what the entire dispute is about.
    How to link this to photography? I think that we were talking about whether independence of thought was not only good for me but is or ought to be a good for all persons. I thought that independence of thought was universally valuable, and you doubted it.
    I am just trying to clarify the grounds of our disagreement, not embarrass you in any way.
    Thanks for the exchange.
    --Lannie
     
  91. "I like people who speak in paradoxes, and who turn truisms on their heads without creating falsehoods. You are a master at that, you and Don Essedi."
    I take the forum title as it is and want to investigate the theme of a thread rather than take it as an oppotunity to express my personal opinion (I fail often), or what is really awful, expressing my personal opinion of some other poster's personal opinion (I fail often).
     
  92. I think most of the creativity comes from influence from other photographers, artists, and people. It would be very hard to be completely creative in complete solitude. The influence of others plays a heavy role on creativity, so I would say while solitude may help you breed you own unique style, if we didn't have others to show us the way and to compare and contrast ourselves to, we would have a hard time knowing what makes a creative photograph. Imagine a person that had absolutely no human contact from birth and was given a camera. This person had seen no other photographs, paintings, images...nothing, ever. The photos they take without knowing any "rules" or seeing what others have done, would most likely be very different from what we usually see. I guess you could define that as creativity, but would it really be creative or would that person just not know any different. It depends what you compare it to. Creativity also straddles the line of what's good and what isn't. Something can be creative, but that doesn't necessarily make it good. When you get the right combination of creative and good, then you've got something.
     
  93. I don't know about "best" but there is no doubt in my mind that most photographers are loners (and nonconformists).
     
  94. "such full independence ought to be goal of any life" --Lannie
    Yes, I fully agree with Lannie, at least in terms of personal creative efforts. It holds true in all spheres and not just in respect of photography or art. One can be independent and also agree with a good part of what the collectivity accepts as being of value, as those latter parallel acquisitions of values have somewhat similar paths of learning and experience that are often dictated by our common cultural and geographic roots. True independence of thought may be unattainable in a pure sense, as we are influenced from birth by our genome and particularly by our education (whatever affects our long evolution into adulthood).
    Integrity and independence of creative thought, whether in the photographic field or outside of it, ought to be the goal of a worthwhile life. When one finally leaves, money and success will have meant little, only the integrity and independence that person will have displayed to himself and others. You mention your experience as an educator, in a particuarly volatile intellectual and social domaine as that of a political theorist and a moral and political philosopher operating in a political science department, and the accompanying difficulty of maintaining that integrity and independence.
    I think the same situation, albeit on different levels, occurs for just about any human activity, from the apparently simplest (say, that of my carpenter) to the most erudite and complex. As a researcher (scientist-engineer), I have had to make independent choices along the way and to maintain my own vision of integrity, not always as successfully as I have desired. Therefore, I can understand what you are saying in that regard.
    The nice thing about independence and integrity in that solitary pursuit of an artistic objective is that one does not have to answer to anyone but himself, at least until the work is viewed and interpreted in terms of some social context, at which point questions will be raised about the independence and the integrity of the creator of the image. The independence and integrity are challenged, particularly if you wish your image to be seen by a wide circle of viewers. The pursuit and creation is often solitary, but the post-production life of, and responsibility for, the work may be anything but solitary.
     
