WEEKLY DISCUSSION 2.0 #13 - Imogen Cunningham

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Norma Desmond, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. This week's photo:
    Imogen Cunningham, Magnolia Blossom, 1925
    This iconic flower photo by Cunningham has a sense of art nouveau in its entwined lines and shapes, deepened by the translucent layers and its architectural-like rendering. She moves toward modernism with this view of the elegant magnolia, the sharper, sensual edges of the flower like cut glass or jewels. There is delicacy in the shading and layering, her virtuosity of craft showing in the finer details she highlights in her subject.
    "The reason during the 1920s that I photographed plants was that I had three children under the age of 4 to take care of, so I was cooped up. I had a garden available and I photographed them indoors. Later when I was free I did other things." —Imogen Cunningham​
    Earlier, she had embraced the dreamier and more lyrical Pictorialist style, as so many photographers did, in works such as this controversial and harshly-criticized nude portrait of her then husband, Roi Partridge.
    Mt Rainier Nude Portrait, 1915
    Her bohemian lifestyle was noteworthy in an era in which it was groundbreaking for a female photographer to be at the forefront of an emerging aesthetic let alone daring to photograph and show an evocative nude male. Though he appears to be walking or standing on water, he is actually standing on a floe of ice in the lake high up on the mountain. This was a testament to their abandon, willingness, and love of art and nature.
    She would later co-establish the f/64 group of photographers along with Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and others, wanting to move photography away from the soft focus painterly qualities of Pictorialism and toward a more objective and uniquely photographic realism. She would come to be critical of her earlier work and later said of her Mt. Rainier nudes:
    “They are from what I call my ‘dream period,’ when I … thought I understood poetry.” —Imogen Cunningham​
    Cunningham would become known for photographing a wide variety of subjects, excelling in her floral work and particularly in portraiture.
    Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, 1922
    She shot the two so poignantly as their intense love affair was in its last throes. To me, this is as much a narrative and emotional tale as it is a double portrait.
    She also delved into industrial photography in that f/64 tradition of the search for the stark realism that a "more purely photographic" approach could offer. The photography being explored by this group was still imaginative and seemed to show the life of the external form of its subjects but without what they saw as the "evasiveness" that Pictorialism's mimicry of the qualities of painting had earlier offered.
    Fageol Factory, Oakland, 1934
    Cunningham was ecclectic and seemed to have as much if not more passion for photographs and photographing as she did for her subject matter. When asked what she liked to photograph, she responded with, "Anything that could be exposed to light." Her work included photo essays and photojournalism.
    Boy Selling Newspapers, 1950
     
  2. "harshly-criticized"? They did not like the lighting? All of these have an appeal to me but I do not have the ability to verbalize why. 1915? great piece especially considering the state of the art. How many women photographers were there back then. A great photographer when you can produce great photos regardless of subject matter
     
  3. I much prefer her pictorialist style to her later work. But I am drawn to this type of photography anyway. Boy Selling Newspapers is dry, staid. Mt Rainer Nude Portrait is simply gorgeous.
     
  4. Interesting how she switched her taste from soft qualities to becoming one of the f/64 along with Ansel Adams. Her favorite was portraiture which I have not seen much of.
    By the way that shot on Mt Rainier was 1914 not 1915 but what is a year to someone who lived actively into her nineties
     
  5. She was artist-in-residence at the San Francisco Art Institute when I was there in the early '70s. She was quite charming and loved inviting students to her cottage for tea and conversation.
    I admired her floral work more than her portraiture, and spent endless hours shooting in people's gardens.
     
  6. Charles
    She once said that you can not teach photography. People were either good photographers or not. You could only give them suggestions. Did she feel this way when you crossed paths with her?
     
  7. I got to spend little time with her. I don't recall her having regular "classes" but always gathered a dozen or so students to talk. I don't remember her looking at student's photos, but that was a long time ago.
     
  8. Amazing how looking at her work throughout her extended lifetime with long periods of very different modes of photography stands in contrast to Francesco Woodman's flash of a life. With Imogen Cunningham we have the privilege to choose between very different kinds of photography: botanic, portraitures, industrial.
    Personally I see the force of her portraits (the hands are maybe the central subject for her) like the one of Ben Butler (?) from 1910, or Frida Kahlo (1931) although she is quoted for saying later in life, that: "When you do portraits professionally it's not a desire, it's for money". Maybe many of her flower photos too ! After all "desire" plays a role when it comes to creativity. It is only, as I see them, when the abstract in her flower shots comes to the more, that her vision comes alive, like here.
    Here is a beautiful shot of the dear old lady in 1980 (Mimi Jacobs, another Bay photographer)
     
  9. Sorry the abstract I linked to is actually not by Cunningham but by Sonya Noskowiak as far as I see. I'll look for abstractions from Cunningham like this one or this one..
     
  10. I do not know if it was industrial per se. It is an example of a sudden change from a softness when she became part of a group called f/64 which centered on sharp focus and contrast (constructionism?) which actually was underway in Europe. Ansel Adams was also one of this group. Ansel once said something to the effect that she likes to explore new avenues and she said that he was just nucely saying that she gets bored easily and likes to jump around a lot.
     
  11. Donald, I think she can be said to have photographed industrial sites (often referred to as industrial landscapes) in the same way she can be said to have photographed botanicals or portraits and in the same way she can be said to have photographed a series of Mt. Rainier nudes. While her portraits straddle her vision from Pictorialism through Modernism, her Mt. Rainier nudes were pretty clearly in the Pictorialist tradition and her industrial shots clearly in the more Modernist tradition, those of the f/64 group. While she, as a member and founder of f/64, was clearly moving toward a more realist and less romantic photographic approach, she did focus on industrial landscapes for a time. Yes, she was eclectic in choosing her subject matter, but I would still refer to her having a botanicals interest and, later, an industrial interest.
    How do I determine what was driving what? In other words, did her move toward a more stark photographic realism lead her to industrial landscapes? Were they just a good outlet for her change in stylistic approach or did she have an interest in industry "per se" that went beyond her photographic change of voice at the time? I think the two are probably so intertwined that it would be hard to draw clear distinctions. Industry was clearly a good choice for this more hard-edged and realist view of the world. But so would have been suburban homes or big-city high-rises or park benches. She chose industrial landscapes just as earlier she had chosen flowers.
    Her industrial shots represent, to me, more of an advancement into realism. With her flowers, there's more layering and the translucence of flowers carries with it an imaginative nuance quite different from the metallic and reflective surfaces of the factory captured in bright sunlight. Yet, the sense of geometry in each is there, the play of shape and line. And, as I said, the flower seems to take on an architectural quality that the factory obviously has. Yet the close-ups of the flowers carry with them an intimacy not necessarily felt in her industrial work, which moves much more toward a kind of objectivity but not one without imaginative possibilities as well. Both the flowers and the factories have that significant quality of abstraction, even while the subject matter is also meaningful and literal.
     
  12. Cunningham's Magnolia Blossom has an energy to it, like flowing fabric on a dancer. It (and her work with calla lilies and other flowers) seems to anticipate some of her work with Martha Graham. I also see some likeness to 1920s women's hair styles and hats, especially in the tight curls of the carpels, although the billowing petals may be more like the full skirts of the previous decade.

    Close ups of flowers prompt comparison to O'Keeffe's paintings of similar subjects, which she was producing around the same time. I wonder if some of the same things influenced both Cunningham and O'Keeffe, or if they had any influence on each other.

    What is it that makes this photo different than the myriad photos of flowers (which are occasionally derided as a group) we see on PN? It might be that it's in black and white, the lighting and contrast and sharpness are less aggressive, and there are no drops of dew. There seems to be something in her approach that goes beyond those things, though, that is hard for me to describe.

    I like the first quote by Cunningham that Fred posted, about having a garden handy so that is what she photographed. Occasionally that has been my way of working, returning to the agaves and kale in my back yard. Cunningham's work with plants is impressive because of her use of shadows and negative spaces, such as in https://s3.amazonaws.com/classconnection/709/flashcards/3773709/png/55-1494AD3EF4F00D0796F.png
     
  13. Once again, Fred has pointed up the work of a highly valuable photographer.
    Anybody who can take a shot like "Magnolia Blossom", technically impeccable and aesthetically superbly crafted, more or less automatically gets my vote. No doubt Cunningham was aided in her mastery of the technical side of photography by her study as a chemist. She appears to have spent her working life of photography in pursuit of lyrical beauty and been highly successful in doing so – perhaps a hint as to her character is given by her participation in the making of the picture "Imogen and Twinka at Yosemite" by Judy Dater, with clear tongue-in-cheek humour. All in all, one has the feeling that Cunningham's art helped in a small way to make the world a slightly better place.
     
  14. I prefer her during her "dream period" when she believed to understand poetry. Later on, in my eyes she became a figure in her milieux, highly respected without doubt, as a character and inspirator for generations of photographers around her. I find more matter for inspiration in photos like the ones of Eikoh Hosoe or even Francesca Woodman.
    Yes, I'm in awe when admiring her magnolia blossom and her nude shots catch my attention most of which are women and shot with a vision that resembles Hosoe - but they are not Hosoe and do not go beyond beautiful bodies with only hints of poetry, as far as I see them.
    The lonely man, Fred chose, among all the nudes she did, stays fairly marginal among her works. Here is another shot of the same person, the same years and the same place, and here another male nude (1918), again prudently seen from behind - and far, far from the killing fields in Northern France during the same period.
     
  15. Close ups of flowers prompt comparison to O'Keeffe's paintings of similar subjects, which she was producing around the same time.​
    Interesting consideration, Mark. When I compare the two visually, I see vibrancy in O'Keeffe's flowers and delicacy in Cunningham's. I would describe O'Keeffe's floral painting as bold and patterned and Cunningham's photos of flowers as layered and concerned with shape. Where color comes to the fore in O'Keeffe's work, texture comes to the fore in Cunningham's work. Some of this, probably, can be chalked up to the difference between the two mediums and the difference between color and black and white. But, for me, it would be a mistake to chalk it all up to those things, because I think the two women's visions and concerns are different and I think that's evident in O'Keeffe's boldness and vibrancy compared to Cunningham's delicacy.

    That being said, I don't mean to suggest there's no degree of delicacy in O'Keeffe's work and no concern with pattern in Cunningham's. There is overlap, of course. But I do think their overall aesthetic approaches show some interesting differences.

    Though contemporaries, they didn't seem to know each other or even know much about each other until the later years.

    We probably shouldn't mention both these important women artists without bringing in Tina Modotti, who shares with Cunningham a love for photographing flowers (though her work goes well beyond flowers) often with a more graphic touch and shares with her as well a significant connection to Edward Weston with whom Modotti became lovers.

    Here is Modotti's famous TWO CALLAS, 1925, the same year Cunningham photographed her Magnolia linked to in the OP and just a few years before Cunningham photographed her own TWO CALLAS, 1929. Not only are the perspectives vastly different in each of their calla photos, giving me such different feelings when I look at each, the whole tone of the photos are different, the Modotti being more graphic and having a Modigliani-like tallness and slenderness, the Cunningham having more mystery and overall softness. What softness there seems to be in the Modotti is at the end of a long travel of the eye up the stems of the flowers, which play such a crucial role in the composition, in contrasting with the softer flower at the top, and helping to lead our eye movement. I actually find a very "masculine" side to these Modotti callas.
     
  16. Fred, your comparison of O'Keeffe's and Cunningham's florals rings true. I see many of O'Keeffe's flowers as idealizations and abstractions, whereas Cunningham's had a more realistic look, more concerned with detail and texture. The two artists may not have known each other, but they had Edward Weston in common - Weston apparently met Cunningham in 1920, and O'Keeffe in 1922. Influences probably flowed in all directions. There is something of Cunningham in Weston's close-ups of vegetables, and in his industrial landscape: http://www.geh.org/taschen/m197400610065.jpg

    It is interesting to compare Modotti's callas with Cunningham's. I did not immediately see the masculine aspect of Modotti's Two Callas, because I first saw the (as you said) "Modigliani-like tallness and slenderness", which to me, along with their uterine appearance, suggested femininity. But in going back to it with masculinity in mind, I now see that, too. Maybe it's their somewhat rougher contrasty look, or their lean, spartan appearance, as opposed to Cunningham's softer, zaftig callas, that give them a masculine quality.
     
  17. " actually not by Cunningham but by Sonya Noskowiak"
    I don't know Anders you have got yourself in a tither of betwixt and between;)
    Talented Artist who explores photography in all its many facets. Not a Artist who has just found a successful formula to work with but has the talent/creativity and desire to explore photography as a whole.
    I think true creative talent walks many paths...Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind.
     
  18. "I think true creative talent walks many paths...Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind."
    I totally agree Allen, but it does not make you into a Leonardo Da Vinci to walk into many artistic paths. I appreciate many of the pictures of her's, and especially those from the early years which have survived the wear of time, but apart from sharing the interest for shooting flowers like numerous photographers around her she does not reach the spheres of the best of O'Keefe or Modotti. She could have got much inspiration from Tina Modotti and her close relationships to Weston and Kahlo sharing not only artistic ambitions, but also political and social engagement, a life as activist. Cunningham shot some very beautiful photos of flowers, but Tina Modotti did so much more with flowers - and hands.
    For me, you just have to look at Cunningham's magnolia, side by side with Modotti's two callas to admire the difference between a f/64 type of shot and print and genuine photographic poetry. Cunningham was certainly a very skilled photographer all her life but something was lacking for her to be admitted to climb parnassus.
     
  19. Tina Modotti's still life is a good example of a transcendent image compared to the less adventurous example of Mrs. Cunningham. It may not be fair to compare two different approaches based on two images, but the singular comparison is a strong one. It would be of interest to see more photos from Ms. Modotti.
     
