When the Viewer Doesn't Get it

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jordan2240, Nov 2, 2014.

  1. A couple days ago, I started a thread asking for examples of shots that you think might be over-analyzed by viewers. It didn't go quite in the direction I'd expected, but lead to some interesting conversation nonetheless and the realization that many do take shots with an intended message or at least hope the viewer will consider something beyond the aesthetic. So, in the converse to that post, I'm wondering what shots netters might have that they tried to send a message with or tell a story with that perhaps viewers didn't or wouldn't get. And, if you've had the pleasure of having work on display that was discussed, how did you feel when the viewers didn't get it?
    My example comes from a shot I set up when either I or my wife broke a glass putting it in the dishwasher. I thought it was kind of interesting how it had broken, and wanted to use it in a photo. Below is what I came up with, with the intent of portraying a specific message. Since my 'work' is only displayed in my den, it doesn't get viewership from other than friends and family, but some did comment on it, with at least one understanding my intent. The title would probably give it away if the message isn't already obvious, but even then, viewers come from many different perspectives, so there are never any guarantees.
    00cvZl-552209284.jpg
     
  2. Rum. scotch, vodka, on the rocks / Even bourbon and tequila...

    Photographs, all art really, in most cases works bsy when there is a measure of ambiguity inherent in the work - you need
    to leave a little "space" for the viewers' emotions and intellect to engage with the work. The exceptions are those with
    propagandistic intent like Picasso's "Guernica"

    If you are only making your photos for yourself do whatever you like because why would you care what other people
    think?
     
  3. "The title would probably give it away if the message isn't already obvious, but even then, viewers come from many different perspectives"​
    My perspective as soon as I saw it before reading... A still life set up to portray some unspecified message. The photo below resonated more as it conveyed something that did not appear to be manufactured to convey something. Even if it was.
     
  4. Smashed!
    My daughter paints for stress relief, and I'm constantly saying, "That looks like ...." or, "What is it?"
    Yet when I frame any of my work I am at a loss for a caption. Sunset #1, Mt. Ringo, Eid road , etc., etc, sound so boring. I wish I had the gift of being able to ascribe meaning.
    Yet, I believe that photography, much of it, is a search for meaning. A capturing of place and time. Maybe that is why I find it easier to shoot in a place that I'm not familiar with than around home--where I am busy looking for meaning.
    I think the search for a label frustrates me, while the search for meaning drives me.
    OK, that's enough - I'm only on my first cup of coffee.
     
  5. I'd generally agree with Ellis regarding leaving some room for interpretation. There's a phrase that comes up often among movie makers, song lyricists and critics: "on the nose". In that context it refers to scripts, lyrics, direction or performances that smack of the handiwork of Captain Obvious.
    Visual cues that may have been novel once upon a time - say, when Bruegel or Hogarth used them - eventually become tropes as more artists use the same visual narrative techniques. Not cliches - yet - but familiar visual shorthand for communicating concepts. Eventually, as the public consciousness thoroughly integrates the meta narrative of the visual language, some images do risk becoming cliches, too "on the nose".
    A common example is the ironic juxtaposition in street photography: camping out in a spot where a billboard, store window poster or bit of graffiti points toward a spot, and waiting for a passerby to fill the void. The ironic juxtaposition isn't necessarily bad, and often it can be very good. But it's a well trodden path and risks becoming a bit tiresome when, say, the street photographer camps out in front of a store or billboard depicting a beautiful model and waits for a haggard old woman to pass by. At this point in the cumulative shared visual language, it's the equivalent of a Milton Berle joke: "See what I did there? It's ironic. You get it? It's like a joke. For the eyes. Do you get it or are you too dense? Where's my agent, I need a better class of viewer..." (My apologies to anyone who actually thought Uncle Miltie was funny.)
    Cinematography and directorial choices run the same risk. I'm still undecided, for example, about Wes Anderson's techniques. I'd need to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel before deciding. Much as I admire the Coen brothers for their visual choices, after re-watching Barton Fink this year I suspect that one reason it's not among their critical or popular best is because they hit the visual choices a bit too hard, too obviously, too on the nose. In comparison films with open vistas like O, Brother Where Art Thou, Raising Arizona and Fargo better suit their expansive visual style. And while I find the original German Expressionism films interesting only from a historical perspective, I really like what Coppola did with those tropes in his version of Dracula. Perhaps ironically (oh, yikes, the dreaded "I" word), Coppola's use of iconographic German Expressionism is very, very obvious, very on the nose. Coppola is practically bellowing "Look what we did here. Get it? It's an homage to every great cinematic technique, ever! And we did it all the old fashioned way, no CGI!" Yet it works wonderfully well in that movie, perhaps because it's a nose thumbing drunken revel in those tropes and it dares the viewer not to enjoy it.
    I don't wish to discount the value of irony or deliberate use of photographic elements to convey a message, or at least hint at a concept. But I'd reiterate a point I made in the previous related thread:
    "Photographers always imbue their intentional photographs with some message, however abstract or unformed... Creators are seldom in complete control of their creations. As with involuntary "tells" recognized by poker players and lie detectors, we often add subconscious context to our conscious content in photographs, art, music, writing and anything we create."​
    Suppose Bill's photo omitted the bottle, but retained exactly the same composition, space and aspect ratio. Just a blank, black space next to the cracked glass. What might viewers make of that? (Hint: the typical photo.net salon style critique would suggest cropping.)
     
  6. Sans bottle.
    00cvb2-552212384.jpg
     
  7. Gup

    Gup Gup

    Now what does it mean?​
    My kids are home for the weekend.
     
  8. I'm wondering what shots netters might have that they tried to send a message with or tell a story with that perhaps viewers didn't or wouldn't get.​
    Most of photography from what I've seen online and here are not necessarily creating images that intend to tell a narrative or message style story as their primary goal. Most just want to show the viewer how they see the world and what grabs their attention at the same time make it grab other's attention either through their understanding of composition and/or image enhancement and ability to emphasize as I illustrated with the American flag train image in the other thread.
    If photographers want folks to get a message seen in their images, they have to be deliberate and not vague about what they want to say or else the viewer will misinterpret and/or become confused just as I did when I saw Bill's image of the broken glass and bottle of liquor I took as it being knocked over breaking the glass. Clumsy drunk drinker who needs to turn on a light so he doesn't knock over objects that might break things? Was that your message, Bill?
    The link below was an exhaustive study of how to communicate through imaging from a Famous Artist Course back in the '50's and '60's. It's on composition. These guys had to learn this way back then because before photography they had to draw and paint scenes for advertisers that required they tell a story through images in order to get to the point very quickly and they became VERY good at it. I used some of that image language communication when I shot the American flag train image.
    http://animationresources.org/instruction-composition-how-to-make-pictures/
    Scroll down to Composition and click on each page which will make it larger so you can read it.
    I don't have any pictures that are suppose to send a message. Mine are just to show how I see the world and where I go to view it so I'm not concerned how folks interpret it.
    What's to be said anyway that already hasn't been said seeing the media and imaging in general has reached full saturation within the conscious mind of the general public. There's too much to look at that the message, if there is any, isn't getting through because of dilution of public's VERY divided attention.
     
  9. Gentlepersons:
    “When the Viewer Doesn't Get it”. Hmmm...
    Wow, does that piss off some artists who then look down on the viewer as ignorant or tasteless. Many times I’ve seen that reaction and been tempted to say to the so called artist “When you thought you were being so cleverly subtle and artistic, you were simply being obtuse.”
    A. T. Burke
     
  10. Good one Gup. I can relate.
    If you are only making your photos for yourself do whatever you like because why would you care what other people think?​
    For the same reason as anyone who creates something they display in their home, on their person, on the web, etc. Just because you create it for yourself doesn't mean you don't like to get the occasional comment about it.
    The message I was trying to convey was 'Alcohol can shatter lives.'
    Another example is the POW from two weeks ago. I don't know that most would typically get 'pissed off,' but artists can be a temperamental lot. Though if the message isn't coming across, then it's largely the photographer's fault.
     
