We are what we see

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. Or, if you prefer, in a similar sense, but one step removed in the mental process, is a similar expression: "We are what we photograph".
    This came across my mind while thinking about the content of my first invited solo exhibition which I hope to complete to my reasonable satisfaction before it’s opening in late June. The theme, "genius loci", deals with the "spirit of place" and the one where I live. This spirit comes from many sources, material and immaterial, and from both personal feelings and collective ones. The evoking of spirit of place may not be entirely common with the thoughts or feelings of my own community, or of my circle of friends or associates. What I see may tell me as much about myself as it does about my subjects.
    "What I see is what I am". Photography for me is in part a discovery of myself or an assertion of what I believe. It is no doubt a part of the age-old question and title of a Gauguin late 19th century painting "Who are we, why are we here, where are we going?" In the more limited (but not necessarily so...) sense I would propose to you "we are what we see". What are your thoughts about this? I may give a few personal examples later on, but for the moment I would rather talk less, and hear more, the thoughts of others.
     
  2. A lot of my own photographing is a search for and reaching out to others. It's often about their being seen.
     
  3. Fred, you seem to be using your photography in part to communicate with the other. Does it also reflect on how you see the world about you?
    I made an irremedial mistake in my opening OP, which I think is important to correct here. What I meant was "WE ARE HOW WE SEE". What we see is part of how we see I guess, but how we see what we see is really what I meant. That which distinguishes someone's perception of a subject from another's, but really feeds back to the first person valuable information on himself (or herself).
     
  4. Sure. But first person info about myself is not my emphasis. My emphasis is what can be shared by bringing people (the subjects of my photos) into the light. I'm less interested in what distinguishes one person's perception of a subject from another's than in how, through photographic perceptions, we can share a lot of things and find commonality. Someone else can always take that and try to turn it back on me, me, me. And there will be some validity to that, I suppose. Like I say, it's a matter of emphasis. Were I to focus on me, I would probably hope for photography to get me more out of myself.
     
  5. I would hope that we all have our own unique way of seeing, which gives our photography a personal and unique touch. I don't think about it much. Literally, the visual world just "grabs me" and points out things that I could photograph. I suppose the resulting images say something about the way I see. My favorite (I almost said "best') images come from that place of openness and non-striving awareness. Its a lot like meditation.
     
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    We cannot capture everything we see, I believe what one selects to record and the way it is presented (if one is self aware and honest) defines the photographer.
     
  7. "We are what we see"
    Yes. I think you had it right the first time. Similarly, we are what we say. We are what we write. We are what we think. To paraphrase James Allen:
    "men do not attract what they want, but what they are"
    Every picture I make, regardless of the subject, is a portrait of me.
     
  8. I like to think that an answer to the OP can be found in an experience I've had many times. It has to do with uttering, "That's a photograph!."
     
  9. So if one likes to see how something looks photographed what does that say about how they see?
    There's a lot of unseen, unspoken underpinnings in this regard that can't be parsed or dissected in order to describe ultimately how a photographer sees or what they communicate to the viewer how they see by just looking at their images.
    IOW that phrase seems to be too simplistic in describing a photographer's intent within a creative process that has a lot going on in front of the camera and in the photographer's mind and subsequent viewer's perception of the finished work.
     
  10. <A href="http://www.photo.net/photo/18085150&size=lg">guilty</A>
     
  11. The title may have a point, but many of us edit what we see....to create a better visual.
    Les
     
  12. The spirit of a place? Good lord, could they be any more vague? Just another reason why I chose several years ago to no longer participate in exhibitions. Anyway, onto the main subject. It's like this: Every picture we take makes a statement about us. This statement is always the same for all photographers. It says "I believe this is worth recording." It really is as simple as that. When we step out into the world to make photographs the results not only tells what we saw but how we reacted to what we saw. Now others who view anothers' work may feel differently but who are they to say what another photographer should record and how and why? I photograph gay pride parades and protests in favor of marriage equality however I'm not gay myself. Should this be a concern to anyone? I've also photographed political rallies for candidates I didn't agree with and didn't vote for. Big deal. I photograph things that define our culture and time in the here and now. All art springs fourth from this source, it's not separate from life.
    Last month I gave a talk to a group of photographers in which I emphasized the importance of embracing spontaneity in photography. I described how much of what I shoot may be considered street photography but I don't describe myself as a street photographer because when I open my front door to head out to shoot, I feel that literally the whole world outside is mine for the picture taking, there's just no way to know where the day will take me. The work I choose to print and present to the outside world just happens to fall into the street photography genera.
    So my advice to Arthur and anyone else reading this is to forget all the pointless navel gazing that some photographers seem to like to indulge in. What a waste of time. Just get out and shoot. You'll know before long if you are being true to yourself or not.
     
  13. Marc wrote: "the results not only tells what we saw but how we reacted to what we saw." No they don't. They just tell us that your index finger twitched on the shutter release button.
    Marc wrote: "... forget all the pointless navel gazing ... Just get out and shoot." Agreed. Finger-twitching can ensue without navel gazing.
    But Aufheben (to preserve, to negate, to transcend) requires 10,000 hours of concentrated navel gazing. Frequenters of this forum are up to about hour 5,672.
     
  14. Just as what a reporter finds worth reporting, and the manner in which he reports the news, is a reflection of that reporter's attitudes and values, so the things I find worthy of my photographic efforts, and the manner in which I present them, are a reflection of my attitudes and values as a photographer. This is not to say that my photography is static. Far from it, I hope. As I develop and learn, both as a human being and as a photographer, I expect my photography also to develop. Just as I consider and explore new ideas, understandings, and attitudes, so, too, I hope to experiment with photography.
    I believe that what we choose to photograph, how we photograph it, how we process it, and to whom we show it is immutably tied to and reflective of our own attitudes and beliefs. Even when we choose to go outside our normal comfort zones and experiment with new subjects, processes, or themes, doing so is reflective of our willingness to experiment, and to learn/explore new things. Arthur's statement "We are how we see" is and always will remain essentially true, given broad allowance for the dynamic nature of the human condition.
     
  15. I think there are two aspects to how my work is affected by me being 'me'. One is the personality aspect, which is beyond my control. The other are my personal beliefs and tastes. These are the more conscious elements that influence my work. The pictures in my street folder are a good example of how I am. I am the kind of person who likes to observe from a distance in his own comfort zone. I am not the kind of person who will feel comfortable in close quarters around strangers, specially when pointing a camera. I think my pictures reflect that. More importantly, when I look at the photos, they are the ones who tell me how I am.
     
  16. I am glad to see that a number of photographers have considered the proposition of the OP, which admittedly is not an easy one to reflect on, but then this is probably the forum for it.
    Thanks to Fred for his comments which reveal his approach, and which I hope I have adequately responded to. Here are some of my thoughts in regard to the succeeding opinions and feedback on the proposition of “we are what (or how) we see”, with my thanks for your contributions/thoughts.
    Phil S. said “What I am determines what I see, but what I saw (or see) isn’t necessarily what I am.”
    In other words, if I may interpret your comment, in the first part of your comment you recognize that the process is related to some aspect of who you are, your view of yourself and the world, and why. In the second part, you state that the product (photograph) may or may not reflect who you are. That is true. If the photographer senses something, like an emotion causing him to photograph some subject, or an emotion resulting from the process of that, it is not necessarily evident in the image, nor does it have to be. If the viewer has similar sensitivities or positions in regard to the photograph he may well discover something about the photographer.
    When Weston photographed the pepper, it wasn’t to record the pepper for a food document but to register how he saw other forms suggested by or conforming to the subject, a record of his mind than or his thought process as much as or more than a record of the object.
    Steve J,
    You sometimes see a link between your image and how you saw your subject(s), although you do not allow that to become a too-conscious or even conscious process. That is in my mind a link to how you see the world about you or at least the process you prefer in describing that.
    Sandy,
    Do you not think that what one selects to record and the way that process unfolds itself is indeed a case of you being involved in how you see or what you see?
    Louis, an A+ for your global reference. You are right that photography is not an exclusive expressive medium of the way we exist as (or are) both independent and social beings. Writing, café talk, thinking, painting, adopting specific positions or viewpoints, crafting personal greeting cards, and many other things, are all reflections of what we are and how we act.
    But we do not often make that link with photography, which is what incited me to present this OP.
    Michael,
    I may well have missed your point, unless your implication in the making of the photo is 100% determined by the result.
    Tim,
    In showing how something looks when photographed is an effective intention, but I would think also that the result depends on who is doing the seeing and how he or she does that. Otherwise, would we not have a million quasi-identical images of the one subject?
    I do agree with you that many things go into the making of an image, some of which can not be controlled fully by the photographer. However, it would be a stretch to suggest that the process of seeing and acting is not perceived, controlled or interpreted by the photographer, and is a function of who he or she is. Those things would seem to me to describe who we are and how we see subjects differently from other photographers.
    Wayne, your comment in form of a link did not open….so remains for the moment without words (thoughts).
    Leszek, good point about editing affecting the process or its result , but such post exposure editing is part of the photographer and also his process, which is related I believe to the what, why and how of his personal action, therefore describing him.
    Marc,
    Genius loci, which has been around for about three millennia, is hardly a vague notion, although like many other time-resistant concepts it has changed in meaning over time. My original title was “song of place”, but albeit a poetic appeal I rejected it (except as one sub-theme), as it is more limiting than “spirit of place”.
    Your note “I believe this is worth recording” is I think not like you say the same motivation for all photographers, at least not in a recording sense. A robotic camera on the streets of London or Paris does recording quite well for non-artistic purposes, but many active photographers eschew the recording motivation for one that is creative. They are then what they perceive.
    “Pointless navel-gazing”. That may be your perception and for the simple click-click recording of a scene or other subject, and you are of course free to adopt that view. In some cases it relegates photographic and artistic approaches to a type of “been there, done that” situation.
    Julie and David,
    Your comments on the OP recognize that it is not an easy question to explore without skating on the surface or succumbing to glib responses. You avoid that and it would be interesting to see your own images, and those of others that describe how “you are what you see” (seeing being perceiving, and not just looking).
    The OP is just a fragment of any more global question of “who are we, why are we (here) and where are we going” that has puzzled mankind since we left gathering and hunting (or maybe before that). But perhaps “we are what we see” may be more reconcilable with our photography, and perhaps also easier to understand than the German philosopher’s “aufheben”, at least in the more obtuse meanings of the latter term.
    Phil and Supriyo,
    I just saw your recent comments. Phil, perhaps one can reverse the expression, which I will have to think about. "Sense of place" is often used for "spirit of place", especially by the landscape architects or urban planners. It relates perhaps more to how we sense our surroundings or situation, as opposed to the place having certain qualities that can influence us.
    Supriyo, your personal comments are very appreciated as they give specific example of you being in sync with what or how you see (perceive what you photograph). A nice direction....
     
  17. In showing how something looks when photographed is an effective intention, but I would think also that the result depends on who is doing the seeing and how he or she does that.​
    I'm still trying to figure out whether your point "We are what/how we see" is a declarative statement based in fact gleamed or sensed from just looking at photographer's work or just a new way to define how to compare one photographer's personality from another's just by viewing their images.

    Personally I don't think there's enough information to make that statement fact or even a viable POV on determining what drives people to photograph the world differently from another. There are too many variables. For example I see a landscape taken of an exotic location that tells me the photographer went to great lengths and expense to capture, but it's nothing remarkable. It's dull, boring and derivative. I'm not going to assume the photographer is a dull and boring person or photographs that way.
    Landscapes may not be his/her forte. Their body of work may give me a clue but it still doesn't tell the whole story because I won't know all the other images that didn't make the cut and now it becomes another level of choice outside of seeing, pointing and shooting. Again, another variable to consider.
    I would say the viewer of the captured image has more power in defining them self by what they take away from a photographer's work. The photographer may present a consistency in their work that conveys a unique way of seeing and capturing a scene compared to another photographer, but that's just a signature/marker the viewer picks up on. The photographer may or may not be thinking much about what they're doing just out of habit. The viewer isn't going to know that as part of the photographer's way of seeing or how they see.
    Using signatures as an analogy, one photographer may sign their name in a scribble style and another may have perfect penmanship. Some sign in a way to be deliberately funny, some to be pretentious and then some to be quick about it because they have to sign a lot of documents like a doctor's prescriptions. The viewer can't know because of all the variables that obscure mindfulness and intent.
    Of course the viewer can interpret each signature style individually as pretentious, funny or hurried but it would be by accident and guess work.
     
