Truth

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by allen herbert, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. What is truth in photography?

    Truth gives power. It embodies trust, and integrity.

    Or, does it? what it is truth is there a deeper percetion of truth a more challenging honest truth?
     
  2. Sontag argues that through repeatedly capturing and viewing reality through photographs, their subjects can become less real. She claims that “aesthetic distance seems built into the very experience of looking at photographs”, and also that the sheer volume of horrific images throughout the world has produced a “familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary – making it appear familiar, remote … inevitable”.[
     
  3. Truth is relative. It's depend on, witch side of the fence you standing. Seeking the truth can be very dangerous too, as history show us all the time. Information over load, visual or other form, conditioning the mind to the point of insensibility.
     
  4. The OP is an age-old philosophical issue, dressed in different clothing. When there is closure on that issue, we also may have an answer to the OP.
    In the meantime, I'm not sure that photographs can be either true or false. They may be representational to a certain degree; or they may be authentic in the sense that they are faithful to the subject matter. But, truth or falsity are property of statements (or propositions, depending on one's philosophical bent).
     
  5. I have decided to accept whatever Wikipedia says is true as the absolute truth, in most cases. Whether something is "true" or not in the true sense of the truth is really immaterial as long as Wiki satisfies my search. Of course if I was deciding on a new camera or car I might have to do a little further research.
     
  6. Maybe the broadest truth that a photograph can embody is an affirmation that humans have the ability to create.
     
  7. The claim, via title or context of presentation, about the truth that a photographer is showing, and my (as viewer's) belief or disbelief in, as well as pre-existing knowledge about, that claim are not "in" the photograph.
    If you show me a picture of a ball and title it "Cube," I'm going to doubt its truthfulness. Or, if I don't know what a "cube" is, I won't (be able to) make any judgment of truth value. None of this has any effect on the picture; the picture simply is. Photographs are supporting evidence to claims made (or not made). They do not, in themselves, make any claims at all ...
    ... which, I admit, is a little like the claim that "guns don't kill people ... " The evidence that photos provide supports (confirms, disconfirms, strengthens or weakens) claims that matter a great deal. Given that no voluntary movement of any kind by any person happens absent true belief, evidence that may affect those actions becomes complicit.
     
  8. Alan, good question.
    I have got much inspiration from poetry and abstract painting which claim, that they are more true than the so-called reality we all see with our two eyes (read: straight photography). Absolute truth does not exist. Even bold lies are a sort of truth.
    "My images are abstract and surrealistic, but they are true. Paraphrasing B. Cendrars.
     
  9. OK, Anders, I'll bite. If absolute truth does not exist, it must follow that truth is relative. Relative to whom? To what? And what criteria are used to decide?
     
  10. Michael asked: "Relative to whom? To what?"
    As with movement, relative to one's chosen frame of reference. Are you moving? Relative to what? Relative to whom?
    [I neither agree nor disagree with Anders's post. I am only addressing the "relative to" question.]
     
  11. In photography, point of view may be truth.
    _____________________________
    Character, genuineness, openness, and willingness ring more true to me than accuracy.
    _____________________________
    Relative to whom?
    Perhaps each of us as individuals and all of us as a collective.
    To what?
    Perhaps history, society, culture, and the times.
    _____________________________
    Erich Fromm:
    There is no absolute truth but there are objectively valid laws and principles.
    The history of science is a history of inadequate and incomplete statements, and every new insight makes possible the recognition of the inadequacies of previous propositions and offers a springboard for creating a more adequate formulation.
    Knowledge is not absolute but optimal; it contains the optimum of truth attainable in a given historical period.
    _____________________________
    Picasso:
    Art is a lie that tells the truth.
     
  12. I agree with Anders here. Truthful photographic still representations of the world, no matter how seemingly accurate, are not reality, ipso facto cannot be TRUTH. Photography, by it's very nature, is only a subset of reality. Beyond the pedestrian difficulties of mapping a three dimensional space onto a two dimensional one, every choice a photographer makes, biases the truth just a bit more.
    I'm reminded of the Belgian painter Rene Margritte's famous painting of a smoking pipe titled, appropriately, "The Treachery of Images". Under the rendering of the pipe are the words (in French) "This is not a pipe". In other words, this is only a representation of truth, it, in itself, is not truth.
    Abstract, surrealistic and other non-representational approaches don't have have this burden of showing reality so the "truthfulness" is based more on the artist's vision, intellect and emotions.
    Keats, writes in his poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty". He may be right about that but I don't think he was talking about photographic representations.
     
  13. What is a truth? I define it as a statement that is true, or put differently not false. To assign a truth assessment to an image is to evaluate it's statement. And therein lies the problem. Many, if not most, images don't have an explicitly stated purpose or statement to make, documentary imagery being a notable exception. If you can't define the statement that the image is making you can't evaluate it's truthfulness. And also, when getting into images that do have statement, the more ambiguous the statement the less you can say about it's truthfulness as well. I can see this being the case with may artistic works.
    OK, that's my off hand opinion for the day. Feel free to tear it apart.
     
  14. Ill risk an eys and try to be more precise on how I would see the question on truth and photography, but first the question on truth in science.
    Truth in science does not exist. Science produces knowledge, but knowledge that continuously questioned and subsequently revised, producing even better knowledge or whole new knowledge about natural or social phenomena. I think can only link the question about truth and science by saying that science stice towards true knowledge about the world by eliminating slowly over time false knowledge.
    For me truth and photography is opening totally different questions than that of scientific inquiry. As I see it, photography, as "straight photography", can of course produce knowledge as documentary knowledge, but its main objective would be to reproduce an image of the world as we would see it with eyes, if we were there. But it is still a false or flawed reality due to the limits of the media: cutting out anything outside the frame, its double "flatness" (reproduction on paper and a two-dimensional image) and not least it is an image which cuts out the use of other human senses, than the view and our mind, which are all inherent parts of how we apprehend our reality around us. The more straight photography is "artistic" or "commercial", the more it becomes a lie. Eventually a beautiful or ugly lie, but still a lie.

    When it comes to any other type of photography or photographical work, approaching what could be abstraction or surrealism, I would believe, that what is at stake here is the search for what could be called an "inner truth" or the "brutal truth" about the surface-reality we can observe and mostly live in. Most of this would be a "subjective truth" of the photographer (artist) but in some cases it could reach a "liberating truth", which increases our understanding of ourselves and liberates us from a superficial view of reality we live in.
     
  15. Siegfried, et al, I think truth can be, but doesn't have to be, stated. Truth can be expressed and it can be shown. Artists actually often create it.
    A few of the multitude of pictures that have conveyed a truth (if not always a fact, which is something different):
    Weston's Pepper.
    Duchamp's Fountain.
    Van Gogh's A Starry Night.
    Dali's The Persistence of Memory.
    Milton Greene's Marilyn Monroe, The Black Sitting.
    I also think there is truth to be found in ambiguity. Ambiguity just may make me have to look harder and wonder more to find it.
     
  16. Photographs have to represent the world because the photographer is in the world, as is the camera, and the display, and the viewer who is also in the world. It is in the world that we often see a cube labeled as a ball - a lie - except that any cube isn't a cube because 'cube' is just a word that we agree describes a like property to entirely unique things; things similar enough to appear to be similar. Add the passage of time, and a cube will become a ball, being a ball all along. Snowflake is a word for a category of objects where each snow flake is entirely dissimilar to other snowflakes. Our words -thoughts - are abstractions as are any other representations of the changing world that we might come up with. The big truths are biological: we must eat or we die an example. Another example of a biological truth is that we are all food for something else.
    Here is my photographic example. One of my pictures that doesn't tell a story. A Scrub-Jay comes to by back door daily. It perches on the screen door and softly calls to me. It calls to me because I'm inside with my back to it. Without it calling me, I wouldn't know it was there. But that isn't the story. The story is that I've trained the bird to do this by giving it peanuts. I wait to feed it, it comes to the door. My truth is that I've trained the jay to solicit me for my own enjoyment. The jay's truth is that the jay has trained me to feed it and it comes to the door with the impatient yet polite insistence that I continue be trained and feed it. Whose truth is the truth, mine or the scrub jay's? To me, I'm producing that pleasurable visit. To the jay, it is producing a repeatable behavior in the man, exploiting the man's soft spot for gain. Between the jay and me, truth is relative except that it is all about food. Or is it?
    The scrub jay that perches on my screen door is an emissary for its family. The other two, mate and child, also wait for the result of the emissary's call. So the human/bird interaction is also about reproduction. Human's and birds reproduce themselves and their culture daily. Part of the bird's appeal to me is its adornments, its beauty, its reproduction.
    For his kind and its culture the emissary is both supplicant and bold toward another species, that behavior toward humans passed on to their young through example, observation, and learning. Similarly, I'm not the first person to offer a scrub jay a peanut without trying to catch and eat them. Birds are food, but they are also beautiful. Am I beautiful to the bird, part of its motive in training me?
     
  17. Anders, I'll agree that science doesn't claim any absolute truths. But it does make claims that most scientists would call true, i.e. the earth orbits the sun. There are a great many such truths that are considered true till proven false.
    As far as "straight photography" intrinsically being a falsehood, I can't quite agree because we view photographs with a knowledge that its only a representation of reality. It still comes down to the statement the image makes. The statement is nearly always implied by the venue and context, but it's there none the less. I can't see how the image itself can carry any truth in and of itself, it's only after we've given the image meaning that we can say weather that meaning, or statement to put it differently, has any truth value to it.
    Fred, I think for something to be true, a truth if you will, it does need to express an idea. Now that can be written, spoken, or expressed in any of a myriad of different ways that we communicate. I don't think a truth can be created, only discovered. If something is true, it is so whether we recognize it or not. As far as a truth and a fact being different, I'm not sure. Part of me agrees with you but I can't figure out what the difference is other than we give the word truth more profundity. And as far as those images conveying a truth, what would those truths be? I find the images beautiful, thought inspiring even. And those thoughts may lead me to discover a truth. But that truth wasn't in the image. If so, different people would all find the same truth in them. But my guess is that 100 people to whom the same image "speaks" will find 100 different truths.
     
  18. "And as far as those images conveying a truth, what would those truths be? I find the images beautiful, thought inspiring even. And those thoughts may lead me to discover a truth. But that truth wasn't in the image. If so, different people would all find the same truth in them. But my guess is that 100 people to whom the same image "speaks" will find 100 different truths."
    That's why I could never answer your question which asks "what would those truths be?" But I think your ideas get us closer to the difference between fact and truth.* IMO, a fact is a state of being. Truth involves relationship and is less objective and static.
    "Facts are notes and lyrics on a piece of paper. Truth is what a singer gives to a listener." Sorry, I have no attribution for this. I read it a long time ago.
    You emphasize that truth isn't in the image. I agree. And I think truth isn't in a statement either. Truth is expressed, shown, or conveyed (i.e., relationship).
    _______________________________________
    The metaphorical operation of a photo is why it can sometimes be so much better at expressing truths than it is at showing facts. Accuracy is about facts. Truth is more.
    "There's a world of difference between facts and truth. Facts can obscure the truth." --Maya Angelou
    _______________________________________
    I take another look at Van Gogh's painting. I see his truth and it becomes, in some small part, mine. It's not in the painting. It's in the vision (which is shared).
     
  19. There is no such thing as "truth in photography". Usually, what you find is a subjective truth.
    Les
     
  20. Angelou, facts, truth, and Picasso . . .
    Picasso's Head of a Woman, 1960
    What I take from Angelou's idea and the difference suggested between facts and truth is that we could, by getting hung up on the facts we have come to know about faces, obscure the truth of what Picasso is instead showing us.
     
  21. Head of a Woman expresses a fact to me. The difference between a fact and a truth is that (Siegfried) "...we give the word truth more profundity." For me, facts are relationships between one thing and another. One thing in that relationship may be less known than another: art can explore the boundaries where one thing meets another, revealing more facts that make our prior perception of facts seem less optimal than it had been a moment before, so we change a little.
    Leszek - "There is no such thing as "truth in photography". Usually, what you find is a subjective truth."
    To me that depends on how the word truth is parsed. If facts are truth, true facts can be photographed. "A picture doesn't lie" is sometimes true, we all know it from the photograph and accept a fact as a fact. A subjective truth: "we give the word more profundity" per Siegfried about truth v. facts. A subjective truth is a fact, subjective truths exist, marked by our having attached to them more value, profundity; elevated to a cherished belief, for lack of a better term, or a treasured belief. If you know in advance what people's cherished beliefs are you can endorse them or confront them in photography, art.
    Green's Marilyn Monroe - The Black Sitting endorses a belief, Picasso's Head of a Woman confronts that belief. What is a fact is that we carry many subjective images of woman. Marilyn the icon was a real woman and she personally suffered for carrying on her shoulders our cherished images. Inside she looked more like Picasso's Head of a Woman. That she suffered is a fact, her suffering caused by the public confusing a cherished image with a real woman. So much for the harmlessness of cherished beliefs.
    A cherished belief has its own properties, as independent of individual will as my scrub jay is independent of me. Did I train the bird or did the bird train me?
     
