Transcendence and Transformation

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, May 10, 2010.

  1. What are the ways in which a photographer (or you as photographer) and a viewer (perhaps you as a viewer) can transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? Can a photographer or a viewer transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? Must a photographer or a viewer transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? Is there necessarily or desirably a subject of a photograph? To what extent is the photograph itself the subject?
    What, if any, can be some of the differences between a table and a photograph of a table, a landscape and a photograph of a landscape, a person and a photograph of a person? Why and when, if ever, might the picture of something be more intimate than a direct relationship with that thing?
    Why do you photograph something in addition to or instead of sending others to see it "in person" themselves?
    I experience, in making and viewing photographs, the significance of mediation and artificiality in tension with the simultaneous immediacy of very real relationships. My presentation of a subject as photographer and my response and reaction to a subject as viewer is wrapped up in the picture I present or see, what the camera and photographic process help create for me. Yet, as photographer, my relationship to my subjects and, as viewer, my relationship to the photograph is an immediate and often an intimate one.
    Via a sometimes artificialized photographic look at something, I can experience very genuine emotional and intellectual responses and reactions. There can be a play between distance and intimacy. I like that interaction.
     
  2. "What, if any, can be some of the differences between a table and a photograph of a table" A retailer would much rather you come see the table.
    To me, the answers to many of the questions starts with function. The photo of the table in some cases is to inform and entice. The retailers objective to get folks in the store and if he could do that without a photo he would.
    Some photos are just a record and no more, but I think that is very rare. Even a simple snapshot can hold emotion, humor and history and the extent of each is in large part discovered by the viewer's own reaction.
    A photographer can consciously or unconsciously use a subject to express something else and in so doing transform the object as can a viewer. However, the photographer's success may be individual to that specific viewer.
     
  3. As a start, to buy myself time to think about the rest, and knowing that this isn't what you are asking but believing it to be relevant anyway ... a photograph always transcends the object(s) photographed, and is always itself at least "a" and often "the" subject.
     
  4. Must - no. Can - yes.
    Why not must - because there is nothing wrong with the attempt at very "objective" photography. Recording a place or event as you saw it (which terminates the objectivity immediately) without trying to add a whole lot into it. Closed frame, it is what it is and leaves little open ends to follow up upon.
    As a viewer, well... you see what's there. It can have aesthetic qualities, technical qualities or other skilled ways to elevate the work, but it is quite what it is. A photo of something.
    Can - yes, most certainly. But it's a different category of photos than above. A simple famous example: why does the man jump in Behind the Gare St. Lazare? What is he doing there in the first place? The imagination takes over, fills in a story that travels well beyond the frame of the photo, and might even be completely disconnected from what Cartier Bresson put there. As a viewer, if a work sparks imagination, touches you (emotionally, creatively), in my view you do transform it, to your own view of the work.
    To what extent is the photograph itself the subject? - for me, the second case, the photo becomes the subject. Like most novels inspire to image the persons in it, paint their world and fill the gaps not described by the writer, the work becomes a chariot of what I want to see in it. The creator still guides me (by composition, included and excluded objects and so on), but I see it the way I see it.
     
  5. Fred –
    “I can experience very genuine emotional and intellectual responses and reactions”​
    Bear with me….hopefully these musings will make sense...your post really rang a bell for me.
    On numerous occasions, as both boy and man, I have experienced that drowsy semi-dreamlike state that sometimes occurs early in the morning, just before falling asleep, or while taking an afternoon catnap. For me, it can even occur late at night, in bed, when beginning to drowse with a book in my hands. Sometimes there is a sound in the distance. A muted piano…a train whistle…a radio…a lawnmower. Whatever the stimulus, and for whatever the reason, I suddenly find myself in another place, another world (in the psychological or cultural sense, not the astronomical). It’s a very pleasant feeling and very subtle. Quiet and commonplace rather than dramatic. It’s also very much beyond words. It’s a feeling of being at this other place and of this other place. It could be farmhouse in the Serbian countryside, an apartment in the Bronx, a stone cottage on a Scottish moor, or a tract home in a suburb of Des Moines. I feel, I have absorbed, I am at one with my existence as some Other in this Other place. I may or may not have a sense of living there. It is more as if I am a spirit there, insubstantial and unseen, yet still a part of the place. But there is also mystery as well, because I do not know anyone there nor do I “see” physical landmarks. It is all feeling. Somehow it is both a mystery and instinctively understood on some level…both at the same time. How do you adequately communicate such a feeling through words? We are all unique in many ways, but as human beings we also share a great deal. Although I may not have expressed it in a way that others will recognize, I seriously doubt that I am alone in experiencing it.
    “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
    Out of the corner of my eye
    I turned to look but it was gone
    I cannot put my finger on it now
    The child is grown the dream is gone”​
    The Pink Floyd lyrics are melancholy, and the intended meaning of them are far from the pleasant and at-peace feelings I have when in this state. But it is somewhat akin to what those lyrics express…a fleeting glimpse that, upon awakening, I cannot quite put my finger on.
    The photographs I love the most are the ones that give me something approximating this feeling. And in that sense, the photo most definitely transcends the raw objective data of lines, dots, or pixels. And, when viewing photographs, the “at peace” feelings of the semi-dream state I described are not always there. There are unpleasant and uncomfortable photographs that give me a sense of place…of imagining another world or existence.
    There is no one type of photograph or subject matter which gives me this feeling, either. It might be color or black and white, sharp or blurred, famous or vernacular, a portrait, a landscape, a street shot, or someone’s long forgotten vacation snap.
    The work (photograph) that I often come back to is usually subtle, and retains this mystical sense of transcendent otherness for me. It is often work that I stumble across for one reason or another because it does not shout for attention…it whispers when I’m ready to hear it.
    I speak of other people’s work, but this is one of the goals I work toward in my own photography.
     
  6. John A, when I asked, I was considering the question somewhat more visually and hadn't thought much about function and about the role of who was relating to the subject or photograph. I was thinking along the lines of what qualities might be added to or subtracted from a subject itself that would change it. But, of course, those changes in quality would change function as well. One's seeing it as a photograph certainly does change function which is significant. I agree that a photographer's success can be individual to the viewer (I assume you mean things like successful communication, expression, or representation) but I think more often a good photographer communicates a similar message to a variety of viewers or expresses something that moves people in generally similar ways. Not always, of course. A lot of emphasis is placed on the wide latitude of viewer reactions, even when initial gut responses that trigger those reactions can be quite similar. I think there's a constant tension between what the photographer is responsible for and what the viewer adds.
    Felix, it is (at least part of) what I'm asking and I agree with you.
    Wouter, yes, there is nothing wrong with objective photography (some forms of documentary, forensic, commercial) and some is a lot more objective than others. Even so, I've seen some very objective travel photographs and subsequently visited the places photographed. Lacking smell, sound, and breeze, the places can feel so different compared to their pictures. So much is gained and lost by photographing and I tend to see photographs in different terms than I see their subjects when those subjects are not mediated by framing (figuratively and literally) and a lens.
    Steve, I like how you've described the tension between mystery and understanding. "I cannot quite put my finger on it," as you say . . . perhaps being shown something new that we feel we've known all along . . . perhaps the difference between showing (seeing) and knowing.
     
  7. Fred, agreed, a photo of something is still not something itself. Travel photgraphy is a very clear example indeed; some photos are so stellar the actual place is a disappointment, and vice versa.
    To me, such photos just rarely trigger the responses that make me draw a picture within and around the photo. As photos of something (and in that sense, the photo still is subject), they just do not give the affect Steve described - that plunge into another world. The something itself still may, and another photo of the same subject may, though.
     
  8. What are the ways in which a photographer (or you as photographer) and a viewer (perhaps you as a viewer) can transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph?​
    We can capture the scene at a pivotal moment, from an unusual viewpoint, or in unique light. I've seen lighting conditions that happen once and never re-materialize; I've waited for years in some cases to no avail. An effective photograph freezes the unique experience of that moment.
    Why do you photograph something in addition to or instead of sending others to see it "in person" themselves?​
    For two reasons. Firstly as discussed above, that moment will never repeat itself exactly. If the potential viewer isn't standing next to you when you make your exposure they'll never see that situation quite the way that you did. Granted, sometimes it will look very close to the way that it did the day or the week before, but there are always differences even if they are subtle (and sometimes they're extraordinary).
    Secondly, no two people will look at the scene in the same way. Everyone will notice things that catch THEIR eye. My photograph documents what *I* saw in the way that *I* saw it. Not that what I saw was more important that what anyone else sees, just that we are all unique and we all look at the world in a very personal way. If I craft the photograph well, it will invite the viewer to share my perspective for a moment. In that moment we'll make a connection, as strong a connection as though we were having one of those conversations where you both have the same thought at the same moment. The image serves as my representative, the ambassador of my creative impulse. And being an ambassador, it is immune to parking violations. ;-)
    00WRe6-243517584.jpg
     
  9. Dan, these are very compelling points you make. Yes, the importance of the photographer's perspective, the photographer's vision, is profound. That's something that no one else will have.
    "If the potential viewer isn't standing next to you when you make your exposure they'll never see that situation quite the way that you did."
    This seems significant, and I'd like to add a couple of things.
    I've been standing next to people who later see a photograph of mine and say they wouldn't have seen and didn't see what I was seeing even though they were right there with me. I've stood next to other photographers as they were photographing and was surprised and enlightened by the photographs they took.
    I think showing someone a photograph of a situation is very different from them seeing the situation themselves, even if they could have adopted your exact perspective. A subject, scene or even a particular detail can be isolated in a photo in a manner very differently from how a subject or scene or detail stands out from its background, context, and periphery in the moment we see it. This changes the situation drastically. This means the photograph can at times become, for me, primarily a photograph and secondarily the situation.
    Your example: Many would pass by that scene from the same angle and at the same time of day as you did and not notice the reflection because of the many other sights, sounds, and distractions facing them. Looking at the photograph, it becomes much harder to miss the reflections. You have framed and isolated something. You have brought attention to something in a visible and tangible way. And the attendant ambient noise is changed from the noise of the moment of the snap to the noise at the time of viewing the photograph.
    Photographers can do things to allow into the photograph the influence of peripheral vision and even smells and sounds that won't actually be "seen" verbatim in the photograph but will be photographically and emotionally translated. Photographers can capture the effects of ambient "noise". That's when things can get even more interesting.
     
  10. Fred,
    I think that there are not straightforward answers to your questions.
    I believe that it is very personal. It has to do with our memories, our sentiments, our mental state when we are creating a photograph (from the capture to the final print).
    I think transcendence and transformation are insinspensable especially when there is a need to express strong emotions or to give a certain semiology to the photo. In rough terms when somebody is the need of making a true but allegorical photograph.
    What is the difference between a table and the photograph of the same table, you ask.
    The initial answer comes with a question; of what table? If it is about my parents' table I can say that the difference is tremendous. I loved my father very much and I 've lost him of a sudden death, for twenty three years now. On Sundays, on Christmas Day on Easter we were all around that table. My father used to sit at the head with his back to the balcony door from where the light still comes to that room.
    I was sitting just on the other end. My father was half in the dark and half in the light so to speak. My optical corner towards him covered only half of the beloved ones around that table. I could not easily see and talk to sombody next to me without turning my head.
    Now whenever I vist my mother I look at the that table standing still at the door of the dining room. To have the feeling of those gatherings; for my eyes to cover the whole space.
    If it is to photograph that table I will certainly use an ultra wide angle form the point I used to sit, or I think better use my fish eye lens. To distort and encapsulate that table within that room as a cocoon to keep the memories of those happy days in there.
    I just said the story behind a table, a simple dining room table. If it is to sell that table I will bring the potential buyers to take a look. I cannot give any photograph of that table to anyone. It is like giving something of my inner world to somebody that cannot understand it and there is no need for that somebody to do so.
    Dimitris V. Georgopoulos
    Athens, Greece
     
  11. Dimitris, thanks so much for your very personal take on it. I think such personal thoughts add a lot to what otherwise often become very abstract musings. Your approach is in line with mine. Rarely do these types of questions suggest straightforward answers.
    Though I don't think others experience my inner world as I do, I think making photographs (among other things) can aid in getting others to understand/feel/empathize. I've never believed that our private worlds are as necessarily private as some think they are, though there can often be a very genuine desire to keep them as private as we can and a lot of success in doing so.
     
  12. Fred, it's very true what you indicated about two people standing in the same place at the same time but seeing very different things. I've notice this effect whenever I review photos with a travel partner.
    An images gives us the opportunity to share a perspective. Someone can go to that location and look for the shot that you made. They can try to stand in the same place and figure out which lens you used.
    Imagine that you have a favorite spot in a great cathedral. There's one place that you like to stand or sit. One day you invite a friend to join you. You say "stand right here and look straight up" or "sit here for a minute and just listen." The friend now understands something about the cathedral that only you did a moment ago.
    I have some ideas about "transformation," too, but I'll have to leave those for another day.
     
  13. To what extent is the photograph itself the subject?​
    I think that the photograph is always at least a secondary subject (and in some cases the primary). A photograph is a "package" of visual stimuli. A photograph is more than just the sum of its visual components just as a bouquet is more than the sum of its floral components and a symphony orchestra is more than a bunch of musicians in tuxedos.
    Why and when, if ever, might the picture of something be more intimate than a direct relationship with that thing?​
    There are things that we can't easily see. We can't see a mother bear nursing cubs in a den. We can't see the inside of a beating heart. But a camera can delve stealthily into these foreboding places. In these instances the camera gives us a far more intimate view of the subject than our eyes ever could.
    There are also things that we can't see because they're no longer available. If we never met Elvis or Marilyn, we're not going to have the chance to do so. Their photos give us an opportunity to know them to some small degree. We'll never hang out with John Lennon on the rooftop of an apartment building while he wears a 'New York City' T-shirt. But someone did. And luckily that someone snapped what would become not just a globally recognizable image but a clue to the essence of a complex and fascinating personality.
     
  14. I think that he subject of a photograph is always transcended or transformed when viewed by another human being, who naturally adds his or her layers of meaning to what he or she sees in the photograph. It is also completely out of the control of the photographer, who has his or her own meanings for the photograph, but can be very different from what other people are seeing and interpreting. I am always amazed when other people tell me what they see in one of my photos, because it is often so different from what I see, and it reminds me that the personal meanings are so individual and personal for each person viewing an image. A photograph is not unlike the proverbial Rorschach Inkblot test: evoking responses that link up to conscious and even unconscious associations for the individual.
    Why do I photograph something? Because I know that the resulting image will be transformed by each person viewing it, but it also fulfills a primary need I have to express myself creatively. I only print photos that mean something to me and stimulate me in some way. I suppose I could all print all my photos, knowing that even if I didn’t like some of them, other people would probably find something they liked about them. Perhaps, heheh. For me that wouldn’t be very interesting or stimulating, but it raises another question.
     
  15. Steve, is there any relationship between what you express in your photographs and how a viewer responds?
    What you describe as the viewer's response ("completely out of the control of the photographer) would feel very lonely and disappointing to me as photographer. With my own photographs, I feel a strong connection between my input and the responses of viewers. To an extent, I use the tools of photography to communicate. So, it's important that I be understood, at least to a baseline level. I think I do exert control. In addition to what I control, viewers' imaginations soar and wander and that's great as well. I control and I also let go. I find that on a significant level, my own meanings and the meanings and responses of viewers are often not quite as different as they might appear at first glance. First, I think, people "get it," they connect. Then they make of it what they will.
     
  16. Dan, I like your points about photographs being able to connect to things we otherwise couldn't know. What I was thinking about, though, was when a photograph can make a more intimate connection to people or things even that we do know personally. Annie Leibovitz herself might feel the photograph of John and Yoko captures more intimacy than what she felt directly with them . . . of course only she, and perhaps, Yoko, could answer that. I know I've made some portraits where the portrait expresses more intimacy than the actual relationship I had with the subject of the portrait. In that way, the relationship is transcended and transformed photographically.
     
  17. Fred, I make photographs that give me a great deal of satisfaction. I still feel that what others see in them is out of my control. Since I have been told that I have "talent" I know that at least some people also find my photos stimulating and interesting. I don't feel any loneliness or disappointment if they don't, because I have satisfied myself first. My portraits are well received by the recipients, sometimes with tears, so I know I am doing something right--that what I thought was a particularly engaging image was also seen that way by the person that wanted the photograph. I guess I have a basic trust in my skill to express myself with the camera, that it is unique to me and that some people will like what I do and some won't. Most of the people who enjoy my work are also very good photographers or artists, so I take some satisfaction in that fact as well.
    To answer your question: "is there any relationship between what you express in your photographs and how a viewer responds?" I again have to answer that it is completely out of my control. Even what I am expressing at the time of taking the photo is often unknown to me! I shoot instinctively, before any "thinking" gets in the way, except of course for the basic f-stop and lighting sort of stuff. Whether shooting a landscape with a view camera or doing a candid portrait, I often feel that I have to switch to a sort of "trance" state in order for my visual brain to have full control. Conceptual thinking just gets in the way and becomes an impediment for me. I also find I am drawn more to other photographers who shoot this way rather than the ones who conceptualize and set up their shot with a certain idea in mind. Its the idea that you let things unfold on their own, and you are there to capture a certain sense of what is happening. That is what excites me and probably motivates me to take pictures in the first place. Its only one style or way of doing things, but that's what does it for me. I hope I've answered your question!
     
  18. Addendum: I was just thinking that for me a good analogy is that of playing jazz music. First, the musician has to have the necessary skills to express himself on his instrument. Then, in jazz, the main element is improvisation. Even while playing the improvising musician doesn't know exactly what he is going to do until he does it. You let your mind "flow" and "trust in the unconscious." Its knowing that your mind is bigger and more complicated than you will ever know or understand and you are tapping into this energy. Its exactly the same process for me when photographing.
     
  19. "I know that at least some people also find my photos stimulating and interesting. I don't feel any loneliness or disappointment if they don't, because I have satisfied myself first."
    "some people will like what I do and some won't."

    Steve, just to be clear, I am not talking about being disappointed if someone doesn't respond to my work or if someone doesn't like my work. I've had many people tell me they don't like my work and I accept that my work will not appeal to everyone and I think that's a good thing. I don't want to create the kinds of photographs, necessarily, that will appeal to all audiences.
    What I'm saying is that, if I had made this photo . . .
    http://www.photo.net/photo/9204049
    . . . and a viewer said about it that it looks like the two women didn't trust the photographer and didn't trust each other, I'd think either the viewer was just not seeing straight or, if enough people said it to me, I'd wonder if I did something wrong. I don't doubt that you were "in the groove" and not distracting yourself with mental gyrations at the time you shot this. That's often how I work as well. But I would have doubts if you were to claim that there was no intention (even if fleeting and undistracting) of expression behind taking a photo such as this. Even if you didn't pose them this way, this is the photo YOU chose to take and I lay quite a bit of responsibility for its expression at the photographer's doorstep, even if you didn't over-think it at the time you took it.
    Of course, there will be some ambiguity in the way people will react to this. Some will like it, some will not. Some will see their own memories in it, some will project, etc. But I think we can often count on a kind of baseline immediate reaction to many photos and I think that's because of what you chose to shoot and how you shot it.
    I have also had a similar experience to you where I don't really know what I'm expressing at the time I shoot. For me, that doesn't change the fact that it is me who is expressing at the time, because of my experience and everything I bring to the table when I'm holding my camera. The instincts I have don't appear out of nowhere. They are in so many ways the result of my previous experience, my feelings (which I always have, even when I'm not thinking about them), and who I am. So, even when I am not exerting control and consciousness, even when I am lost in the moment, I am responsible and, at least for me, there is a connection between what I put into something (consciously or not) and what a viewer gets out of it.
     
  20. Paul, I just wanted to thank you for being so concerned about the sanity of the Wool-Pickin' PoP crew (all certain types, save for you and Cerberus), which is normally considered below impeachment. At least, you, unasked, unselfishly threw yourself on the Cross to try to redeem us.
    Thank you for revealing our worthless nonsense unto us, Attention Starved Snappers (ASS). What would we ASSes do without you to keep us from reaching for something better? We are forever indebted and eternally graced by your efforts. Thank God you're an expert on bizarre, quackish, ego-fuelled internet cults to know one when you see one.
    It's all so clear now...
     
  21. "...save for you and Cerberus"
    You forgot 'is mates down at the pub 'avin a larf at us
     
  22. Paul, you're forgiven for your sceptical sins. Can you forgive us our deluded nonsens and let us be happy with it?
     
  23. Fred, you said: "So, even when I am not exerting control and consciousness, even when I am lost in the moment, I am responsible and, at least for me, there is a connection between what I put into something (consciously or not) and what a viewer gets out of it."
    I do feel "responsible" for every image I create. Do I feel a "connection" between what I put into it and what the viewer gets out of it? From the standpoint that its my creation, I take responsibility for its content. What the viewer gets out of it is more tenuous, in my estimation. Like I said before, a photo is more like a Rorschach inkblot: something that triggers associations, both conscious and unconscious in the viewer, and that this is largely out of the field of "connection" with the photographer. I have my own conscious and unconscious reasons for liking and presenting a particular image, but those are only mine. Because we are all human, there are certainly common themes where the viewer and myself may share similar impressions. Is that what you are referring too? I definitely do not try to make images that are un-relatable (sp) to most viewers. I am controlling the content to fit certain norms that I have in my head about portraits or landscapes or whatever. Those norms are part of my personal and individual aesthetic. We may be on different "tracks" here.
     
  24. Steve, I'm enjoying the different tracks! I'm thinking of more than common themes or cultural phenomena. For instance, Shakespeare knew that everyone would have individual associations with the death scenes in Romeo and Juliet. But I think he also relied on some amount of emotional empathy and predictability in his audience in crafting such scenes and creating his plays in general, even though I'm sure much of the writing took place in a somewhat transcendent frame of mind. I think Shakespeare was deeply and transcendently inspired and he was also a craftsman who knew what kind of action and dialogue would likely evoke what. I think there's a significant craft side of photography which informs the art. There is a photographic language, if you will, at play . . . constantly being updated and always evolving.
    I try to be true to myself when making photographs, true to my own expression and what I want to put out there. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that there will be viewers and that viewers (myself included) respond in certain ways to certain things. If I want to make something haunting, I might give it a heavily shadowed feel. If I want to be brazen, I might up the contrast, etc. I know that eyes follow light a certain way and may want to suggest such movement in a photo. Some of these are very nuts-and-bolts concerns. I'd go crazy if I thought nothing I created had any level of predictability of response, at least within a ballpark.
    Again, "liking" or "being liked" is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about expressing and being heard, communicating and being understood. I can understand or be understood and still retain my own imaginings and wonderings beyond that understanding. I think there is a compelling and welcome tension in photography and other arts between what is shared (in almost universal terms) among presenter and audience and what is much more personal and individual.
     
  25. This post is not a response to any of the previous comments; rather it's just me mumbling to myself about why I haven't been able to come up with any response to the original post.
    I've been thinking about Fred's questions since posted, and I was never able to find any solid "ground" from which to answer. It seemed to me that I would have to start from assumptions that I am not prepared to make; about the nature of what's out there and what's in a photograph. But just this minute, I've figured out why this has made the questions so squishy for me:
    Imagine a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat (a good magician and we're all astounded by the illusion). To me, it's as if alll Fred's questions were asking me to meditate on the rabbit -- when I don't give a s*** about the rabbit. Sure, there is a rabbit and I'm prepared to say that it's real and not transcendent, etc. but that's not what makes the show. It's the conjuring. The wonder. The act.
    Maybe it's because I'm a photographer, but the foundation attraction of photographs (for me) is that "someone" ... saw [and in that "saw" are all my original problems with answering the OP ...]. They pulled this photograph out of a hat and ... it's wonderful. Astonishing. They conjure up that possibility of "being-seen." The conjuring, not the rabbit.
    None of this addresses Fred's questions (which are valid and which I don't mean in any way to suggest are not), but I feel better for figuring out why I can't seem to answer those questions. They almost don't matter to me.
     
  26. Julie "It's the conjuring. The wonder. The act." Wonderful point Julie. and I think it does go to the quick of Fred's inquiry. If I want to be a magician I'd choose to look behind the curtain. Illusion. As a viewer I would even, perhaps experience more intimacy and awe of the magic. if the performance allowed me to transcend my knowledge. Having that knowledge will hopefully make me a better magician/photographer.
     
  27. "They pulled this photograph out of a hat . . . "
    Ah yes, if only it were that easy! I'm kinda with Josh here: "having knowledge will make me a better magician/photographer."
    What we've been discussing throughout this thread does seem to have already incorporated the photographer and how the photographer sees, the performance.
    In a magic act, the rabbit is not what I care about. The magic act itself is the performance and the rabbit is interchangeable with other objects that could be made to disappear and reappear (though the rabbit has become iconic and has meaning within that iconography). Photography is to some degree a performance from the perspective of both photographer and viewer. But the rabbit is analogous neither to the photograph nor to the subject of the photograph. When I look at a photograph, though my mind and imagination may go to the photographer, the process, and to my own associations, a crucial part of the experience is my looking at and seeing the photograph. I wouldn't want to miss it. It matters. I want to hang it on my wall or keep it in my wallet or make it my screen saver. And the subject matters. Sure, in an abstracted approach to photographs, subjects may be interchangeable (or we may say they are) when we talk about the importance of light, of perspective, of texture or timbre. But in a very real way, and in addition to the performance angle, the subject is what I care about. I have intimate relationships with my subjects, both as photographer and as viewer. I wouldn't exchange them for the world. I may look at Weston's photo and see his performance, see what he wanted to show me, see Weston's conjuring. Weston would likely understand all that but I'll bet he wanted me to look at and see the pepper, too. And regardless of what he might want, his photograph allows me to (makes me) see the pepper. I've said before that transcendence does not necessarily discount the thing that is transcended. The pepper in the photograph goes beyond itself but does not dismiss itself.
    There are, indeed, analogies between music and photography and performance is a significant aspect in each. There are also differences. In music, the performance is the thing. A recording of that performance is just that, a recording of it. A photograph is not a recording of a performance per se. A photograph is the creation that results from the "performance."
     
  28. Isn't it a bit of both. Julie's point does hold a lot of validity, as does the remark that knowledge helps. While I usually tend to think thoroughly, letting go and following "instinct" (by lack of better word for me now) sometimes is just better. A bit less thoughts, and a bit more faith in getting things right "spontaneously" (*).
    Not pure magic, though. But some of the more thoughtless made photos I made turned out a great deal better than those I considered more. That said, the amount of photos I make myself that please me has increased with gaining knowledge... But those actual photos are often enough still relatively thoughtlessly made.
    (*) The instinct and the spontaneousness are heavily conditioned by the knowledge. Unlucky choice of words by lack of knowing any better ones. Maybe.
     
  29. "The instinct and the spontaneousness are heavily conditioned by the knowledge."
    Wouter, good point. That's definitely what I was driving at. I'm certainly not suggesting that I am "in knowledge mode" or necessarily "in thinking mode" when I'm shooting, processing, or in the moment, but gaining knowledge at whatever point will, as you suggest, affect my instincts and my "groove", should I get into one at any stage in the photographic process. I can store lots of knowledge often in the hopes of letting go of it (again, without dismissing it). Honestly, there are times when I am guided by thoughts and my mind as much or more than instinct, and I don't hesitate to go with that either. For me, it's not a matter of whether knowledge or the letting go of knowledge is better. It's allowing the supportive relationship of the two as well as the ebb and flow of tension between them to unfold.
    The more significant point (perhaps a misunderstanding) I hope Julie will clarify is the "rabbit" stuff. Since I don't find the rabbit analogous to something photographic, I'm left unsure of what she doesn't give a s*** about.
     
  30. A picture is a conjuring. The [whole] picture creates its content, not the other way around.
     
  31. The content, everything inside the frame of the picture, is conjuring, but which doesn't have to make the picture, meaning that the viewer can re-create as much the content as the picture is being one instant creation ( of content ).
     
  32. Phylo, yes, and I think that's where a lot of the transcending comes in.
    Julie, for me a picture is more than a conjuring. Since my subjects often mean a lot to me and others as people, a picture is significantly a referring as well as a conjuring. (Non-human subjects are also of great import.) The picture is (sometimes and in important ways) about the real flesh and blood person as much as it's about the picture of the person. Yes. I like to think and do think my pictures create content . . . to an extent. But the subject plays an important role in that. The content also makes the picture. Julie, for me it is the way you describe it and the other way around.
    If the pictures from Abu Ghraib were merely a conjuring, we indeed wouldn't give much of s***. There's a reason we do. It's because those pictures are not just magic. Every picture I take (and I haven't really done strict abstracts and they might be a bit of an exception) is documentary to at least some extent.
    Photography keeps me, as I am elsewhere, somewhere between being an idealist and a realist. The picture no more creates its content than the mind creates the world.*
    *Must beware of dualisms as well.
    Please don't mistake my perspective here for in any way belittling or making light of the role of the conjurer or conjuring. But I respect my subjects and raw materials too much to think it's all a magic act.
     