  18. From Sergei Eisenstein (if one can equate 'montage' with the 'we are' of the OP):
    .
    In front of me lies a crumpled yellowed sheet of paper. On it is a mysterious note:
    "Linkage — P" and "Collision — E."
    This is a substantial trace of a heated bout on the subject of montage between P (Pudovkin) and E (myself).
    This has become a habit. At regular intervals he visits me late at night and behind closed doors we wrangle over matters of principle. A graduate of the Kuleshov school, he loudly defends an understanding of montage as linkage of pieces. Into a chain. Again, "bricks." Bricks arranged in series to expound an idea.
    I confronted him with my viewpoint on montage as a collision. A view that from the collision of two given factors arises a concept.​
     
  19. Tim, I also think that the relationship between what the viewer appreciates in an image, and that of the identity, viewpoints or thoughts of the photographer, is not usually or even necessarily evident, unless sometimes when that relationship is clear and has evolved through many images and themes of photography of the photographer.
    For me, it is of lesser importance in any case. The OP "we are what we see" was not intended to be some incontrovertible pillar of why we photograph that applies to everyone and every situation. It is simply an opening of awareness or personal questioning of who we (each) are, supported in one aspect of that identity or self-awareness by the "what, why and how" of our individual photographic approaches. I think I prefer to photograph in that way rather than being bound to formula approaches, by guidebooks to photography and art, or what someone else thinks (often, and perhaps unwillingly, a photographer in the spotlight) is important to observe and to photograph, and how.
    Julie, I like what I summarily read in your quote from the two debaters. Both "linkage" and "collision" can exist in the personal (auto-) dialogue between what and who we are and what and how we see the subject. Collisions incite innovation.
     
  20. There's another way to find a "we" in all this, and the notions of linkage and collision are helpful here as well: the "we" of collaboration, which is often how I think of my photos . . . collaborations with subjects (even non-human ones) and collaborations with viewers and groups of viewers. Again, it feels bigger than me.
     
  21. I think my relationship with photography has been a transformative process over time. I don't think my early attempts
    reflect who I am. I feel, with time an artist identifies his own self through his work, and that's when his/her work gets the
    soul it deserves. As Fred suggested, it is bigger than just me, because identifying one's self is finding one's place within
    the greater context, seeing the bigger picture. It means, 'This is how I can matter, this is how I can contribute'. Is picture
    taking a collaboration? Yes. When I encounter an architectural object, I say 'you are very interesting. Let's see how we
    can do justice to one another'. A soul-less photographer would not converse with his subject. He will take a picture using the best possible skills and rules of photography, and move on. When I look back, I feel I acted like one in certain situations in the beginning.
     
  22. Tim, I also think that the relationship between what the viewer appreciates in an image, and that of the identity, viewpoints or thoughts of the photographer, is not usually or even necessarily evident, unless sometimes when that relationship is clear and has evolved through many images and themes of photography of the photographer.​
    There are old couples who've lived with each other and have communicated deeply and intimately for decades and think they know each other in and out and completely right down to their very soul until one of them gets arrested for being a serial killer all those years hiding in plain sight in the community. You can't deny that as a fact of life. There's documented evidence to prove this.
    So I find it hard to believe a relationship can be established by just looking at a photographer's body of work as being any more forthright, true or connected in a meaningful way. Even debaters hide a lot about them self in how they control the narrative of their POV and some aren't even aware of them self doing it. Some debate just to get attention and won't admit it on a delusional level of denial. Debating can replace the gnawing emptiness caused by the knowledge of our own mortality. It's fun! It's really that simple.
    I'm getting the feeling the OP overestimates humans and their ability to selectively communicate through photography. The viewer sees or reads more than the photographer really intends but the photographer doesn't know this because the viewer is defining the photographers work to them self. All they're really doing is passing notes in the night. Social media thrives on that concept.
     
  23. I think good photography is very different from generic social media. And the serial killer who's been married unbeknownst to his wife for decades is pretty rare, so doesn't tell me that much about relationships and intimacy except that there are rare cases where we think we know someone and don't know them very well at all. There are more cases where we learn things we didn't know that are much less drastic than the serial killer scenario.
    Tim, I think you make a reasonable point, though you probably take it a bit farther than I would. So, for instance, you mention a relationship through a photographer's body of work as not being forthright, true, or connected. I'd agree on forthrightness and truth. I am looking for neither straightforwardness nor truth in my photographic relationships, whether I be in the role of photographer or viewer. I find photography, for me, more metaphorical than true, sometimes significant fiction which is different from true. But I do find a lot of connectedness through photos. For me, connectedness is not about knowledge of the photographer, but about sharing something with the photographer (or viewer). That happens for me.
    I do think, to varying degrees, we can come to know things about certain photographers through their bodies of work, can probably be fooled by others, and be completely mystified by some. The degree for each photographer is not the same. Nor would I expect it to be. Look through Nan Goldin's work and Robert Mapplethorpe's work and I think you will learn some things about them. It's hard to think of many of the great photographers whose photos don't reflect in some important ways the things I've read about their lives. Tina Modotti. Roman Vishniak. And on and on . . .
     
  24. I think, a photographer can choose to communicate a part of his ideology through his work, and hide the other part. What is harder to do (and rare too) is to intentionally deliver a message that is contrary to what he believes, and still produce quality art. The lack of true heart in such art will show, in my opinion. However the bigger question is, why would an artist who is true to his art would do that?
    Tim,
    Many serial killers are incapable of empathy. It is a brain anomaly. Thats how they hide their true personality from their loved ones. Any normal person including artists who are capable of empathy won't be able to conceal their emotions or ideologies as easily as a serial killer (or any sociopath) can do.
     
  25. Look through Nan Goldin's work and Robert Mapplethorpe's work and I think you will learn some things about them. It's hard to think of many of the great photographers whose photos don't reflect in some important ways the things I've read about their lives. Tina Modotti. Roman Vishniak. And on and on . . .​
    Fred, I agree with you that reading up on the background of famous photographers will reveal info about them that wouldn't have been clearly understood just by looking at their work, but that's a top down one-sided relationship to the viewer, more biographical/documentary like engagement which is different from my understanding of the OP titled topic.
    After reading their story I still would not feel I'ld have a real relationship with those photographers you listed because of the distancing caused by the knowledge that the backstory is penned and edited in a way to market and promote the photographer even though it may smack of a real life spontaneous account of their dramatic life. It's still filtered information from all the variables I've mentioned in my previous posts.
    Besides as a photographer I really don't want a relationship with another photographer knowing I'm not going to get the full story nor can I expect it. I don't want my first impression looking at their work for the first time to be changed by reading their back story because now it's no longer my photographic experience, it's no longer my reaction to how the photo impacted me. It now becomes just another documentary.
    Things look different when they're photographed and that difference can be dispelled or changed by more needless information whose purpose is to establish a false relationship/kindred-ship that feels real but wasn't there when first viewing the work on its own. It's a photograph, not infotainment.
    The very act of photographing/painting a picture dictates it is meant to be seen by a viewer which also includes the image creator. Any relationship whether real or just felt is a figment of the viewer's imagination where it has the potential of providing a dream like and mysterious experience much like reading a story in a book. That's the pay off. Photographing is our own little dreams we can create out of thin air.
    That's about as far as a real relationship we can expect out of it. Who cares if it's not real. One says it is, another says it isn't so there's no point in defining it for everyone by thinking one can derive meaningful information out of it while someone else thinks it's just drivel. It's just a pastime.
     
  26. Fred, I agree with you that reading up on the background of famous photographers will reveal info about them that wouldn't have been clearly understood just by looking at their work​
    That wasn't my point. My point was that looking at their work often reveals to me things that later get confirmed/filled in by reading about their lives. And in some cases their work actually gives me, on some level, a deeper connection to them than the biographical info I read. For me, someone's photography provides me with something often more visceral.
    After reading their story I still would not feel I'ld have a real relationship with those photographers you listed because of the distancing caused by the knowledge that the backstory is penned and edited in a way to market and promote the photographer even though it may smack of a real life spontaneous account of their dramatic life. It's still filtered information from all the variables I've mentioned in my previous posts.​
    I'm less skeptical (or cynical) than this about many things I've read about photographers, though it's certainly true in some cases.
    Besides as a photographer I really don't want a relationship with another photographer knowing I'm not going to get the full story nor can I expect it.​
    I think this is just fine and I don't think you should seek something you don't want. I also don't expect to get a full story. Not even sure what a full story would be like. I get glimpses. I do want a kind of relationship with other photographers (through their work) and find that I often get that.
    One says it is, another says it isn't so there's no point in defining it for everyone.​
    Absolutely agree!
     
  27. Tim,
    Many serial killers are incapable of empathy. It is a brain anomaly. Thats how they hide their true personality from their loved ones. Any normal person including artists who are capable of empathy won't be able to conceal their emotions or ideologies as easily as a serial killer (or any sociopath) can do.​
    That wasn't my point I was making with that analogy, Supriyo.
    It was to point out that getting to know someone in order to develop a relationship/kindred-ship involves a certain amount of long term control and manipulation in what each divulges about each other whether both parties know it's happening or not even with the most long term and closest of relationships.
    So considering the amount of effort involved building the best long term relationships, I don't put much faith in getting to know all about a photographer just by looking at their body of work. If a viewer, including myself, makes a connection with the photographer this way, I would have to believe it is purely a figment of our imagination.
     
  28. I'm less skeptical (or cynical)...​
    So you took what I said as a negative experience. You judged incorrectly. I find what I say and do is a positive experience to me. The only comfort I can have about myself is be sure about what I think and feel. Whether someone sees it as a negative is out of my control and of no concern to me.
    Fred, you seek to find the back story on a photographer to confirm something you saw in their images to make a deeper connection. That's how you appreciate other's photography. I don't. I'm more enthralled in the experience of seeing what something looks like photographed and how well it comes close to looking like a dream.
    You are very keen on parsing negative from positive POV from contributors. Don't you think that says something about you? You like to judge people's actions, Fred.
    Now, do you see how I'm judging you going only on the words you use? Do you think a photograph can judge a person the same way? I've never seen a photograph do that which is why I don't ask it any questions. Photographs can only communicate so much where words can get in the way, so there are limitations with both.
    With that in mind there must be something else going on that words and pictures can't communicate, so where is the deeper meaning and connection coming from?
     
  29. I don't put much faith in getting to know all about a photographer just by looking at their body of work.​

    Agreed, and as both you and Fred pointed out in some parts of your posts, that it is not probably important. I think the discussion has shifted somewhat from the OP's original question. If I am not mistaken, the OP was not asking whether it is possible for others to know us from our works. Rather, he was asking whether we can identify our own true selves through our works. I think that is a more realistic scenario. If we cannot find our true philosophy, our purpose through our artistic endeavors, then we would be deceiving ourselves, right? Why not we look back at our volume of work and reflect how we have come to recognize our true identities over time through our photos. This is just my suggestion.
     
  30. is penned and edited in a way to market and promote the photographer​
    One definition of cynical = skepticism of motives of others

    Yes, I judged it as cynical. Of course I'm open to the possibility that you may not have meant it that way and glad you've clarified that. Relationships grow, even over minutes.
    Fred, you seek to find the back story on a photographer to confirm something you saw in their images to make a deeper connection. That's how you appreciate other's photography.​
    No, it's actually not. You may have missed the part where I said "And in some cases their work actually gives me, on some level, a deeper connection to them than the biographical info I read. For me, someone's photography provides me with something often more visceral." You're making a much bigger deal of the back story than I ever did.
    You like to judge people's actions, Fred.​
    I'm not sure I "like" it. But, yes, I do it. I think our actions say a lot about ourselves.
    Now, do you see how I'm judging you going only on the words you use?​
    Yes. I think that's fine. I imagine if you knew me better, you'd judge me on other things as well. Just as I might judge your words differently if I knew you better. I think in life, I have access to what I have access. And all the different types of relationships I have and connections I feel are based on all sorts of different types and degrees of access. Someone's photography gives me a particular type of access, though somewhat different for each photographer. And I'm well aware that that's the type of relationship it is. I don't confuse that with a relationship to a spouse or to a friend I've known for years or to someone I share one drink with at a bar for 30 minutes. They're all different. They're all connections. They're all relationships. To me. Again, I'm fine with however you approach it.
     
  31. Supriyo, while I think we're mostly on the same page, I don't think of myself as having a true identity. It's why I talk in terms of glimpses more than full stories. For me, identity isn't really identity at all. Identity is so singular and . . . well . . . identical-like. Can we step into the SAME river twice? Again, if I have a purpose to my photography, it's not about my identity. It's about my connections. I'm probably taking photos to create and project into a future more than as a retrospective of where I've been or what I've thought.
     
  32. Fred, thank you for presenting your fresh and very unique perspective. I can empathize with your point of view because I have seen your work. Your photos introduce real people to the viewers, whose stories you narrate. If your own identity comes in the way, you cannot connect to your subjects as you want to.
    At the same time, I can imagine that your scenario could be different from photographers who shoot inanimate objects, or scenes where the subjects' personal identities are less prominent (example might be a street scene with silhouettes of human figures), who would see more of their own selves reflected in what they shoot, ... or not? I don't really know.
     
  33. With the exception of the very recent posts by Supriyo and Fred, which relate a little more to the statement of the OP, much of the discussion before that seems to be related to a "cart before the horse" manner of discussion (photograph rather than photographer).
    In that sense, perhaps it is equally constructive to worry less about the history and motivations of well known and often dead photographers, and whether the product represents the creator, and think more about the OP in relation to one's own work? How does "what I am is what (or how) I see" relate to your own photography? Philosophy can be as much first person as well as third person. Anyway, that was the intent of my question to other members and an interest in whether the OP describes a cause and effect relation in their photography, or not.
     