  20. Photos by Tina Modotti are easy to find on the net. Here is an epitaph by Pablo Neruda in her honor after her death in Mexico city in 1942:
    Pure your gentle name, pure your fragile life,
    bees, shadows, fire, snow, silence and foam,
    combined with steel and wire and
    pollen to make up your firm
    and delicate being.
     
  21. I think the Cunningham Magnolia Blossom and her Two Callas are incredibly poetic photos. It is true that Cunningham, both intellectually and artistically, was reacting against Pictorialism (including her own) and wanted a "straighter" photographic picture to emerge. I can see that particularly in the focus and straightforward perspective of her Magnolia Blossom. But that is not non-poetic. What I know of her ambition for photography and what the inadequacy of many of her own words on the subject may convey is nothing in comparison to what I see in her work and what I bet she felt as well. The poetry is, in great part, in her craft, in the gradation of tonalities, the sensuous lighting, the subtle and nuanced shading, all housed within the curved shapes of the petals, the layers patiently and slowly revealed, the wondrous translucence. I think Cunningham's work is transcendent in the extreme. She shows, in fact, that poetry transcends the accepted clichés of soft focus and extreme lyricism . . . that a camera, to paraphrase her, can find it anywhere light hits a surface.
    I very much like Modotti's Callas, which I posted above. I don't think they compare poetically to Cunningham's. They are more graphic, less intimate, they are shown from a unique perspective but the beauty of the textures of the flowers themselves don't play near as important a role as in Cunningham's Magnolia. I love the way Modotti's Callas are shot up against the wall, drawing a contrast from the flow of the shapely flowers to the solidity and hardness of the wall. Such a contrast, to me, is less about poetry and more about impact. I can feel Cunningham's Magnolia. There is a sense in Cunningham not so much of adventure as much as touch.
    I think Modotti was influenced by and probably more beholden to Weston than ever Cunningham was, who was a leader of the f/64 group. Cunningham seems to me the finer artist and the greater aesthetic trailblazer. Though she revolted against the status quo and her words and ideas about photography may, on the surface, sound like she was after something less poetic than previously, I don't think that's the case. I think her words don't adequately describe the way she photographically poeticized things and I think, despite how her words may sound, the poetry can be seen and felt in her photos. I think this may be a case where history books and various judgments about various photographic "schools" don't tell near the picture that viewing the work itself does.
     
  22. I must disagree. It's the light of Modetti's flowers and their fragility that I find most impressive. The same flowers by Cunningham are very f64 in your face beautiful but cold and I find in that she is a sort of Ansel Adam's of horticulture. A technical rather than poetic perfection.
     
  23. "I think this may be a case where history books and various judgments about various photographic "schools" don't tell near the picture that viewing the work itself does".
    An often repeated mantra here around, Fred ! As so often said, both have there place and role. If you overplay any of the two, you miss the essential.
     
  24. Anders, I would hope it would be clear to you by now that I believe knowledge of
    photographic and art history is important and certainly helpful to an understanding, appreciation, and love of photos.
    Taking a sentence of mine out of context and pretending it's some sort of mantra won't fly here. What I'm suggesting is
    not that we shouldn't learn about various schools such as f/64. Didn't you notice that I included it in my intro and in follow
    up posts? What I'm suggesting is not to let the term "straight photography," which is what the f/64 was advocating, lead us
    into not still seeing poetry in work that didn't necessarily follow the poetic formulas of the past. As I read the quote I
    included of Cunningham in the OP, she's saying as much. She thought her old way of photographing, the more dreamlike
    images, were the only types of examples of photographic poetry. Now she has come to realize poetry is not restricted to
    such types of images.
     
  25. A further thought. I think Cunninghan, even with her more modernist approach, still utilizes some recognizable poetic
    qualities in her approach to the flowers as well as her later even more f/64 photos. The mid 1920s were still very much of
    an early transition period. Her sensual approach to shape and the layered translucence are still very much a part of her
    earlier poetic inheritance. She was moving toward photographing differently but I think she maintained, certainly in these
    flowers, her inner and innate poetic relationship to what she was seeing, regardless of how she was seeing it. I find I can see that in her work.
     
  26. Fred, don't expect of me to quote your full text every time in order not to be accused of taken a phrase out its context. The chosen phrase was the central message, as I read you, whether you indeed contradicted yourself or not.
    So permit me to quote you once more:
    "I think she maintained, certainly in these flowers, her inner and innate poetic relationship to what she was seeing, regardless of how she was seeing it. I can see that in her work".
    Although the sense of what you wish to communicate does not - read by a foreigner - come out clear cut, I would dare say that I don't see the same. I see an obviously skilled photographer who manage with her flower photos and portraits to satisfy a personal attraction and even to support her financially throughout her life. Nothing more, nothing less. And still, I'm in awe when admiring her magnolia blossom, but it does not make her into a Tina Modotti. Maybe the force of personal engagement and passion was lacking.
     
  27. f/64 and the term 'straight photography' is often misunderstood for being about unmanipulated or objective photography but it's as much manipulated and subjective photography as pictorialism is ( Both Ansel Adams and Edward Weston heavily manipulated their negatives or prints for example ). The main difference between pictorialism and straight photography is that the latter adhered to strictly photographic principles inherent to the medium whereas pictorialism borrowed aesthetics and principles of painting. 'Straight Photography' covers a whole range of different styles and methods.
    Anyway, I remember reading somewhere ( or maybe it was mentioned in the The Genius of Photography documentary series ) that at one point Imogen Cunningham quit the f/64 group.
     
  28. I agree Phil, f/64 is mostly misunderstood, but at least I used it for referring to a type of photographic approach which influenced especially American photographer throughout a generation or two and maybe going 'straight' and not resembling painting, is the best overall characteristic of it all.
    Tina Modotti, for her part, was however not anything near pictorialism and dreamlike. She put her photography in the service of a strong activist engagement with reality around her and the political situation in Mexico and Europe in the 20's and 30's, which shines out of most of her photos. A very different world compared to the bohemians around Imogen Cunningham.
     
  29. If Ansel Adams was one of those bohemians of a very different world around Cunningham, we have to look no further than his body of work to find an engagement with the reality around him. His manner of environmentalism was not to need to hit people over the head with it, not to make his statements as obviously as some who are simplistically considered more political or more activist. No, he didn't use his photography as a sign in a demonstration or force it as a political tool, but his photography does establish a kind of appreciation for wilderness and nature that has inspired so many over time. And this is aside from his more political activist involvement in early environmental advocacy.
    If Cunningham is one of these bohemians in a very different world, then I suppose we'd have to dismiss the radical and feminist component that drew the ire of critics in the early 20th century when she was doing male nudes on mountaintops. And I suppose we'd have to dismiss the provocations she was helping to provide which were advancing the status of photography into the future, into the hearts and minds of a population that was, until she and her likeminded bohemians came along, only accepting of photography as an art form if it mimicked what painting was doing. These bohemians insisted on photography being accepted on its own terms and as a unique medium and art form, thereby moving it into a future where it could have its very own voice and social and political as well as aesthetic impact.
    I think the very act of making good art is political, or at least can be seen that way in certain contexts, even if it's not as overtly done as some. Artists who don't make as obvious political statements simply can't be dismissed as being of a different world. It's unfair both to art and politics.
    Cartier-Bresson once famously made this unfortunate and self-serving comment:
    "The world is falling to pieces and all Adams and Weston photograph are rocks and trees.”
    I'm not the biggest fan of Adams's photos, honestly, though I think there's much to be learned from his technique, technical discoveries, and the way he used the darkroom to bring life to his photos. But it is worth noting that many of the places Adams photographed are now revered by a population who fell in love with both his photos and that wilderness and vast areas of land have become protected American wilderness sites due in great part to the advocacy and effort of Adams and some of his contemporaries.

    This is not to take away anything from Bresson's photos. But it is to question his misguided judgmentalism about just what Adams and Cunningham and Weston were accomplishing and giving to the world.
     
  30. "The world is falling to pieces and all Adams and Weston photograph are rocks and trees.”

    I'm with Cartier-Bresson on this one. Adorno wrote : "Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric".
    But all that leads us far beynd the realms of a casual discussion on photography, so I will stop there.
     
  31. Adorno was wrong. And HCB was wrong too in his comment on Adams and Weston, though I think he meant it more in a playful way. It's exactly at dark times when art can and should shine its light ( like the light bulb in Picasso's Guernica ). What would be barbaric is to only reserve art for specific "appropriate" moments or reflections.
     
  32. It's well worth talking about to clear up false impressions. Adorno was speaking about the inability, within a culture that had witnessed Aushwitz, of expressing anything meaningful about the holocaust from within that culture. In Adorno's essay, he precedes the lines quoted out of context by Anders with "the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter." He's talking not at all like Cartier-Bresson. He's talking about poetry that is trying to deal directly with the holocaust, that he is saying can't act as a catharsis. Bresson is making a completely different (though equally misguided) point. I suppose Bresson thought that pictures of men jumping over puddles were more socially and politically significant in terms of accomplishing something about the horrors of the world collapsing around him than pictures of rocks and water. I don't see it myself. I respect the work Bresson was doing and I respect the work Cunningham and Weston and Adams were doing.
    Thankfully, we have Jewish poets like Paul Celan who responded to Adorno who, again, was not talking about poetry per se but was talking about poetry specifically addressing the emotions and ideas surrounding the holocaust and the culture that was part of it.
    "There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German." —Paul Celan​
    Celan's well-know poem, TODESFUGUE, was written in great part as a response to Adorno.
     
  33. Just saw your post, Phil. I agree that Bresson's quote seems to have an air of playfulness or even "sibling rivalry" about it. Yet, I do think there was a bite meant about it as well. We do agree that both Adorno and HCB were wrong.
    Regardless, I wanted to make sure that readers of the thread knew what Adorno was actually addressing, which was not poets/photographers like Weston, Cunningham, and Adams and not poets/photographers like Bresson either, for that matter. He may have been wrong in this instance but he's an important thinker and writer who deserves to have been introduced for the subject he was actually addressing rather than to promote an unrelated agenda.
     
  34. Phil neither HCB nor indeed Adorno wanted with their formulations to silence artists. Both saw the need for artists to express themselves under the profound new human conditions after "Auschwitz". In a recent article one finds the following clarifications on the subject:
    For clarity, the ....dictum was not a verdict intended to silence poets or artists. It was rearticulated a few times by Adorno — specifically in response to Celan’s poetry — who calls for arts and culture to respond from within and in the face of an inescapable aporetic condition. Namely, to write poetry after Auschwitz means to write from within a differend—a radical chasm between the signifier and the signified that one neither ought nor could overcome via writing or aesthetic means in general. Yet, poetry (and also art and thinking, per se) as a form of active engagement with sociopolitical realities, has to respond to the ungraspable (i.e., the Holocaust); it cannot simply avoid doing so. It permanently has to speak whilst knowing that it will never reach the addressee; that it must fail in speaking. (Anna-Verano Nosthof,2014)
    But as mentioned, I'm out, if Fred does not insist in dialoging with me.
     
  35. Anders, it's unreasonable of you to expect to state an opinion and a misleading characterization of the writing of Adorno and not to have it addressed by others, including me. I'm not insisting on dialoguing with you, believe me, I'd rather not ever have another conversation with you. I'm insisting on responding to the false impressions you are creating about Adorno and any supposed relationship of his words to those of HCB. And I'm responding to your comparisons of political artists such as Modotti and so-called bohemian artists not in touch with the realities around them like Cunningham and Adams.
    If you are out of here, that makes me happy and will allow me to go back to the interesting and constructive dialogues about photography many of us are having. I only hope you will stick to your word.
     
  36. Without analyzing every aspect of a one line comment, or the overall context within which it was given, it appears that Cartier-Bresson did not think about photography as art (he later gave up photography and turned to painting to fulfill that personal need of expression) but rather as a simple, if limited or imperfect, expression of truth or perceived reality of human affairs. When he spoke negatively of artists such as Adams and Weston, was that because his own vision or priority in photography was to capture society as it is rather than trying to make nature appear beautiful? Maybe it is the difference between a journalist or social scientist and that of artist or commercial artist, where the communication can be, or possibly is not, also one of social commentary.
    Without negating Cunningham and her fine work on an aesthetic level, I think it is good for us to consider photographers who have had a very social and political approach and have tried to communicate on that basis. Sort of the difference between a Hosoe and a Hamilton. Without forgetting the social drive of some North American photographers (some working for media like National Geographic, others as photo journalists recording racial tensions, others like Eggleston, Mapplethorpe, Tata or Burtynsky) it appears that many of those who wield a camera and attempt to be a mirror of interpretation of the state of the world inhabit and record life in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, alongside their fellow photographers who practice fine art. Unfortunately, my vision is a bit collimated and short focus as I know not enough of many of those accomplished photographers and artists who live and work outside my own continent. Hopefully others may bring their work to the fore to broaden my horizons.
     
  37. Fred you are not running a private club so you have to bare with those who choose to participate in these weekly discussions. Me included.
    Arthur, I agree with your suggestion on Cartier-Bresson and his photos on the fabric of society as it is. He was certainly no political activist, but was someone who did enroll in the French army and fought the germans in NorthernFrance only to end up spending three years in a prisoner camp and forced labor in Germany. So the world falling to pieces he had experienced first hand contrary maybe to those who shot photos of rocks and trees during the same years. A very personal remark on two fine American photographers that he understood to correct.
     
  38. Hopefully others may bring their work to the fore to broaden my horizons.​
    All it takes is access to google or a library and you can do this without asking others to bring it to you. One of the reasons I started these threads was to broaden my own horizons and share that process with others. It feels good to be proactive and take responsibility for opening myself up to new photographers or photographers whose names I knew but hadn't really looked at carefully.
     