  22. Discussions about the "truth" of photography tend to go nowhere unless they embrace a sensibly formal concept of truth itself; the sort of discipline required of beginning students in philosophy classes.
    Going back to philosophy 101 the concept of truth applies only to propositions. Propositions are formal statements about the nature of things. A proposition that on investigation turns out to be the case is true or not the case then untrue, a lie in other words. So the question necessarily devolves into: What formal statements does photography offer about its relationship to subject matter, to the photograph maker, and to the photograph viewer? Interestingly, those who offer the most trenchant and long winded opinions tend not to organise their thoughts in the form of propositions to state and then to test; just wooly opinion mongering in effect.
    Here are a some of examples of common but silly propositions:
    "A photograph of a tree is not a tree therefore photography lies". I can't remember a case of anyone credibly insisting the photograph should be physically congruent with its subject.
    "A photograph is cropped from reality, it is not the "whole" truth, therefore photography lies". Does anyone reasonablyrequire the photograph to be as big and inclusive as the universe in order to be true?
    "Reality is three dimensional but photographs are two dimensional therefore photography lies." Of course photographs are two dimensional but that is an inherent quality rather than a defect.
    On the other hand: "All points in a photograph bear a one to one relationship to points in the subject matter". This is necessarily true of photography because of the direct physical causality of the process. Significantly this is not necessarily true of paintings, drawings, and digital pictures.
    There are several other propositions that are also true of photography and it is a pleasant diversion to think of them. Examples include:
    A photograph and its subject matter have to exist, however momentarily, at the same time.
    A photograph begins its existence when it absorbs a sample of something that was part of the subject matter.
    A photograph and its subject matter must share, however momentarily, a common line of sight.
    Imaginary things cannot be depicted in a photograph.
    The authority of a photograph to describe subject matter comes not from resemblance but from direct physical causation.
    Photographs like life-casts, death-masks, wax impressions, graphite rubbings, and footprints are images that do not invoke the use of use of data, memories, information processors, output devices, or display devices.
    There are indeed more propositions that are true of photography and it will be interesting to see how many turn up in this thread.
     
  23. Imaginary things are at times pictured in a photograph because the images from our imagination are real as images although they don't depict real things. Even your sentence "Imaginary things cannot be depicted" calls an imaginary a 'thing'. If something is imaginary, it still has power to cause behaviors, is still something. Our imaginations can't conceive of a thing that doesn't look at least a little like something that does exist: ghosts wear clothing typically, as an example. The idea 'ghost' is a thing and even in photography there are daily references to 'ghosting in images', where something imaginary allows us to describe something that does exists. In photography you could construct a dream scape that never existed and it would be of something real: the fact of a dream represented with images.
     
  24. - A photograph begins its existence when it absorbs a sample of something that was part of the subject matter.
    Reflected light was not absorbed by the subject, never part of the subject, and instead become a mark of the subject on the instrument.
     
  25. For me to go back to Philosophy 101 and academicize about Truth and propositions would be a big mistake. I took up Photography in order not to make that mistake (for myself).
    ______________________________________
    Does the Greene photo exist in some sort of factual vacuum without the benefit of biographies about Marilyn and without the benefit of Picasso and others who have shown us more and given us more to think about?
    Truth requires context and history gives facts context, as do other facts.
     
  26. Very thoughtful points, Charles.
    ______________________________________
    We don't get much truth from a single set of facts.
     
  27. "Does the Greene photo exist in some sort of factual vacuum without the benefit of biographies about Marilyn and without the benefit of Picasso and others who have shown us more and given us more to think about?"
    I think that the Greene photo can be viewed and appreciated as if it were in a factual semi-vacuum. Perhaps that is part of its art and it doesn't have to be an image of all that is woman. Still, as you, Fred, say, a most important part of appreciating art is appreciating point of view: of the artist, the subject, and the viewer. There are many truths in and surrounding an artistic image and art appreciation involves a lot of learning about context and history, both personal and collective. We don't have much of an appreciation from a single set of facts, nor do we without also looking at other art produced then contemporaneously, and before, and since. To enjoy art isn't the same as appreciating it, the latter taking a lot more work. I think I've made past mistakes in not fully appreciating the hard work behind the contributions of the regulars in this forum.
    It isn't just that all truth is relative. We also have Kurt Gödel and his first incompleteness theorem. John Allen Paulos in Beyond Innumeracy writes parenthetically "Conceivably Boris Pasternak had Gödel's theorem in mind when he wrote, "What is laid down, ordered, factual, is never enough to embrace the whole truth."" That theorem is the "so-called" first incompleteness theorem. I read that to say that any representation of an absolute truth is inherently incomplete, not absolute. I think that is where sign and symbol come to our aid, as suggestive of depth and breath we can't ever fully name, but that we can appreciate anyway.
    From a Fred post in another thread, Jackson Pollack, an example of an abstract and I soooo don't want to see a theme of alienation in the canvas because in it there is so much of inter relatedness in an incomprehensible whole, you beautiful canvas you:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4a/No._5,_1948.jpg
     
  28. "there is so much of inter relatedness in an incomprehensible whole"
    Can't that be seen as a form of alienation?
    "you beautiful canvas you"
    Alienation can be beautiful and beauty can be alienating.
    Alienation can work against the production of emotions we might expect from the beautiful canvas and instead provide the kind of spark Pollock's canvas provides.
    Getting back to incomprehensibility, which you brought up and which seems important, I was reading about alienation and came across this, which might be helpful in thinking about Pollock:
    "'Information overload' or the so-called 'data tsunami' are well-known information problems confronting contemporary man and, thus, meaninglessness is turned on its head."
    Could Pollock's canvases be like a "data tsunami"?
     
  29. - Could Pollock's canvases be like a "data tsunami"?
    Yeah, I like that. I read a little bit about him just now. http://www.forestedgepta.com/feforms/Pollock-Oct07.pdf
    At the end is a Drip Painting Art Project for young students with emphasis on easier clean up!
    I also see that his work is the subject of many debates and is described as very physical and demanding. That physicality might be a way he worked out with information overload while expressing it at the same time. So in a way, yeah, it can be one thing and another. Interesting point.
     
  30. Hmmm. Anything can be truth and it is not necesserily do something or another. Meanwhile one may learn to discern between nonfalsifiable truth and contextually falsifiable truth(s). Which is important because the truths can be many and they usually are variable.
    "- Could Pollock's canvases be like a "data tsunami"? "
    Just as much as it can be like any two random words put togeter as a comparison, metaphor or hyperbola.
     
  31. Photography can convey truth in form of grand answers to factual questions:
    The "truth" is:
    • that war is hell, Jeff Wall "Dead Troops Talk" (fine art)!;
    • that civilians are dying: Nick Ut's, the Napalm girl (documentary);
    • that tanks can be stopped and dissidence is possible: Jeff Widener, Tiananmen Square (in this special case, a few hours later, contradicted by facts); and
    • that children are dying from hunger: Kevin Carter: South Sudan (documentary).
    These pictures are "true" in some concrete or general sense. They are not true in relationship to anything, IMO.
    Science "does make claims that most scientists would call true"
    Siegfried, I think all scientist approach some knowledge as irrefutable, but in principle always about subject matters that are to be verified over and over again by researchers in light of new knowledge and the development of ever more precise and sophisticated methodologies and testing tools. Absolute truth does not exist in science.
     
  32. Anders I'll muddy the water with alternate points of view for the same pictures (not the last one though):
    Dead Troops: War is selective hell. The same war is hell for some and not for others (photographer doesn't experience a hell equal to the wounded or fallen). And some war is less hell than others, Granada for example, or Panama. And what is the factual question that the statement "war is hell" answers? Is the factual question "What is war?"
    Napalm girl: Grand question: Should the press be embedded instead so that such pictures don't get made.
    Tiananmen Square - One person's dissident is another person's criminal might be the grand answer that this photograph illustrates. Some would use that picture to prosecute the criminal, some would use it as an example of legitimate protest.
     
  33. Allen asked:
    "What is truth in photography?" [emphasis added]
    Aside from—or in addition to—forensic, logical, grammatical, verbal, literal, accuracy-oriented, and perspectival approaches to truth, I like to think there are emotional, experiential, and visual truths, even art historical truths, expressed by and/or conveyed by photos and photographers.
    Weston's pepper and Duchamp's urinal allow, help, or force us to see these things as we haven't. Picasso stilled for us what we might otherwise only see in a quick snap of our heads to and fro.
    Allen mentioned Sontag, who also said:
    "the camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses"
    Negation is so important to truth, and particularly to the truths of photography . . . the impact and import of what I leave out in order to frame a shot, the periphery omitted but having its own kind influence. Photography requires me to negate in this way. That consistently imposes itself on photography's truths. It might suggest an element of photographic alienation to be further explored.
    To get at the truth of photography, we might have to look at how it ever expresses or conveys anything, what it does possess in addition to all its so-called propositional and logical shortcomings.
    Are we too accustomed to truth being revealed to get how much truth there is in what lies hidden?
    Do you ever feel truth instead of or in addition to knowing it?
     
  34. One question to raise is "Who is the intended audience?" What is being expressed to whom?
    That additional question broadens the meaning of negation: there is negation also in the sense that one photograph can present a single event as outstanding when it isn't 'out-standing' considering other facts and circumstances. What is or isn't outstanding is based on our cherished beliefs, at least in part.
    For example, the Tiananmen Square photograph was not, according to an interview with a journalist who was there, the only such picture of the same subject that could have been taken: many people were obstructing tanks during those hours. Rugged individualism is a cherished belief in the United States. The capture and selection of one photograph of one dissident is a value judgment. The Tiananmen Square photograph was taken and editorially selected with an audience in mind.
    A sole individual acting alone against all odds by standing up to a tank had high value in our culture here. Here we are biased by our own values. We place higher value on a lone dissident than on the coordinated workings of a group. For us, a group might be great, but Rambo type agency is for great praise. In some cultures, Rambo style agency is for shame. Admired agency is that which is accomplished within the tight confines of a group, despite collective values, but within collective values as opposed to show boating all alone, hard to see when in a culture where show boating is praised. But if you think Eric Burton without the Animals you get a sense of what I might mean.
    So by what a photograph doesn't show we often find a point at which we can examine our own cherished cultural beliefs. I don't think we can do that without a broad understanding of history and of cultures. There is just no other way in my view to know what is hidden and what is on display in a photograph.
    Negation, related to point of view, operates by the mechanics of subjective judgment. Our subjective judgment is operated most powerfully by our cherished beliefs, with or without our being aware of it.
     
  35. Anders - "Absolute" truth does exist in science … that is, until a new paradigm is discovered and adopted. Then, it's back to the drawing board.
    Fred - OK, so I'm a little hardheaded sometimes. I'm so accustomed to thinking about truth as an epistemological issue that I occasionally have difficulty looking at it from a broader perspective. Just as people can be gifted in many ways other than intellectual, so can truth exist for people in different modes.
     
  36. Michael - ""Absolute" truth does exist in science..."
    Nope, and indeed you do go on to say that absolute truth doesn't exist in science when you describe how science's truths are discarded all the time because they are not considered absolute by scientific method, are always considered provisional truths by science.
     
  37. Charles: Close, but no cigar. You haven't refuted my position just by stating "Nope." I suggest that you read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. If you'd rather take a shortcut, try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn.
     
  38. Michael, absolute truths are valid for all time. Science produces no such thing. I don't mean to be rude by saying "Nope." I'm trying to keep the definitions clear about what an absolute truth is, what a fact is, and what are other truths that are that can never claim to be absolute, but nevertheless exist.
    If science's claims were absolute, they would never change, they would never be replaced at a later time. I hope that is clear. Also, I didn't refute your position by saying 'Nope', I went on to describe your claim as self-contradictory and said why it contains a self-contradiction. I hope no offense is taken by my pointing that out.
     
  39. No offense, at all, Charles. Notice that I put the term "Absolute" in quotes. I guess, though, that this wasn't clear enough. I don't believe that any worthwhile scientist thinks that science discovers absolute truth; they discover new paradigms.
     
  40. Here is an example from one of my photographs that tells a truth indirectly. http://www.photo.net/photo/10757210 . It contains a clue about what that truth is, but the truth has been otherwise left out of the photograph.
    The clue is the tie off in the foreground. It is a tie off for rescue workers to use when the river rages. The truth told is that although the river in the picture looks tame, it isn't. At times it rages and lives are threatened or lost as suggested by the presence of the tie off in the lower right of the frame. The photograph has another layer of interpretation. It suggests that rivers can't really be tamed. The picture expresses the idea that nature cannot be tamed. The picture expresses a point of view. My point of view is that human kind does not tame nature really. It is a cherished belief of mine, something I hold to be true, but which can't be an absolute truth.
    Do others have examples from their own body of work that tells a truth, either directly or indirectly? Ho does the interaction between figure and ground work in your photograph to tell your truth?
     
  41. OK, thanks for the clarification. I missed the quotes and your meaning entirely!
     
  42. Michael: ""Absolute" truth does exist in science … that is, until a new paradigm is discovered and adopted.""
    - so it is indeed not "absolute truth? The main message of Kühn, who introduced the theory on paradigm(a) in science, concerned exactly paradigm shifts so according to him the only "truth", if you wish, was, that the prevailing truth of the moment is doomed to change.

    Charles, you are right that different truths (sic!) - even the language does not permit a plural of the word (or does it ??) are competing. Jeff Wall, with his dead Russian soldiers is sure to have aimed in show war as hell, and Kevin Carter, hunger in Sudan. When it comes to Jeff Widener's shot on Tiananmen Square, he indeed wished to convey the "truth" about the will and power of individuals against brutal force. You are right that the "wars" in Panama and Granada, were for most not hell. I remember them as television shows, political propaganda, and regime change. I don't remember any photos from them, but I do remember the television crews on the beaches waiting for the troops to arrive at primetime. Another type of truth about modern war.


    When I don't make remarks on the question of "truth" and the various works of art mentioned above, it is mainly because I don't see the connection apart from some historical exceptions like Picasso and his "Guernica" (1937) showing the barbary of war or Goya's Execution of 3rd of May (1808) and some similar works of art in specific historical contexts.
    Art does not create or show any truth. Art is mostly occupied with putting questions more than answers. Art questions any current truth we might believe in. To quote Duchamps, who always seem to pop up in these discussion together with his Fountain, R Mutt: "The biggest enemy of art, is good taste" (reference to "ugly pictures" elsewhere!). Truth and art are only distant relatives. Good art provokes us to question our current beliefs and knowledge and invite us to search for truth elsewhere. The beauty of the world might be "a truth" that has occupied arts during centuries, at least since the Renaissance, but that "working truth" of the arts ended some 150 years ago.
     
  43. Anders - "Good art provokes us to question our current beliefs and knowledge and invite us to search for truth elsewhere."
    I like your statement. Let me ask you, how would you answer Fred's question. That is, Greene's Marilyn Monroe: The Black Sitting - Fred asked an open ended question: "Does the Greene photo exist in some sort of factual vacuum without the benefit of biographies about Marilyn and without the benefit of Picasso and others who have shown us more and given us more to think about?"
    Is Greene's photo of Marilyn good art? Or is it simply a picture of beauty?
    Anyone else want to weigh in on that question, feel free.
     