  33. For me, the pictures of Abu Ghraib (and any effective picture) are what the picture made or makes of the content. What it did/does with its [whole] content.
    I have no particular knowledge or clear memory of any of the people or things or places in the pictures of Abu Ghraib. What I do have are overwhelming impressions, memories, affects of suffering and humiliation and (our) shame that were generated (in me) by what the pictures did to me. By what they made *out of* the content.
    Conversely, if I'm a lousy conjurer, I could, in a state of helpless love, make a thousand pictures of somebody I know by heart, that, in the print, had no effect on me at all.
     
  34. "if I'm a lousy conjurer, I could, in a state of helpless love, make a thousand pictures of somebody I know by heart, that, in the print, had no effect on me at all."
    I agree. But this does not lead to your conclusion that the picture creates its content. I've said on many occasions that the most meaningful scene can be turned into a lousy photograph and that we, as photographers, shouldn't confuse our feelings at the time for the feelings we may or may not imbue a photograph with. None of this, though, means that it's a one-way street and that it's only true that the picture creates its content. I can be the greatest conjurer in the world, making the picture speak volumes more than the content itself would have. That doesn't mean the content doesn't leave its mark and isn't a significant part of the process of creation.
    Re: Abu Ghraib. I obviously see it very differently. It's not about just my impressions or the photographer's memories or impressions (though that's certainly a part of it). For me, it's primarily about what those human beings suffered and what those other human beings perpetrated, whether I know or remember them individually or not.
     
  35. Further question, re-asked: Julie, regarding the Abu Ghraib photographs specifically, which thing is like the rabbit in your analogy? Which thing don't you give a s*** about?
     
  36. The only thing I give a s*** about is the conjuring. I don't give a s*** about anything else. How could I?
    The conjuring is the picture. The picture is the conjuring.
     
  37. "The only thing I give a s*** about is the conjuring. I don't give a s*** about anything else. How could I?"
    You could give a s*** about the people whose pictures were taken or even about the people who took the pictures. I could think of a hundred things more significant to me regarding the Abu Ghraib photos than conjuring.
    As for the "how could I?", I wouldn't presume to tell you how to empathize with the subject of a picture. We each do that, or don't, in our own ways.
    I still am not hearing the answer to a significant question. What is the rabbit in those Abu Ghraib pictures?
     
  38. Afterthought (or second thoughts): I don't want to distract us by continuing to wonder about the rabbit analogy. The more significant question to me is whether I, or you Julie, care about the people who and the matters that are represented in those photos. I do.
    To bring it back to transcendence: Can I (as photographer, as viewer) transcend even this conjuring? Does the photo, in fact, go beyond the conjuring? Again, for me, it often does . . . significantly. As a matter of fact, sometimes the conjuring leads me back to a new vision/understanding of the subject (and of myself). The conjuring can be a means as well as an end and that back and forth is reciprocal.
     
  39. Fred "Can I (as photographer, as viewer) transcend even this conjuring? Does the photo, in fact, go beyond the conjuring?"
    "I may look at Weston's [pepper] photo and see his performance, see what he wanted to show me, see Weston's conjuring."

    Fred is there a difference in performance and conjuring? I think so, in this discussion. I tend to think of conjuring (outside of a magic performance) as a suggestion of some degree of mystery and/or transcendence experienced by the viewer. The sum of the parts are adding up to more that makes me think or feel something special. eyeopening, unique, surprising...that's me. Other times I could use either term in the same sentence but here they carry different weight for me.


    so to your question "Can I (as photographer, as viewer) transcend even this conjuring? Does the photo, in fact, go beyond the conjuring?" I think that when a work transcends conjuring it sets our awareness of the act/performance aside. Yet it heightens, amplifies our response to the performance. It communicates to me beyond any question of how it was accomplished until I choose to go there. But of course it could not exist without the performance. The performance with light is key or the doorway that we are invited to transcendence. A still performance in the case of photography (making live performance analogies problematic) It also could not exist without the subject that the photographer/camera records.
    "[Weston] ... wanted me to look at and see the pepper, too. And regardless of what he might want, his photograph allows me to (makes me) see the pepper."Fred. me too
    A photo (#30) that rocked my world. Exceptional conjuring. imo - The pepper was the inspiration for the photograph. The light was for the pepper, the performance showed the pepper in all its sensual glory. Does the photo transcend, for me it always has ... from the first viewing. But what is it transcending? Isn't a reference point needed? The pepper. For others maybe just the ordinary is the grounding reference. I think it is the pepper tho, not just a common vegetable or common whatever. The light, the background and processing was for a pepper, that pepper was the chosen subject and the magic relied on it. And when someone asks me' whats the big deal, it's only a pepper. I am in total agreement it is only a common pepper except I respond to the performance the conjuring the magic and to how the final product added up to open my eyes wide.
     
  40. Josh, I do think there's a difference between performance and conjuring and I agree that conjuring has its own sense of mystique and transcendence. (Many performances and many photographs fall flat and don't have the magic.) Then, on top of the conjuring, I think you're suggesting and I agree, there's another layer of transcendence: transcendence of the conjuring itself. You say: "It communicates to me beyond any question of how it was accomplished until I choose to go there." Yes. Though I love knowledge and I love to be in touch with how something was done, etc., if I am too focused on that stuff at certain times, it can get in the way. Being in touch with the performance can actually serve to distract me, at certain times. It is often at those times when the photograph is beyond the performance (the process that made it) . . . when it is precisely NOT the performance . . . that I am the most in touch with what I care about. It is at those times, to me, more visual and emotional, and more immediate, than it is representative of an act or acts.
    The way you talk about the pepper . . . great! What you call a reference point I might also refer to as the ground that's transcended. That's what I meant, but you make it much more clear, when I said: "The pepper in the photograph goes beyond itself but does not dismiss itself."
    Perhaps I would emphasize something here. The pepper, as you say is, indeed, the inspiration for the Weston photograph. Significantly, it's also the visible subject of the photograph. It's more tangibly present than if it were just an inspiration. My mother, for example, has been the inspiration for several photographs I've taken, yet she doesn't appear in them. The photographs she does appear in give her a different kind of photographic significance.
     
  41. Julie appears to be perplexed by 'transformation' and 'transcendence', and so am I.
    I can respond to this:
    "Why do you photograph something in addition to or instead of sending others to see it "in person" themselves?"
    Setting aside the immediately transient (and also Winogrand's "The photograph is not the photographed"), even enduring things do not endure forever. I cannot send you to see this
    http://www.photo.net/photo/10958190
    because it will not occur again. Not the specifics, the "this" -- those people on that spot at that time (the transient), but the shop and those who shopped and worked there, which endured from 1917 until a few months ago, is closed. A few years ago in this forum, I think, I posted a colorful shot of the alley near my house. You can't see what was photographed that day today, either. This winter's snow collapsed one garage and the tree beside it.
    I draw the distinction between art and documentary. For the documentarian time is omnipresent. Things change. Photography enters history with documentary. Documentary requires context, art does not. Context is critical for documentary. Weston's pepper is transcendent for a number of reasons, one being the absence of context.
    Unless the art photographer employs a painterly or abstract style that alters the 'optical plausibility', a tension exists in a photograph between those qualities that make for transcendence -- the Platonic Pepper -- and the bare fact that a real pepper was required to be before his lens and that pepper was not Platonic, but subject to change, ie time.
     
  42. Don "Weston's pepper is transcendent for a number of reasons, one being the absence of context." I agree that Weston chose to minimize context in regards to time stamping or added references. Still I would not hesitate to use the photo as an establishing or closing shot for my hypothetical documentary on 'the pepper'. Stepping back I think that Weston has captured well some physical surface characteristics of a pepper. The documentary would of course supply a context. But I think the photo can stand alone without further context to inform me as to the surface characteristics of a pepper. Or context could be present and still transcend the capture.
    The departure from remaining a simple record begins with Weston for me. I feel his passion. The person standing next to me may not feel it and what they may see is a record of a pepper without color. Had Weston chosen to give a time stamp or location, etc to the photo I suspect he still would have transcended the pepper, the photograph, the moment, the ordinary. I think we all could choose a photograph that we felt significantly surpassed the ordinary that had clarity of context.
     
  43. One of the problems with mentioning documentary in this forum is its association with making a forensic record. Documentary has a history, practice, theory unrelated to forensic recording. History implies narrative, for example. Weston's pepper is also a forensic record.
     
  44. Don, tell me more about the 'context' you are referring to so I can understand.
     
  45. connected events...? like the 'Times Square kiss'?
     
  46. Josh, an example would be what differentiates a street portrait from a street scene. Tightly composed, the portrait might eliminate all context so that our knowledge that it was shot on the street would be based on what the photographer says. Even if the street is evident, it would not matter whether it was shot in Terre Haute or Atlanta. Eggleston when asked why he did not shoot more portraits replied that he preferred showing people doing things, ie in context. The saying 'If you didn't get the shot you weren't close enough' may be true for news photography, but for documentary sometimes you didn't pull back far enough to show the context.
    The above for individual photographs. Obviously, in a 'project' there will be many photos, which may include portraits. For me, 'documentary' is about change, history, narrative, and time, rather than a forensic recording of a 'main subject'.
     
  47. Thanks Don. I think we are on the same page. My comments are not restricted to a 'forensic record'.
    I do agree that part of the magic of this pepper is the tight framing. I also think that a documentary photograph (meeting any requirements) can transcend the subject, photograph or message.
     
  48. "I also think that a documentary photograph (meeting any requirements) can transcend the subject, photograph or message."
    If you can link to an example or two of the kind of documentary that "we are on the same page" about that is transcendent, and your reasons, I'd be grateful. It would help me to understand this thread.
     
  49. We already seem to agree that Weston's pepper is also a forensic record and that it transcends ... Why not then a stand alone documentary photograph or a series.

    I could/would not to take your suggestion and presume to show you what transcends a photograph for you. It's subjective imo. not an absolute or universal.
    A photo that rises above the ordinary that I normally encounter, to the extent that I would suggest that it transcends the subject, content, etc., is just as likely to leave you flat.
    I would use the same words you used to loosely define documentary. "we are on the same page" does not mean we read the words in parallel and have the same interpretation and reaction. I suggested 'Times Square kiss' as a starter to get a deeper feel for your guidelines for a documentary photograph. because, I do not know what you are perplexed by. The source of your confusion.?
     
  50. "Julie appears to be perplexed by 'transformation' and 'transcendence', and so am I." --Don
    Don, I don't understand your perplexity. Julie doesn't seem perplexed.
    You've pretty much echoed what I've said about it:
    "I've said before that transcendence does not necessarily discount the thing that is transcended." --Fred
    "The pepper in the photograph goes beyond itself but does not dismiss itself."
    --Fred
    " . . . a tension exists in a photograph between those qualities that make for transcendence . . . and the bare fact that a real pepper was required to be before his lens . . . " --Don
    You've explained transcendence well related to the pepper. Where is your misunderstanding or what is your question about what I've been saying?
     
  51. Josh, I agree with you that context could have been provided for the pepper and the pepper could still transcend itself. The kiss that takes place in the photo of the Times Square photo is very much that kiss (at that time) but also transcends that kiss. It becomes a symbol . . . about the end of the war . . . . It maintains its "kiss-ness" but it becomes our kiss, our jubilation, and then some.
    Don, I think often the distinction between documentary and art is clear, as clear as differentiating genres. But, despite such distinctions, there are documentary aspects to art photographs and artistic (and transcendent) aspects to documentary photographs. Documentary work may very well transcend its context and time in significant ways, even while depending on that context and time . . . Dorothea Lange. Most art photographs that I can think of have some documentary character . . . this thing was there, it happened, this narrative occurred, in this context, and . . . using that, I will create . . .
     
  52. "Where is your misunderstanding or what is your question about what I've been saying?" also, "Don, I think often the distinction between documentary and art is clear"
    Fred, I didn't address transcendence directly, but your question about directing the potential viewer to the photograph or the photographed. I referred quickly to two issues, then to the simple fact that the photographed may no longer exist.
    The distinction between documentary and art is less an issue for me than are the transcendent and what it is that is transcended. To say what is transcended is the photograph or the subject, I do not understand. What is transcended, as I understand the term, is change, time, history, narrative. To answer half your question, as a photographer I do not want to transform or transcend the subject. As a viewer...I'm still thinking about it.
     
  53. If there is some difference between a pepper (whether the context for the pepper -- time, history, narrative -- is there or not) and a photograph of a pepper, the pepper is transformed and transcended to that extent.
    If a viewer recognizes that my portrait of X is not X and that some of what the viewer is seeing is what the viewer is projecting onto X because of what she's seeing in the photo (e.g., the way I chose to capture the lighting, the perspective I shot from) and because of what I, with my photographic tools, have projected onto X, then the subject of my portrait has been transcended to some extent. People may want to look at a given portrait and say "X is menacing" when what may be the case is that "X has been photographed with a menacing look" or the viewer is experiencing a "menacing feeling" looking at this photo. So what the viewer experiences often transcends the subject itself. The "menacing" can be the photographic going beyond of transcendence. The "menacing" can detach itself from X to an extent.
    At the same time it's a picture of X and X is significant, though transcended.
    Qualities of light, of texture, of photographic capture may transform what that subject "is." I am standing with a friend as I take a picture of a scene. When I show him the picture, he tells me he can't believe what I was seeing (or at least how I was seeing). He didn't see that. My photograph (photographic eye?) transformed the scene and made it a photograph of the scene . . . a different experience of that scene. Time, history, and narrative might be transformed (or transcended). Or not. I might have maintained the sense of time, history, and narrative and transformed how the scene looks . . . and feels.
    When I say the pepper is transcended I mean I go back and forth between caring about or even recognizing that it's this pepper. Partially, I am struck just by light, shape, texture, and a little bit of what you recognized as Platonic pepper-ness. I can forget about this pepper. The tension is there, though, because I also know it's this pepper and look at this pepper and respond to this pepper.
     
  54. Second thought: "If a viewer recognizes that my portrait of X is not X . . ."
    The viewer doesn't have to recognize that this is what may be happening. She just has to experience it.
     
  55. "as a photographer I do not want to transform or transcend the subject." --Don
    I understand that. It is your way of photographing. I respect it.
    "As a viewer...I'm still thinking about it." --Don
    Are you saying (in combining the two statements above) that because you don't photograph that way, you can't understand, from the perspective of a photographer, how a subject could be photographically transcended?
    "To say what is transcended is the photograph or the subject, I do not understand." --Don
    The pepper is a pepper. And then, as the pepper is transcended, the pepperness may matter less. How the picture moves me matters, how the light falls matters, the abstracted qualities of texture, shape, reflectivity matter. The photograph of the pepper matters and transcends the (real) pepper. The photograph is something other than the pepper. The photograph transcends the pepper, but NOT COMPLETELY. The tension -- which I thought you were recognizing, as Josh seems to and I do -- exists between knowing it's a pepper with all that means to me in "real" life and knowing it's a picture of a pepper and how that picture is a transformation. The picture doesn't just represent the pepper. It creates something new. A new object. A picture of a pepper.
    I wouldn't eat the photograph . . . probably.
     
  56. ""as a photographer I do not want to transform or transcend the subject." --Don
    I understand that. It is your way of photographing. I respect it."
    I want to, but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible. I also want to fly like Superman, but I can't and it is not possible. A photograph documents a moment at shutter-speed. Where are change, time, history, narrative (those things that are transcended) in it? Most documentary theory I've read are about moving, not still, pictures for very good reasons. It is possible that the absence of those things encourages transcendence (transcendence is more, or other than, their absence).
    ""As a viewer...I'm still thinking about it." --Don
    "Are you saying (in combining the two statements above) that because you don't photograph that way, you can't understand, from the perspective of a photographer, how a subject could be photographically transcended?""
    It is true, like the proverbial cobbler, I stick to my last and am not well informed about many areas of photography. From my perspective, photographs are too easily transcendable; it is their nature. So, the problem for me is not how to photographically transcend the subject, but to express it so that it is seen in its time in history, in change, and in narrative. Difficult, at least for me, in a single photograph, better seen in a set of photos. Such a thing might be seen as transformation or transcendence, and I am not against that interpretation. It points to how complex the issue is in the photography I like and attempt to do.
     
  57. " 'as a photographer I do not want to transform or transcend the subject.' --Don
    'I understand that. It is your way of photographing. I respect it.'
    'I want to, but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible.' "
    I guess I'm really not following you, Don. In the first line, you've said you don't want to transcend the subject and in the third line, you begin by saying you want to. (Is one a typo?)
    "To say what is transcended is the photograph or the subject, I do not understand."
    "photographs are too easily transcendable"

    You're saying photographs are easily transcendable but you've said you didn't understand what I meant by transcending a photograph. I don't get it.
    Here's my thinking: You seem to understand me. You appear to know what it means to transcend the photograph or the subject of the photograph. You don't want to do that. You want to express the subject's context. You want to make it as real as possible. You want to provide its history, change, and narrative in the photograph, keeping yourself out of it as much as possible.
    Eisenstadt's V-J Day in Times Square is such a good example. It does just what you're talking about. It's a great documentary shot, providing, context, time, dress that tells the era and says "sailors", obvious celebration, most will know it's Times Square without being told, etc. I look at it and am transported to the moment, in context. But I can also look at it and abstract the joy. My first kiss. Never mind kiss. Just joy. The human emotion of joy is expressed in that photo even to someone who's never heard of World War II and doesn't know people were glad it was over. So it is a full-fledged historically located documentary shot and it is transcendent.
    By the way, doing a good job of creating a transcending photograph is no easier than doing a good job of historically locating a documentary subject.
     
  58. "I guess I'm really not following you, Don. In the first line, you've said you don't want to transcend the subject and in the third line, you begin by saying you want to. (Is one a typo?)"
    The third line is 'I want to, but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible."? It seems plain enough. Because I desire something doesn't mean I can attain it, or even if it is attainable at all.
    "You're saying photographs are easily transcendable but you've said you didn't understand what I meant by transcending a photograph. I don't get it."
    You've explained what you mean in your post of May 24, 2010; 11:36 a.m.
     
  59. I see what might be confusing, Fred. The "I want to" in the third line refers to the 'wanting' in the first. What I want to do is to not transform or transcend.
     
  60. "It seems plain enough. Because I desire something doesn't mean I can attain it, or even if it is attainable at all."
    Well, that is, indeed, plain. And, yes, all along I've understood the difference between desire and attainment, but that's not what I asked about.
    I asked you to explain why, in the first sentence, you said you don't want to transcend the subject and in the third line you say you do want to. That contradiction is about what you want to do, your desire, in each case. Whether you or anyone can attain it is a different matter, but still there was a contradiction in terms of your wants/desires. You said you don't want to transcend the subject and then you said you do.
    Do you want to transcend the subject or don't you?
     
  61. We wrote simultaneously.
    Do you think the Times Square kiss photo can't possibly transcend its historical context?
     
  62. And, can you explain how these two statements of yours cohere . . .
    "Weston's pepper is transcendent for a number of reasons, one being the absence of context."
    "but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible [to transcend]"
    How can you question whether it's possible for a photographer to transcend the subject and recognize the transcendence of Weston's pepper at the same time?
     
  63. "And, can you explain how these two statements of yours cohere . . ."
    Fred, you want to debate someone who says that transcending the subject or the photograph is not possible. I am not that person. Why you think I am -- I don't know.
    "but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible [to transcend]"
    You left out the 'not' between (your words above) "to transcend".
    One more time:
    ***
    ""as a photographer I do not want to transform or transcend the subject." --Don
    Fred: I understand that. It is your way of photographing. I respect it."
    Don: I want to, but that doesn't mean I can or that it is possible.
    ***
    What I want and what may not be possible is to *not* transform or transcend.
     
  64. "Fred, you want to debate someone"
    I don't want to debate. I offered the topic because I wanted to discuss it substantively. But it's become incoherent . . . very not plain. I'll move on now. Thanks.
     
  65. Since you wrote my statements don't "cohere", I assume you mean I am the cause of this thread becoming "incoherent". I explained the sentence that you misconstrued and offered a clarification -- twice. You will not accept it. I doubt 'incoherency' motivates you leaving the thread. But no skin off my nose that you do.
     
  66. Unfortunately this seems it will go into the archive as a missed opportunity. Once I finally realized where Don was coming from/going, well in to his participation, it occurred to me that the reverse engineering approach could be quite enlightening. The idea that all photographs transcend the subject or photograph is perhaps not part of the thought process that I or some others were coming from...? But I do find it stimulates new avenues for me to to consider. Even if only to help assess/shape my own ideas of transcendence in photography.
    It is only when I allow that all photos transcend subject (for me, hypothetical for the moment) can I find difficulty achieving non-transcendent photos of any genre including documentary.
     
  67. Fred,
    getting late into threads requires catching up, as usual.
    Just one initial remark: we should consider the medium: we talk about visual representation, and doing that with a camera is a particular form of visual representation.
    The fact that the author chooses a camera for the visual representation is determining. It's a camera and not a canvas, or a sheet of paper, or a copper plate, or a silk pane.
    According to Garry Winogrand: a "photography is a lie" and "there is no photo which has a narrative capability". I tend to agree.
    Maybe they are less a lie than a painting, but placing a frame arbitrarily around a scene is a way of manipulating its representation.
    The mere fact that we choose a camera for visual representation is determining the outcome. This is the first mediating effect. And then there are the more or less conscious choices of the author, including/excluding, the moment of release, anything.
    And then transcendence combines the photographer's transcendence, the photo's transcendence and the viewer's transcendence.
     
  68. "there is no photo which has a narrative capability"
    Luca, I'd want to know the context of this, if you have a citation, because the context might explain it and allow it to make sense. Standing alone as it does, to me it's patently false. Photographs have great narrative capabilities. As a matter of fact, I see the two Winogrand statements as a contradiction. How can something that's not narrative lie? To me, lying would imply some sort of narrative.
    I agree that choice of a camera and framing are two very determining things. I also agree that photographs can lie, though I'm not sure they have to. It's a good idea, when viewing documentary work, to be aware of possible biases and prejudices of the documentarian. Even if not biased or prejudiced, it's hard to imagine a photograph taken without a perspective, and that perspective can have influence narratively. (See, there's that narrative.) In lying, I think photographs can tell deeper truths. (If not being a reliable representation of a scene is the lie -- perhaps adding photographic and emotional dimension -- the photographer may accomplish something emotionally that goes deeper than what the scene presented to the naked eye.)
     
  69. One addition: I think paintings and photographs, if they lie, can each lie to a greater or lesser extent. I don't think by virtue of being different mediums one lies more than the other. One can create a documentary-like painting or even a forensic painting (or drawing) that is more "accurate" (less a lie) than many photographs.
     
  70. Josh: "Once I finally realized where Don was coming from/going, well in to his participation, it occurred to me that the reverse engineering approach could be quite enlightening. The idea that all photographs transcend the subject or photograph is perhaps not part of the thought process that I or some others were coming from...?"
    I think that idea, unaddressed as it is, is an issue here.
    I'm responding to the OP on desireableness or "wanting": "Must a photographer...transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? Is there necessarily or desirably a subject of a photograph?" My not wanting to 'transcend' is based on my experience recently during a review, how I composed the frames, what got into the 'keeper' pile and what got remaindered, how I post-processed especially cropping. I noted my tendency to go for the general or universal (transcendent) at the expense of the specific and local -- as if I photographed a VJ Day parade but cropped out the evidence that it was a local parade in an attempt to communicate more universally. Considering my subject is very specific and very local, it is personal sabotage of the work, no matter I get a nice universal out of it.
    It seems I am predisposed to see the transcendent even when I think I am looking for the specific and local. Yes, the local can also be universal; that's a fact, but the issue is wanting or desire and how that affects the taking, selecting and processing. I wrote that it may not be possible to take a non-transcendent photo** , that the nature of the photograph is a matrix for the transcendental.
    The "reverse engineering approach" got me to see a fatal flaw in my work, one that might eventually have led to abandoning the project out of boredom, frustration -- whatever excuse. I am also free from the predisoposition to take "good" photos. They don't need to be dewy-eyed evocative, profoundly unsettling, or cut your heart out. I can relax. The monkey is off my back.
    **I mean the kinds of photographs we take and the kinds of photographs we look at. Forensic photos in archeology and geology textbooks are about as non-transcendent as can be imagined being extreme examples of local and specific.
     
  71. In my last documentary shoot, a series for a special needs community in New Hampshire, I was aware of the tension between transcendence and non-transcendence. I wanted many of those photos to be, to whatever degree I could make them, non-transcendent. Any universality I might achieve would be through the very particular. I wanted to "keep it real" to the extent I could. I posted a bunch of them to a folder in my PN gallery and comments I got from many regulars to my portfolio showed that most people seemed to expect and seemed to like best the most transcendent of the lot, the art photos, the ones with an air of mystery. The ones I felt the best about and the ones most liked by the people who head the community were the more nuts and bolts, sort of hands-on photos. As viewers, we view within a context and a documentary context is a different one from an art context, though there is much overlap. Documentaries hang in galleries and art photos can document extremely well.
    There are two extremes and a continuum between the extremes, as I see it. The first leans much more toward transcendence than the second. The more non-transcendent photos in my series are a tough call, though, because good expression has a transcendent quality and I want even my documentary shots to have human expressions in them. Those expressions add to the narrative, the story, the context, the particular . . . but expressions also seem to go beyond their particular subjects. I suppose I could create a more expressionless photo and lose some of that expressive transcendence, but I don't think it would be as good a photo or as good a documentary photo.
     
  72. Fred,
    It's a documentary on YouTube where Garry Winogrand makes this statement.
    I will look it up for you as soon as possible.
    As Winogrand put it, and I got it it's probably true.
     
  73. That's the 1982 interview with Bill Moyers.
    "The fact that photographs — they’re mute, they don’t have any narrative ability at all. You know what something looks like, but you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know whether the hat’s being held or is it being put on her head or taken off her head. From the photograph, you don’t know that. A piece of time and space is well described. But not what is happening. I think that there isn’t a photograph in the world that has any narrative ability. Any of ‘em. They do not tell stories - they show you what something looks like. To a camera. The minute you relate this thing to what was photographed — it’s a lie. It’s two-dimensional. It’s the illusion of literal description. The thing has to be complete in the frame, whether you have the narrative information or not. It has to be complete in the frame. It’s a picture problem. It’s part of what makes things interesting."
    However, "lie" or not, humans cannot help but to tell stories, to find the narrative, "illusion" or not. in what they see.
    00WXa4-246985584.jpg
     
  74. Thanks for providing the context, Don. It makes more sense given what he's saying overall, though I still wouldn't have formulated it the way he does.
    I can relate to his description of the photograph as "the illusion of literal description." What rings false to me is his implied suggestion that "narrative" is literal. Sure, if we, as viewers, think we know exactly what's happening, whether the hat is being put on or taken off, we might be kidding ourselves. (That being said, a good photograph, in telling a story and supplying narrative, can surely suggest visually whether the hat is being put on or taken off. A good photographer -- who wants to -- will capture just the gesture and expression that will suggest some intent on the part of the subject.) But even if we don't know the "literal" translation of a photo, narrative can be more or less suggested.
    [I think the best "interpretations" of photos are ones that talk suggestively rather than specifically and literally.]
    To me, the photograph that's been referenced several times in this thread, the Times Square kiss, has a significant narrative aspect. It suggests (even if it may not literally tell) a story or stories. Adams's photographs of Yosemite seem less narrative to me (though a narrative could easily be built up around them). I see them more as nature studies, still lifes.
    I think narrative is about what the viewer does and I also think the photographer controls greatly whether or not a photo will be taken as narrative. The photographer certainly can't completely control the narrative the viewer will experience, but he can greatly control how strong a sense of narrative (whatever that narrative may be interpreted to be) a photograph will have.
    Winogrand is having a significant insight about photographs "showing what something looks like . . . to a camera." I try to be very aware of that at various times during the process of photographing and viewing. In the service of that point, he's probably gone a bit too far in minimizing the narrative capabilities of photographs. I notice many artists tend to do that. They over-describe and often come up with poignant statements to make a significant point which, upon further inspection, are flawed (or simply missing something or not addressing something significant) with regard to the bigger picture.
     
  75. "[I think the best "interpretations" of photos are ones that talk suggestively rather than specifically and literally.]"
    The photos that consistently appeal most to me are also suggestive. and inspire my interpretation of a/the narrative. For me an unbound open ended narrative can be very effective as a viewer. In accomplishing that the photographer transcends not only the reality of the captured moment/narrative but when really well done they take me to a place that the physical moment alone could not achieve. Often timeless. If I had been standing along side the photographer I likely would not have experienced a transcendent scene. His/her expression has shown me a way inward or revealed a unique interpretation that moves me beyond common or normal limits. A lie or truth found at either end, it no longer matters to me.
     
  76. Thank you Don, for the transcript of Winogrand's interview.
    However, "lie" or not, humans cannot help but to tell stories, to find the narrative, "illusion" or not. in what they see.​
    In first instance it seems to me that we have a terminological issue. Each word and each combination of words does not necessarily mean the same to different people.
    Communication has, in many cases, to deal with potential and actual misunderstanding.
    It's the same about photography:
    1. I see something that strikes me somehow;
    2. I photograph it to make a visual representation of it;
    3. the constituent elements and my ability to keep more or less of these elements in control determine the extent to which there is congruence between the intended visual representation and the actual visual representation;
    4. the viewer normally does know anything about the context of a photo. He/she knows only the photo itself. The constituent elements of the photo "hit" the viewer in his/her entirety, stimulating any possible emotional, sensorial and rational response;
    5. upon this the viewer comes up with his/her own visual representation following the image.
    According to this, the coincidence of the initial intent of a visual representation and the final visual representation must happen by mere chance. If this is not a lie, it's in any case an unexplainable sequence of action/reaction, with low correspondence between reality, intention, outcome.
    So there are different phases of transcendence and transformation, and their degree of determinism is very, very low.
     