  39. Ya gotta love it. I have to say this. When I first introduced the original WEEKLY DISCUSSIONS about or over a year ago, it was like pulling teeth to get people to introduce a photographer of their choosing each week. I wanted it to be a more democratic form of choosing which photographers to discuss. That didn't work. Many weeks, I had to contact as many as 20 people, receiving often no response but mostly responses from people who were too busy or uninterested in starting a thread. So this time, to make it a little easier on myself, I decided I'd do the work to pick a photographer each week, thinking that the time I had been spending chasing after people to start a thread could better be spent researching new and interesting photographers, finding good examples of photos, and putting some thoughts together about the photographers I chose.
    I knew this method couldn't possibly please everyone and so am not surprised to hear that Arthur would like to "be brought" more photographers from other continents and more socially and politically motivated photographers and I wasn't surprised when Jeff popped his head into a recent thread after never having participated in one of the 2.0 threads to begin with to mention the problem of the lack of racial and gender diversity in my choices. Of course, no one stepped up to volunteer any specific ideas of photographers I might look at and certainly no one stepped up to volunteer to do the work involved in introducing one of these photographers themselves.
    So I will continue as I started, choosing a photographer a week who I find interesting. Whether I've fulfilled all the various desires people have for the kinds of photographers they'd like to see discussed, I don't know, but rest assured I've tried to look into a fairly diverse group of photographers to make my choices. Though they may not be as diverse by their own race as some would like and though they may not be as diverse in terms of the country of origin as others might like, I was focused on the subject matter and genre of photography being engaged in rather than the birth traits of the photographers themselves. I think there is some rationale in considering the racial and national components of the photographers I choose, so I will keep that in mind for the future. As a matter of fact, my choice for this week's new thread, which I've been working on for the last week or so, is to look at the still life work of Sudek (born in Prague) and Kertesz (born in Budapest). I recently saw a book of Sudek's in a gallery I visited in New York. We've been discussing the poetry of photography as related to Cunningham and others and I think Sudek is a wonderful example of this and his work seems to naturally follow at this point in our discussions.
    I invite anyone who would like to introduce a photographer of their choosing by initiating one of the weekly threads to contact me. I'd be happy if others would like to step up in such a constructive and meaningful way.
     
  40. Fred, some very salient points! Although I am a very sporadic in and out member of Photo.Net, devoting no more than 15 minutes per day, often less, I will do my best in future to find some photographers for your feature and research them enough to provide the basis of an OP for your theme (which, incidentally, I have already commended on more than one occasion).
    Incidentally (2), I think her two callas image is infinitely more artistic and moving than the technically OK magnolia blossom.
     
  41. I will most certainly do the same, Arthur. Diversity of photographers and photos for these discussions is essential.
    I recognize in your remarks of the Two Callas, that you are far from being blind in artistic terms.
     
  42. I am officially going to leave these threads in the hands of Arthur, Anders, and whoever else wants to see them diversify. Good riddance to you, Anders, and good luck in your non-blind artistic understanding and your ability to better explore diversity in photographers.Though I cannot make this a private club, which you certainly were correct in pointing out, I can leave it and I do.
     
  43. "I invite anyone who would like to introduce a photographer"

    Fred, you were the one inviting "anyone" to introduce photographers for the weekly discussions, so what's wrong in supporting you in your initiative ? Nobody can possibly be against diversity in the field.
     
  44. Fred, I am sorry that you take my wholly subjective remarks about Cunningham and Modotti (which I presume is one reason for us participating in this forum), or my suggestion of photographers from outside of my own continent (which you have also been doing) as being a criticism of your leadership, especially as I have mentioned on various occasions how I appreciate your efforts. I am not familiar with the trends in all countries but I notice that many personal portfolios on this site belong to members from abroad and I am of course quite curious to know what forms or styles of photography and which photographers have been part of their learning experience.
    If you are tired of leading this most interesting forum topic that I think is quite understandable. You have done most or all of the research to make it work with only small input from others, but your continuation or not is no doubt unrelated to the content suggestion I or others make to you, at least I would hope not.
     
  45. Fred
    Too bad if you make good on your promise. I got used to your style and like it. I do not know exactly how things work on PN but in a
    marathon thread if I remember correctly many were lamenting that we did not have this thread. You brought it back and while you invite
    others you should have some control. If others do not like it then it was not meant. I have seen many threads that I do not like but always
    felt I could start my own thread about something if I felt strongly. I probably have not ingratiated myself to some here but I am free to
    weigh in.
     
  46. Donald, I very much appreciate your thoughts. Yes, this was a great endeavor and I'm terribly sorry to let go of it. I was getting a lot out of studying a photographer each week, finding photos, making comparisons, and discussing the photos with peers like you. I've been finding it rewarding and exciting. Your contributions have been great and insightful and always kept within the spirit of what most of us were trying to accomplish. Over the course of the now 3-1/2 months we've been on WEEKLY DISCUSSION 2.0, participation has waned. Normally, that would be fine, as the number of contributors doesn't really say anything about the quality of contributions. But what it has meant is that as the number of participants gets smaller, the voices of each participant now becomes more prominent and hard to work around when need be. For me, sometimes a particular personality conflict becomes simply irreconcilable. I understand my own part in that. Since this forum is open to the public, as it should be, I find the only choice I can reasonably make is to leave, though it's a hard and frustrating choice, and honestly depressing.
    I wish there were a way to continue discussions like this over in my own personal PN space. I thought about how I could continue these conversations using my photo critique pages in conjunction with the BLOCK function. That would solve my problem. But I don't see any possibilities there, unless someone has a suggestion as to how we could create a more safe space on PN to pursue these conversations without impediment. I'm certainly open to suggestions, but it would have to include a means of extremely rare and right now singularly selective disassociation for me. As far as I can tell no such mechanism exists on PN as it does on other social media where people wanting distance seem to have the tools necessary to avoid someone they can't get along with. By the way, LOL, I have no illusions that such a mechanism wouldn't be used to exclude me from certain people's online experiences. This kind of thing works both ways! ;-)
    Anyway, Donald, I'm glad you've weighed in on these threads and will try to keep in touch through critiques which offer a more personal and somewhat more private venue for constructive discussion and sharing. I will try to keep up with all the regular posters to these threads via making comments on your photo critique pages (those of you who have portfolios here to comment on) and hope you will all feel welcome to do so on my pages as well. I'm lucky to have several local photographer and artist friends with whom I can continue to discuss photography and art in a way I find constructive and will rely on them for the type of dialogue that, when it worked, was so gratifying here.
     
  47. "Normally, that would be fine, as the number of contributors doesn't really say anything about the quality of contributions. But what it has meant is that as the number of participants gets smaller, the voices of each participant now becomes more prominent and hard to work around"
    Participants will always be very dependent on the photographer chosen. Anything worth doing is never a dream ride and challenging participants are a essential part of the whole as you yourself has recognized. Arthur is a pleasant person and a kindly soul. Anders can be a bit...bit caustic but a serious participant in these threads...although I personally disagree with him most of the time. I think he should look at the photographs...encapture the creativity of them and cast aside the pre conceptive art history classes...go alone, Anders.
    And you Fred really need a thinker skin.
    You enjoy posting these posts so do many others....do not let your personnel upsets destroy a positive and turn it into a negative. Rise to the challenge because that is what "us" is all about.
    00daDl-559223584.jpg
     
  48. "I am officially"
    Officially is not a nice word it has many very unpleasant connotations.
     
  49. Allen, if the problem really only is related to how to look at photos like the ones we have been discussing up till now in these Weekly discussion, I'm sure we could have turned it into a plus for our exchanges. It seems to be the case, that we are back at a false controversy between looking-at-the-picture and reading-art-history-books. It is a false controversy as so often mentioned; BOTH are needed!
    My personal hangup is, that I often have the impression, that the looking-at-the-picture and letting your mind and soul spin, is what happens mostly in these discussions, because it's sources are easy available for all to participate on a seemly equal level, if the ability of expressing in writing what happens for yourself, faced with the picture, is mastered.
    What most of us serious photographers are able to add to such a me-seeing discussion is the knowledge about how photographies are created, shot and printed. To this latter subject matter, which sometimes too rapidly is brushed away as "technicalities" (also by me, I must confess), we can all learn by means of an in-depth looking-at-the-picture.
    Some of us (and certainly I) would however at certain moment shout out load and clear, a: Hi Guys ! - forget about yourself and your individual experiences with looking at the picture for a brief maybe privileged moment and accept, that we are actually looking at a picture, which did come to us as a testimony of: a historical period or even of a historical event (a World War, for example); a period specific way of looking; a visual language of a specific period; or, for that specific photographer and his/her friends; a message to viewers who were expected to understand to read it. Looking at a picture with those interrogating questions adds to our ability of seeing what the picture is able and sometimes meant to communicate. It helps us seeing.
    These historical contexts questions and answers are frequently pejoratively referred to as referring to boring, intellectual, highbrow (you mention it!) 'art history books " art history classes", as if someone unwarranted ask you to go back to school before you dare looking at the damn picture. ALL wrong, if I dare to say. BOTH are needed: you looking at the picture with your mind and impressions open and alive and seeing the picture in its historical, cultural, social and often political context are the keys needed for any serious looking. Only thereafter are we able fully to appreciate a picture like those we have addressed in the Weekly discussions.
    And finally, Allen, disagreements about this or that are maybe what makes discussions like these worthwhile. It would be terribly boring if all we could do was to agreed on everything and go back to sleep.
     
  50. And meanwhile they are shooting in the streets of Paris: more than 150 killed by terrorists.
    Our small disagreements in these Weekly Discussions seems ludicrous compared.
     
  51. One can imagine that Boubat, Cartier-Bresson and Atget would find it difficult not to openly weap for the loss of young lives if they were still plying their beloved streets and arrondissements.
     
  52. We weep with them. Friends and friends of friends were there and some were wounded.
     
  53. "And meanwhile they are shooting in the streets of Paris: more than 150 killed by terrorists.
    Our small disagreements in these Weekly Discussions seems ludicrous compared"
    Indeed." Mans inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn".
    " BOTH are needed: you looking at the picture with your mind and impressions open and alive and seeing the picture in its historical, cultural, social and often political context are the keys needed for any serious looking. "
    A photograph is a language which should be able to communicate without any need for historical, cultural, or any other context. To add other understanding, as important, clouds the mind and the Art forming pre conceived biased. Much the same as a narrative about a photograph...the language of the photograph should, and can, be able to speak alone.
    For me I look at the photograph and decide if it works or not...I try to clear my mind of any influences….is it communicating to me and on what level. Having said that I take other opinions seriously to help me in the seeing in different ways.
    The photograph first the narrative, history; followers.
     
  54. "For me I look at the photograph and decide if it works or not...I try to clear my mind of any influences….is it communicating to me"

    Yes I understand, that you do that, Allen, but please don't try to impose it on others as some kind of ideal original way of appreciating art.
    Personally I find it a very restricted approach leaving out vast aspects of art as a social, spiritual, and historical force of change and human progress, preventing you from seeing works of art in a broader context beyond yourself and eventually fellow viewer using the same restricted individualized and person centred way of seeing.
    The main "pre conceived bias" is in fact yourself and your always limited ability of seeing what you have in front of your eyes (due to your specific psychological, life experience, social, educational background etc). Adding the second layer, I mentioned, the historical, artistic context of a work of art is exactly needed to place the work of art in a broader context and break the limitations of your own biases.
    It is not a question of liking or not liking a work of art. It is a question reading it in all its dimensions. After that, it is for you of course to decide whether you actually like the work and would hang it on your walls.
     
  55. So now that we brought up yesterday's events do we look at the photos any differently today than we did 2 days ago?
     
  56. "It is not a question of liking or not liking a work of art. It is a question reading it in all its dimensions"
    Just for the thought it does not mean I have any dislike for you because I disagree with you. Like your photos very much.
    As I said before, any work of Art should have its own communication, its own language. To have to add history, verbosity to it belittles it...in a sense you are saying as a piece of Art it cannot stand alone it needs help from Anders:)
    The reality is Art stands alone without any props it is what it is. Art.
    Don't get me wrong I enjoy the Art History you offer and give you a big thanks for it.
    Real Art stands alone...
     
  57. It seems to me, you are saying, a piece of Art cannot stand alone for what it is. It has to have its place in the history of Art...the influences and such things.
    The reality is it works or does not...all the dressing up is mindlessness chatter.
     
  58. Art is timeless it does not need anyone to speak for it....it is what it is.
     
  59. Real Art stands alone...​
    Such views of extreme formalism have been largely rejected in modern art theory. Not all works of art can and should be judged on aesthetic formal properties alone to determine the artistic value.
    It's also precisely through the broader art historical and social context that art is able and driven to constantly reinvent itself instead of stagnate.
     
  60. It's not theory that rejects that thesis. It's unreal. Nothing stands alone.<br>So it must (as in: must) be qualified: to what degree is it independent and of what?
     
  61. "Such views of extreme formalism have been largely rejected in modern art theory. Not all works of art can and should be judged on aesthetic formal properties alone to determine the artistic value".
    So, the language of Art does not exist it has been rejected by modern art theory.. a photograph should not be judged on Artistic/Communication merit or where it is taking you.. but by those special folk who think it is worthy...the betters among us. So, to understand a photograph it does not stand alone as Art it needs to be judged by those who judge...our betters in understanding.. They then decide whether it is worthy of being called Art or not. Sort of like those bonkers cult religions folk who want total control of everyone's thoughts.
    Just wonder who are those who do the rejection and who are they? Have they decided among themselves to be the Gods of Art. Scary really...sort of "we know best" do not dare challenge our infinite wisdom...
    Plebs, go and eat your pork pies...and shut the....
     
