What is the value of novelty in appreciating photographs?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by lar, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. There are very strong images showing situations and places we are not familiar with.
    Besides their compositional elements, they hit us because of their novelty.
    Novelty as something we are not used to, something uncommon to us, outside clichés.
    How important is novelty in appreciating photographs?
    Do we consider that a situation or place which is new to us, might be a cliché to somebody else who is daily exposed to the same situation?
     
  2. The value of novelty is huge in photography. Numerous photographers have made careers by being among the first to shoot places and events. It sells well !
    However, maybe, more interesting is the novelty not of things, places or events, but novelty of the vision. Maybe, the most challenging objective one can set oneself is to shoot places and events in ways that noone else have been able to realize. Shooting the most known places is representing the greatest challenges for such a vision.
    If photography is an art it is because of this latter "novelty" - rare as it is.
     
  3. If I am going to look for novelty, I often appreciate novelty of approach and presentation, novelty of perspective and vision, novelty of style. That said, presenting a penetrating look at something new or something we've not been very exposed to can be a significant achievement. But it will likely depend on the sensibility and vision as to how I receive it.
    Some novelties are just that, novelties, like we might find in a dime store. There can sometimes be an element of triviality in the newness, a fleeting kind of amusement but a lack of depth.
    Originality might suggest more substance than novelty but even originality can often be overrated. Not everyone is going to present or find something original or even present it with an original vision. Sometimes conscious influence, continuity with other photographers and sensibilities can be of great value and can provide insight and significance.
    Uncommon subjects, scenes, and situations can be handled in a clichéd manner and common subjects, scenes, and situations can be handled in original ways.
    I have seen novelty mistaken for good or interesting or compelling photography. "I hiked miles and miles to photograph this part of the terrain that few people have seen." That can still lead to a big yawn of a photograph, even though the hiking and adventurousness may be quite worthwhile in its own right.
    In most cases, I look toward the strength and type of connection to the photograph and, in part, to the subject of the photograph more than to the novelty factor related to the subject or content.
    On the flip side of this, photos have a long tradition of exposing us to persons, places, things, and situations we might not otherwise see for ourselves. I wouldn't discount that. It also very much depends on the photo, its purpose as I may perceive it, and the context in which I might find the photo. [I recognize that some photos have no purpose other than to be appreciated.]
    .
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  4. Luca, if I read you correctly, you are talking about novel situations and places we are not familiar with, not approach and presentation, novelty of perspective and vision, style or anything else, so I'll leave that out.
    This emphasis has been around in photography since the outset and continues to this day. Worse, a lot of photographers place value on how difficult it is to access certain things that are hardly novel. We can see this here on a regular basis with photographers who believe extraordinary work results from going to certain geographical locations or cities, or gaining access to subcultures or groups. We see this in all photographic genres, landscapes, portraits, street photography, etc.
    This is a tradition in photography of long standing, and it is not surprising that people that want a clear-cut signifier or marker of success in photography, specially the competitive types, or viewers collectors who want something simple and easy to grasp cherish things like this.
    It is natural that seeing something normally not seen gets attention, but there's a difference from gawk-candy to good photography (never mind art).
    The lessons of Orientalism are still largely unlearned. I'm as curious as the next guy, but is it important to me? No. Is it important to millions of photographers and viewers? Of course. So are many other markers and signifiers.
     
  5. Irritation makes pearls. [Or it just makes you itch.]
     
  6. Good topic. How novelty effects or motivates photographers is no different than for other pursuits. We become alternately jaded or exhausted by life in our times.
    I have to break the idea into types of novelty to think about it. There is the universal strange and the parochial strange i.e the literally "sensationally" unique and the exotic. They further spit into ways of depicting the familiar by abstraction or by context (Picasso/found object sort of thing) All novelty becomes familiar, loses its wonder, and joins the mundane only to reappear for a new audience or simply in an un-refurbished state hoping to stand out from the background noise.
    Originality is another way of framing the novelty question. The need to be original underlies the motive for some. It gets in the way of more intellectually honest efforts.
    Photographers (I see no distinction among all media) are generally admired for their imagination and their skill at rendering their subject. Lacking one talent or another some might go for shock instead of substance. Is there nothing new under the sun? It seems not possible. DADA-like randomness (or monkey cam) is the closest to becoming truly novel. Even then the not novel result is about chance not about its fated object.
    The large Cindy Sherman photograph was moved from its own space in the gallery and placed on top of a garishly papered wall in order, I suppose, to shock those who'd gotten too comfortable looking at it. I revised it further with a new frame and re-sized it - a novel and intellectually sound choice.
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  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Novel things (people, places, practices, etc.), which is what they question appears to have been about before it got re-interpreted as "creative," has always been interesting in photographs. It doesn't matter what the quality of the photographs, if it's something one hasn't seen, it's often interesting. This is called "curiosity" in humans and to put it down is basically putting down the human spirit.

    If space aliens landed tomorrow in Tierra Del Fuego and the only photos were blurry, ill-composed snaps from a five year old phone, nobody would say they weren't interested because they weren't well-taken. Most of us would look because of the sheer novelty. If someone gets the space alien photos at extreme difficulty or because they had special access, we wouldn't change our minds about looking, we would still look.
     
  8. We get blurry pictures of aliens and flying saucers all the time. From reactions on PN, most people look -- and laugh.
    As Alan points out, novelty has a severely brief lifespan. People gawk at car accidents and wardrobe malfunctions, that's human nature, too.
     
  9. I have to take time to read your posts carefully.<br>
    In any case my idea is very broad, and includes originality.<br>
    Maybe the two concepts are not synonyms, but I was thinking of the uncommon, the unusual, the unseen.
     
  10. Here's a picture by a photographer who just posted here recently. You may or may not like the composition, but the angle is different and "novel" than what you ordinarily see in waterfalls. http://www.photo.net/photo/15511932
    I think we all, well I do, want to create something that's unique, different; we all want "atta boys". What I found is that when looking at so many really good pictures by ordinary people here and on other sites, it really becomes a little disappointing trying to be different, better, etc. I think it was easier in the "old" pre-web days when you only saw "pro" pictures in books etc. At least you could say that well I'm not a pro. Now you have all these non-pros who shoot better.
    So I think one has to be satisfied with your own work by bringing joy to yourself and to the people around you. If you share your photo with family and friends and they enjoy it, then you accomplished something. There's great pleasure in that.
     
  11. we all want "atta boys"​
    Do we all?
    _________________________
    There's a lot that's wonderful that's not novel or original. Let's take the question as originally posed and consider subject matter or situation. There's nothing terribly novel about photographing nudes (or making portraits for that matter), for example. That doesn't undermine either genre or individual nude photos or portraits, even if they're not shot in a unique manner or from a novel perspective. What I often look for is connection, intimacy. (There are other qualities that may work as well.) If I feel such a connection or intimacy, I am moved and don't necessarily need to be shown or made to feel something new. Sometimes it's the depth of feeling, even from a tried and true subject, that's significant.
     
  12. Luca, novelty and originality/creativity are certainly not synonyms; they're in opposition*.
    Novelty diagram: (from) it --------------> (to) you (surprise!)
    Originality/creativity diagram: (from) you ---------------> (to) it
    However -- and I suspect this is what you're really interested in, there is, once the music really gets going:
    (from) it --------------> (to) you [surprise! thinking, thinking ... ] (from) you --------------> (to) it
    And where the thing that you --------------> make/it can surprise you (you discover it as it appears it --------------> you ) this goes on until your mom tells you its time for bed right NOW and the fun has to stop.
    [* the dichotomy police will be along shortly to remind all of us that there is a CONTINUUM! and we must not forget it! [duh!] (even when having discussions using WORDS that necesssarily aren't CONTINUUMS).]
     
