What has one captured when one has captured a photograph of a kiss?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. Feel free to refine the question or to give examples through images if words fail. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  2. Moderator's note: This is not the No Words forum. Do not simply post photos of people kissing. If you wish to post a relevant photo to illustrate a point that you are explaining, you are welcome to do so.
     
  3. I think that this is known as "pre-emptive moderating," Mike. We know the rules.
    Sometimes an image can be used to stimulate commentary, something which is not allowed on the "No
    Words" forum.
    --Lannie
     
  4. Back to the topic: the kiss has signified a great deal in both life and photography. I am hardly requesting a disquisition on the ontological status of the kiss, but if anyone wants to do that, I am all for it.
    What does the kiss signify, and how effectively and meaningfully can a photo capture that meaning?
    There are a lot of spin-off questions, but perhaps these will do for a start.
    --Lannie
     
  5. I think this is just a sub-set of "What has one captured with a photograph?" Because any discussion about what a photograph of a particular thing/event/scene/subject "captures" is going to be impossible to rationally discuss without first stipulating what (if anything) all photographs capture. Which is to say that this isn't any more constructive of a question than asking what you've captured when you photograph two people not kissing.

    What have you captured when you simply see two people kissing?

    A photograph is simply a form of communication. Without context, and without noting the audience (some of whom might consider the photographic portrayal of a kiss to be incredibly offensive, some of whom might think it insufferably banal, and some of whom may find it to be high art, or charming, and so on), it's a not an especially answerable question.

    It might be more helpful to ask, "What sorts of things might one be trying to communicate by photographically portraying a kiss?" and "What do you need to know about your audience and about the circumstances of their seeing your photograph in order to improve the odds that your communication will be effective?"
     
  6. Which is to say that this isn't any more constructive of a question than asking what you've captured when you photograph two people not kissing.​
    That could be worthy indeed as a counterpoint, Matt. A photo of two adults (or chidren) pouting at each other can be a powerful image indeed.
    I think this is just a sub-set of "What has one captured with a photograph?"​
    Yes, it is, Matt, in the same way that chemistry is a subset of physics, or, as one of my physics professors explained it to me in the late sixties, "Chemistry is the branch of physics that smells." It was pointless to point out that it was also the branch that dealt with the electron shell rather than the nucleus of the atom. He already knew that.
    "Photography" is likewise a subset of "art" (or at least some photography is).
    Even so, capturing a kiss has its own unique points of interest--and possibly its own internal sources of tension. The photographer is always outside his or her subject, of course, but never more so than when emotion or desire is being manifested in the photo.
    Even so, I welcome your restatements of the question. I don't doubt that it could be phrased better.
    --Lannie
     
  7. If two people shake hands....you know pretty much that they know each other....somehow....either previously, or just a first time meeting....
    ....but, the kiss......you don't know if they are lovers, really good friends, relatives....or, maybe the all elusive, love at first sight. The viewer can imagine any of these they want. You don't know the level of the relationship between the two....usually.....and perhaps the photographer is detached from the two people at the time of shutter pressing, once it is in the editor...or viewing....mode, all these thoughts tend to surface. For the viewer (ie not the photographer themselves) there are all these questions and more.
    So, to me, the kiss, is perhaps the photograph most left open to interpretation by the viewer.
     
  8. Would depend on who's kissing who. Like Judas kissing Jesus or Romeo kissing Juliet...
     
  9. And, Phylo: how would you necessarily know that (or similar contextual things) from looking at a photograph? As Thomas points out, most of that back story isn't there without considerable supporting material/circumstances or some other familiarity with the subjects that are kissing.

    Lannie: throw us a bone, here. At least bound your question somewhat by suggesting what you're really getting at, or in what sitution you imagine the question having some purpose. Otherwise it's pointless, and you can only get back a laundry list or matrix of "if you Lannie means this ... then perhaps such a photograph would mean that" responses to your question.
     
  10. Lannie: throw us a bone, here.​
    Well, Matt and others, I don't have a set agenda on open-ended questions like this--and I deliberately phrased the question rather cryptically at the outset.