  77. Luca, your description of photography (presumably how you shoot) seems more passive than mine would be. I'll put Numbers 1 to 5 in my words, the way I (tend to) work, though there are always exceptions.
    1. When I photograph, I often prefer to be the one who is doing the striking, rather than something striking me;
    2. I photograph to create a story, to express something about what I see or to make my own visualization of what I see and/or how I feel;
    3. I experience a tension between my own control of constituent elements and a letting go, the allowance for accidents . . . accidents that are not just random or chance but that I believe happen because I open myself up to them. It is significant that these accidents happen to me and likely the same accidents wouldn't happen to or be seized upon by another photographer in the same way;
    4. Much more than the constituent elements of a photo will be hitting a viewer. Viewers do not start with a clean slate. They have their aesthetic history, their cultural milieu, etc. already as a beginning. Many things aside from the photo itself will affect their response. Photos often suggest their own context to viewers and that can be quite strong and influential. Most Americans in the forties seeing Eisenstadt's Times Square kiss were immediately struck with the context of that photo because of the elements of the photo itself. Eisenstadt was savvy enough to know that in advance. Communication requires a shared language, a language full of recognizable signs and symbols. Photographs communicate to at least some extent. That doesn't happen only by chance, though chance plays its role.
    5. The viewer kids himself if he thinks he is coming up with his own visual representation following the image. He is being very influenced by the choices a good photographer has made, by the way the photographer is using language. The photographer is like a poet choosing words. Amid all the mystery and wonder of poetry, and even the gut instincts and spontaneity of the poet, there's a lot of deliberateness and a fair amount of predictability of at least some part of the creating and the response.
    Good photographers and visual artists know very well how certain of their choices will influence their viewers. There is always an exciting element of chance but it does not reign, rather it flits around playing with everyone and everything that comes in its path. Artists spend a lot of time studying how light affects the human eye, how the human eye travels, what historical clichés or icons have been established that they may utilize, comment on, or undermine, what various responses are to color and color combinations, how visual texture translates to feelings, etc. There is a lot not left to chance. The consistency of vision of most artists and the consistency (to an extent) of response of most viewers at least at some level of response belies the overwhelming level of chance in all this.
     
  78. "unbound open ended narrative" --Josh
    Yes, that unboundedness seems to be where transcendence can happen. I think that unbounded space . . . imaginative space that can even be provided by physical space(s) in the photograph . . . is space available to both the photographer and the viewer, space that can be shared, and space that can be unique for each of us.
     
  79. Fred - "Most Americans in the forties seeing Eisenstadt's Times Square kiss were immediately struck with the context of that photo because of the elements of the photo itself."
    I disagree. They were also struck by the title in the LIFE magagine layout (which preceded the picture) which was Victory, and the caption, which was "V-J Day in Times Square", which clearly and specifically established a timespace/cultural context. Nothing 'suggestive' there.
    Fred - "Eisenstadt was savvy enough to know that in advance."
    Here's what he reported about taking this picture:
    "In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make a difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds."
    "Only one is right, on account of the balance. In the others the emphasis is wrong — the sailor on the left side is either too small or too tall. People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture."
     
  80. Luis, as you say, "they were also struck by the title . . ."
    My saying that they were struck with the context through the elements of the photo does not suggest that they were not struck by where they encountered the photo and what the title was. I've often stressed how the context of our viewing a photo and information we may have about a photo is crucial to our experience of it. So I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with.
    The main point, anyway, was that elements of a photo, even without titles and accompanying magazine articles, can provide documentary context and narrative. Do you disagree with that? Do you agree that Eisenstadt's photo, even without a title or if found outside the magazine issue where it appeared, provides a lot of its own context?
    As I mentioned, and the quote of Eisenstadt's you supply states this, dress was a key element.
     
  81. "Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture."
    Modernist twitch-muscles on the hoof :cool:
    This is a good time to mention the other photo of the same subject at about the same moment
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kissing_the_War_Goodbye.jpg
     
  82. Don, I don't understand what you mean by "modernist twitch-muscles" relative to Eisenstadt's description of his picture taking at that moment.
     
  83. "As I mentioned, and the quote of Eisenstadt's you supply states this, dress was a key element."
    The contrast of the clothes rather than the clothes.. I think there is another quotation on the subject about if the sailor had been dressed in his whites, he wouldn't have shot.. There can be no doubt that the clothes situate the subject in time and history, and one can infer 'WWII', 'USA', and just maybe 'parade' from it.
     
  84. "Don, I don't understand what you mean by "modernist twitch-muscles" relative to Eisenstadt's description of his picture taking at that moment."
    It wasn't two people in an embrace, nor two people in uniform, but the contrast (and by inference the composition) that got his attention "in a flash"...things tending towards the abstract.
     
  85. "The contrast of the clothes rather than the clothes." --Don
    For me, that abstracts and simplifies it too much, even though Eisenstadt himself suggests it. As I've said, photographers and artists aren't always the best ones to speak fully about their work, especially in a brief paragraph.
    Though I'm not surprised the contrast of the clothes may have been the motivating factor for taking the particular shot he took, I think Eisenstadt was already so ingrained in thinking and working politically and relative to big picture events. He'd already shot some of the world's most well-known heads of state, etc. He probably didn't even have to think about what kind of clues Times Square and people's dress would provide on V-J day. It was like that language was already part of him. But I don't think his speaking of the contrast of the clothes as the key motivator for this shot in any way diminishes his own sense of the clues that the type of clothes and the act captured also give photographically. I think he wouldn't have shot if not for the contrast of the clothes, but I think he would recognize that the look and style of the clothes and the uniform in the case of the sailor are key elements, perhaps even more fundamental to his purposes. The contrast was the spark but Times Square and the style of clothing could be like the two sticks being rubbed together.
    Thanks for the explanation about "modernist twitch-muscles." I agree that the spark and his immediate motivation, and the motivation he chose to emphasize by talking about it, was this abstract notion of contrast. I'm also aware that he starts the paragraph by saying he was watching a sailor for quite some time. How did he know it was a sailor? Presumably by his clothing. It was a given for him and he didn't have to think about that being information the viewer would get from the photo. He watched the sailor, not just any guy on that street, for a reason. Then, beyond that, he keyed himself into the more abstract consideration of dark/light contrast. That contrast could be the more transcendent element at work here, precisely because it is more abstract than "informational." But it deeply affects what we actually see and, therefore, how we feel when we view the photo. I also wouldn't dismiss the embrace. Though he would not have taken a picture of the embrace without the contrast he was moved by, he also might not have taken a picture of what he considered to be an insignificant gesture even had the contrast been present. On that day, motivated by what he was and with all that was swirling around him personally and historically, the contrast was photographically profound but not exclusive of all the other key elements that were motivating him. Had there been a sailor dressed in black handing money out of his wallet to a girl dressed in white, even with all that contrast, I don't know that he would have taken that picture. The embrace and the uniform did very much get his attention.
     
  86. Fred - " So I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with."
    First, I am not disagreeing totally with anyone, only partially, in matters of degree.
    The title of the article and caption below the picture itself undermined the notion that "...viewers were immediately struck with the context of that photo because of the elements of the photo itself."
    I'm not saying that the title and caption superseded the picture itself, but definitely preceded and affected how viewers interpreted it. If it had been captioned "New Year's Day, Times Square" and the Article titled "In with the New" it would be a totally different (and I would suggest forgettable) picture. I was disagreeing with the notion of the "pure immediacy" with the context of the photo. It wasn't pure, the viewers were textually set up for it by LIFE's editors.
    __________________________________________________
    Don, I had nearly the exact same thoughts you did reading Eisenstaedt's account. There are many lessons for street photographers, documentarians, perhaps all of us, in that paragraph. Our reading of the image is not like A.E.'s was while making it. It is now much more of an historical document, not to mention icon, than the way he saw it. Eisenstaedt was, like Max Headroom, projecting himself a little bit into the future.
    I would suggest that his concerns with the graphic aspects of the image (and weighing them as equivalent, or greater than, the content, are what paid off). Somewhere, a long time ago, I saw a reproduction of his contact sheet from that roll, and there are many lesser images on it (and amongst them some of us would kill to have made).
    I would suggest all of this is related to transcendence -- and the literal.
     
  87. Fred - "He watched the sailor, not just any guy on that street, for a reason."
    Fred...the reason is in the quote: "I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make a difference."
    BTW, A Navy photographer, Victor Jorgensen, took a picture at almost the exact same time, from a few degrees to Eisenstaedt's right of the same couple. He captioned it "Kissing The War Good-bye", but it lacks the identifying features of Times Sq. and there's too much white there. It is not copyrighted, either.
     
  88. "I was disagreeing with the notion of the 'pure immediacy' with the context of the photo." --Luis
    Luis
    , if I wanted to talk about pure immediacy I'd be sure to put the word "pure" in front of the word "immediate." I didn't. You seem to be disagreeing with something and you are making a good point specific to this photo, but you projected that something onto me by introducing it as a disagreement with me, as if I had said it. I have stated in various threads, especially the Nude thread of a couple of weeks ago that I think "pure" doesn't really exist and is overused and over-relied upon. So, please don't suggest that my saying that viewers were immediately struck by cues of history and era in the photo itself is equivalent to my saying that those elements were somehow purely responsible for the reactions or even primarily responsible for them or the only immediate influences on them, as if I were intentionally excluding or minimizing other contextual influences.
    "Fred...the reason is in the quote . . ." --Luis
    Yes, and there are likely other reasons at play as well, some conscious to Eisenstadt at the time and later on, some not conscious.
    None of this is to say that photographic works aren't often over-interpreted and analyzed. When I've heard what people read into aspects of my own photographs, and I'm aware that the motivation is sometimes just an abstract gut visual thing, perhaps that I liked the way skin looked against a certain color rather than that I was thinking about blood or something, I have been surprised . . . and appreciative.
    In Eisenstadt's case, only he could answer (and then I'm not sure he even could in hindsight) whether he would have been as compelled to photograph a guy not in a sailor suit, an average joe, "grabbing any and every girl in sight" on that particular day. I think sailor had something to do with it. [I, myself, may be projecting here. I can be such a cliché when it comes to sailors! ;)))]
    "I would suggest all of this is related to transcendence -- and the literal." --Luis
    How so? Josh, Don, and I, among others, have addressed how this is related to transcendence, especially regarding Eisenstadt's photo. I'd love to hear what you might add. Thanks.
     
  89. Fred,
    Food for thought.
    I tried to say that in my view every player in the photographic game brings in his/her being, from different perspectives. You know from my previous posts in other threads that the "blank slate" is no issue for me: human viewers are never blank slates.
    As to "Good photographers and visual artists know very well how certain of their choices will influence their viewer" I'm inclined to believe that it largely depends on the type of photography and the personal approach. But pretending to know how to influence collective perception and emotions seems a bit presumptuous to me.
    I believe there is no deterministic relationship between intended impact and obtained reaction.
    Photographers might have some indications on these collective perceptions and emotions, but they can't be sure. Ever.
    The masters of colour working on the light effects of their work to produce certain visual effects pursue this.
    But
    Photography is different from painting, and it is different from poetry. The photographer controls the visual message to the extent to which he/she is willing and/or capable of directing the setting and the behaviour of the subject. In painting, mastering the technique is mastering the visual effects.
    A painter can control everything. A poet can control the use of each word and their combination.
    I wonder about the capability to deterministically influence collective reactions and emotions,
    According to his own statement, Eisenstaedt conceptually framed a situation and captured - presumably mastering the technique - the moment he felt was "right". Besides other moments, which according to him were "wrong".
    Winogrand said (I hope the quotation is right) "I photograph to see how things look photographed". Isn't that an admission of lack of control on the appearance of the subject photographed, and indirectly on the impact on the viewer?
     
  90. Fred - It was this: ""...viewers were immediately struck with the context of that photo because of the elements of the photo itself."
    The "immediately" part I read as primary according to you, and I described that (not you) as "pure", in the sense of "unmediated". Except in its original publication, that was preceded by text that set up the viewer, narrowing the range of interpretations, and er....transcending the suggestive straight to the specific context of the picture. I'm saying the two cannot be separated.
    I'm very glad to have suggested it, because you have clarified your position, now one of multiple, concurrent, things immediately happening (to which I suggest the viewers first saw the title of the article, instead of opening the magazine serendipitously to that very page the picture was on, meaning the title (Victory) came first).
    The topic has been heavily plumbed by you, Luca, Don, Josh and others. I added the photographer's account because it showed how in the act of photographing, AE was transcending the content, into, as Don remarked, graphic quasi-abstraction. I don't have much to add to the volume of quality commentary already made on the subject.
    I've been to the statue made after this picture in Sarasota many times. It's so much more literal than the photo, stripped of its native background. Lots of people photograph each other either duplicating the pose or looking up the woman's skirt...
     
  91. "But pretending to know how to influence collective perception and emotions seems a bit presumptuous to me."
    --Luca
    While I don't find the suggestion of some level of predictability of response to certain visual choices a pretense, I don't mind being considered presumptuous when it comes to making my photographs and considering my own role and even my own visual power.
    I agree that a photographer and a painter can't be certain of the response, but I think they can obtain desired responses or at least foresee responses to greater and lesser degrees.
    What Winogrand says is unpersuasive to me in terms of the potential of a photographer to affect viewers. Well-known photographers and "successful" artists say a lot of clever-sounding things that have great metaphorical value but, when considered outside the metaphorical context in which they said them, they often don't hold up substantively. The value of Winogrand's statement about the difference between a photograph and the photographed is in asserting the difference between a subject in the world and a photograph of the subject. I don't know what Winogrand's views on pre-visualization are, but I know there are at least some masters of photography who do talk about pre-visualization and I tend to believe that they know, at least to a great extent, what their photographs will look like when they are taking them. The fact that Winogrand may have thought he had a lack of control in determining outcomes when making his photographic decisions doesn't mean he did have a lack of control. Or, the fact that he may have said it with emphasis at a certain time doesn't mean he really believed it outside the context in which and the specifics about which he was speaking at the time. Or, he may, indeed have had a lack of control or he may have chosen to have a lack of control and that may be unique to him and not suggestive of how other photographers work or could work.
     
  92. *What Winogrand says is unpersuasive to me in terms of the potential of a photographer to affect viewers.
    I read that quote as part of his motivation.
    *Well-known photographers and "successful" artists say a lot of clever-sounding things that have great metaphorical value but, when considered outside the metaphorical context in which they said them, they often don't hold up substantively.
    Those that are unknown actually say much less with much more. What is it they say about philosophers? :)
    *"The value of Winogrand's statement about the difference between a photograph and the photographed is in asserting the difference between a subject in the world and a photograph of the subject. I don't know what Winogrand's views on pre-visualization are"
    GW was partially addressing pre-visualization as well. He did not agree with the Adamsian view.
    GW and Szarkowski were trying to get the medium to recover from a near-drowning in the saccharine period as exemplified in The Family of Man book & exhibit. They conspired and decided to focus on the descriptive qualities of the medium, which other contemporaries were also doing, but they went public, and hard.
    This is good on Winogrand...

    http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/01/interview-monkeys-make-problem-more.html
     
  93. What about time?
    Certain types of photography allows for pre-visualization, there is time to imagine how the picture will look like. There is also time to develop a photographic relationship between photographer and subject before pressing the shutter.
    But sometimes the photographer does not have this time. There are photographic situations which build up and decompose in seconds.
    What about individuality of viewers?
    We have ascertained that no viewer is a blank slate. I believe that the single elements constituting each being are potentially innumerable. There certainly is the possibility to address a certain group of these elements.
    Does this mean a preliminary mapping of these elements and their groups, before starting a photo session?
    Does this mean the preliminary identification of the classes of individual elements to map photographic composition, location, lighting, etc. onto them?
     
  94. Luca, I think someone with really honed pre-visualization skills (I am not one of them) can do it in less than an instant. It takes no time at all in some instances. Pre-visualization does not require staging or a set-up or much time.
    There is a lot of individuality of viewers and viewers will interpret differently and feel differently toward their responses. A lot of what we hear from viewers are their feelings about their responses, or if it's not too oblique to say, their reactions to their responses. I think the initial responses often have more similarity than is given credit for because, by the time we hear about them, they are filtered through individual interpretation and personal feelings. So, a classic-style hat on a man tends to have a timeless quality, it tends to have a transcendent quality. More so than one of today's black ski caps. The timelessness suggested by the classic hat is more universal (more universal, not absolutely universal) than individual reactions to that transcendence or timelessness. For some, timelessness and transcendence will yield sadness, for others joy. For some, it might remind them of their childhood or their father and yield warmth; for others, hatred. But if we go just on these emotions, we miss something: the timelessness which the photographer knew how to portray and knew would likely be perceived, even if unconsciously.
    A photographer may, if so desired, rely on the recognition of photographic symbols and icons. If I use an erection in a photograph of mine, some viewers will respond with horror, some will be turned on, some will want it censored, some will think it's lame, some may laugh. In most cases, it will be seen sexually, though, and I can probably count on that when considering what I may want to communicate. I don't have to consider it in advance. If I'm at a shoot and doing some nudes and I grab an unexpected shot of a guy who happens to get an erection in the course of the shoot impulsively, though I didn't plan it, I can certainly assume that it will give the photo a certain sexual tinge rather automatically.
    Now, I can play against type if I want to work at it. Perhaps, knowing all this, I want to undermine the sexual reaction or at least cause viewers to question it or look deeper into it (or do this for myself). Could I do a nude figure study, non-sexually, and include an erection as a mere aspect of the study, perhaps as a hard and straight non-sexual contrast to a soft, round belly or something? Maybe. I could try. And the way I would try is by knowing what would work to undermine the sexuality that would be otherwise likely in an erection. I would figure out ways to make it more about shape and abstraction than about what it typically means. I would do that by using other elements of design and visual acuity that I could reasonably predict would offset the sexuality of the erection.
    The example I gave suggests a fair amount of thought being put into the endeavor. My claim would be that some of this stuff, at some times, can take place almost instinctively and instantaneously as we become more familiar with our craft and its tools.
     
  95. Luis, thanks for that link. I'll read it and see what it sparks! My guess is, knowing a bit about Winogrand, it will aptly convey his own needs, relationship to, and vision of his photographs and how he uses photography and deals with the process. But it won't speak to the general possibilities of how photographs can be made by others and what can be accomplished in a photograph. What I have read of Winogrand strikes me as the voice of a confident individualist. What I've read up to now convinces me of a solid, fascinating, and one man's approach to photograph-making. It convinces about certain potential uses of the medium. It doesn't convince me that other photographers would operate under the same assumptions, interests, limitations, or influences.
     
  96. Looking at Winogrand's images, words that come to mind are "casual," "fleeting," "obstruction." Regarding the latter, I'm often aware of parts of things I can't see in the photograph. Those denials (of seeing) become photographic presences. Just one small way in which the photograph is, indeed, not the photographed.
    In the link Luis provided, most of his answers seem tongue-in-cheek, but in a significant way, much like many of Warhol's statements. Poignant. Pithy. Recently Bill Palmintieri, who is no longer around, tried to build an aesthetic and a definition of art around Warhol's statements. I thought Bill's was an extremely unsuccessful endeavor. Warhol wanted to be and was great at being provocative, evasive, and cutting to the heart of matters, but I never took what he said as universal defining statements about art. Same with Winogrand regarding photography in general. Warhol made important and valuable observations and points. So does Winogrand.
    Winogrand is a grand moment in photographic history. He is, as I surmised, not making claims on what photography can, should, or will do. He's telling us about his approach to photography, what he does with it, how he sees it, how he works. And, I suspect, he's purposely avoiding giving us a clear picture, likely because he partially believes there can be no clear verbal description of what he's doing.
    Many of his statements and ideas are fascinating and inspiring. They don't, however, limit what photography can be. They simply expand on what it has been up until he came along. He is nudging the art and craft of photography along. When he says "there is no photo that has a narrative capability" I simply translate that to "I, Winogrand, don't go narrative and I am not concerned with it in my photographing. I mean to undermine that view of the photograph." I respect that and admire his exploration of non-narrative capabilities of photographs. His statement is not persuasive as a generalization to what is actually possible in photography. But his words and images together are extremely persuasive about what he's doing and what he's looking for and looking at. Though he lapses into talking about ALL photos having no narrative capability, I simply don't hear it that way. It's like using the royal "we." When the Queen says, "We are going to the ball tonight," she doesn't literally mean all of us are going to the ball tonight.
    I give Winogrand credit. He isn't intentionally making false and unsupportable statements about all photographs. He's carving out a niche for himself. He's entitled to be presumptuous enough to speak as if he were royalty, about all photographs, when he is actually talking about what he likely thinks of as an important step in photographic movement and history. I fault no photographer or artist for verbal hyperbole. It may just go with the territory of trying to put into words what is better accomplished visually.
    Transcendence: His discussion of the relationship of form and matter and how that relationship is significant (and different) in "real life" and in photographs seems to me to address transcendence. This important relationship, between form and content, can transcend both the specific subject matter and the particular forms. Back to the pepper, it's why the photograph of the pepper is about a pepper and about more than a pepper. It's photographic form is significant. That form helps it transcend its pepper-ness. Additionally, Winogrand's visual perspectives are often off-kilter, having a found quality, a somewhat less "formal" quality than many more traditional photographs. And the obstructions he often includes in the foregrounds also represent a "threat" to traditional (cleaner) compositions. These aspects of his photography can be considered transcendent because they address historical problems, concerns, and assumptions. They go beyond the specifics of their place in his particular work, while they are still vitally important to his individual photos.
    On a continuum, I'd put Winogrand more in the showing camp than the telling camp. That's all. His work shows me a lot and forces or helps me to look at things a particular way, a photographic way. But nothing about his work or his words convince me that photographs don't or can't have a narrative.
     
  97. Fred - "If I'm at a shoot and doing some nudes and I grab an unexpected shot of a guy who happens to get an erection in the course of the shoot impulsively, though I didn't plan it, I can certainly assume that it will give the photo a certain sexual tinge rather automatically. Now, I can play against type if I want to work at it. Perhaps, knowing all this, I want to undermine the sexual reaction or at least cause viewers to question it or look deeper into it (or do this for myself)."
    Are you saying the P-ness of penises can be point, counterpoint, or both simultaneously? :)
    Fred -[On Winogrand] "But it won't speak to the general possibilities of how photographs can be made by others and what can be accomplished in a photograph."
    Why not? I can see you claiming that about yourself, but as a universal declaration?
     
  98. Luis, we likely wrote simultaneously. Please see my longer response after having read Winogrand for a more complete statement about the interview.
    I didn't intend the statement you quoted just above as a universal declaration and I don't see it as such. I've criticized Winogrand, himself, several times for making a universal statement ("Photographs don't have any narrative capability at all"). What I'm saying in the quote you've isolated is that Winogrand's interview applies to Winogrand and is a significant take on how he does, and likely how many others do, photography. I and others work and think differently from him. His statement only applies in a limited fashion to all photographs and to my own work. It is useful but not decisive and I think he was wrong to universalize it and basically claim that no photograph can be narrative. Mine are. And others I've seen are.
    At the end of my longer post about the interview, I brought it back to the subject at hand, transcendence. Two things: What do you think about Winogrand's statement that "photographs don't have any narrative capability at all"? And, how do you relate the Winogrand interview to transcendence?
     
  99. "Photographs don't have any narrative capability at all"
    actually, the correct quotation is ""The fact that photographs — they’re mute, they don’t have any narrative ability at all."
    Motion pictures have narrative ability; we will see whether the hat is being put on or taken off. Still photographs have the capability to support the narratizing of the viewer or the photographer. People exist in narrative the way fish exist in water. We tell stories about what we see, including photographs.
     
  100. If I see a photo of a guy in formal attire, bowing to the Queen, holding his top hat in his hand, a hand that's blurred and which blur is implying a downward motion, the photographic narrative is that he is not in the immediate process of putting his hat on. The continuous action implied is the bowing motion of the body and the sweeping downward motion of the hat. It is not, for me, simply a meaningless moment frozen in time. I won't know whether he just took the hat off to bow or whether he took it off earlier, but of course if the scene of the motion picture of the same event doesn't start at the beginning of this particular action, I won't know that either.
    I don't care whether, in actuality, someone just put that hat in his hands or not. I won't care whether the photographer has manufactured the downward blur and in reality the gentleman was completely still for several moments. I care about what I'm seeing in the photograph and what it suggests narratively to my imagination. I don't think Winogrand cares about the actuality of the events either. I think he cares about the photograph, as I do. In the case of most pictures like the one I describe, I think there is some mapping between what the photographer was doing (and meaning and saying) and what I'm seeing and understanding narratively.
    The medium is not the issue for me. It's the handling of the medium by the creator and by the viewer. David Lynch rarely comes out and expresses a narrative clearly and sequentially in many of his motion pictures. There are photographs that have, for me, a much more discernible narrative than Lynch's motion pictures. And not only for me as viewer, because I sense more of a strictly narrative intention and utilization on the part of the photographer in many photographs than I do in Lynch's films.
    Narrative requires my imagination, both in still photographs and in motion pictures. Imagination can be at play when the photographer creates a photo and when the viewer views it or when the filmmaker makes a film and the viewer views that.
    Hell, architecture has narrative. The Guggenheim Museum imposes more of its own story (suggestive rather than literal though it may be) than the Whitney does.
    I don't take Winogrand's words as any sort of a treatise on art or photography. I take them as the stream-of-consciousness and very genuine impressions of a guy whose main means of expression is visual, not verbal. Philosophers write theses. Artists generally don't and I don't take their words and statements that way. I'm much more understanding and completely forgiving of the meaningful contradictions artists and photographers make than I would be of a philosopher making those same contradictions. Reading and seeing Winogrand in these interviews, I come away with the impression that he is speaking off the cuff and that it's somewhat counterproductive for us as listeners to build a more universal photographic thesis out of his musings and very effective evasions.
     
  101. As with Eisenstaedt, so with Winogrand. I recall in one of Lannie's threads someone posted a link to an article on ad hominem. Was it you, Fred? I'll have to look that up.
     
  102. Winogrand.
    I don't think it's a matter of just listening to what he says. We have the chance to see how he behaves photographically. There is an incredible speed in his act of photographing. He appears to have decided aperture and shutter speed upfront. As far as I could observe, he is also pretty static.
    That said, his photographs are - even in his genre - extremely different, as is their impact.
    Film vs. Photography
    Extremely different: nothing is filmed by chance. The complex the motion picture may be, everything in front of the film camera is arranged. And the director also determines the way actors behave.
    The equivalent of motion pictures is studio photography.
    And the fact that a motion picture can tell a story does by no means imply that everybody can actually understand it. Examples: Tarkovsky, Bergman, Pasolini.
    Painting vs. Photography
    As said, very different communication media. Of course painting can be documentary, but the painter mastering the technique has a complete control over his work.
    The photographer has to decide the amount of control he wants to have and deal with what is beyond his control.
    The type of photography contributes to the degree of control. Studio photography is one thing, photojournalism something different, portraiture again something different, as well as documentary.
    Communication
    Somehow I have the feeling that here we deal with communication, any type of communication (verbal, visual, auditory), as if it was linear.
    It is not: every type of communication is subject to interpretation, because most of the time sensitive perception is mapped against what we are and what we experience.
    In verbal communication there is interpretation and misunderstanding. Direct verbal communication is combined with non-verbal communication (body language, which we don't have here in blog threads) and influences interaction.
    The same happens with photography.
    Transcendence and Transformation
    The photographer's purpose might well be transcendence and transformation of the subject photographed, but his viewers might be unable to understand it.
    And even if the viewer understands, he might not be able to describe the communication effect and its reasons.
    An example
    Take this photo, Fred has commented on.
    A family meeting in summer at the seaside. It was made as a family snapshot. So long ago that I vaguely remember the situation.
    What story does it tell? What do you know about the lunch, the two elderly people? I think nothing, except that they are having lunch. Are they alone, why are they alone, what are they thinking?
    The one and only feature of this photo is that the two persons are apparently unaware that I was photographing them. Both are concentrated on their thoughts, my grandmother maybe is looking at something/someone, but I don't know any more.
    This photo has a narrative capability, but each viewer, including me who took it, "sees" a different story. I know the situation, I knew the two and their habits and can imagine what was going on at the moment.
    Others would not know and instinctively make up a different story.
    Their own story.
    Conclusion (my conclusion)
    I think that there is a knowledge and communication gap between the photographer and the viewer, exactly due to the fact that each of them combines the visual perception with the background experience, culture, knowledge, etc (the non-blank slate).
    This background can at the same time enlarge or limit the communication experience: I may not see because of my involvement (the forest for the trees), the viewer might not understand because he lacks knowledge and experience.
     