  13. Luca - "In any case my idea is very broad, and includes originality.
    Maybe the two concepts are not synonyms, but I was thinking of the uncommon, the unusual, the unseen."
    The value of novelty is in its newness. The less you know, understand and have seen of photography, the more new things you are going to run across, and maybe rate more highly. That value is transitory. Historically less so, but how many people really know much or give a fig about photographic history? Who took the first photograph known from inside a tree (back to trunk) looking out? Firsts are fleeting.
    Now that Luca has expanded on what he meant in his OP, his concerns appear to be very close to those of Modernism. I do not place much emphasis on novelty. Originality I see along the same line as fingerprints. Over six billion people on this planet, nearly 400 billion photographs made in 2011, how many of those are "original", and where they can be seen? Not many.
    The unseen is what you do not see, or are aware of, so how can that be gauged? For me, it is not originality as much as it is about individuation.
     
  14. The unseen is what you do not see, or are aware of, so how can that be gauged?​
    I assume Luca meant "the previously unseen" in talking about newness or novelty.
    But, I actually think the unseen itself is a fascinating aspect of photography. The implied, the suggested which has been left out of the frame, the below-the-surface. I don't know about gauging that but I think it can be considered, and often has a role even if it's not considered or the photographer and viewer are not aware of the role. Now there's a trivial sense in which the unseen is ubiquitous enough where we could say everything that is not pictured is unseen and that's way too broad. There's a less trivial sense in which the unseen relates to the seen and felt . . . it's in the periphery, just off the page, just under the radar as it were.
    The unseen or implied can make even the most oft-shot subject novel. It can certainly play a role in a photographer's originality. It can be used like many other tools.
    The unseen can even be a kind of gestalt, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, or it can be the suggestion of just a tiny visual detail not shown but pointed to outside the frame. The photographer can often be the unseen, whose presence is nevertheless felt, sometimes quite distinctly.
     
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    We get blurry pictures of aliens and flying saucers all the time. From reactions on PN, most people look -- and laugh.​
    A complete misreading of my post. Or unpleasant snarky response. One or the other, the point was ignored and the attempt to demean is a fail.
     
  16. Luca - "In any case my idea is very broad, and includes originality.
    Maybe the two concepts are not synonyms, but I was thinking of the uncommon, the unusual, the unseen."
    The value of novelty is in its newness. The less you know, understand and have seen of photography, the more new things you are going to run across, and maybe rate more highly. That value is transitory. Historically less so, but how many people really know much or give a fig about photographic history? Who took the first photograph known from inside a tree (back to trunk) looking out? Firsts are fleeting.
    Now that Luca has expanded on what he meant in his OP, his concerns appear to be very close to those of Modernism. I do not place much emphasis on novelty. Originality I see along the same line as fingerprints. Over six billion people on this planet, nearly 400 billion photographs made in 2011, how many of those are "original", and where they can be seen? Not many.
    The unseen is what you do not see, or are aware of, so how can that be gauged? For me, it is not originality as much as it is about individuation.
     
  17. Fred - "The unseen can even be a kind of gestalt, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, or it can be the suggestion of just a tiny visual detail not shown but pointed to outside the frame. "
    Similar to negative space, it can be considered, talked about, even when not implied, in absentia. Is it novel? Even if we know behind us, great oceans lie undiscovered (Thanks, Newton). If nothing else, it's the big context, the still undetectable dark matter/energy of photography. The argument can easily be made that the unseen is the obvious, what lies all around us that we are desensitized to, therefore blind to as well. Different categories of unseens: Seen unseens, unseen seens, seen seens, and unseen unseens! (Thanks Rummy!).
    ______________________________________________
    Jeff Spirer - "A complete misreading of my post. Or unpleasant snarky response. One or the other, the point was ignored and the attempt to demean is a fail."
    Neither, though to you there are obviously no other (unseen) possibilities other than being misunderstood or attacked (not to mention your perceived 'enemy' failing). I simply meant that the world already is full of alien and saucer pictures (bigfoot, Nessies, et al.), and there is no way to discern which are true and which are not. There's no novelty there. Signal and noise can not be differentiated.
    ____________________________________________
     
  18. Is it novel?​
    Not necessarily, though it can be. I was assuming Luca meant the previously unseen in terms of novelty and then I just decided to riff on the unseen in photography, novel or not.
    I actually think the unseen as a factor may be novel to a lot of people, but whether or not it is as novel as, say, a previously unphotographed subject (if there is such a thing), I don't know. The unseen is important to me, but not so much because of any novelty factor.
    The idea of novelty seems to be associated, for example, with lands as yet unvisited by the viewer, cultures one hasn't been exposed to, etc. As I said, photography has a significant role in that but I also think there can be a premium put on novelty and originality, or the expectation that art or good photography is necessarily original, that isn't necessarily warranted. I get off on things familiar that connect strongly with me or that are approached with a personal sort of intimacy, novelty and originality notwithstanding.
     
  19. More pertaining to novelty as "something we are not used to," I think many photographers, especially when trying very hard to be "creative," try to show something novel in their photographs. For example using unusual angles, strange lighting, unusual poses or situations, etc. I suppose this is an attempt to get the viewer to notice the image. This can be important in advertising photography. For "art" purposes this practice can, to me, often seem forced and make the image less impressive. But, I also think novelty can be done well. Skillfully done juxtapositions of elements, chance, imagination that doesn't seem over the top or forced just for effect, impresses me more than the aforementioned type of novelty. I have done some forms of novelty myself and have had positive reactions.
     
  20. Novelty:
    "But if our sensory-motor schemata jam or break, then a different type of image can appear: a pure optical-sound image, the whole image without metaphor, brings out the thing in itself, literally, in its excess of horror or beauty, in its radical or unjustifiable character ... " -- Gilles Deleuze
     
  21. The thing in itself . . . well at least we've moved up a century from Descartes. LOL!
    When our sensory-motor schemata break, we have more concerns than a pure optical-sound image.
    Keep me away from such purity. I want to remain human and finite, with all its impurities, metaphors, and contexts.
    Novelty is no more pure than were Landrum Kelly's nudes.
     
  22. Do I care what you want?
     
  23. ""But if our sensory-motor schemata jam or break, then..."



    ...catatonia follows?


    Julie - "Do I care what you want?"
    Meow.
    ___________________________________________________
    Novelty is not only transitory, but by its nature, addictive. Like all addictions, habituating. To the ignorant, an ever-thinning rivulet of superficial wonder. The antidote to boredom, something many philosophers have explored (Kierkegaard, Heidegger), novelty can also become routine, eventually the disease.
    Worse, as in Modernism, it closes doors. Ever hear the phrase "It's been done before" ? Imagine Columbus returning to Europe and saying "America's been done, so much for that". Or a farmer walking away from the field after the first year?
    In photography, like the photograph Alan Klein linked to, I might go, "Wow", and in five seconds the charms of novelty evaporate. The same goes for spectacular photos, to cite but one example, those of Peter Lik. They have very brief attention-eliciting lifespans. Like a hit from the pipe, or a new lover whose physical beauty is the main attraction, it soon leads to desensitization and nostalgia for that best-loved first, except now you've already done it.
     