    I do have to take exception to the idea that the photo can tell nothing about the feelings involved. A photo of a real "butt-clutcher" indicates at least a high degree of passion. A photo of a six-year-old kissing another six-year-old may reasonably be thought to imply friendship and affection.
    I'm pretty much open to any and all interpretations at this point.
    At least bound your question somewhat by suggesting what you're really getting at, or in what sitution you imagine the question having some purpose. Otherwise it's pointless, and you can only get back a laundry list or matrix of "if you Lannie means this ... then perhaps such a photograph would mean that" responses to your question.​
    This is not the opening question in the Socratic method, Matt. I have no idea where it is going. Let's see the laundry list and see what people come up with. I hate to limit the possible sub-topics and interpretations too much up front, since other persons may have a lot more to say than I ever imagined. I would prefer not to rule those out as "worthless" until I have at least had a chance to see and review them.

    I'm certainly not averse to examples drawn from painting or sculpture if they advance the discussion. There must be an enormous body of critical commentary on this and related topics. Maybe even Derrida addressed the kiss, for all I know, and there surely is no way to predict a priori what Derrida or other free spirits might come up with.

    --Lannie
     
  11. I hope folks will pardone me for putting it bluntly, but in the world of communication there is something called nonsense.
     
  12. Thank you, Ilia. I have just responded to your comment on John Kelly's thread about beauty. It makes no sense to me, but maybe I am missing something.
    As for nonsense here, there is nothing nonsensical in "brainstorming." Let's get the comments flowing before we tear each other apart. At this stage, I am simply trying to get people to toss out ideas, any old ideas. That is not nonsense. That is a time-honored strategy for getting persons to set aside their reserve and let their opinions flow. After the defenses are down and the comments start coming in, other posters can decide which horse to ride, if any, by way of sustained critical discussion.
    What does this say to you, Ilia?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF6CxpyAFFs
    Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.
    --Lannie
     
  13. What did Rodin intend with "The Kiss"?
    There is more than one interpretation, but the original does not involve lip-to-lip contact, indicating that the lovers were killed before they actually kissed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_%28Rodin_sculpture%29
    On the other hand, the same source indicates that Rodin typically wanted to show that the female role in a kiss does not have to be passive.
    One sees this in Dan South's photo as well:
    http://www.dansouthphoto.com/Bridal/Romantic-Light/12171174_saJQ9#866106801_9tyWn-X2-LB
    The man is quite wooden. The woman is doing all the kissing, which is not to say that that was Dan's point.
    Indeed, what one gets from a photo is often not at all what was expected or intended. I would imagine that a photo of a kiss often betrays a lot more than one might expect.
    None of which is to say that I started this thread with the expectation of finding that at all. I had no idea what might be found as we started down the primrose path with that first kiss.
    --Lannie
     
  14. Khm. If it doesn't work, what's the point of calling it magic? In my quarters we think of "brain storming" as a creative, free style, unconditioned projecting on specifically formulated topic usualy made by a group of concerned people. The goal is to create a bank of ideas in order to solve the problem in question.
    Old chinese proverb says: "It's difficult to catch a black cat in dark room, especially if it is not there." I would add: " .. even more so if you're trying to do it by irrational, intuitive randomizing of communication"
    ??
     
  15. Ilia, here is what I posted at 10:41 a.m. by way of attempting to clarify the original question:
    "What does the kiss signify, and how effectively and meaningfully can a photo capture that meaning?"​
    It can be difficult to catch a dark cat in a dark room even when it is there. The "cat" qua "question" is there.
    If the question doe not interest you, why not just walk away from it?
    If you are snow blind from all that high altitude mountain photography you mention on your bio, then you are not going to find the cat.
    The cat may yet find you.
    Maybe a girl will kiss you today, and you might spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what it means or meant. The hidden question might be the one asked above by someone: can one tell from the photo what the kiss means?


    --Lannie
     
  16. can one tell from the photo what the kiss means?​
    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: Not without context, none of which you're describing. So absent that, no.
     