  103. " ... This importance given to the narrative is necessary in order to be understood in a society which, unable to resolve the contradictions of history without a long political transaction, draws support (provisionally?) from mythical (narrative) solutions.
    "...The filmic begins only where language and metalanguage end. ... The filmic, then, lies precisely here, in that region where articulated language is no longer more than approximative and where another language begins (whose science, therefore, cannot be linguistics, soon discarded like a booster rocket). The third meaning -- theoretically locatable but not describable -- can now be seen as the passage from language to significance and the founding act of the filmic itself. Forced to develop in a civilization of the signified, it is not surprising that (despite the incalculable number of films in the world) the filmic should still be rare ... Nor is it surprising that the filmic can only be located after having -- analytically -- gone across the 'essential', the 'depth' and the 'complexity' of the cinematic work; all those riches which are merely those of articulated langugage, with which we constitute the work and believe we exhaust it. The filmic is not the same as the film, is as far removed from the film as the novelistic is from the novel (I can write in the novelistic without ever writing novels). "​
    -- from The Third Meaning by Roland Barthes (1970)
     
  104. Is it just me, or does this seem somewhat patronizing:
    "Philosophers write theses. Artists generally don't and I don't take their words and statements that way. I'm much more understanding and completely forgiving of the meaningful contradictions artists and photographers make than I would be of a philosopher making those same contradictions. Reading and seeing Winogrand in these interviews, I come away with the impression that he is speaking off the cuff and that it's somewhat counterproductive for us as listeners to build a more universal photographic thesis out of his musings and very effective evasions."
    Philosophers and artists are not all-seeing, all-understanding. None of us are. There are things you do not see nor understand, yet they exist just the same. Forgiving?
    ___________________________________
    Don...yes on Eisenstaedt & Winogrand.
    ______________________________________
    I think Winogrand is right. Photographs do not have intrinsic narratives. Eisenstaedt's picture, without title or caption, becomes much more of a Rorschach test. I do think photographs riff off of existing cultural narratives, much as Fred's do, and those of psychodramatic tableaus towards the end of Pictorialism. Or religious painting. To someone without that dataset in their brains, just what is happening in those paintings (and stained-glass windows) turns into an inkblot. And an inkblot, like a UFO, elicits narratives from a viewer in the same way an irritant begets pearls in an oyster. There's a great article on this I couldn't locate this morning...it uses a photograph of an ocean liner to prove that without a caption, the photograph tells us very little. The seemingly innocous liner turns out to be the Lusitania on its fatal voyage, on its way to its destiny with a German sub. As the figurative empty vessel of the photograph of that ship fills in with captioned information, its meaning and "narrative" shifts. The image morphs before our very eyes after being taken.
    The conjurer's incantation, if you will.
    ____________________________
    Recently, I ordered these "authentic" Dia de Los Muertos Mariachi figurines through the web, from a Mexican site. by mistake, I think, I somehow messed up on the "how many" box and ordered 18 of them. Or they screwed me. So, I've been giving them out as gifts...and yesterday I noticed a little stamp on one of their legs...."Hecho en China".
    _____________________________
    Transformation can come ex post facto, via a title or caption.
    _______________________________
     
  105. I appreciate the disagreement and simply don't see it the way several of you do. I seem to have put at least a couple of you off, leading to accusations of ad hominem attacks and being patronizing. That's a shame. Was not my intention.
    I like Barthe's description, though it is counter to my way of thinking. Talking about photographs as if they were non-narrative makes a distinction between them and other things that's important, but I don't find it to be the right distinction. I'd sooner say that films and photographs and reality all have narrative using different languages and tools and that we often mistake one language for another (why some PN critiques confuse the photograph for the photographed . . . "nice boobs" kinds of comments).
    For as many titles as transform their photographs, there are titles that are ignorable and even belie what's in the photograph already. Titles may be no more determinative than are signs and symbols inside pictures. "My Grieving Uncle" is usually photographically meaningless to me if I don't see signs of grief in the photograph. Titles like that --that may tell stuff that isn't shown -- tend to confuse the photograph with the photographed. Stamping "My Grieving Uncle" on a photo usually won't change the narrative of a photo to grief if I don't see grief in the photo. Sometimes, the title will enlighten even if I can't see photographic evidence of it.
    I think Winogrand's words aptly apply to his way of photographing, and not to all ways of photographing.
    Some of Stan Brackage's films don't mimic "set-up" studio photography. Some rely on randomness. Many are considered non-narrative.
    I think photographs are narrative. I don't think they have precise interpretations. A lot of the most interesting narrative is suggestive, not precise.
     
  106. Two changes/additions: 1) Regarding Brackage, I consider his films less narrative than other films, not non-narrative. The last paragraph would suit me better had I said "I think photographs can be narrative."
     
  107. "I do think photographs riff off of existing cultural narratives, much as Fred's do, and those of psychodramatic tableaus towards the end of Pictorialism. Or religious painting. To someone without that dataset in their brains, just what is happening in those paintings (and stained-glass windows) turns into an inkblot." --Luis
    Much the same can be said, and is said by many contemporary theorists, of narrative texts. And I agree. Our brain datasets and our cultural narratives will often be influential or even determinative of what we get out of a narrative text as well as a photograph. So the importance of what we bring to the table (the importance of outside narratives) which you recognize related to photographs does not make photographs any different from narrative texts, which are also similarly dependent on (or at least influenced by) what cultural and personal predispositions we bring to them. Without personal datasets and cultural narratives, textual narratives would be inkblots as well. This doesn't show a way in which photographs differ from narratives. Rather, it shows a similarity.
     
  108. "If I see a photo of a guy in formal attire, bowing to the Queen, holding his top hat in his hand, a hand that's blurred and which blur is implying a downward motion, the photographic narrative is that he is not in the immediate process of putting his hat on."
    The implication of motion comes from you, not the photograph. We *learn* that it implies motion. Someone from a society unfamiliar with photographs would not "see" motion. Nobody since the Impressionists has believed motion blur exists in front of the lens.
    "I come away with the impression that he is speaking off the cuff and that it's somewhat counterproductive for us as listeners to build a more universal photographic thesis out of his musings and very effective evasions."
    Or perhaps the interviewer, as in the link Luis provided, has no comprehension of what GW is saying and simply has no followup, nothing to say. Not a good forum for the interviewed.
    Winogrand is precise and consistent. He was one of the few photographers who were actually philosophical about photography (rather than having a "personal" philosophy of photography). GW had little to say about the sort of subjects that are common on this forum.
     
  109. "The implication of motion comes from you . . . We *learn* that it implies motion." --Don
    We *learn* what written language means as well, thus contemplating narrative in writing. What's your point? The implication that there's a narrative written on this page comes from me as well. There can be narrative IN the photograph just as there is IN the novel. Or, if you prefer, I can infer narrative from a photograph as I can from a novel. It's not like novels self-contain this same stuff that is only projected onto photographs.
    I found Winogrand consistent. I did not find him precise (one of the many reasons I liked the interview as much as I did).
     
  110. "We *learn* what written language means as well, thus contemplating narrative in writing. What's your point?"
    Besides the narrative is in your head not the photograph? Nothing.
    This is unproductive. I'll end my part with a quotation from John Szarkowski...no point in reinventing the wheel.
    "The decline of narrative painting in the past century has been ascribed in large part to the rise of photography, which "relieved" the painter of the necessity of story telling. This is curious, since photography has never been successful at narrative. It has in fact seldom attempted it. The elaborate nineteenth century montages of Robinson and Rejlander, laboriously pieced together from several posed negatives, attempted to tell stories, but these works were recognized in their own time as pretentious failures. In the early days of the picture magazines the attempt was made to achieve narrative through photographic sequences, but the superficial coherence of these stories was generally achieved at the expense of photographic discovery. The heroic documentation of the American Civil War by the Brady group, and the incomparably larger photographic record of the Second World War, have this in common: neither explained, without extensive captioning, what was happening. The function of these pictures was not to make the story clear, it was to make it real [my emphasis]. The great war photographer Robert Capa expressed both the narrative poverty and the symbolic power of photography when he said, "If your pictures aren't good enough you're not close enough.""
     
  111. I love the Szarkowski line Don highlighted, and agree: "The function of these pictures was not to make the story clear, it was to make it real." Szarkowski is suggesting that the narrative function of photographs is not dependent on clarity. Suggestiveness.
    ___________________________________
    Whether photographs tell narratives is not nearly as important to me as what I can show in a photograph, how I can show it, and my awareness (rather than dependence on or anticipation) of my viewers. We can have an academic debate on what the word "narrative" means and whether it formally applies to photographs and that doesn't particularly move me forward. What moves me forward is hearing Don (early on in the thread) and Luca (throughout the thread), like me to the extent I have, process the way we work alongside how we view and how other viewers view, how we think alongside how we handle a camera. I wanted to talk about transcendence, not in the abstract, but how I and others use it and see it and are touched by it . . . personally and photographically.
    I do a lot of my own googling to hear what others think. More importantly, I'm working on formulating and trying to share my own thoughts and theses as I develop my own way of photographing. I am happy to read, look at, and be influenced and inspired by others. But when I can formulate and build or at least build on these ideas myself, in my own words, and relative to the work I'm doing, it has more value to me. I'm doing and saying what I want, not what I've been taught, what the current vogue of thought is, or what I can google and transcribe. I'm presumptuous and patronizing if that allows me to be self-confident, independent, and free of givens and assumptions, even those asserted by experts and fellows I respect. As I work these things out for myself, and share them and show them in photographs, I'd feel stifled and lost were I mired and steeped in history and the proven thoughts of others while lacking the imagination and creativity to take my own risks and put my own thinking and photographs on the line.
    _____________________________
    Luca, the narrative I see in your photograph is two elderly people sitting at a table with food and plates. That's the jumping off point. Some stuff is less clear and imprecise, and that jumping off point is suggestive. Beyond that, they seem more passive than active, more contemplative than frivolous. The gesture of the man holding his hand to his mouth adds narrative and is more suggestive and even symbolic (a nod to Szarkowski) than were his hand not included and not an issue. My head starts taking over. The woman appears to have more of a stare going on than the man, whose eyes seem more relaxed. What this means is anyone's guess and that's where viewers' interpretations will come in. And likely, there are those who would describe what I've described differently. That's fine.
    The lighting provides an element of transcendence. It impacts the narrative but, I assume, will be felt and interpreted differently by different viewers. The high key aspect and glow and wash of the lighting makes a statement, to me, more so than were the lighting more common. It has impact. Were this a less transcendently-handled photograph, I probably wouldn't be as drawn in to care about the people. Something in your handling of it makes me want to seek and to feel/know.
     
  112. Further thought on transcendence: I am drawn to the people in Luca's photo both for who they are as people, especially to Luca, and for their being vehicles for Luca's photographic expression.
     
  113. Fred, you said:
    "As I work these things out for myself, and share them and show them in photographs, I'd feel stifled and lost were I mired and steeped in history and the proven thoughts of others while lacking the imagination and creativity to take my own risks and put my own thinking and photographs on the line."​
    For that, I want you to know that I am extremely grateful. I frequently disagree with what you write, but your passionate relentless bulldogish persistence, and intelligence is a tremendous accelerant to my own thought processes. For me, disagreement is the best (necessary!) prompt to discovery. Thank you.
     
  114. Of course the narrative is all in our heads, which counts for pretty much everything out there in existence. We write the universe and reality ourselves as much as we would like to assume reading it perfectly clear, as an unraveling objective narrative. It may show us a stone cold how, but leaving still plenty of room for the why.
    Same with photographs, Winogrands or anyone's. The photograph not only showing how things look like but also instigating why things look like, in relation to a narrative through the photograph - by translating the photographs indifference into something human - be it "good" or "bad". Hmmm, like the universe...
     
  115. "It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness." RF.
    Photographs are indeed mute. But they are symbolic. They have no voice but if good they speak to me. They can tell no narrative of connected moments in physical time but they can suggest and convey. I am not an indifferent photographer even if sometimes detached. As a photographer I have some means to suggest if I choose. I do not have to anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint.
    What drives me forward is the searching, the journey (passively or actively) for the next one. When found it is likely to transcend. and if really good it may suggest a human revelation or in very rare cases substantially offer something that comes close to a truth, in my head of course.
     
  116. Fred,
    I appreciate very much how you put your perception into words.
    Actually the situation was much, much more dynamic than the photo shows. Most of my grandparents' four children were there, along with quite a number of their ten grandchildren.
    The expression of the two is quite typical. My grandfather - from Naples, a southerner - was an important judge and a reflective attitude was quite frequent for him. My grandmother - half German and half Austrian, and coming from Northern Italy - was the real "manager" of the situation, except that for happy youngsters as we were, it was far more important to stay on the beach than meeting precise lunch times, and that must have disrupted her plans a bit. Elderly people like to keep their habits, as I'm sure you know.
    In that sense the narrative of the photo is quite limited, I should post the whole series and even then the viewer would miss parts of the essence. But this is obvious, given the lack of knowledge I have. That's what John A(curso) calls "the loop".
    _________________________
    As to my use of photography, you're right. It's deliberately passive. I record, document. My learning process is aimed at improving my capability of capturing what strikes me, without manipulating it - apart from very little adjustments. I definitely need black and white and will succeed in finding the colour film which suits my needs.
    My recording and documentation almost always includes people, and their emotions. It is very difficult that an inanimate subject - even the ones photographed by me - would strike me particularly.
    I would like to get along unnoticed, as happened in the photo we commented, because it's then that people are themselves. I know this, and my aim - can I say, it - is the essence of people.
    In that sense transcendence and transformation is not my purpose, of course it can be other author's purpose.
    Most likely Garry Winogrand was not aiming at transformation. He was documenting, even if the visual impact of his photos I consider variable.
    I agree that you succeed in transcending and transforming when you photograph. I would dare to say that in your photos there are significant pieces of yourself. It's very clear to me.
     
  117. Hey Luca, your last comment to Fred inspired me to add the next line of Frank's quote "Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph."
     
  118. Julie, ;)))
    Phylo, "The photograph not only showing how things look like but also . . ." Yes. A jumping off point. Perhaps I will find the limitations of photos someday. Not yet.
    Josh, I'm glad Frank wasn't hesitant to give a name (hope, sadness) to what he saw, whether he saw it in the photo or in his head. That he sees "hope" and isn't afraid to say it is more significant to me than whether he's admitting some sense of narrative in saying it. I appreciate your personalizing Frank's ideas by drawing a distinction between detached and indifferent. Going back to my documentary work at the farm community, I cared about those photos and the subjects of the photos greatly. I was far from indifferent. Yet, I tried to remain more detached than I normally am in my photographing.
    Luca, I just want to make sure I'm clear that the narrative I'm talking about is the one in your photo (or in my head as a result of your photo), not the one occurring in the real world when the photo was made. I am compelled by what the photo shows, not the narrative at the time of shooting. The narrative of the photo, for me, is not the extent to which it tells the story going on when it was taken. It is the story it tells now, when I'm viewing it.
    I appreciate your passivity. I think letting things unfold and speak is a fascinating approach. It's interesting that you talk about needing black and white. I've always considered black and white transcendent in depicting a world of color. It provides quite a bit of abstraction. So does high key lighting and exposure, which your photo employs.
    Interestingly, I find I can often capture people being themselves better when I am noticed and engaged. In my own experience, people in relationship (to me) are often more themselves and more interesting than people in candid or unrefined moments and isolated from me. I find more that's essential and meaningful by connecting rather than through objective distance though, as I said, I employ detachment at times. (Sontag talks about the voyeuristic side of photography. I loved reading that.) Having done several portraits of the same person on various occasions, I'm not big on "essence" as a concept. I have two or three portraits of the same person, each of which captures a very different, and very genuine and essential, side of the person. I'm looking more for a genuine aspect of the person than their essence, which I think is a little too universal and elusive a concept for me to grab onto.
    By the way, I consider "essence" and even my own less universal approach a transcendent matter. It seems to be something beyond the surface of the person. It is intangible. The only way I can relate to the capture of an essence or an essential side of someone is to transform the visual, even by visual means, into something that goes beyond the visible or penetrates beyond what is being literally seen.
     
  119. Fred,
    your giving another perspective is very much appreciated.
    I never thought of black and white being transcendent, but I agree with you, it probably is.
    It's very particular for me, because I know that there is something instinctive in me about the medium I use. There is no rational explanation, but when I watch around to photograph, my eye - and probably my brain - knows if a black and white or a colour film is loaded. Image perception happens consequently. As I see it, the visual message of the two media is completely different, absolutely different.
    My black and white images are conceived black and white, and my colour scenes are conceived in colour.
    Maybe a more subtle way of transforming/transcending I had not thought of.
    As to voyeurism, if we consider it as the pleasure (whatever pleasure) from viewing, a photographer is a voyeur most of the times. :)
     
  120. I think Szarkowski made a fundamental mistake when he used narrative and story-telling interchangeably. They are not the same thing. A story has a beginning and an end; narrative, especially non-fiction narrative, is a description of a happening, whether or not it has a beginning or end. Most snapshots (especially camera-phone sent-immediately-to-friends pictures) are narrative.
    For the purpose of discussion, let's try sorting narrative pictures from those that are not -- to see what narrative pictures are like. I claim that a picture that strongly points to (seems to want you to see/know) who, what, when, where is narrative. A picture that "wants" to have communion with you; that wants/needs to "plug in" with/to you; that "wants" you to conceptualize the people iin the picture; that is about separate, "others" who can/do have some meaning. Think of playing a card game or a board game; the picture is the other players in the game and it requires that you play "with" them. Out of this interaction, there will be knowable/probable/imaginable con-sequences. That the picture is *about* consequences. You are prompted to think, "Given what this [what's in the picture] does to you/makes you think/feel ... then ... "
    Compare that to a picture that, rather than playing "with" or conceptualizing about (I am here, they are there), you go into; it's a space, it envelopes you, you are taken in, you don't (have to) engage any "others". Go in rather than play with. Like a playground or a hall of mirrors. No other players, just you in/inside (think Lee Friedlander's pictures or, really, most (but not all) of art photography). In this case, no con-sequences [one thing after another]; rather an altered state of being.
    [Aside to Josh: this quote from Barthes: "... the Real knows only distances, the Symbolic knows only masks; the image alone (the image-repertoire) is close."]
     
  121. Julie - "I think Szarkowski made a fundamental mistake when he used narrative and story-telling interchangeably. They are not the same thing. A story has a beginning and an end; narrative, especially non-fiction narrative, is a description of a happening, whether or not it has a beginning or end. Most snapshots (especially camera-phone sent-immediately-to-friends pictures) are narrative."
    They may not be identical, but they are deeply related. Stories (in many media) can and have been made as loops, with no beginning or end. Or non-linear/hypertextual stories.
    I do not see camera phone pics as being narrative in nature. They are almost always accompanied by text, which they serve as illustrations for, or the text furnishes the (literal) narrative captions. Separate the two and the 'narrative' is gone.
    I recently sent two phone snaps to a friend that I took of her and and a friend at a gallery last Saturday. To someone who wasn't there, these pictures might be read in a wide variety of ways, and many of those readings would be disconnected from the reality of the moment. There's a large painting behind the two women, but where are they? In my living room? The lobby of a hotel? Gallery? There's no way to know. They seem intimately affectionate from their pose. Are they good friends, relatives, lovers? Did they pose themselves? Choose the background? Or did I? All that is, as the character Roy Batty laments in Blade Runner, "lost in time, like tears...in rain."
    While this may seem like a total loss, it also creates vacuous lacunae, which tease, invite and inspire interpretation -- and the creation of a plausible narrative(s) by the viewer. I guess I am inching towards the idea of some photographs being stronger narrative magnets, or able to catalyze narratives, while still not having any of their own, like viruses that borrow DNA from a host in order to replicate.
    ________________________________________
    A few definitions for "narrative":
    A few for "story":
    • narrative: a message that tells the particulars of an act or occurrence or course of events; presented in writing or drama or cinema or as a radio ...
    • a piece of fiction that narrates a chain of related events; "he writes stories for the magazines"
    • floor: a structure consisting of a room or set of rooms at a single position along a vertical scale; "what level is the office on?"
    • history: a record or narrative description of past events; "a history of France"; "he gave an inaccurate account of the plot to kill the president"; "the story of exposure to lead"
    • report: a short account of the news; "the report of his speech"; "the story was on the 11 o'clock news"; "the account of his speech that was given on the evening news made the governor furious"
    • fib: a trivial lie; "he told a fib about eating his spinach"; "how can I stop my child from telling stories?"
      wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
    Each appears frequently, and at the core of definitions of the other.
    I am already tweaked, interested in Julie's (re) definitions, and quite curious as to where this will lead. So far it seems to be butting up to Szarkowski's Windows and Mirrors (yes, I am keenly aware that they coexist in every picture), with the window aspect corresponding to "narrative", and the Mirror corresponding to er..."altered-state" (which I would call "inner state"), but from what I know of Julie, I expect the unexpected.
     
  122. Julie, I appreciate your distinction between these two aspects of photographs. I say it that way because I think it is about aspects rather than types and I think both are found in many single photographs. I, myself, wouldn't distinguish between narrative photographs and art photographs because I think there are so many narrative art photographs and so many photographs that fit the two descriptions you've given.
    Take Frank's Rodeo, New York City, 1955, from The Americans. It acts on me the way you describe, both narratively and regarding space and envelopment. There's a main character, the supporting characters of the trucks (some won't see them as characters, that doesn't make much difference), the cowboy's hand gestures, even the guy in the background looking back in the scene. But those same trucks add to the story (the narrative, if we're going with your distinction) and also draw me into the space, move my eye and join with the perspective to lead me back through the scene. The lamppost in the distance puts the icing on that more contemplative envelopment.
    Narratives can provide "an altered state of being." They do in books, in movies, in Shakespeare's plays, and in good narrative photographs.
    A lot of snapshots (that I own, that I see) are about the real people who are shown in the photograph. I generally think more in terms of "Grandma" than I do in terms of "photograph." I think OUTSIDE the photograph more than inside it. "Art" pictures that contain narratives and people in them may surely lead me to think about the real people themselves, but they tend also to transcend those people and I am in touch with the photographic people, the people INSIDE the photograph, as characters in the photographic narrative before me, not at a distance from me in the real world. A snapshot will often evoke the time . . . "Ahh, yes, I remember when Grandma turned 80." An art photograph with people in it is often more timeless (not always), though many recreate an era quite well (and can still be timeless).
    I'm not sure if you're suggesting that narrative pictures need to or tend to have people (others) in them. If so, I offer a counterexample. Evans's Negro Barbershop Interior, Atlanta, 1936 has, for me, a strong narrative while, again, also enveloping me in its space. There's a sense in which it's me inside the barbershop and a strong sense in which I'm not alone. Maybe that's not a great example because other people may be implied sitting in those chairs. So, Evans's Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1936, with no people really even implied, also tells a story (or at least is narrative) and invites me into its space.
     
  123. Wow, impressive googling, Luis. ;))))
     
  124. Phooey, Luis. I fart in your general direction.
    I already gave yesterday's long Barthes quote about how the visual is beyond the verbal. Okay, I'll back up and preface my previous post with something about narrative being the wrong word, but what might be a similar or parallel concept in the visual, given the way the visual works (versus the constraints and the liberations of verbal text).
    In your phone-camera examples, whether or not I know exact names, dates and places, I believe I (a stranger) see a *particular type* of person, date and place.
    Fred, I'm sorry that I did no specifically say so, but I by no means whatsoever meant to oppose narrative to art photography. There is tons of fantastic narrative-ish (damn you Luis) art photography. I just threw that in there on the fly, thinking of proportions or tendencies. Sorry for the confusion (and I agree that Frank is an interesting intersection).
    No, I don't think narrative pictures have any need for people. Only the game-ish-ness of looking for a plot; a "then what" ness.
     
  125. "They seem intimately affectionate from their pose. Are they good friends, relatives, lovers?" --Luis
    Luis
    , your first sentence is what I've been talking about, the suggestiveness of visual narrative. Using things like pose to evoke intimate affection. That combined with other suggestive descriptions you might make of other things going on in the photo is the narrative I'm talking about. It's also what Szarkowski addressed in the quote Don provided. "They seem intimately affectionate from their pose." NARRATIVE. Your second sentence asks the kinds of questions that are more detail oriented and specific which often are not answered by a photograph, though cues could possibly be given, in some situations, that would help answer them. For instance, if a photographer wanted to be more narrative and convey that they were lovers, he could highlight the matching rings they might be wearing to tell that story. There would always be the chance that they were two strangers who were looking affectionately at each other and happened to be wearing the same ring. That would be the real-life story, and whether the real-life story maps with the story in the photograph is an entirely different question from whether there is a narrative IN the photograph. I'm not always looking at narratives that match reality. I'm looking at photographic narratives. The photograph as distinguished from the photographed.
     
  126. Pheww! can someone open a window.
    Hi Julie. Good food for thought, all. Barthes and I have crossed paths before. I as photographer and amateur thinker, he as an impressive thinker non-photographer. Barthes: "... the Real knows only distances, the Symbolic knows only masks; the image alone (the image-repertoire) is close." Great stand alone thought that leaves me wanting. As a viewer unconcerned with how the image was conceived, captured, constructed or presented I agree that only the image comes close. As photographer That is my goal. But as a photographer, ..... well you know where this is headed.
     
  127. Damn, I'm feeling a whole lotta love in here...
    Fred vented in my direction: " I'd feel stifled and lost were I mired and steeped in history and the proven thoughts of others while lacking the imagination and creativity to take my own risks and put my own thinking and photographs on the line."
    [If I was quagmired, lacking in imagination and creativity, and paralyzed by fear I would too.]
    ...then reduced my next post to: "Wow, impressive googling, Luis. ;))))"
    Julie - "Phooey, Luis. I fart in your general direction."
    Geez, Julie, here I thought it was the oil spill! :)
    I do not think the visual is beyond the verbal. The visual and the verbal are inextricably related. We constantly transduce from one to the other in communicating with others (and I mean this in general, not just in photography or art). It is part and parcel of being human. While never equal, their relative power is never on one side for very long.
    Julie - "In your phone-camera examples, whether or not I know exact names, dates and places, I believe I (a stranger) see a *particular type* of person, date and place."
    Yes, we confabulate a narrative from the few identifiable picture elements. Savvy photographers aiming for a more controlled/specific transmission understand this, even intuitively, and they provide the visual equivalent of viral RNA to assist the viewer in generating a desired narrative. In a way, this is far suoerior to an intrinsic narrative, in that each viewer fabricates his/her own bespoke narrative for the image within themselves, transcending the heavy stamp of authorship so many photographers seem to be concerned with,
    Julie: "... There is tons of fantastic narrative-ish (damn you Luis) art photography
    Narrative-ish? I love it & am so honored. :)
     
  128. Fred - "
    "They seem intimately affectionate from their pose. Are they good friends, relatives, lovers?" --Luis
    Luis, your first sentence is what I've been talking about, the suggestiveness of visual narrative. Using things like pose to evoke intimate affection. "
    I understand what you are saying, and while this might seem like absurd thin-slicing, my take on this is that 1) I did not pose them. They posed themselves. So your assumption is already creating a different alternate fictional microverse within your skull. The photograph (and this takes us back to Winogrand) is simply showing how they looked at the time. Describing.
    In this case, there are emotional cues as well. Even if I hadn't taken it, I'd guess that they knew the photographer. In this case, they did.
    We confabulate the narrative, and this is not a bad or lesser thing. It makes the viewer more of a proactive partner in crime, and each photograph transcend its own forensic literality as well as the generic experience.
    Each viewer has his own private version. It's fantastic. IMO
     
  129. Luis, I didn't think you did pose them. I assumed you found them that way. But I wasn't clear in the way I phrased it and when I wrote that I was thinking more generally that a photographer (like me) could use pose a certain narrative way. In your case, I meant that the pose as photographed evoked intimate affection. Whether posed or found is often immaterial to me. Others are much more concerned that posing is artificial and doesn't meet the holy grail standard of "candid." Me, not so much. (I'm certainly not suggesting that you think that way. I've just encountered it a lot on PN.)
    If you provide me a standard narrative, details, beginning, middle, and end, in written form, I will bring myself to the table in reading it and you may get various interpretations from other readers. So I still don't see why the fact that different viewers will get a different narrative is something you consider unique to photographs in making them non-narrative. When you say, in this hypothetical written narrative, "she dressed in a sexy way for the occasion," the more conservative type may visualize a little cleavage and knee. I may visualize a mini-skirt and lace stockings. And what if, god forbid, I read you as sarcastic and someone else takes you literally, so I envision a turtle-neck while the other guy imagines a strapless evening gown. (Note how often sarcasm is missed in the narratives we write in this forum.) Narratives have all levels of detail and information, some more suggestive and some less. They all rely on outside influences like viewer or reader disposition, background, and culture. Isn't what you're fine slicing better seen as a continuum than an either/or?
    Your notion of narration seems to be associated with literal truth. What was or is really happening. That seems to me why you were concerned with whether or not I misspoke when you thought I was saying that part of the narrative was that you posed them. Again, that part is the matching reality part. And, again, we seem to dance back and forth between the photograph and the photographed, or the photograph and what actually took place at the time of shooting. Again, I'm concerned, most often, with the narrative of the photographed pose itself, not with who posed whom or did not.
    The whether-it's-in-your-head-or-not stuff is the old debate between realism and idealism and that one's been done to death. I wouldn't want to take these discussions in the direction of those well-trodden metaphysical minefields.
     