  62. Extreme formalism is something you have made up...just words of emptiness'.
    Great Art stands alone...it needs nothing, it has its own language for those who have the mind of need to understand.
    That simple. It does not need to cloaked in rhetoric or art history..it exists as a complete equation.
     
  63. So, the language of Art does not exist it has been rejected by modern art theory..​
    That's not what I said. The point is that the "language of art" can involve more than the formal properties of a work. What you're describing sounds more like anti-formalism and which is as equally questionable a theory of art.
     
  64. Forget all the words..
    A great photograph has its own language for those who have eyes that can see...
     
  65. "The point is that the "language of art" can involve more than the formal properties of a work"
    Its a photograph....that's how we judge it. Do we judge it by other formal qualities? perhaps you do by adding context and narrative...
    The bottom line is its a photograph/art and it should, really not need anything else added to make it better.
     
  66. "Modern theories of art" Does that mean that something that was considered great art 100 years ago is suddenly not great art today?
    Have I been wasting time in some of the museums I have gone to? One thing about some artists is regardless of what they know about
    art history they reject being confined by definition and segregregation by classification and context.
     
  67. The bottom line is its a photograph/art and it should, really not need anything else added to make it better.​
    It's not about making the work better. It's about possibly gaining a better understanding of the work.
     
  68. Make a list of all the great photos of this century...
    Then ask yourself do they really need "formal properties of work" whatever that means. Historical context and narrative might put a gloss on them but they don't really need it because they have their own language which is speaking load and clear...for those who have eyes who want to see.
     
  69. " It's about possibly gaining a better understanding of the work."
    To my mind a photograph should work on its own with its own language... a language it has in abundance.
    A better understanding can often lead to someone else's understanding...better to have a open mind judge on your understanding..than listen to others.
     
  70. Make a list of all the great photos of this century...
    Then ask yourself do they really need "formal properties of work" whatever that means.​
    It's you - not me - who is saying that a work of art should only be judged by its formal properties.
     
  71. ' Have I been wasting time in some of the museums I have gone to'
    Obviously...you really need to get modern.Jeez, I bet you do not really understand what "formal properties of work" means.
     
  72. I never wrote that. Learn how to read.
     
  73. Anyway, unless Fred once again takes up the baton...and he should by popular demand.... Its down to you Anders as you have upset him.
    Time to rise to the challenge, Anders. You have the knowledge.
     
  74. "I never wrote that. Learn how to read" Phil.
    That's an aggresive post, Phil. I could respond in a equally aggresive way. But then I think I have said something to upset you.
    So, I apologize...but think, it takes all sorts to make a world...hey. Im one of them.
    .
     
  75. Phil, I think we need a hug time.
     
  76. A photograph is a language which should be able to communicate without any need for historical, cultural, or any other context. To add other understanding, as important, clouds the mind and the Art forming pre conceived biased.​
    Calling a photo Art, with a capital "A" no less, provides a context and forms a pre-conceived bias about the photo.

    Here's Doisneau's At the Café, Chez Fraysse, Rue de Seine, Paris. It originally appeared in a popular commercial magazine, La Point, as part of a series Doisneau did on Paris cafes. Later, it could be seen hanging in one of the photography galleries at the Museum of Modern Art in NY, with that simple title and no headline or explanation or "context" provided by the museum. But that actually seems like an influential context, showing this photo in an art gallery without any explanation. Because it leads people to assume it's art, or to impose an even stronger context, Art!

    It's impossible to view anything without a context. Some of the contexts provided are more subtle and noticeable than others. Calling something Art may seem innocent compared to a long essay about it, but I'd argue that calling something Art is no less influential and no less an imposition.

    Mind you, I'm not at all against calling something art or Art. What I'm surprised at is the delusion behind calling something Art and not realizing how much of a context that gives it.
     
  77. "It seems to me, you are saying, a piece of Art cannot stand alone for what it is. It has to have its place in the history of Art...the influences and such things.
    The reality is it works or does not...all the dressing up is mindlessness chatter."
    No, I'm saying that both the viewing by me and the in-depth knowledge about its place in history and in relation to all other artistic expressions are often essential for benefitting fully (never ending) from art works. Benefitting in very personal terms, of course. Sometimes art works bring you as a viewer an immediate "stand alone show" type of message, that can have great effects on you and sometimes give you great pleasure. That is great when it happens, but it is not the only type of communication between the viewer and a work of art. In other case a work of art can leave you cold and you would turn your back unless, by miracle, you were told or you learned the inner voice of the work which you did not see because of lack of context knowledge or historical knowledge.
    To give a couple of examples: To be able to appreciate the oriental blue ("outremer blue" or Lapis lazuli) in medieval paintings it is important to know what it was used to symbolize in paintings and sculptures to highlight the divine character of individuals. Or to admire a black madonnas painting and sculpture it is actually helpful to know something about history and context. Or to appreciate an abstract dripping painting of Pollock it is sometimes passionating to know something about his writings and even having read art researchers and their theories about his paintings. Or to admire a paintings of Cézanne of the Saint Victoire mountain it is importing to know that it is part of a long series of paintings of the same view and that it opened up for Post-Impressionism. Or simply to look at Guernica of Picasso, it is useful to know something about the Spanish civil war and German bombardments. Or, Or, Or...
    Without such "context" knowledge you can of course feel deep aww from looking at a beautiful blue color, seeing a black person in medieval sculpture, jumping into the visual chaos of a Pollock large scale painting, looking at the beautiful colors and perspectives of a Cézanne painting or looking at the nightmare like war horrors of Picasso. With such context knowledge you see so much, much more.
    And, by the way, because photography sometimes can be look at as art too, I see no difference in approach as viewer or, dare I say, as active artist.
     
  78. Ah, by the way Allen, see the city of Paris's coat of arms (12th century):
    "Fluctuat nec mergitur"
    - Beaten by waves but does not sink. (16th century).
    So my way of looking at art has not changed the slightest since 13/11, on the contrary.
     
  79. Context can be a very plastic term. In terms of historical context her photos from her garden is not as critical in getting something out of the
    photo. Of course knowing where art was then and and she had children helps and speaks to her state of mind. But one could still appreciate art. In her photo of the newspaper boy on the other hand historical context is much more important

    Imagine you are on a crowded beach with a few friends. You are in a group where you see each other and converse. You decide to go in
    the water. When you are 15 feet away you can still see them but not as clearly and maybe even be able to hear them. By the time you are
    50 yards away you can hardly see them and their conversation is completely lost and is just part of the noise. I believe that we have the
    same affect with historical context as one becomes more separated by time and more people weigh in.

    Let me just bring up one other thought of historical context and I mention these examples not to compare them in anyway to Cunningham
    but as an example of isolating historical context. The famous photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. In the 50s and 60s we were allowed
    to believe (maybe led) to believe that this iconic moment was shot in the heat of battle by a military photographer and that was how most
    peopled believed. Then we learn that it was shot the next day in what many believed was a reenactment and posed. Then we learn that
    they were just replacing the flag and Rosenthal just happened to be there and was leaving when he inadvertently took the shot over his
    shoulder with no intention of creating such an iconic photo.
    The Russian equivalent was also supposed to be shot in th heat of battle too and was deliberately presented that way but was posed
    and heavily edited.
    These may be off topic (maybe not since she did do street photography) but they do give us a chance to examine and isolate elements
    of context at a very simple level. Historical context would have also have to do with immediate and global aspects.
     
  80. Mind, though, that historical context (of a work of art) is not all there is to context.
    Also an example: In the paintings found in the Lascaux cave, besides figurative depictions of animals, there are rectangles and grids and series of dots. There is no doubt that they meant something to whoever made these marks and very likely to the people viewing them back then too. Nowadays, we can only guess. The 'historical' meaning is lost in the mists of time and "just part of the noise".
    Or is it "just part of the noise"? The meaning may have been lost, but not the context: we can and do assume (do not doubt) that these marks are not purely coincidental shapes that only happen to look like rectangles and grids or series of dots. Though the exact meaning is lost, their nature as signs signifying something now unknown is not. Context is there in (among other things) recognizing these marks as signs, in recognizing that there was something the maker wanted to share that for some reason needed these signs. It's there in that recognition too.
    Because the animals are recognizable as animals, it is easy to think that what they mean is clear. But that's not so. It makes a difference whether they were meant to, say, celebrate the abundance of good food and easy living, or to depict the dependency of life upon large and dangerous animals and how life depends on risking it. We do not know. But again, that doesn't mean they are without context. People have spent their time in a set of circumstances to make these signs (the animals and the signs) and though we may not know what it was they will have had a reason to do so, to make these marks and not others, etc. We cannot help but imagine what may have been their reason and what these signs may mean.
    But then at least these animal shapes can (also) be judged on purely aesthetic grounds? Can they? Can we isolate aesthetics from our musings about the meaning? I don't think we can, because the context is always there.
    (And i'm still disregarding the fact that there is no such thing as pure aesthetics, that we always interpret and put things in our own context.)

    [​IMG]
    No context?
     
  81. So my way of looking at art has not changed the slightest since 13/11, on the contrary.​
    But Paris has changed. Paris - the city of light - as a symbol of enlightenment and a center of romantic love remains but something was added to it. I do think that ones experience of the world, either as something private or public, changes the way one looks at art.

    A disillusion with romantic love, my photographs in Paris show a raven eating and flying away with the detached wing of another raven, fallen and broken pigeon wings laying on the ground ( there's something beautiful and hopeful in that image too ), mannequin dolls tossed into a corner, a mattress thrown away and left on the sidewalk, the statue of Cain after killing Abel, there's a heart shaped balloon and star sign on a window as a counterpoint of a childlike innocence, a building crane next to a graveyard and the inevitability of change but also of moving forward. Next time I'm in Paris I don't know what I will see and respond to but I already look at these photographs differently now.
    Even though in many of these photographs there's no sign in them that they were taken in Paris ( I try to avoid the image itself being tied to a time and place too much ) and can stand on their own, that they were taken in Paris is an important context for them to be viewed in.
     
  82. Phil, I'm somewhat convinced, that it takes more than eight fanatic terrorists and their mad murderous endeavor to change a city like Paris. The light will still be their and Parisians will take up their habits and tradition modes of living together in due time. Today, few are leaving their homes (very un-Parisian), streets are fairly empty especially in the quarters of the city, that were directly under attack and most museums and theaters, cinemas (open tomorrow) are closed, but many cafés and restaurants are open. Let's see by the end of next week !
    Surely, the attack will have consequences and we will experience increasing levels of policing and more visible protection of Paris's citizens and its millions of visitors then previously where such initiatives were already very present.
    I agree that major event like these have a profound influence on how artist see the world and make art. They also have a profound effect on the way we see art and the role art plays for each one of us. I have now doubt about that, but whether the event the 13th of November in Paris is such an event we will have to see with time passing.
    When I wrote above , if I can quote myself : "So my way of looking at art has not changed the slightest since 13/11, on the contrary." - I referred to the mode of viewing as discuss before: The individual, personal viewing of art and the importance of including and mastering context information. Context is even more important for viewing art, when referring to the living of events like those in Paris.
     
  83. When you see a "now", read "no" ! ! If you can replace a "their" with a "there" - it is even better. Sorry !
    In Paris people are getting back into the streets as far as I can see.
     
  84. I was careful to speak only to historical context as this was one element that could be easily "isolated" to a degree.
    Actually in a sense I do not like the term historical context or whatever. I prefer to view context as having infinite elements some of which
    have a historical character. To me context is a spectrum and one can't not really define the elements discreetly. Like in modular
    programming it is an object with but with infinite characteristics. To define anyone of them individually in a vacuum tends to deconstruct
    the object in question. The human brain just is not capable integrating the infinite permutations so on some level we do try to define
    elements in an isolated fashion because that s all we can do without resulting in chaos . Kind of like a drunk looking for his keys under a
    lamp post, a cop asks him where he lost his keys. The drunk responds down the street and the cop asks why is he looking here and he
    answers because this is where the light is.
     
  85. I've been recently looking at Joel Sternfeld's series on utopian communities from the past and present. Each photograph is accompanied with a text that adds context to what is shown. A similar approach is made with his series On This Site which I also have as a book.
    The images can stand on their own in a strictly formal sense but they are a good example of how the added text ( common in documentary photography - which these are also - but less so in fine art photography ) adds a dimension beyond the purely aesthetic qualities of the work.
    Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America
     
  86. "Adds a dimension"
    This by itself implies that something is missing. There are things that are missing and while one can take something from
    these photos one can not know all the elements of the work or fully understand or understand more about the photo. How could
    anyone understand more about the photo? One appears to present a photo to me of Manhattan. Another presents a photo
    of small houses but what are they addressing? One would have to have knowledge in the second case maybe about what
    one needs to live in vs what one wants or expects and the current arguments or social movements that are promoting
    them. In the future no one could not make a realistic assessment of them or the artist's intention. Yes, one can make an
    aesthetic evaluation. But that deconstructs what the photo is about. I can not believe the the photographer intended for it
    to be purely aesthetic. If you want to evaluate it that way that is fine if you enjoy it but you might be missing what the photo
    is all about. As Q.B said there has to be a story behind it in another thread. You may know some of the story but from what you
    said, the story is irrelevant.
     
  87. I have yet to see any photo that exist in a vacuum. Even the nul set has a context even in the "modern theories of art" and has to be evaluated in context. I can not accept that you can divide art into that which needs contex and that which does not. I do not like the term modern theoris of art but I can accept that art has to be interpreted in the terms of theories of modern art.
     