  34. Supriyo, yes, I'm quite sure my scenario is different from how others think about themselves and their photography. Though I wonder if in those differences there is also a lot of sameness (and maybe it's the descriptions of it all that are different).
    Arthur, I wasn't terribly "worried" about the "dead photographers" I brought up as a point of interest. My own "first person" take on your question, interestingly, is that photography gets me out of myself and away from emphasis on first person. I've often said that I view photography as a dialog through the ages with other photographers and artists, living or dead. Please take all the talk of dead photographers in the spirit in which, for me, they are still very much alive and exist at least to some extent in what I consider my first person, through my relationship and connection to them. I accept that your mileage may vary and will not bring up another dead photographer in this thread so the discussion can proceed as you would like it to.
     
  35. Phil, Sontag is a good reference, as is Barhe's book on photography, or the musings of Proust in "Swan" or "In search of lost time". Identity is often described in these writings in collective terms (community or society values or terms, especially in the first two references), but the society issues are often similar to our personal ones. And when they are not, the "collision " is often even more fruitful in relation to our own photographic approach.
    Fred, thanks for your comments, both here and today via pnet mail. Free discusssion of the topic is fine with me, dead photographers or not (no need to heed my feelings about that), and I wish I had more availability this week to express personal motivations or state of mind when photographing to support my own interpretation of the OP statement. If the discussion is still active next week, I will do that.
     
  36. The following is said in jest and good spirits. I really am enjoying the discussion, on whatever terms people want to approach it.
    Note to self: Dead photographers out. Dead writers in.
    ;-)
    Seriously, though, it just brings me back to what identity means to me. I am, to an extent, all that I've read, all the photos I've seen, all the actions I've taken, as well as all that I will do and will share with others and all that others will do that will affect me. If my photography reflects that, then it probably will fulfill some of my purpose.
    Supriyo, thinking a little more about our discussion, I think you put it really well and have probably stated it better than I have. It's not that I think I've escaped my perspective when shooting others. And it's not like I don't know the camera presents a point of view. And probably more with my San Francisco guys than with the Plowshare folks, I do help to create some of the characters my subjects and I together present. It's that fine line you mention of not getting in my own way (or theirs), even when doing that, that feels significant.
    I understand that others find self a comforting and generally OK place. "Comforting" is just the descriptive word I can think of at the moment. I'm sure others would have different ways to describe their feelings about self. Honestly, for me, it's lonely "in there," so I reach out. Language is a bit limiting here. (Another reason to photograph!) So I make or see self as not distinguished from other or from "out there." Holism? A kind of unity with others rather than an identity of self.
     
  37. So the OP was meant as an introspection on one's own identity based on their own body of photographic work and process. My mistake for interpreting otherwise and diverting this topic away from the spirit intended.
    What good does it do to have an appreciation of one's self in this manner? How does one avoid being blinded by their own self awareness? So you like how you look to your self by what you've accomplished photographically. Isn't that just another version of a selfy only with more panache and expensive equipment?
    Should we be concerned and/or make adjustments to the way we work, if "We are how and what we photograph" doesn't come across to the viewer as intended? This brings into question whether this self awareness and identity through one's own photography can go beyond that into art. As Phil pointed out...
    This 1 : 1 relationship of oneself and the world ( when framed into a photograph ) seems most true for the 'non-photographer' and for photography that's done not as an artistic expression and communication but primarily as a self affirmation, whether done consciously or subconsciously. Art, and photography done as art, goes much further than that I'd hope.​
    I'ld have to believe the viewer would have to have developed or be born with some sensitivity for image language to separate photography done as art from mere ego soothing, self affirmation. I just can't think of an example that makes this clear or possible, though. Maybe someone here can offer a link to demonstrate.
     
  38. I understand that others find self a comforting and generally OK place. "Comforting" is just the descriptive word I can think of at the moment. I'm sure others would have different ways to describe their feelings about self. Honestly, for me, it's lonely "in there," so I reach out. Language is a bit limiting here. (Another reason to photograph!) So I make or see self as not distinguished from other or from "out there." Holism? A kind of unity with others rather than an identity of self.​
    This is where you and I differ, Fred. And it shows in the subjects we photograph.
    I don't want to reach out to others. I'm too aware of how others are TOO aware on how things look different when photographed to the point it makes them change their behavior that I know the results will ultimately present them out of context of their idea of how they see them self.
    It's personal to them, but creatively stifling for me because I can't relate to their reaction of how different they may look according to their expectations. I still have to view them as lights and darks composed within a frame. Technically that's all a photograph can be defined. What a person sees in it is beyond me and my control. That's too nerve-racking.
    I've shot portraits of local folks and they were straight portraits taken at different angles and lighting in and outside their homes and they liked the results in the prints, but it was not a very comfortable place for me to be creatively. People just distract me too much and I think the subjects in my images bares this out.
    I even have problems shooting my self portrait. The distortions in how I see my self in the results is like shooting at a fun house mirror. Takes 25 frames just to get one good one. It's the most exhausting shoot I've ever done.
     
  39. Fred,
    I wholeheartedly agree (after thinking about it) with your point of view, and in art it is as important to reach out to others (by others I mean not just your subjects, but anyone else who cares to listen) as it is to yourself. In this context, I want to post this page that I found, where several artists of different disciplines were asked the question: Why one creates art? The answers will give the variety of perspectives that artists reflect in their creations. Poet Kwami Dawes writes:
    I write in what is probably a vain effort to somehow control the world in which I live, recreating it in a manner that satisfies my sense of what the world should look like and be like.

    I’m trying to capture in language the things that I see and feel, as a way of recording their beauty and power and terror, so that I can return to those things and relive them. In that way, I try to have some sense of control in a chaotic world.

    I want to somehow communicate my sense of the world—that way of understanding, engaging, experiencing the world—to somebody else. I want them to be transported into the world that I have created with language.

    And so the ultimate aim of my writing is to create an environment of empathy, something that would allow the miracle of empathy to take place, where human beings can seem to rise out of themselves and extend themselves into others and live within others. That has a tremendous power for the human being. And I know this, because that is what other people’s writing does to me when I read it.​
     
  40. What good does it do to have an appreciation of one's self in this manner? How does one avoid being blinded by their own self awareness? So you like how you look to your self by what you've accomplished photographically. Isn't that just another version of a selfy only with more panache and expensive equipment?​

    Tim, I think this and Phil's 1:1 relation between art and artist are valid (cautionary) points, but I hope my mindset is not this extreme, so that self-awareness divulges into mere narcissism. For me, to know myself is a first step towards knowing others. Also my vision of self-awareness is to bring me and my art in symbiosis. I want to know my grazing ground, and not digress where I don't belong. If I do that just for crowd pleasing (and in that process to please myself), that would be the blind self-appreciation that you referred to, if I read correctly.

    I know many people who are victims of this self-image of how people take their work (including myself in the beginning, and may be even now, here and there?), but I try to be aware of it and stay away from it as much as I can.
     
  41. Phil,
    Sorry for my mistake. You wrote "1 : 1 relationship of oneself and the world" and then within bracket: "( when framed into a photograph )". Hence my misunderstanding.
    I was saying that art, and photography done as art, isn't about that kind of constant self-affirmation or the cultivating of a self-image.​

    I agree with you, and my previous comment would be relevant to this POV.
     
  42. I'm too aware of how others are TOO aware on how things look different when photographed to the point it makes them change their behavior that I know the results will ultimately present them out of context of their idea of how they see them self.​
    Sure, Tim, I think I get why you don't like photographing other people.

    I often consider how people I shoot are aware of their being photographed and how it can make them change behavior. People "act" not only in photographic situations, but in all kinds of situations and environments. I go to parties with friends and they become different. I visit friends' parents with them and they may become VERY different. I watch lovers in the park and could swear they're imitating Hollywood actors when they look longingly into each others eyes. (Maybe Hollywood imitates them but it's hard to tell.) I watch guys smoking on a street corner and could swear there's a little Bogart in every one of them.

    So the behaviors people adopt when I photograph them are fascinating to me. In some cases it shows me who they want to be. In some cases, it shows discomfort, which is something I find photographable. Who they actually are can be elusive, unless it turns out we're all some sort of amalgam of all those behaviors we adopt in all kinds of situations, including being photographed. I find something very telling in those deliberate kinds of behaviors and engagements.

    As Supriyo noted, for me too it's not just reaching out to the people I shoot but also to the viewer. So presenting a person I'm shooting in that behavior-adopting mode you speak of has a lot of potential for me, since I'm not always trying to capture something accurate about the person I'm shooting. I may be after that, of course, but sometimes a photo of a person might just show something significant about human expression, something relatable, along the lines of how fiction and theater can work. A photo might just transform or transcend the individual it's a photo of. Like you said, and I appreciate this sort of Winograndian aspect of photography, sometimes it's about how something or someone looks photographed, which can be very different from who they are.
     
  43. Phil wrote: "( What we make others see may very well be that which we saw )"
    ... which is, for the most part, BORING. BOOOOOOOOOOORING. Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring. Mind-numbingly boring.
    There's a reason why watching Uncle Bob's slide show is a legendary form of torture to everybody except Uncle Bob -- who finds his slide show endlessly interesting and fascinating, deep and meaningful, touching and transcendent; and who will tell you so ad nauseum. And then make you watch it again.
     
  44. Like the characters playing out Bogart or some other Hollywood person or scene we have the choice of living in our own worlds or those of mass media or mass culture. Julie's Uncle Bob is likely play-acting his presentation as well, except that the camera is on himself, or he is a particularly bad auto-critique of his own work.
    Far from the me-tooism of mass culture, far from what the photograph says about the photographer (which seems to be a fairly strong emphasis in more than one responses to the OP), or how the photographer perceived his subject, is the knowledge a photographer can glean and then invoke from the what, why and how he or she photographs, based on his or her values, history and other subjective aspects.
    It is I think not a constant but a dynamic parameter, and possibly also something that evolves as the person does. Recognising those factors and behavioural aspects together with one's cultural anchor and values is what interests me in this discussion. What we are is what and how we see. In some cases who or what we are has a large effect on how we make an image and its result, while in some cases it is no doubt only a lesser factor.
    A simple and rather one-dimensional case would be that of the Nazi photographers, imbued with the philosophy or propaganda of that regime, who produced images that corresponded to those values. It was not the case there of what they saw defining what they were, but the opposite. Other cases to which the OP speaks are likely more complex than that of these political photographers, although their individual values may have been subdued to that of the more simplistic whole.
     
  45. I have an uncle who likes to share his vacation slideshows with me. He knows how important photography is to me and does it as a way to show he cares, to share something with me, and to connect. I love looking at them. What more could I ask?
     
  46. On the specific topic of uncles showing slides and the value of human connection, I find your anecdote both touching and genuine, Fred. He no doubt recognizes some of your personal values as a photographer.
     
  47. The Nazi photographer case got me to thinking. It points up the complexity of trying to determine who we are from what or how we see and photograph. Ambivalence and contradictions are at play. Self denial in balance or imbalance with self awareness. It may be that we can be helped some by the eyes of others when assessing ourselves in terms of our photography.
    "Until the day I die people will keep saying, 'Leni is a Nazi', and I'll keep saying, 'But what did she do?'"
    —Leni Riefenstahl​
    Speaking to my own experience, photography may be less about self knowledge and more about self actualization. By self actualization I'm referring to coming into the world more than being in my head.
     
  48. OK, so decoupling self-actualisation from self-knowledge requires
    1) that it occurs without one being aware (i.e., self-knowledge) of any personal values, feelings, culture, judgemental approaches, emotions, etc, having been brought into play;
    2) recognising that something else rather than one’s personal make-up is operating to allow self-actualisation to take place.
    What might that be (if it is not who and what you are)?
    Not related:
    "Until the day I die people will keep saying, 'Leni is a Nazi', and I'll keep saying, 'But what did she do?"​
    Some insist on self-denial.
     
  49. Arthur, decoupling self actualization from self knowledge may require all those things. So why decouple them? I said my photography is less about one than the other, which wasn't meant to decouple them. I've said several times in this thread that for me it's a matter of emphasis, which doesn't deny the existence of self knowledge. What I was moving toward with the Riefenstahl example was that even self knowledge can be helped by others' knowledge of oneself. And I think part of self knowledge is how one is seen by others, how one perceives themselves being seen by others, and how one sees oneself reflected in the eyes of others.
     
  50. Fred, thanks for clarifying that you meant both rather than self-actualisation alone. We are on the same line of thought. Persons associated with despotic regimes, even just as propaganda photographers like Ms Riefenstahl, knew full well the implications of what they were doing, believed in them (presumably) and do only further discredit to themselves in attempting to deny that later. She was a very good craftsperson, but she wasn't at arms length of her creations.
     