  17. Landrum. The question you quote can be IMO answered in exceedingly apparent and simple way: It signifys close, intime personal relation of mutual affection. A photo can capture it so meaningful and as effective as it possibly can in every given case as well as in general. Which is as true as it is banal and yet applicable to just about any photo of any situation I can think about RN.
    Perhaps, I do not understand the meaning you put in the question. Please, be so kind and give us your own answer or explain otherwise.
     
  18. And, Phylo: how would you necessarily know that (or similar contextual things) from looking at a photograph?​
    Well, I suppose I would know, or would be able to let the viewer know, if the context was part of the photograph : either by discovering or by setting up a ( portrait ) scene. In Lannie's example the context is a wedding, which renders the kiss obviously as an *ideally romantic* kiss. Surely photographs could be made with a different context that involve kissing or a kiss, going beyond a photograph of a kiss.
     
  19. If the question on the thread does not interest me I do not post, so, let us not deviate from the discurssion. My interest in mountaineering is not relevant here.
     
  20. I am sorry for posting such a difficult question and for not responding is as timely a fashion as some of you might have wanted, but it has been a busy day here.
    When I posted this question, I knew that it was by far the most difficult question that I had ever posted to this forum. I also knew that any meaningful answer would require an inductive, not a deductive, way of proceeding. I still had no idea what I was getting into.
    I knew that the topic would be enormous, however, and so I made reference to examples in the original post because nothing about the kiss could possibly be discussed apart from specific photos--and it was pretty obvious that there were a lot of types of "kiss photos." (I had no idea how many types--and I still do not.) One could spend days simply cataloging the types of photos that fall into various groups or categories. Only through concrete examples could anything of interest ever be said--and what might be of interest for one photo or type of photo would not necessarily imply anything whatsoever about other types of photos.
    What all of this means is that no vast generalization is possible (that I can see) in response to a topic of this sort. Anyone who wants a simple answer to something as complicated as this is not going to find it anywhere, I fear, and certainly not here. There is not one cat to be found, to use Ilia's metaphor. There are millions of cats running around. Some of them take the form of passionate, overtly sexual kisses. Some take the form of mere expressions of affection. Some--as photographs--take the form of abstacts, and other take the form of symbols, etc. I was not prepared for the latter two categories when framing the original question.
    I have no general response to any of you, for the simple reason that it does not exist--or at least I do not think that it does. One must first start by looking at some types of photos that invoke the way that the kiss (or even more broadly the concept of a kiss) is used in actual photographic practice.
    Here are examples of candid shots of a kiss, the kind that might be found in PJ or street photography:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/3043438
    http://www.photo.net/photo/8302162
    Here are examples of staged shots of a rather conventional nature:
    http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00LQXp
    http://www.photo.net/photo/3746390
    Here are some where the labels are conventional but the shots are not:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/7010034
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6445704
    http://www.photo.net/photo/7601750
    Here are some where the affection expressed are decidedly non-sexual:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/8446845
    http://www.photo.net/photo/2085537
    One could likewise try to catalog an enormous variety of staged kisses of all sorts, some of which are not obviously staged but probably are:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/5868920
    Others are more obviously staged:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/7558943
    Abstractions are also a possibility, not something that I was thinking about when I posed the question but which were in abundance when I started looking for examples some hours ago:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/5942288
    Others are perhaps more symbolic or representational of something that the title might or might not give guidance on:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/2240391
    After two consecutive browser crashes earlier in the afternoon, I gave up on reproducing what I have finally managed to post above.
    In other words, I started by knowing that "the kiss" is an enormous category, but not until I started searching for examples did I have any idea just how enormous a category it is.
    Each of these categories (and no doubt others) is going to yield, if at all, to the original question (albeit modified) only by discussions of specific photos. Actual photos are always contextual, of course, as Matt pointed out. I hope that he will forgive me for not providing the context. That is a taller order than I knew at the outset, and I was not at first inclined to try. I still cannot do it on any kind of comprehensive basis. Maybe all of us together we can flesh out the categories a bit--if persons are so inclined to offer specific photos as points of departure.
    I am still surprised by the insistence upon gross generalizations and simple answers. This is not the kind of topic for that, I fear.
    Therefore I will extend my original invitation one more time, this time I hope with the understanding of the moderator:
    "Feel free to refine the question or to give examples through images if words fail. . . ."
    I don't expect any of the participants or the moderator to read my mind, of course, but neither do I like to ride heard on a thread in its early stages, preferring to let participants determine the direction as far as may be possible. This has been a remarkably busy day, and I hope that these points of clarification do something to assuage the desire for some degree of simplification, although what seems more and more obvious is that cataloging the possible shots is going to lead to more complexity, not simplification.
    I also want to be the first to admit that I had no idea of the extent to which I would have to modify my own understanding of the scope of the analysis required to do justice to the topic.
    I'm not sure that I would have started the thread had I known what degree of complexity I would have run into. The original question would have to be modified to fit all categories mentioned, of course. Refining the question is always a standing invitation where I am concerned.
    Feel free. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  21. My interest in mountaineering is not relevant here.​
    Of course it is, Ilia. Of course it is. Surely you have kissed a girl on a mountain. If not, well, you'll just have to try it. It's a top-of-the-world experience. You can even enjoy it while recovering from snow blindness.
    Be sure and set up the tripod and use the auto-timer. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  22. VJ Day kiss
    http://www.skylighters.org/veday2004/vjkiss.jpg
    The end of the War. Pure joy of the moment.
    Probably most famous kiss ever.
     