  24. Julie says that novelty and originality are not synonyms, but more in opposition.
    Maybe I misread the two diagrams you present, but it seems that they can be considered the points of a triangle in which the photograph is at the top.
    Originality can be novelty (in some situations), novelty can be original (in some situations).
    It seems that Luis makes a very important point: "Novelty is not only transitory, but by its nature, addictive. Like all addictions, habituating."
    It's like a drug.
    To that end I am prone to using Fred's extended conception of novelty, who mentions "If I am going to look for novelty, I often appreciate novelty of approach and presentation, novelty of perspective and vision, novelty of style".
    Is there a diffused "novelty consumerism"?
     
  25. Addictive novelty is oxymoronic.
     
  26. If I make a photo I'm passionate about, the rest will likely follow.
    I was in Tampa a few days ago and saw an exhibit by MFA students at the Contemporary Museum on the campus of USF (University of Southern Florida). You could pretty much tell it was mostly a search for novelty and the exhibit was a sort of artistic caricature. It was one student trying to outdo the other on the scale of "you've never seen anything like this before." We left feeling a heavy dose of self consciousness and nothing much more, though one student's photo collages seemed to grab me.
    If this was a sort of consumerism, it was so only to an extremely niche market, perhaps only the in-crowd of MFA students and a few friends.
    I don't know where you're going with the idea of consumerism or novelty, for that matter. There is certainly a place for appealing to the consumer. One does it on the level one feels fulfillment. That can be financially motivated, popularity motivated, communicatively motivated, politically motivated, and to some extent artistically motivated . . .
    What do you want, if anything, out of making photos?
     
  27. Luca - "Is there a diffused "novelty consumerism"?
    That was one of the main driving forces of Modernism, and it wasn't very diffused. When Post Modernism began to emerge in earnest, ironically, while reducing novelty's role, it was er...novel.
    ___________________________________________________
    Artists compete for attention in many arenas: Financial, popular, communicative, political, artistic etc, to use Fred's list. Last year I spoke at length with a somewhat famous artist who has done more outrageous than novel art, and most of its novelty capitalizing on the new territory created by post 9/11 paranoia, though he started earlier than that. When I asked him how he came about the ideas that seeded these works, he said: "I was living in New York. How was I going to stand out? Be noticed? Reviewed?".
    ___________________________________________________
    There are few well-individuated artists at MFA shows. The consumerism, IMO, is heavily weighted towards a micro-market: The Faculty and Class peers. In Tampa, no gallerists or dealers cruise through the student studios hoping to discover emerging talent.
    ______________________________________________
    Fred - "What do you want, if anything, out of making photos?"
    It varies, but primarily the artistic cycle, almost equally, exploration/interaction/play/love of the inner and outer worlds.
    There is a place for appealing to the consumer, but which one? There's no secret as to what has wide appeal. Look at PN ratings. The consumers one appeals to depend on Fred's fulfillment bucket list.
    _____________________________________________
    During Modernism, you stopped at a drugstore to look at the postcards to rule out trite/cliche'd things/POVs to photograph. Then Robert Frank ruined that when he photographed the rack itself, and Stepehen Shore FUBARred the works when he inserted his own postcards into racks as he went from place to place. :)
     
  28. All things are novel to a young mind. That's a good thing. I get peeved at critics that review films, or whatever, meant for children with the usual lazy, been-there-done-that, analysis.
    Art schools are very competitive. Standing out from the crowd with gross novelty seems to be the surest tactic. As a result all student portfolios look the same. The merely competent conventional approach becomes the standout.
     
  29. Julie,
    Addictive novelty is oxymoronic.​
    :)
    Not necessarily, if addiction is to the character of novelty, regardless of the content.
    "I need to see a photo which is new to me every week/day/hour/minute ..."
     
  30. It is dangerous to pursue novelty for the sake of novelty. The risk is the celebration of naivety and of superficiality.
    If I am just satisfied with novelty, with originality at all costs, the risk in not to rest, not to reflect, not to let the image flow inside, to really understand what I am seeing.
    Rushing from one novel image to the other does not help understanding.
    There can be sophistication in a cliché, if photographed consciously.
    And you need time, and time, to go beyond the seductive temptation of novelty to properly understand what is underneath.
     
  31. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It is dangerous to pursue novelty for the sake of novelty. The risk is the celebration of naivety and of superficiality.​

    Why is it dangerous to be naive and superficial? Is there a requirement that everyone been profound and deep? Should everyone pursue exactly the same goals?
    Seriously, this seems deeply flawed to me. I don't see how it is any more dangerous to pursue novelty for the sake of novelty than to pursue profundity for the sake of profundity. Or beauty for the sake of beauty. It's not about "dangerous" at all.
     
  32. Let's say it is dangerous for me (here comes the old subjectivity tune).
    It is not dangerous to be open and unbiased, and that is not what I mean.
    It is not "naivety" or "profundity" for themselves. To me it does not make any sense to make such a choice out of principle.
    It is just that seeking the novelty could make you miss things.
    That is what I named "novelty (visual) consumerism" before.
    Sometime you need time, not necessarily for a rational or linear process, but just to make your sensations work. Of course also a rational approach benefits of time.
     
  33. Luca, how would you "seek" novelty? If you know what you're after, then it's not a novelty. If you understand something, then it's not novelty. If you're "seeking," then you have something, some thing already in mind.
    Novelty is something, event, object, ephemeral experience, etc. that escapes or refuses categorization -- all or in part. It is, therefore, a one-of-a-kind. If there are two, then it's a "two of ..." which means it's not a novelty to you. You've encountered one "like" it before. You've "placed" it into the already-known.
    Novelty IS a naïve encounter; it is necessarily superficial.
    From Deleuze, what precedes the quote already given in this thread:
    "... we do not perceive the thing or the image in its entirety, we always perceive less of it, we perceive only what we are interested in perceiving, or rather what it is in our interest to perceive, by virtue of our economic interests, ideological beliefs and psychological demands. We therefore normally perceive only clichés. But if our sensory-motor schemata jam or break ... "​
    There are things seen in naïveté and superficiality that aren't/can't be seen otherwise. We may see "the whole image without metaphor."
    If you read ... :
    "Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a grate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see."​
    ... as reader, you may experience that as novelty. But to the character whose thinking is being tracked, it's not novelty at all; it's just his normal stream of thought. And to James Joyce, writing it in Ulysses, it's not novelty either. He knows exactly what he's trying to do; exactly what he hopes to portray.
     
  34. Julie,
    I do not "seek" novelty in photographs. There is just a flow of images coming towards me, flooding me.
    I may be just after "photographs" in the most open way. I do not think that this required a pre-confectioned approach or pattern.
    But I am never completely naive, the more I deal with photography in general, the less naive and "superficial" I am.
    As soon as I am exposed to novelty, my background and "understanding patterns" kick-in. How can you sterilize your vision from your background. Novelty might not be categorised ex-ante, but the viewer of a photograph automatically categorises it the moment s/he is exposed to the novelty. As a matter of fact we are talking not about any novelty, but about novelty in images.
    Gilles Deleuze's quotation does not speak against it, on the contrary, it seems to me that he confirms it.
     
  35. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It is just that seeking the novelty could make you miss things​

    Like what, the mundane? This whole line of thought strikes me as naive and superficial. Photos can be about anything and be interesting, but some show people what they don't know about.
     