  44. Art does not create or show any truth. Art is mostly occupied with putting questions more than answers. Art questions any current truth we might believe in. Good art provokes us to question our current beliefs and knowledge and invite us to search for truth elsewhere. --Anders
    To get at the truth of photography, we might have to look at how it ever expresses or conveys anything, what it does possess in addition to all its so-called propositional and logical shortcomings.
    Are we too accustomed to truth being revealed to get how much truth there is in what lies hidden?
    Do you ever feel truth instead of or in addition to knowing it? --Fred
    I don't see Anders and I as being terribly far apart when it comes to art and photography and what it can accomplish. The similarities in our thinking (for example what Anders calls "putting questions more than answers" might be seen as somewhat similar to what I call "what lies hidden") seem much more potent than the definitional differences in the ways we're using a single word, truth. We are, together, standing on fertile ground upon which to build, if we so choose.
    This is why I think Charles's approach of actually looking at photos is a good one. It avoids semantical debate and it's constructive. I'll look for an example myself, Charles.
     
  45. Anders - Again, I was speaking tongue-in-cheek when I quoted the term "Absolute." Paradigm shifts are not necessarily gentle, sometimes creating radical new approaches to scientific theory. I'd have to reread Kuhn, but I suspect that his account does not provide a great deal of room for absolutes, except perhaps in stating (as I recall) that no paradigm is immune from being discarded in favor of a better one.
     
  46. In portraits, vulnerability can be a significant form of photographic truth.
    00c4WI-543056684.jpg
     
  47. Charles, I'll come back to Marilyn, but first Pollock.
    Fred wrote earlier on
    "'Information overload' or the so-called 'data tsunami' are well-known information problems confronting contemporary man and, thus, meaninglessness is turned on its head."
    Could Pollock's canvases be like a "data tsunami"?
    I would say yes, like a Symphony of Benjamin Britten can be listened to as a "data tsunami".
    It is actually interesting to look at Pollocks paintings from the point of view of writings, iconography and music.
    In the earlier works of Pollock, during the 40's, he did in fact use words and iconographics in many of his paintings like here in his "stenographic figure" and later on one can (rarely) find hidden words on his canvases, like in his breakthrough work: "Mural", a couple of years later, where his full name is written all over the top and structures the whole composition.
    However a "data tsunami", in terms of written text is narmally not what can be found in Pollocks paintings. Others have gone much further, like the French painter Simon Hantaï in his master piece, rightly called "Pink writing" (Ecriture rose) influenced by Pollock, one finds the whole (unreadable) texts of the Old and New Testimony, plus greater parts of Freud's writings, copied in pink ink, creating the background for an almost abstract painting bigger than any of Pollocks big canvases.
    In both these cases, the main tsunami of data consist, in Pollock's case, of his Jungian subconsciousness of intuition, thinking, sensation, and emotion or feeling. There is no general Truth here to be found, only (sic!) a travel of the subconsciousness of the painter (unknown to the viewer) and that of the individual viewer (also unknown).
    Fred's fine portrait above, could be "read" within the same paradigm, IMO.
     
  48. I would think the term truth as used on this thread is vocabular mistake. Dramatic photos from war can be beter described as adequate emotional and/or informational message or otherwise better term can be found/applied. The truth as a term hardly describes the sume of effects the image produces and only partly applicable to some of them in some contextes.
    "Nope. ..." (-: Should one say: Yeap? Honestly, Charles, what in you opinion such a statment as 1+1=2 is lacking in to be classified as absolute truth? Or 1+2=3 ? Or chemical basics of molecular formations of elements such as Silicium dioxide or Aluminium oxide?
    Where this rhetoric line will go if you replace Absolute with Universal?
    What if NG shot was staged? Will it make picture a). less true b) more true c). different true d). something else?
    The thing is folks, if we want to understand the nature of impact photographic imaging has we have to develope usefull terminology. But if we want to keep terminology static then our understanding is bound to be limited.
     
  49. Re: the Milton Greene photo of Marilyn . . .
    Greene, like Avedon, provides a bridge between fashion/glamour photography and fine art photography. One of the ways that is manifest is if we are taken in by the photo as well as being taken in by the celebrity or the dress. Appreciating the photo, as much as the star who's its subject, seems to me a more abstract way of looking, a more transcendent way if you will. The obvious here is how small Marilyn is in the frame (though still so much larger than life), how shadow and light interplay catches our attention, the use of negative space, the more abstract sense of emergence (as opposed to a more concrete sense of "pretty face").
    1+1=2 is often (appropriately) used as an example of a Truth, with a capital T. We typically would not use as an example a child counting one ball and adding another ball and getting two balls, though true, as being in the same league as an understanding of the Truth behind the more abstract concept of 1+1=2.
    Abstraction has an important role in Truth and in art. That's why I find it meaningful to use (if even with poetic license, which would seem appropriate to art) Truth in relationship to art. I actually see that use as less static than insisting Truth remain limited to propositions and information.
    "Is Greene's photo of Marilyn good art? Or is it simply a picture of beauty?"
    Both.
    Transcendence requires a ground. Abstraction allows for instances of more concrete manifestation.
     
  50. Charles, your river photo with accompanying text is a good example of a photo dealing with time and movement in different ways than we have become used to. The actual showing or at least the strong suggestion of potential is an important turn and it moves the photo beyond the present, beyond the stilled moment.
     
  51. I was asked about my reaction to the Milton Greene shot of Marilyne Monroe.
    I might be a wrong person to ask. I have not been involved in the myth around her and have mostly not particularly appreciated her films and surely not her singing. I have never found her especially beautiful neither. A question of taste and cultural background maybe. I see therefor the photo of Milton Greene with a certain distance.

    I can surely appreciate the beautiful composition of the photo and I love the negative space, but I mostly see the figure of Marilyne Monroe as a posture, a pose probably following the instructions of the photographer. I therefore feel, that the photo is a continuation of the myth of the actrice (small, frail, vulnerable, somewhat lost and a discrete glamour), more than a photo of an individual, whether or not some of the same characteristics fit to the person. In fact it is quite difficult to shoot the person without contributing to the myth. "Truth" is not a term I would use in this connection. Maybe it is too far fetched to see the black space as a sign of hope for an end to the myth now more than half a century after her death. Other myths have lived on much longer, I must admit.
     
  52. Part of the person, and an important part of the person who Marilyn was, is the persona and the myth, the pose, the posture, the body, the face. It is a "fact" that she was directed, handled, and consumed. Why would all that not be part of the truth about her?
    The photo also conveys important truths about a particular era and about Hollywood.
    In some cases, the candid shot can be the biggest lie of all. I imagine there are photos, for example, of Richard Nixon playing with Checkers and his kids in the backyard that are unstaged and unposed and about as far from the truth about the man as one could get.
    It certainly seems reasonable that one might prefer or want a different sort of picture and a different sort of truth to be shown (also). Except for very rare cases, no one portrait is ever enough. A lone portrait has the ability to tell truths. It will rarely tell THE truth.
     
  53. Ilia - "Honestly, Charles, what in you opinion such a statment as 1+1=2 is lacking in to be classified as absolute truth?",
    Here goes: Paulos interpreting Kurt Gödel's first and second incompleteness theorems in Beyond Innumeracy
    ...any formal system of mathematics that includes a modicum of arithmetic is incomplete. There will always be true statements that will be neither provable nor disprovable within the system no matter how elaborate it is.
    ...his second incompleteness theorem states that no reasonable system of mathematics can demonstrate its own consistency. We an only assume the consistency of such a system; we can't prove it without making assumptions even stronger than that of consistency.​
    I am a layman. I can't read Gödel. So correct me at will, here goes.
    Making a statement like 1 = 1 only makes sense within the context of a reasonable system of mathematics that, according to Gödel's second incompleteness theorem, can't demonstrate its own consistency and still claim to be reasonable. If a reasonable system of mathematics claimed an ability to demonstrate its own consistency: it wouldn't be a reasonable system of mathematics. So, we can't have 1 + 1 = 2 without the assumption that 1 = 1. The statement that 1 = 1 is an assumption for convenience, isn't it? In the world of objects: where might we find one thing that is the equal of another? Things are different in the very least as to the point they occupy, don't even share the same time because they don't occupy the same space. Assigning a number to an object is a representation of reality within a formal system of thought, an abstraction of reality. Any formal system of mathematics, to be reasonable, must contain a subjective assumption. Nevertheless, we must make an assumption in order to have a reasonable system of thought.
    The idea that 1 + 1 = 2 is a cherished belief; we can't be reasonable and claim otherwise. At least, that is how I read a Gödel interpreter. Like I say, correct me if I am wrong. I would appreciate the help, I've been struggling with 1 = 1 since I first heard it in elementary school. Everybody acts like 1 = 1, but to me that always seemed like a convenience, the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
    In other words, 1 = 1 only at singularity. After that it is a crap shoot (as in dice with the universe).
     
  54. Ilia "Dramatic photos from war can be better described as adequate emotional and/or informational message or otherwise better term can be found/applied."
    Half jokingly a better term might be infomercial, but the word infomercial is crass.
     
  55. Ilia -"What if NG shot was staged?"
    Aren't all photographs staged in one way or another? That 'fact' makes photographs more or less true, different true, and something else.
     
  56. ""A lone portrait has the ability to tell truths""

    Or just be part of the lie. You need more photos to tell the whole lie. This type of photography is rarely one or the other, lie or truth, ambiguity is mostly what is present, as Fred mentioned earlier.
     
  57. Anders, I don't think many of us cherish portraits of those we love because they provide us with ambiguity.
    I think ambiguities can add to the reach, flavor, and effectiveness of a portrait because we are all, IN PART, puzzles to each other anyway, so ambiguity captures something real about the human condition. But a good portrait is about something much more than just ambiguity. It's also about more than truth or lies. We just happen to be discussing truth here, but I would never reduce a portrait to just that.
     
  58. Also, when quoting, it's important to quote enough in order not to skew the original point being made. Here's the complete quote which I think makes a very different point from the partial quote you provided.
    "A lone portrait has the ability to tell truths. It will rarely tell THE truth."
     
  59. Anders, like I said above, I really don't think we disagree all that much, unless we are looking to do so for some reason. The quote in its full form actually already embraces the sense of ambiguity. That a lone portrait has the ability to tell truths and not THE truth would suggest that it leaves stuff out and is, therefore, at least in part, ambiguous.
     
  60. Ilia, staging is a very important aspect of all art and a lot of photography. Staging rarely suggests a lack of truth. Well, I shouldn't say that. A lot of people do assume that if something is staged rather than candid it can't express truth. I disagree with that assumption. Like most things, it depends on the intent, the execution, and the final product. Things can be staged to deceive, they can be staged to emphasize and/or recreate, they can be staged to create and express as in the truths we get from good theater. The great thing about truth is how many and varied are the routes to it.
     
  61. Ilia - "I would think the term truth as used on this thread is vocabular mistake."
    Truth as a word has a lot of meanings and contexts.
    Fred - "That a lone portrait has the ability to tell truths and not THE truth would suggest that it leaves stuff out and is, therefore, at least in part, ambiguous."
    Part of the ambiguity in a portrait is that its hard to know of ourselves or others who/what/how/where/why/when the true person is. We have impressions and make them.
    Fred - "Do you ever feel truth instead of or in addition to knowing it?"
    Which I interpret as a question about how do we "know". Personally I get most of my information through introverted intuition. Intuition feels right, but is often just plain wrong. The most irritating thing for thinking types who know me is that I often have absolutely no reason for being right. Intuition isn't a reliable way of knowing anything so I have to be dismissive of 'felt' truths to survive.
     
  62. One of my favorite forum participants, Luis, who's been inactive for a while, used to speak of the importance of "micro-expressions" and how many of them can whiz by in the course of a photo shoot or a moment. I can relate well to what you're saying about impressions we have of people.
    Another thing to consider is that many portraits, in addition to or instead of being about the individual who is the so-called "subject", are also about expression per se and humanity in general. We can relate to portraits of people we don't know because we recognize things in them that we see in others and in ourselves.
    Sometimes, we are even fooled by portraits, thinking that we know the essence of the person pictured when, instead, we are being shown something significantly human and relatable that we may then have a tendency to project onto the person whose likeness is in the portrait.
    It's also possible, ironically, to catch someone NOT being themselves, so a viewer can be fooled into thinking he's seeing something more characteristic of the person than it actually is.
     
  63. "Which I interpret as a question about how do we 'know'."
    Only in part. It was more intended as a question about how we relate to the world and to truth in other ways besides through knowledge.
     
  64. Fred - "Only in part. It was more intended as a question about how we relate to the world and to truth in other ways besides through knowledge."
    I don't know but somehow that can all come together for a photographer in making a photographic statement. Anyone felt it all come together for them in a particular picture, whether theirs or another's?
     
  65. "Anyone felt it all come together"
    I'm not sure what you mean by "it all" coming together?
    For me, photography is first and foremost a visual and a sensual experience. So, the combination of thought, sense, gut, and emotion do come together when photographing and through photographs, to varying degrees.
    As for photographic statements, I tend to make them and find them more in series or bodies of works than in individual photos. I'm not sure if you mean by photographic statement something that leans toward the literal or propositional. Looking through some of my work, I chose THIS ONE as a statement photo, though I think the statement is different, stronger, and more comprehensible within the context of my overall work than it would be taken strictly individually.
    In terms of another photographer, I always thought THIS ONE, by Leibovitz, made a statement, and an amusing one at that.
    Stieglitz's STEERAGE is a good statement photo, both in terms of politics and in terms of photography as a medium and an art.
     