  95. When I find myself wanting to tell others what they ought to think or how they ought to think or what their goals should be, I usually think again and avoid it.
    I will tell people what to do (more likely what not to do). Don't hurt me. Don't harm others. I may tell them how I arrived at that injunction. I won't tell them how they should arrive at it.
    If a person wants to follow the good book and not do any thinking for themselves (some who follow the good book do a lot of independent thinking, of course), I don't consider it my business unless they somehow tread on my rights, trespass on my space, or seek to do me harm. If a political activist wants to give his independent thinking over to a group of people he has come to trust for whatever reason, it's not my place to tell him not to unless, again, they are going to hurt me or someone else.
    Money and success mean something very real to a lot of people. My uncle, for instance, just turned 80. He retired a few years ago having grown up in a New York City ghetto sharing a room with his two older sisters, not even having enough money to have a Bar Mitzvah. He built up a printing business, starting out as a delivery boy, and was successful and earned good money for himself and his family to have a life more comfortable than his own when he was growing up. That business and that success have always been of great significance and a part of his identity. He will take that with him to his grave, which I hope is a long way off. It'll be worth a lot more than a lot of so-called independent thinking I've heard in this thread.
    Perhaps money and success mean little to many here. It means a lot to others. Go on living in your idealistic, independent-thinking, spirited world. I want none of it. I prefer the diversity of thought that gives us all different goals and different ways of being satisfied with our lives. I want to live in a world where the people of my parents' generation -- who worked hard to be successful and amass some money for themselves and their families and didn't have time for independence of creative thought because they were too busy working -- are honored and respected alongside those who have the luxury of making consistently- and consciously-independent decisions.
    My parents didn't consider the option of not getting married at a very young age. It wasn't a matter of independent thought that led them to pursue the married life they lived. They followed a mold and remained together for over 50 years like many of their friends, never really consciously choosing that life or even thinking of it as a choice as much as simply what you do. Shall I judge them for that? Should you?
     
  96. Our sense of our autonomy is an illusion.
     
  97. Fred,
    I suggested the idea of independence being important in art, and also agreed with Lannie in his feeling that independence and integrity should be a goal of meaningful existence (but perhaps not the only one). However, just like any philosophy, morality, political conviction, or even a sentiment that colour is better than black and white photography, the value is a personal one and which can be stated as such but it does not oblige others to think the same way. If you say that colour is more expressive than monochrome photography, I can choose to either agree with you, or not. It is just another viewpoint. I don't see how it, or any other value, obliges others to think accordingly. So many discussions end up in one person or group of persons wanting to convince the others of some undeniable truth. I believe that many differing views are valuable, as they fit the person and the circumstances in which they are molded, perhaps appropriate for that situation, but not all. I do not share the quest or significance of monks living in a voiceless community, but I can stretch my thoughts a bit to recognize why it might be valuable for them, although certainly not for me.
    Why must we often look on differing values or viewpoints as being a judgement on some contrary opinion. In your example, I certainly appreciate your parents' actions (my parents were very similar) and your uncle's sucesses. What he achieved becomes a value for him and others. We are all proud of such successes. In my small way, I helped build and maintain a scientific society over several years, when it was on an apparent decline, innovated a number of new activities, and was rewarded by my peers at the time. I don't think about it much or even look at the plaques on a secondary wall in my dwelling, as I can always find those having made much greater contributions to society, but I am still glad at times for my involvement, sweat and the recognition. But that and money, or a better car, or canoe, or whatever, have become less and less important to me (start with little, end with little...) as I find knowledge or understanding of what I had not beforehand accessed as being increasingly important to me, like making new friends, that can open doors in the mind as well. Some form of independent thought and integrity is what utimately is important, although I may well change or add to that equation.
    We are a ways from the question of solitary in photography, I guess, but I want to take the opportunity to say that my own feeling is one of respect for differing opinions and not a judgement of those that are not similar to my own. I trust I am not alone. By its very nature, philosophy is an arena of disussion of differing views. The fact that we can voice contrary opinions on philosophy or photography and not be brought over hot coals for that, is great. I for one learn much from your opinions.
     
  98. Arthur, these two statements by you and Lannie, I thought, crossed your own line. You both didn't seem to be expressing just a personal value. You both seemed to be suggesting what others ought to do. It's one thing to express contrary opinions. And had you and Lannie used "I" and talked about what you each value, I would have no quarrel with it and certainly would respect whatever goals you choose for yourself. But you didn't do that. Lannie talked about what the goal of ANY life should be and you talked about what the goal of A WORTHWHILE life should be. I didn't hear that as being limited to your own life. I heard it as much more universal than that.
    "such full independence ought to be goal of any life" --Lannie
    "Yes, I fully agree with Lannie, at least in terms of personal creative efforts. It holds true in all spheres and not just in respect of photography or art. . . . Integrity and independence of creative thought, whether in the photographic field or outside of it, ought to be the goal of a worthwhile life." --Arthur
    Yes, we should be accepting of different viewpoints. That was my point. That's why I don't tell people what the goal of any life should be and I don't talk about what the goal of a worthwhile life is, I talk about my goals. I appreciate your clarification and better understand you now.
     