  88. "I prefer to view context as having infinite elements some of which have a historical character" (Donald)
    "I totally agree. I have used historical context information throughout the Weekly Discussions to keep it simple"
    Phil's example on Utopian Communities and Sternfeld's picture/text works are for me not an example where "something is missing" as Donald writes, as if a picture standing alone is the pure form of photographical art. It is more an example of what has been called Gesamtkunstwerk or Total Art where several art media are used to create a work of art. In Sternfeld's picture it is photo and text, other examples having been used are photo and video and speech or performance art. And all of these forms of art still needs context as Donald rightly concludes, as far as I see it.
     
  89. "Adds a dimension" This by itself implies that something is missing. There are things that are missing and while one can take something from these photos one can not know all the elements of the work or fully understand or understand more about the photo"
    Why do you think that a work of Art has something missing? Why do you think the language of Art needs some sort help to fully understand it. Obviously to your mind Art is not really Art but a lesser vessel of communication unable to communicate for itself . It does not have its own ability to communicate, it does not offer its own language...it is just totally reliant on words of prose to at least explain it, or lift it from its sorry state.
    Perhaps each work of Art should have a Artist Statement and be explained fully; why the Artist created the Art, their motivations and how the see their place in the context of the History of Art. We can move on to what they had for breakfast and how that has influenced them.
    A photography has its own language, it communicates on many levels....look at the great photographs of this century then ask yourself are they able to just stand alone...completely alone,or,do they really need.....
    Us to help them, to communicate for them; the posters on this thread seem to think so.
     
  90. Seeing that this site is about photography I will illustrate with one of my photos...not from particularly self aggrandizing although Im not shy.

    So, I took this photo in Egypt thinking this photograph/person could have been taken in any century. My influences were my own mind...regardless of any other influences. I have called it "walking in time" .....has my bit of prose...or, how much do we need? Perhaps some Art History.

    Offered a greater appreciation?


    Or, was it really needed... can it communicates in its own language... for its own Art; can it stand alone?
     
  91. Obviously you could not understand my statement since I did not give you enough context but you obviously know all about it or just what you think you want to know. I will have to try that on your photo but it doesn't seem any different from Parr's work. Obviously I am ingnorant and you are th source of all knowledge. At least I can recognize where I fall short
    while I do know others (saying this delicately) who do know a bit more and find you somewhat laughable.
     
  92. "At least I can recognize where I fall short while I do know others (saying this delicately) who do know a bit more and find you somewhat laughable."
    If you post a point of view on these threads you can be expected to be challenged. To burst into tears and tell someone they are laughable is just insulting. I could say a lot more but I will refrain.
    If you disagree say why. There is absolutely no need for anyone to be upset because their point of view is challenged...so, if I have upset you apology...I have no desire to upset anyone especially as it detrimental to these posts which I value. But I cannot just sit and become a nodding dog.
     
  93. " I will have to try that on your photo but it doesn't seem any different from Parr's work. Obviously I am ingnorant and you are th source of all knowledge"
    Well, Im not really a a Parr fan so that remark was a somewhat hurtful. Im sorry to say, I have not sat on the" font of all knowledge" thankfully... otherwise I would literally be bored to death. I challenge to gain knowledge nothing else...and to be proved wrong means I have added to my knowledge and understanding.
    Peace my friend.
     
  94. My issue is your use of the word "obviously" and then you go on to state what was in my mind. In my mind (I won't use the word obviously) either you did not read my whole comment and my previous one, did not understand or cherry picked a phrase or two for whatever reason. Someone else here said before that one shouldn't fall into the trap of haveing their words cherry picked and misrepresented and now I know what they meant. I will not clarify my previous comments because I will fall into the same trap again.
     
  95. One other thought on your photo. You added. context to it by your by your description. But you said none of that was needed and that anyone should see it for what it was. What if it was shown to some illiterate tribesman in Pakistan or Afghanistan or maybe a commoner in Egypt. Should they see the art in it spontaneously? If not does that mean it was not meant for them and only for consideration by special people. Did you come to appreciate art after taking courses or from self training or did it just happen from divine creation? Your interpretation of art (Art) and appreciation came after considerable thought, education and influence from others in the field and I say this constitutes context from the point of view of the observer and to the most extreme. You are denying the very process you use to evaluate art. If you were hurt by my comparison, I was merely looking at you photo as a blank noir without considering any external influences including your own comments on it. If I do not see a difference based on this is it my fault or inferior understanding or education? Or would more knowledge or more information help provide context to appreciate it?
     
  96. Well, it's terrible.
     
  97. Thank you for your considered response, Donald.
    "I was merely looking at you photo as a blank noir without considering any external influences including your own comments on it. If I do not see a difference based on this is it my fault or inferior understanding or education?"Donald.
    The photograph I posted was to illustrate my point of view. I could have used many others from" named photographers" but that photo suffices. It surprises me that you look at this photo as a blank....is it just this photo or any photo without context and art history? I see in this photo a person, by his expression demeanor, who is suffering in this world and for me his expression tells a story. He's story is a common story from ancient times or today. For me, I feel his sorrow, and the endless story of our lack of humanity for our fellows.
    "Did you come to appreciate art after taking courses or from self training or did it just happen from divine creation? "Donald.

    Divine creation, Donald. Do you find that thought a problem? We are all star children how divine is that.

    It's not theory that rejects that thesis. It's unreal. Nothing stands alone.So it must (as in: must) be qualified: to what degree is it independent and of what ?Q.G.
    Hmm, I would have thought a sunset would stand alone without being qualified. Just one simple thought.
    Sorry, if my photo disappointed, Q. G I will try harder next time;)
     
  98. Just read your bio, Donald.
    ' After death of wife and son"'
    I don't think hell could have created a greater hurt...how you have lifted yourself is beyond my comprehension and understanding. Deep respect.
     
  99. Just for you, Donald...only you.
    I believe there is a great Architect in the sky( figuratively speaking) he does not require love or worship but is just happy to just watch his little children playing in the sand. Just like yourself who is just happy to watch your little children playing in the sand. Do you make demands of them/expectations/love/worship? No. They are just little children playing in the sand.
     
  100. I didn't say your photo disappointed, Allen. What makes you think that?<br><br>But i didn't think language needs some sort help to fully understand it. Do you?
     
  101. "Well, it's terrible"
    Sort of thought that. What else was terrible...terrible a very emotive word. Pray do tell.
     
  102. Anyway, Q.G regardless of the bickering and banter I think we should continue with the weekly discussion. How about you...you are a knowledgeable photographer...Im saying this is a straight honest way.
     
  103. I was continuing the discussion. But you didn't see that (i'm sure nobody did - i too would not have known if it had not been me who wrote that and knew why and what it meant) but need the context, need to have an explanation. And that's not because language is unable to communicate. See?
     
  104. No I don't see. Call me thick I don't know what you saying. Not being rude .
    Context is simple can a photo stand alone...in this current discussion.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc
     
  105. I will say that my words might have been too strong and I do appreciate your words. But just to try and clarify I did say that something can
    always be taken from the photo alone. When I said "implies something is missing" I do not see that I fieel art is an empty vessel to be
    filled. Quite the contrary when a work is finished it is full. It is an object. When "adds a dimension" was stated I interpret that to mean that
    there may elements missing to the viewer that would help hiim/her appreciate in a different manner or more fully contents of the "vessel".

    I wrote this before, I asked a sculptor/poet what is art. He answered that art is something created by an artist and an artist is someone
    who creates art. Given the many (and intense) arguments here I can only say that there are no right or wrong answers except for maybe
    Stalins's Russia where "bad artists" went to to Gulag. It is something. It should be a source of enjoyment and no one should rain on
    anyone else's parade. Maybe the perfect work of art was already created and never revealed. If no one has ever encountered it does it
    mean it did not exist? What if someone conceives the greatest work of art but never created it, could that be art?

    I see your photo in the same light as you do but I also contend that other societies or in othe times others might make other judgements.
    Someone else said the thei viewer has their own context. (I hope I interpreted him right. I will not mention his name because I would
    like to give him the dignity of deciding when he wants to contribute). But this to me is a good example of this.
     
  106. As far as divine creation goes, after reading the way this thread is going God would probably say "oh no you don't, don't
    get me involved in this. I do not have a dog on this fight. You guys solve it." (Trying to be tongue in cheek here.)
     
  107. Once upon a time, there was a photographer called Imogen Cunningham, who, quite innocently and meaning harm to no one, took a picture of some magnolia blossom ...
     
  108. A photo can not stand alone any more than a few words can, Allen. The fact that we can see the photo, read the words, is not sufficient to know what it is or they are about. We can't 'just' see, but always interpret, try to arrange what we see in (our) context (you thought i said your photo was terrible).
    Your photo never stands alone. But given alone, (and that includes without enough clues provided in/through - in this case - the shared photographic vocabulary) i do not know what your intent was, what you thought you were capturing.
    You could say that this is an example of what you mean: no extra clues provided, so the photo has to be taken for what it is. But at best we provide the clues ourselves, not just from the photo but from our context, at worst we understand as little of it as you did of the few words i posted earlier. There is something missing.
     
  109. Can a photo stand alone ?
    Answer: It depends on the photo, the context and the viewers photographical culture and expectations.
     
  110. What qualities of the photo does it depend on, Anders?
     
  111. Does not depend on specific "qualities" of a photo. All photos, independently of their "qualities" can stand alone or not, depending on the viewers culture and expectations.
     
  112. I thought that the viewer's culture and expectations was part of the context of the viewer.. This was stated a couple of
    times and no one challenged.that. There was a perfect example of this in Modern Photography 55 years ago with an
    article on Soviet photography. I wil not go into now because it would be too wordy and didactic for me to present it to my
    satisfaction on this thread.
     
  113. The thing is, Donald, that cultures and expectations of viewers are not something, that is solely in the private sphere of the individual viewers, but are also sociological/anthropological characteristics about groups and populations, known, sometimes, to photographers, when they shoot, print and show their work. It is not a specific "quality" of the photo. Yes, but most photos in view you can just look at and enjoy, and that is it ! Other photos; there is more to it than that.
     
  114. That's too easy, Anders. When you say "it depends on the photo" it must depend on specific qualities of the photo. On some specific qualities that some photos posess, others do not. So on what? What is it that makes some photos supposedly able to stand alone?
    Could also be that you were wrong, and your "All photos, independently of their "qualities" can stand alone or not, depending on the viewers culture and expectations." has it depend on context again. As Donald mentioned, that moves it back again to the viewer, and i think that's where it 'belongs'. No photo, no word, nothing that has a meaning, can stand alone. Your "or not" is an error.
    The difference between easy enjoyment and having to work a bit to 'get' a photo is - as far as this topic is concerned - not an essential difference. It just means that some things are easy to understand, other things more difficult. The fact that something depends on more current context than some other thing does not make that first thing independent of context. In both cases we have to know the context.

    There is also no innocence involved, David. Imogen could have done many other things instead of making a picture of Magnolias. It was a choice and she was 'guilty' of making it.
     
  115. I agree on your last paragraph, Q.G.. Not really on the rest.
    Maybe the disagreement hides behind the term: "quality of the photo". If it is some kind of objective "quality" linked to the visual technicalities and composition, colours, contrasts etc of the photo shown to us, I think I'm correct in writing, that it has next to nothing to do with whether a photo "can stand alone" or not. I think I'm also right in writing that it all depends on the culture and expectations of the viewer. If "quality of a photo" includes context (of the photo, not viewing), the concept does not seem useful for a meaningful debate.
    Q.G. of course I can be wrong. You too. We all learn throughout life.
     
  116. There is also no innocence involved, David. Imogen could have done many other things instead of making a picture of Magnolias. It was a choice and she was 'guilty' of making it.
    ...
    I agree on your last paragraph, Q.G.
    Believe it or not, after 60 years in photography I do have some conception of the psychology of image-making. I do however feel I can say with some confidence that when IC took her picture, she did not intend to start a broken-bottle alley fight. Of course I could be wrong ...
     
  117. I did say that one can always take something away from the photo. I can do that but if I can learn more about it to appreciate or
    understand better I would prefer that. If you do not feel you need to know more that is fine, there is no right or wrong way. But for me
    knowing her history (she might not be looking for an alley fight this time but she sure got one in 1915 whether she anticipated it or not and
    should not have been surprised) helps a lot.
    Her own statement hat she photographed in the garden because she had children to raise tells me something else. Did she feel she
    limited in subject matter because she was relegated to a "women's " role and was this more hobby vs creating a major contribution? I can
    go on and on but these contexts (context?) To me this make for a fuller and better experience of an already fine work
     
  118. I did say that one can always take something away from the photo. I can do that but if I can learn more about it to appreciate or understand better I would prefer that.​
    Abstract theorizing about taking something away or learning or how one comes to understand is different from taking something away or appreciating or understanding. Looking at the photo in question and actually doing what you say you're doing, relative to the photo, might be a little more challenging.
    All of these have an appeal to me but I do not have the ability to verbalize why.​
    To me, this is a copout. You do have the ability. You just chose not to. You're not the only one. Q.G. made the same choice. So, though you have theoretical differences, there is an important similarity between you. You both seem utterly uninterested in the photo chosen for this thread . . . the photo that is. Now, that could be untrue. You may be very interested in it. But you've done nothing to show it. And, in photography, showing is a big part of the point.

    I do agree that context plays a role and, as I see it, seeing much of this discussion in the context of narcissism is more illuminating than seeing it in the context of Cunningham's photo(s), which it barely touches.
     