  66. By using the word statement I was avoiding using the word truth, looking for examples of photos more broadly. "All come together": you've said it with "combination of thought, sense, gut, and emotion". And thank you for your examples and explanations.
    It's an exception when I add meaning to a photograph at the time I take it. Here's one where I had intention: http://www.photo.net/photo/14270713. (The series tells the story of Spike's demise and how I felt about the feral cat. Spike didn't have a chance man, although he might really have been taken by a Cooper's Hawk, also an ambush predator). So to attempt my answer to your question of 'felt' and knowledge: I'm not sure what precise meaning there is in Spike hanging out with doves, but I feel the meaning without being able to say what it is. I wouldn't even want to try words out on it. Whatever truth or meaning or statement is expressed visually in that photo: I think it would be diminished or compromised beyond repair with words.
     
  67. f/5.6 lets in four times as much light as f/11.
     
  68. Charles, I agree on a couple of fronts.
    The photographic statements don't always translate to words, but seem to have a visual/sensual/emotional/intellectual gestalt that sort of takes over. It's a bit like the rhythms found in music. How would one adequately describe them if they could only use words?
    And you said something important, which helps avoid a frequent misunderstanding. "It's an exception when I add meaning to a photograph at the time I take it." When we talk about meaning, statement, interpretation, truth, etc. it's often assumed that we've intentionally considered all that as we're taking the shot or even post processing the shot. Not necessarily, though sometimes this stuff is considered during the process or even in advance of it. More often, it's what results from a natural and flowing process. Meaning can be imparted in so many ways without it being deliberate or specified in advance. It is also, to a great extent, contextual.
     
  69. Dan - "f/5.6 lets in four times as much light as f/11."
    Approximately, but for all intents and purposes that is a good rule of thumb. ;)
     
  70. Re: the photo of Spike with the doves, and the series . . .
    Very moving photo, including the depth of field, overall play of focus between spike and the doves, the way posture and color suggest your relationship to Spike and the tricky environment of the "spiked" fence on which they're perched. Something ominous seems to be looming, but Spike right here seems to be emerging as heroic. There's a lot in this photo that is beyond words, that depends on the visual, on atmospherics, on intangible qualities. It does seem one of those photos where a lot came together.
    From the series, I don't get his demise and relationship to the cat. Not seeing them in the same frame may be part of that, but maybe there are reasons for that. I'm not perceiving the cat as menacing, though there seems the most potential for that in THIS shot.
     
  71. Thanks Fred, I appreciate that. And in the series, as in reality, whether the cat ate Spike just isn't known. I have my suspicions, and because of that ominous lack of closure I set aside what had been my plans for a children's book. Instead Spike is eulogized.
    I know neither for how long he was able to live his natural and intended life among his wild cousins, nor how old he might have become. All I do know is that for exquisite and incomparable moments he was free. The cage abandoned, he used that freedom not solely for his own will. Instead Spike made many friends. He adopted a flock, more so than they having adopted him, and he became their early warning system. Though the flock measured their own distance from Spike, Spike nevertheless was always first to call the alarm and take flight from danger, whether that danger came from the air or from the ground. Spike devoted himself not just to his own safety, but to the safety of his entire group.
    We don't know how Spike spent what were to be the final hours of his short life. We can imagine that day to have been for him like any other. Rising with the sun to preen with his compatriots and exchange greetings, ever watchfully searching for sustenance and moisture, and enjoying the long breaks he gave himself during his busy day: these acts were the fabric of his typical day.
    All I know for certain is that Spike is gone, his watchfulness silenced, his chirping stilled forever. Somewhere a broken hearted child grieved for Spike having found his freedom. To that child I say, Spike lived on. I too can grieve for Spike's passing from my life. Yet Spike lives on in the gift he left us, the gift of his example to us of a life well lived.
    To Spike: http://www.photo.net/photo/14275923
     
  72. Truth
    Is it a truth we exist on a burning ember travelling through space as a fungus consuming ourselves? Life is really really very similar on the genetic level.. so, how really different from a banana are we. Similar genetics. Yes, we claim we are self aware.
    Does a God exist to give purpose and belief to this cannibal fungus which feeds on itself. Probability will argue that there is no proof for existence or non existence only speculation. So, probability would say belief is the logical choice. Hell could not be a pleasant experience.
    A photograph holds a truth to the viewer and photographer very dependent on their individual perception of truth.
    A story being told which relates to a truth as they see it, invokes emotions, feelings, and a journey to a higher place. Perhaps touching the skirts of God as some might see it.
    A few thoughts.
     
  73. "So, probability would say belief is the logical choice."
    An interesting and challenging proposition.
    Many believers in God seem to prefer faith to logic, so yours is a different approach.
    I'm very respectful of those with faith in God. Logical approaches to God, on the other hand, seem not to work (for me).
    "Is it a truth we exist on a burning ember travelling through space as a fungus consuming ourselves?"
    A case can be made for the truth of the first part of your statement. "Fungus consuming ourselves" seems more of a metaphor and more opinion than truth.
    "Does a God exist to give purpose and belief to this cannibal fungus which feeds on itself."
    My answer is no. I appreciate that others' is yes.
    "Probability will argue that there is no proof for existence or non existence only speculation. So, probability would say belief is the logical choice."
    By the same reasoning, disbelief would be as logical a choice. But, as I said, I don't think this is a matter of logic and prefer the realm of faith, which I find rich with its own creativity and rewards.
    "Hell could not be a pleasant experience."
    Certainly one approach to it. I like what Mark Twain and William Shakespeare have to say about it.
    "Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company." --Twain
    "Hell is empty and all the devils are here." --Shakespeare
     
  74. By the way, Allen, I'm curious to know why you brought hell into the discussion. As far as I can remember, it wasn't being discussed and you didn't mention it in your OP. How does it relate to the discussion in your mind?
     
  75. Allen - "A story being told which relates to a truth as they see it, invokes emotions, feelings, and a journey to a higher place. Perhaps touching the skirts of God as some might see it."
    I had to come down a notch or two to appreciate the fullness in a small bird's life. Story, an element of the best photography: I think moves us and we don't know why, can't explain why.
     
  76. Allen - shades of Pascal?
    Some lyrics from a song:
    I can't stop the world from turning around,
    or the moon's pull on the tides.
    I don't believe we're in this alone.
    I believe we're along for the ride.
     
  77. ""Anders, I don't think many of us cherish portraits of those we love because they provide us with ambiguity.""
    Fred, I did not discuss "portraits of loved ones". In general, I mostly appreciate portraits that by the skill of the photographer tells several competing stories in the same time, leaving it to the viewer to sort it out. This is done by ambiguity, as far as I see it. I do however very little portrait photography, but I'm a great admirer of many.
     
  78. Portraits of loved ones often set the standard. Think of Stieglitz and O'Keeffe, Weston and Charis Wilson. I agree, though, that many great portraits are also not made of loved ones but rather subjects that come to the photographer in other ways.
    The important thing, though, is that I don't think ambiguity and truth in portraiture are mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, it can be the showing of various truths at the same time that can create that feeling of ambiguity. It's only when we identify truth with knowing (and as I said I like to also associate it with feeling, especially as relates to photography) that truth would suggest a lack of ambiguity. In the feeling realm, ambiguity and truth make for good bedfellows.
     
  79. The truth (as I see it) is that most people are both quite recognizable in their individual expressions and gestures and bearing and also a mystery in so many ways. When a portrait captures something about the person that is very telling and knowing as well as something very mysterious and ambiguous, it usually rings quite true for me.
     
  80. Very early in this conversation, Anders stated something like truth cannot exist in science, only knowledge (Sorry, Anders, if I have aptly missed your point, but I think not). I normally find Ander's points quite well taken but I think he misses the real character and power of best science. Science is the closest that man has come to understanding and measuring what is truth. Human behaviour (sociology, philosophy, law, or what-have-you) is a poor ground for establishing and understanding what is truth, and may always be so.
    You needn't be a highly educated scientist to see truth in powerful formulas (laws) like those of Gibbs or Newton. They are about as true as true can get, tested many times over by multitudes of largely independent observers and found to be so. Even Einstein's exception to F=m.a is a special and extreme case, based on phenomena that are quite removed from the conditions that most humans experience and therefore not really a refusal of Newton's very basic and true expression as it relates to a part of the world in which humans exist.
    Photography and truth. No. Photography and subjective or even powerful communication? Variable approaches to some aspect of truth? Yes.
    But as a vehicle of truth, it is ultimately deceiving, due in part to its lack of rigor. Still, it is worth trying to find some truth in its application, just as we do in creating the mixrture of words and sentences by which we try to express some element of truth and only approach that quite distantly.
     
  81. Anders, to keep it concrete, I wonder if you would mind linking to a couple of portraits you like that are ambiguous in the way you're discussing. I'd like to look at them with you.
    In the meantime, I'll add another one of mine below to show a contrast with the color portrait of Will in my post above. This one of Stuart I think is more ambiguous though not as good a portrait, precisely because I think it's missing some truth about Stuart himself. The color photo of Will has both ambiguity (in his expression and vulnerability). But I think it also has a lot of Will, the man, in it. We wouldn't know this as viewers, but any of Will's friends or family looking at the photo (including Will) will tell you how much they see Will in it, in addition to its other more ambiguous and non-representative aspects. Not just that it looks like will but that it conveys something of his being. The photo below of Stuart, on the other hand, is more (as I see it) Stuart as prop and perhaps Stuart as any man. Don't get me wrong, I like the photo but just don't find as much truth in it, truth about Stuart.
    My sense is that the portraits that are generally the most beloved by viewers, even viewers who don't know the subject, are ones that do actually capture some recognizable truth about the person. Though we, as viewers, wouldn't know that, I think it still imparts itself to the photo and affects us as viewers. Many people who have seen the photo of Will who don't know Will and have never met him have said to me it seems like it captures something very real about him. I can't recall anyone ever saying that to me about this photo of Stuart.
    ___________________________________
    Arthur, so good to see you here. I love your parting thought above: "Still it is worth trying to find some truth in its [photography's] application, just as we do in creating the mixture of words and sentences . . . "
    ___________________________________
     
  82. I can't seem to post an inline photo because of a PN system quirk, so here's a link. Sorry for the duplicate posts:
    STUART
     
  83. "I don't think ambiguity and truth in portraiture are mutually exclusive."

    Fred I totally agree on this. For me it is because of the ambiguity of a portrait, that we might get nearer to the truth(s) - I'm sure it is in plural - of a person. Truth(s) of individuals are rarely how "loving ones" look at them or perceive them !

    You asked me for examples, and I will come back.
    Personally, I have mainly worked on composed, composite and collage of portraits (mainly paintings) in order to create photographical images (often almost abstract images) that go beyond the individual portrait, creating what I see as ambiguity.
    I could show one of these below, without telling the history behind it. Some of you might recognised the works behind it.
     
  84. Here it is, hopefully
    00c51O-543105984.jpg
     
  85. "Truth(s) of individuals are rarely how "loving ones" look at them or perceive them !"
    I can only look at those portraits by Weston and Stieglitz as well as so many of the other great portraits of loved ones throughout history to know how much I disagree with you on this point.
    I didn't anticipate you would supply a collage as an example of photographic ambiguity. It's fascinating to consider, though a very different ballpark than what I was thinking of. Your example opens up an entire world of possibilities and is great. Thanks for posting it.
     
  86. Arthur - "But as a vehicle of truth, it is ultimately deceiving, due in part to its lack of rigor."
    Positrons were discovered photographically in 1922. Photography, then, is the use of an instrument whose rigor depends on purpose. So I don't agree that as a vehicle of truth, photography is ultimately deceiving.
    Also, Heisenberg emphasizes "a subjective element in the description of atomic events, since the measuring device has been constructed by the observer, and we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." (The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory).
    My take on that is that the scientific method of questioning exposes truths for sure. And we now don't directly observe nature for truths the way Newton did. Instead we rely on instruments for our observations in order to arrive at truths deeper than available through direct observation alone.
    I don't see a camera or a photograph as inherently any more, or any less subjective than all the other instruments through which we observe nature.
    Arthur - "Human behaviour (sociology, philosophy, law, or what-have-you) is a poor ground for establishing and understanding what is truth, and may always be so."
    Heisenberg places subjectivity at the heart of measurement processes and to me that places observations and explorations of subjectivity as an equally important component of nature's truths.
     
  87. ""I can only look at those portraits by Weston and Stieglitz as well as so many of the other great portraits of loved ones throughout history to know how much I disagree with you on this point.""
    I respect your point of view, Fred, but feel, that what we know about family life and relations between kinds, from research and not least from our personal experiences, people build images, myths, roles for each others and live most of their live reproducing these "loved images" in daily life. Photography is often a means of the same.
    It can sometimes, not always, of course, turn out to justify the infamous term: hell is the others ("L'enfer, c'est les autres", Sartre). When great portraitists take over, sometimes they distance themselves from these accepted images and something else is added: ambiguity sometimes emerges ! Often, I admit, it sells badly, if you try to sell it to the loved ones.
     
  88. Anders, I was talking about portraits being made by loved ones, not sold to them. Note my examples of Weston, Stieglitz and other portraitists who were making them, not buying them.
    Anders, as I said, I was meaning to be concrete, which is why I used specific examples. So, it's one thing to talk about research and trends of people in general but it's quite another to look at the Stieglitz and Weston portraits I was talking about and observe what's going on in them. I think the truth of their portraits is found both in the very recognizability and intimacy they capture from their subjects and in the mystery and ambiguity they also portray.
    When I mentioned the everyday shooter or scrap-book collector, I was thinking of just wanting pics of our family members that resembled them and would provide nice memories of them, where ambiguity wouldn't really be an issue. This is a very different world of photography, though it definitely should be considered as well.
    Yes, it looks like I will happily agree to disagree, which suggests a healthy variety of opinion.
     
  89. Let me try to answer the demand for examples of portraits with ambiguity - sometimes going beyond , sometimes playing with, the myth and image of the persons: I'll limit myself to fourteen !:
    Francesca Woodman: Self-portrait Untitled | Rome, 1977–78 or Untitled (Portrait of Francesca Woodman and her father George Woodman)1980
    Richard Avedon : Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin( 1970) or why not his photo of Truman Capote , or his Marilyn Monroe - and who said about his own portraitures: "... what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again."
    Edward Wilson's photo of Cherish Wilson, lover, model, collaborator...And most of the photos of Deborah Turbeville : here, here, here or Variations on chic; or Eugene Smith and his: Rebecca and Hydrangea; and why not the German photographer Sibylle Bergemann like this , this and this.
    In one way of another, ambiguity is a term that comes to my mind in all these fine portraits. It is not examples that are lacking, but I'll stop !
     