  51. Arthur, what self-knowledge can you link to your own photography? In what ways has making photographs, seeing photographically, and being with your own photographs added to your self knowledge?
    A pivotal moment for me came in discussing my photography with an old friend, a fellow photographer. I had been taking photos for a year or two, at the beginning, a bit less artistically and seriously than I now approach it. I had mostly been "stealing" shots of people on the street. It was kind of fun, and I got some stuff I liked, but it was also starting to make me feel lonely out there. I felt a bit like a stalker at times (probably because that's what I was doing), and felt shut off from the world in my adopted role as photographer. I think my friend saw this in my work and asked if I'd be interested in doing portraits, where I actually work directly with people. From there, things sort of took off for me in a much better direction. So the self knowledge came with this kind of caring and cooperation of a friend. Here's a photo that I took in that early period, one I still like, but I remember that feeling when this stranger in the hair salon looked up and "caught" me. Very mixed emotions. Adrenaline. Embarrassment. Accomplishment. Disconnection. Otherly. Red. Charged. . . .
    [​IMG]
     
  52. Ms Riefenstahl certainly knew she was a talented photographer to the point it may have blinded her to what was really going on during that period. I guess she must've not gotten close enough to be aware of the smell of death from the concentration camps.
    Interesting take on self awareness from that perspective indeed. Thanks to Fred and Arthur for making this discussion even more revealing and thought provoking on a whole other level.
     
  53. "Ms Riefenstahl, knew full well the implications of what they were doing, believed in them (presumably) and do only further discredit to themselves in attempting to deny that later. She was a very good craftsperson, but she wasn't at arms length of her creations" Arthur.
    Lets remove the word "presumably" she chose to turn a blind eye like many others.. fame and fortune was her motivation. Talented, I think not...an opportunist is the thought which comes to mind.
    " how one perceives themselves being seen by others, and how one sees oneself reflected in the eyes of others "Fred.
    I think that is the last though on the mind of a talented artist...who are motivated by following their personnel vision and expressing their art. Or should we say...a real artist is more concerned with "how one perceives themselves being seen by others, and how one sees oneself reflected in the eyes of others "
    Perhaps some do. Sort of a sad thought, really.
    .
     
  54. Ms Riefenstahl, all about the coins...
    00dtor-562587684.jpg
     
  55. Lets have a think...
    A young attractive female who has a camera...
    Who is employed by middle aged men...
    Who is not very intelligent and has absolutely no idea, understanding, that the odd few million folks are being murdered in the most disgusting, humiliating way.
    Obviously she must be the brunette version of a dumb blond...are blonds really that dumb? Methinks not.
     
  56. Tim, I am not a historian or a very knowledgeable reader of the 3rd Reich, but from the little I've read I think that it would be strange if Ms. Reifenstahl was not very much aware of what she was doing for the Hitler propaganda machine and would likely have been an advocate of the master race and its implications. As I mentioned, it is but a simple example (if my assumptions hold) of the values of an artist determining how she sees or what she chooses to see as a function of her values. Someone better versed in the history of 1919 to 1944 may have a different interpretation of the period and her limited involvement in it.
    That is a commanding image Fred, whatever the conditions of the capture. His expression, the color and the composition really make it arresting I think. Perhaps, knowing your unease of the furtive method of image capture and yet your compulsion (is that too strong) to photograph people nonetheless tells me that your values are related to a humanist position?
    As for my approach, and relation to the OP, analysing that is not easy for me. I have to think about where I was (in my thoughts) when I shot some images. Maybe I will have a flash tomorrow...
     
  57. Yeah, but Arthur, you have to admit it would be interesting to know what Ms Reifenstahl would say to "We Are What We See". What would her POV be on Hitler back then or even now if she were alive today in defining who she is as a photographer.
    I guess in this sense there are blind photographers.
     
  58. Alberto Alicata . Sony World Photography Awards, a staged shot winner. It's an interesting photo and I'm not sure why. I suppose it reminds me of how photography can also be about how we sense how others see us as 'a man', 'a woman', going back to Phil's reference to the world being a stage. I recently spoke with a 13 year old girl. To her I mentioned the gap between how people see us and who we are. I said that we can consider if there's an advantage at times to just let some think what they want about us. She replied "Let's not talk about that!" Not talk because it gets so complicated I suppose. I had wanted her to talk about it.
    The second link begins with Iranian photojournalist Asghar Khamseh "Fire of Hatred" portrait series, Alicata's work following below it. Who can assert that they haven't felt hatred, it being part of how we see, hopefully not often.
    "Until the day I die people will keep saying, 'Leni is a Nazi', and I'll keep saying, 'But what did she do?"​

    That's horrifyingly human. But to me she is now a tainted character in an unfortunately ageless play. Fortunately the world is not but a stage. Like my teenage friend, we all hold something in reserve. I used to think there was some way I could find to tell it all. I now don't think there is and that many such things only find their place in artistic expression.
     
  59. "The great artist, with what to the uncreative amateur must seem to be a monotonous insistency, will limit himself to a very few motives." — Herbert Read
     
  60. Fred wrote,

    What I was moving toward with the Riefenstahl example was that even self knowledge can be helped by others' knowledge of oneself. And I think part of self knowledge is how one is seen by others, how one perceives themselves being seen by others, and how one sees oneself reflected in the eyes of others.​

    Over the years, comments on my own photos from knowledgeable PN members have helped to shape my self image as a photographer. That would be 'how others perceive me'. One other thing that has helped is looking at other photographers' works and placing myself in their styles and choice of subjects and viewpoints. That would be 'what I see in others'.
     
  61. Fred's example of Leni Reifenstahl is a very intriguing one. She has talked about her artistic persona several times in her later life: e.g. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/09/rief-s15.html
    In a post-war interview in the French film journal Cahiers du Cinema, Riefenstahl articulated her view of culture, which regards beauty and reality as mutually exclusive opposites: “I can simply say that I feel spontaneously attracted by everything that is beautiful... It comes from the unconscious and not from my knowledge... Whatever is purely realistic, slice of life, which is average, quotidian. Doesn’t interest me... I am fascinated by what is beautiful, strong, healthy, what is living. I seek harmony.”​

    This one isn't surprising given the above statement.
    “‘When you photograph a Greek temple and at the side there is a pile of rubbish, would you leave the rubbish out?’ Riefenstahl: ‘Definitely, I am not interested in reality.’“​

    This ideology is entirely in line with nazi art philosophy which shuns anything thats not straightforward to appreciate. Is she artfully creating her persona to justify her supporting the brutal nazi regime (ignoring the reality)? I don't know.

    This one broke my heart. It shows how much she dehumanized her subjects. Can an artist be so indifferent towards his/her human subjects? What kind of beauty appeals only to the senses, and not to the heart.
    Riefenstahl used members of the Sinti and Roma community in her film Tiefland. After completing their roles, the Sinti and Roma were shipped to the Berlin refugee assembly point in Marzahn, transported to the Gypsy collection point at Salzburg-Maxgland, and then later sent to Auschwitz.​
     
  62. Riefenstahl: ‘Definitely, I am not interested in reality.’“​
    So in regard to "We Are What We See" she's unreal. That figures.
     
  63. In this thread, there keep being references to the "world is a stage" thing. That's never true, in the OP sense of "we are," at the moment a photograph is made. Stories are not lived. There is no such thing as a real story. Stories (on or off stage) are told or written.
     
  64. We see (and we photograph) what we are.
    First we are and then we see (and photograph).
    And first we develop, we become, and then we see (and photograph).
    What we see, and what we photograph, influences what we are.
     
  65. I sort of regret mentioning Riefefenstahl. I thought her implication simple, personal and evident and what she was as being quite clear and a useful prompt to "what we are".
    Thanks to Luca for providing an anchor to the discussion.
     
  66. Arthur, I have to say I'm a bit baffled. You started with a premise about photography as a means or sign of self knowledge. Throughout the thread, when others questioned that for themselves, you seemed to become more and more insistent on your theory's efficacy. What is this based on? Does your theory of photography and self knowledge have some reality for you? You've practically insisted that we all keep on topic and keep it personal. Well, how about you? When I asked what self knowledge you've gleaned from your photography, you put me on hold, as if it were something you would have to research or just now begin to think about. Did you not think about it before you made the claim in the OP? You really have nothing to say about your own photos and your own self knowledge after 50+ posts and several days of a thread you started on a topic you seemed so sure was the case? Again, this is all rather baffling to me. What led you to your conclusion as stated in the OP? What is your point? I think a lot of great points have been made during the course of this thread and yet you seem to keep coming in and talking about our drifting and now someone's providing an anchor, suggesting we were drifting again. From what exactly are we drifting? The nothing that you've offered us in terms of self knowledge and your photography?
     
  67. What we see, and what we photograph, influences what we are.​
    Luca, some examples? What have you seen and photographed that has influenced what you are and how has it done so?

    I don't ask because I'm skeptical. I've given a couple of concrete examples of how that's worked for me, so I understand where you're coming from. But without some concrete examples to fill in the blanks of what you've said, I'm kind of left with this empty feeling about it. Isn't the important question what that is for you? What those things are.
     
  68. Let me give some examples of images that have helped to shape my photographic persona. I like to photograph subjects that are mundane, and try to make them photo-worthy. The picture posted here shows a bunch of cleaning supplies, buckets and mopping cloth kept in a desolate corner. There are a few such examples from my portfolio:
    Garden sprinkler
    Frying pan
    Dead tree trunk
    Candle
    I also like to photograph architectural objects, and this one is one of the attempts that worked well, and inspired me to take more photos like that.
    00du06-562624384.jpg
     
  69. Fred and Supriyo,
    Is it what we photograph that influences what we are, or what we are that influences what and how we photograph?
    I have little doubt that the latter is very important. We are what we write (poetry, prose, even a banal technical report). That is what I think. It is not some "theory", or as more accurately described, a "postulate". It is however what I find intriguing in my practice of photography and my approach to subject matter, and ultimately what makes for me the process of photographing the important thing, and not just the photo product (which of course is also for others to comment on).
    When time allows (when I have resolved my procrastination of other preoccupations) I will happily look at my own portfolios, Photo.Net and other, to analyse how my thought concurs with my OP statement. I am sure it will be rewarding to some extent. In the meantime, "tant pis" (who cares?) if I convince nobody of my premise, my intention was to see if others might have thought the same thing and to share their opinions on it for the benefit of all.
    I have no problem with the discussion being about how photographs affect the photographer and the steering of the discussion toward that, so I see also no problem in re-iterating (reformulating) the OP in the contrary sense, for those who might care. For those who don't, fair enough. 50 posts are still fun and of use to some of us. No controversy there.
     
  70. Arthur, I've given quite a bit of myself to this thread already. I'll pass on answering your question further until you've given your own question more thought, time, and focus for yourself and allowed yourself to share some of that with us.
     
  71. It is not some "theory"​
    Arthur, call it a theory or postulate or anything else you like. Like I said, I've filled in some blanks about my photography and me. But it's empty as far as my understanding of what it is to you until and unless you make it more than that by getting into specifics, your photography as it relates to your knowledge of self. Not just that it is supposedly there but what it is that's there. What do you know about yourself that your photography shows you? And then perhaps how that makes you be what (or how) you see or photograph?
     
  72. Is it what we photograph that influences what we are​

    Arthur,
    Let me clarify myself. I don't think my photos have changed what I am, but I think they have helped me to understand my choices and likings better, and shown me a complete view of myself. So 'how I am' was never changed, but my photos did show me a clearer picture of my photographic persona. So my work is now more coherent and noise-free.
     
  73. Photography has revealed to me the importance of memory and how the passage of time can affect whether I can see myself or define myself in what and how I shoot.
    Case in point I take a lot of photos. Hundreds too numerous to remember. The No Words forum in a way acts as a test on my ability to remember them by causing me to go through all those folders of images I can't remember which would fit the NW topic.
    Some of them I'm disappointed with and others I stop and have to ask whether I shot this because I don't see my original motivation for shooting and processing it the way I did, but surprisingly I like it.
    And I like the fact that it boils down to something that simple, I like it even though I don't remember why I shot it. I see a new friend in every image of mine that makes me see myself this way.
     
  74. Tim, that's very cool. And I love your last sentence about your photos becoming new friends.
    It's a good reminder for me. I tend to be not solely deliberative, of course, but more deliberative than not. Not all that deliberation and sometimes none of it takes place when the camera's in my hand ready to be used. A lot takes place the days before a shoot, or when I'm in the shower or in bed at night not even thinking about a particular shoot, but just running through ideas and visualizations. I don't go out and take hundreds and hundreds of photos a whole lot, though I have my days. So I have a pretty good memory of the situations around most of the photos I bother to process/print/share. I tend to remember the situation, which includes my feelings, thoughts, and what I may (or may not) have in mind for the photo to be.
    For me, you make an important point about change of view and perspective over time and change in the relationship between my photos and me. In that sense, photos are not static, but alive.
    I think whatever I refer to as my "self" is fluid, not fixed. And as I've said it has a quality of otherness about it as well, which means I can feel alienated from my "self" as well as feel that others are a part of me. I see more of that relationship to others and otherness than I see fluidity in my work.
     
  75. I think they have helped me to understand my choices and likings better​
    Supriyo. I think that is a feedback that reveals what your choices were and your likings when you made the images and that allows you to understand what it is or was of your nature that impelled you to make the pictures in the first place. Sometimes it is also others who make us realise what we are and how and why we photograph. Both are good feedbacks I believe that can indicate how who and what you are influences what and why you photograph.
    I see a new friend in every image of mine that makes me see myself this way.​
    Tim, maybe that is also one way you may be recognising the importance of who you are and how it influences what and how you photograph.