  99. Fred,
    When you voice your goals, I understand that you are expressing what is important to you. When you decide not to talk about what the goal of a worthwhile life is for you, are doing what the ancient and modern philosophers did not do. Their raison d'etre was to consider what should constitute valuable human activity and life and thought and then express that to others. Why should the thoughts of Epicurus or others be taken as what I or you or anyone ought to do. They are simply considered as opinions of another or others of his following, om how society ought to evolve. I personally have never taken the ideas of those philosophers as a mandatory rule of how I should live, even if they procaimed that life ought to be like that. "Ought to" is simply a strong personal feeling, how someone sees an issue and a solution. We do that all the time when we say that crime ought to be reduced or tax evasion ought to be punished or "under the table business transations'" ought to be subject to increased scrutiny. It is a personal and sometimes group position. When you say "ought to", you are expressing a strong personal feeling about how things should be, otherwise why say it in such definite terms. That is how I perceived Lannie's remark. A personal viewpoint. Someone may say that my country, Canada, ought to be free of government intervention in public health. I may not agree with their approach, but I accept they have the complete right to espouse it. Or when some might say that my country ought to limit foreign literature imports, in order to protect its writers and media from the dumping of mass literature (e,g, U.S. magazines) by larger communities, I don't necessarily agree with that, but fully recognize the right of the other to express that other personal opinion.
    Without "we ought to free ourselves of foreign domination", the colonial USA might never have taken a path to independence. What I am saying, Fred, is that there is nothing wrong with personal opinions on how the world, or some issue, ought to go (evolve or resolve), in the mind of some free individuals. It is the basis of much human thought, philosophy and change. I hope we are not going to see a limitation on thoughts that are expressed in definite terms, as long as such thought is not negative in terms of people's freedom or rights of expression.
     
  100. Good God Landrum, you certainly unleashed a flotilla of random thought on the subject that would fill one of earth's smaller oceans, or part of it. My simple answer to the question is; if you feel it is a solitary pursuit, then it is. I am a writer first, because it's my profession. A photographer second, because I enjoy it, and like the challenge. But as a writer ultimately I have to sit down by myself and write something which, indeed, is a solitary endeavor. In one sense, writers, photographers, artists, auto mechanics, steam fitters, bakers, cabinet makers, fashion designers, etc. etc. all end up doing what they are paid to do in a solitary setting called their own mind, because there are some things in life you simply can't do well with somebody leaning over your shoulder offering advice, criticism or whatever. That is called a distraction and always has a bad outcome. But if for some reason you dwell on the actual execution of what you're doing, discounting all the other people and interests in our life and general pursuit of happiness ... then your priotities are misplaced, and you could very well have a problem.
     
  101. what isn't a solitary pursuit...
     
  102. Don,
    Our sense of our autonomy is an illusion.​
    Amen.
    But, does that mean we should stop to strive for it if we believe it is in our own personal best interest (sorry for the political correct derscription, but I feel no need to mingle in the other discussion) ? The question to me would more be: what would this autonomy yield? Wouldn't it make one a loner, eventually?
     