  90. "" it's one thing to talk about research and trends of people in general but it's quite another to look at the Stieglitz and Weston portraits I was talking about and observe what's going on in them.""

    I don't see it like that. They are not different things. Good research and life long experience both help to put words on what you can observe when you look at a portrait (or live and communicate with people) and see, and even understand "what's going on in them" and around them - and it even helps to talk about it. Anti-intellectualism is not good for looking at portraits! Intellectualism alone, would be a catastrophe when we talk about truth and concrete portraits.
     
  91. Anders - "...people build images, myths, roles for each others and live most of their live reproducing these "loved images" in daily life."
    Here is a photographic example http://users.rider.edu/~suler/photopsy/johari.htm
    There are known deceits, known to self/known to another. And there are deceits known to self but not known to another, and self-deceit known to another, and unknown unknowns where lies an 'elusive' sort of ambiguity.
    Anders - "Often, I admit, it sells badly, if you try to sell it to the loved ones."
    Why would a family member want an image that only showed a naïve view of a family member? Family might love a person because of their flaws, not in spite of their flaws, and not because family members aren't aware of flaws and ambiguity. A family member of a generally hated personage might want portraits of her/him out in the world that showed a good side of that person. Any generally loved personage will have an army of photographers stalking them in order to take a picture that shows the dirt. But that isn't portraiture that army is after. A good portrait is more about truth than lies.
     
  92. Charles, going back to what you said to Arthur, I was even thinking of how often photos are used in forensics, police work, and court cases. They are rather dependable in a lot of cases, though it never hurts, whether in science or art, to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. Photos can be falsified and have been known to fool us by leaving out the more complete story. But, as you say, anything we use as proof has that risky potential.
    One of the exciting things about photos is the varied uses and genres of them, from snapshots, to records of things, to documenting things and events, to making pretty pictures, to art, to religions that fear they steal souls. Pictures from the holocaust have been very helpful in proving important truths about history, and even in reminding us of them, even though some will still deny those truths.
    In some ways, the overlaps of genres and types of photos are most intriguing. When I'm making a portrait, I'm to some extent influenced by loving snapshots and by the documentary capabilities of the medium . . . and I do always promise to return the souls of the people I shoot, someday. :)
     
  93. Charles, thanks for the example of the role of photography in science. It becomes I think simply an extension of the act of observation, controlled by man. When I take a microphotograph of a very small subject, invisible to the naked eye, it is aided by the magnification of the optical (or at smaller dimensions, the electronic) system and the recording device. Can I be sure that what the camera observes and records is real? Is there something that is acting that is falsifying what I "see"?
    What Heisenberg is seeing poses a problem for him, but for different reasons than the fact he cannot see it. My remembrance of a somewhat short and incomplete (and for me to some degree incomprehensible) exposure to quantum mechanics is not very useful in contemplating the Heisenberg principle or any other observations/postulates he made, but we know that he questioned the nature of what is the atom and its constituents: Are they waves or are they particles? His principle suggests that the closer we get to seeing what is there, the farther we get from differentiating what is there. Truth was denied to him.
    But Einstein's thoughts of what happens to matter and energy at or near the speed of light (the velocity of the latter was already known and had been measured long before his birth), or Heisenberg's thoughts about the nature of atomic sized matter, are phenomenon quite remote from us and to our capability to see or experience ("To be or not to be") and quite special cases (although not so for Hamlet's question, of course).
    Photography applied to communicate ideas or emotions rather than measurements places it I think on different terrain and one less rigorous (deceiving) as a path to truth. The nature of the beast, and its users.
    Fred and Anders: Is ambiguity truth or is it simply a vehicle to excite our imagination? The road to truth, never completed, is that not more interesting than truth? Truth would be too final.
    Fred, just read your last post. Interesting point about possessing the souls of our subjects. But do you really think you or any other photographer get that close to the nature or essence of the person? I am a bit skeptical, even though I might be quite excited to realize just that. I think we (referring to we in general) overestimate at times the power of the image perception and capture, of what we achieve (in depth) as opposed to what we appear to achieve.
     
  94. ""Is ambiguity truth or is it simply a vehicle to excite our imagination? ""
    It could be both, couldn't it ? It can excite our free flowing imagination, but it is especially rich if it has its roots in reality and tells some kind of accepted "truth" (accepted by those involved) about the person, the role, the context, the period, the country, the photographer etc. The main subject matter in a Portraits is not always the one, that is pictures. Artists use portraiture for many things. Viewers too. Just like buyers of portraits do. The perceived and accepted "truth" about a person, the family, the culture, the religion, the situation etc, are just some of the dimensions in a portrait.
    ""Why would a family member want an image that only showed a naïve view of a family member?""
    I would not use the term naive, unless you believe that normal life of most people is a sign of naivety. I don't see it like that. Normal life and relations between people, within which fits some kind of "true" image of the individual with its roles, history, perceived qualities and potentialities. However, always individuals are much more, and might have different roles and being perceived differently by others in other context away from the circle of the "loved ones". Portraiture for the loved ones is therefore not naive, but partial and incomplete. Ambiguity opens up for the whole, but never totally covers it.
     
  95. Arthur, I was being tongue-in-cheek. I don't believe in souls, period, so I certainly don't believe in stealing or capturing them. The smiley face :) was meant to convey the humor.
    And, Arthur, regarding truth and ambiguity, what I've been saying is that, IMO, portraits capture some truths (individuals' recognizable expressions, gestures that seem to convey something significant about the personality of the subject involved, lighting that shows an identifying tattoo or blemish or wrinkle or gleam in an eye, capturing that familiar twist of the head, etc.) and some ambiguities/mysteries and that there are overlaps among the truths and ambiguities of portraits.
     
  96. Arthur "Can I be sure that what the camera observes and records is real?"
    At some point the instrument contributes an effect to a phenomenon, and as I understand it that effect at some limit contributes to ambiguity. For example, we can't know both position and velocity once we have passed some limit. So with a micrograph of an inanimate object at some level of magnification: we can be sure that what the camera recorded is real. (With an animate object under magnification: at some point we have to beware of cooking it.) However at some point of magnification reality can't be measured with precision. We are today in physics still uncertain about the nature of the Nature we observe at a fundamental level. For string theory, our instruments are not up to the task of experimental confirmations. We don't really know what we are looking at with our instruments. Also, and this is my main point: we expose nature only to the extent that we have adopted for that purpose a particular method of questioning. In science, that method is intellectual. As Heisenberg puts it more narrowly "...in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools." But that subjectivity was always present, even with the phenomenon that can be observed directly. More broadly Heisenberg agrees that "in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators."
    In candid photography: can we ever be sure that a photographer hasn't contributed an effect to the resulting photograph? In portraiture, that effect is embraced and if I read Fred, others, correctly, that effect can create a truth from within the interaction of observer/observed.
    At some point, physical observations of matter aren't candid, our instruments impart a 'portraiture' effect to the phenomenon, uncertainty.
    Which is to say that even with the powerful tools of our intellect applied to the problem, when observing nature we really don't know what we are looking at. I don't think we should forget that fact when speaking broadly of truth, since truth includes emotional truths, etc. The knowledge available to us through the use of our intellectual tools: everything we know gets used in some way or another in a process governed entirely by subjectivity. That is the scary thing. We are despite our knowledge stuck in terrain less rigorous.
     
  97. "In candid photography: can we ever be sure that a photographer hasn't contributed an effect to the resulting photograph? "
    Probably never can be sure we have not contributed something, but we can be fairly comfortable that we've photographed more or less degree of candidness. Still, even there, we will probably be fooled or fool ourselves sometimes! If nothing else, we are contributing the framing through the lens, which has a basic effect on the photo. But I do think there are cases of what we understanding to be basic candidness, as opposed to posed or staged. Again, though, it's always a matter of degree rather than absolutes.
    Note THIS WEEK'S POTW. It really does look like a candid shot of the woman and what she's doing, but there is a strong feeling of determination and influence from the photographer in terms of the strong geometrical composition and the closeness and hardness of the wall. Had it been shot from a different angle, maybe we could see other random action and wider view down the street, we might feel that the photographer had operated more candidly.
    It's interesting to consider that we often think of candid photography in terms of the candidness of the scene or subject being shot. Do they know they're being shot. I think there's also more and less candid states of the photographer and more or less candid ways to approach shooting.
    "In portraiture, that effect is embraced and if I read Fred, others, correctly, that effect can create a truth from within the interaction of observer/observed."
    Yes, it often is. Though I also think there are portraits that rely on more rather than less candidness and prefer to keep the interaction to a minimum in favor of keeping the photographer's influence to a minimum. There are also some good, candid street portraits, though I suppose we could debate if those are more street or more portrait, but I don't really care much what we call them.
    What I take from your statement is something important. People often assume that candid is more truthful. I don't happen to think so, since I think there's so much truth in intentional human interactivity.
     
  98. "What I take from your statement is something important. People often assume that candid is more truthful. I don't happen to think so, since I think there's so much truth in intentional human interactivity."
    Imagine a scientist providing arbitrary inputs to an experiment, or rather, in letting the experiment (conditions) itself direct the outcome. Arbitrary fashion, like Brownian movement. The result of not directing an experiment (not setting it up, not establishing some conditions, etc.) is often unyielding of wothwhile results. Such a candid experiment seldom aims at, or approaches, truth.
    So I agree entirely with what Fred refers to as intentional interactivity. It is important in science, art and photography.
    I am familiar with the subjectivity of the researcher as referred to by Charles. It is very hard to ignore and I have had some biases in my own work, but subjective reasoning is part of an interactivity that is important in attaining an objective. The benzene molecular ring owed to the researcher thinking of an animal chasing its tail.
    I am drawn to artistic photography and to the conscious and intentional interaction of the photographer. I know that this is not the intent of many of my photographer colleagues, some of whom disdain the interaction of the photographer, because to them it limits the attainment of an unbiased (if there ever is such a thing) capture of a subject.
    We all have our own approaches and I am glad that photography is not straight-jacketed to one approach or that truth is in any way essential (on the contrary, I believe that to seek it is often superfluous to making a successful image. I believe we should only be true to our own ideas and perceptions, however distorted in the context of any notion of truth.
     
  99. Arthur - "The benzene molecular ring owed to the researcher thinking of an animal chasing its tail."
    To be more precise: "He said that he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is a common symbol in many ancient cultures known as the Ouroboros or Endless knot). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzene
    So the benzene molecular ring wasn't a 'thought' of a researcher: it was a day-dream or reverie that revealed a truth that I assume was later verified by thought. It may be fair to say that few scientific truths can claim only thought as contributing to their discovery and despite the utility of the scientific method it is just one of many points of view into nature, its view of nature entirely a matter of what questions we can legitimately ask within its framework. The discovery of the ring shape of the benzene molecule is a classical example of the progressive interaction that can come out of both rationality and irrationality. Not all irrationality is unreasonable!
     
  100. Read John Donne's essay "On Truth"

    It begins: "What is truth?" said jesting Pilate who could not stay for an answer.
     
  101. "But do you really think you or any other photographer get that close to the nature or essence of the person?"
    Arthur, it's a great question.
    I doubt a portrait ever captures what we think of when we talk about the essence of a person. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure that such an essence exists or would ever be able to even be grasped let alone photographed. People are ever-changing and have moving parts, and anyone trying to consider someone's essence is limited by their own perspective and context.
    As for photo portraits, I think several portraits of a person are often able to capture more about the person than single ones. I love finding different shades of a person in series of portraits over time. If there is an essence to most of us, it may be that we each have so many different sides and so many different lights within which to be seen. It might be impossible to be in touch with all that at once.
    One thing a portrait can do is connect a viewer to the subject in a way that's just different, and therefore special, than moments one may have with the person. Just like a photo can bring out of a scene or object something significant that might have been missed by a lot of people passing by that scene, a portrait can express things about a person that become felt strongly and seem to distill something essential about that person.
    Maybe that's it. It's not that we're experiencing the essence of the person in the portrait, but we may very well experience something essential about them.
     
  102. Fred - "It's not that we're experiencing the essence of the person in the portrait, but we may very well experience something essential about them."
    That well spoken statement rings true for me. It reminds me again of the Johari window which for two of its openings says that we can't know the essence of a person, are always confronted in part by a mystery just as on any particular day we might be mystified at our own self.
    Arthur raised the issue of rigor when photography is used as a path to truth. Does that path contain increased rigor when we as photographers become more aware of and more actively engaged with point of view in photographs? The rigor of science is increased when, as with Heisenberg, point of view is incorporated as an essential element of inquiry. Can the same be said about photography? Any photographic examples that explicitly explore point of view?
     
  103. Another question related to point of view. Photographers are known at times by having developed a style. How does a photographer's style interact with point of view? Does style work for or against rigor in point of view?
     
  104. "The rigor of science is increased when, as with Heisenberg, point of view is incorporated as an essential element of inquiry. Can the same be said about photography?"
    For me, not necessarily. Though it can be said for photography, I think it's significant that it can also be just the opposite, and suspect there is a perspective from which lack of rigor can and has played a role in the discovery of scientific truths, though I'm not especially schooled on the subject.
    In photography, accidents can sometimes get us to the truth, as can spontaneity, as opposed to rigor.
    Isn't it also the same in science? The old Archimedes-bathtub-Eureka! story.
    Sometimes it's a momentous observation that takes place in the blink of an eye, perhaps in a significantly non-rigorous moment, that reveals truth.
    ____________________________________
    A unique style, and one that comes off as personal, can help show point of view. But part of style is often of a period rather than an individual, so the point of view can be one of milieu and culture rather than of a particular individual. In art, style can be associated with a group or "school."
    ____________________________________
    One way to explore point of view is to imply oneself in the action, not literally, but to have your own presence felt, if even outside the frame.
    Here's a photo of mine and a comment I got. It's not crucial whether you agree with what the commenter is seeing, just the suggestion that a photo can do this.
    [​IMG]
    Here's the comment:
    theater voyeur
    Hi Fred. Is that a reflection on the TV or is it on? Looks like it is a reflection, is the photographer visible? With the person at the window with his shadow, i get a strong sense of the photographer involved in completing a 3 point geometry. Further enhanced by the angle of the room and the shadow looking for you.