    Sometimes we ignore how our personal or collective values, cultural situation, loves, hates, or other emotions affect what, why and how we photograph. These feedbacks experienced by Supriyo and Tim just say to me that while you may discover yourself through your images the point is that you were always there and that what or who you are influenced the process and the result.

    This is a photograph I made after being involved for several years in trying to save some landmark old rural buildings in my community. I documented various aspects or details of this one over time much like one makes occasional photographs of a loved one. Discussions with the owner and offers to help rebuild its weakened parts obviously had little impact and one day, after the ravages of much neglect it was bulldozed to clear the land. Before it was cleared I made the photo with a person looking on in a sort of a funeral position. I wouldn't have made it like that if it did not express one of my interests and heritage values.
     
  76. Timed out before i could upload it. Here is the photo
     
  77. We are what we see.
    00du2o-562630684.jpg
     
  78. Arthur,
    This is a very effective picture to show what you like to shoot. I interpret that including the man in the photo is a self reflection. In that sense, is this photo as much about the building, as it is a self portrait?
    From many of the photos in your portfolio, I see you have a passion for desolate places, with rusts and other signs of aging. You depict them beautifully as they reflect the respect you bear for such places. I would have loved to shoot such subjects, but I don't have any nearby.
     
  79. I like this statement by Stephen Shore a lot:
    "When I make photographs, my perceptions feed into
    my mental model. My mental model adjusts to accommodate
    my perceptions (leading me to change my photographic
    decisions). This modelling adjustment alters, in turn, my
    perceptions. And so on. It is a dynamic, self-modifying
    process. It is what an engineer would call a feedback loop.


    It is a complex, ongoing, spontaneous interaction of
    observation, understanding, imagination, and intention.
    "
    I tend to think in circular and iterative patterns. At a certain point we are drawn to photograph the things around us. Maybe that's an instinctive draw towards the visual representation of our world and of our selfs.
    We develop as persons. When I started taking pictures when I was 14 I was a different person I am now. And what I am now certainly is related to what I experienced at the time. And across my whole life I have been developing, experiencing, doing things, getting in touch with people and talking to them, reading books, studying, working.
    And photographing. With varying intensity, with varying focus and awareness.
    Photographing with increasing awareness takes us to more concretely relate what we see with what we photograph and how we photograph it. And then there are our interests and the people and things in the world towards which we are drawn to.
    And when we photograph we may find out more ways to represent the things which interest us to more precisely define what and how we present.
    More concretely: I am personally interested in social documentation, ranging from specific human activities to the places where humans dwell and where they express themselves. It stems from the interest in humans and their social issues which I have developed since I was a teen and grew with myself.
    This can be seen in the pictures I took in the Kinderheim where I used to work and the foster home, which I visited frequently. The pictures about young people and the way they relate to their environments. The same goes for elderly people and their relationship with their environment. And human beings and their activities in urban environments, pursuing particular themes I am interested in.
    Final remark: I am very happy about this discussion, because it has helped me to become aware of a core red line of my photographic work.
     
  80. Shore as quoted by Luca: "When I make photographs, my perceptions feed into my mental model. My mental model adjusts to accommodate my perceptions (leading me to change my photographic decisions)." That's not restricted to or even mostly the OPs "what we see." It's all perceptions -- 360° sensory perceptions as well as memory, most of which is not visual. Photographing puts one vividly "in place," both in time and location, which photographer's bodily/mental "place" is exactly what is not in the picture he's making.
     
  81. We are discussing about how our photography relates to who we are. I have previously said that we don't change, but our photographic habits evolve to reflect who we are. Now I am thinking, what if I get tired and bored of my persona. What if I wake up one morning and realize what I am photographing isn't important to me anymore? What would I do in that situation? Do I have to give up shooting because I cannot change who I am, or can I switch on to a different persona? Would that mean, how I was perceiving myself so far was a big illusion, or the change in persona is real? Has anyone ever experienced this?
     
  82. Everybody changes, for the good, for the bad, who can tell. Life changes us.
    If we photograph, our photography reflects us and we are reflected in our photography. If we don't photograph any more, that's the same.
     
  83. I have previously said that we don't change, but our photographic habits evolve to reflect who we are.​
    Luca,
    What I wanted to say (but I was vague) was, what we photograph don't change us at the core of who we are, although our skills, approaches, viewpoints do get affected by what we photograph. I agree, our core persona can and do change over time due to life experiences, but that change (in my opinion) is not ALWAYS dependent on what we photograph.

    Now my question is, can we come to a sudden realization that what we have been photographing so far (and that which we thought reflects our persona) isn't important any more. What would be our reaction to such realization?
    May be it is just a useless question. Ignore me if you think so. It is just that, some days I don't feel that much motivation to shoot. So this thought comes to my mind.
     
  84. Now my question is, can we come to a sudden realization that what we have been photographing so far (and that which we thought reflects our persona) isn't important any more. What would be our reaction to such realization?​
    I spoke about my realization that I was uncomfortable with the stealth shooting I was doing on the street. That post accompanies the photo of the guy in the red salon.

    Interestingly, I don't think I'm much different, though I changed some of that behavior. But I put the desires, the voyeurism, the adrenaline, sometimes the alienation into other types of photos that I now make. So all that still has importance to me. I just channel it differently.

    The river is both the same and different as time passes and the water continues to flow. Me too.

    __________________________________________________
    If we don't photograph any more . . .​
    . . . and we are what (or how) we photograph, we could be in trouble! ;-)

    __________________________________________________

    I am something other than what I photograph and other than my photos, and my photos are something other than me, myself, or I. And my "self" is also other than me and I am other than myself.

    Sure, my photography reflects me and I reflect my photography. And so many other people and things reflect my photography and are reflected in it.

    Ian has talked about how being photographed affects him and how much opens up to him through the process in terms of his own creative energy and his own ability to see and to be.
    00du87-562643684.jpg
     
  85. Before it was cleared I made the photo with a person looking on in a sort of a funeral position. I wouldn't have made it like that if it did not express one of my interests and heritage values.​
    That comes across as you, in a conscious and deliberate editorial fashion, expressing protest in the bulldozing of the structure you've invested time and interest in preserving. Without the context of your backstory, Arthur, I wouldn't have interpreted the image as you intended. Thus I wouldn't see that as a reflection of who you are by how and what you photograph. So it appears photography in this sense is a solo endeavor unless one is a master visual communicator. This is where a photograph is limiting.
    I'm not in agreement that dissecting intent to define one's self through photography with similar backstories whether sourced from a social conscious or any other specific POV is an accurate or useful way to define one self to others and maybe even to oneself. You're either drawn to photographing a subject or you're not. Outside of that you're just documenting for historical purposes.
    Below is an example of my self examination of my motive for shooting my 72 year old neighbor, Phil, living in the apartment next to mine who from past frequent requests for my assistance needed help living on his own after recovering from a car crash.
    One day I smelt something burning and got the knock at the door from Phil to help him figure out the knobs on his stove he was having problems reading?/seeing?. I was concerned for his and PRIMARILY my safety and decided to help. Examination of his messy apartment gave me a clue he really had comprehension problems. So I placed brightly colored stickers on his stove knobs where I wrote the word OFF. In the image you can see the melted plastic container that was the source of the smell.
    My reasons for photographing was for documentation purposes only in case something really bad happened later on. I still kept the images I shot 9 years ago after moving to another town far away and now see them as bad and sad memories that I don't want defining who I am through photography. Photography for me is a way to redefine how I control my life, lifestyle and personal tastes in how I want to live and see the world. Tragedy is not one of my interests, nor do I want it as part of how I express myself.
    00du8J-562643884.jpg
     
  86. Supriyo, Luca, it may be cliché, but there is a lot of fact in the saying that change is inevitable, whether in society, in its products, its culture or on the individual level. I think I might be more concerned that I change too little over the course of time. We are, like it or not, in a dynamic state of being throughout our lives. I love exploring new possibilities and that often requires that I evolve in terms of my experience, outlook, approaches. We never stop learning and new knowledge can change our views and even our values.
    Photographers (of my former photography society affiliatuion) have on a few occasions told me that they have done everything there is to do and therefore they are leaving the activity. I find that statement hard to fathom as my own feeling is not that at all. When we are not any more sure of what we want to photograph, it is perhaps simpoly an opportune time to explore other subject matter or reasions to photograph. When that happens to me, I spend time reading and looking at the work of other photographers and artists. Or I might ser myself a challlenge that I had not attempted before, but often based upon my reasing or looking at artist's work. Some what I would call successful art facinates me and I have a short list of to do photographs that will more or less copy those seminal paintings or at least transpose them in my way to the photograph. I have found that a good break with my past preferences and approach and the copying often leads to other work and transforms my approach by adding something new to my palette of perception of things and people, and that sometimes allows a new departure.
    I have limited experience in this, but I would encourage those who are experiencing a block to step outside of themselves enough to explore other avenues of photographic expression, even if their first thought is that it will not be fruitful.
     
  87. Currently I've been totally enthralled with the dreamlike affects of telephoto compression to where it has influenced my conscious state of awareness in spotting areas that produce the results shown below.
    The image doesn't show any point of interest. It just shows a POV most people are not aware or even want to photograph. I don't see these types of composition online which means I'm on to something different. That's how I define who I am through photography. I don't judge whether the image has to be about something. It just is.
    00du8U-562644084.jpg
     
  88. Tim,
    You are experimenting with something. Eventually, if that's not your cup of tea, you will get bored by it and come right back to where you belong, where your longterm passion lies. On the other hand, if the telephoto thing is what you like on a long term basis, that will reflect your persona. You may be interested in other things as well. They are all parts of your photographic persona.
     
  89. I agree, Supriyo. Who ever thought boredom could be a motivator.
    Unfortunately it's what a photographer doesn't want to show can't be communicated as part of their personality or whether they are bored or just don't see something in what they photograph. Out of sight, out of mind to both photographer and viewer.
    Some one picking through the ones that didn't make the cut may not see it the same way. Now the photographer has to wonder about how the viewer defines them self for preferring the rejects.
     
  90. I don't want to step on Arthur's shoes, but will say this that Tim's and Arthur's photos and their purposes are fundamentally different. Tim's one is for documentary purpose only, may be for avoiding legal troubles later on, may be for other purpose, totally practical. He himself said that. Arthur's photo represents his long term passion for heritage buildings, and my feeling is, he is not photographing it's demise to hold on to a sad memory or for mere documentation. I think he is chronicling the life and death of an entity he cherishes with the explicit understanding that nothing stays for ever. BTW, I have seen this image before in Arthur's portfolio some months back. By browsing through his other photos, I felt his passion for old structures and the purpose of this photo before reading his comment.
    Enough said. Sorry Arthur, for speaking on your behalf, but your position is something I am close to I think.
     
  91. Tim,
    I don't separate the process of selecting my photos from selecting which scene to shoot on the field. When we envision a 2D photo in a 3D world, it involves some guessing, extrapolation. Sometimes, we don't get what we expected in a photo and end up rejecting it. To me, my photos are the finished products, after rejecting the bad ones, post processing, and cropping. Could we think of the rejected photos as the ones that were shot with good intentions but did not come out as expected, and therefore not aligned with the photographer's persona.
     
  92. Fred said:
    . . and we are what (or how) we photograph, we could be in trouble! ;-)​

    The days that I have time but still not motivated to shoot, I feel this terrible emptiness that is only managed by an unhealthy dose of television and other useless chores. Reading and looking at other photographers' photos sometimes work. Other times, they have the frustrating effect of seeing someone else sleeping when you are insomniac.
    Luckily we are not defined ONLY by what we photograph. Otherwise, for me it would be straight to abyss and no return.
     
  93. Without the context of your backstory, Arthur, I wouldn't have interpreted the image as you intended. Thus I wouldn't see that as a reflection of who you are by how and what you photograph.​
    I agree with Tim. I do think the backstory in conjunction with the photo is a deeper viewing experience but I don't think the photo communicates the backstory specifically. In my mind, such a backstory as Arthur has provided would be difficult to specifically communicate in a single photo and I rarely if ever expect that sort of specificity to come from a photo. Unfortunately, I don't feel a funereal aspect to the photo's expression which Arthur eloquently speaks about and I do think that type of feeling is something that a photo could elicit. Obviously, not for everyone at every moment of their viewing, but I do think there's hope to get a photo to read in a funereal fashion much more so than to get a photo to tell a detailed and specific narrative about motivations and purposes.

    I get much more from bodies of work than individual photos in terms of the kind of thing I'm talking about. And I wouldn't emphasize knowledge as much as I'd talk about some degree of understanding of and empathy with the photographer, often more suggestive than specific. I would rarely if ever think it possible to provide a detailed narrative of motivations and interpretations in the hope that viewers would align specifically with that. IMO, that's not what a lot of art does. What art may do, however, among many other things, is evoke feelings, desires, thoughts, states of mind, in an often empathic way.