  36. There can be an engaging superficiality about what something looks like. This, and what's not seen, goes into photographs.
    ____________________________________
    Some think Arbus's subjects were treated as novelties (another word for this take on "novelty": curiosity). Some think there is more significance to her subjects and her treatment of them than that.
    ___________________________________
    Naiveté* can be charming or off-putting. Did you ever try to charm (enchant with a compelling or magical force) a viewer?
    *Is there a role for innocence in your (or anyone's) photography?
    __________________________________
    On the other hand, superficiality, novelty, and naiveté can be a big ol' bore.
    IMO, the question is not whether any of these is of value in and of itself, or whether we can recognize, for example, that superficiality can be used both negatively and positively. The question I would ask is how they can be used or seen productively, photographically, aesthetically?
    Can I be insightfully naive or innocent? Can I discover something in a novel subject or open others' eyes to something unfamiliar? What clues are on the surface? (Avedon inspired the latter question.)
     
  37. Novelty has a relatively short life span, so how important can it be, really? It's what may lure you in, what might open a new door. Is it about the opening of the door, or about the room you enter afterwards? While there are interesting thoughts so far (as I'm joining in a bit late), I cannot escape the idea that novelty is confused for whatever is/was novel itself. If I travel to Antartica tomorrow, that continent is going to be a novelty to me. But it's Antartica, not a novelty. The novelty is me experiencing it.
    It's important to search novelties (as a photographer/creative mind of sorts): to grow, to explore and to break new grounds. Novelty in style, presentation, vision - it may open up something new. But the novelty, it just opens up. It still demands the work itself to be good enough to endure (which is why it can indeed be cliché, as in Fred's example before), or the idea behind the novelty good enough to be used effectively. It can be a 15-seconds-of-greatness thing if it stays superficial and does not lift you higher (why do I think of streams of overcooked HDR images now?). It can be fantastic, when the newly opened door leads you somewhere. It's, unsurprisingly, the quality of the work containing the novelty in the end, not the novelty itself, that does the heavy lifting.
    It can be nice, interesting or educating to search novelties as a viewer. To inspire, to find new things, to learn about things you did not know. But well, broken record plays: it's an enabler, luring you into studying something and into growing.
     
  38. "Is it about the opening of the door, or about the room you enter afterwards?"
    Why do you go to art museums? Would you go if it was just like going to the supermarket?
     
  39. "Like what, the mundane? This whole line of thought strikes me as naive and superficial. Photos can be about anything
    and be interesting, but some show people what they don't know about."<br>
    <br>
    This is misreading my post.<br>
    I do not mean novel as a content, but novel as a concept by itself.<br>
    The reading of my post is simplistic. I'm thinking of the viewer's drive towards what s/he is seeing, not the impact of the
    novel.
     
  40. Julie- "Why do you go to art museums? Would you go if it was just like going to the supermarket?"
    Why do I go to museums to see the same show, often more than once? Or when I have a very good idea of what I'll be seeing the first time? Why do kids go to see The Hunger Games several times? I'm not nullifying or denying the idea of the novel and its "aha" moment, or that it can beget a string of ideas, sometimes in an instant.
    Fred - " What clues are on the surface? (Avedon inspired the latter question.)"
    Avedon's "superficial" was hardly superficial conceptually. An enormous amount of information can be on the surface in the way that a holograph can generate a hologram. But perhaps more significant are the keys or clues Fred alludes to in that they don't need to carry the information themselves, but unlock extant information in the viewer.
    Fred - "Is there a role for innocence in your (or anyone's) photography?"
    I think there's a potentially large usefulness in apparent naivete. Real naivete has its own brand of power, if coupled (serendipitouly?) with other things, but when it is real, it is usually -- but not always -- narrow. Look at the early photographs by Lartigue, to mention one easy-to-find example.
     
  41. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I do not mean novel as a content, but novel as a concept by itself.​

    Well you were the one that defined it thus:
    There are very strong images showing situations and places we are not familiar with.
    Besides their compositional elements, they hit us because of their novelty.​
    It's difficult to tell in this thread what's going on, because "novelty" is used in very different ways in different posts. I thought it best to stick with your original definition.
     
  42. Why do you go to art museums? Would you go if it was just like going to the supermarket?​
    In both cases, sometimes it's about new things I did not see or try before. Sometimes it's to go back to get/see/do something I enjoy a lot. Many museums do not show new objects, or novelties, frequently. Some supermarkets frequently change their products.
    I completely fail to see how it has anything to do with the actual thing I try to say. But perhaps my thinking is too conventional and not novel enough ;-)
     
  43. Supermarkets and museums can both provide sustenance.
     
  44. Re-thinking of the question, I would like to put it in a different way.
    Look at this photo.
    I think it is really beautiful, combining the landscape of an African town (southern Morocco) with the colours. I appreciate the tones, the composition, the shadow are.
    I think it is beautiful.
    But it is also new. To me.
    Imagine the reaction of a viewer who sees this photo each and every day. s/he might appreciate it from the photographic point of view, maybe less from the novelty point of view.
    Look at this photo.
    To me it's a most common scene, which I can see, or imagine to see, any time and everywhere.
    Do I feel attracted by the first photo also because it is new to me, and not attracted by the second because it is so common?
    In other words, what is the weight of the factor "novelty" when appreciating a photo?
    Would an inhabitant of the Southern Moroccan town find the second picture novel and appreciate it for that reason?
     
  45. Luca, getting a closer look at, or filling out what you already know, is not the same as novelty, in my understanding. You say that the first photo is new to you, yet you identify it, comfortably, as "landscape," "African," "town" "southern Morocco." You already know all these things about that photo -- it's not a novelty; what you see is a development of those already-known qualities.
    For me, novelty means encountering something/event/experience that you have not encountered before; that, in that encounter, you do not know what it is at all. Presumably, subsequent to the encounter, you will feel out what, to you, it might be (by extension, by metaphor, by gestalt) but its novelty consists in its not being able to be verbalized -- by definition (other than as itself -- as"novelty." Even "alien" seems to me to carry preconception).
    Novelty is that encounter. It is necessarily entirely personal and highly perishable.
     
  46. Julie, but here we have an issue with the essence of photography. Photographs - most cases - represent reality, something we can see around us.
    We look at the world and I wonder whether there is something really new: of course, there are different ways of presenting, combining, slicing the reality.
    Even if I was a Martian coming down to the earth I would have my own categories and it seems to me that the immediate, instinctive action is to compare the upcoming experience (what I see) with the previous experience and the categories (what I know, what I've learnt and how I combine it).
    Don't you think that the entire human perception is about finding the "box" where I can place the upcoming experience to add up to my knowledge? And the connection of these "boxes" (the categories) is what creates the understanding. If not so, it would mean creating an individual cognitive "box" for everything I see (it applies to any sensorial experience, as far as I know) and putting it away without ever coming back to it and without creating any connection with all other boxes.
    The Moroccan town is conceptually known to me as an aggregation of buildings, doors are conceptually known to me, colours are conceptually known to me, shadows and poles are conceptually known to me.
    What I see is a different way of presenting, which appeals to me.
    I wonder whether I can realistically expect to encounter something I have not encountered before in its entirety.
     
  47. Luca, a simple example would be Weston's green pepper. I can find more complicated examples if you like; instances that don't play with form but with what's going on between the (recognizable) forms.
     
  48. Yes, but it can be recognised as a pepper. At least I do. I can immediately place it in several known categories. Is this novel in your sense?
     