  130. Luis, you said:
    "We confabulate the narrative, and this is not a bad or lesser thing. It makes the viewer more of a proactive partner in crime, and each photograph transcend its own forensic literality as well as the generic experience."​
    Well, duh! You've never heard "Confabulato ergo sum" by Mr. a la Carte? (See also Mr. Phylo, above.)
    I'll also point out that this works both ways. From the verbal, we confabulate the (narrative-ish) image. For example, I have a confabulated Luis who is sometimes very woolly but at other times, quite hairless. (Also, there is the matter of my fart -- which I assure you was chaste and smelled like roses.)
     
  131. Fred, I understand you better now, I think. From reading theory, I do expect to get a different reading even from a short, explicit-sounding text. Hell, even a telegram.
    I do not consider it unique to photography that different viewers will get a different narrative. God knows I'm familiar with the idea in several media. It's still fascinating to me. You're still implying that the narrative(s) is intrinsic, and I still disagree. It's more than an old philosophical argument in my opinion ( a position, or POV) and certainly one that I do not want to debate in any form, specially as to which is "better", or more real.
    Julie, Phylo and others, myself included, have already made it clear which side of that equation we are on, [It's safe to assume Fred is waxing and waning in and out of existence on both sides, or doing the crane position on the equal sign] and it's not so much that it makes one right or wrong, but it tints and influences the way one sees and does things.
    How one views that determines whether the photographer imagines s/he is encoding a whole narrative in an image, or a first-generation set of cues or attractants around which the viewer confabulates/accretes his own narrative. I think it makes a difference, but acknowledge that it may be completely different for Fred and others.
    My notion of narration is associated with literal truth primarily in the sense of speaking of transcendence, and about narratives, in a very similar way to this:
    Fred - " The only way I can relate to the capture of an essence or an essential side of someone is to transform the visual, even by visual means, into something that goes beyond the visible or penetrates beyond what is being literally seen."
    "Beyond what is literally seen". Exactly.
    Sarcasm among the PN Wool Gatherers? Perish the thought.
    ______________________________________
    Julie came back in rare form: "Well, duh! You've never heard "Confabulato ergo sum" by Mr. a la Carte? (See also Mr. Phylo, above.)"
    WAHAHAHAHAHA...nice howler, Julie.
    Julie - "I'll also point out that this works both ways. From the verbal, we confabulate the (narrative-ish) image."
    Geez... to use your word, duh. Didn't you read this in my post? "We constantly transduce from one to the other in communicating with others". That was clearly a commutative statement. However, it could have used one less "other". Anything that leads to this is good:
    "For example, I have a confabulated Luis who is sometimes very woolly but at other times, quite hairless."
    Lights off, lights on. Hey, I shed the coat in summer.
    and...
    JH -
    (Also, there is the matter of my fart -- which I assure you was chaste and smelled like roses.)"
    A chaste fart? Are you trying to turn Lannie loose in this thread????
    __________________________________________
    Personal Note: When I was little, I went to a private (Catholic, of course) school. There was a tall fence around the entire property, but along the huge playgrounds, outside the fence, there were clean-cut, somewhat desperate-looking gaunt men wearing straw hats, selling all kinds of things, like baseball cards, marbles, small toys, pocket knives, nudie magazines, firecrackers, etc. to us (who had more money than sense) through that fence.
    One of the things they sold were small brown glass vials of what I now realize must have been mostly methane. It was labeled L'eau de Peau (not exactly Chanel No 5). I bought about half a dozen from a smiling, grateful salesman, and put them in my pocket. All my schoolmates gave me a healthy distance, I noticed. I'm sure it will come as a shock to all here that I was somewhat spoiled (rotten) as a child. When I got home, I ripped off my school uniform, and, as always, threw the pants across my room. Elena, my maid, came in, and accidentally stepped on the pants, breaking all the vials except for one.
    It smelled like a herd of buffalo had sharted in unison. We closed the door, and opened all the windows before runnning out of the house. The entire house smelled like sh*t for days, and my room for over a week. The parents were not pleased, but my Mom kept the last vial to show her friends, who smiled naughty little-girl smiles as they rolled the vial between their thumbs and forefingers, my Mom's hands like a safety net, nervously cupped below...
     
  132. "... there is the matter of my fart -- which I assure you was chaste and smelled like roses." Rosy fart, wow. I couldn't tell from my minds eye but that was not what I imagined when I suggested opening the window. My experience has prepared me for the worst all farts are rancid.
    Fred "Narratives have all levels of detail and information, some more suggestive and some less." I see in that my responsibility as a visual communicator. To record or craft the bits of information as representations to present to my perspective viewer.
    As a photographer I am presenting a representation a symbol. The photograph is physical but the image/representation is a symbol. To accomplish this I use the literal and transform it to a symbolic medium. I can choose to remain detached in hopes of recording the literal but will always have to confront my idea that the image cannot ever be pure reality. I most often prefer to consider symbology as a tool to create my images. And it does not distract me from my goal like it seems to distract Barthes.. I do want to transcend the literal even when I try hard to be literal. That is why reverse engineering 'transcendence' stimulated me. Landscape work (in general) for example. I fail as a landscape photographer (in my eyes) primarily because I cannottransform/transcend the literal to my satisfaction.
     
  133. Luis, nice descriptive narrative there! Very visual toward the end.
    " . . . whether the photographer imagines s/he is encoding a whole narrative in an image, or a first-generation set of cues or attractants around which the viewer confabulates . . . " --Luis
    Again, too black and white and either/or for me. I don't imagine photographers (or myself) encoding a whole narrative in an image, and what narrative exists still acts as cues of attractants for confabulation. (Is that a gay word, or what?)!
    "You're still implying that the narrative(s) is intrinsic . . . " --Luis
    Not me. Narratives, symbols, interpretations, meaning . . . none of that stuff is intrinsic. Nowhere. Not in photographs. Not in motion pictures. Not in books. It belongs to the shared communicative efforts of a variety of groups of people. It doesn't take something intrinsic to enable communication. It just takes knowing how to use and being able to understand various languages and language games. All I'm saying is that I participate in various language communities or communities of understanding. So it allows me to speak and be understood*. Part of being understood is knowing that those understanding me will be on their own trips to whatever extent. Part of being understood is the likelihood of at least partially being misunderstood. But part of being understood is utilizing a language which has the ability to bridge at least some gaps.
    *I don't love limiting this to the words "understood" or "understanding" here. Of course, there's more to photographic experiences than understanding, and I know how people can get (not you, Luis) when you dare introduce understanding into the equation and they imagine what a great distraction it must be to the blissful magic of the spontaneous moment that is art (freed from the mundane encumbrance of actual thought, reading, learning, practicing, etc.). [Speaking of sarcasm . . .] So perhaps we could talk about shared expression, feeling, even empathy that somehow gets us from A, the photographer, to B, the viewer, in the same way that a novel gets written by a novelist and somehow, miraculously, gets understood by a viewer (even with that viewer's own spins, prejudices, and cultural baggage affecting that understanding).
     
  134. [ROFL at Luis, especially the childhood story. And at Josh; there are roses and there are roses ... ]
    This is a fragmennt of a Rilke poem that I think applies to Fred and Luis's current exchange:
    Aber versuchtest du dies: Hand in der Hand mit zu sein
    wie im Weinglas der Wein Wein ist.
    Versuchtest du dies.
    [But if you’d try this: to be hand in my hand
    as in the wineglass the wine is wine
    If you’d try this.]​
     
  135. Josh, sorry we were writing simultaneously. I'm glad you talk about responsibility. I feel it, too. I think it goes hand in hand with freedom and I enjoy that freedom as a photographer. If someone isn't free, we don't usually hold them accountable for their (unfree) actions. You put a gun to my head, you take away most of my choices. (Yes, I can always choose to die, the ultimate!) I like being responsible for the work I do.
    I agree with your take on Barthes. The quote about Symbolism (thanks, Julie) and the pages in the book surrounding that quote suggest to me that he's talking about Symbolism as a thinker, even a looker, and not as a user. He uses the word "mask" in that quote symbolically and effortlessly because he's such a good and fluid writer. His use of it didn't seem to distance him from what he was doing.
     
  136. Fred - "(Is that a gay word, or what?)!"
    Wouldn't that be Conf-aaah-bulation?
    ________________________________
    Julie - "[But if you’d try this: to be hand in my hand
    as in the wineglass the wine is wine
    If you’d try this.]"
    As usual, I know Fred is like the object in my rear view mirror: "...much closer than it appears".
     
  137. Just now I showed someone a reproduction of a photograph in a book.
    "Is that their first shop? In The Strip. They're wearing skates...no only one girl. Just one skate. I thought the other girl was wearing the other. They're sisters...look how they're dressed. Maybe twins.
    The "shop" cue was a partial sign in the upper right. The family is still in business (at another location) and is popular. I hadn't noticed they might be sisters and twins. The viewer is the oldest of 6 sisters, so i figure she's got the eye for it and is probably right. Photo was Benkovitz Fish Market (Luke Swank, 1939)
    My wife and I went to the opening of Dream Street. Arrived early and stayed late. Early on, before the crowd, a lot of the viewers were families -- mom, dad, grandparents, babies in strollers. They lingered over the photographs, conversing, sometimes with animation. The conversation was in line with the response above. The venue was across the street from Pitt, two blocks down from CMU, an easy walk from several other universities and colleges. Later on a much larger group came in. Besides an occasional murmmer, they were silent, respectful, as if viewing a body in a funeral home.
     
  138. When I'm on walkabout I wonder how these clothes, these hairstyles, these expressions will been seen 50 years from now -- stuff from the turn of the century, antique. I think about what I try to see in old photos, what is obscure in the corners, out of focus, only partly in the frame. I want those things to be clear and visible in my photos. I haven't a clue what to "suggest" to the viewers in 2060. I can only make the photos as "real" for them as I can.
     
  139. Don, I've thought about some of these things many times, and concluded that "real" means many things. It is difficult to predict what will be of value in the future, but as a LIFE magazine photographer and mentor told me, after one generation, whatever else a photograph may be, it becomes an historical document and/or artifact.
    Perhaps the most important thing is to be honest, and be oneself.
    The world has changed. The number of photographs floating in the world is exponentially larger than in 1939.
    One book that made a lasting impression on me was "Inventing the Middle Ages". It addresses how people looked back at the Middle Ages through time, and it is supremely interesting, with regard to your concerns.
    In closing, the sense of responsibility in your concerns, though not identical, reminds me of Garry Winogrand's ca. 1963 Guggenheim application:
    " I look at the pictures I have done up to now, and they make me feel that who we are and how we feel and what is to become of us just doesn't matter. Our aspirations and successes have been cheap and petty. I read the newspapers, the columnists, some books, I look at some magazines [our press]. They all deal in illusions and fantasies. I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves, and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it just doesn't matter, we have not loved life. . . I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper. This is my project."
    We are all like amnesiac emissaries from the future, whether we realize it or not.
     
  140. The world has changed. The number of photographs floating in the world is exponentially larger than in 1939.​
    The only thing unchanged is change itself. The world and "stuff " in it, rendered online rather than experienced off-line, it has become transcendent, less tactile ? Transcendence not being a more here - or a beyond - but a lesser perhaps, something thinner.
    I like Winogrand's notion about illusions and fantasies, games. I want a project too, investigating that *this world is not enough*. The camera used as an alibi, to at least give it a try, even though it knows that this world is all there is.
     
  141. " The world has changed. The number of photographs floating in the world is exponentially larger than in 1939."
    That may be. It doesn't matter to me. I've been looking for other photographers locally doing this kind of work. including on the internet, for anyone shooting street here -- just in general, no need to have a sense of the history of photography here (which is rather immense considering). I find some, but only doing so, apparently, while on vacation in New York, Tokyo, Rome, San Francisco. So maybe out of those billions of images online there aren't many relevant to my work. I'd be pleased if there were others these days. The only photographers I see on the street here are students from the Art Institute. That's something, at least. I keep looking.
    I looked at my own photos taken at Benkovitz' a few years ago and I see what I missed. I was still thinking about good photos, suggestive ones, universal, transcendent and transforming (I almost wrote 'transubstantiated') -- with the result that you wouldn't know it was Benkovitz' Fish Market unless I told you so. I'll have to go back and reshoot.
     
  142. Don - "... I wonder how these clothes, these hairstyles, these expressions will been seen 50 years from now -- stuff from the turn of the century, antique. I think about what I try to see in old photos, what is obscure in the corners, out of focus, only partly in the frame. I want those things to be clear and visible in my photos. I haven't a clue what to "suggest" to the viewers in 2060. I can only make the photos as "real" for them as I can."
    When I read that, I thought of two contemporary, well-known photographers, and one dead guy who tackled these issues close to, or more than five decades ago.
    Lee Friedlander's Factory Valleys and At Work...
    http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa501.htm
    http://www.schaden.com/book/FriLeeFac01307.html
    In At Work, LF does transcend the environment/context of the workers to focus very tightly on the workers themselves, their clothing, hair, expression at labor, the space they work in, but not who they are working for. In Factory Valleys, LF weighs a lot of elements of the landscape equally, transcending and transforming the forensic view, without losing sight of it.
    Another photographer who has managed to make images that document things that Don mentions with good, suggestive, universal, transcendent and transformative photos is Bill Eggleston. And he often focuses on "clothes, hairstyles, expressions" as well...
    http://daltonrooney.com/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/eggleston_woman_on_swing.jpg
    http://friends.whitedactyl.com/twilight/media/041128/eggleston_woman_on_curb.jpg
    http://www.spd.org/images/blogs/Eggleston_beehive_thumb_w_580.png
    http://keef.tv/images/uploads/Eggleston_Guide.jpg
    http://lotusphotography.org/blog/imgs/blog/redhead.jpg
    http://dariushimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/eggleston_3.jpg
    And then there's Atget.
    While I am not saying that transcendence and transformation must be universally applied, or specifically used by Don, it seems some people can produce extraordinary documentary work that does not exclude either T&T, nor many of the things Don is concerned about.
    PS. I Googled, and there are surprisingly few documentarians in Pittsburgh, and probably fewer, if any, working exactly in Don's way, which seems to be from the sounds of it, ultra-straight, near-forensic. There are also few pictures of the Benkovitz' Fish Market. I checked Flickr. There were only two...it must be one of the least photographed things on earth.
    Don's well-honed thoughts on documentary photography and its role re: the future would make a good thread theme in and of themselves.
     
  143. ". . . it seems some people can produce extraordinary documentary work that does not exclude . . . T&T [transcendence & transformation] . . ." --Luis
    Building off this:
    "I was still thinking about good photos, suggestive ones, universal, transcendent and transforming . . . -- with the result that you wouldn't know it was Benkovitz' Fish Market unless I told you so." --Don
    Given that you're now thinking this way, and assuming what you posed (that perhaps some transcendence must take place in photographs), it sounds like you might reach a good balance for yourself between controlling the suggestiveness and transcendence and allowing the Market itself to come through and be clear.
    "I haven't a clue what to 'suggest' to the viewers in 2060. I can only make the photos as 'real' for them as I can."
    --Don
    I wonder if captivation, at least to some extent, is one of the things that takes documentary out of the category of forensics. It sounds like you are considering your future viewer in all this. I wonder if some bit of suggestibility will get them to look with a more interested eye at the sights and people you document. Not enough to make them go off into some mysterious ozone of wonder but enough to catch their imaginations to the point where they will at least give these photos a meaningful look.
    Another thought I have, though it sounds like you'll employ a different method, is that there does seem to be documentary value, even looking back from 2010 to the depression era, in getting the perspective of photographers, filmmakers, and cinematographers on the very things they were documenting. Some photographs and films from that era actually seem to document fairly consistent reactions to the times (also reflecting their viewers' general reactions to things in many instances), reactions of people who could craft their lasting impressions of those times. (Many of those reactions are suggestive, not in a way that predicts what will be suggestive to future generations but in a way that allows future generations to at least some extent to empathize with parts of the past.) It seems there would be a significant documentary role in itself for the documentary piece not only to show clearly what was happening but at the same time to reflect a genuine timely reaction to those events. Is the reaction we might feel from people making these documentaries necessarily that much less significant to our understanding and relationship to those times than are the documented events and sights themselves? I think that reaction becomes more telling and a little more genuine when we look at a bunch of those photographs and films from a bunch of different filmmakers and start gleaning common threads from their perspectives on things. Their suggestibility and approach, what reaction I may perceive in their work, especially through a body of work, for me, supply valuable information and are part of the document.
     
  144. "My presentation of a subject as photographer and my response and reaction to a subject as viewer is wrapped up in the picture I present or see" (Fred)
    For me, what Fred says here is the key to transformation, transcendence, transmutation and perhaps fantasy. Presenting a photo of a subject in a neutral and non-subjective way (if that indeed is possible), or as close to that as possible, is not really what drives me. What does, however, is my interpretation of the scene, and often what the scene can do for me (in helping, or inspiring, me - ) in my quest to express something personal. Transformation or transcendence is what happens when I can deconstruct nature (or an object, or even a perceived personality) and reconstruct it in some poetic (for me ideal) or at least interesting manner.
     
  145. presentation and transcendence -less tactile. another interesting opened door Phylo. lesser, beyond or sideways are all interesting worthy of thought, thanks for making me think.
    Once again Don's different than my approach has stimulated me. At the core of what motivates me to photograph or create any art work has been a desire to transcend. Even to transcend my time and existence. Sometimes to escape but more often in an attempt to explore humanity. At my core is a piece of me that wants to live on the work I leave behind. I don't expend much energy on that but it is there. It (desire to transcend my limits?) does influence where I point my camera and how I post process. Differing from my take on Don's goal, I lean to a more timeless quality or characteristic in my work. Not ignored but unbound by time and place. In that way perhaps I am stepping back or away from the elements, or the combination of elements that identify it with timeframe. I most often find myself transforming the timeframe and reaching for a human component(s) that allows for expansion and focus of thought.
    But I also hope to leave a piece of me, a document for 2060+. Not a name. It's not in the name, I hope to transcend the name. Don, maybe we'll hang together in the future. I enjoy the contrast, it makes for a better story.
     
  146. I can't get past Don's "you wouldn't know it was Benkovitz' Fish Market unless I told you so." Who would? Ever? Don himself was not born knowing that "it' was Benkovitz' Fish Market.
    And, having been told, where does this "it" begin and end? What is it? Who says so? (I keep thinking of Bill Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.")
    The nearest I can get to an answer to my own questions, just trying them out (suspending my disbelief as far as I can), is to sneak up on Benkovitz's Fish Market from the outside. I do believe I could say what is *not* Benkovitz's Fish Market. Therefore, from the many (infinite) number of possible pictures that remain; that *are* Benkovitz's Fish Market [BFM] in the sense that they are not *not* BFM, then presumably any of those would do. Possibly, by doing this in ever stricter rounds, decreasing the perimeter, I could get down to some nugget of BFM that is more not *not* BFM, though I don't believe I could ever get to what BFM *is.*
    [I am somewhat making fun, but I am also finding this quite interesting. I do understand that this is not funny to Don, and I hope he will allow me. I find it interesting that in spite of my skepticism, it (what Don describes) seems possible for the disembodied camera (figure that one out ...) but not for the intentionally controlled camera.]
     
  147. Luis, I appreciate that you took time to look up some things I wrote about.
    I'm not arguing transcendent vs non-transcendent in which one is good and the other bad. In the Photographness thread I wrote about the lack of the transcendent in a documentary set that needed it. For myself, at least, shooting for the transcendent seems 'right' and the norm. It is what we learned.
    A simple template for transcendent/non-transcendent is the transcendent isolates the subject (making it the "main subject"), situating it in a non-obtrusive, non-obstructing, and complementary frame -- removing everything that distracts from the composition of the main subject. The non-transcendent has no "main subject"; what would be the "main subject" is another bit of "content" just as is everything else in the frame. This presents problems for the photographer that are different than those encountered in making a transcendent photo. What might have been avoided, cropped, cloned, blurred, for example, now becomes a problem of form. Rather than, say, attaining pleasing bokeh, one has an information-rich frame that has to be wrangled into a coherent photograph. The information richness likely will be local and specific, rather than general and universal. The set of documentary photos will contain both kinds, but the tendency (at least mine is) is to fall into the well-honed practice of shooting for the transcendent, and so I write "I don't want to take transcendent photos".
    Here's a few links you may already be familiar with:
    http://www.amazon.com/Witness-Fifties-Pittsburgh-Photographic-Photography/dp/0822941112/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274281688&sr=8-1
    http://www.amazon.com/One-Shot-Harris-Photographs-Charles/dp/B0002IA1K4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275168180&sr=1-1
    http://www.amazon.com/Luke-Swank-Photographer-Howard-Bossen/dp/0822942534/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275168218&sr=1-1
    http://www.clpgh.org/exhibit/photog13.html
     
  148. "the transcendent isolates the subject (making it the "main subject"), situating it in a non-obtrusive, non-obstructing, and complementary frame -- removing everything that distracts from the composition of the main subject." --Don
    I don't usually find this to be the case. As I seek transcendence in my own photos, I tend to include more in the frame. I often find isolated subjects in photos not terribly transcendent. I find more possibilities for suggestiveness in open or empty spaces or spaces filled but where my eye can wander. I tend to find close-ups of subjects, particularly faces, much more grounded and static, staying precisely where they are rather than moving beyond themselves. Obtrusions and distractions, lack of focus, for me, can add that layer of transcendence I'm often seeking.
     
  149. "I can't get past Don's "you wouldn't know it was Benkovitz' Fish Market unless I told you so." Who would?"
    Everyone who lives here, probably. Anyone reading this from St Louis? If so, do you know anyone locally who doesn't know what Ted Drewes is?
     
  150. "I don't usually find this to be the case. As I seek transcendence in my own photos, I tend to include more in the frame. I often find isolated subjects in photos not terribly transcendent.I don't usually find this to be the case. As I seek transcendence in my own photos, I tend to include more in the frame. I often find isolated subjects in photos not terribly transcendent."
    I have no disagreement with what you wrote. I used a "simple template" to illustrate a difference, but it is the way I encounter the problem or how I conceptualize it. We would have to be doing the same kind of photography -- in that case understanding our differing approaches could be beneficial to either of us or both.
    "I find more possibilities for suggestiveness in open or empty spaces or spaces filled but where my eye can wander."
    The use of empty spaces in the urban...ecosystem, habitat -- I haven't explored that much. Mostly I'm confronted with spaces that are more like a plenum than empty. Empty spaces or 'eye-wandering' spaces so far have been confined to "urban landscape" photos. I want to photograph people doing things in their 'habitat', in context. There's not a lot of that going on in more the open spaces. So, what I have to do is see the 'plenum' as a photograph; form and content; make coherent something that did not come together nor was it put together to be coherent photographically. This is a point where I disagree with GW when he says all of his photos might be posed and there's no way for the viewer to tell. He's talking about the main subjects of his photos. Nobody can build a real New York street in their studio.
     
  151. "I wonder if captivation, at least to some extent, is one of the things that takes documentary out of the category of forensics. It sounds like you are considering your future viewer in all this. I wonder if some bit of suggestibility will get them to look with a more interested eye at the sights and people you document. Not enough to make them go off into some mysterious ozone of wonder but enough to catch their imaginations to the point where they will at least give these photos a meaningful look."
    Fred, the response I recorded to Swank's Benkovitz photo is an example of that. The partial sign, the skate, the clothes...the viewer was creating a story out of what those things in the photo suggested to her. I'm interested in the city, the idea of the city, city life, the polis, the things that happen in cities, how people are in cities, the organism of the city. I happen to live in this one so this is the one I photograph. There is a history of such photography here, personal, official, unofficial. My choice to see my photos of the city in the flow of history which implies a future and future viewers -- and future photographers. Change, history, narrative, time is more than suggested by the larger context. It is made concrete, real.
    Much of the city that was photographed by Swank, Smith and many others no longer exists. The mills are gone; the light is different. Time, change, narrative, history...in that flow I'm ok with being a minor part of it.
     
  152. i say hydrogen sulfide to all of you makes, but to Julie I only offer n-butyl mercaptan.
    Try to stay downwind, in any case.
    --Lannie
     
  153. Uh, "males," not "makes." Very low concentrations, in any case, are all that I wish on any of you.
    This thread has transcended the usual criteria of literary excellence. It has become positively ethereal, chaste even, whatever that means.
    --Lannie
     
  154. Lannie - "Uh, "males," not "makes.""
    Hmmm... I know it was a typo, Lannie, but still, kinda Freudian. (See, Julie, Lannie has materialized in here, commenting on the chaste floral farts, just as I predicted). A rose may be a rose is a rose (ad nauseam in this case), but not when it comes to that.
    As to the meaning of "ethereal", ask Fred. He knows, and can transcend and transform it, too. :)
     
  155. Don Essedi , May 28, 2010; 09:08 p.m.
    " The world has changed. The number of photographs floating in the world is exponentially larger than in 1939."
    That may be. It doesn't matter to me.​
    It does matter to me.
    Until the internet era, and more in general, the digital era, most of the photographer put cheap film into their point-and-shoot cameras, had them developed in minilabs and stuck them into family albums. The diffusion was limited to the family and relatives.
    Now, everybody produces digital images and can post them on public websites, achieving a diffusion potential mitigated only by the core aspect we face today: information overflow.
    Photography and photo diffusion exposes many more photographers to the potential transformation and transcendence of images.
    Do they succeed?
     
  156. Don, I wasn't thinking of urban landscapes. I sensed that's not the kind of work you do. I meant photographic open and empty spaces, not urban ones. We encounter a couple of kids painting graffiti on a street, kissing in an alleyway, or in the middle of a drug deal on the corner (or something less dramatic). Getting close enough to focus just on the protagonists produces one kind of shot. Including a bit of the blank wall, with some cracked paint texture and a glow of uninterrupted sunlight has a different effect. Including the harsh light coming right from the glass of the street lamp way down the alleyway with all that darkness between the kissers and the light captures ambient atmosphere and provides the space I'm talking about. [This is not something I'm really trying to get you to "agree" with. At this point, it's just interesting and eye-opening to share war stories.]
    "This is a point where I disagree with GW when he says all of his photos might be posed and there's no way for the viewer to tell. He's talking about the main subjects of his photos. Nobody can build a real New York street in their studio." --Don
    Nice. Here, you're approaching a difference between "posed" and "staged" which we've touched on before. Here's Winogrand doing something I've addressed on and off throughout the thread: concerning himself with the reality of the situation vs. the photographic image (the latter which Josh appropriately suggests is symbolic . . . "the image cannot ever be pure reality").
    Pose (which can be a directed form of gesture) can be transcendent, an acknowledgment of just what Josh is talking about. Perhaps someone or something posed is less "real" because it's not shown just as it was found. It may still be genuine and can transcend the reality of a situation thereby harmonizing with the transcendent/symbolic nature of the image to begin with. I might use pose and staging to emphasize the photograph over the photographed. Pose is one of the ways I can begin to transform/transcend the reality of a situation. I often work with a balance between "focused" and obvious posing on the one hand and what happens spontaneously on the other. I am also in touch with both the reality that suggests the pose and my own vision that will utilize it. Sometimes by making a pose that much more obvious, I actually find I accept the pose (as viewer) not trying to mimic reality but as a transcendence, much like the whole idea of a photograph (which is not the photographed) can be. Non-directed posing happens as well. People strike poses even when they're being candid. Watch people smoking on a street corner sometime. They often look like they've been coached by a Hollywood director. Watch lovers kissing in a park. Some of these candid posings, when photographed, are cliché and some achieve a sense of timelessness. There is also significance in the photographic look of the non-posed, of course.
     
  157. "Now, everybody produces digital images and can post them on public websites, achieving a diffusion potential mitigated only by the core aspect we face today: information overflow.
    Photography and photo diffusion exposes many more photographers to the potential transformation and transcendence of images.
    Do they succeed?"
    And maybe an EMP happens and wipes them all out. Then it starts again and a billion images are uploaded a day. Maybe a new technology comes along and we will beam our images into peoples' brains.
    Maybe you care about photography itself, like GW seems to in his Guggenheim application. I don't care about photography itself. I'm not in the business. Maybe that's the difference between those who care about the Sagan-effect ("billyuns and billyuns") and those like me who don't. Doesn't matter to me whether a billion images are uploaded today or only 10 thousand or none. I don't get why I have been informed of this twice now. I'm in the business of website development. I read the stats with my morning coffee. I'm not uninformed.
     
  158. Don - "I don't get why I have been informed of this twice now"
    In my case, here's why: It is not because I thought Don was unaware of this, but because I expected to find a large number of pictures, documentary and otherwise, of Benkovitz's. As I reported, that turned out not to be the case.
     
  159. Maybe you care about photography itself,​
    I'm not "in the business" but I do care, mainly about my own photography.
    The amounts of "available" photos for viewing interests me only insofar that there is a general lack of criticism and selfcriticism, which has a bearing on what is being showed. And its quality.
    What is being showed is interesting for me insofar I can view and "understand" other photos to help me improve my own photography. I "use" it.
    Numbers (in this case of photos) interests me only insofar there is an enormous increase in "fog", which obliges me to see thousands of low-quality photos to spot a good one.
    I had thought that we were reasoning about aesthetics here, not on the number of hits on a website.
     