    There are times when I'm guided by fairly specific motivations but I don't necessarily expect those motivations to be perceived by viewers. I do hope for empathy and a kind of at least loosely and suggestively coherent connection to me, to the work, to the subject, to what I'm doing . . .

    There are other times when I'm not clear on my motivations or even thinking about them. I'm just moved to make a particular photo in a much more visceral way, but it often has some discernible connection to my overall view of the world and way of being in it.
     
  94. I have been taken to task at times in the past for stating that photographic art is at its best when it is a specific communication between the photographer and the viewer: that is, communication of sentiments, emotions, values, as opposed to communication of, or representation of, aesthetic aspects (compositiinal beauty, balance of forms, light, etc.). However, are we not placing a lot of importance on the relation between the photo and the photographer? That is fine, but it doesn't appear to me to be all-important in regard to 'what we are is what, or how, we see.' In other words, for me it is not all-important at times that the viewer understands the photographer, rather than just reacting to the image before him. The photographer may have created an image with passion but only a part of that may actually be received by the viewer.
    The person in the photo does to some degree mirror my feelings about a loss of heritage. She is not visible in the normal manner (face, expression of) but I feel that her stance, her leaning overslightly, hands held behind her back, shows her connection to the dilapitaded structure and apparent thoughts about it. We don't know what she is thinking (that is true often, even for full face views of persons) but she is seemingly involved. Funeral, requiem for a no longer useful barn, marginal interest of the person? Perhaps or perhaps not. But neither is important as the image was made for specific personal reasons - the thoughts of the photographer.
    Much of our lives are lived in look alike cities of little character, cookie cutter style buildings and numbered roads intersecting each other at right angles and exposing grids of sublime practicality, but little else (there are a few exceptions, of course). A definition of "placelessness". Booooooring, as Julie might say. When we have a richer human occupied landscape and heritage, and then abandon it for more banal organisation, it is a cause for concern. Identity, memory. That is felt by some who value sense of place, but it is not always easily communicated to others.
    Supriyo and all, I am humbled that you want to discuss my very simple photo and I honestly enjoy reading any critque of it, positive or negative. it is a very simple image. I live in a region that 50 years ago underwent a "quiet revolution" in which the church and former hierarchies lost enormous ground. The following photo, perhaps a historical comment in a way, reflects my own personal debate about the place the subject holds in my mind and in much of my contemporary community. It is just a part of how I see it, with no disrespect for others, and is no doubt symbolic of a part of what I am. My second witness.
    00duAG-562648684.jpg
     
  95. Arthur, I hope you didn't take my comment on your downed historic building image as a critique. I was only pointing out what I've been saying at the beginning of this thread in that expressing one's own self through photography in order to communicate identity is a solo endeavor. The results are left to interpretation by the viewer.
    The Vestige image to me is far more compelling than the first but not in regard to your initial intent. The first thought that came to mind was..."If the crucifix impression is a wall I'm comfortable and can relate to what it is saying to me...If it's a floor I'm a bit disturbed by it"...but I have to say it is a VERY COOL looking image and it grabs my attention by its color and its abstract nature and flip-flop/floor/wall perceptual orientation.
    I think if what you want to express to others so they get the point about the region you've lived for 50 years and its history requires it be presented as either a slideshow with written text, or as a book with words and pictures or as a movie documentary. Like Fred pointed out there's only so much a photograph, even a series of them can communicate specifically.
    I can relate to your situation about how your region is changing and not preserving its history in that my local Texas town's population has reached over 50,000 which puts them in a bracket that requires the city to meet EPA and ADA (American Disability Act) standards for public property management and construction in order to get further outside Federal government funding.
    This caused a complete upgrade of our local park for watershed management and ADA access concerns where I have images of wildlife I could feed by hand on the banks of the park's spring fed river, get up close to photograph skiddish birds feeding on crayfish where now a retaining wall to prevent erosion and allow folks wheelchair access keeps them in the water and beyond arm's reach.
    00duAX-562649584.jpg
     
  96. Photographs refuse to conform to the personal fictions of their maker's 'persona.' It's how they don't agree with what their maker thinks he did or saw or made that is piquant, that draws their maker's startled attention, that calls their maker a liar.
    That's not an accusation. The nascent lures felt in the heart, which are drawn by/to what was seen and photographed are not nothing. Quite the opposite.
     
  97. Now my question is, can we come to a sudden realization that what we have been photographing so far (and that which we thought reflects our persona) isn't important any more. What would be our reaction to such realization?​
    I do not think this is really the point. I see a clear difference between the act of photographing and the the act of reviewing one's archives. If I judged a picture or story positively or negatively now, that might change tomorrow, in a month, in ten years, in fifty years.
    As far as I am concerned there is a continuum in what I photograph and my goals are sharpened. Years ago I had a conversation with Fred about the motivation of my photography. I then said I wanted to "see what things look like, photographed". That was then.
    Now I never photograph without a red thread, a motivation, of course keeping open to improvisation. Now I talk much more to people which interest me visually.
     
  98. I spoke about my realization that I was uncomfortable with the stealth shooting I was doing on the street. The river is both the same and different as time passes and the water continues to flow. Me too.​
    That's exactly what I experienced, possibly moving in a different direction than Fred.
     
  99. Arthur Plumpton[​IMG][​IMG], Apr 26, 2016; 05:48 p.m.
    Photographers (of my former photography society affiliation) have on a few occasions told me that they have done everything there is to do and therefore they are leaving the activity. I find that statement hard to fathom as my own feeling is not that at all. When we are not any more sure of what we want to photograph, it is perhaps simply an opportune time to explore other subject matter or reasons to photograph.​
    Your former fellows' statement makes me smile.
    And I could not agree more with you. Just have your camera with you and intend to photograph, pictures will come in line with the red thread. And you will see pictures even when you don't have a camera with you.
     
  100. Arthur Plumpton[​IMG][​IMG], Apr 26, 2016; 05:48 p.m.
    Photographers (of my former photography society affiliation) have on a few occasions told me that they have done everything there is to do and therefore they are leaving the activity. I find that statement hard to fathom as my own feeling is not that at all. When we are not any more sure of what we want to photograph, it is perhaps simply an opportune time to explore other subject matter or reasons to photograph.​
    Why would it be hard to fathom feelings different from your own? I bring this up because of the emphasis on self in this thread and my own feeling about how it can be confining.
    When we are not any more sure of what we want to photograph, it is perhaps simply an opportune time to explore other subject matter or reasons to photograph.​
    Sure, one's being unsure of what to photograph could be an opportune time to explore other subject matter or reasons to photograph. But why is it hard to understand that someone's passion for photography might evolve into a passion, at some point, to explore another creative outlet or do something altogether different with their time and resources? Change comes in all sorts of ways. Just as one can change what or why they photograph, one can change their creative outlet or stop wanting to be creative if it becomes some sort of burden at some point.

    Relatedly, I suspect some photography is not guided by the exploration of subject matter. This is interesting when considering self (subject) and its relevance or importance. Is the subject of the picture its self or its raison d'être? Does it have to be? Does every photo have a discernible subject? (My answer is 'no' to all of those.) In at least some senses, for me, there can be something very restrictive and constraining about selves and subjects.
     
  101. "The nascent lures felt in the heart, which are drawn by/to what was seen and photographed are not nothing. Quite the opposite."​
    Julie's point is very true, and perhaps most applicable in the (exciting) moment that we feel we must photograph something, whether the photograph is made spontaneously without additional "what we are" input, or after further thought and effort.

    Tim, your town or city images and account made me smile, as a friend was on a team of landscapers which proposed about ten years ago and undertook the dismantling of concrete embankments and guard rails on the Charles river that runs through nearby Quebec City. They replaced them with natural sloped embankments of the historic place, including additional foliage, natural gardens and sculptures. I think some protection is still there but it is an opposite direction to the one you mention and which seems to be the tendency, as the former Charles river site was less used (except for skating for a month or so on the frozen river in the midst of winter).

    Wow, it never occurred to me that the crucifix shadow could be interpreted as being on a floor. Mea culpa (imagination-wise). I photographed the wall and ceiling from an acute angle as it seemed to me to give the odd "shadows" more impact and underline an apparent (loss iof equilibrium) message of the image. Apparent, as the old house had been sold to a friend, the former belongings removed, and it was yet to be adjusted or decorated to their needs. I hope he keeps the wall as it was when I saw it. The picture is part of my summer exhibition, which will include some other images of former and active religious and cultural symbols and events, as well as other images of material and immaterial aspects of sense of place.

    There are some interesting points of Lucas and others that I must catch up with. Fred's river rolls on and symbolises a conversation that branches out over new ground....
    To Fred. Perhaps a corollary of my OP might be "I photograph to understand better myself" That would be a case of what we see not having to be recorded for others, or at least that not being the primary goal.
     
  102. Luca
    If I judged a picture or story positively or negatively now, that might change tomorrow, in a month, in ten years, in fifty years.​

    I also feel that very strongly, but I wonder whether it is me that has changed, or that I am closer to myself now in terms of what I photograph and how I see my archive of images. Sorry for the naval gazing :)
     
  103. Fred wrote:
    I am something other than what I photograph and other than my photos, and my photos are something other than me, myself, or I. And my "self" is also other than me and I am other than myself.​
    Fred,
    Your statement is perplexing, but I get the point. I think you have nicely depicted the complexity involved in defining one's self and tying it to one's art. In conjunction to the OP, I never imagined a strict one to one relationship between the two, although at times my statements may have seemed so. I still think there is a common guiding force (may be multifaceted) that (loosely?) prevails over my photography at least, but I am ready to accept the complexity of my persona that is much bigger than that.

    That said, I have seen real benefit in identifying where my passion and potential lie in terms of photographic styles and subjects by studying my archive of photos, for example. I have thus been able to direct my thinking and attention to such subjects (and viewpoints) to improve my work. I agree however, that it is wrong to define myself (necessarily and sufficiently) in terms of those photographic choices as you and others have pointed out.
     
  104. Supriyo, I didn't mean to be too perplexing. And I didn't take you in such a strict way. If anything, you seem quite open to me, and not restricting yourself to a one-to-one relationship.
    Like you, I look back at my work and learn from it, and also learn from photos and art made throughout history that I continue to visit and revisit.
    The part about my "self" being other than myself may come across as cryptic but I just meant that I can experience alienation at times and also experience that connectedness to others and other things that gets me "out of" myself, the holism I was mentioning.
    One important way of thinking about a photo is that it is something I make. I like that aspect of artifice to it because to me it yields a different kind of knowledge* than facts.
    [*As I said before, "knowledge" is probably not the best term for it. For me, it's some combination of empathy, feeling, suggestiveness, awareness, understanding, and actualization. (The self actualization for me is directly related to the making of something.) Picking up on Julie's last comment, which I think is important, I'd add accident and surprise as well.]
     
  105. Fred,
    I think I understand now (although I should not be too optimistic about myself) when you say that you need to get out of 'yourself' to make that connection with your subjects. You are probably familiar with the works of Layle Silbert. I found this short poem by her:
    Who?

    Parted like a mummy case
    Opened down the middle,
    I step out of myself.

    There I am
    Unknown,
    Bare.
    Who knows me now?
    - Layle Silbert​
    Here is a link to her portrait work: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/istepoutofmyself/
     
  106. Thanks, Supriyo, great poem. Love that last line/question. And, just to add, one kind of connection is with the people/situations I photograph. (I actually dislike referring to them as subjects. It sounds too queenly and a little clinical, but I know nothing negative is meant by it.) Another connection is with viewers, often enough people I know or am acquainted with but the unknown ones as well. And connection to the photos, to the project . . .
     
  107. Supriyo, I guess that after reading her little poem I was expecting a lot more from the 4 or 5 images from the link. Perhaps she stepped outside of herself to capture these portraits, but do the words match the product? The viewer not knowing the person does not help I guess, but in the general evocative sense conveyed in these portraits of strangers I see only one portrait I might want to look at twice. They don't hit any important technical, aesthetic or emotional buttons. Perhaps looking at other of her images might be more convincing. What can we see in them (maybe that is not a fair question, as great portraits are not easy to come by)?
     
  108. Arthur,
    I referred to her work mainly for the poem. I personally like the first and the last portrait the most. I looked for more of her works but
    haven't found a whole lot online.

    From what I read, her style was to photograph people in an informal setting as they were conversing. Most of them were her fellow writers and poets.
     