  49. Luca, in neither of your examples does novelty play a role for me. And neither leads me to think about what the image represents. When I look at the first one, I feel a bit immersed in a sense of scale, there's some sense of isolation/loneliness, a bit of disconnectedness, and a strong sense of geometry. The second photo feels like a snapshot and doesn't catch my interest.
    Weston's pepper is novel, in that he was the first (or among the first) to treat a common household vegetable in such an austere manner. That certainly informs my view of it, but it's more the play of shape and light, his bringing life to a still life, that holds my attention and keeps calling me back to look more. There's a sensuality to it that has little to do with the novelty factor of it and everything to do with my wanting to stay with it and experience it.
    __________________________________
    I wonder whether I can realistically expect to encounter something I have not encountered before in its entirety.​
    It depends where and how you look. The newness or novelty of the encounter may be more about how you see than what you see. I can walk down the very same city streets day after day and develop a mind set whereby I really do look naively at the world. Or, I can just do it by rote and see it as I did the day before.
    What a lot of photographers and artists do is not so much look for something new to encounter or for something they haven't encountered before, but encounter things anew. It's not in the thing encountered so much as in the encountering. The mind's eye can play an important role here.
    That having been said, I do have a less strict understanding of novelty than Julie, though I think the kinds of experience of novelty Julie is describing are quite special. So, for instance, I see novelty and value in Mapplethorpe having photographed the kinds of sexuality he did. It was pretty easily recognized for what it was. It wasn't the case that people saw his work and didn't know what it was at all. Yet, I think it was novel. And I think it was significant in bringing something into museums and galleries that hadn't been experienced before like that. While I feel Mapplethorpe's content to be very novel, and important for that, I never felt his vision of that content was particularly moving.
     
  50. Fred, I think it depends on our concept of novelty.
    In respect to the photographs, what I want to say about the first one is that it presents me something which in real life I am not used to.
    The motives you indicate are exactly those which make me like the image.
    The second is probably one of the worst - from my point of view, of course - photos I could choose.
    Your comment on Weston's pepper: I agree it's novel, but its novelty is related to the novelty of presentation, rather than the novelty of the subject itself.
    Here I think we need to make a distinction: the novelty of presentation is something completely different from the novelty of the subject. In this case I am particularly thinking of the perspective of the viewer of the photograph, and not so much from the one of the photographer, even if photographers are also viewers.
    I value Roland Barthes' conceptualisation a lot, when he distinguishes the three roles in photography: the photographer, the photographed (the subject), the viewer. Even if the roles can be interchangeable, they in principle start from different angles of creation, self-representation, and perception.
    As said, I was thinking of the perspective of the viewer.
    And also of the "scene" which is presented to him/her. And the the viewer being "used" to what s/he sees, or conversely, attracted by what s/he is not used to.
     
  51. Luca, how can you separate subject from presentation? A photograph is presentation.
     
  52. Luca, I'm with Julie on this. Something like a pepper had not been photographed before. It's the combination of the pepper and being photographed that is the novelty. It's context. A pepper is not novel in a salad. But it was in a photograph at the time.
     
  53. Yes, in photography subject and its presentation cannot be separated.
    But can we separate the presented subject from the perceived, or the projected subject?
     
  54. Another fellow with a camera could have been on the same street in South Africa on the same day at the same time and taken a picture very similar to the one of the two women walking. The picture might still have a novelty value . . . and then what?
    I just keep thinking of all the great painters of still lifes. It seems to me the seeing and the something are intertwined and the photographic or artistic significance is in the seen something more than the something seen. I'm not minimizing the subject, which the painters were obviously intimate with and, perhaps, in love with. But it's more.
    Cezanne
    Matisse
    Van Gogh
    Maybe there are just too many novelty travel snaps of exotic places that I can't stand looking at (from a photographic standpoint) to get too excited about.
     
  55. But can we separate the presented subject from the perceived​
    I assume a connection between what I present and what is perceived by a viewer and between what I perceive as a viewer and what is presented by a photographer. It's complex and it varies but, no, I don't think we can, and I wouldn't want to, separate them.
     
  56. I look at it this way, Luca. When I look at that first photo you posted today, I am not seeing the street. I am seeing a photo of the street. I am seeing the photographer's presentation of the street. That doesn't mean I'm seeing what he saw and doesn't mean I feel the way about his photo that he feels and doesn't mean I respond to what he saw the way he responded or respond to his photo like he responds to it. (Though there will be some connections and communication taking place.) But what I am looking at is his presentation.
     
  57. "But can we separate the presented subject from the perceived, or the projected subject?"
    Is it fountain or is it a urinal?
    Is that my pipe or not?
    [Actually it's an interesting question, Luca, just because my knee-jerk answer is "no." I'm still thinking ... ]
     
  58. Luca, I'm going to go airy-fairy for this post; forgive me if it drives you nuts ...
    If you can think of your ongoing life as a surface (bear with me, please), then most days in most places, that surface might be pretty smooth. Comfortable, even. However, if you pay attention, there are inevitably and everywhere, knots, nodes, bumps, tears, little (or big) irritations that scratch and drag; that resist, that don't "fit."
    I'd suggest that many pictures help make things smoother. However, some pictures go for the knots, the nodes; they work off of them, around them, taking the bend, the bifurcation as a launch out of smoothness.
    When I wrote, way, way, way back at the top of this thread that "irritation makes pearls" I was thinking about this. Novelty is something foreign. Something the flesh of the oyster rejects but can't expell. A bit of grit that causes malformation. Mal formation. Splits, spreads, swelling, scarring, regeneration. Difference (etc. etc.; my fairyness is wearing out ...)
    I've scanned a couple of pictures from Peter Fraser and Anders Petersen for you to consider. Fraser's are of stuff that is stupid, banal, mundane, not even colorful. And yet, and yet ... I think that they are just that kind of irritating little knot ("something happened here") that can, if one allows it, be novel; be an encounter that can make you stop and see (most people won't because the stuff is stupid, banal and mundane, and that's okay). [Link to Fraser combo]
    Petersen's are like a lot of Japanese photography -- high contrast and loudly odd. The scans are across two page spreads and are pretty awful, but you should be able to get the gist (the top one is of seafood and the lower is an appaloosa stallion). [Link to Petersen combo]
     
  59. If we cannot separate the presented subject from the perceived subject, wouldn't it mean that the photographer and the viewer are fused into one single entity.
    This is true when the photographer view his or her photograph, but this is not always the case. I do not think we can assume the con-fusion of viewer and photographer if they are not the same person.
    The fact that photographer and viewer are two different persons should determine the separation of the presented subject from the perceived subject.
    We may be told that "this is not a pipe", but we still are entitled to see a pipe, since we are not the author.
    In that respect it exactly true what Fred says "I am seeing the photographer's presentation of the street."
    When you add
    "That doesn't mean I'm seeing what he saw and doesn't mean I feel the way about his photo that he feels and doesn't mean I respond to what he saw the way he responded or respond to his photo like he responds to it.",
    isn't that exactly the separation the presented subject and the perceived subject?
    They may coincide, but not necessarily.
    And you correctly hint at the connections and communications taking place.
    You look the presentation, but you may perceive it differently from the intention of the author.
     