  11. What's to be said anyway that already hasn't been said seeing the media and imaging in general has reached full saturation within the conscious mind of the general public. There's too much to look at that the message, if there is any, isn't getting through because of dilution of public's VERY divided attention.​
    Tim, that's not my experience, except for the web to a certain extent. I'm privileged to live in a city that has a lot of local galleries, independent studios, and still an appreciation for careful looking at photos. So I get to see a lot of other photographers' work, which often is fairly deliberate, and I also get to hear from a lot of people who take the time to focus their attention on a photo more than the quick glances we become used to when we see what people are doing and saying on the web.
    ____________________________________________

    I'm with the group that thinks messaging can be fairly nonspecific and left with a lot of ambiguity.
    I also find myself sometimes thinking quite specifically about what I'm trying to express but not hoping the viewer will get that. It can just help me focus on my photo and commit to a vision. For me, sometimes having a message clearly articulated to myself and effectively shown in the photo to my own satisfaction (or if not an out and out message, at least a kind of expressive intent) can simply help the photo take on a more significant shape, which I think the viewer is more likely to perceive or sense than specifically understand or interpret as I do. In other words, by articulating to myself a message or expressive intent, I can help imbue a photo with significance. The viewer's having a significant and moving viewing experience will be more important than whatever specific message he or she may get. That being said, I love hearing the messages people get. Their willingness to share something of themselves in exchange for seeing my photo is great. And I can sometimes learn things from their responses, about them, about me, about the photo . . .
    00cvcP-552216584.jpg
     
  12. In other words, by articulating to myself a message or expressive intent, I can help imbue a photo with significance. The viewer's having a significant and moving viewing experience will be more important than whatever specific message he or she may get.​
    I understand and get your intent behind the photo you posted, Fred, and the significance you imbued it, but it's a different kind of image language most wouldn't know how to articulate or be able to share in your expression and POV.
    Your message in your photography is pretty much along the lines of what I said about my intent which simply put says..."Welcome to my world and how I see and feel about it...I don't know if you'll be able to see and feel the same, but I hope so". What message is that? Does it have to be a message? That would be my internal dialog as a message derived from your work. I don't know if others would have the same internal dialog.
    I'm going to have to assume that you have a limited audience who'll have the time and sensitivity to see and feel the same and get the message or expression you imbue to your images.
    I assumed Bill's intent starting this thread was meant as a general exploration of whether a wide range of folks can share, see and feel the same thing about an image. But thanks for your input and sharing your thoughts on this subject.
    I wish I knew how to move this discussion forward so that many reading and contributing could take something of meaningful value concerning communicating with images.
     
  13. The message I was trying to convey was 'Alcohol can shatter lives.'​
    OH, I GET IT!
    --Lannie
     
  14. I didn't.<br>I thought the message was to be careful with hard liquor, 'cause it may shatter your glass. Ah well...
     
  15. I thought the message was, 'sloppy people waste good booze.'
     
  16. Everything should be in the hands (mind!) of the viewer. The photographer, having done his work, should leave it at that. Bill's photo needs no title, even Guernica could have had an immense message without knowing its title, although the importance (infamy) of the particular attack by the Nazis merits a title in order to target a specific interpretation.
    Many viewers don't get my visual messages, but that doesn't bother me. Some get messages that I didn't intend but which are nonetheless valuable for them. That they might find the subject of interest and think about what they are seeing is sometimes quite enough. Nobody can rob me of my own interpretation, which remains nonetheless.
    It is interesting that sometimes the most easy to read message by most viewers can be very simple and self-evident,sometimes toi the point of banality or of "déjà vu". That is fine if that is the objective, but much good art is more complex than that and therefore requires an effort to understand fully and can consequently receive different interpretations. "Getting it" or not is not an obligation.
     
  17. When people are supposed to get the message, the message should be in a language they can understand. Just like wanting to converse with someone speaking another language requires either you or him to learn to use the other's language, it is required to learn the photographic language.<br>If people don't get the message, wrapped up in a photo they may not speak the lingo, or the message itself is unclear because the photographer has yet to master the lingo. Or both.<br><br>Two things in your post, Arthur, make me scratch my head. If you want to send a message, why does it not bother you that it is not picked up? "Getting it" is the only thing that makes sending out a message worth doing.<br>And where and how does the concept of "robbery" fit in a communications issue?
     
  18. I assumed Bill's intent starting this thread was meant as a general exploration of whether a wide range of folks can share, see and feel the same thing about an image.​
    Tim, we probably had different understandings of Bill's question. I took him more literally to mean an actual message, a literal visual communication of something he might put into words.

    In terms of the question as you state it ("share, see and feel the same thing about an image"), that may have been what I was getting at in talking about expressive intent as opposed to a more literal sort of message. I see the sharing of feelings as a little more metaphorical, photographically speaking, and the sharing of messages as more literal.

    To answer your question about wide groups of people sharing, seeing, and feeling the same thing from an image, I'd say it can be and often is done. And it does require what Q.G. is saying, an adept use of visual language accessible to the group being reached. That's why artists talk about symbolism, signs, and referents. I also think gesture is important, gestures that people in a photo may make and gestures that the photographer can make in composing the shot and aiming the camera. These can be key in many people sharing in the feeling of a photo. I may not have a specific message, but if I want to generally convey the sadness of my aunt, I probably will not show her doing jumping jacks in the bright sun. Fog or mist, on the other hand, could help. But most important will often be the expression on her face. Certain perspectives will often affect people a certain way. You shoot up at someone from below, especially with a wider angle lens which will exaggerate the perspective, and you are likely to get a kind of iconic or heroic read on the image. That's not necessarily putting out a specific message like "He's a war hero." It would take a uniform, perhaps, to get as specific as that. But to get the shared feel of awe and respect, of larger than life, a strong perspective shot from below could well do the trick. I'd say, in terms of shared feelings, sharing them is more about being in the same ballpark than quantifying exact similarities.
     
  19. J"the message should be in a language they can understand. Just like wanting to converse with someone speaking another language"
    But why would a Photographer/Artist seek to please others? It is a very nice thought that folks like to please others....but Im not sure how true that is in the real world.
    Perhaps adoration is what they are seeking.
    Doing their own thing I would have thought most folks do; and if others like it....well, that is nice with the kindness of sharing.
    Sometimes I think photography is turning into some sort of popularity contest. The real deal is individuals expressing their natural desires to create Art. Fust for their personal satisfaction... and if others like it well that is nice too.
     
  20. In the previous conversation I initiated this week, I was addressing the tendency I have noticed at times for viewers to over-analyze an image. I was hoping for some examples from others of images they felt might be over-analyzed simply because I felt it an interesting topic. Few were presented, but the conversation addressed some philosophical thoughts that made for interesting discussion. The notion was presented within that conversation that most images present something beyond the literal view.
    So, I thought it would be equally as interesting to have a conversation at the polar opposite, where a message was explicitly intended that we hoped was successfully conveyed. The intent wasn't to specifically discuss my own example image extensively, though I did think that, as images were presented, there would be some discussion as to their meaning if for no other reason than it would be entertaining. Nonetheless, some interesting responses again even if my original expectation was not realized.
     
  21. The true Artist finds their way only if ,like the candle, they are only their own fuel, consuming themselves.
     
  22. "have a conversation at the polar opposite, where a message was explicitly intended that we hoped was successfully conveyed"
    Okay, perhaps a little bit of imagination is required.
    .
    00cveB-552219684.jpg
     
  23. Why would it be a matter of pleasing others, Allen? It may well be a matter of wanting to offend others, or inform, or instruct, or whatever you like. But if that (whatever it is) is what you like, for yourself, it has to be effective. Else you would not even be, uhm... pleasing yourself.<br><br>What is a true artist, i wonder, if he is supposed to be someone who only feeds off himself. Someone completely out of touch, noone would ever think worth their while, except, perhaps as a freak show attraction, as The Incredibly Out of Touch Man?<br>The true artist is someone who doesn't substitute something such as being A True Artist for being a true human being like the rest of us. Including all dependencies, needs, desires to break free from dependencies and needs, etc. Only then is he or she him or herself.
     
  24. Bill, you were asking the same question both times. So you got the same answers twice.
     
  25. :The Incredibly Out of Touch Man?"
    Well, they do tend be introverted doing their own thing. Selfish in their Art.
    Generally not crowd pleasers...look at the History of Art there are so many insights.
     
  26. Q.G. - first thread - post an image with no intended meaning that others might over-analyze. Second thread - post an image with an intended meaning that others might not get.
    Not the same.
     
