What difference does it make if you really know your subject?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Feb 19, 2017.


  1. First of all, let me clarify, my statement about the uncomfortable was made in a light spirit. Also I must confess, not everything that discomforts me ends up being attractive, the PN 2.0 front page for instance :D. There u go, another smiley for you....
    <br><br>
    Now coming back to discomfort in art. Is discomfort always a negative feeling? Can discomfort be fascinating or startling? For instance, you are looking at a pretty calendar-esque landscape thinking this doesn't interest me since there is nothing unsettling about it. Its all about comfort and placidity. But then you end up staring at it for a while and actually appreciate it (although there may be no conceivable reason for you to do so). Wouldn't that be somewhat uncomfortable? The art defied your expectations of it and somehow it got to you. Isn't that one of the characteristics of good art, that it gets to you at the most inopportune moment and spreads its tentacles around you before you know.
     
  2. Fred, I think this and your subsequent discussions with Julie make a lot of sense. I just want to ask you to expand a bit on what photo to you comes off as bad. From the example you gave, bad interprets to me as discomforting. At the same time, the referenced photo is engaging since people took time to write comments on it. I can think of example photos that are both discomforting and uninteresting or non-engaging where people won't spend much time at all. While I believe there must be a flaw in how I am thinking, isn't art supposed to hook you on with a resonating feeling. Here the feeling may be of empathy about the original scene, how it was defiled by inappropriate use of post processing by the artist, or it may be about looking into a dream through the window of ugly reality. Now consider a case where the artist's intent was to make you feel exactly that. Would you consider it a bad photo?
     
  3. I think, Phil, the bottomline is, there is no alternative to keeping an open mind when it comes to art, especially for a genre that is designed to capture your imagination and attention. I don't want to think a pretty colorful photo would be something to pass on by default, at the same time, a photo of an urinal should be worth viewing before passing judgement.
     
  4. Mary Ellen Mark, my bad. So I guess it calls for an understanding of whats meant if you know your subject or not. Not to attempt to catalogue the relationships but there is connections that pass between people that is in nature, knowing in some sense and that moment is ascertainable through photography. Then there's getting to know, which comes from active engagement, a different quality of knowing, and then there's candid, where you may think you know something or understand something, or see something known, or unknown for that matter that you want to reveal, and then there are friends, or acquaintances where photoraphy is very different, easier in some sense. Some of the great documentarians, Davidson, Mark, Smith went about getting to really know their subjects by just hanging out with them, creating friendships. It seems Diane Arbus had a certain way of meeting and breaking down barriers with people. It seems by people getting to know the photographer, allows them to feel more comfortable. not tense up, lower boundaries often times. If you have a chance, if you haven't, try looking at "Country Doctor" series by Eugene Smith. I don't think Smith would have gotten some of those photos without the relationship he formed with the Doctor. To me its all good, each thing reveals something different.
    For my stuff, if you want to see how the pictures reflect differently with knowing someone and not, look at my "Friends and Musicianers" gallery compared to my street photography galleries.. Not for the quality or anything, but you'll see different types of interactions, and also see, how familiarity breeds content:)
     
  5. <br><br>
    Bad can be many things, including but not limited to discomforting.
    <br><br>
    I think this week's POTW, for example, is bad, though it has some aspects that are OK.
    <br><br>
    My taking the time or others taking the time to write comments doesn't mean the photo is engaging. It means the people commenting chose to take some time out to engage with the photo. I write critiques not always because I find the photos engaging but sometimes because I try to be a team player and feel it's a good thing to contribute critiques to the system. Sometimes, I've even gone through a queue of photos and decide to write a comment on every 4th one, specifically so I make sure I'm not commenting because I like or dislike something but just because I want to find something to write about a few photos, as a service to the photographers who've requested a critique. My deciding to write will often have nothing to do with the quality of the photo.
    <br><br>
    <br><br>
    I don't personally like thinking of art in terms of what it's supposed to do. Art can certainly resonate. But when something resonates with the feeling that it's trite or annoying or immature or worthless, I don't turn that into a positive or say that because it provoked me it's art. I keep this very simple. Some things are just bad and I don't like seeing what's bad manipulated into something that's good because the badness is somehow a significant thing. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes something I think is bad is just bad. That I may choose to write at length about it, doesn't make it any good.
     