  109. Supriyo, my critique was a little gratuitous and perhaps due to my coming back from a fairly controversial community meeting of political nature. But, like many portraits, I found them just intriguing rather than revealing of anything. Photographing complex and intelligent persons as she was likely doing is likely most successful, or has most meaning, to those who are part of the same circle. Or, when other things related to the person are visible in the image (environmental portrait).
    This leads me to a question, essentially unrelated to the OP: Are portraits of complex individuals more difficult to make than those of persons of simpler nature, life experiences and outlook. Or, how important is the limit of the photograph in really representing the multifaceted nature of an individual? The deeper the nature of the individual, the less likely one can capture something of that interior?
    One of my books on photographers ("Exposures", Jane Bown) has an intriguing portrait of Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, which shows his finely chiseled features and a genial use of lighting, but is limited in information reflecting on his profound and complex make up. Her other photographs, including Truman Capote, Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, Robert de Niro, Woody Allen, show a little (some might say a lot?) of what the person is or was (at least in terms of their appearance to the public) but are often intriguing and one-dimensional (One may ask, how can a photograph do otherwise, unless a very important partial dimension of the person is revealed by it). So I wonder, seeing some similarity in the manner and appearance of some of her portraits, to what degree are we are seeing a part of what she is, a part of Jane Bown, in these images? That may not be bad, as long as that serves to show us the person photographed in a relatively objective manner (that is, does not distort the nature of the person photographed).
    Of course, the process of creating a link with the person or persons photographed is a value in portrait photography, as Fred and perhaps others have mentioned and that is probably related to who they are and why they photograph. Perhaps for Mrs. Bown also, but I have the feeling that, Like Cartier-Bresson, she preferred being un unseen observer.
     
  110. I'd start by saying I'm not sure I know anyone who isn't complex and not sure I'd want to try to determine who among us is simple and who complex.
    In any case, I'd say, from a portrait-making standpoint, one of the differences I find is that some people are photogenic and others are not. But all are still a challenge in their own ways.
    I think many compelling portraits are a matter of the significant expressive appearances of the person being photographed and the empathic expressive dexterity of a photographer joining forces.
    While the process of creating a connection with the person photographed may be a value in portrait photography, as I've said, the value will also often come not in just creating a link to the particular individual as much as a link to something recognizably human in them, a connection with humanity that may not necessarily accurately represent the individual being photographed. It's usually some combination of the two in varying degrees . . . individual AND more univerally-recognizable human character.
     
  111. The connection to humanity in a portrait goes without saying: the label 'portrait' is a social claim to/around/against a known referent. You can't make a portrait of a bullfrog, nor, probably, of a person in a culture entirely unfamiliar to you. But in one's own culture, it's a balance between too much referent and too much particularity; the former is what I think Arthur is complaining about, but the latter will make the person not a person at all.
     
  112. Several of the portraits in my portfolio were taken within minutes of meeting the person, so there hadn't yet been time for a significant human connection but that was plenty of time for a significant photographic one. In a lot of cases, I'm amazed by how those first few photos from a shoot will capture so much "truth" about the person I come to know even before I knew much about them. My guess is that has to do with how telling expression and appearance actually can be.
    Also, since there are so many of these "truths" about all of us, some contradictory, they're visible a lot of the time if I'm tuned into them. Most of us have been both happy and sad, even if we consider ourselves more one than the other. So capturing a genuine expression of sadness even in a mostly happy person can come across as very meaningful and significant, even if not totally representative of who that person is most of the time. While some of us may be more pensive than others overall, most of us have been pensive at some point and so catching a pensive moment becomes a truth.
    My own experiences with making portraits has me wondering if photos don't make truths happen as much as reflecting them.
     
  113. Just saw Julie's last post and we seem to agree in terms of particularity and referent. If I understand correctly, though, I'd probably disagree with her initial statement, that a connection to humanity in a portrait goes without saying. I've seen many photos of people that dehumanize them and come away from shoots with my own rejects because I see a lack of humanity in them. For me, a social or personal sense of humanity is different from a forensic notion of human being. So a human being can be photographed without an appearance of humanity, IMO. It happens in some fashion work a lot, in a lot of shots (even so-called portraits) of homeless people, etc. Interestingly, in family snapshots, even where all aesthetic sense may be missing, humanity so often does come through. Many selfies, on the other hand, not so much!
     
  114. "The self is not found, as if it already exists, only to be discovered. The artist creates herself. Realizing this, and working from the need to undertake this process of self-definition, is the beginning of a career." — John Klein writing about Matisse's self-portraits
     
  115. Julie, the quote of Mr. Klein sounds akin to my saying just above that I wonder if photos don't make truths happen as much as reflecting them. Mr. Klein and I seem to be in sync. The only thing I wonder is, if Mr. Klein is writing about Matisse, why he refers to "the artist herself." Likely, in the fuller context in which he was writing, that would make some sense. My guess is that he's talking about more than just Matisse and may be extrapolating to any artist making portraits, and probably not just self portraits.
     
  116. I guess in these cases Julie's referent refers to a public persona or, lacking that (in a person not known to the viewer) it might refer to what Fred indicates as photogenic (definition: (esp. of a person) having features, coloring, and a general facial appearance that look attractive in photographs), which is sometimes what he is looking for. Bertrand Russell may not have been photogenic in that sense (although less common features are appealing) and I presume that his particularities (or individualism) was of interest to Bown and her newspaper readers, whether or not we agree she captured some of them.
    My neighbor, a young farmer, is a good looking young man, agreeable, responsible, a good person to know and joke with or discuss farming with, a person devoted entirely to tilling the land (he is one of about ten generations of his family doing so) and selling his apples and other produce to feed his young family. His interests, reasoning and life are simple and straightforward. He does not question most things, and probably not the 'who are we, why are we here or where are we going.' I see his simplicity and one-directedness as a certain virtue. His portrait could be quite photogenic, but perhaps not more.
    When it comes to particularities, the more complicated or questioning individual, whether photogenic or not, that likely presents more of a problem for the portraitist. If you come across the fairly expressive photo of Jean Cocteau (he was not attractive in a Hollywood star sense, but with photogenic features) holding his Siamese cat tenderly before himself, you may get the impression as I do of the apparent contrasts of this highly intelligent and questioning man in a symbiosis (if that is the right word) with his cat, a relationship of some love. He is shown not holding a copy of one of his writings, but making a link with an animal of simpler cogitative behavior, and by inference, with the more general world around himself. I think the photographer has explored the more human (loving or emotional) side of a person otherwise known for his intellectual nature and contributions.
     
  117. I read your very engaging discussion and will continue to think about these ideas in my mind. I will make a quick comment
    here. All of you have mentioned the importance of connections in portraits. As per Fred and Julie, truth can be created in
    a portrait by the artist himself. I feel that refers to that connection.

    In this context, I find this statement by Julie contradictory: "You cannot make a portrait of a bullfrog"

    May be you can, if you make that connection with, say your pet bullfrog? My daughter, I am sure will make a portrait
    (probably many) of her doll, if she had camera skills. Would it be any lesser truth than the portrait of a human being?
     
  118. His portrait could be quite photogenic, but perhaps not more.​
    Your supplied definition of photogenic is not how I was using the idea. I wasn't thinking of "attractiveness". I was thinking of expressions and features that somehow, almost magically, are read well by a camera. In that sense, Bela Lugosi, not a particularly "attractive" looking man, was photogenic.

    I didn't say it's what I'm looking for in some cases. I said it's what I find in some cases.

    Maybe Russell's particularities are of interest to viewers of portraits of him. Maybe other things are of interest to them as well. They may know of Russell's writings but might not know much about his private life, depending on the research they may have done into his life. Like I've said, truths about him would also have been created by good portraits as much as good portraits would reflect truths about him.

    I'd be as interested and challenged to make a portrait of your neighbor as to make a portrait of Bertrand Russell or Jean Cocteau. And, whether or not your neighbor was photogenic, I'd want to make a portrait that was more than just that. Who knows, maybe I could even show him something about himself in a way he hadn't seen himself yet. That wouldn't be any less true, though it might be less expected. There are so many possibilities for how I might approach it.

    One can also make a deep photo of something simple. Most people would think of a green pepper as simple. I don't think of Weston's photo as simple, though. Perhaps Weston brought out a visual complexity in peppers most viewers hadn't considered. Perhaps photographers making portraits can do something similar with the people they photograph.

    Andy Warhol, for example, seems to have made some very simple images of some more complex people. He had a knack for that.
     
  119. Portraits needn't confirm!
     
  120. Supriyo, "May be you can, if you make that connection with, say your pet bullfrog?" is a good question, and is why I wrote that. I'll probably leave you even more puzzled if I counter with, what separates a portrait from a picture of a person that is not a portrait?
    To further muddy the water, there are formative parts of ourselves and others that we don't catch. To paraphrase a story from Heraclitus about boys catching lice on each other: "What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us."
     
  121. Supriyo
    I also feel that very strongly, but I wonder whether it is me that has changed, or that I am closer to myself now in terms of what I photograph and how I see my archive of images. Sorry for the naval gazing :)
    Hopefully you (and I) are better aware of our selfs as time passes. I would not say it's navel gazing, I believe we need to start from our selfs to build ourselves in photographic and non-photographic terms.
    Fred,
    Being is not knowledge, it's awareness and it's presence. Of information, of feelings, of sensations, of the emotional, rational, irrational, and unconscious. It's the constant laboring of senses and neurons. That shows up in what I see and what I photograph.
     
  122. what separates a portrait from a picture of a person that is not a portrait?​
    Julie,
    It is not that puzzling for me to answer that, unless you meant something that I did not catch. The answer is in the 'connection'. With a portrait, the viewer feels a (empathic) connection with the subject of the picture (not always the real person though), contrary to a picture that is not a portrait.
    what has escaped us we bring with us​

    Can't agree more, although I can't say I understand it, since by definition it has escaped me.
     
  123. Luca, not sure why you addressed that to me. Did I come across as saying being is knowledge? If I did, I didn't mean to. What I was trying to say is that I don't think photos are as much sources of self knowledge as they are sources (and causes) of other things about ourselves . . . and the world.
    Arthur, perhaps there was some misunderstanding about my mention of people who are photogenic, which I deliberately put into a separate and solo paragraph. It was an aside, but an important recognition a lot of people make who do portraits. But it had nothing to do with the main thrust of my comments about individual and more universal characteristics of people being photographed and I don't see the idea of being photogenic fitting into Julie's distinction between referent and particularity.
    All talk of people who are photogenic aside, the point I was trying to make was that portraits balance (to varying degrees) the individuality of who a person is with a more universal sense of human expression, which is why we can relate to portraits even of people we don't know and why we can see others and humanity itself even in portraits of people we do know.
    And, to reiterate, portraits are not merely about things we do or don't know about a person. They can be a recreation of a person or a new creation with the aid of a person. One of the highest compliments I can be paid by someone who's portrait I've done or by someone who knows that person is "Wow, I never saw myself (or my friend) that way." Unknown possibilities are an important purview of portraits and art.
    Agree with Julie that not all photos of people are portraits. It's one of the very limiting factors of the PN categories for submission of photos for critique. I have many photos of people or groups of people that I don't consider a portrait but don't know where else to put them, not really loving the category of fine art as a catch-all for whatever doesn't fit elsewhere.
    [​IMG]
     
  124. Supriyo, just saw your last post. Have to disagree with your thought that a portrait has a connection to the person where a non-portrait does not have a connection. For me, it's not a difference in connection as much as a difference of emphasis. A portrait would seem to me to emphasize the person-ness of the person or persons-ness of the people . . . who they are whether non-fictionally or fictionally. Non-portraits of people don't necessarily negate them as people and can still convey or create a very strong connection to them but they might emphasize a story, scene, or activity of which they are a part. I'd really have to spend more time dissecting it all to come up with something I find completely (if ever) satisfactory, but this would be where I'd begin.
     
  125. Fred,
    I am in agreement with you, and thanks for clarifying your (and probably my) point of view. What I had in mind (but wasn't clear in my post) was the comparison of two pictures that are made with the clear intention of being portraits and then make this distinction between portrait and non-portrait.
    In relevance to what you described, the photo that you posted shows three individuals with different connections among themselves through gaze and touch. There is clearly a story unfolding here, but is it the anchor for the strongest connection? I thought it will depend on the viewer, some viewers will connect with the man with the razor, some with the man whose hand is shown, some others with the woman who is gazing. Would this picture qualify as portrait to the viewers who connect more (almost fixated) towards one of the individuals (albeit in the context of the story)?
     
  126. The discussion is really good but too fast for me at present (I am procrastinating other writing by the temptation of this discussion) so I will bookmark it and reread it later. Non-portraits are I think often similar to what happens when we lock a video of a person and contemplate what we see. They may be moving or talking and the instantaneous record shows them, often with an unexpected expression (a fragment thereof). Not an intended representation (portrait), but spontaneous like many non-portraits.
    This is a photo of a lady I briefly observed in Portugal and captured spontaneously in street shooter fashion, recognising mainly the moment and compositional possibilities provided by the scene, her dog and herself. A non-portrait, but one that I think could be just as representative of her and her life in that sense as one that would be made of her sitting for a portrait. You may not agree with this example but I offer it to show that portraits and non portraits can come close to being the same.
    00duLD-562677184.jpg
     
  127. In answer to your question, Supriyo, it's one of the reasons I don't love categorizing my own photos and wish we could submit them here for critique without a category designation, though sometimes the category seems obvious enough not to matter. While I might not consider this photo a portrait per se, it's not like it doesn't have elements of being a portrait and I would completely understand others seeing it as one. Because my own emphasis was on the story and I tend to see it that way, I don't talk about it as a portrait but I do connect. Others will emphasize what they want or what just happens for them and certainly shouldn't be burdened by category and in most cases won't see it presented with a category attached, except here on PN. I'm also not opposed to expanding categories, so were I doing a show of portraits, I'd happily include this and let it simply expand the category in this instant. There would always be a purist who might comment negatively on its inclusion . . . and I'd understand why but gleefully leave it in the show!
     