  119. I was speaking in terms of the photographer being the subject of the thread than a particular photo. I might have addressed it differently.
    Narcissistic - nolo contendere
    Nothing said that misstates anything I said.
    Going off track - That seems to happen often in these forums. I will have to go back and reread. but the more I think about a subject the more I find tangents to go off on
    Regardless it did motivate you to weigh in. Maybe you might be motivated to present another. photographer for another robust thread. Now to go back and focus on the photo
     
  120. Regardless it did motivate you to weigh in.​
    Hah. This reminds me of those who get very negative critiques and tell themselves their photo must be good because it generated interest. Often, they miss the point of the critique itself and their photography suffers because of this kind of self-defensive posturing.
    In short, yes, it motivated me to weigh in, in this instance. But at a greater cost.
    If you've convinced yourself that you've been talking about Cunningham, please know that you have not. You've been talking about yourselves. Thus the comment about narcissism.
    Maybe you might be motivated to present another.​
    Unfortunately not to this crowd.
     
  121. Well, yes Fred, sometimes there are things that have to be said about a photo in which the individual photo itself only figures in as far as it is a photo. When discussing the appreciation of a particular photo, you're also discussing the appreciation of a photo. Not unimportant. And only arrived at because the discussion of the particular photo came to the point where it no longer revolved about the particular photo.
    "Self-defensive posturing"? "Narcissism"? Starting a flame war, are you? ;-) It motivated you to weigh in, but without any substantial contribution to the discussion of either this photo or photos in general. Why don't you explain why it is not relevant to the appreciation of photos, and thus also for the appreciation of this photo?

    The photo itself? I think it is utterly boring. It may have been viewed differently at the time it was made, but is demonstrates perfectly that with that context now not even a memory, and with so much happening and becoming part of our world view since this photo was fresh, the photo itself cannot stand up alone.
     
  122. The photo itself? I think it is utterly boring

    Q.G, it has long been my practice on hearing or reading a statement like this to reply "OK, if this is boring, tell me what you find is interesting." My initial attempts to find an answer to this question have, to be brutally frank, been somewhat hindered by the fact that you have chosen to post none whatsoever of your pictures on PN, apart from one thumbnail of excruciatingly poor technical quality. To my mind, the photographic medium and its vocabulary grow and are nourished by the addition of well-seen and technically superb images such as Cunningham's, which I could compare and contrast in a meaningful way with (purely off the top of my head) workers as apparently diverse as Roger Fenton, Edward Weston and Robert Mappelthorpe (similar subject matter in all 3 cases, vastly different artistic intent). Sorry to be blunt, Q.G, but why exactly are you involved in the field of photography and what are your goals (apart from a apparent historical interest in the technology of Hasselblad cameras)?
     
  123. Well David. Why don't you defend the photo against the accusation of being utterly boring?<br>I could tell you why it is boring. In short. And in a long winded, many words account of where it ranks in the history of art, and of photography in particular, and how relevant it is to what and who we are today. But all you can do is tell me that all you managed to find is one picture i made and that you do not like it? Speak up for Cunningham if you think she and her work is sold short.<br>'OK, if this is not boring, tell me why you find it interesting.' "Technically impeccable and aesthetically superb"? "Lyrical beauty"? How does that equate to 'not boring'?<br><br>Wax lyrical or be damned? I can see why people may give up on these threads.
     
  124. Introducing the role of narcissism is just going to add more chaos.
    But if we are speaking mainly to the photos standing on their own then just show them with out revealing the artist or any biographical information? Would it get the same attention?
     
  125. Showing photos without revealing the artist would leave us deprived of greater parts of the immense pleasures of works of art provide to humanity. Not because we cannot, in most cases, differ junk art from great art, but because creative photos are like lines in books. They are part of a whole and it is the whole, which is the gift to us all, of great artists. And then there are all these trillions of photos which just are photos, which can be consumed like peanuts as they were meant to, by handsful, without missing much.
    You can of course put yourself to the test of detecting the inner reasons for why a line in a book is a pleasure to read, or not, and do the same with single photos. You can learn a lot if you strive towards writing yourself or shooting photos. I dare telling you, because I do it all the time. Same with photos. But to try to tell us that such a limited exercise is all there is to the these weekly discussions is an abuse, as far as I see it.
    Concerning narcissism, it is all over the place, in a place like these. It has been said over and over again throughout the history of forums (fora, they are called in good English !) like these. Sometimes we profit from such narcissism in clear daylight, like we have done it in these weekly discussions, but sometimes it overspins and it should be tempered.
     
  126. Could not have stated my thoughts on narcissism better. It is not intrinsically bad. For a it is (in proper English).
     
  127. Q.G., let me try to express myself even more simply. I have made it abundantly clear that when I put forward a picture for discussion, or give an opinion, I never demand that others agree with me or attack them for not doing so. I am specifically in no way attacking you for saying IC's work is boring BUT, as I said, I could understand your viewpoint more easily IF I knew what kind of photography you do admire. It would also to help me to see examples of your own work.
    As I am not able to do either of these things, I find it difficult to suppress questions such as : Is there any work which Q.C, admires, or does he just like argument for argument's sake? And does he actually have any practical experience of photography? Has he ever taken a single photograph? You may well have, but given the way you are presenting yourself to this forum, it's impossible for me to know!
     
  128. David, you do not need to be a photographer or ever having shot a photo to be able to express yourself meaningfully on photos of others. Many admirer and write great things about paintings without having experiences the smell of oil paint or gesso or ever having touched a canvas.
     
  129. So David, you are saying you are missing some (as Anders said: irrelevant) context to know what to think about what i say about the photo. But it is not to your liking, so you go on the attack. Ad hominem. Blind ad hominem, a.k.a. ignorant, too, assuming that because you do not know or cannot find out about something, it does not exist. Not good, David. On the contrary. Again, i could reply at length, explaining how that raises doubts about whether someone is really looking at the photo, or is merely passionate about his own viewpoint. It would be very much on topic in this particular thread too: someone mentioned narcissism. It would also stress the point about context, and how some people let their personal context overrule the photo. So now that i am repeating my earlier reply: if you want to disagree about the photo, disagree about the photo. And again: with things like this going on in these threads, it is no wonder people give up on them.
     
  130. Q.G., when I do not know something, I do not indulge in personal attacks (there are none in my previous postings) but I do tend to feel I would like (and therefore ask for) clarification. In this present case, the question most urgently in need of clarification is this:
    Is there any work which Q.G. admires, or does he just like argument for argument's sake?
    There is a very well-worn argument as to whether a person needs proficiency in an artistic medium in order to criticise works in the medium, I share the generally-accepted view that the answer is "No". It is however entirely legitimate to ask "If you find X boring, WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY LIKE?"
     
  131. David, would you like to rename the thread too? No, it's not legitimate to ask. It has nothing to do with Cunnigham or why this particular photo (and much else of her work) is utterly boring. Ask me why it is boring. That would be the logical, and legitimate, question. You're just attacking the bringer of (in your eyes) bad news.<br><br>But though you will not ask the questions that make sense, i'll make a small start answering them anyway. And because i don't have a lot of time for doins so right now, i'll begin by asking you to ask yourself why the Wikipedia page (i know, i know...) about Imogen Cunningham has nothing at all about what she brought to the world, what her everlasting contribution to our understanding of ourselves and our world might have been. About the particular photo that is discussed in this thread, all there is to say is "that she carried out an in-depth study of the Magnolia flower".<br>Contrast that, for instance, to Blossfeldt's 'Urformen der Kunst'. No artistic pretention, but more relevant, and interesting, by a factor that can't be expressed in numbers. The result of Imogen's in-depth study is a perhaps decorative "Oooh, doesn't that look nice!" bit of nothingness. It, compared to Blossfeldt, can by, by no way of reckoning, be classified as a study, let alone an in-depth one. And again, that is contrasting her contribution to that of someone with no such pretense at all.<br>Cunningham's photography has no meaning, has nothing to say. Is not about anything. Hence the lack of something to say about that on that Wikipedia page. She is not forgotten only because of the company that she happened to be in.<br><br>Now try to answer 'OK, if this is not boring, tell me why you find it interesting.', David.
     
  132. tell me why you find it interesting
    For the same reason I made this image:
    00dbfQ-559414084.jpg
     
  133. Ask me why it is boring​
    'Boring' is not an inherent characteristic of the world or of a work of art but a way of looking at it. So ask yourself why your way of looking at it is boring.
    And please don't measure the value of an artist's work by the their wikipedia page. That's ridiculous. Not that books should be the measure either, but there are plenty of in depth studies and books on Cunningham's work if you bother to look beyond a wikipedia page. She was part of and contributed significantly to a photographic lineage that still influences work made today. But most importantly, art doesn't have to contribute anything to the world beyond itself.
    Contrast that, for instance, to Blossfeldt's 'Urformen der Kunst'. No artistic pretention, but more relevant, and interesting, by a factor that can't be expressed in numbers. The result of Imogen's in-depth study is a perhaps decorative "Oooh, doesn't that look nice!" bit of nothingness. It, compared to Blossfeldt, can by, by no way of reckoning, be classified as a study, let alone an in-depth one. And again, that is contrasting her contribution to that of someone with no such pretense at all.

    Cunningham's photography has no meaning, has nothing to say. Is not about anything.
    What you find lacking in Cunningham's work is exactly what you're praising Blossfeldt's typology for when you make a comparison between the two. And the purely objective ( to the extent possible ) photography in a typology like that of Blossfeldt's flowers is also a deliberate aesthetic and was used as an artistic device.
     
  134. You know that perception without conception is blind thing, Phil? Trying to separate a work of art and how it is preceived and received will not succeed.<br>That is also (part of) the reason why the notion that art is something in and for itself, without any relevance/contribution to the world, falls flat. Even decorative wall paper and throw cushions, muzak or sweets, things without any pretense of being art, contribute something to the world.<br><br>Cunningham's photography falls in that latter category. She was neither innovative, had nothing new to say, was not unique, nor did she bring across the idea of her time and group any clearer than any of her companions. And even if it had been so anyway, time has passed and even her group's importance has been reduced to a historical one. It is no everlasting quality, no relevance to what we do and believe today. That contrasts indeed to Blossfeldt (who was just an illustration to value that "in-depth study" phrase against) who at least contributed to our understanding of what we are doing even today. Cunningham's photography is an illustration (not a discovery or explanation) of the aesthetics of a circle in a certain place in a past period. As interesting today as turn dial phones or floppy disk drives are.
     
  135. She was neither innovative, had nothing new to say, was not unique, nor did she bring across the idea of her time and group any clearer than any of her companions​
    The double exposure's are very experimental and unique for the time she made them in.
    Not only was she a woman in a male dominated world and field but she was also part of a group that involved huge male egos with their almost nerd like obsession of technical perfection and craft. She often clashed with Ansel Adams ( who found her printing too sloppy ) on matters of photography, precisely because of her different sensibilities and approach to the f/64 ethos.
     
  136. Which is?
    Photography is a visual medium - I don't need a verbal justification :)
    Thanks though for mentioning Blossfeldt - it at least gives me some frame of reference.
     
  137. So why are you discussing photos here? ;-)
     
  138. So why are you discussing photos here? ;-)
    Because I enjoy talking about photography, except my own, in the case of which I have the fond hope that the images will speak for themselves :)
     
  139. ... and for Cunningham, right? ;-)<br><br>Anyway, i think (and this may not come as a surprise) enough has been said about Cunningham already. The discussion of the importance of context was interesting though. On to the next.
     
  140. enough has been said about Cunningham already​
    From the 130+ posts only around 10 or so posts talked about Cunningham's work and half of those were made by Fred. I can understand why he wouldn't want to continue with these weekly discussions.
    The importance of context ( and going beyond such labels as "utterly boring" ) should be a given when looking at and discussing photographs, instead of becoming the subject itself.
     
  141. "The importance of context ... should be a given when looking at and discussing photographs, instead of becoming the subject itself."

    I actually think, that 90% of the discussion above, respect the rule, Phil. It is by discussing photographs of Cunningham that exchanges on context were "given" - and discussed.
     
  142. Discussing a work from the perspective of its context is a whole other discussion than going on about different contexts. Discussing Weston's photographs of rocks vs HCB's photojournalism which you brought up early in the thread along with Adorno's quote and which I probably shouldn't have responded to myself, or discussing Modotti's works of activism vs Cunningham's magnolias are diversions that have little to do with a discussion on Cunningham's photographs.
     
  143. Phil, as I think you have understood, I don't really agree with you on this.
    Cunningham's photos were the starting point of whatever has been discussed. We cannot understand (to see) Cunningham's photography without understanding Cunningham life career and life. Her flower shots are not just photos of flowers. They represent her vision of the world and her way of showing what she saw. Reference to other photographers and their different life and visions are only relevant in order to illustrate the specific visions of this weeks photo(s) and photograph.
     
  144. Nowhere am I saying that Cunningham's life and vision of the world are unimportant in the discussion or that her photos of flowers can be dismissed as only being that. They are in fact just photographs of flowers, and so much more too. HCB's photographs are just photographs of world events and street scenes, and so much more too.
    I don't agree that Cunningham's flower photographs represent her vision of the world, as a way of measurement of comparison to another photographer's "vision of the world". They represent a vision of the world and of what she saw within that vision. I'm sure both Weston and Cunningham understood that there's more to the world ( like the world that's "falling to pieces" that HCB spoke about in the quote about Weston ) than what can be shown in photographs of rocks or flowers. But that doesn't mean that photographs of rocks and flowers are less relevant to the world. So it shouldn't form the basis to critique the work on like you suggested in the comparison of a flower photograph by Modotti - who happened to be a political activist and also made photographs in that realm - with a flower photograph by Cunningham.
     