  160. double post.
     
  161. Don, we were writing simultaneously in our two posts above, on different subjects.
     
  162. Don,
    What is your opinion of W. Eugene Smith's Labyrinthian Walk layout? Link to the first two spreads:
    http://unrealnature.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/wesmith_labyrinthianwalk.jpg
    Of the opening flame-in-goggles picture WES wrote:
    "I needed a picture of man submerged underneath industry, but not lost."
    Of the other pictures in that first spread he wrote:
    "... ROTC headless-heads lost in the cherry blossoms -- we go on heedlessly -- training for peace in pursuit of love -- this is a contradiction."
    Of the second spread:
    "amplification of humanity in this -- hands touching -- the theme of love from a new approach -- man and his livelihood -- Smoky city -- moon in the city night -- dream of clearing smoke -- a contradiction -- stairways -- more disclosure of the feeling of the city."
    [Luis wrote: "See, Julie, Lannie has materialized in here, commenting on the chaste floral farts, just as I predicted." Perhaps he as a parson's nose?]
     
  163. "Some people consider it to be a sweet and tender delicacy when cooked. . . ." (Wikipedia)
    Julie, your taste in food has evolved (or devolved) a good bit since you first spoke of thinking of food when seeing plucked chickens. When I see chickens, I think breasts and thighs--but not everyone thinks alike.
    --Lannie
     
  164. Julie made me nearly spit coffee across the table and in my wife's direction, here at the bookstore with: "[Luis wrote: "See, Julie, Lannie has materialized in here, commenting on the chaste floral farts, just as I predicted." Perhaps he as a parson's nose?]"
    What a grand metaphorical way of saying he is a pillar of this community!
     
  165. Luis, you and Julie both have to be more careful about the directions you aim those things.
    For some reason, Julie, this sign I saw on Friday made me think of you:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11065069&size=lg
    The "etc." part could get pretty interesting, I imagine.
    --Lannie
     
  166. Of course, Julie, there are other things that remind me of you:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11060870&size=lg
    --Lannie
     
  167. Fred: "I wasn't thinking of urban landscapes. I sensed that's not the kind of work you do. I meant photographic open and empty spaces, not urban ones."
    I was thinking of the "plenum" -- all the information that is in (or, can be in) the frame. I understand you to be referring to "form", the compositional elements or "photographic spaces". One of my best "good" photos is of two guys in an alley. They may be drug dealing, they may be lovers. To me, they look like they're dancing together, like a minuet. I hear harpsichords and claviers. But what I'm referring to is a plenum of high frequency detail. Photographic space is related to real space because there must be real space in front of the lens.
    In nature, in landscape, the detail is already ordered. Growth creates order, water and wind create order, gravity creates order. Nature composes itself for the photographer who then selects a frame for some part of what is before his eyes. Nature as landscape is very photogenic. Cities aren't like that; there's no natural order. Many kinds of intention, purposefullness, are in collision, clashing in spaces, signs, lights, reflections, traffic, construction, people -- doing, intending, all kinds of things whose only relation to what others are doing is they're doing it in the same space. There is lots of narrative underway. I can post an example, if I've been unclear.
    One way to deal with it is to find room for photograhic spaces in the frame (by checking out an alley). But what I mean is seeing the photograph in the presenting "clash". I don't mean by tight composition or blurring backgrounds, motion blur, or a creative crop and dodging -- nothing of technique, but in the scene(s) before the lens, itself.
    "Perhaps someone or something posed is less "real" because it's not shown just as it was found. It may still be genuine and can transcend the reality of a situation thereby harmonizing with the transcendent/symbolic nature of the image to begin with."
    I don't think it matters if this is posed or not
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/W/winogrand/winogrand_worlds_fair_full.html
    nor whether my or your alley photo are posed or not. They are all photographs and real. If I posed GW's shot, I'd at least want the girls to be local girls, not models brought in from New York or LA. My wife points out the car window and says "Look! Greenfield girls." And then some more girls and they aren't Greenfield (Greenfield is a neighborhood here) girls even though they live in Greenfield. they're CMU students. There's a difference. It's the specificity of the subject that interests me.
     
  168. Julie: "What is your opinion of W. Eugene Smith's Labyrinthian Walk layout?
    It's journalism.
    "WES wrote:"
    Here's the problem, Smith had a concept for this project and it wasn't a good fit. The quotations are attempts to fit the subject to the concept. He obsessed over it til he died, I guess.
     
  169. "I understand you to be referring to 'form', the compositional elements or 'photographic spaces'." --Don
    For me it's a place where form and content can collide. Photographic compositional elements can be very much content to me, depending on how they're used by the photographer. Often, in street photography for example, I'm aware of geometry having very much a formal design role rather than a content role. The photographer sees an interesting spacial or geometrical setup and catches a person walking by that scene. No harmony or counterpoint between the subject and the space. Sometimes (in what I often consider better work) the geometries and spaces photographed seem part of the subject/s and/or the content of the photo.
    By the way, have you (do you) discuss this stuff with other documentarians?
     
  170. "Sometimes (in what I often consider better work) the geometries and spaces photographed seem part of the subject/s and/or the content of the photo."
    Yes. The flaw I see in what I've been shooting is using form for frame. It's that twitch of the modernist nerve. I see I'm taking 3 or 4 shots of what could be one shot. The shots are framed by the forms. But for one shot, there would be no geometrical framing of subjects, but a content that is organic, dynamic. That means the forms are fluid rather than geometrically fixed. Whether the shot has a form for frame or whether or not there are geometrical compositional elements in the shot, isn't the issue. Privileging them is.
    Fred, the past 15 years the photographers I've known have been landscape or nature photographers.
     
  171. Luca: "The amounts of "available" photos for viewing interests me only insofar that there is a general lack of criticism and selfcriticism, which has a bearing on what is being showed. And its quality.
    What is being showed is interesting for me insofar I can view and "understand" other photos to help me improve my own photography. I "use" it."
    My thoughts about these images is the same as about anything else. Their value is the result of effort, work, labor. Photos of no known provenance, without 'historicity' (which includes the photographer's celebrity if any) are landfill. Snapping a pic and putting it on Flickr is not enough of an effort to warrant interest (besides a personal interest) no matter Google archives it on a computer farm in orbit for eternity. This has nothing to do with the quality of the photograph, either. We have a saying "Information that cannot be accessed might as well not exist". So, there will be maybe hundreds of billions of images that will be landfill. No one will miss them. Soon enough, no one will even know they ever were. They don't matter. Socially, culturally they are of no consequence.
     
  172. "Fred, the past 15 years the photographers I've known have been landscape or nature photographers.
    Correction. I know one in Chicago. Our subjects are so different (he doesn't photograph Chicago, for example) that I hadn't thought of him. I know a nature cinematographer who does documentary, but again, it is very different.
     
  173. Don,
    My thoughts about these images is the same as about anything else. Their value is the result of effort, work, labor. Photos of no known provenance, without 'historicity' (which includes the photographer's celebrity if any) are landfill.​
    I guess that our position is exactly the same. Good concept: "landfill".
    However,
    1. how do we see the effort, work, labour, the historicity of a photo?
    2. how do we distinguish the "good" ones from the landfill?
    3. how do we reconstruct the provenance of a photo?
    to understand whether there is a visual message in a photo and whether we actually can speak of transcendence?
     
  174. "to understand whether there is a visual message in a photo and whether we actually can speak of transcendence?"
    Luca, I appreciate your bringing the topic back to transcendence. Do you think transcendence is achieved through understanding a message? What do you mean by visual message as it relates to transcendence?
    For me, transcendence is an act (on the part of the photographer, on the part of the viewer) or like an act. It is a connection to another time and place . . . by the symbolic method Josh has been speaking of. I find transcendence to be more a seeing than an interpreting. I think it has to do with time (and timelessness) and place (and space).
    The original meaning of the word "transcendence" was as part of a pair of opposites, the other being "immanence." It had to do with God's being immaterial and completely outside of (beyond) this world as opposed to God's being manifest in the world. Immaterial. Intangible. What are some photographic intangibles? Or, if we can't easily name them, how are they achieved?
    Later on in Philosophy, of course, transcendent(al) came to mean the conditions for knowledge. Not knowledge of objects themselves, but the human capacity for relating to objects. This is what I mean when I say it's more about an act than understanding. It's about how we experience objects and space, more the establishment of the possibility of understanding (and possible ways of seeing and being shown) than about the understanding itself.
    I associate photographic transcendence with characteristics/qualities of photographs. It's usually the message that will ground me, how the message is visualized/shown/presented/seen that will be transcending. (Some messages themselves may be transcending.)
    Also, I think, transcendence just is. By virtue of there being a connection between the real world and the world shown/conveyed/visualized in the photograph, the photograph transcends what it is, the piece of paper or the light emanating from the screen and it transcends what was at the time, the situation at the moment of the snap.
    Because the photograph is not the photographed, it is transcendent. In what ways is a photograph not the photographed? What does a photograph add (or subtract) from the photographed?
     
  175. It is a connection to another time and place . . . by the symbolic method Josh has been speaking of. I find transcendence to be more a seeing than an interpreting. I think it has to do with time (and timelessness) and place (and space).​
    Here, San Francisco 1905 cruising down market street. Worth watching the whole video, it has something transcendent, and, something purely visual with compositions sliding in and out of the frame. The music adds another layer.
    And then, watch the same ride in 2005 :
    San Francisco 2005, market street.
     
  176. [Fred, for me, in layman's terms, Transcendence is the revelation of an unforeseen level of existence.]
    Don, still thinking about your thoughts on this matter -- in relation to Fred's OT of T 'n T. The idea of the Plenum is a good one. Of course, the photographer's intent/thoughts/feelings are also part and parcel of documentary photography. We can still see cave art, and make guesses, but how we wish we knew what they thought and felt when they did them. Do you think a viewer can hear the claviers, too, or just feasts on the density of the information within the frame?
    Is this ballet, secret even unto the participants, important to the historians/researchers/lay people of the future?
    Don- "Their value is the result of effort, work, labor. Photos of no known provenance, without 'historicity' (which includes the photographer's celebrity if any) are landfill."
    Their value is due to a lot more than that: Intelligence, visual and social.... Wit.... Grace.... Vitality.... Involvement....Rarity...Creativity... Insight....historical significance, and much, much more. Working with an 8x10 (or Gigapixel rig) guarantees an information-rich plenum, but little else. As to the notion that photos from "more ordinary" people will be thought of as "landfill" by historians and people of the future, I think that's a delusion. Today, historians, researchers and lay people eagerly seek and seize upon finding, sharing, enjoying and studying the work of unknowns that deals with things/topics of interest. I doubt people from the future will be very different.
    [ Nobody threw out the "landfill" Zapruder film because it was accidentally made by an amateur on his lunch hour.]
    A special note of thanks to Don for bringing in documentary work into this thread. The way the oil spill plumes are snaking around in the Gulf, I may soon be drawn into doing a little documentary work myself. This is helping me sort things out, to prepare mentally.
     
  177. Phylo, thanks for those links. I do that ride and, more often, walk that walk, a lot. It will never look the same to me. And how it will look (to me) from now on will be a matter of at least partially transcending what I see by connecting to another time. It seems like your example shows some simpatico with transcendence. Again, it helps bring us back to the original topic.
    I find it interesting that the 1905 film (pre-earthquake) seems much more evocative than the current one. Yet, I do find when I walk or ride in the trolley car down that stretch of Market Street, it is usually a more evocative and sensuous experience. The 2005 film doesn't give me the sense of contrast between the upscale business and retail sides of the street and the much more derelict, alcoholic side of the street that exists in abandoned phone booths, empty urine-soaked store entryways, and the shadows cast by many historic buildings that flank the track-laden streets. The "action" in 1905 seemed to be living and out in the open. Much of the action in 2005 is hidden from the sunlight. I think something about the situation and activity in 1905 allowed for this method of filming to be more transcendent (and at the same time more accurate) than utilizing this same method of filming in 2005, which I think misses more. In 2005, you don't have people running around in the middle of the road where the camera stays. The 2005 version is, therefore, overly clean and purified. There would be more transcendent ways to film this in 2005 and those ways might actually give a more "accurate" picture as well.
    I hadn't thought of the transcendent capabilities of accuracy until viewing these two films.
     
  178. Luis and also Luca re: the landfill and value. My comments were made without regard to the images personal, artistic, or documentary value, but considered the social and cultural value. It is just a problem of logistics and need. In order for any of those images to get preserved and appreciated someone will have to make the effort the photographer didn't, and that takes time and money as well as labor. Besides art, there's the interests of historians, cultural anthropologists, maybe a new discipline (call them electronic archeologists), curators looking for something new for next season, collectors looking for another store of value, maybe someone like Michael Lesy gets interested, etc. Even unknown and uncelebratated art photographers need to be documentarians of their own work, otherwise their photos continuing to exist socially, culturally in the future is left to chance.
    Philip K Dick's 1964 novel The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history story in which the Axis won WWII and California is part of Japan's Greater Co-prosperity Sphere. The Japanese have a collector's passion for US pop culture and history. The owner of a business that makes fake Civil War revolvers for that market explains something to his employees. He puts two common Zippo lighters on the table. One costs whatever they cost at any store in town, but the other is priceless because it was the lighter FDR had on his person when he was assassinated in Miami. That one has "historicity". Just watch Antiques Roadshow and you'll see the measure of historicity applied to all kinds of objects, including photos. So...fill out those IPTC fields, folks.
     
  179. Transcend - go beyond.
    In photography probably going beyond the mere appearance of the items which "appear" - first in real world to the photographer and then to the viewer sensing what is shown on the photograph.
    The intermediate step is the photograph, which could reflect the transformation intent of the author - or not.
    Probably you are right: transcendence just is.
    It might be intentional - and here we come back to things already posted: presenting what we see to induce a certain reaction in the viewer - or by chance.
    Intentionality to chance is fluid. There are so many "things" in a scene, and then in a photo, and then in the eyes of the viewer.
    I liked the notion that black and white transcends. It's true.
    But also colour transcends, when it marks a photo and determines the visual message, most of all whet colours in reality would not bring along the same message.
    The frame transcends, and the point of view.
    I also believe that there is one fundamental point of transcendence, which is time.
    As time passes, it transforms photographs.
    Take an example: this photo of Times Square in NYC in 2007. Everybody can go there, over the years (it will remain basically unchanged over years). I have, as I believe, a very limited possibility of transcending Times Square.
    But showing Times Square - a metaphor of course - as it was (consider the footage of LA's market street in 1905), at a time when nobody can make a personal verification is transcending.
     
  180. "I hadn't thought of the transcendent capabilities of accuracy until viewing these two films." --Fred
    I'd like to add that I'm also thinking about the added accuracy that transcendent elements can provide. The lack of effective transcendent elements in the 2005 film seems to help make it inaccurate in terms of a more complete picture. This may relate back to what Julie was talking about in her well-conceived post about what the subject "is" . . . and is not . . . transcendence.
     
  181. Addendum
    In respect of time as a factor for transcendence, this was used by Garry Winogrand (I know I pop him up from time to time, but I like his photographic attitude and several of his photos).
    He kept his film undeveloped for years, and not by chance. It was deliberate, partly because of his workflow, partly because he wanted "distance" from his shots.
     
  182. Fred, yes. The "hustle and bustle" is missing in the 2005 version, and the 1905 ride, showing us things that once were ( which the 2005 ride ofcourse also does ) looks strangely more modern, about a future erupting. I do think the 2005 is " as accurate " as the 1905 film, in that the camera's perspective is unchanged showing us the difference through the lens of that viewpoint, hundred years later. We can only imagine how the 2105 ride would look like in comparison to the 2005 one, again from that same viewpoint.
    -------
    Something else, here's a quote from the book Atget, John Szarkowski :
    Perhaps Brassaï made the definitive empty garden chair photograph, and surely his friend Henry Miller wrote the definitive caption for all such photographs :
    " Among all the objects which Brassaï has photographed his chair with the wire legs stands out with a majesty which is singular and disquieting. It is a chair of the lowest demonination, a chair which has been sat on by beggars and by royalty, by little trot-about whores and by queenly opera divas. It is a chair which the municipality rents daily to any and everyone who wishes to pay fifty centimes for sitting down in the open air. A chair with little holes in the seat and wire legs which come to a loop at the bottom.The most unostentatious chair, the most inexpensive, the most ridiculous chair, if a chair can be ridiculous, which could be devised. Brassaï chose precisily this insignificant chair and, snapping it where he found it, unearthed what there was in it of dignity and veracity. THIS IS A CHAIR. Nothing more. No sentimentalism about the lovely backsides which once graced it, no romanticism about the lunatics who fabricated it, no statistics about the hours of sweat and anguish that went into the creation of it, no sarcasm about the era which produced it, no odious comparisons with the chairs of other days, no humbug about the dreams of the idlers who monopolize it, no scorn for the nakedness of it, no gratitude either."
    Miller is, of course, pulling our leg. The photograph is about all the things he denies.​
    I wonder if there's a line to be drawn between the transcendent and the imaginary, even though the imaginary in turn can be transcendent.
     
  183. Luca, thanks. Yes. Transcendence can be intentional for many photographers and it can be a way of viewing for many viewers and it can just be, without intention, because of something about the medium and the individual vision and presentation.
    I agree with you that color can transcend as well as black and white.
    I think I understand what you mean by "the frame transcends" and I think the frame/framing (not a literal frame of course, say, made of wood, but the act and result of framing) is a key element in a photograph's being transcendent. I've always considered the implied frame of a photograph to be both a limit and a move toward transcendence. Seeing the photographic space alongside that space from which it was made seems to suggest that symbolic nature of the photograph itself.
    The time element you're talking about is one means of transcendence. Times Square has changed a lot in just the time since Rudy Giuliani cleansed it of a lot of its character and commercialized and Trumpized it in the last decade or so. Your photo is a photo and is not Times Square and in that sense is transcendent. Relatively speaking, it is also not especially a transcendent photo and it's not trying to be that. There are more transcendent photos of Times Square, even to me, right here and now in the present. I'll try to find a couple of examples.
     
  184. Phylo, I'm grateful for the final line about Miller pulling our leg. When I read "THIS IS A CHAIR. Nothing more." I laughed. As if there is just a chair. Hah! Again, back to Julie's great post on what "is" the chair. There is no chair absent things that are supposedly not part of what the chair is. The Platonic chair is a myth, although it's a very stimulating and rich Idea ;)))
    Wow. The difference between imaginary and transcendent. My first impulse is to say that imagination is more personal than transcendence. Imagination seems more about me and transcendence seems somehow outside of me. But I need to think more about it all. Thanks for the spark.
     
  185. Luis: "Do you think a viewer can hear the claviers, too, or just feasts on the density of the information within the frame?
    Is this ballet, secret even unto the participants, important to the historians/researchers/lay people of the future?"
    Considering its a photo of two young black men in an alley, there are odds someone might put a dark interpretation on it, but all the responses it's gotten so far are smiles. I think people feel something "lighthearted" when viewing it. As to its importance to the future? Possibly. According to friends and family who visit here from Chicago and St Louis, race relations here "feel" different than in their cities. It's not all sweetness and light here, just different. Their phrase is "not menacing". In the defacto segregation era (or even afterwards) I doubt Charles "One Shot" Harris would have photographed on the streets of a white neighborhood, for example. I look at this photo by Swank (1934) and I think "these kids lived in the same neighborhood"
    http://www.chronicle.pitt.edu/media/pcc040913/historic_photos_PGH.html
    Thinking about my photos of African Americans or of white and black together, I guess there's an absence of "menace" or "tension" of a racial sort. I'm not out documenting race relations, but the photos "suggest" not menacing, not tense. So, yeah "possibly".
    "[ Nobody threw out the "landfill" Zapruder film because it was accidentally made by an amateur on his lunch hour.]"
    Historicity. My landfill comment had nothing to do with "amateur", but a colossal mass of undocumented images.
     
  186. Actually, Phylo, the way Szarkowski wrote this, quoting Miller and then adding his own clincher at the end, is a transcendent kind of writing. His means of writing itself makes a point that the words themselves written differently and more narratively wouldn't have. The ability to set up and then undermine has a certain power beyond what the words themselves say. It puts some onus back on the reader!
     
  187. With regards to Phylo's two Market Street clips (and I have biked, walked, trolley-ed and driven it), when we look at the earlier one, we are seeing a world to which we are not desensitized. Also, a world which was far freer, and had a street life. Ours does not, not like that. The earlier view is more organic and free-form. The latter is more restrained, between the lines, and we are quite desensitized to it.
    __________________________________
    I don't know of a single archive of documents and/or photographs that is not being digitized, if it isn't already. The idea that archives of the future will still be primarily paper has little to support it presently. Don's idea of the supremacy of paper prints is endemic, hardly the norm today, much less likely to be that 100 years from now. The costs of maintaining paper collections is becoming unsustainable.
    Don, I lived in Chicago for years, though have never spent much time in St. Louis (what a nice name!). In large parts of Chicago, it's not sweetness and light either, I assure you. It's different everywhere, and those differences are real and significant and part of the identity of a certain timespace coordinate.
    One great thing about the landfill, as you call it, is that as long as the photographs are labeled, I can do a search, and in seconds find all the Benkovitz pictures there. I understand what you are saying and doing, but I do think you are undervaluing what others are doing, and the future value of their work. Yes, I know about provenance, historicity and market values of objects. Their value as documents depends on who's looking, and why.
    ___________________________
     
  188. A difference between the 1905 and 2005 footage is how many people are on the street; and the very structured environment of 2005 compared to the near anarchic one in 1905.
    The bicyclists in the 2005 caught my attention. It seems their one-only behaviors replicate what is common in the 1905 footage. In 1905 everyone jaywalks it seems. In 2005, one bicycalist rides over a median island; one bicycalist waves; one crosses the street dismounted. Is this "real" or "staged"? Is the 2005 one replicating more than the route of the 1905? Or are these behaviors just part of being on the street, and not staged because there is no need to. People jaywalk, U-turn, wave etc. Maybe the need to stage is that there's no guarantee there'll be bicycalists on Market St at the moment, but they are there commonly otherwise.
    But, it seems, foot traffic is a rarity on the street in 2005. It makes it less interesting for me than 1905, or even when I lived and worked on Market in the 60s and 70s.
     
  189. "can transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? Can a photographer or a viewer transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph? "
    I think a photograph, sometimes, takes on a life of its own transcending both the photographer and subject.

    We are recording the world as we try to perceive it.......but, the camera takes on a life of its own, seeing, and perceiving in different unique ways. We see what we think we are seeing.... what the camera can sometime see is a different story...but we lay claim to it as our art.

    Light does not dance to our tune; neither does the cosmos except our consciousness...what we think we are photographing with our art might be something totally different in reality. The camera, just a tool, can show another reality, not the reality we have created in our minds.

    How many times have you taken a photograph which was not really yours but something else? And then we wonder, sometimes, why the viewer sees more than we in the photograph.... the photograher.

    Just a thought.
     
  190. and slap!
    "Miller is, of course, pulling our leg." good read Phylo. Caption or critique it captivates me takes me on a ride and provides surprise. pause. It is left up to me now in spite of a strong lead. A favorite way (for me) to learn something... "It puts some onus back on the reader!"


    Like this gave me pause Luca "He kept his film undeveloped for years, and not by chance. It was deliberate, partly because of his workflow, partly because he wanted "distance" from his shots." especially meaningful to me as I process some very old film and scan some negs that I overlooked/shelved years ago. I am enjoying the tangible benefits of distance in time and easing of the burden of intent or expectations.
     
  191. Josh,
    you know what I'm doing right now?
    Scanning film I shot something over 30 years ago. With my father's Leica III. Must have been 15 years old, or so. Experience was what it was, the lighmeter scale did not match the aperture scale on the lens, so I guessed. Ilford Pan F.
    The film is terribly damaged, some photos you cannot look at, but there are a few, which maybe ...
    ... could be somehow transcendent. :)
     
  192. "He kept his film undeveloped for years, and not by chance"
    Really, does that make him something special? Or, perhaps too much arse staring was involved.
    Most photographers can't wait to see their results but i suppose it's Artsy to wait so you say.
     
  193. Allen, I read Luca and the GW quote as an observation not a proclamation. not an art decree.
     
  194. Allen,
    Really, does that make him something special? Or, perhaps too much arse staring was involved.​
    Yours is a rhetorical question. We all well know that it does not make him special at all. What makes him special - are some, or most of his pictures, depending on your politics.
    It's a free world you know, fortunately.
    By the way, the post was about gaining a distance from one's photographic work, taking GW as an example.
    It was not, as Josh notes, an overall endorsement of his work.
     
  195. Josh, did i say otherwise? just an observation about Artsy things

    ..nothing personal, yet;))
     
  196. “ Yours is a rhetorical question”
    Well, sort of with an innuendo thrown in.
    “gaining a distance from one's photographic work”
    Just tells me that that there is a lack of confidence.
    Either it works or does not.
    Only Art Directors make the banal work if they are of a mind to.
     
  197. :)
    Just tells me that that there is a lack of confidence​
    Where? Of Whom?
    According to firm statements I read here and around, I would say the contrary: there are so many self-confident, self-nominated "photographic artists" that it is definitely easier to count those who do not think they are.
     
  198. Luca "By the way, the post was about gaining a distance from one's photographic work, taking GW as an example."


    with that in mind, I think that distance from my own work is one of the great rewards I have experienced in photography and other mediums. I love the day that I experience a disconnect from my work. When it engages me primarily as a viewer. As an architectural designer I can almost feel a tangible switch flip the day that I walk on to one of my projects and forget (nearly) that this is my creation. Transcending my involvement, my role..? It most often happens months even years later, once a client has claimed the space and made it there own. The disconnect from my input is not 100% but it somehow just feels like it doesn't belong to me anymore. and I like that. The same with photographs. I look at photos I have authored and posted and I am more viewer than creator. Putting that distance to work as a creator does put a different twist on the process.
     
  199. Luca
    I don’t think so. Too many Virgins worried about if they can perform. Be honest most of you are too scared to post a photo.
    Have a little think.

    “I love the day that I experience a disconnect from my work.”
    Why would you want to distance yourself from your work which is part of you? Your work is an integral part of yourself.... walk way? See it from a distance, an observer; think again, nobody walks away from themselves and becomes a remote viewer...
     
  200. Allen, you must be having fun.
    I'm glad you do.
    I have always longed for free, on-line psychoanalytical work, and I thank you for that.
    I still believe that there is way too little self-criticism around, but, as I repeat, it's a free world. Fortunately.
     
  201. Allen I am not claiming the disconnect as an absolute. But I can view my work without investing in or caring for the who done it.
    "Why would you want to distance yourself from your work which is part of you?" I enjoy the perspective. and I learn from it. besides my work is loaded with self indulgence.
    "...nobody walks away from themselves and becomes a remote viewer..." I don't feel remote from the work i am viewing it actually just opens a door to a different relationship to my work. If 'remote viewer' means viewer without remembering or considering all that went into the process ..." The disconnect from my input is not 100% but it somehow just feels like it doesn't belong to me anymore. and I like that."
     
  202. When i look at someone’s portfolio i often feel I’m looking beyond a Photograph....a reflection of their personae...or. Soul to those of that persuasion.....

    Try it.
     
  203. Response to Transcendence and Transformation
    "...looking beyond a Photograph....a reflection of their personae...or. Soul..." .
    now we're back.
     
  204. Josh,
    I very much agree with you.
    I enjoy the perspective. and I learn from it.​
    is exactly my attitude. It is impossible for me to detach completely from my photographic work. Normally I can recall the situation when I took each photo very precisely, even after decades.
    But time somehow places a thin emotional diaphragm between me and my work which makes me view and appreciate it better. I really enjoy it.
     
  205. “Allen, you must be having fun.
    I'm glad you do.”
    Life should always have fun otherwise it will be sad place.... but i think you are missing the point. Pre- conceived thought are defunct in evolutionary terms as they trap the mind into chewing the cud.
    As i said before.... have a little think before you dismiss. Apologise for being self righteous but methinks I’ve pressed the button.
    “The disconnect from my input is not 100% but it somehow just feels like it doesn't belong to me anymore. and I like that."”
    Fantasy my friend.
    Your work is you.... stop trying to tell me stuff and nonsense which neither of us believes. You will be telling me next you travel out of body on astral journeys.
     
  206. Allen, I have lost my ability to give the benefit of doubt to your comments. I won't play along. I don't like to play with my perception of bait in these forums.
    Now for the meat I gleaned from your prior post. I too have always learned from a body of work and "When i look at someone’s portfolio i often feel I’m looking beyond a Photograph....a reflection of their personae...or. Soul to those of that persuasion....." At least that is what I hope to find... 'a reflection'. Those are among the portfolios or stand alone photographs that ring my bell. Those are the ones I will likely label as having lasting presence or transcendence from the ordinary.
     
  207. "thin emotional diaphragm between me and my work which makes me view and appreciate it better. I really enjoy it."
    Tempus Fugas, the flying of time, creates a better photograph,eventually.
    Jeez, all that bin stuff i better keep.
    Right on.
     