  6. <br><br>
    For me, it can be a characteristic of good art but it's not always a characteristic of good art. Some art seems to come, for me, just at the right moment, like it was meant all along. And some art does but other art doesn't wrap around me before I know it. Some art I struggle with in order to get it to wrap its arms around me. It happens long after I know. Sometimes I have to wrap my arms around it.
     
  7. " … if at times [the film editor] begins to feel that editing is less a creative act than a mutilation visited upon some defenceless simulacrum of life, he is nevertheless forced by the logic of his craft to acknowledge the distinction between film and reality: that film is about something, whereas reality is not." —Dai Vaughan
    <br><br>
    <br><br>
    Brad, you've brought us up to the point of actually making the picture (thank you!). Now for the hard part. Which picture? Why?
    <br><br>
    Here is documentary filmmaker Dai Vaughan talking about the dilemma of knowing/not knowing:
    <br><br>
    "Recently I cut a film about two women and their suburban London mélange. After the completion of the editing, I came to know these people personally, and visited them in their home. When the film was eventually transmitted on television, I found myself perceiving it in an unnervingly bifocal manner. To the extent that I fed into the images my subsequent knowledge of the characters and location, the film broke down into incoherence. To the extent that it did cohere, it projected a world that repudiated any connection with the people and place as I now knew them."
    <br><br>
    More from Vaughan:
    <br><br>
    "The mere act of cutting a sequence into coherent shape, the craftsman’s compulsion to resolve irresolution and tidy up mess, contribute to a tradition whereby the viewer sails under sealed orders: and the very structure of the film conspires with the well-turned commentary to rob it of that penumbra of incomprehensibility which would preserve its link with reality and encourage the viewer to grant it further thought."
    <br><br>
    But:
    <br><br>
    "The moment you demand that a film should represent an event exactly as it occurred, you are confronted not just with the practical difficulty but with the theoretical absurdity of such a requirement.
    <br><br>
    "This absurdity, however, is not documentary’s weakness but its strength. The space opened up by the mismatch between record and signification is precisely the space in which the viewer’s choice operates. Every hunter reads the spoor in his own way. The danger in documentary lies in anything which restricts the film within a set of institutionalized norms and erodes that power which the image takes from the viewer’s sense of contingency."
    <br><br>
    "For those who bewail its absence, honesty is a moral problem. For those who try to achieve it, it is a technical one."
     
  8. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Every hunter reads the spoor in his own way.

    is that what Brad does, eh? sniffs the scent?
     
  9. <br><br>
    E.M. Cioran from a different book:
    <br><br>
    " "One day a man invited him into a richly furnished house, saying 'be careful not to spit on the floor.' Diogenes, who needed to spit, spat in his face, exclaiming that it was the only dirty place he could find where spitting was permitted." — Diogenes Laertes.
    <br><br>
    "Who, after being received by a rich man, has not longed oceans of saliva to expectorate on all the owners of the earth? And who has not swallowed his own spittle for fear of casting it in the face of some stout and respected thief?
    <br><br>
    "We are all absurdly prudent and timid: cynicism is not something we are taught in school. Nor is pride.
    <br><br>
    "The man who affronted Alexander and Plato, who masturbated in the marketplace ("If only heaven let us rub our bellies too, and that be enough to stave off hunger!"), the man of the famous cask and the famous lantern, and who in his youth was a counterfeiter (what higher dignity for a cynic?), what must his experience have been of his neighbors?"
     
  10. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    The man who affronted Alexander and Plato, who masturbated in the marketplace

    whatever floats your boat, Julie, but you might want to try a less exhibitionist approach to improving your sp.
     