  23. I thought a "kiss is just a kiss".
     
  24. Thank you, Joe. That one came to mind much earlier but I didn't look it up. Thanks for doing so.
    I understand that the story behind it is pretty good, too.
    --Lannie
     
  25. I thought a "kiss is just a kiss".​
    Sometimes it is, Barry. Sometimes it is:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/7306346
    --Lannie
     
  26. I think you can tell a lot about emotions about a kiss from a photograph- happiness, tenderness, fun.....
    00WiAW-253319884.jpg
     
  27. And a happy, fun kiss....
    00WiAa-253319984.jpg
     
  28. "What has one captured when one has captured a photograph?"​
    Diane, I think that you are telling us that, in at least certain cases, one has captured emotion--and that the photo itself provides the only context needed to demonstrate that.
    It seems rather obvious. It surprises me that anyone would try to answer any of these questions a priori.
    --Lannie
     
  29. It seems rather obvious​
    So what is it you're getting at, then? What's the mystery you're trying to explore?
     
  30. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    A photograph of a kiss is pretty much the same as a photograph of a slap. It's just one more thing people do.
     
  31. So what is it you're getting at, then? What's the mystery you're trying to explore?​
    The photo is the context here, Matt, and the candid shots are clearly authentic. In such a case, there is no mystery. This would not settle the issue for all photos in all contexts.
    Here again is the question as I rephrased it at 10:41 a.m. There is no single answer, because there is no single question, no single mystery:
    What does the kiss signify, and how effectively and meaningfully can a photo capture that meaning?​
    I am still in my inductive phase on this one, still looking for generalizations, but not finding too many.
    --Lannie
     
  32. A photograph of a kiss is pretty much the same as a photograph of a slap. It's just one more thing people do.​
    Fortunately, Jeff, it is one of the more interesting things that people do, in my opinion.
    --Lannie
     
  33. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I disagree. A slap is far more interesting and far harder to photograph. There's always this way of looking at it... Far more complex and some depth to it.
     