  60. If we cannot separate the presented subject from the perceived subject, wouldn't it mean that the photographer and the viewer are fused into one single entity.​
    No.
    Perceiving it differently or reacting to it differently doesn't mean there's a separation of the thing we're seeing and reacting to. Again, you're not seeing the street. You're seeing the photographer's presentation of the street. You cannot separate what you are seeing from the photographer's presentation of it because that's what you're seeing, a presentation. You and the photographer are two different people.
    You didn't ask if the photographer is separate from the viewer, to which I would answer "yes." You asked if the presentation was separate from what is perceived, and to that I would answer "no." The intention might well be separate from the response, but that doesn't mean the thing presented is separated from the thing perceived.
    A photo is something that exists outside the photographer and outside the viewer. The viewer may get in touch with the photographer's intent or may not. But that doesn't say anything about the photo as presentation. What the viewer has is the presentation. That's what he's looking at. And what the photographer has offered is the presentation which the viewer is looking at. What I'm saying is that what you are seeing is the photographer's presentation. I'm not suggesting you must be seeing his intent or are him.
    __________________________________
    "That doesn't mean I'm seeing what he saw and doesn't mean I feel the way about his photo that he feels and doesn't mean I respond to what he saw the way he responded or respond to his photo like he responds to it.",
    isn't that exactly the separation the presented subject and the perceived subject?​
    No. That's the separation between the viewer and the photographer. We have different reactions, different emotional responses, different associations. But what I am being presented with is not something I'm making up in my head. It's something the photographer is giving me.
     
  61. You didn't ask if the photographer is separate from the viewer, to which I would answer "yes." You asked if the presentation was separate from what is perceived, and to that I would answer "no." The intention might well be separate from the response, but that doesn't mean the thing presented is separated from the thing perceived.​
    We agree that the photographer is (can be) separate from the viewer.
    We also agree that I do not see the street, but the viewer's presentation of the street.
    What do you see as the difference between
    • perception, and
    • response?
    can you separate perception and response?
     
  62. Never mind perception and response. You talked about perception so let's stick with that. A viewer may or may not perceive (or be in touch with) the photographer's intention. Let's say the viewer does NOT perceive the photographer's intention, which is probably often the case. Just because I don't perceive his intention doesn't mean the presentation is separate from what I'm perceiving. The presentation may or may not carry signifiers of the photographer's intention and, whether the presentation does or doesn't carry those signifiers the viewer may not pick up on them or care about them. But the viewer is still seeing what the photographer has presented. You can present me with a picture of your daughter and you may intend for the picture to show how sad she was at the time you took the photo. You may not be a good photographer or you may not be in touch with signifiers of sadness and you may not realize that even sad people can have an expression that suggests happiness in one moment while they're sad. So I may perceive happiness and miss your intention completely, whether by my own shortcoming as a viewer, your shortcoming as a photographer, or no one's shortcoming but just a missed emotional communication. Still, I am seeing what you have presented me of your daughter. I didn't have the opportunity to be with her that day and figure out for myself what she looked like and what her expressions were throughout the day, what she may have said or done, etc. You have presented me with a stilled moment that you caught at a time when you chose to or happened to snap the shutter. That's your presentation, whether it conveys your intention or not. That's the raw materials I have to work with. I may make certain things out of what I see that have nothing to do with what she or you were feeling at the time. That's on me. That's what separates me from you. But I am still doing that with the presentation you've provided me.
     
  63. Getting back to perception and response now. You and I can both perceive the sadness of a little girl in a well-executed photo of a sad little girl. I might respond by remembering my sad sister and get a feeling of nostalgia and longing more overpowering than any feeling of grief I have at the sight of the photo of the little sad girl. You might empathize more and self-reflect or associate less and so you might stick with the grief and even cry. Our responses could be very different even though the photographer was very effective at getting us to perceive a sad little girl.
     
  64. Still, I am seeing what you have presented me of your daughter.​
    I'm not sure. You are seeing my daughter but the signifiers might not come through. So there might be my intention, but a wrong perception and a wrong response.
    So there is a separation of the intended perception and the perceived perception.
    And consequently of the response: I might be compassionate when I perceive sadness or, on the opposite, misleadingly perceive happiness where there is none.
     
  65. So there is a separation of the intended perception and the perceived perception.​
    Absolutely! And yet I am still seeing what you've presented. I just missed something or you missed conveying something. But you've presented what you've presented. And that's what I'm seeing. I can see your presentation without seeing your intention.
    ___________________________
    So there might be my intention, but a wrong perception and a wrong response.​
    I don't think there are wrong perceptions or wrong responses, just like I don't think your feelings can be wrong. They are just your feelings. They might be self destructive but there's nothing untrue about them. Perceptions just are. If I perceive a yellow sky because I'm under the influence of drugs or for whatever reason and everyone else present perceives a blue sky, I am not wrong. I am really perceiving a yellow sky even if I say to you how strange it seems because I know a sky should look blue. Believe me, been there, done that! If we can for a minute assess truth simply, the truth would be that I am perceiving yellow and that the sky is blue. (This is assuming that I know the correct word for yellow and the correct word for blue.) A color blind person's perceptions are not wrong. He is REALLY having them. They just don't coincide with others' perceptions. He can learn that when he sees red, everyone else is seeing blue, but he's really perceiving red and he's not wrong in saying that that's what he's perceiving.
    If you've conveyed your perception really well and everyone in the room gets it but me, I'm not having a wrong perception or a wrong response. I'm having a very true perception and response for me, that doesn't happen to coordinate with everyone else's. I might be wrong in THINKING ABOUT my perception. So, I might perceive sadness in the photo of your daughter and conclude it's because you beat her. If you don't beat her, I'd be wrong in making such a conclusion.
    There are a million and one reasons why I might perceive sadness in something a lot of other people perceive happiness in. Let's say it's a photo of a woman smiling. I might say it's a smile and you might say it's a smile and then you might say, well then you should perceive happiness. Then I might say it's just like my mother's smile and that's sad to me. I can't get past the sadness in order to perceive the happiness you're perceiving. What are you going to do?
    Now, I'm conscious that this could sound like an argument for "radical subjectivity." (I can't believe I'm voluntarily bringing this up.) I would say, of course, "no." Precisely because of the presentation we're talking about, which is still out of my control, though the perception of the presentation might not be.
    A photographer frames a scene. That's the presentation. The meaning is well beyond that.
     
  66. Consider phantom limb pain. The person who feels pain as if it's coming from an amputated limb is not wrong about feeling the pain. Where he would be wrong is if he assumed that, because he has such pain, he must still have the limb. The pain is REAL, he feels it. His statement, "I feel pain" is not wrong. It is true. Many conclusions he might draw from his feeling pain could be wrong.
     
  67. I don't know if this analogy will hold up or not, but it's worth at least a shot. I'm sure it will have some holes but if it gets the main point across, that's something . . .
    His leg has been amputated is analogous to this photo is a presentation.
    I feel pain in the amputated leg is analogous to I don't see the sadness you intended in your photo.
    I feel badly that he feels pain in his amputated leg
    is analogous to I do see sadness in your photo.
    I hate that guy and I'm happy he feels pain in his amputated leg
    is analogous to I see happiness in your photo because I think you delight in the sadness of the people you shoot.
    What we will generally agree on is that the patient's limb has been amputated. What we will generally agree on is that the photographer framed a scene and left some stuff out of the frame, shot from either above or below or pretty level, worked in color or black and white, took the photo when the girl had a tear in her eye and not the moment before when she didn't have a tear in her eye.
    There is a presentation that we then provide with various meanings and react to in different ways. There is a patient with an amputated limb and a bunch of different things going on around that.
    Now, I'll stop for a while!
     