  128. Another portrait - non-portrait
    00duLH-562677284.jpg
     
  129. Arthur, we overlapped in writing. Love the photo. Agree there's a very fine line and sometimes virtually no distinction between portrait and non-portrait. The time consumed by determining particularly categories I think is worthwhile for historians, perhaps critics, and curators. Not often as important to me, though sometimes having a category in mind and pushing its envelope can be fun to play with. I'd happily accept your above photo as either a portrait or not. Part of it will depend on the context in which I encounter it. Perhaps if you showed it with only other street scenes it will read differently to me than if you showed it with a bunch of more focused, traditional portraits. And part of it will depend on whether today the famous FIGURE-GROUND example is two profiles or a cup/vase. It will just be a matter of how I look at it at the moment and I may be able to switch back and forth. I would say, as with my photo just above, more often than not I would see it as story-telling as opposed to portraiture, but that doesn't discount the latter view.
     
  130. In my above post, I was referring to the black and white photo. This color one has less potential to me as portrait and more as street photo. But, again, I wouldn't quarrel with someone seeing it as a street portrait. If you made it part of a series where the common element was the little boy, the series could wind up being a portrait of him!
     
  131. Sorry for the poor reproductive qualities (saved as PDF then to jpeg). Here is another "portrait" from a visit in the the same region. Nothing very incisive or analytically intentional, but perhaps a friendly non portrait mirror on the person or persons (mother-daughter?)?
    00duLO-562677384.jpg
     
  132. Fred, your photo of three is a portrait and I think more than that. A very intriguing photo that tells a story of the persons or at least tempts us with a part of the story.
     
  133. "This is a photo of a lady I briefly observed in Portugal and captured spontaneously in street shooter fashion". Arthur.
    That's a very good photo, Arthur. Sometimes the mind exceeds the photographer.
    A photo I would be proud of..it has an art.
     
  134. If only you could grab hold of that art.
     
  135. None of those are portraits.
     
  136. "None of those are portraits" Julie.
    For one of my favorite posters, Julie.
    00duLp-562678284.jpg
     
  137. Fred brought about the (valid) point where the connection one feels in a photo may not be towards the specific individuality of a person. Such images would not qualify as portraits. When I saw this image, I asked myself, is this a portrait? There is no individuality of Buzz Aldrin depicted here, all covered in spacesuit. However when I see the picture, I have a dual feeling. I feel a connection towards Aldrin individually. At the same time, I feel that connection shifted from him to the first men on the moon, whoever that might be. Aldrin's individuality is lost at that point.
     
  138. Formal...equals boring.
     
  139. My attempt at portraiture.
    00duM0-562678684.jpg
     
  140. " There is no individuality"
    Photographs of wildlife in their natural environment is always the most interesting....
    00duM1-562678784.jpg
     
  141. Supriyo
    Like it...it has a lovely feel to it.
     
  142. "We are what we see"
    We see what we are.
     
  143. Like it...it has a lovely feel to it.​
    Allen,
    Thank you. I like your capture of the spontaneous moment. It reminds me of the cropped shot of this image that is in your portfolio, and the comment of one of the reviewers about the mystery created by the crop.
     
  144. Allen,
    Thank you
    Thank you, for posting your photo.
     
  145. Fred,
    sorry. Possibly i misread/misinterpreted what I read.
    Luca, not sure why you addressed that to me. Did I come across as saying being is knowledge? If I did, I didn't mean to. What I was trying to say is that I don't think photos are as much sources of self knowledge as they are sources (and causes) of other things about ourselves . . . and the world.​
    I definitely agree.
     
  146. Ladies and gentlemen, I kind of miss the point of the development of this discussion.
    Certainly the general statement on the relationship between the being and the seeing/photographing is intuitive and valid.
    It seems to me that the first one being able to become aware of this is the person.
    Certainly it is very difficult to concretely express this relationship using one, or a handful, photographs.
    A third person can really substantiate the relationship between "what I am" and "what I see/photograph" only on the basis of a thorough knowledge of the person's self, of the development, and of the body of work. And still then there is a margin for (mis-)interpretation.
     
  147. Thanks for those remarks Luca. I think you are quite right that third person experience related to his or her perception of what the photographer is, is not always very accurate, or rather, not complete. People are too complex for that to be easily discernible from one or even several photographs. Being conscious of who and what we are, though, is still a good thing for us to consider and to aid us in developing our photography.
     
  148. I'm not sure there's that much difference between first and third person experience related to the connection between oneself and one's photos. Again, though, I'm one who claims not to know myself better than others do in a lot of ways and there are many times where I trust what others say about me more than what I think myself because I'm too invested and biased to always be accurate or on target about myself. Several photographer and artist friends have told me over the years that I put into words what their photos show better than they do and I've helped them see them in a way they hadn't before.
    In terms of actually photographing, think how often we misconstrue what can be seen in our photographs because we are the ones who took them. "This is one where I captured the sadness of my Aunt Tillie at her husband's funeral." Well, it's often the case that only you think you've captured sadness because you were there and saw the sadness in the full context. We're not seeing the the sadness because the photo doesn't show what you felt or who you are. It reminds you of what you felt.
     
  149. I'm not sure there's that much difference between first and third person experience related to the connection between oneself and one's photos.​

    Fred,
    I am sorry, if I misunderstood you, but doesn't your last paragraph contradict this statement? I agree that sometimes a third viewer can interpret and analyze my photos better than I do. However I still find my connection with my photos distinct compared to that of a third person. If we take the example of "aunt Tillie", one who took that photo was present in that atmosphere and had the full sense of sadness. The photo captured only a small subset of that atmosphere. As you said, when the person who took the photo views it later, he is viewing it with the full context in mind. The photo at that point serves as a memory booster, while to a third person it is a message to be interpreted. So, however flawed the image is in conveying the photographer's emotions, that flaw is more revealed to the third party. The photographer can still use the image to reflect on himself, because he has the whole context in mind.
     
  150. Supriyo, I was probably unclear so thanks for asking. I find myself not photographing in order to memorialize, remember, or recreate feelings I was having at the time of shooting. Often, when I'm shooting I'm more focused on what I'm doing than what I'm feeling. I'm feeling it, and often strongly, but may not be terribly aware of those feelings. It's probably why I would never shoot my aunt on the day of my uncle's funeral.
    So, and I take this to be at least part of what Julie's been getting at in several of her recent posts, I'm often shooting to create something I don't yet know. It's a process of building and it will eventually build toward my own feelings about the photo, once I've taken it, reviewed it, processed it, and printed it or uploaded it. In that respect, I am much like all other viewers. And I love that. That's why I feel like it's such a matter of sharing for me.
    So there's a big difference to me between saying "I am what I see" and "I am what I photograph." Yes, I may connect uniquely to my feelings at the time of taking the shot, but that's often not what's significant to me. It's what I feel when I look at the photo, because that's a creation and it's often in many ways distinct from what was happening when it was taken.
    When I took the shaving photo, I was moving people around, getting Caroline into the light that felt right, placing a hand here or there, moving around myself until the reflection in the mirror felt right to me. That's not what I'm connected to, though, when I see it (unless I'm analyzing that way for a particular reason). When I look at it, I'm connected to it as a photo, and it brings up a lot of emotions and thoughts for me, but not necessarily what I was feeling or thinking at the time. It seems to do that for viewers who weren't there as well.
    Maybe we could say "We are what we see in a photo (whether ours or others)." But maybe we could say we are the earth we live on and we are the friends we have and we are the street we're walking down and the keyboard we're tapping on and the music we listen to as we hear the violin playing. But after a time, they just start to sound like radio advertising jingles. And yet, it was a good way to start a good discussion, even though I don't quite buy it!
     
  151. Very well said, Fred. Its the synergy of the visual elements in a photo that is important to you, not the memory of the actual setting. Much appreciated. I now remember Julie's Heraclitus phrase "What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us (in a photo)" In this regard, I am recalling a recent photo I took. The reviewer (David Triplett) brought out certain aspects that I did not fully envision myself, and when I did, the overall impression of the photo was much different than what I felt while shooting.


    [​IMG]
     
  152. But after a time, they just start to sound like radio advertising jingles. And yet, it was a good way to start a good discussion, even though I don't quite buy it!​
    Fred, unless I misunderstand you I presume by that you mean that you don't buy the postulate "what I am is what (or how) I see". That postulate and the quite fruitful discussion that followed (either for or against my proposal and the idea that - what we see and the way we photograph has a lot to do with our own personal make-up) was I hope far from any radio advertising jingles. I appreciated the serious discussion of it over many pages and contributions.
    But maybe I misunderstand your point concerning radio advertising jingles?
     
  153. Yes, Arthur, I don't buy the postulate. And, yes, it sounds like an advertising jingle. And, yes, I'm glad you said it. And,
    yes, it did start a great discussion.
     
  154. Fred, I am surprised that you of all people didn't understand a serious question concerning approach in photography, let alone the more existential and philosophical aspects of it. But I did see that some others, though not all, of the respondents seemed to be afraid of the question. It was perhaps too personal for this popular venue. But as I said, I am glad that some understood it and profited from the discussion. What more can one hope for?
     
  155. Arthur, have you read my posts here? You honestly believe I didn't understand your question? That something sounds to me like an advertising jingle doesn't in any way dissuade me from talking deeply about it. Got Milk? I could go on for hours!
    There's been so much of substance said here. The jingle thing was a very benign and quick mention and came much more as an aside than as a major point I was trying to make. Believe me, it was meant rather light-heartedly. I hope you won't focus on it to the extent you miss out on so many other things related to the topic that I and others have been discussing. That would be such a shame and was certainly not my purpose.
    [One doesn't have to take negatively my likening your OP phrase to an ad jingle. It all depends how a jingle is used . . .
    . . . I don't know if you watched the TV series Mad Men. If you haven't and are planning to, please don't read this as it could be a spoiler of sorts. The climax of the final episode uses the famous Coke commercial from the early 70s, "I'd like to teach the world to sing . . ." Importantly, it ends with the famous and catchy slogan "It's the real thing." That was genius at the time and was used ingeniously for the finale of Mad Men.]
     
  156. Some Barthes -- for Luca and Arthur with there recurrent reference to "feedback." Note that this is about the full-body response, not "seeing":
    .
    An act is transitive, its sole purpose is to have an effect upon an object or to achieve a result. A gesture is the indetermined and inexhaustible sum of motives, pulsations and lassitudes that surround the act with an atmosphere (in the astronomical sense of the term).
    [line break added to make this easier to read] We can distinguish between the message, which wants to produce information, the sign, which wants to produce intellection, and the gesture, which produces all the rest (the "supplement") without perhaps really wanting to produce anything at all. The artist (and let's keep this somewhat kitschy word a little while longer) is a performer of gestures by definition. He wants to produce an effect, but at the same time he couldn't care less.
    [line break added] And the effects he produces are not necessarily effects that he wanted to produce; they are effects that have rebounded, spilled over and escaped, effects that come back to him full circle and provoke modifications, deviations and diminishments of their own traces. Gesture, in fact, abolishes the distinction between cause and effect, motivation and target, expression and persuasion.​
    Further from Barth, talking about what has been made:
    .
    It's like a caress whose value finally lies in the way it's remembered.​
     
  157. Fred and Julie,
    A semi-conscious perception and gesture are probably how many of our photographs are made and we sort of justify that afterwards by verbalizing our approaches or the particular conditions at the time of their making, and also by seeing things in an image that might even say something about us, as somewhat diffused and non-visual personal portraits. Like the artist, in the Barthe link, we loose the relation between cause and effect, motivation and result (target), and if the image moves the viewer we often coudn't care less about what or why we made it. The cause is us, and the effect is the product, and yes, I agree, we may have learned a lot in this discussion. Mainly by concentrating on the product.
    If you will excuse my poorly crafted jingle (you can add your own musical backup) in the agreed same light hearted way Fred has used:
    "I want to teach a photographer to look in a mirror
    to see the world in himself
    and to see his target
    by seeing himself,
    He's the r-e-a-l thing..."
    ("He" used here for any human)
     
  158. An important message which has come up in my discussion with Fred (and which I am going to take away with me) is that photos are free living entities with a life of their own. They bear our signatures, but they are much more than that. When we photograph the real world, we cannot control every aspect of the scene. Therefore, every photo captures things that are unknown to the photographer, both visually and conceptually. As Julie quoted Heraclitus: "what we neither see nor catch we carry away". It is for this reason, our photos can teach us so much, not only about ourselves, but about the world we sense and perceive.
     
  159. "I am going to take away with me) is that photos are free living entities with a life of their own. They bear our signatures" Supriyo.
    00duYY-562713084.jpg
     
  160. Judging by the relaxed nature of this family in front of your camera this looks it may be in East London or one of that city's cosmopolitan suburbs. Happy shoppers. The little person is in a world of her own.
     

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