  34. Matt, another way of looking at the inductive phase is to think of it as the pre-philosophical, quasi-scientific phase of inquiry, a phase where one is documenting the purposes and functions of a variety of types of photos in one larger genre: the kiss.
    What will one find? What is one looking for? One might as well ask Linnaeus what he was looking for in categorizing plants. It is not even heavy-duty science at this phase. I cannot even formulate workable scientific hypothesis worth testing, much less offer a deep philosophical quandary that I want to resolve, except this one: why is the kiss such a fascinating thing for us, and why do kisses in so many differing contexts have so many social functions? Are those functions related in some way? (The answers might be less obvious than they appear, but I do not know, since I do not know the answers yet.)
    Can photography help us to understand those social functions? More generally, what precisely do kisses express, and how do we bring out what they express through photography? I still find the questions interesting, but many will not. Photography might have more explanatory power than we imagine, or at least be a useful tool in the search for larger explanations
    I am hopeful that this exploratory phase will raise some more interesting questions. Speaking for myself only, I find the exploratory phase interesting. Some questions are beginning to emerge for me, if only because I had not thought of how many social functions the kiss can perform. Here is a somewhat ritualistic kiss, for example:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6288254
    Here is another, although the ritual is quite different, as is the social context:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6154124
    As for whether this is philosophy or not, empiricists believe that philosophy begins with observation of the mundane, not speculations about the metaphysical. Aristotle categorized darned near everything. He didn't fool with the kiss to my knowledge.
    In my opinion, maybe he should have. Surely some sociologist or anthropologist out there has categorized the various social functions that kisses perform. To my knowledge, no philosopher has touched this issue with a ten-foot pole.
    I think that we take the kiss for granted, even though we are quite well-versed as to when it is appropriate--and what type of kiss is appropriate. We must have gone through a lot of socialization on the kiss without having given it a great deal of conscious thought. Customs are often rather thoughtless, whether the customs are about kisses, clothing, or which fork to use.
    Are there any universal truths across cultures that we find in the kiss? Must kisses be learned, or are they to some degree natural?
    Ah, now the philosophical wheels are starting to turn. I love it when that happens. . . .
    I think that photography can help us in that quest. I think that we need lots of raw data, i.e., lots of photographic examples with some tentative explanations and comments. Heck, we might have the earliest beginnings of a book here.
    Thank you for challenging me to look a bit deeper, Matt! I will let you know what I have found when I have found it. Right now I am not sure exactly what it is, but the kiss is interesting enough to keep me looking.
    --Lannie
     
  35. Landrum. The question you quote can be IMO answered in exceedingly apparent and simple way: It signifys close, intime personal relation of mutual affection.​
    Ilia, notwithstanding those typical functions of the kiss (i.e., to express affection, whether mutual or not), what can one say of the "kiss of death" in the Mafia? It seems to be about affection but is in fact anything but.
    I find this interesting and varied sociological terrain. Some may not. Usually, if one pursues a line of inquiry long enough, larger philosophical questions begin to emerge. I mentioned some of those incipient questions near the end of my response to Matt just above.
    --Lannie
     
  36. I disagree. A slap is far more interesting and far harder to photograph. There's always this way of looking at it... Far more complex and some depth to it.​
    Thanks, Jeff. I hadn't thought of it quite that way, as being more difficult.
    I almost missed the link in your quote. The feminists are going to get you for the Youtube link, Jeff!
    Now we are getting into psychology, Jeff. The plot thickens, or at least the interdisciplinary soup does.
    --Lannie
     
  37. Are there any universal truths across cultures that we find in the kiss?​
    No. As you know, some cultures don't even do it, choosing to show affection in other ways.
     
  38. I do not like the word "Captured". So aggressive!
    I am of the opinion that a good photograph should tell a good story. I believe good photography, like other visual communication, should tell a good biography of the subject being photographed. And this means that the photographer should have a good message to tell, about a subject that has a potentially good story to be made known. And the photographer should have the skills to tell this story, so that the message or biography of the subject could be conveyed to the viewer.
    A kiss is, well, a kiss. But what does the photographer want to tell about this kiss? What is so special about this kiss that another person should want to look at it?
    To me, if there is no message, then it is a picture with a poor biography about the subject. In this case, the kiss. Therefore, to me, despite the aggressive stance of being "captured", the image is just plain banal.
    I am aware that there are others who love to"capture" images, with apparently no message in the images. This is fine with me. I too, oftentimes, just take pictures without the "angst" of making meaningful pictures. However, I do not consider these pictures to be "good images". I do not seek to try to impose my POV on others. I will not engage in debate on my view.
     