  27. Drinking shatters lives, huh. Well, I could come up with some other ways to demo that besides a still life with a mere pint and not a magnum and a crystal glass, more for wine than gin. So where is the hit them where they can't miss the message. Sprawl a fellow in a doorway ( you can do the modeling) with a paper bag of cheap wine. Appropriate rags of course. Got to get em in the gut. Or the gut rot. But then messages are not all that exciting to all PN viewers. Beauty might be a more fun message...or Mohter Love....or Solitude......or Frenetic Activity.. Or even something with Energy demonstrating enthusiasm or Joy of a New Set of Wheels etc..challenge for the messenger, but shoot him not... Oh yes, I think ambiguity is over rated. Give me the simple life. A shot of kids in play works.
    PS. To show the message that alcohol make a party a party look at all the ads from prestige boozer companies in the magazines. You have to be as strong with a punch as they do extolling the fun of a 'punch.' SeewhatImean? Aloha, gs
     
  28. A lot of people over the years have looked at my photos, and I have come to expect nearly every one of them to overlay their own interpretation on my photos to some degree. Its normal human nature. Images "trigger" thoughts, memories, emotions, that exist within the viewer. No photographer/artist can know what triggering will occur in another person. Sure, there are universal themes, memes, tropes, cliches, etc., but beyond that there is the personal stuff. Duh.
    00cvf4-552222084.jpg
     
  29. A wink wink message has to be universal enouugh to cross cultures without ambiguity. With technique sublimated to universal experience of the Human Comedy.
    00cvfF-552222384.jpg
     
  30. "Sans bottle... "Now what does it mean?"" That it was put in the recycling bin.
     
  31. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I just point and shoot. If people want to see something in the photos, that's their problem.
    [​IMG]
    Adult Baby
     
  32. Yeah, there's also some validity to Mr. Natural's philosophy:
    "Mr. Natural! What does it all mean?"
    "Don't mean sheeit."
     
  33. Werner Herzog's "Cave of forgotten dreams" documentary deals with this interesting aspect of 30k years old cave paintings: their meaning and our ability (or inability) of understanding them. There are no humans from that time to explain these images to us not there is a convenient title inscribed underneath. Still these images are deeply moving even thou we may understand them completely "wrong" as to what their creators intended.
     
  34. Bill, in both threads the intended meaning and what meaning the viewer reads in the photo do not match. In both, because it was not immediately obvious what to read, it was left open to either speculation (easy to do, so most common) or required the viewer to investigate.<br>You could say that is because the photo fails to bring the intended meaning across, does not work as the message bearer it is supposed to be. But that would be too easy, of course, because not all of the burden rests with the photo. There is an effort required from the viewer too. But the viewer is in a disadvantaged situation, because while the maker of the photo will know what he or she intended (even if that is nothing), the viewer has to get it from the clues presented in the photo itself (and the background information). So it is neither surprising that people read things into photos that aren't there (first thread), nor that they take something out of a photo that wasn't their intended message (this thread). Both are the same: communication failed. They do not get it.
     
  35. There is a very real danger, Thomas, that what moves us about those images is the fact that they are that old, that noone is here who can explain what their meaning is, and that we find it amazing that back then people were able to put marks on walls, though we don't find it amazing that kids did the same yesterday, and will do the same today and tomorrow. I.e. all to do with us and our perspective, nothing to do with that of the makers.<br>We can indeed find images we know nothing about moving, shocking, informative, etc. Because it is so easy to project our own interpretation on them. Though it can be frustrating for the maker of images, that's not that bad. We are allowed to make our own mistakes. We should know though, that even though we do not know which ones are and which ones are not, we do make mistakes. 'Artists' must not get their feathers ruffled by people being people. On the contrary: it is what makes the world such an interesting place, and makes being an artist such an interesting challenge.<br>Mr. Natural? "The whole universe is completely insane." As long as we are aware of that, it will be fine. Business as usual.
     
  36. Maybe in a way, "overanalysing" and "not getting it" are at the two extremes of ambiguity. Too ambiguous (or more rude: vague) and viewers are forced to analyse too much to make something out of the image. They look too much for clues to forget to see the whole picture. Too little ambiguity, and it's hand-holding, the equivalent of shouting your message. For a viewer, not half as involving and rewarding. While both extremes have their place, the middle ground tends to be a nicer place to be. Leave the fantasy some play, but also leave some decent clues.
    For me personally, I much hope to achieve what Tim described before in response to Fred - invite people in into a vision on the world, evoking that internal dialog, a conversation-starter to exchange ideas. Not a fixed message, but ratehr sharing a thought. Sure an image needs to communicate, but communication does not need to be answers, statements, or finished stories. It can be fragments, fuzziness, a question, hazy dream, an open-ended statement... Leave the message of the image a bit open, and the feedback from people is a lot more interesting, because it won't be confirmation from what you said, but a reflection, a response to an idea. In ways, a reflection on you (as the creator/artist).
    Of course it all depends on the intent, the intended use and way of showing the image, and so on. But in general, I'm always hesitant to say the viewer didn't get it. It's more likely I did not explain myself well to them, and I should try better again next time.
     
  37. Got to get em in the gut.​
    Thanks, Gerry. This can be important.

    Many photographic messages are prosaic and, therefore, can be unengaging. If the message reads like a TV commercial, it will not usually capture my imagination though it may get a point across. If, on the other hand, we're working towards an aesthetic or artistic message, then some emotion, some poetry, humanity, passion, and soul might be better than a quick text or a memorable jingle. Even if I don't get the specific message as intended, if I see there's a specific message (a literal one) to get, I'm less likely to use my imagination and less likely to be moved emotionally. There are all kinds of messages and all kinds of tones of voice a message can be delivered with. Mystique and ambiguity, rather than getting in the way of the message, can be vital aspects of the message.

    __________________________________________________
    I'm always hesitant to say the viewer didn't get it.​
    I'm not, if I think it's the case. I think as many viewers don't get it as photographer's don't visually articulate it.

    I'm not saying each viewer can't view as she pleases. Of course she can. But just as there are photographers who are better at making significant photos, there are viewers who will surely miss a lot that's in a photo because of a lack of viewing depth and savvy.

    I understand the artist who can be disappointed in some viewers for not getting it. Which doesn't mean there aren't artists or so-called artists who miss the mark. Sure, some photographers and artists fool themselves and blame viewers. But it's a two-way street. First off, many viewers of photos don't take the time to get anything. They're browsers, not viewers. And if a photo falls short of being pretty or being some kind of decor one could hang on their wall at home, there are viewers who will immediately dismiss it.

    I think there can be a lot of art to viewing photos and paintings. And that art takes time and effort to develop, just like the art of creating them.

    It all depends on what one wants out of the experience.
     
  38. If you have to explain the joke, it wasn't funny.
     
  39. While having to explain the joke is not funny, the fact that you have to is not necessarily the joke's fault.
     
  40. Ooo, I like the joke analogy. But Q.G. is right. My mom almost never gets a joke. I suppose if you WERE trying to send a message, you'd best know your audience and understand the background that would influence their perceptions.
     
  41. I don't think I want to impose my views on the viewers. I think good art does not need a title or a defined message. It should generate an emotion, the message being solely in the perception of the viewer. Otherwise I call it marketing... Although marketing is in fact an art!
     
  42. Although marketing is in fact an art!​
    I have to disagree with that as a general statement. Marketing visuals can exhibit great craftsmanship but you need someone like Andy Warhol to make them art.
     
  43. I think good art does not need a title or a defined message.​
    IMO, art may or may not "need" a title but many good artists have titled their work. Duchamp's Fountain comes to mind, where not only did Duchamp title it but he signed it with a pseudonym, R. Mutt.

    Then there are verbal messages that are an integral part of the artwork, such as in Magritte's La trahison des images (The treachery of images), a painting of a pipe under which he, himself, writes, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." (This is not a pipe.)

    And Magritte was not hesitant to write what he was thinking about and why he made the picture and talk some about what it was trying to say.

    In a sister thread to this one, it's been pointed out the Georgia O'Keeffe got tired of hearing her viewers interpret her flowers as an expression of her sexuality, and she told them so. Good for her!

    Different artists do things all sorts of ways and take all different approaches. Many of them don't shy away from taking stands and being committed to an idea about art. They may not always impose a specific verbalized meaning onto their own art, but they very often do impose their views. Cubism and Dada were among the biggest artistic impositions I can imagine. Dada, at least, even had a doctrine to go along with it.
    Stieglitz, first with his successful heralding of photography as an art form deserving of display in museums, had a big message for the art world. And, then, in his just as vocal rejection of the Pictorialism which helped photography get there, he explained why his photos were now going to look the way they looked. There are all kinds of messages one can give with their art and all kinds of communicative expectations or desires one can have.
     