  145. A 10 minute window is way too short to edit a post. Just want to mention that I think the comparison between two flower photographs by both photographers is valid and can add context. But critiquing the Cunningham photograph from the context of Modotti's political activism is not relevant nor does it add a relevant context to the Cunningham photograph.
     
  146. Yes, Modotti made a photo of callas flowers, but so much different from Cunningham's flower photos, as we have discussed it above.
    What we tried to discuss was the WHY these differences, and some suggestions were put forward. Bresson's comment was one such type of explanation of differences in visions (which he tried to dilute later) and Adorno's barbaric poetry formulation, was mentioned in the same line of thinking.
    All this to say that the local bellicose context in Europe and Mexico did in fact influence artistic expression for those who lived it - and did not for those who lived in safety, far away from it. No moral judgement involved, just references to facts of life.
    Very relevant contextual facts, in my view, for looking at Cunningham's flower (and rock) shots.
    You, Phil, might find it of no importance for you looking at Cunningham's photos. Others might disagree and choose another approach. There is room for all of us who choose to stay, I think.
     
  147. Sorry, for whatever reason I don't understand why we would compare the two photos. Just because they are of the same species seems
    to me to be specious.
     
  148. All this to say that the local bellicose context in Europe and Mexico did in fact influence artistic expression for those who lived it - and did not for those who lived in safety, far away from it​
    I'm not suggesting anything otherwise. I'm saying that the context of one isn't very relevant for the other. Each work has to be viewed and critiqued within its own social context, regardless if both works can share or have different formal characteristics.
     
  149. [addressing the OP]
    I like this picture, not because of the "thing" (which is gorgeous) but because of the delicious space that it creates. I could walk into this flower; it embraces me or invites me; it's an Alice's-rabbit-hole kind of gentle seduction; it doesn't push, but if I choose, I will submit to it, not vice versa.
    Compare to Weston's peppers and shells which submit to his desires; which invite handling/fondling/stroking. They are small and obedient (and gorgeous).
     
  150. Julie, so nice to hear from you. And on the subject of the photo! Your comment opened a door for me (pun intended). Though I had spoken about its architectural feel, I hadn't really seen it as inviting me in as much as sort of monumental (not in scale, necessarily, but in form and substance). But architecture is so much about space and I think that's a really interesting way to look at this, and to understand and appreciate it. Amazing that we've had two weeks of tangential debate and, in a few words, you're able to open my eyes to something I hadn't considered with just a few descriptive observations based on your actual looking at the photo. Very nice. And your comparison to Weston's handling of "things", while I don't fully agree, also merits consideration and alerts me to some significant differences in their approaches.
     
  151. Custard pies to right of them,
    Custard pies to left of them,
    Custard pies in front of them
    [​IMG] Volley'd and thunder'd;
    Storm'd at with custard and pastry,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of the great custard trifle

    Rode the brave posters on P/N
    I like this picture, not because of the "thing" (which is gorgeous) but because of the delicious space that it creates. I could walk into this flower; it embraces me or invites me; it's an Alice's-rabbit-hole kind of gentle seduction; it doesn't push, but if I choose, I will submit to it, not vice versa .Julie.
    Thought for Anders.
    Her flower shots are not just photos of flowers. They represent her vision of the world and her way of showing what she saw. Reference to other photographers and their different life and visions are only relevant in order to illustrate the specific visions of this weeks photo(s) and photograph. Anders
    To a degree I agree. And there is a strong argument that a body of work gives a greater understanding of the photographers vision. I agree. However, a photograph is more than capable of communicating in its own language of art without any context. To argue otherwise you are basically saying that any appreciation of art relies on other factors....which are not part of the original art.
    I partly agree with Donald that added knowledge about the art can give a greater appreciation. But, a big but.....it the art really art or about others with vested interests selling you story.
    I think a good photograph can stand on its own you only have to look at W/NW post on P/N to understand.
     
  152. Try this photo.
    http://s601.photobucket.com/user/f3uki/media/vietnam.jpg.html
     
  153. Or, this,
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/silipo/2215691957
    To communicate a photograph requires imagination and involvement from the viewer. Sometimes a photograph walks away from the photographer and takes a life of its own...the magical mystery of photography.
    A photograph is not a factual stimulation of a photo copier image but something that has a life and language of its own.
    My thoughts.
     
  154. Julie, thinking a little more about what you said, perhaps Cunningham is asking me to be with her photos and not so much to look at them. So, there's a non-oppositional call to me to become part of her experience. And I wonder if that doesn't come together in comparing her callas with Modotti's, where Cunningham's beckon me, almost make me feel as if I'm about to fall into them and into their void and Modotti seems to put hers on a pedestal. I do admire Modotti's callas, which is why I called attention to them in the first place. I think they accomplish something very different from Cunningham's, each speaking their own photographic language.
     
  155. Have a look at this photograph. It is my photograph and Im posting it for illustrative purposes not to showboat. I really think that a photograph as a factual document is at best a very poor representation of any truth. A good photograph to my mind challenges the imagination and takes you on a journey of a "flight of imagination". To know the "in and outs" and why and "wherefores" is detrimental and just offers the mundane. If you think a photograph should just be about truth and technical excellence....then to my mind you think it has a very limited connection to Art.
    So, I offer you a mystery of imagination, and for me that is what the Art of Photography is all about....
    00dbie-559419684.jpg
     
  156. One thing I can say and this goes for me too is that these forums should have an atmosphere of collegiality and illumination. This thread is not uncommon in that it seems to lack those two elements to some extent. It seems that it is more for support. By nature no one ever looses an argument and very little consensus is reached.
    Allen, nice photos. Unfortunately I was at the demonstration in the first photo so I am tainted.
     
  157. That's life.
    00dbit-559420284.jpg
     
  158. Perhaps we can look at Cunningham with an eye toward allure. THE UNMADE BED seems to invite me, not so much into the bed itself, but into the visual folds of the sheets and covers, not unlike the folds of a flower's petals. On one website where I found a version of this photo, it's accompanied by the following, from Rainer Maria Rilke, an invitation of a different but similar sort, an invitation to imagine, which seems to come from Cunningham's photos as well. By offering so much of the unmade bed, surrounded by the comfort of the covers, she seems to be creating spaces to enter and experience in different ways:
    "People would sooner weave their dreams deep into the linens than let them grow up next to them into a life without enough sun for them to ripen. When you near your end, you leave your dreams behind in small and seemingly worthless, old-fashioned things, which betray no secrets before they perish in turn. And not because they keep quiet, but because they sing their sentimental songs in a language which no one left alive can understand, for which there is no dictionary and no teacher."
     
  159. The Unmade Bed I find one of the most intriguing. I prefer this version on the Cunningham site though. Like the Rilke text, it does have a mono no aware to it.
     
  160. This one also caught my eye and imagination.
     
  161. "a mystery of imagination, and for me that is what the Art of Photography is all about...."
    Allen, I wonder if you could find anyone who would disagree with you, if you graciously could add an "also". Photography is also about mystery and imagination. One could furthermore find interest as a viewer in exploring why the photographer found mystery and sources of imagination in shooting a subject. Art photography, like art in general is a great mansion with many, many rooms to visit.
     
  162. Phil, yes, what I like about that one is her exploration of the artificial and real together, something that I think is particularly well expressed by photos, which often bring up questions of connection to reality.
     
  163. " Art photography, like art in general is a great mansion with many, many rooms to visit...Anders.
    Indeed, but it is easily to be lost in those mansions forever seeking and never finding. The art comes to you, you do not come to the art. That other art belongs to another.
    A path and gateway have no meaning or use once the art is in sight the photograph/art communicating in its own language. Teachers talk about teachings. Real teachers study those who are listening and the art as a personnel experience a feel and communication with the art. Most of all those who would be teachers should be studied... it is easy to tell an erudite story and follow. As yourself.
    You look at a photograph and ask yourself what is it communicating. It can tell you a thousand stories but only one is the story you are seeing and listening to. It is communicating on its own... .do we need to paint it with numbers and remove the art for dissection ?
     
  164. Of course we can discuss the photograph and try to see what others are seeing. But it is really about what we are seeing as an individual.... and we should not loose that or give it away to another.
    Is it about the thousand words of the photograph or about the thousand words of prose.
     
  165. It's not an either-or thing, It is about the thousand words of the photograph and the thousand words of prose. Photography and prose are just means of expressing ideas, emotions. Neither is exclusive in what it can express, though one may be easier and more precise than the other. It is about what those thousand words (re)present, their 'message', no matter how they were brought to us.<br><br>Art doesn't come to you. It requires work. Work from the artist, to create the art. And equally (though different) from the consumer, to understand what the artist is doing.<br><br>If you fear you might get lost forever seeking, that can only be because you wouldn't take the trouble to see and try to understand what it is you are seeing. Perhaps because you are expecting, waiting for, art to come to you. It doesn't. See above. So no such fear, if you really are listening and communicating, not with art, but with the artist.<br>A photograph tells one story (which can be ambiguous, but then it still tells one story). It can be misunderstood though. There is no freedom as an individual to make of it what you want. It is what the artist made it to be. And you have to find out what that is and understand it. And that's why context is so very important. It requires work.
     
  166. "It's not an either-or thing, It is about the thousand words of the photograph and the thousand words of prose. Photography and prose are just means of expressing ideas, emotions. Neither is exclusive in what it can express, though one may be easier and more precise than the other. It is about what those thousand words (re)present, their 'message', no matter how they were brought to us."" Q
    They are both disciplines they can work together or on their own.
    "Art doesn't come to you. It requires work. Work from the artist, to create the art. And equally (though different) from the consumer, to understand what the artist is doing" Q.
    Art is it a natural expression of humanity. Work is something called work, an artist does not see it as work. but an enjoyment of expression. A "bread and butter" need to understand by numbers is a simplistic understanding....more in tune with what brush/camera is being used.
    I do not wish to sound rude or offer offense but that is the only way I can answer your thoughts.
    .
     
  167. All Im saying...
    If you entered a deserted building and there was a dirty torn photo on the floor it would instantly communicate to you in its own language. It would tell you a story. With more information perhaps it would be a more fulfilling story or perhaps not. Subjective.
    That's what I mean when I say a photograph can "stand alone".
     
  168. http://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starry-night.html
    It is just so very special... I do not need to know anything about who painted it or why to understand the Art it communicates. Yes, I would like to know everything about the Artist and the whys and wherefores'...
    But it easily stands alone as a masterpiece.
     
  169. Some things that come natural to us require an effort, work. Requiring that effort, work, is not in opposition with being something we like to do or something that comes naturally. Your language example: yes, it would tell me a story, in its own language. I need to understand that language, need to know, i.e. learn that language. Work. And that message may require some mental effort on my part for me to get it. And to fully understand i may need to know more. Remember my "it's terrible" example? You needed more to know what those few and easy words meant.<br>And that's not about subjective or not. I understand that you understand "subjective" as meaning "how i understand something", and oppose that to "what the work of art means in itself". That work of art, that photograph is a carrier of the subjective view of whoever made it. That work of art can only stand alone if we assume that it, that message, is formed so perfectly that it cannot be misunderstood "subjectively". Very few, if any, are. There is always that "subjective" something, something we need to do to decipher it, something we bring to the work of art ourselves. Works of art depend on that. Most assume that you know the discourse the message is part of. And often it is indeed trivial, so our effort invisible. But it is always required. No photograph can stand alone.<br><br>Your van Gogh example: is that painting so very special?
     
  170. Allen, as mentioned "art...is a great mansion with many, many rooms to visit".
    You are stubbornly insisting, that the room you are strolling around in, is the only room that exist. Your choice! No-one would force you out of it! Free world ! etc.
    BUT, just accept, that there are in fact so many other rooms to explore when contemplating art and that some of us are strolling around elsewhere in the mansion, from room to room - with the greatest joy and enlightenment.
     
  171. "Allen, as mentioned "art...is a great mansion with many, many rooms to visit".
    You are stubbornly insisting, that the room you are strolling around in, is the only room that exist. Your choice! No-one would force you out of it! Free world ! etc."

    Free world! are we on the same planet?

    Anders, you are stubbornly refusing to undestand what Im saying and putting words into my mouth;)

    All Im saying...
    If you entered a deserted building and there was a dirty torn photo[​IMG] on the floor it would instantly communicate[​IMG] to you in its own language. It would tell you a story. With more information perhaps it would be a more fulfilling story or perhaps not. Subjective.
    That's what I mean, in that sense, when I say a photograph can" stand alone."
    "Your van Gogh example: is that painting so very special?" Q
    Only you can decide if its special to you.
     
  172. " it would tell me a story, in its own language. I need to understand that language, need to know, i.e. learn that language. Work"
    I agree to a certain extent, however, a good photograph will still communicate regardless of the ability of the viewer.
     
  173. Allen, don't worry, I hear you loud and clear and we do share the same planet.
     
  174. I don't think Cunningham's portraits are as transformative as her flowers, though I think the earlier portrait I posted in the OP of WESTON AND MATHER from 1922 has more of an edge and tells more of a story than the one I posted just above of Martha Graham. By transformative, I'm talking about that architectural and spacious quality talked about with respect to the Magnolia photo. I only need look at that photo of the Magnolia to realize the power of photography and the gift the camera can give us in changing the effect, feeling, and characteristics of a subject. The delicacy of the magnolia blossom re-presented as the regalness of a castle. I like Cunningham's photo of Graham but, for me, it doesn't quite capture what Stieglitz captures (in a somewhat similar but I think more poetic vein) in his PORTRAIT OF GEORGIA O'KEEFFE from 1922. What both portraits show is how important hands can be to a portrait and reminds me that gesture in addition to facial expression and eyes matters a whole lot.
     
  175. "I agree to a certain extent, however, a good photograph will still communicate regardless of the ability of the viewer."