  208. “I won't play along. I don't like to play with my perception of bait in these forums.”
    Nothing to play along with or baiting, Josh. I speak as i think ...really that simple to understand.
    Debate is debate.
     
  209. Sort of feel I’ve spoilt the party.

    Oh, well , as the tune goes.
     
  210. Although I am critical of Smith's Pittsburgh project, I think the work he did immediately after is profound -- the "Loft" photos. The jazz musicians, his daughter, the window and what he placed there, whether shooting clouds or the street below through it. I think these photos are both documentary and transcendent, and, imo, his best work.
     
  211. I speak as i think ...really that simple to understand.​
    Simple enough. And then there are those who think before they speak...not that difficult to comprehend.
     
  212. I have to answer to my perception Allen. and here I will take the 'bait' (my word) as an example of my perception.
    "Your work is you.... stop trying to tell me stuff and nonsense which neither of us believes." it is speaking your mind Allen but not debate as I read it. it is a projection and a declaration that I am being dishonest.
    “The disconnect from my input is not 100% but it somehow just feels like it doesn't belong to me anymore. and I like that." Take it on, oppose it and I will gladly continue. But tell me I don't believe what I say, then I won't play. Tell me to "have a little think" or "try it" or "You will be telling me next you travel out of body on astral journeys." and I am not going to be able to muster enough interest to respond. What do I care, to simply disagree with your take on what I wrote.


    "Your work is you...." as stand alone statement, I agree on that. I will even take it one step more and say that the more I see of myself in a photo the more invested and successful as the communicator I become. Which is probably why I like my own work so much, because I get it as a viewer. It is me - about me - for me and hopefully sometimes about and for others. and it is that perspective I enjoy when I encounter my work from a distance. For me, a reflection inward and outward. and not just the external nature of things. beyond superficial (not intended as a derogatory label). Some of my best photos (friends) are superficial.
     
  213. Luis, I think awhile back in this thread you wrote that the history or narrative of Eisenstaedt's "Kiss" wasn't in the image but the documentation -- in the caption and in the publication of it. We know about it because it is documented and has social and cultural value. I doubt Victor Jorgensen's similar image would be known except by association with Eisenstaedt's. You can search Google Images and find Benkovitz because you already have documentation, the name, the city, but even then it is not enough because that information has to be associated with the images where they are found. Otherwise, there is no match, and you get no hits. It's not magic, it is work.
     
  214. I've been thinking about two things, fragments of larger posts, that Don wrote in two different posts somewhere long ago in this very long thread. The fragments are:
    "I have to do is see the 'plenum' as a photograph; form and content; make coherent something that did not come together nor was it put together to be coherent photographically."​
    And, in a separate post:
    "But for one shot, there would be no geometrical framing of subjects, but a content that is organic, dynamic. That means the forms are fluid rather than geometrically fixed. Whether the shot has a form for frame or whether or not there are geometrical compositional elements in the shot, isn't the issue. Privileging them is."​
    My thoughts -- which have not reached any conclusion and which I almost certainly am not taking in the way Don meant them -- have started with me wondering about the difference between how peopled scenes arrange themselves and how "organic" scenes (by which I am thinking unpeopled natural landscapes, though Don did not say that) are arranged. It seems to me that the simplest overarching difference is that a peopled landscape is overtly motivated where the natural landscape is -- I can't say unmotivated because we all know that ecology is inherently balanced on supply and demand but, what would be a good way to say it? In equilibrium? From our speedy point of view, it *appears* to be unmotivated. As if it falls into place; as if it is not "desirous,"; not "motivated".
    Peopled landscapes seem to be often (most of the time ...) not in equilibrium. There are desires (motives, deceptions, conflicts, tensions, etc.). Which (finally getting to my point) leads me to wonder if or how much desire is necessary for transcendence? Is transcendence about the participation in/with the desires inherent or suggested by a scene; or in the case of a natural scene, is transcendence dependent on the viewer's infusing that scene with his/her own desires?
    How different is it (in what way) to infuse a scene with your own desires versus to allow the scene's desires to infuse you? Or to share in, participate in, the (implied/transcendent) desires of a scene? [If you aren't comfortable with the word "desires" try "motivations".] What's the connection between the "coloring," the "scent," the pull that bends your mind -- given to scenes by the viewer, the photographer and/or those (people or other animate or intentionally manufactured things) shown in a picture -- between all that, and transcendence? Is such desire or motivation necessary for such evocation?
     
  215. Don - "Luis, I think awhile back in this thread you wrote that the history or narrative of Eisenstaedt's "Kiss" wasn't in the image but the documentation -- in the caption and in thepublication of it. We know about it because it is documented and has social and cultural value."
    To which I would add we saw it first, and its narrative was largely fixed (no longer a vacuum for the viewer to fill) and/or specific.


    Don - "I doubt Victor Jorgensen's similar image would be known except by association with Eisenstaedt's."
    Indeed, that is the case.
    Don - "You can search Google Images and find Benkovitz because you already have documentation, the name, the city, but even then it is not enough because that information has to be associated with the images where they are found. Otherwise, there is no match, and you get no hits. It's not magic, it is work."
    All I had was the name from you. It is hardly an historically significant spot except to the locals, and historians, as far as I know.
    I never said, hinted or thought that it was "magic". Never used the word. Nor have I made a single statement against the notion of hard work. What I did suggest is that excellence requires much more than hard work (and listed the first things that came to mind). I never said/implied or suggested they were substitutes for it.
    At times, it may not sound like it, but barring a few ideas, I feel Don and I are closer than it seems.
    I cannot thank Don enough for getting me thinking about documentary work as I may be driven to it shortly by circumstances beyond my control ( I can't hep it).
     
  216. Luis, I meant no implications about regarding magic and work. I meant it as a general observation, not directed to your comments. Sloppy writing on my part. I think we, and Fred and other participants, are not in disagreement. Rather I think we each have an emphasis that is significant, important to us, and we want it heard. Sometimes we think it isn't heard clearly, is all.
     
  217. Don - "Luis, I meant no implications about regarding magic and work. I meant it as a general observation, not directed to your comments."
    Sorry I misunderstood you, Don. We're good. I think your last sentence is spot-on.
     
  218. Just when we were beginning to kick back & slack a little in this thread, Julie typed:
    "
    It seems to me that the simplest overarching difference is that a peopled landscape is overtly motivated where the natural landscape is -- I can't say unmotivated because we all know that ecology is inherently balanced on supply and demand but, what would be a good way to say it? In equilibrium?"
    It's too early for this, but I'll try (unformed thought caveats shields up). Neither arena is in equilibrium. Both are changing, but in different time scales, as you allude to above. Nature has its order, and so does humanity. While a city may look nonsensical or haphazard to many, there's order there. Abraham Maslow's shopping list for human survival has to be met somehow, in one configuration or another, for the inhabitants to survive and thrive. In the same manner that ecology fits what we find in nature. In any scene, whether on the cable car on Market St or high in the Sierras, "arrangements" depend on consciousness observing/selecting/making an exposure(s) from a timespace coordinate, or in Julie's case, make that multiple ones.
    Other things beside desire can lead to transcendence. Curiosity, insight, logic, emotions, etc. Enough is required to break through our preconceptions. To get us out of our stupor (duh-ness?) long enough for a glimpse of what's been before us all along, but we hadn't noticed. The obvious is the last thing we see. Ego leads us to think we're seeing all there is to see, but in reality we are mostly blind.
    Julie - "How different is it (in what way) to infuse a scene with your own desires versus to allow the scene's desires to infuse you?"
    Scene's desires? I usually let them have their way with me. Hopefully, there's a lotta infusing going on, though some like being in control, and others submissive. A few hardy pilgrims circle their wagons somewhere in between, or so I am told.
    There's many roads to transcendence, and not all of them require desire, motivation, or even energy. Sometimes slowing down, as in contemplation, will do it.
     
  219. I think it's to a great extent about what tools are used and how and how the photo is "read."
    Luca's shot of Times Square: He claimed not to "desire" to create a transcendent Times Square and, indeed, for the most part, he didn't. That's not, to me, a matter of cause and effect (or a matter of city vs. country) as much as a matter of the photographic choices he made.
    Had he happened to use or chosen to use a different perspective and had he happened to catch or chosen to catch a different kind of lighting reflecting off the buildings, had there been something of a symbolic nature in the foreground, some action among New Yorkers, some facial expression, some seemingly "meaningful" configuration of traffic, there might have been some transcendent elements in the photo (regardless of his "desires"). Had he shot from a crane with an American flag on a long pole blowing against the sky towering above the square, we'd have more places to go suggested by the picture. They wouldn't have to be just elements of content. Had he employed a different depth of field, a lens that might have created a different perspective, . . .
    I don't know that we can always assess the photographer's motivation and the psychological road to transcendence. My claim would be that things like space, focus, shadows, light, texture, gesture, expression, perspective, composition, framing, internal relationships between content and form, contrast, internal relationship between content and color, use of symbols and signs are where the hints at transcendence lie.
    Leads me to a difference I came up with in thinking about Phylo's question about imagination and transcendence . . .
    Imagination seems looser and less directly tied to or based on reality, though of course we can't imagine anything without at least some basis for the imagining. But transcendence has a ground, something specific as the jumping off point. Imagination runs more wild. Imaginings run away with themselves and seem more loosely based on reality. Transcendence usually has a more specific starting point, the thing transcended. Photographs seem conducive to transcendence. They are symbolic by nature, by medium.
    Transcendence seems dependent on some sort of initial focus, a focus proximate to the transcending. Imagination builds upon all my past experience. It absorbs as it goes along and is in flight at will and draws from a lot of wellsprings for its inspiration and meat. Transcendence seems a letting go of even greater magnitude than imagination, but it seems initially more tied to specifics. I find more tension in transcendence than in imagination, more of a direct dialogue or dialectic with "reality." The photograph not being the photographed but needing the photographed.
    If the photograph is NOT the photographed, it is in some sense a negation of what we otherwise see and know.
     
  220. "Luca's shot of Times Square..."
    If it was linked to or posted to this thread, I missed it. Is it in Luca's portfolio here? While browsing it, I found an image or two similar to some I've shot. Perhaps it would be of use to the discussion if we posted our photos that illustrate our points. I can speak confidently and with authority about my own, much moreso than I could for anyone elses, including Eisenstaedt, Smith, Winogrand, Swank. I posted one awhile back in the thread to illustrate the 'narrative in one's head' vs the suggestion of narrative in the image. Perhaps to post images might seem to make the forum a critique forum, but we are able, I think, to stick to the subject -- or, at least, bring it back home after wandering.
     
  221. Luca linked to his Times Square photo in his post of May 31, 12:21 PM, in the last paragraph.
     
  222. Thanks, Fred. I did miss the link. Here's one in my portfolio superficially similar to Luca's. No intention linking to it. I just was seeing some similarities in our photos, and the Time's Square one seemed a fit.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11056778
    For those photographer's who shoot with the intention to make a transcendent photo, do you have a viewership in mind? If so, does that determine anything about the photo as you create it (concept, exposure, post, print...whatever)? There are 7 billion subjectivities out there to address. Perhaps Luca's photo is transcendent for someone whether he intended it or not.
     
  223. I'm aware that there will be viewers of my photos. I do use photographs as a means of expression and communication. I have a good friend who's a poet. He knows his words will be understood by English speakers, say, as opposed to Russian speakers, and he also knows different spins and interpretations will be given to his words, different reactions to the somewhat 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.
    Japanese photographs seem to have some cultural similarities that can be studied and written about. There is a style to French films that can be distinguished from American films. But Americans have at least some understanding of what's going on in French films, likely because of some more universal commonalities.
    In any case, the last few posts have been about how one might go about creating a photograph with more suggestibility of transcendence. What I'm talking about here is not whether transcendence is in the actions of the photographer, in the photograph itself, or in the mind of the viewer. For me, that starts getting us back to abstract metaphysical issues like whether narrative is in one's head or not and can quickly spiral away from a nuts-and-bolts discussion of the topic at hand. I'm focused on what are photographic elements and/or characteristics of transcendence.
     
  224. How about if I get horribly basic? I don't have to look at pictures. I don't have to make pictures. I don't look at pictures for information (except when I do look at pictures for information :) ). I look at pictures because I want ... what? Because of what they *do* to me; because there is an ignition ... [not wanting to stir up sediment from early disagreement in this thread, I'll leave it there].
    For me the transcendent is not separable from or out of my experience of what a picture does to me; what I go to pictures to hoping to have done to me.
     
  225. "I'm focused on what are photographic elements and/or characteristics of transcendence."


    I think it results from the tension between the photograph and the photographed. In that way all photographs are transcendent unless one really works at it (forensic photography for example). I realize this doesn't satisfy the op. When I was a little boy every summer Saturday there was a matinee for a dime at the local theater. Often the main feature was a western and often in Technicolor. Leaving the theater, one re-entered the real world which seemed dull in comparision, not as distinctive, rich and...well...perfect.
     
  226. Apples to oranges, Don. Unless there are two different Dons: one in the theater and one outside the theater.
    Some experiences are intense; some are mundane. Some movies are intense; some are mundane. Some pictures ... and so on and so on.
    A relevant quote about ethnographic (documentary) filmmaking:
    " ... It was never the physical body that was felt to be missing in ethnographic films. The body was constantly and often extravagantly before us in its diversity of faces, statures, costumes, and body decorations. It was all too easy to present such images with their accompanying exoticism. What was missing was not the body but the experience of existing in it."
    " ... The willingness to borrow, to cut across the grain of human perspectives, has become a way of combating intellectual and moral tunnel vision."​
    -- from The Subjective Voice in Ethnographic Film by David MacDougall
     
  227. And the black and white movie or photograph is not vividly, vibrantly colorful as the real world. It's the difference.
    "Some experiences are intense; some are mundane. Some movies are intense; some are mundane. Some pictures ... and so on and so on."
    If transcendence occurs in your feelings, then there are 7 billion subjectivities out there among whom might be some who feel what you find intense is mundane and vice versa.
    Is it my saying transcendence is common that is the problem? Must transcendence be special, for you?
     
  228. The photograph is a transduction and subset, information-wise, of light, and its absence, echoing from the world into print/file form. It is a transformation, and while less is often more, I'm not so sure all photographs automatically transcend the reality from where they originate.
    Transcendence need not be "special", but if all photographs have the quality, it's like water to a goldfish, no? Perhaps it is common at a low level, extremely rare at others. We speak of it as if there is but one type/level.
    ....and sometimes things just as they are are can be unbearably intense.
     
  229. When photographs were first available people marveled at their realness, that nature itself could draw with light (often misquoted as painting with light). The first motion pictures available were the Actualities, a minute's worth of footage of workers walking through the plant gate, the train pulling into the station. Audiences were thrilled and astonished. We are both amused and wonderous when we read of early audiences fleeing their seats when the train came head-on on the screen, but the base fact remains: there is a realness about photographic images; we know a photograph is of something actually existing in front of the camera, the photographed. Unlike in the first enthusiasm, we aren't confused anymore by their similarities.
    Both still and moving pictures eventually left the subjects of the Actualities behind and opted for the rare, usually via story telling -- The Movies, and in photography in the search for unique and rare views -- 'rare' to the intended viewer. Whether it is straight photography a la Ansel, or the most surreal and obscure, there is a preferential option for difference, uniqueness, rarity. And that's where the transcendence is, in the difference. And any photograph is already different. A large part of the art of photography is being aware of the difference and modulating it to one's desired end.
     
  230. "What I'm talking about here is not whether transcendence is in the actions of the photographer, in the photograph itself, or in the mind of the viewer. For me, that starts getting us back to abstract metaphysical issues like whether narrative is in one's head or not and can quickly spiral away from a nuts-and-bolts discussion of the topic at hand. I'm focused on what are photographic elements and/or characteristics of transcendence."
    I can't think of anything more metaphysical than 'transcendence'. I can't think about the photographic elements of transcendence without reference to the photographer, the photograph itself, or the viewer. What's left? The subject?
     
  231. From June 1, 9:21 AM:
    "My claim would be that things like space, focus, shadows, light, texture, gesture, expression, perspective, composition, framing, internal relationships between content and form, contrast, internal relationship between content and color, use of symbols and signs are where the hints at transcendence lie." --Fred
     
  232. And what does this transcendence transcend?
     
  233. I'll answer my questions and move on. The absence of 'subject' in Fred's list points to transcendence meaning the transformation (the other word in the thread's title) into a subject created from the raw, or presenting, material. Rather like a Demiurge, or perhaps a dramaturge, but it means something Promethean. I'm not that sort of photographer (or person, for that matter), so I move on.
     
  234. "What are the ways in which a photographer (or you as photographer) and a viewer (perhaps you as a viewer) can transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph?" --Fred
    "A subject, scene or even a particular detail can be isolated in a photo in a manner very differently from how a subject or scene or detail stands out from its background, context, and periphery in the moment we see it." --Fred
    "I was thinking along the lines of what qualities might be added to or subtracted from a subject itself that would change it." --Fred
    "So much is gained and lost by photographing and I tend to see photographs in different terms than I see their subjects when those subjects are not mediated by framing (figuratively and literally) and a lens." --Fred
    "I know I've made some portraits where the portrait expresses more intimacy than the actual relationship I had with the subject of the portrait. In that way, the relationship is transcended and transformed photographically." --Fred
    "But in a very real way, and in addition to the performance angle, the subject
    is what I care about. I have intimate relationships with my subjects, both as photographer and as viewer. I wouldn't exchange them for the world." --Fred
    "As a matter of fact, sometimes the conjuring leads me back to a new vision/understanding of the subject (and of myself)."
    --Fred
    "If a viewer recognizes that my portrait of X is not X and that some of what the viewer is seeing is what the viewer is projecting onto X because of what she's seeing in the photo (e.g., the way I chose to capture the lighting, the perspective I shot from) and because of what I, with my photographic tools, have projected onto X, then the subject of my portrait has been transcended to some extent." --Fred
    "I'm not that sort of photographer (or person, for that matter), so I move on." --Don

    We may see photography (that's unclear at this point) and we so seem to see these forums differently.
     
  235. John A A photographer can consciously or unconsciously use a subject to express something else and in so doing transform the object as can a viewer. However, the photographer's success may be individual to that specific viewer.

    Felix Grant a photograph always transcends the object(s) photographed, and is always itself at least "a" and often "the" subject.

    Wouter Willemse To what extent is the photograph itself the subject? - for me, the second case, the photo becomes the subject.


    Steve Gubin There is no one type of photograph or subject matter which gives me this feeling, either.


    Wouter Willemse As photos of something (and in that sense, the photo still is subject)


    Dan South I think that the photograph is always at least a secondary subject (and in some cases the primary)


    Dan South But a camera can delve stealthily into these foreboding places. In these instances the camera gives us a far more intimate view of the subject than our eyes ever could.


    Steve J Murray I think that he subject of a photograph is always transcended or transformed when viewed by another human being


    Josh Dunham Wood A still performance in the case of photography (making live performance analogies problematic) It also could not exist without the subject that the photographer/camera records.

    The light, the background and processing was for a pepper, that pepper was the chosen subject and the magic relied on it.


    I do agree that part of the magic of this pepper is the tight framing. I also think that a documentary photograph (meeting any requirements) can transcend the subject, photograph or message.

    A photo that rises above the ordinary that I normally encounter, to the extent that I would suggest that it transcends the subject, content, etc., is just as likely to leave you flat.

    It is only when I allow that all photos transcend subject (for me, hypothetical for the moment) can I find difficulty achieving non-transcendent photos of any genre including documentary.


    Luca Alessandro Remotti Photography is different from painting, and it is different from poetry. The photographer controls the visual message to the extent to which he/she is willing and/or capable of directing the setting and the behaviour of the subject. In painting, mastering the technique is mastering the visual effects.

    Winogrand said (I hope the quotation is right) "I photograph to see how things look photographed". Isn't that an admission of lack of control on the appearance of the subject photographed, and indirectly on the impact on the viewer?

    There is also time to develop a photographic relationship between photographer and subject before pressing the shutter.
    But sometimes the photographer does not have this time. There are photographic situations which build up and decompose in seconds.


    The photographer's purpose might well be transcendence and transformation of the subject photographed, but his viewers might be unable to understand it.

    My recording and documentation almost always includes people, and their emotions. It is very difficult that an inanimate subject - even the ones photographed by me - would strike me particularly.


    Arthur Plumpton For me, what Fred says here is the key to transformation, transcendence, transmutation and perhaps fantasy. Presenting a photo of a subject in a neutral and non-subjective way (if that indeed is possible), or as close to that as possible, is not really what drives me. What does, however, is my interpretation of the scene

    Allen Herbert I think a photograph, sometimes, takes on a life of its own transcending both the photographer and subject.


    There you go, a summary of the "nuts-and-bolts discussion of the topic at hand." Consider it my contribution to the thread.
     
  236. Don, I honestly don't know why you're being so hostile. I thought this was a good discussion, a lengthy one, and a substantive one. It's one that, like many others, got a bit off track at times and indulged tangents from all of us and yet seemed to come back home. If something is bothering you, if you feel in some way misunderstood or mistreated, just say what's on your mind. Others, including me, have certainly done that here.
     
  237. No hostility, Fred. I do think there is as much disinterest in the way I approach the subject, as I am disinterested in other approaches. When you left subject out of the list "What I'm talking about here is not whether transcendence is in the actions of the photographer, in the photograph itself, or in the mind of the viewer" and those things listed given an association to "abtract metaphysics", I realized this was not a topic I should post to. It is odd though that near everything I've posted has been about the subject, even specific subjects of specific photos, and describing my goal of decentering the concept of the main subject, and decomposing the subject altogether into "content", so that subjects aren't something *in* a photograph -- all these things do not permit the Promethan transformation of raw material that you mean by "transcendence". So, there is no point in me continuing. I have however worked out some issues about those things, here in this thread. That's been valuable to me.
     
  238. "the Promethan transformation of raw material that you mean by 'transcendence'."
    I see this as a projection, not an open or fair listening.
     
  239. Seeing a subject "vs" seeing itself being the subject, overlapping but these two may be the key difference's here in approaching photography towards a ( non ) - transcendence in / of the photographs subject.
     
  240. Main Entry: Pro·me·the·an Pronunciation: \prə-ˈmē-thē-ən\ Function: adjective Date: 1594
    : of, relating to, or resembling Prometheus, his experiences, or his art; especially : daringly original or creative
    one who acts in a Promethean manner; of or pertaining to Prometheus; daringly original; boldly inventive or creative; of a Romantic literary hero ...
    en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Promethean
     
  241. Being a simplistic soul, and wanting also to avoid Landrum's WWI gas attack, I would just like to reiterate my feeling, similarly stated by someone above (God bless his heart), that transcendence merely means "going beyond", or perhaps also "surpassing" or (the Kantian) "not realizable in experience". This is perfecty compatible with the thinking man's photography; it reduces to the quest of interpreting something beyond it's apparent perceived boundaries of completeness or realism, and the venturing into a poetic or contemplative space.
    Perhaps the result of that can be even called a transformation.
    Look and don't repeat what you see, but see what you wish not to repeat (AP, 2010).
     
  242. Don- "Winogrand said (I hope the quotation is right) "I photograph to see how things look photographed". Isn't that an admission of lack of control on the appearance of the subject photographed, and indirectly on the impact on the viewer?"
    Not necessarily. In spite of the persistent neediness for iron-fisted control on the part of many, for Winogrand (and Szarkowski) form and content do not solely belong to the world, the camera or the eye -- but all of them simultaneously. The sum of all this is beyond any photographer's control (that means you and me, too) due to the innumerable amount of variables. Any imperceptible shift produces a different image. It's not lack of control. It's saying the notion of control is an illusion. This point is particularly driven home when dealing with dynamic, complex scenes of the kind Winogrand photographed.
    Szarkowski said: "Consider the photographs of Garry Winogrand. They are virtuoso pieces, showing us with precision three times as much as we would have thought relevant , but they also seem something more. Possibly they are celebrations of the moment when a skillful juggler is about to overreach himself and put one fragile plate too many in the air."
    [There's a hint of transcendence in there]
     
  243. Luis, I think you are responding to Luca...but I agree with what you wrote and the Szarkowski quotation.
     
  244. "It's not lack of control. It's saying the notion of control is an illusion. This point is particularly driven home when dealing with dynamic, complex scenes of the kind Winogrand photographed."
    And why I don't seek control but only want to *see* such scenes as photographically coherent and "push the button". Winogrand could do that, it seems sometimes, at will. With luck I can now and then...more or less.
     
  245. ... "photographically coherent" ...
    Now there's a loophole you can drive a truck through. Even (especially!) lovely fluffy transcendent trucks ...
     
  246. Why would you or anyone want to drive that truck? What makes you think "photographically coherent" refers to anyone's eyes but mine?
     
  247. Oops, yes, Don was quoting Luca. There's a lot of quoting going on. Sorry about that.
    Julie - "Even (especially!) lovely fluffy transcendent trucks ..."
    They come in cotton candy colors, don't they?
     
  248. Don,
    "It's not lack of control. It's saying the notion of control is an illusion. This point is particularly driven home when dealing with dynamic, complex scenes of the kind Winogrand photographed."​
    I would not put it in such absolute terms.
    As of every aspect of human life and activity, we can have some control. Some control. It's degree is varying.
    I think it is important to be realistic and consider the extent of control with awareness.
    The relationship between control and success in transcending is very variable, on the creative side, but also on the perceptive side.
     
  249. Luca - "I would not put it in such absolute terms.
    As of every aspect of human life and activity, we can have some control. Some control. It's degree is varying.
    I think it is important to be realistic and consider the extent of control with awareness.
    The relationship between control and success in transcending is very variable, on the creative side, but also on the perceptive side"
    Yes and no. While on the one side Winogrand chose this, not that, where to stand and when to release the shutter, all indicative of control, it also has to be said that the hit ratios of some of the best street photographers runs about 1:300 (for Robert Frank, a little higher). So the level of control necessary for visualization does seem a little tenuous. Working with static subjects, a view camera and tripod that ratio becomes much higher, and thus yields the illusion of control that many people have,
    __________________________
    For me, transcending myself, my own preconceptions, habits, expectations, even my own logic facilitates transcendence in my own pictures. I'm not saying I have an out-of-body (or mind) experience, but that I not only reach into myself, but beyond.
     
  250. Luis, something like this?:
    "… the invisible does not conceal everything from vision; it reveals itself as an active pressure upon vision and the visible …"​
    [Read more in that vein, here.]
     
  251. Luis G,
    it also has to be said that the hit ratios of some of the best street photographers runs about 1:300 (for Robert Frank, a little higher)​
    What do you mean by 1:300? One photo out of three hundred is good? And good according to which criteria?
    Can you give me more details on this approach to appreciation, it interests me.
    L.
     
  252. No, it has zero to do with appreciation. Nor was I saying it was good, bad or indifferent. It merely is, it is not an approach, and it does not make a very strong case for previsualization. It does have everything to do with his saying about photographing to see what things look like photographed.
    _______________________________________________
    I have a friend who always claims that his hit ratio is 1:1. He is so ego-bound that he really can't tell the difference between his better and lesser pictures. Nor can he edit! I must have drank a gallon of coffee at the last slide show he gave. Several hundred images.
    _________________________________
    Julie - Thanks for the quote. Yes, along those lines. I'll have to re-read the full post when I have more time.
    _______________________________________________________
     
  253. Luca - "One photo out of three hundred is good? And good according to which criteria?"
    The photographer's own. YMMV.
     
  254. Luis, my hit ratio seems to be similar to Winogrand and fellow photographers who have much more experience and are more astute at previsualizing and exercising control (while also using their instincts and being spontaneous) than I am tell me that their hit ratios are similar as well. My hit ratio with portraits is better than with street work and a lot of that is because I'm less practiced and experienced at street work.
    I think hit ratios have nothing to do with control or previsualization. I think it's got to do with what pictures wind up having a photographic spark when we edit and what pictures don't. As you seem to recognize, your friend's story suggests the importance of editing one's work, a practice I find to be a great fine tuning mechanism.
    One can previsualize at the same time as one transcends their own limits and preconceptions. A previsualization is not anything like a preconception. (I'm not suggesting you said it is, just wanting to make the point.) One can break free of many, many chains of preconception, strike upon something unique and new, and still previsualize the photograph from the shot in an imperceptible instant.
    Control of one's photographic resources and tools can go hand in hand with an unbounded (uncontrolled) vision. And even a very controlled vision can be transcendent. Picasso didn't continue to explore cubism with anything approaching a lack of control or a random approach to style or genre. Yet there is liberation and transcendence in his paintings.
    I experience the tension between control and randomness, between intention and accident, between preparation and spontaneity. That tension allows me the freedom to roam a very long way in-between the extremes. There are many, evidently including Winogrand, who prefer to explore deeper and deeper into one end of the spectrum. I can be just as compelled by their work as by someone who works differently. My photographic Gods continue to change. Who I'm in the mood to look at and who, if anyone, I'm in the mood to identify with, changes with my mood and my current situation and surroundings.
     
  255. "The photographer's own."
    In other words, it's a moving "target." Self-defined. By definition, the better you get, the harder *it* gets therefore 1:300 stays 1:300 if that's already *part* of the definition of a "hit."
     