  44. Having a message, Line, is not the same as trying to impose a view. When you were writing what your wrote about imposing views, were you imposing your view on messages and imposing views on your readers?<br>But then you say that art "should" generate an emotion? Hmm... ;-) But joking apart: evoking an emotion by anything you do or produce = sending a message.<br><br>I think all art always has a 'message'. It doesn't have to be an attempt to educate, persuade or convice. But whatever the intention (or lack thereof), it is always telling us something about the world as seen by the artist. (Even - as is all too often the case - if it that message is no more than that the artist in question has nothing original to say.)<br><br>If words help, why not add words to a painting, photo or whatever? Are songs lesser art because they add a verbal narrative to music?
     
  45. I may not always chose the right words in English.... but what I was trying to say is that I don't feel my perception should be directed....(probably did not word this right either! :-D). And go figure I am a big fan of Cubism and Dadaism!
     
  46. There are many ways to interpret a work of art, many messages. Whichever is chosen is I think the right of the viewer.
    Often a title chosen by the artist results in the viewer locking to that aspect of the meaning or interpretation, and sometimes blocks other viewpoints the latter may have had. I like titles that either say the minimum or simply situate the scene ("East Cleveland" or "Ontario village") or those which are seemingly enigmatic and challenge the perception or understanding of the viewer. The in between type of title that tells all is a bore to me. And a hinderance at times. I agree with Line that imposing an interpretation on a viewer often does not work or tends to rob the viewer of the pleasure of absorbing the image for himself or herself.
    Given time, I would likely understand the apparent narrative of Vivaldi's 4 seasons without the title, as I would with with Debussy's "Engulfed Cathedral" (La cathédrale engloutie") or "The Sea" (La mer). If that generated a symbolism other than that intended (and sometimes an intention of others after the fact, rather than the poular title of the composer) so be it. Art is seldom cartesian.
     
  47. While having to explain the joke is not funny, the fact that you have to is not necessarily the joke's fault.​

    It could indicate a mismatch between the joke and the audience. A joke about a plunger means nothing to someone who has never seen a toilet.
     
  48. I don't know why rights, freedom from being directed,not imposing an interpretation, and such could be such a big demand. Quite the contrary. When we converse, the aim is to convey a definite content. A message. That is not different when we converse without using words.<br>You have every right to read this particular sentence as saying something else than what it does, interpret it in many ways besides the one intended and expressed. But that defeats any conceivable point there could be in writing it. Except, perhaps, to give you a chance to dream away and imagine it says many things it does not. For that, however, it doesn't matter at all what i write. No point to even try to converse with people holding their fingers in their ears chanting the well known i-can't-hear-you! chant so not to catch anything of what you are saying, safeguarding their freedom.<br>Art is not a guessing game. The pleasure of good art is not that it provides an opportunity for the viewer to find out how clever he or she is inventing intentions that might fit the work of art. Don't be so selfish. You have to (there, i said it) show some respect for the artist and the work of art by taking it seriously. Which you don't when you think it is all up to you.
     
  49. Very interesting discussion from a simple request to see some of the works that had an intended meaning. I know with certainty that I am not the only person to ever take a photo in an attempt to convey a message. A number of POWs chosen over the course of this last year have clearly done that by the admission of the photographer.
    I do fully understand the notion that it is more challenging and comforting to the viewer to allow him the freedom to invent his own meaning, but that doesn't mean it is wrong for the photographer to try to convey one. I imagine the first ever shot (and all subsequent ones) of a tree standing alone in a field was meant to convey a message. Viewers might have had different interpretations (isolation, loneliness, individuality), but that doesn't mean the photographer didn't have something specific in mind. The question posed wasn't asking if it is right or wrong for the artist to try to convey a message, but was asking if you've ever tried to convey one, and how did or would you feel if the viewer didn't get it. While most didn't specifically answer it, the conversation has nonetheless been very enlightening and entertaining. I don't know that I even answered it myself.
     
  50. I keep asking myself where viewer responsibility is in all this. Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata was given its title by a publisher, not Beethoven. Whether Beethoven was inspired by moonlight or not, I don't know. He never discussed it, to my knowledge. I have never pictured moonlight when hearing the Sonata played. I don't translate such music into pictures or a verbal narrative. Whatever information I learn about a piece of music, a painting, a photo can add to my experience or not, depending on the information and how it strikes me. "Moonlight" has become a sort of appendage to the work, but has never had an undue influence on me. For me, it's like a charming little aside. No one can rob me of the possibilities inherent in good works of art, not a critic, not a framer, not a curator, not a book publisher, and not an artist who chooses to give his own work a title. A writer may throw in tangential sentences, which may give me clues to his personality or may add character to his writing. But it doesn't rob me of anything. It adds texture. If I just want to skim and get the "main point," that's what I do, knowing full well I would be robbing myself of the texture and color in the writing. Does the composer or photographer who gives his work a title rob the viewer or might the viewer develop a stronger sense of imagination and individuality and, more importantly, a more open mind so as not to allow himself to feel robbed by such things? Nothing gets presented in a vacuum. We hear and read about the lives and inspirations and influences of artists. Does that rob us of some purity of experience we might otherwise have? Just how isolated, solipsistic, or ideal a world do we want art to exist in? Isn't art shared between artist and viewer and among viewers and communities and eras? The artist has already imposed something on the viewer by showing her the photo or getting her to listen to the symphony or putting a painting within view. Part of art is actually the willingness to let our perceptions be imposed on, and let that imposition mingle with our own emotional lives.
     
  51. Line, thanks for your response. I hope it wasn't just a matter of language. I sense there's a healthy substantive disagreement here and, therefore, a challenge for all of us.
     
  52. The "Moonlight" sonata is a good example of what I was saying in an earlier post in regard to later appendages of titles to works. I am really with Line on this topic and see little use in most cases for any descriptive or narrative title, which I assume in some cases to be a crutch of the artist, to direct my thoughts where they might not normally go because the artist has not dome his work. Those titles that I usually like are the least invasive ones, like a simple indication of the place or time of the image, or so called trick titles that don't relate obviously to the meaning or symbolism portrayed by the work, but are there to tease us to better contemplate it.
    Once our work is finished and framed we should let it go and have some confidence that the viewer will understand it, or at the very least least something that bears some relation to our perception and creation.
     
  53. Once our work is finished and framed we should let it go and have some confidence that the viewer will understand it​
    I can't square this with my own art-has-no-rulebook and the-artist-shouldn't-be-tethered approach.

    Many artists title their work before they frame it and then let it go. I imagine some artists start with the title. In my reading about Debussy, there is evidence, though not really stated outright, he may have actually done that. So it could have nothing to do with letting it go after it's done.

    IMO, once "our" work is finished and framed, we should each treat the work we made and our viewers however we like. That makes for a great diversity in art and artists.

    I can't really relate to seeing Debussy's title La Mer as a crutch. Seems more like an acknowledgment and a tip of the hat. Possibly, he's aware that much non-programme music is not narrative in nature and he wanted his audience to have a distinct literal picture (or at least a vague idea) in mind to go along with his music. That's the journey he wanted to take us on. I also assume he had enough confidence in his music to assume that few viewers would be so distracted by a title as not to be able to appreciate the music.

    What about music that accompanies slide shows, text that accompanies visual documentaries, showing Man Ray's letters, giving much insight into his ideas on his photograms, in an exhibition of his work? Those can all be liked or disliked and critiqued on an individual basis without creating a general rule that something accompanying the base work is often being used as a crutch.

    Why not take what the artist provides in its fullness and deal with it? I choose to make and present my photos a certain way and I'm happy to experience other different ways that photographers choose to present theirs. I've been to photo shows where a dance troupe accompanies the viewing, where music accompanies the viewing, sometimes determined by the photographer himself. I'm certainly not going to say that shouldn't be done, even if I wouldn't care to do it myself (which I would do, btw). I find it not stifling but liberating to remain open to being led to all kinds of different places in all kinds of different ways, including with a title, a caption, an essay, or a complete diary if the artist wants to publish it.
    __________________________________________________
    My own experience with La Mer is that sometimes, when I'm listening, I think of the sea and even direct myself to do so. Sometimes I think of Debussy wanting me to do that and sometimes not. Sometimes, I picture a colorful garden. Sometimes, I picture children. And sometimes, I listen very abstractly. I appreciate these different experiences with the music. The music and Debussy have given me endless possibilities.
     