  11. <br><br>
    Uhooru (Barry), Mark's husband, Martin Bell, is a documentary filmmaker and he made a film of her making her book Prom which is of ... (duh!) kids at their senior prom. The book comes with a DVD of the film and is just absolutely, totally, incredibly good : I write that in hopes that maybe someone will buy the book: I love it. So, nobody is going to buy the book but maybe you can stand to look at about a minute and a half of Bell's documentary on YouTube. Please?
    <br><br>
    *****
    <br><br>


    <br><br>
    [ ... the full DVD that comes with the book is so much better ... Don't you want to see it??]
     
  12. Thanks Julie, I looked. I wish it was longer because I needed to see more "moments" to sort of begin getting the rhythm of it and absorbing it, but it makes me want to look into the book. I will look into it. To get it with the DVD, I will need to wait to next pay check, but the photographs look interesting. Especially as I never went to a Prom:)
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  13. I think you're asking how I go about choosing subjects to photograph, right?<BR><BR>

    There's no formal criteria. They're pretty much random people on the street. A lot has to do with how I feel at the time, along with a mix of: what the person is doing, how they appear and project (that is, attitude, strength, character, gesture, dress, etc) and could a good portrait made, does the person seem like (s)he might be interesting to engage and converse with resulting in a positive experience, is there supporting environmental context or interesting background with nice light/shadows, do I feel the person could be moved if there's a better location near by, etc. <BR><BR>

    That sounds like a checklist, but it's really a confluence of the above and few other things from a quick assessment that comes about within a couple seconds, and somewhat subconsciously. There's also the aspect of the encounter and portrait-making being a challenge. It feels good coming away after meeting another person I know absolutely nothing about, learning something new from conversation, and making a good portrait.
     
  14. <br><br>
    Yes, but on reading your reply, both this one and the previous, we seem not to be able to understand one another. I want to know *why* and you keep telling me *what*. Grrrr ...
    <br><br>
    But ... on circling and staring at and muttering to myself about what you've very patiently given me, I think maybe I'm coming to understand why you're answering me in this way (and maybe Steve Murray as well) — and why, in spite of genuine effort, you don't understand the *why* that I'm after. I think, in answer to the OP question, "What difference does it make if you really know your subject?" your answer would be "I take the picture." Which, until this morning (and Brad's patient persistence), would have made no sense to me.
    <br><br>
    I'm now thinking that (maybe?) for you, knowing and picture-taking are the same thing. There is no knowing over there and then later, picture taking (because of or as a part of or a development from that knowing) over here. The two are simultaneous. Thus asking *why* makes no sense. Why do you know? Because I see it. They aren't two separate things. To photograph *is* to get to "really know" something. The knowing is not more, but not less than what is there. Does that make sense? Am I on the right track? Either way, I'm loving exploring this new (for me) way of thinking about the question.
    <br><br>
    ***************************************************************​
    <br><br>
    To try to show the other perspective, not Brad's perspective, the one from which I was thinking when posting the OP question, here is some Baudrillard (thanks to Phil):
    <br><br>
    "... people and things tend no longer to signify anything for each other. This is the opposite of the forced signification with which we attempt to ward off the emptiness and fragility of exchange.
    <br><br>
    "Few photographs escape this forced signification. Few photographs do not short-circuit the otherness of the object — that minimal chance of an upsurge of otherness — by forcing a signification upon it or, in other words, by mediating it through an idea of one sort or another — in particular, the ideas of an objective reality and testimony or witness."
    <br><br>
    " ... to photograph victims as such, the dead as such, the poverty-stricken as such, left entirely to their poverty, with the (itself poverty-stricken) alibi of 'giving them a voice, which they will never be able to give back."
    <br><br>
    [ ... ]
    <br><br>
    "Contemporary photography, operating as it does in the name of this forced signification, knows only how to capture banality, the absence of destiny, insignificance, humanity's confusion with its environment, its resentment of the objects which surround it, the mortifying effect of material well-being and that flaunted happiness which differs not one jot from unhappiness, whether it be registered in the smile of a housewife or a supermodel. [ ... ] Photography is the prime medium today for that insignificance, which it shares but claims to represent, thus superadding the poverty of the image to people's actual poverty.
    <br><br>
    "And this is to say nothing of all those raiders and predators who plunder customs and cultures, faces and landscapes that are really none of their concern."
    <br><br>
    ... and so on and on.
    <br><br>
    From the Baudrillard point of view, the knowing-before-and-after swamps the moment or the making of the picture.
    <br><br>
    For Brad, in my speculative way of thinking about what he's said, the picture *is* the knowing; the picture comes first, it signifies itself (which, philosophically speaking, is a problem ... oops, we won't go there). The parsing, the dissection, the pulling it apart to see what it "means," the *why*, are irrelevant to the "knowing" of the simple thing itself: Brad in conversation one day with some good people he just met.
    <br><br>
    [Brad, you see what happens when you give me something interesting to think about? Thank you!]
     