    I recently mentioned this but don't recall you responding. In some of your recent photos I have noticed a trend...? I, as viewer have felt and seen your presence in the image more directly. As if you are interjecting your presence from outside the frame. Does that hit home or is this a case of my projecting my experience, reaction to your work?
    _______________________________________
    It's interesting that the commenter uses the word "voyeur," something I think a lot of photography participates in. I am often in tune with that notion of photographic voyeurism and it makes sense that it would have a lot to do with point of view.
     
  105. "Fungus consuming "ourselves" seems more of a metaphor and more opinion than truth"
    Not, really Fred. Life comes from a simple cell which has replicated itself creating many different variations.
    A very much common theme.
    We feed on ourselves and feed on our beauty. Think about it.
    "As far as I can remember, it wasn't being discussed and you didn't mention it in your OP. How does it relate to the discussion in your mind?"
    "Allen - shades of Pascal?."
    Pascal's Wager Fred.
    http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsforgod/a/pascalswager.htm
    Factual information regarding the truth of a photograph can only be based on probability.
    The Truth is the story, the emotion, the imagination, the mystery....
    And something else.
     
  106. throughout the world photography has produced a “familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary – making it appear familiar.....
    A truth lost.
     
  107. Interesting questions about point of view of the photographer and its relationship to the image and truth, Charles, and a pertinent example, Fred, which also invokes the element of chance (Re benzene ring: I venture to think that the ring was already a possibility among others open to the researcher, but the chance dream of the snake chasing or consuming its tail was an important and consolidating interaction).
    A point of view example may be the following image I made some time ago.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11472743
    The point of view being expressed is the uplifting or soaring effect of music on the human spirit, represented by a flight of birds symbolized by the flying violins. In response to one colleague of Photo.Net making a critique, I mentioned that the publication of the image within a Canadian special issue ("La Magie de l'Image", 1989) was done upside down to what you see here. The "error" was not necessarily an error to the editors, who no doubt saw a strengthened image with the violins oriented to their normal playing position. I prefer the irrational but more upward soaring violins of the originally intended version.
    This example may not address what your were after, Charles. I am trying to find an example, from within or without, that (also) relates to your very good question.
     
  108. Alan, has photography or anything else actually produced lots of people who are accustomed to atrocity? I don't buy it, it's just the author's point of view, an author who has a financial interest in saying something instead of just saying nothing. Bad new sells: it would be bad news if there were a lot of people who thought atrocity ordinary. I just don't believe that.
    Arthur you could be right about the benzene ring having already been a known possibility. If I grant that I however still see a possible explanation for a ring hypothesis being given enough weight among all the other possibilities that the scientist decided to take the ring possibility through to a conclusion: he was excited about being told a possible truth by an affect laden dream-ish idea, impelled by the affect to follow through with that specific idea. In any case, that anecdote has been used often to illustrate how a dream may resolve an important problem or impasse presenting in an individual's life. I must at all costs cling to the "illusion(??)" that illustration provides me. Even to the point of suggesting that dreams don't operate on the principle of chance, that is, purposeless coincidence just aren't present in dreams. (See last paragraph.)
    I think that violin image is an example where point of view makes for a stronger message in the image. I'll look for some examples too, but it is pretty hard.
    I had seen Fred's offered image before, but I hadn't really looked at it closely. I'm starting to see something of what Fred's appreciation of complexity in a photograph means.
    Back to dreams, I'll comment only because I'm puzzled by what I'll describe. My dog dreams. When younger, his running after prey dreams produced eager sounding vocalizations, much like his waking state vocalizations when chasing prey. When younger and dreaming that running type of dream, his legs would gallop in his sleep and he sounded positive and eager in his dreaming vocalizations. As of late, now 11, his running after prey dreams have changed. His leg movements while dreaming lack their former vigor. He tries, but the movements suggest hesitation. In life, he is still vigorous, but not for as long a time. The most striking change between his younger running dreams and his older ones: it's his vocalizations. They are more like a whimpering and crying than were the excited muffled continuous barks I was so accustomed to. In his dream, he was failing, his vocalization suggests that to me: in the dream it is as if his legs wouldn't carry him to his goal and he was upset. I feel his nature, through his dog dreams, is preparing him for the inevitability of death. He is losing in his dream struggles because of forces greater than he, and he by the dreams is being prepared for that fact. To us, its the sadness of temporality and impermanence. (To him, it's that he can't get what he most wants. Want he wants most are prey animals that are running.) I think it feels the same to him, though his life is smaller in thought and scope, it is still life, and life is preparing him for his decline in a dream state. That seems very natural to me. That it will be so.
    Cave paintings, prey running what we wanted most: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_painting
     
  109. Maybe this one of mine, although point of view isn't explicitly explored, that is, an object suggestive of the idea of point of view isn't present in the photograph: http://www.photo.net/photo/14524616 . If a plastic fork were an object in that picture it would directly suggest point of view in offering a comparison of the hawk's predation with that of our own species, perhaps softening us in our view of the hawk. The photograph would have then become more conceptual, though I don't think improved in that particular case.
    As to point of view that is implicit in that photograph: there's predator and prey and I selected that particular frame for its exaggeration of the predator/prey relationship; and I exaggerated again by processing it with boosted contrast and sharpening (which gave increased emphasis to the blood), intending to present the hawk unsympathetically.
     
  110. Charles, the way I see point of view in your rather amazing photo is that I, as viewer, can't help but adopt the point of view of the standing bird. It's like his eyes become mine. That really helps me empathize with BOTH birds.
     
  111. Interestingly, there's visual point of view (the physical point of view adopted) and there's personal point of view, each of which can be at play, and sometimes both at once. So, if I say I adopt the bird's point of view, that's talking about the physical point of view. If I say a certain documentarian is obviously coming from a liberal or progressive point of view, that's more of a psychological or emotional or political leaning. We should probably consider the differences (photographically) as well as the overlaps.
     
  112. Far from desensitizing us to atrocity, photos can sometimes help make it more real. The world was up in arms upon seeing the photos from Abu Ghraib. Had we heard the stories but not had the pictures, I don't think our offense would have been near as swift and strong. The pictures themselves and the fact that they were taken to begin with actually added to our collective outrage over the atrocities rather than desensitizing us. The pictures made so much about it concrete and impossible to overlook.
    Having said that, I'd cut Sontag slack in terms of the money making. Everybody's gotta earn a living. Just because she sold her words and ideas, there's no reason for me to think she didn't believe in them. She had a world of ideas to choose from and yet she settled on those as opposed to all the other directions available. Her writings embody a pretty consistent argument about photography and its cultural and societal roles and effects. Agree or disagree, I do think it's authentic and not just a sales pitch.
     
  113. I see what you mean Fred, that is, that I'm getting lost a bit in terminology. I'm not familiar with the analytical language that probably exists to properly separate physical view point (camera position), etc. from the statement an artist makes. Add to that all the subjectivity of all the people looking at a photograph, as well as where exactly any viewer can be physically standing when looking at a photo...
    Still, when I look at a photo I do wonder what the photographer is 'saying'. Since it's visual, there could be visual clues to the artistic statement being made. Interplay between statement and physical points of view, etc. That said, an artist can intend no statement, or can be intentionally vague where ambiguity is a statement of sorts.
    I'm sure we all recognize in photography a means of personal expression. How does one respond to and understand another's personal expression? Out loud, I'm exploring the idea that an important step in that apperception is to recognize that a photograph is one person's self-expression. A photograph is about what's being said and who is saying it; and I'm interested in both the what and the who.
    All subjectivities are equal, but some subjectivities are more equal than others: a statement made using artistic forms is in my mind supposed to be more important than other forms of personal expression, even more important should others recognize art in it. Still, there is no doctrine of artistic infallibility supporting art's truths. Even worse, art gets used. I have a preference for the view that sees inside of subjectivity the existence of objective imperatives that we can all recognize as true even as we recognize that e - mc2. We have to eat, for example. We have drives in common. Put a layer of knowledge on all that and look out. I think that art can and does express such truths, as well as truths more subtle.
    Points taken on Sontag.
     
  114. Charles, I didn't mean to suggest you were getting lost. I just wanted to point out the two kinds of point of view because I think they come together sometimes, especially in photography. Where we point the camera and where we point it from can very much influence and sometimes even make the artistic statement we are putting forth. I was saying it because I was thinking about the comment on my own photo above. In that case, part of the artistic statement seemed to be as a result of the point of view of the camera and the cameraman, physically. The comment was suggesting that the physical point of view was interjecting the presence of the photographer into the photo, which would be part of the artistic statement . . . "I am here."
    In any case, I think this artistic statement* can vary in degrees of intentionality. Some artists do have something in mind to express. And yet sometimes things get expressed much less deliberately and more subconsciously. This is why even the photographer can "learn" things about himself from his photos.
    *Maybe artistic "expression" hits it better because the "statement" is not always literal or understood, but rather shown and felt. Statement has that propositional element that can sometimes be lacking in favor of what might be something more akin to a quality, atmosphere, mood, or something very intangible but still recognizable.
    __________________________________________
    I think you're onto something in your last paragraph, especially the last couple of sentences. Art as an expression of drives we have in common. I've long considered art both extremely personal and significantly shared. I've often thought of the shared part in terms of artistic dialogues back and forth through the ages (how art seems to evolve through time as artists build on each others work or even reject a previous generation's visions and sounds). Also in terms of empathy, community, culture, etc. But your idea of physical (and emotional) drives strikes a real chord with me. Along those lines, I suppose that, for many of the greats throughout history, art may have been one of these core human drives (needs) itself, sometimes as strong (?) as the need to eat.
     
  115. Truth is constraining, imagination not.
     
  116. Arthur, would it depend on how the word truth is used? In the ideas Charles and I (and others) have expressed about photographic truths, do you find anything constraining? Maybe there is another word that would be better to use than truth, which is fine by me. I just hope my ideas are being expressed well and that I'm understanding the ideas of others.
     
  117. Fred, truth, in general, is an ultimate and I think unattainable destination. The process, or the travel, is to me more liberating, more revealing. The truths of some segments of our society are often simply dogma, whether unchallengeable (or not welcoming of challenges) or written as "self-evident" by others before us. Imagination and ideas, whether in photography or elsewhere, hold for me more fascination, even those difficult to find common appreciation with others.
    We are little islands with communication links and sometimes those work and sometimes not, but ultimately the truths, if any are found, are quite personal. Respect for others is one combining link in that equation. Friends or so called "soul-mates" sometimes participate in our imaginations, which thereby empowers our social conscience and needs.
    That is why I can resume my feelings in a simple 5 word phrase (that occurred to me in that form just this morning) and not need to greatly elaborate.
     
  118. Understood, Arthur. Thanks.
     
  119. In a sense, a truth recognized as a universal truth typically becomes mildly endorsable, off-putting, quaint, or cliché: having little power. In a sense, the most powerful truths can be the one's that are ultimately quite personal, as Arthur puts it, truths that we can't really share in proper context, becoming part of our mystery, or just part of who we are in our common place lives. For example a photograph of the natural beauty of place: yeah nature is beautiful, I'll endorse the idea of nature as beautiful with a ho hum, missing entirely the deeply personal element that makes such a photograph work on a high level for another. It is commonplace for people to be in physical locations, but who knows when or how the commonplace becomes for the observer something else.
    Add a subjective element to a photograph, add something from the inner personal point of view of the organic perceptual system holding and operating an inorganic camera: to borrow Arthur's concept of rigor: I suggest that palpable subjectivity from the photographer adds rigor to 'photography as a path to truth.'
    Whatever Ansel Adams saw in Yosemite is definitely in his photographs and I can and do appreciate it. We point a camera outward to make a personal artistic statement, putting something from our insides into the outside world that the camera captures in an image. I am 'in' every photograph I ever took, it almost goes without saying, I am there together with all the circumstances that put me in a place with the will to push a button. We may not recognize or think it so, but our presence in a place is not really commonplace.
    Consider: the more a truth is a mere 'Universal', the less power it has. I can possess a view (or does the view posses me) that puts high value on family values, for example. I can express that idea visually, say with an image of a happy family picnic. A viewer can look at the resulting photo and feel "well, we all value our families, ho hum to that 'snapshot'". If I intentionally broaden the concept of family, as in my photograph here, then I've added a different flavor to the concept of family values, extending it to include canines in a natural setting. Family as an idea can be broadened in ever increasing concentric circles to include just about anything. I've a daddy long legs whose contributions to my family are appreciated: he collects ants in a corner of my bathroom. I protect him from my family by including him in 'family' and by pointing out his contribution to us and how good he is at his family job.
    Universal truths do have power, I'm not arguing that they do or don't. What I'm suggesting is that mere universal truths repeated ad infinitum don't have much power to change minds. Part of the topic, truth in photography, is in the particulars of how a photographic image changes minds. If photography is a path to truth, travel is broadening and travel stories can be shared. I'm suggesting that one of the 'change elements' is subjectivity incorporated into an image in an artful way.
    Any ideas?
     