  103. Arthur, these two statements by you and Lannie, I thought, crossed your own line. You both didn't seem to be expressing just a personal value. You both seemed to be suggesting what others ought to do. It's one thing to express contrary opinions. And had you and Lannie used "I" and talked about what you each value, I would have no quarrel with it and certainly would respect whatever goals you choose for yourself. But you didn't do that. Lannie talked about what the goal of ANY life should be and you talked about what the goal of A WORTHWHILE life should be. I didn't hear that as being limited to your own life. I heard it as much more universal than that. (Emphasis supplied.)​
    You read me correctly on that, Fred, but keep in mind that for me the whole idea of independent thinking or independence of thought is simply a reference to moral and intellectual courage to stand up to those who might bully us, lure us, or otherwise impel us to conform and thus forsake our own artistic or intellectual vision. Sure, it could mean other things if one starts parsing words, but "moral and intellectual courage" is the sum total of the "ought" that I was recommending above to all persons--sort of like defending and promoting intellectual integrity, nothing more and nothing less. In the context of photography, the most obvious application of such a maxim would be in the context of defending artistic integrity, of recommending and reminding persons to be true to their own artistic vision, not the current fashion or something else that compromises their own independence as an artist.
    I thus have no trouble recommending moral and intellectual courage to all persons, both for their own sake and for the sake of those who interact with them. I would especially recommend such a virtue universally to all persons who engage in photography qua art. Art has few moral imperatives, but perhaps one may say that it has at least one: Be true to your own artistic vision. I have no trouble recommending such a virtue to all would-be artists.
    Rather than see myself as a value imperialist on this, I am defending precisely the opposite. Saying that all persons ought to be "independent thinkers" is to me saying only that they should not let others do their thinking for them. For me, recommending "independence of thought" as "moral and intellectual courage" is more or less on a par with saying that persons should get more exercise and stop eating and drinking so much. It is not absolutely universally true because quadriplegics, for example, cannot exercise, and a guy with a bad knee should not try to run a marathon, but it is good enough for most situations and most persons. An anorexic might need to eat more, not less. A child or person who is insane might also be counter-examples to such a virtue as an absolute, but the counter-examples are so few and far between that I feel no particular compunction about recommending independent thinking as a general ethical maxim, a maxim that has particular relevance to artistic and intellectual pursuits.
    Since words like "independent" and "independence" have so many meanings out of the limited context which I was addressing (artistic and intellectual integrity), however, there is no doubt that you are correct in many of your observations.
    Context is everything, and to be quoted out of context can be frustrating indeed, especially when someone wants to make one into the very thing that one hates.
    --Lannie
     
  104. Wouldn't it make one a loner, eventually?​
    You got to walk that lonesome valley, Wouter:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcbqCssiBUc&feature=related
    Such is the cost of freedom.
    --Lannie
     
  105. While we (Fred and I, at least) are on the subject of moral imperatives, I can think of a few that are not too oppressive:
    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the law and the prophets.--Jesus of Nazareth
    That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it--Rabbi Hillel
    Kiss me. (I'm not talking to you, Fred.)​
    In other words, the imperative mood can be friendly moral injunction, friendly invitation, friendly lots of things. It need not always come across like the words of drill instructor: "Marine, get on your face and give me twenty-five pushups!"
    --Lannie
     
  106. PICTURES AND MUSIC TOGETHER
    As for "independent thinking" and "artistic integrity," they need not always be about photography, of course. Pete Seegers' moral example stands out in my mind--enhanced here with photos by others:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y2SIIeqy34
    I'm signing out now. Thanks to all who participated.
    --Lannie
     
  107. "But, does that mean we should stop to strive for it..."
    There's a difference between 'independence' and 'autonomy'. We're members of a gregarious species, but we are much less 'signal bound' than other species are. I can act independently while acknowledging that my every move and thought developed in a social cultural matrix The less signal bound a species, the more an individual member's learning is due to imitation rather than 'natural instinct'. I think it is language's ability to form a complete thought about something that is not real, that encourages the sense of autonomy.
    "The question to me would more be: what would this autonomy yield? Wouldn't it make one a loner, eventually?""
    It could yield very good work. The photographer pursuing an autonomous path might be a master. And he might be a "loner", which may be a polite way to say one might become an asshole.
     