  54. Quite right, Fred. The word "share" is indeed important. And nothing is made in a vacuum indeed.<br>Things aren't made so that the viewer can make of it whatever he or she likes. Assuming it is anyway, taking the liberty, that "freedom", is robbery. It ignores the artist and the reason the artist made the work.<br>Sure, people can do that anyway. It is not impossible. And noone will come after them when they do (well, considering these two threads, maybe Bill will). And it may even be pleasing to enter that solipsistic world of our own making, where you rule and noone else gets a say in anything, forgetting about the one you are fleeing from. Very imaginative. But that has very little, if anything at all, to do with art and understanding art. Quite a lot with entertainment and consumerism.<br>Share. Respect the artist and his/her art. Do not impose irrelevance on the artist and the art by assuming it should be completely up to the viewer what they represent.
     
  55. well, considering these two threads, maybe Bill will​
    Not so QG ;>]. I should be so lucky as to ever have a photo I took discussed and analyzed in depth. I would hope to move the viewer in some way regardless of the direction, but would be especially pleased if I was trying to send a message and someone received it.
    Like most, I take photos of things that strike me at the time as interesting, with no clear intent other than to record the moment and make of it what I will afterward. In most cases, I have no intended direction for the viewer and merely hope they enjoy a shot either purely because of the aesthetics or because it stirs an emotion (hopefully a pleasant one (now let's not get into a philosophical discussion about that - I know some would just as soon make the viewer uncomfortable). So in short, I just wanted to see some danged message photos purely out of curiosity, but this has proved entertaining regardless.
     
  56. Fred,
    It is not just a question of language. It is indeed a matter of opinion. My daily work probably influence how I understand and where I stand in the debate. I do data visualization in marketing analysis.... In my work if I have to give the viewer directions, I have failed! And dealing daily with analyzing marketing, I see clearly how labeling has an impact on perception and appreciation.... so, my view may be skewed but without knowledge of the intent behind a label I think it is a valid point of view...
     
  57. I appreciate these different experiences with the music. The music and Debussy have given me endless possibilities.​
    Precisely! And that experience has nothing to do with a title. Without the title i can easily think of the sea, but I can embrace many others images that somehow correlate with the music, in small part or in large fractions of the whole work.
    I don't know enough about Debussy's desire or not to title his works, as it has been the music that most interests me. "La cathédrale engloutie" is the same. An underwater symbolism is very apparent. For those that want or need labels, the title is fine. It in no way adds very much, I believe, except some narrative form of romanticism that may make the work more accessible to some, but in many cases the titles are not very useful to an in depth appreciation of the art.
    It is heartening to be able to take away a differing impression of something that is otherwise too well packaged even if popular so.
    The appeal of labels is everywhere. My more serious work distinctly avoids them. When I sell my more pretty and accessible pictures at popular events like Christmas markets the title is useful. It often adds to the marketability of the image. But it is not an approach I use in the photography that means most to me. I want the viewer to think about the image without any desire on my part to direct his response, to "hold his hand". It is a type of neutrality and honesty that most interests me. The enigmatic title is a different case, which I previously spoke to.
     
  58. It is my view that the purpose of most things is to create experiences in such a way that I need to enjoy these experiences in order for the makers of the experiences to claim success in their effort, so "getting it" is a consequence of "liking it" - if I didn't like something first, I will less likely invest the effort into extending my depth of abstraction to "understand" it.

    On the other hand, it's possible to "like" something after it has been explained thereby "getting it" evolving into "understanding it".

    I "get" disco and "Gangnam Style", but I'll need a little help in order to (maybe) "get" bagpipes; whatever their respective equivalents are in photography.
     
  59. I think there are now two debates running, and it helps keeping them separate.<br>Whether a work manages to convey the intended message, how effective it is, is a matter of quality. Making use of other forms of expression, like putting words to music, or simply giving it a title, is not necessarily a sign that one of the forms involved fails.<br>Whether a work has an intended message, and feeling we should ignore that message (or even feeling that we are robbed of something) because we feel we should be free to read in it whatever we, not the artist, wants is a matter of essence and of egocentrism, egotism. Is the work of art what the artist intended, or is it whatever we think it might be.<br><br>Bill, the message may not be intentional, but when we take pictures because we think some things interesting, we show these pictures to others because we think they are worth watching just because of that interest, and the intent is to share that. Those pictures are a statement of what you find interesting (or pleasing, or disturbing, or whatever) in our world.<br><br>Pure aesthestics... As per request, no long philosophical debate (for now ;-) ) : what people find beautiful is largely the same, but will also differ from one person to the other. So there must be a reason why some people like something and not another thing and vice versa. There always is that pesky question "why?", why do you think it is beautiful? Or (same, in other words) why do you think it important, of value, something to remember, something to keep, etc.?<br>So it's the same discussion. 'Pure' aesthetics does not exist (is, in my humble view, a form of the cop out that applying a title to a work because it failed to convey the message by itself could be).
     
  60. Michael, do you enjoy THIS photo? Do you get it? Understand it?
    I don't enjoy it (wouldn't say I like it either), I get it, and it's taking me decades still to try to understand it.
    I think it was and is a successful photo.
     
  61. Fred, to me, that particular picture is a documentary photo with little more than presenting the facts akin to a security camera, and I react to it accordingly knowing the circumstances under which it was shot, and for those reasons, I don't gawk at its award-winning attributes instead take it at face value.
    My reaction might be skewed by my interactions and experiences with Boat People as many came to Canada to start a new life. I've heard enough stories of first-person accounts of the inhumanities and suffering that makes those types of pictures more a romanticized Western view of that particular war.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_boat_people
     
  62. Q.G., yes, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' (I just made that up ;)), but the discussion I wanted to avoid is in regards to the emotion we hope to stir with out photographs. I typically want the viewer to have pleasant thoughts, but I know some aim to make the viewer feel a bit uncomfortable, perhaps because they think that makes for a more powerful photo, perhaps they feel it's more 'artsy,' or perhaps they feel it gives the shot more significance - or none of the above. (And having just looked at the photo Fred linked to, I can see why). Well, now I've done it...
    Michael, I don't think you have to like something to 'get it,' but I understand the notion that if, upon first glance, it doesn't appeal to you, you may not invest any more time in it.
     
  63. some aim to make the viewer feel a bit uncomfortable, perhaps because they think that makes for a more powerful photo, perhaps they feel it's more 'artsy,' or perhaps they feel it gives the shot more significance - or none of the above​
    I vote for "none of the above" being often the case. An artist or photographer may just be authentic and express what he feels. Making an uncomfortable photo can have mostly to do with the photographer's own feeling of discomfort or angst or ambiguity or hatred of things or emotional upheaval and they're expressing that through their photography. Not everything is done in order to manipulate and not everything powerful that's done is done with a specific intent to make a powerful photo. Sometimes it's an actual genuine outpouring of emotion or showing of something troubling and the viewer and audience play into it very secondarily. The intent may be, "this is what I'm going through now and how I'm seeing the world right now" (and it's not always a bed of roses). The act can be a matter of "I have to take this picture." And the translation from photographer's emotion to photo to viewer does not have to be literal. It can and often is metaphorical.


    _________________________________________________


    Michael, that doesn't really answer the question. You claimed you "need to enjoy" it to get it and then understand it. You seem to have an understanding of this photo which you also seem to think goes well beyond the understanding of many others, which it certainly may. Did you arrive at that understanding because of your enjoyment of the photo? If not, then your claim about the significance of enjoyment is in doubt.
     
  64. BTW, Michael, your response mentions that the Nick Ut photo is documentary. Not sure if that's a disqualifier to the enjoyment aspect, so HERE'S one by Nan Goldin that I'd also ask if you enjoy. And HERE'S one by Diane Arbus. It's possible that a viewer might "enjoy" either one of these, but then each viewer might pick another photo that he doesn't enjoy but feels is successful and understandable.
    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy many good photos and many works of art. But there are many other significant things other than enjoyment I get out of art and that lead toward a successful photo and that help me understand. Entertainment is something who's purview I might put more strictly in the category of "enjoy." (Though, even there, some depressing movies would be considered entertainment, though I don't necessarily enjoy them.) The main thrust of a lot of photography and art, IMO, is not enjoyment.
     