  39. Here is some interesting background on the famous Eisenstadt kiss photo taken at Times Square:
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/that-times-square-smooch-right-to-the-kisser/
    --Lannie
     
  40. Chong, I am not sure that every photo tells a story, although there is no doubt a story of sorts behind every photo.
    Here neither the kiss or the pig seems to be the real story:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/9270263
    Likewise with many abstracts, the story may be less interesting than the pure patterns of forms and colors.
    --Lannie
     
  41. This one's for Jeff.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/provia400f/1261307795/
     
  42. What have we captured? Well, if the action is genuine and not staged, we have captured an intimate expression of
    closeness and caring and affection. It's the opposite of two people arguing or fighting, which would be an extreme
    expression of animosity or disrespect.

    My shot doesn't tell a story. It was a genuine moment between two people (boyfriend and girlfriend) when they didn't
    expect anyone to be watching - the workshop was preparing to move to a different location, so everyone was relaxed and
    being themselves. I grabbed the shot very quickly as the other photographers gathered up their gear. I remember
    wondering whether I had blurred the people in the background enough, but I didn't have time to think through it more
    carefully. The moment was over in a second or two.

    Sometimes this image gets a strong response. When I showed to the other workshop participants there were audible
    gasps in the room. I interpreted that as confirmation of the authenticity of the moment. If I had asked the couple to kiss
    each other I'm sure that the outcome would have looked different. Not better or worse, but different. I gave a copy of the
    photo to the couple and they received it positively. No gasps were uttered. ;)
     
  43. stp

    stp

    Matt Laur wrote: A photograph is simply a form of communication. Without context, and without noting the audience (some of whom might consider the photographic portrayal of a kiss to be incredibly offensive, some of whom might think it insufferably banal, and some of whom may find it to be high art, or charming, and so on), it's a not an especially answerable question.

    I would say the same thing about a kiss. It's simply a form of communication, largely cultural. Without context, what one has "captured" with a photograph of a kiss is not an especially answerable question. I agree with Matt: your question is a subset of a larger question, and context is everything.
     
  44. Dan, I had no idea that that was a candid shot. It looks authentic enough, to be sure, but it was in there with your other photos and so I just assumed that it was made under similar circumstances.
    Here it is for those who missed it:
    http://www.dansouthphoto.com/Bridal/Romantic-Light/12171174_saJQ9#866106801_9tyWn-X2-LB
    Again, Dan, this is an excellent shot. It just got even better for me when I found out that it was not set up. The woman seems wonderfully enthusiastic about the whole thing.
    --Lannie
     
  45. An exchange of bacteria.
     
  46. Bruce, I can't figure out if you are just a cynic or the ultimate realist.
    --Lannie
     
  47. To Dan South again:
    Dan, I missed the one just prior, at what one might call the stage of pleasant anticipatory desire:
    http://www.dansouthphoto.com/Bridal/Romantic-Light/12171174_saJQ9#866107045_qJeYB-X2-LB
    --Lannie
     
  48. Lannie,
    Therein lies the difference in personal taste, and what makes us tick. What is compelling to one may just be a bore to another.
    Makes us interesting. Does it not?
     
  49. Thanks, P N. Are you talking about Dan South's photos? I can't tell which you are talking about.
    http://www.dansouthphoto.com/Bridal/Romantic-Light/12171174_saJQ9#866107045_qJeYB-X2-LB
    http://www.dansouthphoto.com/Bridal/Romantic-Light/12171174_saJQ9#866106801_9tyWn-X2-LB
    In any case, you are right that people like different things--and often disagree rather vehemently about what is or is not worthy. That is indeed what makes us--and our lives--interesting.
    --Lannie
     
  50. Lannie, thank you very much for your kind compliments. I'm glad that you enjoyed these photos.
     
  51. Thanks, Dan.
    I'm checking out now. These threads become very time-consuming when they run more than a couple of days.
    --Lannie
     
  52. Strange that this was just on here. The nurse in the famous WWII kiss photo in NYC(?) just died today (6/23/2010)
     
  53. Thanks, Mark. Perhaps someone can give us a link to her version of the circumstances of the making of the photo.
    --Lannie
     

Share This Page

1111