  68. If I'm following Luca and Fred's exchange, above (and I'm not sure that I am), then I think it might help to make it explicit that a photograph (or a perception of any kind) enables; it does not justify. Justification (conclusions, meaning) are not a property of the photograph.
    A photograph enables, makes possible. If it is perceived as an "instantiation of" then conclusions can be drawn (justified) but believing that something is an instantiatiion of x, y, or z happens in the perceivers mind. It's not "in" the picture.
    It's Wouter's "opening the door." Whether or not you 1) see that openness, and 2) do or do not therein perceive an "instantiation of" that "justifies," has to do with ... everything. If it's not an "instantiation of" then we're back to novelty. I think.
     
  69. To me, importantly, photos show. My main point to Luca has been that the photo is there (and is in some sense alive). The intention isn't in the photo, the conclusion isn't, etc. But the photo (the presentation, the showing) is there. The intention may or may not be communicated. What's presented is shared, even if the intention is missed.
    Agreed that conclusions are not in the photo. (And that conclusions can be wrong.)
    Also wanted to make clear that intentions not only may not be picked up by the viewer, they may be so fuzzy or complicated that the photographer will often not be able to articulate or fully understand even his own. Even if that's the case, he has presented something, often something as curious to him as to the viewer. A good photographer can learn as much from his photos and photographing as he can put into them. The "sad girl" example was meant simplistically to illustrate something. Photographic emotions and intentions are much more complicated than that, interweaving, overlapping.
    And part of it is unintended, accidental and/or unconscious. [Maybe this leads us back to novelty. There seems to me something novel about accidents.]
     
  70. Yes, the photo is there. It cannot be separated from its subject. But the subject has its own presence, and I suspect that it has its own presence also in the eye of the viewer.
    [Btw, I mistakenly wrote "wrong perception" and "wrong response". It is not wrong, its is just "different" or "non corresponding"].
    I am not so sure that presentation, perception and response are united.
    Fred sees a street in the picture of Morocco. I see houses, doors and shadows and a lonesome figure. I have no idea of what the photographer wanted to show.
    Maybe he just wanted to show the view from his window.
    We are presented the photograph. We are told that it is a photo taken in Assa, southern Morocco, probably away from the traditional touristic pathways. We are presented the perspective of the photographer on Assa.
    Once the photographer presents it, he loses control over the perception (I might see the street, the colours, the doors, the unfinished roofs, the shadow, the lonesome figure), but he also loses control over the response (I might think of a township, of the wall construction technique, of the way colours are used - Morocco is known for the dyes which are used).
    In fact the photo is there, as there is a connection between presentation, perception and response, but it seems extremely fuzzy to me.
     
  71. Nobody said it wasn't fuzzy! :)
    ___________________________
    Yes, the photo is there. It cannot be separated from its subject.​
    I disagree. In many ways, I think photos ARE very much separate from their subjects. A picture of a girl is NOT a girl. A photo can become the subject itself and the "subject" can recede. The subject can become in the viewer's eye an abstraction, a play of light and shadow.
    ______________________________
    Fred sees a street in the picture of Morocco. I see houses, doors and shadows and a lonesome figure. I have no idea of what the photographer wanted to show.
    Maybe he just wanted to show the view from his window.​
    I agree that you may have no idea what the photographer wanted to show. The photographer may not have an explicit idea of what he wanted to show. That's why he showed you a picture instead of telling you why he took the picture.
    That you say you see houses, doors, and shadows and I say I see a street doesn't mean we're not sharing in seeing the photo (the presentation). It just means we're describing what we see differently. There is still a photo there that we didn't create, our varying descriptions notwithstanding.
    _______________________________
    Once the photographer presents it, he loses control over the perception.​
    No. I think he loses SOME control. Because he shot it from his perspective and chose the time and the moment and the exposure, etc., he will always have some control. IMO, it's already kind of built in because he took it. That's part of the reason why your looking at the table is different from your looking at a picture of the table. In some significant sense, your looking at the photo of the table that I created is looking at MY photograph. And in some sense, it also becomes yours. Thus the sharing.
    A good photographer, I think, is aware of the control that will and must be lost and the control (or power) he has in terms of HOW he presents what he presents. Why do you say you like Eggleston's work or Eggleston is a good photographer (let's assume for the moment you do)? If what you say about photos and photographers and control were true, you would simply say about an Eggleston: this is MY photo and I like it. You wouldn't bring Eggleston into the picture! (IMO)
    _____________________________
    Julie, or anyone, a question occurred regarding this:
    A photograph enables, makes possible.​
    In terms of enabling and possibility, how does a photo differ from a table or any other object I might perceive?
    ____________________________________
    I guess what I'm getting at in this post is that a photo is tied to an author, however loosely or tightly, which varies. Even if nothing at all is known about the author, we know there is one.*
    *Let's exclude for the moment cameras that take pictures of cars going through red lights, which may be a nebulous area in terms of authorship.
     
  72. " ... how does a photo differ from a table or any other object I might perceive?"
    If you're into embodied cognition, being is movement with/in/to/from (eyes, head, body, etc.); to verify, to locate, to position to interact etc. etc. You can take it from there ...
     
  73. Thanks, Julie, but I don't know what you mean.
     
  74. Luca - "We may be told that "this is not a pipe", but we still are entitled to see a pipe, since we are not the author."
    One is entitled to see anything, I suppose, but we are not seeing a pipe. We are seeing a representation of a pipe, transduced onto a 2-dimensional space, out of time, etc.
    Luca - "So there might be my intention, but a wrong perception and a wrong response."
    That would be true if we limited photography to a mere transmission of literal fact, something like a misunderstood business memo, or text about meeting at a restaurant. Photography would then be about transmitting information via unambiguous iconographic means. In terms of information, this would always make it's meaning the same size or smaller than its conceptual envelope. Even with forensic photography, there are ambiguities, and the context affects meaning. The photograph of your daughter, in a family album/slide show/digital frame or your phone preceded by other pictures of her, and/or captions, would go a long way towards narrowing the range of possible responses, though the intention-perception (and I would add interpretation of those perceptions) disconnect remains.
    The early propagandist graphics/photos of the Soviets and US in the 1930's, though different, largely employed simple language/captions/slogans to forcefully narrow the range of potential readings of the images. What if the Morocco picture had no caption? Or if it was captioned "Solitary Man"? What I am saying is that no matter what the photographer intends, there is no intrinsic, immutable (here comes that word again!) essence in the photograph. And I suggest that if there was, photography would be a dull 3rd-rate lowbrow medium, and experiencing photographs akin to reading a very literal Tweet.
    [Yesterday I was out photographing with a friend who told me a story about a photographer (who also happened to be a fireman) who would stand behind viewers looking at his work and eavesdrop to see how people "got it wrong". ]
     
  75. Luis,
    One is entitled to see anything, I suppose, but we are not seeing a pipe. We are seeing a representation of a pipe, transduced onto a 2-dimensional space, out of time, etc.​
    Tough. Because this way we might be entering the realm of sensorial perception. Dogs do not "see colours", bees apparently see only spots of colours and the sun.
    Apparently what we are seeing is an elaboration of our eyes and neurons.
    Magritte's work is a painting. A photograph in the majority of cases is something different. Ceci n'est pas une pipe is a representation of a pipe.
    But if a photographer would present us with the photograph of a pipe, we would see a pipe even if the photographer would intend to manipulate the projection of the picture stating that it is not a pipe.
    But that was Magritte's precise intention.
    As I said, the adjective "wrong" in association with "perception" or "response" is ... wrong. It should say "different" or "unintended".
    If the Morocco picture had no caption, I would have broadly identified the place, and I would be attracted by it in any case.
     