  256. Great point, Phylo. I've read countless times in the street forums about how uninteresting staging and posing are because they're not spontaneous. That can only be said if you don't understand staging and posing and if you restrict your interests to one quality-god. What you're expressing goes back to the point that what's happening at the time of the shutter being snapped is not the same as what's happening in the photograph.
     
  257. Elliott Erwitt:
    "Judging one's work is really the work of other people. You cannot. Obviously, if you judge yourself you rather have an interested opinion. I think a true opinion has to come from other people."
    From a documentary filmed in the Netherlands in 2009.​
    I tend to agree. I also guess some - Allen Herbert for example - will not.
    But it's a free world, you know.
     
  258. Luca, I'm not sure exactly what point you're addressing with the Erwitt quote. Can you expand? If it has to do with doing one's own editing, I don't see editing necessarily as judgment. I see it as honing a vision and as part of a learning process, part of the photographer's own evolution. Self awareness does not have to be judging oneself. It can be as much about desire as about judging. What do I want from a photograph or body of work? I look at my work periodically and put certain photos away and may bring certain photos out of hiding. That's not because I'm worried about how "good" they are. I look for things like fluency. It's because I'm developing contexts and relationships and I'm nuancing expressions. Some stuff, of course, just plain sucks and I come to realize that.
    I agree with Erwitt to the extent that I recognize that a lot of other people are into judging, both me and my work. I am mindful of an helpful expression: "What other people think of me is none of my business." I'm much more interested in folks' reactions to my photographs and even like hearing various interpretations, etc. I do hear judgments but they don't move me as much as they once did. So, yes, it does seem to be, to a great extent, the work of other people.
     
  259. Fred,
    a premise: I believe that reasoning on these matters, researching around, is very helpful to structure my photographing frame of mind.
    In the end, photographing is about seeing. Learning to see helps (me) learning to photograph. These days I have scanned lots of photos, back into the 1970s and retrospectively I see changes, improvement in technique (which is absolutely necessary), different eyes, different approaches, different consciousness.
    What I need from others is what you mention:
    • "folks' reactions to my photographs and even like hearing various interpretations" to understand how the elements of the visual message actually impact on the viewer - beyond my individual perception; and, maybe
    • some technical suggestion (please, not on post-processing, it's not my business).
    Both for the purpose to - as you so well put it - "honing a vision and as part of a learning process, part of the photographer's own evolution."
    For example my shop window series: I did only think of using the window frame as a frame for people passing by. It was the people I was interested in (and it is people I am interested in). Now, reading the comments and looking at the result I would make some adjustments in the way I would take the photos, improving the concept.
    I would not have been able to develop further if it was not for people's reactions.
    I need these reactions by people I trust. And I gain trust reading what they write, how they write it and looking at what they photograph and how they photograph it.
    Erwitt's quotation supports my idea that we need reactions by others we trust to widen our horizons.
    I have huge difficulties - and you and me already discussed it - with the widely diffused attitude that "this photo is good just because I like it".
     
  260. "Great point, Phylo. I've read countless times in the street forums about how uninteresting staging and posing are because they're not spontaneous. "
    It would be naive to assume all street photos are unposed. Some are posed, some are of moments that repeat (like skateboarding) and might as well be posed. Even though I photograph in the street, I'm not a street photographer and do not read nor post to the street forum here. Street is not necessarily documentary as I mean it which requires provenance. A lot of street photos' destiny is the dump.
    As for driving a truck through the loophole of photographic coherence:
    This coheres
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11056792
    and this does not
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11080431
    If you can't see it, Julie, just ask any first year photography student.
    This will get you started:
    "Cohere" intransitive verb
    1 a : to hold together firmly as parts of the same mass
     
  261. Luca - "One photo out of three hundred is good? And good according to which criteria?"
    Luis: The photographer's own. YMMV.
    2008-2009 I shot 3362 photos. Out of that I've selected 181 as possible candidates for a print. In the final cut I'll print 20 or so.
     
  262. "I've read countless times in the street forums about how uninteresting staging and posing are because they're not spontaneous."
    Which is a principal reason why so many photographers are afraid to go anywhere near art and its manifest challenges. The spontaneousness comes from the mind and not the object. I often feel like a stranger among fellow photographers, and I think it has something to do with Fred's observation and my reaction to that sort of thinking. For me, transcendence is not a property of the object photographed but mainly created by the photgrapher's (or, sorry,...artist's) subjectiveness.
     
  263. "Judging one's work is really the work of other people. You cannot. Obviously, if you judge yourself you rather have an interested opinion. I think a true opinion has to come from other people." Erwitt
    The first sentence is true. People do have such jobs. He assumes the other opinions are not "interested" ones. Why does he assume that? That's their job, so they have an interest, right? What makes their opinion "true"?
     
  264. Don,
    this comes from a video interview. Erwitt intends to say "the author is not the best judge of his own photos, you require a third party input. Work is not intended in strict sense, but more in the sense of "activity". So they should not have a personal interest in promoting or rejecting a photo.
    As to my own "hit rate" it depends. If I think of those pictures of mine which
    1. have an "objective" aesthetic value
    2. have a visual message close to the one I felt when I pressed the shutter
    3. don't have marked flaws technically or physically (scratches, etc)
    out of around 6000 photos in the last 7-8 years about 40-50 would pass the cut. Means 120:1. About the same ratio as yours.
    But it's a long way before it will be completed. I'm still busy scanning.
    I have to say that I'd rather not press the shutter rather than press it. Last Saturday I "saw" four shots and I took one. But got an idea for a project of mine.
     
  265. "Erwitt intends to say "the author is not the best judge of his own photos, you require a third party input...So they should not have a personal interest in promoting or rejecting a photo."
    Maybe, but I've not found many people without an interest in photography who have much to say about any photograph. So, there is an "interest" involved. An outside party, may have something of value to say, and it can be enlightening. I'm just throwing out a caution about an absolute statement. Szarkowski didn't take GW's photos, but he had an interest in them, perhaps a "vested" interest. GW had some interesting things to say about curators, donators, and collectors.
    My hit rate depends on the specificity of the subject, and whether I think the photo coheres which is I think much like your " "objective" aesthetic value". My specificity may be close to your second bullet "visual message". The third goes without saying.
    "I have to say that I'd rather not press the shutter rather than press it. Last Saturday I "saw" four shots and I took one. But got an idea for a project of mine."
    Me, too. I don't make as many exposures as I might if I were trying to copy GW's style of shooting.
     
  266. Are we taking photographs or making photographs, in the latter concepts like ones hit rate are pretty much useless, much like hit ratio would be useless for a writer, painter, sculptor,...maybe only for a pop star the notion of it comes in really handy. The camera after all is not a gun, and photography might very well be exactly the art of not pushing the button. How else would we be able to truly transcend it ?!
     
  267. Phylo, I think Luca and I were just discussing "the art of not pushing the button" .
    A making vs taking discussion would be tedious...mere words. Luca and I were talking about making prints, after all. "writer, painter, sculptor" -- they have different tools and they work with them.
    A photograph is not the photographed, and neither is it a novel, painting, or sculpture.
     
  268. Phylo, we were talking about previsualization, and about Szarkowski's and Winogrand's stand on that subject (as it related to T&T, of course). In painting, we have drawings and sketches, sometimes dozens or more. In sculptures, drawings, models. Writers? You have to be kidding. Tons of drafts, corrections, revisions, alternate versions, etc. Not as different as you might think if we leave out the numbers and allusion to the Yang-ish "hit ratio" terminology. The creative process is rarely a laser-like line from beginning to end, without variants, vacillation, exploration etc., but you know all that.
    Fred - "I think hit ratios have nothing to do with control or previsualization."
    Let's assume Fred is right, and say they don't.
    Fred - "I think it's got to do with what pictures wind up having a photographic spark when we edit and what pictures don't. As you seem to recognize, your friend's story suggests the importance of editing one's work, a practice I find to be a great fine tuning mechanism."
    Am I misreading Fred to be saying that control and previsualization are unrelated to the sparky quality of a successful picture? If that were true what causes "sparkiness" (this is too close to P-ness for comfort) ? How can one infuse their pictures with it (breathing life into mud), or seduce it into alighting there? It certainly precedes editing.
    For that matter, how does previsualization (PV) manifest itself in a print. How could a viewer know whether the photographer believed in/used PV or not? Or is it something invisible?
    Jerry Uelsman coined the term post-visualization for work relying heavily on post-processing (back in the heyday of analog).
    Finding out Fred previsualizes is a revelation. It's the first time I've read Fred locking into something without retaining a multitude of options, escape routes and alternate possibilities.
    _____________________________________________________
    Fred, besides editing my own over the years, I've been hired to edit others' work on many ocassions, for publication and exhibitions, so yes, I am somewhat acquainted with the editing process.
    _______________________________________________________
    Don, "tedious"-ness in this forum? :)
     
  269. Luis, I wasn't questioning your familiarity with editing. What I meant by the line about control and previsualization not having to do with hit ratios is that I know far more experienced photographers than me who, even with a lot of control and previsualization, still have very few keepers out of very many shots. I think there's something more at play in choosing the keepers. The more control and previsualization one has, it may be the higher expectations one also develops of one's own work, so the ratio of keepers often doesn't increase. I'm not minimizing control and previsualization. I simply don't know whether developing those skills will increase one's ratio of keepers. What I was saying was that the ratio of keepers doesn't have to do with control and previsualization. The sparky quality of keepers has a lot to do with control and previsualization. The ratio of keepers doesn't.
     
  270. "It's the first time I've read Fred locking into something without retaining a multitude of options, escape routes and alternate possibilities." --Luis
    I appreciate your acknowledging that I try not to be an ideologue in these discussions. I prefer to take, or at least try to take, the stronger stands in my photos.
     
  271. I've understood 'pre-visualization' to mean making decisions about composition, exposure, etc at the taking, with the final print in mind. It's the final print that's pre-visualized..
    "For that matter, how does previsualization (PV) manifest itself in a print."
    I guess that's what everything between the taking and the final print is about.
    "How could a viewer know whether the photographer believed in/used PV or not? Or is it something invisible?"
    The only way they'd know is if they'd been at the taking. Ansel made that point in The Negative, just because his photos were "optically plausible" didn't mean that's what it was like at the taking. He said viewers who thought his photos were "realistic" would be shocked if they saw the scene at the taking.
     
  272. The ratio of keepers usually, as Julie mentioned, worsens with expertise -- but not their quality. This is not to say that if a one-exposure type of fleeting situation develops that the odds go down for an experienced photographer. They do not. I think it's because as people become more experienced, they work harder, take more chances, explore further, make more variants, keep working until they feel they've got it... and the personal bar gets raised, so to me it makes perfect sense when Fred says that very experienced photographers have few keepers out of many shots. It's an inverse ratio.
    A funny thing is that previsualization and control don't guarantee anything. Adams had plenty of conceptually drab, decorative photographs that amounted to little more than finger exercises of the Zone System. And Winogrand, who did not believe Adamsian previsualization was possible, certainly seemed to be able to (Intuitively? Subconsciously?) previsualize in spite of his philosophical position. I also suspect that Winogrand had one of the worst hit ratios in all of photography (save for some Flickr members, LOL!).
    [Sometimes I think Fred and I are like two moths dancing around a flickering light bulb.]
     
  273. I want to see photographs in the dynamic scene in my viewshed. It's not pre-visualization per AA because between the recognition and releasing the shutter is a time-lag during which I have no control of anything. It's a moment of uncertainty as to what is captured, and a big reason why there's that "ratio"
     
  274. Don - "It's not pre-visualization per AA because between the recognition and releasing the shutter is a time-lag during which I have no control of anything. It's a moment of uncertainty as to what is captured, and a big reason why there's that "ratio"
    Chaos increases exponentially in a system over time, so in a complex, dynamic situation one's predictive abilities plummet rapidly because of neural, operational and shutter lag as compared to a relatively static situation.
     
  275. "ones hit rate are pretty much useless" --Phylo
    The hit rate stuff seems to focus on the product (as winner) over the process and on what's good over what's significant. The product is a function of the process. Often, when I'm shooting, whether in portrait mode or in street mode or in documentary mode, I get into a rhythm by starting to take photographs, even before the actual situation I want to work with comes along. Also, I snap the shutter even when I know there's no keeper to be had because I like the feel of doing so and because I might be interested to see what something looks like photographed even though it's not a vision I think I'll want to keep around. Also, as I'm still learning, I experiment a lot with no intention of it being a finished/presentable product. Now, it is sometimes the case that my first couple of shots wind up being keepers. That could be a matter of right place, right time, a matter of my being more casual and spontaneous and that yielding something, a matter that my juices are just starting to flow and there's some power in that. But, for me, I really think getting into a rhythm with the camera, a subject, the scene, etc. is a key. And getting into that rhythm entails non-keepers. The non-keepers are essential to the keepers. I'm not sure making a distinction between them is that helpful to me.
     
  276. I can only agree with you, Fred, both about rhythm and the non-keepers and the reasons for them. Sometimes I just shoot because I want to even if there's no shot that I can see. Frustration, boredom. Once while waiting for a train on a platform in the middle of nowhere (well, Green River UT) at dawn and being sick with the flu, I shot away, and dang, they were good. You never know.
     
  277. Fred, in four or five years, I will be shooting portraits in a studio as well as around town with a camera on a tripod. I've only got four or five years to do what I'm doing now. Age and old injuries will have caught up to me by then. I'm already planning for that. I'll have to consider issues of control and pre-visualization (and probably 'transcendence'). There's always something to learn, another kind of photography to do. It's all good.
     
  278. Don Essedi, Jun 03, 2010; 09:23 p.m.
    Phylo, I think Luca and I were just discussing "the art of not pushing the button" .
    [...]. Luca and I were talking about making prints, after all. "writer, painter, sculptor" -- they have different tools and they work with them.
    A photograph is not the photographed, and neither is it a novel, painting, or sculpture.​
    Yes, that was it. Making prints rather than leaving it to proofs.
    Phylo, we were talking about previsualization​
    I realise now that there must be a process of previsualisation, even in the fastest situations. In some way taking a photograph means placing a frame around a subject from a certain point of view.
    It must become instinctive at a certain stage.
     
  279. "I realise now that there must be a process of previsualisation, even in the fastest situations."
    In photograhy the term 'previsualisation' comes from Ansel Adams. I don't want to use the term in a more general way than Adams so as to avoid confusion as somebody is sure to take it as referring to Ansel's meaning. I've taken a shot with the camera under my arm and pointing directly behind me and with my thumb on the shutter release because I saw a flash of red in my peripheral vision. Except for such things, I think visualization of some sort is going on, but classic previsualization is hardly possible, and I don't think it is very useful for the kind of photography discussed. GW said "You have a lifetime to learn technique. But I can teach you what is more important than technique, how to see; learn that and all you have to do afterwards is press the shutter."
    "Yes, that was it. Making prints rather than leaving it to proofs."
    I've been proofing, and just uploaded 80 images to Mpix for small prints to get an idea how they look on paper. I don't care much for inkjet. My darkroom is waterless, but I'm not going to remodel the 2nd floor just to get a sink, at least not this year. The Mpix ones that don't look right to me, but I want to print will go to the darkroom or maybe just a few changes need to be made in PS.
     
  280. As I mentioned earlier, rejects are part of the process. Apparently Don, Fred and I agree on this to some degree.
    Luis - "people...take more chances, explore further, make more variants, keep working until they feel they've got it... and the personal bar gets raised...
    Fred - "I get into a rhythm ... I snap the shutter even when I know there's no keeper to be had ... I'm still learning... I experiment a lot with no intention of it being a finished/presentable product."
    Don - "I can only agree with you, Fred, both about rhythm and the non-keepers and the reasons for them. Sometimes I just shoot because I want to even if there's no shot that I can see."
    ______________________________
    I think we're kidding ourselves if we don't admit that a significant part of the reason for the ratio is seeing. While previsualization may be honing -- and consuming -- our energies projecting that 299 rejects (for every keeper, just as an illustration here) through to the print they will never become, the fact is that seeing (as opposed to looking) in real time is, at best, inconsistent.
    _____________________________
    Fred - "I appreciate your acknowledging that I try not to be an ideologue in these discussions. I prefer to take, or at least try to take, the stronger stands in my photos."
    For the record, I've never thought of Fred as an ideologue. I wasn't acknowledging anything but my honest shock at seeing Fred take a stand like that, a clear-cut this, not that. And it wasn't relational or nullified/balanced by including post-visualization on an equal footing, or anything else. Fred previsualizes :)
    ___________________________________

    I see the rejects as perhaps being central to transcendence. They create a conceptual foggy forest to enter and get lost in, leave our cages and traps behind, and find the unexpected, or allow it to find us.
    The ideas of rhythm, making exposures just to release psychic energies, something Meyerowitz said he did when following Winogrand on 5th ave, snapping the shutter even when one knows there's no keeper to be had, all these things are entryways to a meditative/altered state of mind.
    ______________________________________
     
  281. I ran across this from Minor White, addressing transformation, which might be relevant to this thread:
    "Photography is the transforming act of the photographer -- as a caterpillar eats green leaves and is changed into a butterfly -- his body is turned into a body of photographs -- the corpus.
     
  282. Luca "I realise now that there must be a process of previsualisation, even in the fastest situations. In some way taking a photograph means placing a frame around a subject from a certain point of view.
    It must become instinctive at a certain stage."
    Once again you have said something that hits home. (pre, post or stand alone) visualization as a tool, as nuts and bolts.


    As a designer I may lie in bed at night and take a virtual tour of a blueprint or conceptual design. I will see the lighting at different times of the year or the way certain materials reflect around the space I am creating. I can explore the movement, scale, ambience, etc. It takes a lot of time to visualize the design but a clear, tangible minds eye image allows me to communicate more clearly.

    "...even in the fastest situations" 35 mm street shooting is a very fast style of shooting for me. I don't take the time to minds eye detail the post processing but I do react to it. I am not a formula shooter, I don't rely on what I know would provide a good print of the scene. I do allow experience to instinctively manage my exposure and even point of focus or as Luca points out, framing - even metaphorically. The more rigid aspect of pre-visualization (in street shooting) is apparent when choosing my range of exposure for the day or just the environment. Digital has changed how I approach the day. I can reset my iso I can adjust my white balance etc. With film I often had to dedicate an entire roll to one important shot and process it later for that one shot or series. Not just for the print but also for the expression.

    Then there was/is large format. When you most often have more time to consider an image through to the print. and reconsider. A casual minds eye walkthrough. The slower, contemplative difference is striking. The time to craft a print and consider many options before exposing. One might think this would lead to a more transformative product and yet in my experience, while it gave me a very low shooting ratio for 'good' prints it provided fewer content keepers over time. Probably because I had higher expectations and large format was less suited to me for content. But along with drawing it was the greatest teacher of the visualization process for me.

    A Long winded, me oriented path to a question I now ask myself. Does some degree of spontaneity help a photo to transcend... a kind of boost. I think it often does for me. Even in the face of those I have hanging on my walls that are obviously very thoughtful. And required strong visualization to transform the 'reality' of the moment.

    I love a 'handmade' characteristic in a photo. The stamp of an individual. That says to me that this was not made by formula it was/is a unique expression or that an individual made it their own. And I as viewer am taken to another place than I normally encounter. Inside and/or outside the ordinary.

    Fred "I often work with a balance between "focused" and obvious posing on the one hand and what happens spontaneously on the other."
     
  283. Luca, in my own learning process, I have a very different relationship now, for example, to lighting. I used to see, for instance, interesting back lighting and (in the flash of micro-instant) say to myself (without distracting myself from the task at hand) "gotta capture that great lighting." Now (in the flash of a micro-instant) I say to myself (without distracting myself from the task at hand) "I want that lighting to look . . ." I kind of instantly go for a photographic choice, the face hidden in the shadows or a more bold blowing of the highlights and clearer reading of the face, depending on what I want the photograph of this amazing lighting situation to look like (the visualization). And that's not to say I ignore the person, though I may if the person is just a lit object for me at the time. (And, of course, I will also respond to other photographic elements and characteristics as they relate to the lighting.)
    Sometimes it is precisely the spontaneity of the moment that guides how I photograph what I photograph. Someone may have just said something to me that makes me want to photograph a scene a certain way. Someone's facial expression the moment before suggested a way for me to photographically express even a different facial expression I may catch in the next moment. My photographic expression, in that case, is open to the suggestibility of the moment. I think openness and spontaneity go hand in hand.
    The transcendence part, for me, can be that this expression (the one in the photograph) is more than this expression was at the time, because it also was born of the expression the moment before and how that previous expression influenced my hand and my eye.
    Josh, your talk of previsualization (or visualization) brings up the disconnect I sometimes feel between what I previsualize (or anticipate my photograph will look like) at the time of shooting and how I edit. Early on, I would be so taken by the fact that I was able to previsualize and that a photograph actually looked the way I envisioned it when I shot it, that that fact alone would try to tell me to make it a keeper. But then, often, I'd still say to myself, no, even though it came out the way I saw it at the time, it's not a keeper. So, I think there's some spontaneity in the editing process and something at play, that spark I talked about earlier, that happens when I'm editing that's not unlike the spark that helps me choose the moment or just allows me at that moment to snap the shutter.
     
  284. Luis: "Jerry Uelsman coined the term post-visualization for work relying heavily on post-processing (back in the heyday of analog)."
    Today, I think 'post-visualization' is more evident in the digital photography age, not 'heavy' post, but the fact that the raw file, unlike exposed undeveloped film, can be developed as often as one pleases. The tools available for post are more accessible and flexible, and they have 'undo'. So, I think there was (and is) a drift away from classic pre-visualization as photographers (who with film would benefit from it), choose digital and their process tends more towards 'post' not 'pre'
     
  285. Fred "...the disconnect I sometimes feel between what I previsualize (or anticipate my photograph will look like) at the time of shooting and how I edit." boy can I relate. With architectural design my visualization relies heavily on pre-editing. I always leave room for spontaneity in the design work (even through completion when it is in the clients hands) but the nature and demands of producing for a client and still desiring to transcend the ordinary, dictate that I dedicate much more time to 'how it will look and feel'. In photography I am able to remain as loose and (un)-constrained as I want to explore, experiment, and trash. Then the editing takes on a different life.. as independent as post processing can be with it's own ability to open my eyes.

    You bring up "...I would be so taken by the fact that I was able to previsualize and that a photograph actually looked the way I envisioned it when I shot it..." I still get great satisfaction, as I know you do, when it is a keeper that I pre-visualized. When craft, technique, vision, spontaneity, thoughtful intent ... yada. all collide as a keeper. Intentional and transcendent is a tasty high.
     
  286. "a viewer (perhaps you as a viewer) can transcend or transform the subject/s of a photograph?"

    As i said earlier, perhaps a point missed, a photograph can take on a life on its own.....

    Perhaps, what we think we are seeing, the capture of light, the special moment...is in our
    own mind. The photograph can often tell a different story being an Art form other than simple perception of an exact school boy science. The photographer can also transcend themselves and the subject as their inner self feeds.....as it takes them somewhere else....we are not simple adding machine.

    The viewer, without pre conception, lets the photo take them where it will. Sometimes to a place which has little to do with the subject or photographer

    Phylo, I just read your little snide comment.

    Have some respect for yourself.
     
  287. Allen, your statement
    Just tells me that that there is a lack of confidence.
    Either it works or does not.​
    Is contradicted by
    As i said earlier, perhaps a point missed, a photograph can take on a life on its own.....

    Perhaps, what we think we are seeing, the capture of light, the special moment...is in our
    own mind. The photograph can often tell a different story being an Art form other than simple perception of an exact school boy science. The photographer can also transcend themselves and the subject as their inner self feeds.....as it takes them somewhere else....we are not simple adding machine.

    The viewer, without pre conception, lets the photo take them where it will. Sometimes to a place which has little to do with the subject or photographer​
    The first statement is "binary"
    The second opens up horizons.
    Which way?
    Sort of feel I’ve spoilt the party.

    Oh, well , as the tune goes.​
    Speculation has been a preferred human activity since ages. Are you here just to "spoil parties" making ad hominem posts?
     
  288. “Oh, well , as the tune goes.””
    "Speculation has been a preferred human activity since ages. Are you here just to "spoil parties" making ad hominem posts?”"
    Hmm, seems to me you are making an ad hominem attack. Or, perhaps English is not your first language and you read every phrase in a literal way.
    “And then there are those who think before they speak...not that difficult to comprehend.*
    Or, perhaps Phylo was really referring to you? He makes such statements, often in a more direct brutal way, to various members. I think his last such pleasantry was when he informed another member his photography was rubbish. On reflection i should have not responded.
    "Just tells me that that there is a lack of confidence.
    Either it works or does not."
    Why would those thoughts contradict or show lack of confidence?
    Bottom line to anything is how well it works. Does it really matter about the why's and wherefores on how it came about.
     
  289. Allen,
    you say it. English is not my first language. There are quite some things I don not grasp immediately - or at all - here.
    It's a good training, though.
    I love irony, but I refrain from using it in on-line threads, part because it is easy to be misunderstood, part because it might have a funny effect.
    I could imagine irony behind your statements, but I could never be sure.
    As to Phylo's remark, it could not apply to me, because I always think before I speak, ... err, post.
    He referred to you, quoting you directly. (Phylo Dayrin, May 31, 2010; 06:53 p.m.)
    By the way:
    "Just tells me that that there is a lack of confidence.
    Either it works or does not."​
    Is a phrase you wrote (Allen Herbert , May 31, 2010; 03:45 p.m.).
     
  290. Okay, i'm the wicked one....Jeez,someone has to take on the job;)
    Peace, my friend.
     
  291. Or, perhaps Phylo was really referring to you? He makes such statements, often in a more direct brutal way, to various members. I think his last such pleasantry was when he informed another member his photography was rubbish. On reflection i should have not responded.​
    Can you give examples by quoting these "such statements" by me ?
    “And then there are those who think before they speak...not that difficult to comprehend.*​
    Was me besides in general, directly referring to Josh, meaning by that that his post wasn't " fantasy, stuff and nonsense " like you believed it to be. If you deduct out of that that I claimed by this that you don't think before you speak, besides speaking as you think ( your claim ) than that's your responsibility, not mine.
     
  292. Allen,
    In fact it is not necessary for you to go through all these boring, useless speculations.
    And then, there is the risk of upsetting somebody.
    Not kind, not nice.
     
  293. "Can you give examples by quoting these "such statements" by me ?"
    Yes.
    I claimed by this that you don't think before you speak, besides speaking as you think ( your claim ) than that's your responsibility, not mine
    Really, my responsibility for your insult.
     
  294. "Can you give examples by quoting these "such statements" by me ?"
    Yes.​
    I'm waiting. Where are they. Back it up please.
     
  295. This Q and responses is a moon old already. I came upon it yesterday and am now more familiar with Fred's folio. There's plenty at stake in the inquiry, not least the mire of mind/body splitting. Sublimity is something transcendent and so is magic. The subject of a photo might not always be as it should the photo itself for many reasons. The objects treated consciously in the field of photography manifest content and latent thought processes subject again to what Sigmund Freud posited as secondary revision when he wrote his theories on dreams.
    There's more but that all for now folks.
    00Wdq6-250767684.jpg
     
  296. “I'm waiting. Where are they. Back it up please.”
    You are waiting. So, I suppose I better rush to give you an answer. Have a little think about the comments you made about Brad’s photos, for instance….very unpleasant. Perhaps you would like to pull your post and err discuss your motivation.
    Now, I could pull the post but you are aware of the truth suffice to say. As i said earlier have some respect for yourself.
    Any further communication please e-mail me; I have made my comments as have you. No need to subject folks to further unpleasantness’
     
  297. “The disconnect from my input is not 100% but it somehow just feels like it doesn't belong to me anymore"
    I think a photo can take a life on it's own nothing to do with astral projection or the mysteries of the cabal etc.
    I think its got to do with Photography not just being about an exact measured science but an act of creativity in its purist form.No different from the brush of an Artist.
    They can both take a step away from themselves going to a different somewhere else place.
     
  298. Allen,
    No, I will not email you for "further communication", I'm allergic to bullshit, your bullshit. I would have loved talking to you face to face though and let you say " have some respect for yourself " to me just one more time...that would be beautiful.
     
  299. Transcendin' and transformin' are distinct actions. Transformation is always at work in a photo. The substrate holdin' the play of light registerin' on its plane transforms not only the material on that plane, the subject's transmission and absorption too is definitely flatter. Viewing these bendy flat, mute stills at some deferred stage reanimates that work. 'opefully the attachments formed transcend the limited sight sense with affection for the material and the greater object of photography. What a great Q Fred!
     
  300. Thanks, Anton. And thanks for your responses. Unfortunately, by the time you got involved the thread seemed to have played itself out. Hope to see you contributing in the future.
     
  301. Hope we can still be buddies, Phylo;)). Hey, what is a few words between mates.
    Chill out.
     
  302. I'm still unpacking this one. In photographing, whatever that subject is, it then has an extra currency that may become part of a traffic in photographs. I'm considering how to trade and sell repro. rights then. Traffic sidelining with binarised fibre-optics is less probable and practical so any questions around how attention is paid to camerawork by audiences-critics-publishers-curators may find answers sooner. Amid some motives, I photograph to meter as objectively as possible how transforming a process it is (exploring) and critically with intent (advocating).
    There may be more yet.
     

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