  65. This discussion will be stuck forever if we apply same values to conceptual photography (original OP's image) and documentary war photos - they have nothing in common but the medium used to create them. In my opinion photography is too broad to try to find common ways of making or receiving it. I consider any writing which accompany a photograph a context, not inherent part of it. And it's presence can alter my perception of a given work. I enjoy Van Gogh's work more after reading his biography, Giorgio de Chirico's autobiography was a big disappointment to me, now I try to forget it when looking at his works.
     
  66. All photos (should) have one thing in common: a reason why we should spend (a bit or lots of) time having a look at them.<br>If you would say there are many that don't have that, i alas have to agree. But whether art, decorative or documentary: they must, essentially, be something that is looked at, must be something that is taken in by someone, and not ignored.<br>Photos share that with all sorts of art, decoration and documentation. So they share much more than just the medium with other photos, much more too with other utterances.<br>Photography isn't too broad, but as was discussed (though perhaps not said explicitly) too narrow: adding other forms of expression can extend what photography does into the realm of what it alone can't.<br>And i'm not saying that photos need help from additional media, or that every work of art should be a Gesamtkunstwerk. But adding something from other fields can indeed add something. Photography is, like other arts, limited when restricted to itself. Maybe (well: certainly) such additions are not photography as such. But - unless your aim is to make a photograph, i.e. make the medium and strict adherence to some rule that says what is and what no longer is a photo the beginning and end of the work you're creating - that is of very little importance. And i rather look at something because it is interesting to look at, has something to offer besides being a sample of use of one particular medium, than at something because it is a photograph. (I know you can have both, but as usual oversimplification might help bring the point across. So my apologies for oversimplifying.)<br>So yes, writing not only can, but will alter your perception of the work. That's the power available to us in something as simple as adding a view words. Wonderful, isn't it?
     
  67. A photograph should say something, mean something, do something....a communication of some sort.
    Yes, a photo of a piece of string has some deep meaning for the sad and lost...perhaphs, they should take up knitting which which would be more of a communicate for their Art. Knitting has its own Art more practical for some.
    Hey, everybody i have taken a photo of a light bulb can you see the Art in it? Okay. perhaphs not....but it could still be Art.
    Wiping my arse could also be Art. I wonder if I could get an exhibition of this profound moment.
     
  68. The profundity lies in understanding that 'it' (whatever you want to call it) does not have to involve anything profound. A photo of a piece of string may be a piece of an interesting larger story. Or it may be nothing but a testament of the fact that someone got bored.<br>Whether it also could be art depends on more, such as relevance.<br>When people could give a sh!t (pardon the language, but i'm trying to keep this in line with the example) about you wiping your behind, Allen, it could indeed be art. (Though i rather doubt it). It could also be something else, like inadvertently happening upon the yearly outing of the Scatological Society of Greater Manchester. So the fact that someone shows an interest alone does not necessarily mean it is something that is possibly art.<br>If that photo of a piece of string fits in the life of some people (for whatever reason), you may find them sad and lost because it doesn't fit in your life, but that says nothing about the photo and the way it functions for those you then think sad and lost.<br>Or, in other words, you or i are not the measure of things. A joke is a joke when someone finds it funny, even when you or i would not. And vice versa: it is one when we find it funny and other people do not.
     
  69. a photo of a piece of string has some deep meaning for the sad and lost...perhaphs, they should take up knitting​
    Reminds me of Cartier-Bresson's ill-advised put down of Adams and Weston.

    "The world is going to pieces and people like Adams and Weston are photographing rocks!”

    Guess he showed them! Beware the holier-than-thou.

    Some very significant artists throughout history have been sad and lost . . . and harnessed those emotions to create wonders.

    It all depends on an ability to see possibilities anywhere.
     
  70. "The world is going to pieces and people like Adams and Weston are photographing rocks!”
    Guess he showed them! Beware the holier-than-thou.​
    Knowing what I know now of the way the world works with respect to current technologies (especially in the fields of forensic science in knowing just how bad people can be toward one another) I believe Cartier-Bresson was speaking as someone with a POV developed from having a limited knowledge base in his time.
    As complicated as it is today and as more educated the general population has become, I don't believe you can effectively communicate the way Bresson espoused with just a still image. The general public today have become more aware that the world isn't as simple as they thought. They don't want to be preached to or sent a cleverly veiled and somewhat vague message on how to think about world issues.
    The use of anti-establishment styled image language that was prevalent in visual communication venues in decades past is now considered old hat. More folks want the facts and evidence in the form of surveillance cameras, DNA, police records, background checks, etc. to tell them how the world is working, not just cleverly crafted still images by some "art" photographer.
    I'm surprised political cartoons are still made.
     
  71. I don't think that HCB was talking from limited knowledge at all, Tim. He was talking from a firm believe that there are more important things than 'pretty pictures of pretty landscapes', i.e. that AA was working as if he, AA, was ignorant of that.
    Remember that after having first gone through and then having learned about the full horror of WW2, people did know very well (probably lots more than people today, despite the state the world is in right now), how bad people can be to one another. It doesn't get more complicated than that. But HCB, people generally, knew very well how the world works, even though we now may be more accustomed to world wide violence as they were back then and even though people today are still struggling to really understand what happened then. No limited knowledge base in his time.

    I also don't think people are more educated today. There is no evidence of that. Quite the contrary.
    And they do want to be 'preached to', do gobble up all that is put before them by journalism, advertising and entertainment industries. It's quite numbing, for instance, to see how many people go through life with a mobile phone permanently attached to at least one of their hands, spending their time doing rather important things like playing candy crush or letting the world know they saw a funny eight second film on YouTube. Without ever questioning why they do that or whether there isn't something better to waste their time on.
    The general public knows that there is a lot to get angry about, and that they don't like anyone disturbing 'their' way of life. It isn't more complicated than that today.

    The lack of use of anti-establishment styled language is a symptom of that. It is not considered old hat becaue people got a more sophisticated and complex understanding of the world. But because people just can't be bothered to feel more than a general anger and switch off (return to updating their facebook page and playing angry birds or warcraft) when they have to think about the complexity of what their anger could be directed at.
    There is a litmus-test i call the "Das Kapital test". Irrespective of whether you would agree with what the two volumes of that not uninfluential book say (it is of no importance to the test), would it still be possible to have the same impact that book had when it requires that people work their way through a multipage tome like that? I don't think many would get past the first two pages. People do not have the patience, nor interest, anymore for long spelled out possibilities, for long considerations, for a complex treatise, for things they have to think about. Deep Thoughts must be expressed in eightteen minute TedX talks or even two minute elevator pitches, and if they cannot they cannot be something worth listening to. If it can't be said in a Tweet, it is too complex, "old hat". "Sad and lost".

    That's why even in a direct medium like photography some styles now wouldn't work anymore. People can't be bothered. Instead of being intrigued about an image of a piece of string, when they do not get that instant hit, it cannot be anything.
    But as Fred put it: "It all depends on an ability to see possibilities anywhere." That is what is lost to people who "want facts" "to tell (!) them how the world is working". They want to be told, do not want to think about that, let alone have to see possibilities.

    Now having said all that, HCB was wrong because he didn't see possibilities AA perhaps did. Because there isn't just one way - his, compared to AA, more direct way - of showing the world we all share.
     
  72. Remember that after having first gone through and then having learned about the full horror of WW2, people did know very well (probably lots more than people today, despite the state the world is in right now), how bad people can be to one another.​
    You missed the point.
    I take it the smartest people on the planet during WW II (the Germans-US took most of their technology and scientists after the war) weren't smart enough or sophisticated enough to figure out their leader was exterminating 6 million people. So much for intellectualism and sophistication. Where was HCB with his poignant and introspective photos to sway folks about that instead of criticizing AA for shooting rocks?
    By comparison to today have you noticed there now aren't crazy dictators that are capable of killing that many people in such a short time and get away with it? Notice there aren't that many successful assassination attempts on heads of states? You can't get away with it and it's REALLY, REALLY hard to pull off nowadays. I would say we're much smarter now than back then.
    Could it be because we are a more connected mass society considering modern world wide communication such as cell phones and the internet that attempting to send messages to these well connected adults with sophisticated, compelling and suggestive subjects and compositions in the form of HCB styled still images just ain't gonna sway these folks as much.
    We are a more aware and factual based adult society. I'm not talking about teens and "twenty somethings" with their face constantly staring down at a cell phone and who don't really make or influence government policies.
    Have you ever watched closely how forensic science finds who the bad guys are? I have and I can say with confidence that level of sophistication and knowledge wasn't available during the WW II era and HCB's hey days. Today's adults want to be preached to with facts and logic. Suggestive imagery is old technology.
     