  15. Julie.... In your previous post you asked a simple question, "Which picture, why?"<BR><BR>

    And I did my best providing an answer.<BR><BR>

    If you would have asked: "What difference does it make if you really know your subject," I would have responded differently, but similar to my first post on Page 1 of this thread two weeks ago: "Making photographs of people I know doesn't interest me very much..." And as a result, that's something I rarely do.
     
  16. <br><br>
    I understood that. But to my reading, you described what you looked for, not why you looked for those "whats." In other words, why:
    <br><br>
    <br><br>
    ... do you want those things and not something else? Just because ... ?
    <br><br>
    Put it another way, there are many, many people that you don't photograph. You would photograph everybody/anybody if they were friendly enough?
    <br><br>
    Please don't answer those why and why not questions, above; we're just going in circles. Thanks.
     
  17. "I understood that. But to my reading, you described what you looked for, not why you looked for those "whats." In other words, why:" <BR><BR>

    I've already covered the "whys." The answers are within my above posts. It's not complicated. I enjoy (and with that the challenge of) engaging strangers, conversing, forming a temporary mutual trust and respect, learning something new (and with that questions), and making (hopefully strong) portraits. <BR><BR>

    Choosing: people that seem interesting rather than not interesting, environmental contexts with supporting elements over contexts without, nice light over bad light, etc, etc are aspects that help with the success of the above. <BR><BR>


    This above will likely still leave you flummoxed, but really, that's it.
     
  18. <br><br>
    I understand you perfectly. It's a one way street.
     
  19. In case anybody reads this thread ten years from now and wonders what all the < br> text means, it's the Greek chorus for:

    I Be, you aRe or I B you R thus < BR> or < br>

    ... which is the bass hum that underlies the OP question: the division of understanding between my "I be" and everybody else's you "are":

    "My own body is, at its very foundation, an inner body, while the other's body is, at its very foundation, an outward body.

    "The inner body — my body as a moment in my self-consciousness — represents the sum total of inner organic sensations, needs, and desires that are unified around an inner center. [My] outward aspect ... is fragmentary and fails to attain independence and completeness. ... I cannot react to my own outward body in an unmediated way: all of the immediate emotional-volitional tones that are associated for me with my body relate to its inner states and possibilities." — M.M. Bakhtin

    [ ... ]

    "This outward personality could not exist, if the other did not create it: aesthetic memory is productive — it gives birth, for the first time, to the outward human being on a new plane of being." — M.M. Bakhtin

    *****************************************************************************​

    On the other hand, the < brrrrr> might have been because it got very cold at photo.net for while but then it warmed up ... or, wait, I think it really stands for Baskin Robbins because I scream, you scream, we all scream ... but no, I think it's for brExit which does make some people scream and say bad things about the 'other.' No. Wait. Back up. It stands for Br'er Rabbit. Please don't throw me in the briar patch! Or is it for Berber (note the double br br)? Are we desert dwellers in this forum? Maybe ice cream loving desert dwelling rabbits who are cold.
     
  20. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    br = b realistic :)
     

Share This Page