  108. Don, in respect of your somewhat inelegantly expressed last line, it is my experience that a qualificative of that type rarely refers to those sometimes thought by some as "loners" or those seeking independent and autonomous thoughts and creations, but it probably better refers to some who slavishly imitate the ideas of others or adapt too readily to some popular group behaviour.
    However, on one point I believe you are right. Autonomous thought and actions can yield very good work. They support a positive response to one of the initial sub-questions - Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude?
     
  109. "Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude?"
    I think solitude is necessary, to spend time with ourselves alone. We work out things regarding the "creative spirit". And we are all 'loners' at some point, usually in our teens and twenties when we are very interested in individuating ourselves, becoming our own person. At some point, an awareness of ourselves in continuity should join up with our awareness of ourselves as being unique individuals. It's a sad thing to see a 50 year old person still rebelling against parents and teachers, as if they were demons.
     
  110. Don,
    Thanks for answering, I quite agree with your points there. To be sure, I did not raise my points thinking to debate you, rather seeking some clarification whether I read you correctly.
     
  111. I'm neither seasoned photographer nor philosopher, but I'd like to weigh in on this.
    As I read this thread, I am reminded of something I've read over and over here on these forums...to walk away from the car to find your pictures, because most people won't inconvenience themselves to do so. Doesn't this inherently suggest that photography is solitary? If the position of the camera and the uniqueness of the vision are of such importance that sharing a location with other photographers, regardless of their ability, vision, and/or equipment is to be avoided, how can one argue that photography is anything but solitary? It can be engaged while in the company of other people, but the photographer is still isolated by the camera; he/she is outside the scene in question, documenting it.
    Should the photographer use a remote and enter the scene, does that change things? In my mind, it does, in that the photographer is now intruding into the scene, whether or not it has a positive impact on the final image. If a photographer is documenting his/her vision, he/she cannot be a part of that.
     
  112. the photographer is still isolated by the camera; he/she is outside the scene in question, documenting it.​
    Jay, there are those who say that the photographer is always in the photo. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  113. jtk

    jtk

    A better question than "loner" (which implies outcast, inability to relate, IMO) and some alternative may be:
    "is a person who does not frequently produce photographs actually a photographer"


    ...or isn't everyone a photographer, since more humans will soon have digital cameras than shoes (cell phone cameras at the very least) .
    ...or "is a person who does not regularly produce something considered "creative" by others properly considered a "creative person?"
    As to "solitude," isn't there evidence of creativity in complex studio situations, buzzing with art directors, clients, assistants, and friends? In contrast, is there as much evidence of creativity among solo-backpacker Ansel Adams aspirants?
    ...is "creative" a significant compliment....or is the adjective a consolation prize for people who have not accomplished anything substantial?
    Did anyone ever call VanGogh "creative?"
     
  114. The original question was:
    "To what extent is photography a solitary pursuit?"
    I am 62 years old, and most of my work was done before the advent of the internet. Before the advent of the internet, photography was for me a solitary pursuit, in that I was the only person who studied and critiqued the images that I produced. Now of course the whole situation is different.
    I usually upload to a photography forum what I shoot within a day or two of when I took the image. So photography is definitely no longer for me a solitary pursuit. But when I am actually shooting, the situation can vary. I recently have been shooting a lot of self-portraits, which I would consider a solitary pursuit. But I do shoot them to share with others, and not just shoot them for my own personal satisfaction and viewing.
     
  115. Good questions!
    Are the best photographers loners? >> The best photographers aren't necessarily loners. They are just very independent.
    Does the creative spirit thrive on (or in) solitude? >> In solitude, you are not out to entertain, but to focus on the task at hand. There is creativity in a group as well, so solitude is not the only way.
    Is the creative process an individual process or a social process? >>Both. If it's a social process, it becomes a movement (i.e. the Impressionists, Minimalists). In a social process, it may also be politically-motivated art.
    Do the best photographers/artists play to popular demand, or to an internal voice or vision? >> The best do not play to popular demand. The best are often rejected, because it's so far removed from popular "things."
    There are many others, but I would prefer that persons make up their own questions, or else modify the question(s) to allow for the fullest expression of their own ideas.
     

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