  73. Among the things HCB failed to take into account in his critique of Adams and Weston are:
    a) aesthetic and artistic appreciation itself is a significant aspect of humanity and artists don't have to fight in or film wars in order to positively affect the universe.
    b) Adams in particular was an important force in environmental preservation and in helping the growth of the national parks system, and he did put his photography as well as his own sweat into that effort, which has had important and positive long-lasting effects.
    c) Weston, too, had great respect for what he termed "the interdependence of natural things" and his photographs taken together tend to show a very mindful sense not just of the beauty and sensuality of nature but the way it's put together and the way its various elements relate.
    HCB surely has a significant body of work, but someone could as easily sit around wondering why'd he waste his time taking a picture of a stranger riding down the street on a bike. Best not to throw stones.
     
  74. I don't agree at all, Tim. People weren't that ignorant back then. And people aren't that aware of the world right now. If anything, as written, it is the other way around. Levels of sophistication and knowledge have gone down considerably. But i will be repeating myself.<br><br>The split is not between young ones and adults, but between the grumpy old ones (the ones who know how it was before) and adults plus young ones of today. The latter are the ones who have embraced the idea that technology will make everything good, so that as long as a gadget is involved, it will at least be fun, and probably also so sophisticated that we can rest assured that the world will be o.k. (an example of that would be your confidence in modern technology preventing dictators to do whatever they want - there is ample proof of gadgetery in our world, yes. No proof at all that dictators are having a hard time because of it.)<br><br>But all that about world politics aside: people nowadays (young and adult) do not have the patience to figure out what is what, why something would be interesting, significant. A piece of string...? "Sad and lost".<br>Aesthetics and artistic appreciation (that is a quite hollow phrase, Fred.) can play a role in how we deal with our world. It helps to be able to switch off, turn away from the not so pleasant aspects and find peace of mind in the idea of a world in which things are only pleasant, beautiful (a function now being fulfilled by YouTube, Facebook c.s. and gadgets, by the way: something to escape to). HCB did not think it proper to take a break from the more pressing, existential worries. He was right, in that there are more important issues. Wrong because we can't deal with those constantly. We have to take naps now and again, have to sleep, to maintain our ability to work our important day job.<br>And it is very easy to succesfully argue that HCB too focussed a lot on the more cushy side of life, did not tackle the Real Problems we are facing. So look who's talking.
     
  75. Why do you think "aesthetic and artistic appreciation" is a hollow phrase?
    Are you suggesting by "aesthetic and artistic" that I mean pleasant and beautiful? Even in the face of my recent links to the Nick Ut, Nan Goldin, and Diane Arbus photos which I find unpleasant and political, both of which are part, not aside from, their aesthetic value? I didn't respond to those who insisted on separating out documentary photography in this discussion but that doesn't mean I agree with them.

    "Aesthetic" has, for me, nothing to do with taking naps. I referenced Weston because it can have to do with getting the world to see a pepper as a nude's equal. It can and often does wake us up to a different way of seeing.
    "When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns, there can be no freshness of vision." —Weston

    Freshness of vision! You quoted me above: "It all depends on the ability to see possibilities anywhere." An aesthetic and artistic approach enables one, I am saying, to see the possibilities in the piece of string that I felt had been summarily dismissed. When I talk about Weston and Adams in terms of aesthetic and artistic sensibilities, this is, at least partially, what I'm referring to. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I talked about Adams's environmental advocacy is because that's part of the aesthetic substance behind his so-called "beau -u-u-u-tiful" pics of rocks. (I'm not a big fan of Adams's photos for other reasons I don't need to get into here, but the aesthetics of his vision is about a lot more than the prettiness of Yosemite or one's sleeping mindlessly under the shadow of Half Dome.)
     
  76. I meant "artistic appreciation", Fred. It does not mean much, needs further specification.<br>For me, for instance, it revolves mainly (but not exclusively) around a word i used earlier: relevance. What are the things that concern us, what questions do we need/want to see answered, what do we feel must be stated, shared with others, with what degree of urgency and what emphasis? And (and with this addition it still isn't the complete story) how does using a different medium than talking about it at home, at work, in the pub, on TV in newspapers, etc. help, what does it do what other ways of expressing the same cannot, what parts of us does it, art, reach that non-art does not? And yes, where and how does aesthetics figure in this? I.e. it involves quite a lot that isn't obvious.<br>And that's just one view, and i know there are many others. And i just don't know what you mean when you say "artistic appreciation". There is no clue in the phrase.<br><br>About aesthetics and Weston. I don't think that making us see the semblance between a pepper and a nude, is aesthetics. Maybe my take on it is too strict (and i do indeed think that we must be strict in the definition of aesthetics, because it is used too much and too often as a general label for all sorts of things) but the dictionary definition - concerning things that are pleasing in appearance - is the right one. Freshness of vision has nothing to do with that, aesthetics has nothing to do with freshness of view.<br>Aesthetics itself is important, for the reason i mentioned earlier. Simplified: it counterweights the unpleasant with a dose of the pleasant creating the balance we need.<br><br>I do agree with you, though i think your use of the word is wrong. But not where you say that AA is providing an opportunity to, or an example of, seeing possibilities. He is showing something that is pleasing in appearance. And nothing more. I don't see anything besides the prettiness of Yosemite etc. nor do i know what else he would be trying to convey. And that's what HCB did not like (and i agree).<br>Seeing possibilities is imagination. Something AA did not give much to see of. Something quite different. And not necessarily aesthetic.
     
  77. Q.G. de Bakker:
    Levels of sophistication and knowledge have gone down considerably.​
    I will disagree with that. Literacy around the globe has grown since 1940’s and access to information too. How many people had access to Encyclopedia Britannica then, comparing to Wikipedia today?
     
  78. That's not the measure, Thomas. How do people use their abilities and the means available, how much do they know and understand?<br>Why, kids ask, do we need to learn all that stuff when we can look it up in Wikipedia? And they don't because they do. I had to sit a test yesterday (continuing education stuff) that is a good example: we didn't need to know anything. Just show we were able to look it all up.
     
  79. the dictionary definition, concerning things that are pleasing in appearance is the right one​
    We differ here. Dictionary definitions of words like Truth, Love, Art, Aesthetics, Beauty, are mere conventional conveniences and often necessarily superficial beginnings. There's a rich history of aesthetic theory and, when I use the word, that's the kind of tapestry I'm referencing.

    Adams is an interesting case to consider. In THIS BRIEF VIDEO, though he claims to be an environmentalist, he also claims that he photographs nature not because the photographs are intended to be of environmental significance but because of his want or need to make photographs, period. First off, I don't think photos need to be utilitarian in order to be significant. I think they can be more contemplative in nature (which, I guess, still serves some sort of purpose). Secondly, I don't necessarily buy Adams's disavowal of his own responsibility for the environmentalist nature of his photos. He may well be making photos to make photos and not to create mass awareness of the importance of our natural surroundings. But he chose rocks, mountains, and pristine skies above, say, pieces of string or weeds growing up out of the sidewalk on city streets or messengers on bikes or geometric and graphical shadow patterns. So, there is some responsibility for his choosing his repeated subject and there are other "pretty" things in life besides rocks and mountains he might have chosen. The fact that he has this awareness and proactive stance toward the environment and that his photos portray nature as iconic, majestic, and dramatic don't seem like mere coincidence to me. I don't necessarily think his photos succeed because they're too technically driven, appear to me to be somewhat sterile, and don't feel personally or emotionally involved enough. But whether he succeeds is a different matter. I do think Weston succeeds much more in getting us to see possibilities. But I think it's clear that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups who've successfully utilized Adams's photos in effecting some changes to national parks and environmental policy or at least awareness provides some evidence that Adams's photos, too, helped people see possibilities.
    By the way, some of the dictionaries I typically use go into the derivation of words, which I consider part of their meaning (and I rarely consider meaning to be something fixed or absolute as, say, Plato would have, and I rarely only consider the primary meaning in my usage of a word). "Aesthetics" comes from the Greek aisthētikos, which was more generally about sense perception. And the Oxford Dictionary lists as a definition of "aesthetics": A set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement: e.g., the Cubist aesthetic.
     