  120. Charles, Adams is an interesting example and forgive me if I'm treading on too common territory. I'd say Adams likely (must have) related very personally to Yosemite but I'd also say he wasn't that successful in getting it into his photos, stunning as they are to look at, especially in print. I'd relate his photos of Yosemite a little more to that endorsable and more universal sense of truth. Having been to Yosemite many times, I find myself quite removed from it when I look at his photos, though it certainly looks iconically and truthfully like Yosemite. Now I'm really not one who wants or needs a photo to make me feel like I felt when I was at the place that's being shown. A photo can be transformative and show something unique, rather than well-known or previously experienced. I find his photos of Yosemite, for the most part, coldly calculated and precise visions of something much more wild and unorganized and emotional.
    Adams and his photos in particular notwithstanding, however, your post is really well conceived and offers a lot to think about and a lot that rings true for me.
    I think many photos approach both the universal and the more particular or individual. Often, lesser significant photos or unmemorable ones try to go right to the universal truth, bypassing something particular. When a photo shows me something particular (like MIGRANT MOTHER, for example) AND offers a sense of universality or a sense of the iconic (like Migrant Mother), I usually find it much more rewarding.
    Building on your thoughts, I also think an individual photo is often used for that personal and unique truth while the more universal truth (and not necessarily cliché but sometimes deeply important and moving) may emerge in a series or body of work. The body of work gives the universal a chance to be constructed of and bolstered by the individual and personal.
     
  121. Charles, I like your phrase, ..."mere universal truths repeated ad infinitum don't have much power to change minds." Holding a mirror to that may show a few cracks, but essentially what you say has some truth I think. Photography has an eery quality to it, as if that split second capture reveals something that the eye and mind don't normally see, somewhat analoigous to the scare of "subliminal messaging or advertising in filmed sequences. In reference to Fred's point about Adam's impressive prints, that subjectivity can be overridden by a more cold and calculating art, as his work also affects me too.
    One current project, unfinished. is my desire to explore the traces or vestiges of human existence, apparent in scenes where no human is present. The eeriness for me comes from the fact that the image is often not as we would normally perceive the scene, but something transformed out of it and more visible once the camera has taken a slice from it. The intent or feeling at the moment of capture is quite subjective, but I think it does represent a part of the truth we approach in interpreting our subject matter. The following may (or may not for you) provide a part of that eeriness or unusualness.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/17410692
    http://www.photo.net/photo/17223534
    http://www.photo.net/photo/16552584
    http://www.photo.net/photo/16563422
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11472847
    http://www.photo.net/photo/11472844
     
  122. "mere universal truths repeated ad infinitum don't have much power to change minds." Holding a mirror to that may show a few cracks"
    Is there such a beast as universal truths? Or, just the latest perceived universal truths?
    The search for such universal truths is the only truth.
     
  123. Allen it may be that a one Universal truth is so particularly personal that there's no way to adequately communicate it, innervated into everything about us like the physical organic structures that comprise us, both part of us and beyond us at the same time. Any branch in that psychic/physical structure has roots, aggregated and disaggregated simultaneously. We are living things after all. Some call that love, but that's just a word.
    OK then, another question, "What do we just love about photography?!!!"
     
  124. "What do we just love about photography?!!!"
    First thing that comes to mind. Its connection to and separation from what the camera is pointed at.
     
  125. "What do we just love about photography?!!!"

    Essentially the same reply, in short form - the subject matter
     
  126. If I had to choose between connection and separation: it would be hard, but they seem to go together. I get some objectivity about my subjects while feeling more connected at the same time. My subjects are almost entirely from the animal world and I've learned a lot.
     
  127. By connection to and separation from what the camera is shooting I mean that photos are and are not about their subjects. Yes, they can be very connected to the subjects but they can also be, dare I say it, alienated from them in that they are photos, so they are in some sense denying that "real-life" subject. Often, it will be the light, the texture, the shadows, the photo taken as a whole, the abstracted quality of isolating that subject from its surroundings that will become more important than or even supersede the subject. Or, the subject can simultaneously, sorry, be and not be. The portrait you see is the man and is so not the man. The man photographed is connected to the man and is such a different animal . . . all at once. The subject is in a balancing act with photographic predicates. The photo of the pepper is about the pepper and is also a nude study in light. The camera points to something real. The photo is real and also an artifice.
    I have a feeling this can be explained better, but it's the best I can do for now. Or maybe it can't be. Maybe it just has to be developed.
     
  128. Fred - "The photo is real and also an artifice."
    Interesting, a lot to think about. I don't think I entirely get it, but let me try another phrasing and tell me if it alters your meaning. I'll use your original words as much as possible.
    A photo is real in that it is, after all, connected to its subject; and a photo is alienated from its subject by the fact of a photo being a mere artifact of the subject. A photo is real in that it captures something essential about a subject, but is alienated from the subject because it isn't in really the subject. And more than an artifact, artistic expression applied to a photo creates an artifice, given many contexts.
    In a photographic image the subject is both on display as a frame and is within that frame. Within the frame is a display of light, texture shadows, etc. On display implies an importance of subject warranting display; and within display, contained in the photo itself, are elements that alone or in combination can exceed, even supersede the subject in importance. Thus, the subject in the photograph can simultaneously be and not be the subject in the photograph; a subject is and isn't, emphasis can morph back and forth between competing subjects. These nuances of view can combine in their effect upon the viewer such that although there is a connection between the subject and its photograph, each are alienated from each other, separate and distinct; that difference can produce an emergence where the subject that was photographed and that subject as pictured can split into different animals, can be two things simultaneously. The instantaneous discovery by the viewer of that qualitative difference between subject as artifact and subject as artifice can be profound.
    In addition to artifact and artifice, a photo on display is artful. It is on display in the context of its forbearers. For example, a photo of a pepper is both about a pepper; but it is also a form, a nude study in light, preceded by other forms of nude studies in photographic art, preceded by nude studies in painting, etc.
    That's pretty good Fred, if I correctly rendered most of your original meanings.
     
  129. Nice recapitulation, Charles.
    Only one modification at the very beginning. Actually just an addition because I like your first sentence that starts with "A photo is real . . . "
    What I was also thinking of in saying a photo is real is that it is literally real. It is a thing in the world, every bit as real as the thing the camera got pointed at. It's a real piece of paper hung on a wall. Even an abstract photo, one where the subject is not recognizable at all, is real in this sense. The connection to subject can be completely severed and the photo is just a real thing on its own.
    Also, artifice is the man-made aspect and the sometimes deceptive, cunning, even dishonest, but also creative side of the photo. Take portraits. So often I get reactions projecting psychology or characteristics onto the person pictured, when nothing could be further from the truth. It was just the way we used light, or focus, or perspective. The extreme change that can come in stilling a moment. That feeling of knowing the person via the portrait can be much more about a viewer knowing a particular expression and feeling it personally and deeply. It's why I often see the photographed subjects as characters, who are real and even hyper-real and eminently relatable, but different from the actor playing the part. Still, the actor himself is on stage and so is more than just the character. And the person who's pictured in the photo was, indeed, there, so I can't deny the person's influence even on the trickery of the transformation to character.
     
  130. By the way, I think this artifice happens whether it's a picture of a posed person or someone passing by or hanging out on the street - person - character - and in pictures of rocks and houses too. The disconnection happens in degrees and sometimes when we think it's not happening we better face the music because it may be happening more than we think.
     
  131. Fred, I like the discussion about a photograph being what it is (a type of graphic) and not the subject matter itself rendered in a truthful reproduction. That I believe is impossible to achieve perfectly and the photo, even a scientific one, can only hint at what is photographed, albeit in some cases being quite close to reality. It may however reinforce the perceptions of others or the photographer in regard to the subject.
    Certainly the photographer, or simple chance (some unpredicted effect of lighting, of position, of reaction of the subject, etc.), adds something to the image, and artifice (from Latin artificium, or artifex) is one way to express that.
    What is important in artifice is I think the sub-term art, as artifice expresses some form of art or innovation, as a strategem (an artful or crafty expedient), an ingenuity, or a cleverness or skill. Some might say artifice is a subtle deception, but I look at artifice in photography as something the photographer (or again, chance) personally adds to the image. Therefore, truth in terms of representation of a subject matter is a sort of non-sequitur in describing the objective of a photograph.
    For me, that is great and is like removing a straightjacket from photography. Why does a photo have to aim at reality or at truth? We can use the medium to express something new or fresh or different about a subject matter (human, building, nature). In my example of a Port Hope (Ontario) intersection, what I wanted to communicate was not the normally busy crossroad or the colorful and warm hue of its natural or painted brick buildings, or a day in the life of a small city in a main street shopping area, but rather the city stripped of its everyday appearance and reduced to its architectural or topographical form. The single person in the lower right is almost an anachronism in this view, and looks uneasy about entering the frame.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/17410692
    Artifice. Yes. For me it is the basis of interesting photography.
    Asa contrast, the following photos, made last week in one of our island villages, have a minimum of artifices or artifacts. Their interest, if there is, is mainly in terms of fairly realistic records of life in a certain part of North America, but they are not not imbued with any manipulative or innovative intent on the part of the photographer, and therefore have a minimum of artifices.
    00c5uc-543194784.jpg
     
  132. Another sans-artifice:
     
  133. OOPs, here:
    00c5uf-543194884.jpg
     
  134. Another, from the village, to show lack of artifice (or is one perceptible? - arguable, but I think it does not contain an artifice, unless the photographer's choice is one...):
    00c5uh-543195084.jpg
     
  135. Arthur, looking at your last photo, the artifice I see is the dimensional flatness of the scene, occurring because of the inclusion of such a small hint of foreground. Also, the very blatant framing, which chops the roof off in a rather jarring way. To me, there would be less artifice here if you'd included a little more foreground, giving us a sense of the natural or organic space and allowed the roof a little more completeness (or less). [I am talking strictly from the perspective of artifice and not suggesting what would make a better or more interesting photo.] I don't think artifice necessarily makes a photo a work of art. But I do agree with you that art and artifice are obviously related.
     
  136. "Therefore, truth in terms of representation of a subject matter is a sort of non-sequitur in describing the objective of a photograph."
    I've been hoping to draw a distinction, in this thread, between truth as representation or accuracy of representation and truth as a sort of deeper emotional relationship to whatever a photo may show, express, or communicate. When I talk of photographic truth, I'm talking about the latter.
    Ironically, sometimes the further from the first kind of truth (representative accuracy) a photo is, the more likely is the second kind of truth to emerge.
    I think a lot of great documentary work, much of which I consider art, does not rely too much on artifice and tries to present as unflinching and unadorned view as possible. It's art not only because of what we see, but because of what we come to feel.
     
  137. Fred, as the scene (subject matter) is indeed flat, I don't think it has a particular artifice in that sense - as that is simply how it is.
    The assymetric relationship of the door vis-a-vis the roof dormer windows (intentionally shown only very partially), and the suggestion that the windows, not seen completely (re the rightmost part of the image) are also assymetric with the door, and also with the the sign above the door, characterize this village shop which has evolved from a former residence and displays the non-symmetrical architecture, even evident in this more recent building (1850s), that is acarry-over from former much earlier vernacular buildings than this (cold winters cut down on the number of openings, windows and doors) in which openings were put wherever needed and not according to a more classical Renaissance inspired manner.
    Digression aside, this is just a record image without any intentional artifice presumption, and it could be so also as a larger view or a more selective smaller framing than this and still remain such a record image. More blasé from the photographer and quite different from the artifice of my Port Hope example.
    "I don't think artifice necessarily makes a photo a work of art".

    True, but this is also true for any other subjective interpretation of subject matter, artifice or not, which does not necessarily produce art. Artifice is just one important contributor to that possibility, but it is a quite wide ranging one, as it can cover many things in an intentional or even a non-intentional image creation that does more than just aim at some "truthful" representation of subject.
    "truth as a sort of deeper emotional relationship to whatever a photo may show, express, or communicate. When I talk of photographic truth, I'm talking about the latter."
    Fred, one might instead call that "effect" or "personal involvement" with the image and what it represents for you. Or an effect that complies with your emotions or values and perhaps reinforces them. But "truth"? Maybe the word "truth" is too definitive in that case, given that our points of reference may also be evolving as we mature or grow old or experience entirely new stimuli?
     
  138. Arthur my perception of 'End of summer in a village' changes if I instead retitle it for discussions sake: "Two people in a village at summer's end". Because the second person on the street is you, thereby 'in' the picture standing at the implied window we create out of the lens, the window always 'there' in the picture with we photographers standing behind it. So let me play around with that conceptualization just for the fun of it.
    By extension, and over generalizing, a picture is as much a picture of the photographer as it is of the 'pictured' subject. The observational window of the lens points two ways. For me, my awareness of that fact works for and against me in photography at times; I am affected by a sort of personal straight jacket of persona that I carry as surely as I carry and operate the camera. A sense of unease with persona can come both from the living subject and living photographer. So can a sense of ease with all that. And depending on how we work with the interplay between mask and 'no mask', well, what, spontaneity? We all know we are not our masks, not our personas. Also we know that on any day we can be more in the process, or less. I'm not going for schema here!
    So let me first quote exactly, and then rephrase what Fred wrote. Quote Fred: "By the way, I think this artifice happens whether it's a picture of a posed person or someone passing by or hanging out on the street - person - character - and in pictures of rocks and houses too. The disconnection happens in degrees and sometimes when we think it's not happening we better face the music because it may be happening more than we think."
    Rephrasing to emphasize the person of the photographer, photographer persona (and more broadly character) behind the window of the lens: ...this artifice [effect] of photographer persona/character is imbued into the photograph whether it is a picture of a posed person (observer bias) or someone passing by or hanging out on the street of rocks and houses too. A photograph is a disconnection from the reality pictured, a photograph is the abstraction of an artifact from reality and the placement of that abstracted reality within a two dimensional frame. At the same time a photograph is the abstraction of the reality of the photographer's subjectivity, the subjectivity of the photographer abstracted and placed within a two dimensional frame. A photograph is a disconnection of the photographer from the photographer, a 'downloading' into the frame of the photographer's subjective state as it existed at the moment of capture. About that, or related to that in my mind anyway, Fred wrote: "The disconnection happens in degrees and sometimes when we think it's not happening we better face the music because it may be happening more than we think."
    The persona and character of the photographer is a 'subject' of a photograph, the photographer's persona and character is pictured as surely as is the objective reality coming in for an interpretation through the lens. A scientific photograph of a subject is in fact also a photograph of the scientist. The subject is posed and the photographer is posed too; the better the pose in a scientific photograph, the more rigorously obtained is the result.
    Effective posing by the photographer includes persona, but isn't limited to persona, I think that goes without saying. In the artistic process we work to voice our creative sides, both in our walking around, choice of subjects, use of imagination, and in the darkroom side of the process.
     