    I disagree. You're playing down the importance of the role of the receiver much too casually, and incorrectly. A hugely over the top for instance: That photo communicates abslutely nothing to the chair the viewer might rest on while absorbing the message the photo has to tell. That could be, of course, because the chair is incapable of sensation, let alone understanding.
    And that is the point.
    There is no 'innocent' perception, no blank reception. Communication does not exist unless the receiver arranges what is received into his mesh of (in varying degrees) known and/or understood things. There is no succeful communication unless what is received leads to a rearranging of that mesh (mere recognition is not enough - we want to hear more than reminders of things we already know and understand). The receiver must do almost as much work as the sender, also because understanding something is more than just having your own thoughts about something, but involves figuring out what the intended message is.

    Yes, i decide whether van Gogh's painting is special, to me. That involves bringing my appreciation of things (in general and particular) to the painting. The painting does not stand alone. To decide whether van Gogh's painting is something special takes even more effort, requires knowing what was going on in van Gogh's mind, what he set out to do, the entire context of the time it was made in and how the appreciation and relevance of that might have changed over time, what is left of all that (besides being a historical thingy) for us.
     
  176. In 1961, Cunningham made THIS PHOTO of a cemetery in France. HERE'S another version of it. I don't know if anyone's seen this photo in a book or museum, but I wonder which is closer to the print. I prefer the first, lighter version on line because I can make out more detail, though it's less bold in its contrast, which is fine by me.
    While, at first glance, she seems to present a matter-of-fact and static representation of the scene, there's something about the symmetry of the two trees and the centered cross below them that sort of captures and defies at the same time our notions of death. Looking more carefully, and seeing the man seeming to be partially obscured by the tree seems to provide the reason for this being a photograph as well as a testament to what photography does so well in terms of capturing a moment.
     
  177. Very nice shot of Cunningham, Fred, which shows, not a "cemetery" as far as can be seen, but a "croix de chemins", a road side cross, which can bee seen in thousands beside country side roads throughout catholic countries like France.
    As it is not a place where you would be buried, but a place for contemplation, parsing by as traveller, I read the image of Cunningham differently. No notion of death for me. I agree, the scene is marked by the stationary main structure of the composition with the two hills sides behind and the two old trees firmly framing the central cross; and the old man in movement, continuing his travel half hidden by a tree on his way out of the scene. Fine and well thought composition. I clearly prefer the lighter version.
     
  178. I hadn't noticed the figure of the man before when I looked at the photograph of the cross and two trees. I also prefer the lighter version. The trinity of the cross is being centered by the symmetry of the two trees. These kinda crosses are also common on country roadsides in Belgium and when they're surrounded by old weathered trees they're hard to resist...Symbolically and when photographed, I do see the scene with cross serving as a symbol of life / death, even when it's not a cemetery.
    [​IMG]
     
  179. Phil, the cross signifies first and foremost christianity and faith although it depicts an instrument of crucifixion. It should make you think more of life than of death, as far as I understands it.
     
  180. When we think of life, that naturally includes death, or re-birth in the symbology of the cross.
     
  181. Getting way off topic: the symbology of the cross? The sacrifice brought to free mankind of eternal damnation. It does signify christianity, but not "although it depicts an instrument of crucifixion", but because it does.
    Road crosses are usualy erected at places where someone lost his or her life. They are a mark of where life and death (or depending on your belief: eternal life) met. A sign to mark the numinosity of the place.

    I'm not particularly impressed (again) by this Cunningham photo. It is clear that the attraction, the photo appeal, was the symmetry of the trees. The cross was an added bonus perhaps. The figure of the man a sign of haste on Cunningham's part.
    I don't know. Is it more than just one of the very many easily forgetable, because not very communicative (has it something to communicate that is surprising or impressive?), photos?
     
  182. Surely, way off-topic and yet, the way we formulated the symbolism of the cross, has a clear influence on how we see the photo of Cunningham. Is the old man half hidden by the tree and close to the cross with reference to "one-foot-in-the grave" or is it illustrating the man's continuation along the road-of-life after having prayed and made the sign of the cross ? I opt for the latter.
     
  183. I do too, Anders. A passer by. Though i'm not sure that the photo tells us that he prayed at the cross.
     
  184. Q.G., of course.
     
  185. I don't interpret the man in the photo to mean anything in particular. And yet his role is crucial to my response to the photo.
     
  186. So (and i'm just asking, not questioning) what is that role, what would be lost if he would not have been there, Fred?
     
  187. As I see it (and I'm not asked) without the man we have a scene without movement leaving the viewer to take the place of the man. Still and captivating scene because of the strong composing elements (hills, trees) holding the cross in the centre of our attention.
     
  188. See my first comment on the inclusion of the man. By definition, rather than interpretation, he adds a human element. And he adds a particularly photographic twist, being caught in the moment. Whether he just finished praying or has one foot in the grave or is continuing along the road of life was not something that entered my mind.
    The cross will not symbolizes first and foremost the same thing to everyone, nor should it. It is a recognizable symbol, but the interpretation within the context of the photo that each will (if they do interpret it) give to it will be according to how they read the overall "message" of the photo. Though I didn't specify this to myself when first seeing the photo, looking back I think I took it as a marker, probably of a grave or death site, that all wrapped up in its religious significance as well.
     
  189. I see, Fred. I must say that the two pollarded trees alongside a road between fields, farmland, and a cross all say "human" to me quite loud already. But of course there is a difference between the presence of such works and the human figure itself, yes.<br>The cross itself is, i think, interchangeable. It is used as a mark, borrowed from the prevailing culture/religion. People would have marked such a spot, for the same reason, with something different too would christianity never have appeared. So, to me at least, it says "human" much more than it says christianity.
     
  190. The human figure reminds me that photographs are prone to accident or at the very least happenstance. It makes the photo feel more uniquely photographic to me.
     
  191. For me the human element is all present in the photo without the old man. It is present by the photographer (and printer), the viewer (me), and surely by the christian symbol of all humanity, the cross - here a "latin" cross. Personally I don't need more. The rest, I see very often as animation for those who need it for catching attention.
     
  192. Having just seen it for the first time my initial gut is that there is a dynamic between Celtic /druidic/pagan religion and Christianity. Just a gut feeling from the darkness of it. I can not believe that the man is happenstance, she would have edited him out or waited till he left and I am sure she saw him there. She wasn't taking this photo to post it on classic manual weekend
     
  193. I'm hundred percent sure you are right concerning the appearance of the old man, Donald.
    Concerning the relations between Celtic religions/druidism/Paganism and Christianity, I'm less certain on how to react to your comment. Complicated business for sure.
     
  194. Donald, by happenstance, I meant I assumed she didn't bring the man with her and plant him there. I assumed she happened upon him, he happened to be there by chance, and she felt it was worthy to take the picture with him included.
     
  195. Understood, there were other thoughts mentioned and I could
    have chosen other words I just picked happenstance but not
    citing you specifically
     
  196. "I agree to a certain extent, however, a good photograph will still communicate regardless of the ability of the viewer."Allen

    "I disagree. You're playing down the importance of the role of the receiver much too casually, and incorrectly. A hugely over the top for instance: That photo communicates absolutely nothing to the chair the viewer might rest on while absorbing the message the photo has to tell. That could be, of course, because the chair is incapable of sensation, let alone understanding.
    And that is the point".QC
    So, what you are saying is the viewer has the ability of the chair to comprehend or have any communication with photograph. Fascinating.
    "The receiver must do almost as much work as the sender, also because understanding something is more than just having your own thoughts about something, but involves figuring out what the intended message is."QC

    So, without a deep knowledge of photography/art and a full understanding of the intended message the photograph absolutely communicates nothing...peeled wallpaper on a wall. Allen

    I can understand by study and knowledge a photograph/art can lend a greater(maybe)appreciation but to say that photograph/art cannot have any communication whatsoever...well, unbelievable.Allen.

    Thanks for the discussion QC I just find your thoughts.....staggering in their implication.
     
  197. I'm afraid that i can't claim any credit, Allen. I'll take the bait willingly, and tell you that the chair's inability to view demonstrates that a good photograph can't communicate with a chair. That without understanding of what you are looking at you do not understand what you are looking at.<br>And, yes, i agree that a study of both the medium used to convey a message and the subject matter, it's background and context and how it relates to everything else you know will (usually) help.<br>And i also agree that is quite staggering to suggest that something can communicate regardless of the receiver's ability to receive. Staggering. Though not mine, but your thoughts.
     
  198. ". I'll take the bait willingly, and tell you that the chair's inability to view demonstrates that a good photograph can't communicate[​IMG] with a chair. That without understanding of what you are looking at you do not understand what you are looking at"QC
    How interesting. The total and utter failer of a photograph/art to communicate in any way without an understanding of what you are looking at. Allen
    http://petapixel.com/2013/10/22/steve-mccurry-reveals-afghan-girl-portrait-almost-published/
    So, if you came across the linked photo without any prior knowledge it would have absolutely no communication for you. Peeled wallpaper.Allen

    "And i also agree that is quite staggering to suggest that something can communicate regardless of the receiver's ability to receive" QC

    Would you also agree that among those, who you would consider the lowest ebbs of humanity, they would have no ability whatsoever to gain any communication from a photograph without context and the study of art.
     
  199. I know your answer. No.
    I would disagree art can communicate to anyone regardless of social status, education or whatever. Have you looked at the street work of Banksy?
    https://www.kingandmcgaw.com/prints/banksy?gclid=CIv40rSExskCFcLnGwodYuMHug
    Just the graffiti little else....the only communication " stand alone " graffiti. Yet, the value of his art in monetary/social values...
     
  200. "I was invited to photograph Hollywood. They asked me what I would like to photograph. I said, Ugly men."

    —Imogen Cunningham​
     
  201. "I don’t talk about success. I don’t know what it is. Wait until I’m dead" (Imogen Cunningham)​
     
  202. Allen, you'd have us go round in circles.<br>If we would come across that photo, any photo, we come across that photo with everything we know, feel, fear, etc. That "without prior knowledge" part you like to argue makes no sense at all. And not just because we cannot help but have prior knowledge (and that knowledge may have to be complemented with new knowledge to fuly understand what is being communicated). But also because should we suppose a 'thing' without prior knowledge - you can't call such a thing a person anymore. So take that chair, for instance - that would clearly demonstrate that the ability of the viewer plays an all deciding role in the ability of anything to communicate anything to that thing.<br><br>I'll not comment on a presumed relevance of "social status", on your views on how people are divided in classes and your attribution of an inability to understand something to what you lable as "the lowest ebbs of humanity", nor on why you might think it is worthwhile to point out that there is an art market.<br><br>And you do know that it is rather too presumptuous to assume that you know somebody else's answer to something you do not fully understand yourself? I know that is easy to have a discussion with yourself, without being hindered by a differing point of view coming from a different background of knowledge, experience, believes, etc. And it may be amusing to read such a discussion between you and you. But please don't attribute your answers to your questions to someone else. ;-)
     
  203. THIS is an interesting one and kind of goes with the one Phil posted above with the mannequins.
    THIS ONE, more of a street shot, still references, through the design of the reflection in the window, her flowers.
     
  204. I can not judge one set of photos better than others. I can say that these appeal more to me. than others. Maybe because back in the 70's I envied my brother in law who had an uncanny eye to take candid shots of apparently pedestrian scenes that actually were unique. Especially to walk along the street and grab that moment of the child's face in the window. She once advised someone do not ask to take their photo, just take it because you will ruin the whole occasion otherwise.
     
  205. She once advised someone do not ask to take their photo, just take it because you will ruin the whole occasion otherwise.​
    I read that she had said this as well. I think she's about half right. There's as good a chance that a photographer who stops to ask to take a picture will get something good as the one who wants to keep it candid. All depends what the photographer can come up with in each case. There are certain candid moments that should remain candid and will make better photographs because of that. It also seems to me there are some candid moments that will make lousy photos and a little communication between photographer and subject might well make that into an opportunity for a better photo.

    IMO, what that quote doesn't really address is that just as one can ruin an occasion by asking one ought to recognize times when one can create an occasion by doing so as well.
     
  206. It just shows that what some call "engaged street photography" is just one out of many approaches. Depends on circumstances and chosen approach. I only very seldomly ask anyone for permission. Like the spontaneous dimension of street life and "stolen" portraits..
     
  207. The interesting thing to me here is that the method doesn't always translate to a particular result. So, a photographer may "engage" their subjects and yet their photos may feel very unengaged. And a photographer like Cunningham may make a candid photo like the one above which feels utterly engaged and engaging. I think it's a mistake to stress the method too much. Of course method is important to each of us but we need carefully look at our results as well. Stolen portrait? Though Cunningham's is candid and she hasn't asked permission, the portrait, to me, doesn't feel stolen at all. It's actually quite innocent and honest. A good deal of both so-called "engaged" street portraits and candid street portraits do feel stolen, which often creates a distance and a road block in terms of my connecting with the photo. Capturing something of significance, expression-wise and gesturally, will bring the viewer into the realm of the subject. Of course, sometimes a photographer might want their street work to feel stolen, and then its feeling stolen will be the point. That can work sometimes. But I've seen where in many cases, though the stolen portrait was the point for the photographer, it can still fail, just like street portraits made by engaging the subjects can feel very unengaged, despite how they were made.
     
  208. I agree with you the method is not a guarantee of any success. It is methodological approach and nothing more. However, what I called "stolen" is not necessarily not innocent, neither dishonest. The steeling aspect only a reference to not being given explicit permission - again only a method. Cunningham's photo of the little girl is in that sense "stolen" too, because it cannot be the eye contact with a small girl, that gives the permission.
     

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