  80. Again, though I don't think Adams was a terribly successful artist (not talking about popularity or monetary success here), a good part of the aesthetics of his photography lies in his integration of craft (which too many faux artists are fond of dismissing) and his emphasis on "the print" and its look being an important bearer of the significance of his subject matter and composition.
     
  81. First the dictionary theme. The point was that this time at least the dictionary definition is quite accurate. That is what aesthetics is about. Anything that goes beyond the pleasing nature of things is no longer the subject of aesthetics.<br>Is that superficial? Maybe. But it is a very difficult thing to grasp, to understand why, what and how things are pleasing without dragging in that other thing, call it relevance or intentionality.<br><br>I would not believe AA at all when he would say his work has a message beyond the aesthetic. He made too much of a thing about how to achieve the beauty in his work to even begin believe he did so to change people's minds about Yosemite and such. But who knows. Showing beauty touches a nerve, makes people want to have and keep the beautiful. So it could still be that his concern with the merely aesthetic was instrumental after all. (Though i still don't believe it was AA's intention).<br>Could AA have chosen something else to show us? Sure. But that doesn't mean a thing unless we know whether he had specific reasons not to choose those other things and concentrate on rocks instead, and what those reasons were. And then we still would not know why rocks (because that happened to be the thing available to him, period?). The images themselves do not provide a clue. So if they had anything to tell us besides "look at how pretty we are", they have failed.<br>There is no question that Weston does succeed in showing possibilities much, much more than AA. He was an imaginative photographer. Despite his talk about previsualisation, AA clearly was not.<br><br>Back to dictionaries and etymology: would, then, an anaesthesiologist be someone who works to erase "the principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement" (another empty phrase, by the way, now from the Oxford Dictionaries)? ;-)
     
  82. I'm wondering who these "too many faux artists" are who are fond of dismissing Adams' craft. I know many
    photographers for whom much of Adams' work does not resonate, myself included. But I don't think I know
    any photographers, faux or not, who do not give Adam's his due with respect to his excellence of craft and
    his educational/publishing activities relating to that.
     
  83. Q.G. de Bakker:
    …we didn't need to know anything. Just show we were able to look it all up.​
    People who operate very complex tools or machines (ex: nuclear submarine) constantly refer to printed or electronic manuals. There is nothing wrong with not knowing something and having the will and ability to look it up on Wikipedia.
     
  84. Sure there isn't anything wrong with having and using a reference manual, Thomas.<br>But how is that then proof that literacy levels have gone up or that levels of sophistication and knowledge have not gone down considerably?<br>When you are supposed to be an expert, there indeed is something wrong with not knowing something. Would you like to have surgeon operate on you with a scalpel in one hand, a tablet computer or smartphone with Wikipedia opened in the other?<br>Maybe we do not need experts. Is that it perhaps? Yet having a bit of knowledge is a necessary condition for knowing what else you do not know. Having no knowledge but that of how to look things up finds you wondering why you would want to know how to look things up, for what would you want to look up?<br>We need people who do know things else we cannot begin to know things in depth. And that's what has changed dramatically. Schools are even teaching the you-can-always-look-it-up mantra. Levels of sophistication and knowledge have indeed gone down quite a bit.<br>And we haven't even begun about the quality of sources as Wickedpedia. The place where the biggest loudmouth gets to say how things are... Unless people start reading again, start ingesting and digesting information, turn that into knowledge, start developing an in-depth interest in things again, are again prepared to read books of the size of Das Kapital instead of the Reader's Digest version produced by Piketty, the (often amazingly good) books with "[...] for dummies" titles will not need the "for dummies" part, because that will then be the norm.
     
  85. Brad, I didn't say the faux artists dismissed Adams's craft. I said many faux artists dismiss craft. I was thinking of many of the responses to critiques here by photographers who respond to the critique by saying they don't worry about such "technical" matters as blown highlights or muddy shadows or lack of tonal nuance because it's their "art" or expressiveness only that matters. And, of course, you, your work, and opinions were not on my mind at all. I don't think of you as dismissing craft or dismissing Adams's craft, that is when I think about you at all, which is only when you speak and I listen.
    _____________________________________________
    [Ahh, I just re-read my post and I can see where the misunderstanding came in. Sorry. The parenthetical phrase I included about faux artists was meant only to refer to the idea of craft per se and not to Adams's craft. Since I was talking about Adams's craft at the time, it would have been better to make more clear that the aside was referring to craft in general.]
     
  86. While it certainly isn't so that unless you dismiss the more pedestrian side of things, such as craft, you cannot be an artist, the reverse is equally untrue. You may dismiss craft without that having the consequence of being dismissed as an artist.
     
  87. >>> And, of course, you, your work, and opinions were not on my mind at all.

    Huh? Why would they be, the discussion is about Adams. I guess I'm supposed to feel relieved.

    >>> I don't think of you as dismissing craft or dismissing Adams's craft, that is when I think about you at all,
    which is only when you speak and I listen.

    Ok, thanx, I think.

    In any case, thanx for the clarification addendum - that makes more sense.
     
  88. Q.G. de Bakker
    Levels of sophistication and knowledge have indeed gone down quite a bit.​
    (A wonder if people in China would agree with you?)
    But, do you think it applies to photography or arts in general (it is a photography forum after all :))?
     
  89. Anything that goes beyond the pleasing nature of things is no longer the subject of aesthetics.​
    Q.G., you can keep repeating it with as much certainty and declarative tone as possible and it still won't convince me. The idea I was discussing is more important to me than whatever word we want to sum it up with. That idea was showing and experiencing possibility.
    I would not believe AA at all when he would say his work has a message beyond the aesthetic.​
    My further point is that what he thinks isn't necessarily relevant to how his work will be taken and to what purposes it may be used by others and even by himself at times. As a matter of fact, it's quite possible (and I know this from experience*), that his portraying the beauty, even if it is a pleasingly superficial kind of prettiness, might have influenced him to think about the environment the way he does. The point is that regardless of his intentions, his work had potential beyond those intentions. It would be wrong to claim his work was made with the intention of it being an effective environmental messenger. But it is not wrong to claim his work has influenced environmentalism.

    *What I'm saying here is just as our intentions can influence our photography and art, our art can influence our future intentions and our emotional and intellectual outlook. My experience of that is that I used to have a somewhat immature predilection toward appreciating and photographing younger men and their bodies and my early photos concentrated on men I found appealing in the way Adams's rocks are appealing. Something—I'm not sure quite what but maybe it was my early photographing of more traditionally youthful and "appealing" men and also maybe my own aging and coming to terms with it—led me to start photographing older men and I started finding that photographing them and getting to know them increased my attraction to them, both on a physical and sexual level and on a more emotional and intellectual level as well. I started to see the photographic potential (possibility) and the surface beauty (which I think is important to photos) in aging bodies, skin, hairlines, coloration, etc. and that gave me clues (as Avedon has talked about the surfaces of things having clues). The surface interest of older men helps inform (or at least for me is not separable from) a more deep emotional and photographic interest in them.
    00cwNI-552355484.jpg
     
  90. As my surface appreciation and deeper appreciation have developed, they seem more symbiotic than competitive.
     
  91. Thomas, i think it applies to views expressed in a photography forum that assert that a certain photographer's citicism of another photographer's work would be because he, the critic, was not yet as sophisticated and was talking from limited knowledge.
     
  92. Fred, we will then continue to disagree, because i am not convinced that the word covers what we are talking about.<br>But i agree completely that what word would be the right one is not important as long as we know what we are talking about.<br><br>That a work can be taken for and used as something it was not intended to be by the maker is the reason for and subject of Bill's two threads. And yes, that is so.<br>So we can perhaps conclude by noticing that we are back where we began.
     
  93. Agreed. Thanks. This is often the way many essays, papers, and discussions conclude. In this case, as in many others, I think there
    have been some good additional fine points made and tangential subjects touched along the way. So, as is so often the
    case, the conclusion may resemble the introduction but often has a lot more packed into it.
     
  94. I rather think that, instead of packing more into it, we unpacked some of it.<br>I'm glad we managed to wrap it up again in such a way that noone will notice that we even touched it. ;-)
     
  95. LOL on the packed/unpacked. Good catch. Sorry. No idea what your last sentence means. My bad. I can be dense with humor sometimes, particularly when it's written.
     
  96. We ended, where we began?
     
  97. Plenty's been touched and I think it's been noticed and many have joined.
    What hasn't been touched is the elephant in the room!
     

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