  76. Luca, what do you think is the photographer's role in the photograph? And do you think that role really ends at the doorstep of the viewer? Do you think a photographer puts any sort of stamp on what he has seen? What's the difference, to you, between a pipe and a photograph of a pipe? If Steven Shore took a picture of a pipe and a German Expressionist from the 30s took a picture of a pipe, do you think you might be able to tell a difference and identify one as being from one photographer and the other as being from someone else? No doubt, there would be nothing fool proof about the identification, but there are many signs of authorship that can inform photos and their viewing. The viewer is NOT on his own, even though he has great freedom. Even freedom is not absolute, IMO. It is relational.
     
  77. But that was Magritte's precise intention.​
    I'd be careful claiming what Magritte's precise intention was. Even if I were Magritte! And je ne suis pas Magritte. [Hope I got the French close to correct.]
     
  78. :)
    without the photographer there would be no photograph to look at.
    Of course there is a relation, but here there is the hypothesis of separation of author and viewer, even if it is merely theoretical.
    And also there are other influences, supporting your Shore/German expressionist example.
     
  79. Luca, sorry, don't know what you're saying.
    I don't know how what you're saying works. "Of course there is a relation" and "but here there is the hypothesis of separation of author and viewer." What's the relation and what's the separation is my question? What do you mean when you say the photographer loses all control once the photo is in the viewer's hands. That doesn't sound like a relation to me. It sounds like a rift.
    ______________________
    "Without the photographer there would be no photograph to look at."​
    Very true. Is that what you think is the extent of the photographer's affect/influence/control? That there wouldn't be a photograph without him . . . and nothing more? I'm not clear on where your answer gets us and if you think that's it or not.
     
  80. If you're into embodied cognition, being is movement with/in/to/from (eyes, head, body, etc.); to verify, to locate, to position to interact etc. etc. You can take it from there ...​
    Julie, I was earnestly asking you for a clarification of what you are saying here. I don't understand it and would like to. It was a serious question about the difference between a photo and other objects in terms of the perception possibilities.
     
  81. Of course there is a relation, but here there is the hypothesis of separation of author and viewer, even if it is merely theoretical.​
    Certainly, the photographer produces a photo. When the viewer is exposed to it a relationship is created. The "direction" of this relationship should however be difficult to predict. I am also unsure on how much control in general the photographer has over the reaction and response of the viewer.
    Once the image is passed on, who can say what the authentic relation is, its content?
     
  82. Once the image is passed on, who can say what the authentic relation is, its content?​
    I think it's important to consider beyond "who can say?" It's, for me, at least, a very important aspect of the communication part of photography. I want to be able to communicate. That's why I learn a language, and photography can serve as a visual language. That is much less strict, much less literal, and much less direct than the spoken or written word, but it is a language nonetheless. Assuming that signs, signifiers, and symbols are recognized and have some sort of shared emotional thrust (if not shared literal meaning), assuming that my choices will have an effect on the eye movement of a viewer, that my perspective will suggest a certain tone, that my voice will carry through a body of work, all tells me that what I put into a photo is more important than just my doing it. It has to mean SOMETHING to the eventual viewer or at least have an effect, even if I can't predict it verbatim. This is not about translating nor is it about certainty. But it is about sharing and it is about communicating. That requires, IMO, that I consider what it is I put into a photo that has an effect. No, I don't necessarily consider it consciously when I'm making a photo. But I am a part of my photos enough to know that the viewer's response does not simply take place in their own vacuum. I have established a connection, through the photo. I don't know why I would share photos if there weren't more to my role in their being than just having produced them. I'm not just a name on a plaque in a gallery.
    Uncertainty about the relation seems a good start and it will always remain so. But that doesn't mean the relation is severed when the viewer is given the photo. Uncertainty is a good place to be. It shouldn't make us suspicious that there is no place. Uncertainty, IMO, is part of the beauty of photographic communication. It doesn't undermine it.
     
  83. "Embodied"; where to begin? Surely you're familiar with phenomenology? (Merleau-Ponty; "The theory of the body is already a theory of perception" and "Vision is palpation with the look.") Below is some from Alva Noë's Action in Perception:
    "The world makes itself available to the perceiver through physical movement and interaction. ... I argue that all perception is touch-like in this way: Perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession of bodily skills. What we perceive is determined by what we do (or what we know how to do); it is determined by what we are ready to do. In ways I try to make precise, we enact our perceptual experience; we act it out.
    "To be a perceiver is to understand, implicitly, the effects of movement on sensory stimulation. Examples are ready to hand. An object looms larger in the visual field as we approach it, and its profile deforms as we move about it. A sound grows louder as we move nearer to its source. Movement of the hand over the surface of an object give rise to shifting sensations. As perceivers we are masters of this sort of pattern of sensorimotor dependence. This mastery shows itself in the thoughtless automaticity with which we move our eyes, head and body in taking in what is around us. We spontaneously crane our necks, peer, squint, reach for our glasses, or draw near to get a better look (or better to handle, sniff, lick or listen to what interests us). The central claim of what I call the enactive approach is that our ability to perceive not only depends on, but is constituted by, our possession of this sort of sensorimotor knowledge."
    [ ... ]
    "We are not given the visual world all at once as in a picture; we must reach out and grasp the detail (as it were) by movements of our eyes and head. We possess the sensorimotor knowledge to be effective in our exporation. It is this mastery that is the basis of our sense of the presence to vision of what is in fact beyond our reach. It is this mastery that is the basis of perceptual content."
    [ ... ]
    " ... to engage in phenomenology is, if the enactive view is right, to study the way in which perceptual experience -- mere experience, if you like -- acquires world-presenting content. For the world as a domain of facts is given to us thanks to the fact that we inhabit the world as a domain of activity."​
     
  84. Yes, yes, Julie, familiar with much of that. Sorry, I wasn't clear. I was hoping you could specifically relate the idea of embodied cognition to my question about the difference between a photograph and a tree or table re: authorship. What happened was you answered my question about the difference between a table and a photograph by stating and describing "embodied cognition" and I didn't understand how it was answering the question. Sorry for being dense. You suggested I could take it from there and I can't.
     
  85. In a teeny-tiny nutshell:
    As you move (eyes, head, body) around a table, it confirms or rejects conjectures about it (nearer, farther, wider, thinner, thicker, heavier; you can or cannot lift or move it, it is hard or rough or dark or light, etc.). At the same time, the table confirms or rejects conjectures about you. You are nearer, taller, shorter, stronger, etc. etc. as confirmed by the table (along with everything else of the world). The table is made by these confirmations; you are made by the confirmations of the world. But (as you know, phenomenologically) these two are not two, but one inseparable, ongoing union. We are made by and of our body in the world.
    A picture of a table, on the other hand, confirms only one presentation. Therefore all other presentations are left neither confirmed nor rejected (if we choose to see the presentation as "a table" and not a piece of inked paper). Depending on how imaginative you are, this means you either can fabricate at liberty, or ... not.
    But remember that, as your movement makes the world, the world makes you; in this respect, the picture of a table leaves you largely "unmade."
     
  86. Got it, thanks. It's actually a rather big nutshell!
     
  87. Probably the value of novelty is only for a superficial viewer. If I only appreciate a photo because it shows something
    "exotic" to me I have done no effort whatsoever to put my understanding, intelligence and skill into viewing. The surprising
    is "easy", the challenge is to try and go beyond. The ability of the viewer is to appreciate if any subject, known or not, is
    photographed and presented "well".
     

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