  139. Charles, I agree that the photographer is always a part of his image, just as a scientist is always a part of his observations, measurements or postulates. Perhaps we can say that the photographer has certain biases that come into play when he selects whatever subject matter or position or other aspect of his photo. I think this is a bit different than his imbuing the image with personal values or persona.
    Several monumental views of nature, or of man's realisations, are referenced by marked sites from which photographs can be made (I think I read somewhere that the Adam's half dome view in the USA is so referenced for tourists with cameras). Given similar light, whether it is photographer A or B or C who makes a photograph at that site, the results are close to being identical, and whatever bias existed is largely that of whoever chose that site from which to photograph. Creating a subjective and distinct image in that condition is not evident. In cases where we have more control of what and where we photograph we can introduce more or less of ourselves in the photograph. Once a micro-photographer has decided what inanimate object he wishes to photograph under the standard light of a microscope, the result is relatively free of bias or persona, or any artifacts created by those factors. General photos, like end of summer in the village, can contain relatively few biases or artifices. They may be truer to the subject (when shown to third parties) than those images made with a much more subjective intent on the part of the photographer, which as Fred mentions, can contain values (personal truths) that are important to, or which characterize, the photographer. The part of the photographer in an image may be very small or quite large, but I don't think either really establishes any truths that might be important to the overall viewing public. The photograph can nevertheless incite people to think about things, including its relationship to truth or the quest for it.
     
  140. "Given similar light, whether it is photographer A or B or C who makes a photograph at that site, the results are close to being identical, and whatever bias existed is largely that of whoever chose that site from which to photograph. Creating a subjective and distinct image in that condition is not evident."
    I agree. Well said. And this does, in fact, convey a lot about each photographer. It is true that many people watch American Idol, many people like kitsch, and many people want to be told where to take the "best" picture from. Just that someone did not adopt a different perspective does tell us a lot about the person . . . and probably more about people in general.
    That being said, these are kind of default behaviors that tell certain truths, or the more passive activity of not really choosing a personal perspective to adopt when photographing something iconic. So I do think it's probably the case that we can tell more about a person when they appear to have made more aware or intentional or deliberate decisions in their photo making rather than just following the herd.
    Some of the disconnection I'm talking about is exemplified in this story about the repetitive photos of Half Dome. In a sense, the photos are really not about Half Dome at all, but about possession, memory, and even competition of a sort -- "I want for myself what everybody else has." If you've seen tourists pull up to the picture-taking parking lots at Yosemite and other similar national parks, you've seen anything but a connection to the scenery and place. It is simply a passing glance. Like notching off a name on a list of things to do. "I have seen Half Dome in person and I have proof." Often, in fact, the camera in these people's hands serves as a means NOT to actually see the scene but rather to OWN some superficial part of it, its likeness, and move on as quickly as possible without taking the time to see it.
     
  141. "So I do think it's probably the case that we can tell more about a person when they appear to have made more aware or intentional or deliberate decisions in their photo making rather than just following the herd."
    I said this and would like to add or clarify. It might also be the type of photo taking or making that is involved. Any photographer will adopt unconscious perspectives and we can tell much about the photographer even from non-deliberate photographic gestures he may make. When someone is following the herd, and that includes a lot of snapshot making, it's hard to read into what they've done and see something unique or personal to them because it is telling us more about the herd, cultural approaches to snapshots, etc. But someone like Arthur who, even though is taking the photos above in the objective manner he sees fit, but who does not really approach photography as a rote task will, I think, show us much about himself even through the non-deliberate or unintentional things he does to make the photo. My thought is that both intentional and unintentional things we do expose ourselves in our photos but less so when we are doing things by cultural rote.
     
  142. Fred, a good final sentence in your post. I was tempted to read "cultural rut" instead of "cultural rote". The effect of our culture on our life and photography is hugely important, and a challenge for any artist or thinking person (I should write and/or instead of or). Our cultures give us good things and less good things and whichever, they are hard to ignore or balance in or out when we are photographing.
     
  143. Fred, I agree with your characterization of the numerous Half Dome image makers, and Arthur's characterization as in a 'rut'. Adding to that, among the cave paintings I linked to somewhere in the foregoing, are paintings of human hands on the wall of a cave. A less artistically inclined cave dweller may have just made his/her mark with charcoal from the evening fire. With a camera today, we take our graffiti home with us leaving a site disturbed only by our footprints. It is the subjective reality in the details and textures within the creative impulse itself that holds my interest as much as the artifact imposed upon the photographic medium. Well at least sometimes, not as much as might be suggested by my continually repeating that point.
    Arthur, emphasis added - "Given similar light, whether it is photographer A or B or C who makes a photograph at that site, the results are close to being identical, and whatever bias existed is largely that of whoever chose that site from which to photograph."
    As are the results of Einstein's to Newton's, close, but no cigar. If each camera at Half Dome also recorded its geographical position and elevation, differences however slight would be recorded. The camera roughly measures how tall the photographer is at the very least.
    Likewise, Half Dome's reality is erosion and each instant places new little bits of Half Dome as litter down on the valley floor, Half Dome and valley floor quite different than when pictured by Mr. Adams. Different indeed in each frame of Half Dome captured in all the cameras since.
    Likewise each camera records an image of its own structures. Further, each use of a camera is a measurement of the photographer's ability to focus, to hold a camera steady, etc. Random effects introduced by the photographer are in a normal distribution where random error is as likely to fall as much on one side of average as on another, errors self cancelling such that a recognizable picture of Half Dome emerges. We miss by an average the 'real Half Dome', the Half Dome in a state of active decay, though we do more recognize that a photographer is in a state of active decay, as is the camera, in order of longevity.
    So Arthur when you say of Half Dome or anything else that can be capture in a photograph (emphasis added), "Creating a subjective and distinct image in that condition is not evident.", you are stating the common bias that allows us the courage to hike on Half Dome unreservedly. We don't expect that Half Dome would toss us to the valley floor as though we were just anther 'little bit' to shed in that process we memorialize in a photograph, that process of Half Dome's un-becoming Half Dome entirely.
     
  144. Arthur - "They may be truer to the subject (when shown to third parties) than those images made with a much more subjective intent on the part of the photographer, which as Fred mentions, can contain values (personal truths) that are important to, or which characterize, the photographer. The part of the photographer in an image may be very small or quite large, but I don't think either really establishes any truths that might be important to the overall viewing public."
    A personal truth, such as the impressiveness of Half Dome, is a personal truth established as important overall to the viewing public by their proclivity to then go there and take a picture of Half Dome for themselves. Values can be cultural, held individually and collectively. Where do we get our values?
    On the one hand, its from culture that we get our values and the less such a value is presented as subjective then all the more 'objective' or self-evident a value becomes in the mind of its holder. On the other hand our value also are by choice.
    In either case, from culture or choice, there is an ordering process involved in placing value. The process of the assignment of value, the feeling function as Jung defines it, "is an entirely subjective process,..", a "process that takes place between the ego (q.v.) and a given content, a process, moreover, that imparts to the content a definite value in the sense of acceptance or rejection ("like" or "dislike")." I add not just like or dislike, but also how much like or dislike of that content, and how much in relation to other content contemplated within the operation of that valuation process Jung calls the feeling function. The result of that valuation process can be written thus: 2x, where x is the content and the coefficient is contributed to the expression by the feeling function, the feeling function having assigned the value 2 to a content x. Jung goes on to say that 0x (Zero X), that is, indifference, is also an assignment of value in that entirely subjective process he called the feeling function. I might call the feeling function instead the 'integrative function' because it integrates content into an ordering of values. That ordering, Jung points out, is a rational function because "values in general are assigned according to the laws of reason, just as concepts in general are formed according to these laws."
    From those definitions I take it that the expression of values by a photograph, and/or a viewer finding value in a photograph, is rational since the feeling function is a rational function and doesn't operate according to a pure subjectivity, isn't random or accidental. If you ask a person why their value assignment to the photograph differs from the photographer's, or from another viewer's, the explanation will be a rational discussion about value assignment: there are reasons that value is assigned. The assignment of value is subjective and yet made by a psychological function that has rules that are understandable to reason. Our moods, our emotions, may have no reason - but our value assignment does have reason of its own, is relational, integrative, with depth, dimension, and order. I offer that 'personal truths' carry more weight as the products of the feeling function's rational processes than pure subjectivity.
     
  145. "I offer that 'personal truths' carry more weight as the products of the feeling function's rational processes than pure subjectivity."
    Charles, you know more about Jung than I do, so I will from this remark assume that the feeling function can be ascribed a certain objectivity (rational process) as opposed to "pure" subjectivity. I should read your text again, as I seem to have the impression from your 4th paragraph that the feeling function is indeed a subjective one. Are we speaking of relative subjectivities when we talk of personal truths being more weighty when the feeling function is invoked? Or....? I guess that I am not convinced that personal truths are anything more than subjective (if honestly felt and personally rationalised) ones.
     
  146. Arthur - "Are we speaking of relative subjectivities when we talk of personal truths being more weighty when the feeling function is invoked?"
    Yes. The coefficient in 2x, 2, can vary across individuals, but x is any known content. (my expression isn't quite right, maybe ((+-)2x) is better) I think it has to do with any content that may come across our minds. On the one hand we can have a singular emotional reaction to content (of any kind), a purely subjective reaction because that emotional reaction, if we have one, is comprised of raw affect. At the same time we have to integrate that content, assimilate it, personally acculturate it in a manner of speaking. We make an integrative judgment - like or dislike with all value tones implied - and by how much.
    Like and dislike involve comparisons to other likes and dislikes, so there is additional ordering taking place by virtue of that integrative function that Jung terms the feeling function. In English, common use of the word 'feeling' ordinarily refers to affective reactions (fight, flight for example). The word 'integrative' better conveys the sense to me of what the feeling function actually does: places a value, and a value in relation to other content, other content that has also gone through the grist mill of the feeling function. Once an emotional reaction like fight or flight is over, we're left to assess and integrate, order by value, the content. "I don't like lions in such and such a situation" would be a product of the feeling function, it guides future possible courses of action, and is a rationally determined value judgment, following the rules of reason. In another situation I might like lions enough to make an object of worship of them, because in some of its aspects, a lion may fall into a category other than predator so that we value 'lion' differently when in a non-predator category. The assignment of two contradictory values to a lion might seem irrational; but upon inspection, there is a reasonable rule involved in the value assignment.
    Values themselves are not exclusively personal, not exclusively subjective. We share values by degree, and people will always disagree as to from whence values arise, or from whence value systems arise. Some research has suggested that our morality roots into our DNA, though with plasticity. Dogs have been shown to exercise moral judgment, so morality isn't a quality found only in human beings. Generally with values, we do know what another person is talking about and can assess for ourselves the coefficient they attach to a content. We can disagree as to the coefficient, the subjective factor, but generally understand the mechanisms and contexts of value assignment. That's because value assignments are made for 'reasons', one reason being to integrate content into what we recognize as our personal orientation. Our personal orientation is an island of sorts, but not an island entirely comprised of, when viewed by others, unfamiliar territory and unrecognizable features.
     
  147. Thanks. I also looked back at Alan's rather simply stated OP and found your first reply:
    "Maybe the broadest truth that a photograph can embody is an affirmation that humans have the ability to create."
    That is a truth we cannot disclaim. Perhaps all other photographic truths are not really truths (like laws of physics, or other laws in science, I feel that truths need to have application to the overall human population or environment in order to justify their validity), but instead are referrals of the photograph or photography to personally held values of the photographer.
     
  148. Well said, Arthur. I like that.
     
  149. IMO, photographic truths are shared, even if they are personal and subjective. Art makes something of this subjectivity, it brings it to the world.
    When I see vulnerability in a portrait, it makes no difference to me whether, in fact, the person is considered vulnerable or not among his family or friends. And it makes no difference whether others viewing it describe what they're seeing the same way as me. The truth is that it shows me something in an expressive way and makes me feel something. It is NOT described, not verbalized, but it is—significantly in the case of photography—shown to me. Because I am so affected by the photo, it comes both from without and from within. It is shared to the extent that the photographer's creation (and my own "background" or predispositions) caused this response. It is also shared to the extent that others viewing it, while not necessarily having a similar reaction to mine or not necessarily describing similarly what might in fact be a very similar reaction, are experiencing this cause and effect, this distillation of emotion and thought into a relationship with a thing hanging on the wall which originated with a photographer's snap of the shutter.
    IMO, it is not limited to the confines of our subjectivity. Art is out in the world. It is put forth and it is taken in. It exists in the overlapping webs of connection among a variety of consciousnesses and the "things" (artworks) those consciousnesses are focused on.
    Vulnerability can look and feel like this, like what I see in the photo. It is distilled for me in this way. That's the truth I'm talking about. It is the same kind of truth as "I feel sad." No one except me can verify that truth. They might say to me, "You don't look sad." But they can never tell me, or at least shouldn't try to, how or what I feel. Yet, when one feels sad, there is no greater truth to them that they are experiencing sadness. That is the kind of truth that great photos have for me. We may not share in the particular emotion or response, but we, as I see it, share in the power.
     
  150. Even Einstein's exception to F=m.a is a special and extreme case, based on phenomena that are quite removed from the conditions that most humans experience​

    I don't know about you, but I come in contact with light every day. In fact, it even plays a role in my photography!
     
  151. Interesting, Dan. You are the first human I have met that travels at the speed of light. What happens when the photons are unable to reach your camera sensor?
     
  152. Truth.
    Your truth.
    When a Photograph takes you on a journey of speculation and imagination.
    "You are the first human I have met that travels at the speed of light".
    I have always thought there was something special about, Dan.
     
  153. Eh, what's wrong with this thread? Say, have overlooked social aspect of taking&presenting photographic images [to each other] perhaps? The answer is yes, unfortunatelly - in the socium of opportunistic conformist shrewds the truth is cheap comodity in abundanece.
     

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