Where's your pleasure?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. The below Szarkoswki quote (I think it was from the introduction in William Eggleston's Guide) makes a relevant distinction between getting pleasure from what is being pointed at and getting pleasure from how the photographer has pointed to it.

    "One might compare the art of photography to the act of pointing. It must be true that some of us point to more interesting facts, events, circumstances, and configurations than others. The talented practitioner of the new discipline would perform with a special grace, sense of timing, narrative sweep, and wit, thus endowing the act not merely with intelligence, but with that quality of formal rigor that identifies a work of art, so that we would be uncertain, when remembering the adventure of the tour, how much our pleasure and sense of enlargement had come from the things pointed to and how much from a pattern created by the pointer." - John Szarkowski

    I think in general the non-fellow photographers that Julie mentions or the people who aren't actively looking for and aren't interested in art and in photography done as art mainly get their pleasure from what is being pointed to (a basket of kittens vs a basket of snakes). The photographer has to lure the viewer in but has to do it in an almost invisible way (part of my negative response to Mann's What Remains pictures is that as a creator myself I can hear all the gears she has employed grinding away behind the curtain) so that the viewer doesn't know why exactly they're getting an aesthetic pleasure from that picture of a basket of snakes when compared to a mediocre picture of a basket of kittens (which is pleasurable to look at nevertheless, who doesn't like kittens....).
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
  2. What curtain? She's happy to grind away right in front of you. She's straightforward. No pretense. In fact, I think she *wants* you to hear her grinding away.

    Who says it has to be "in an invisible way"? You make me think of ladies' underwear. Being coy is not Mann's MO.
  3. The supposed straightforwardness is the curtain.
  4. Art is like magic. It's only the greatest of magicians who can perform their tricks in front of other magicians and still get away with them (unless there's another even greater magician watching).

    Here's a basket of kittens.

    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
  5. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Very nice - now where's the basket of snakes, please ?
  6. The most dangerous and easy thing is not the snakes but to mistake the snakes with the creative act. The basket of snakes is booooring!
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
  7. To be honest the kittens are a little bit over the top too with their silly huggable meowing. There are just too many of them. I'll take one or two though, maybe three.
  8. ...........
    When talking about "Where's your pleasure?" I've left out the elephant in the room: failure. Assuming I'm not too different from most of you, I do a lot of failing. If you've been doing this for as long as I have, you don't even notice it: it's kind of the time-between all the pleasurable tidbits that you sniffle up here and there.

    On the other hand, for some of us, me maybe twice in my life, the failures didn't or wouldn't stay unnoticed; they weighed, they killed the joy, and I stopped photographing altogether for a while. Both times, when I came back, I came back knowing more about when/where and what *not* to photograph.

    Here are a couple of ... not quite failures (we get enough of those on our own) but near misses that I regret not being able to have been able to make do what I think they could have done. These aren't the same as what I talked about back in post #52, where I simply didn't want to do the work. These are cases where I tried and couldn't "get it."

    This, to me, was totally cool. It's some kind of red fungus that is commonly and widely found in dots and clumps on the surface of wood — you've all probably seen it because it's so bright. But here it was growing in this crack, and, to my eye, looked just like fire. As you can see, the only thing I managed to do with it was choose a somewhat interesting line. This leaves the bulk of the frame with pretty dreary "regular" tree bark. I love the red, hate the picture. Oh well.

    This one happened in an instant. Less than an instant. I saw the set-up but who knows whether there was a good shot in the blink of an eye during which the wasp, which was tearing along that grass stem, zipped onto and off of the shadow-receiving background. On the plus side, I comfort myself by thinking that it always seems like the one-that-got-away-speedily would have been more than it really would. Is that better or worse to believe?

    This looks awful, doesn't it? I spent ten times more effort trying to shoot this than the other two. In post, I even took two shots and combined them to get both sides of the down to be sharp and to try to get the background tree form to work with the foreground skinny tree. And ... it's a picture of a white blob on a some gray fuzz.

    I think I do more of that last kind of visual shuffling with stuff that is really a little too tired to be brought to life, than I do with stuff that is too fast, or that is gorgeous but probably in an impossible context. I'm not sure if it's vanity or laziness that makes me think I can make something out of nothing. Well, okay, I am sure: it's both. And that I find pleasure even in failure. I had fun working on that down failure, and I'm having fun talking about it right now.
  9. Without all the misses the occasional hits wouldn't be as pleasurable.

    Part of the pleasure with shooting film was the anticipation in discovering what you hit and what you missed when pulling the film out of the developer tank. I want a Leica MD (which doesn't have an LCD screen) to get some of that feeling of anticipation back but with the flexibility that digital offers. The specifics of the tools used can also add a dimension of pleasure (I miss shooting with my Leica MP, the feel and weight of it and its simplicity).
  10. Yes the shooting..... what makes me take the camera out of the bag ...then more often than not somewhere in the process of shooting I get the "feel" a different idea than I had a the first depression of the shutter, it makes me go back and rethink the shoot.

    Then more often than not I let the "image" sit in the camera/ computer before I process it. Some images take a while. days. weeks or even months to fully process, I fall "in and out of love" with them...heck I am still working of images from my trip last April!! The processing part takes a while! Then the print. Once the image is printed, I can move on to the next one (much more often than not; as i try to get the print right the first time.)
  11. Greg, something is germinating! Or is it fermenting? :)

    I'm never sure if it's me or the picture that's germenting and ferminating.
  12. ...........
    This morning, because of something I read (not about photography), I've been thinking about private vs the public reference photography.

    In the origins of the arts, the 'private' was not featured. We had to learn how to get out of the epic, the mythic, the gods and royalty, and find the private life of ordinary people in literature and in the visual arts. Photography was born into the private.

    I find, that for me, the private equates to the snapshot. And from that I notice that maybe 99% of the pictures made today are 'private' whereas maybe 99% of the pictures found on photo.net are not private; are public in the sense that they are aggressively not of the (private) snapshot kind. (My idea of a snapshot is a picture that is intended not to be seen: it should be invisible, it should disappear when looked at. Its only job is to cue some scene or thing out of memory. My idea of non-snapshots is a picture that is intended to be seen and looked at. It should make itself necessary to its own sense-making; it should grow in visibility when looked at.)

    [In art photography, there is a 'snapshot' style. I don't think those pictures are snapshots: they use/abuse the habitual response to that kind of picture to creatively trap the viewer ... but that's another topic for another day ... ]

    I know that many photo.netters make snapshots, carry P&S cameras or use their phone camera to get quick, friendly 'private' grabs out of their life. I don't like to do that, and consequently rarely do that. This is not because I'm an extra fancy photographer but, I think, because I hate looking at things in that way (with my camera).

    A second thought on private photography, and this one surprises me, is that I'm not sure there is such a thing. It seems to me that as soon as you've made a photograph of it, it's somehow been taken out into the public world, no matter how snapshot-ish it is. Unlike literature or painting, which source from the mind, the out-there visible is, in many ways, public once it has been made accessible to other eyes.

    A small part of what I was reading that got me on this tangent:

    "By its very nature this private life does not create a place for the contemplative man, for that 'third person' who might be in a position to meditate on this life, to judge and evaluate it."​

    You'll say, duh!, the viewer becomes that third person. But I think that once third-party judgment and evaluation have been introduced, it is no longer private. It's something else. A presentation, a show.


    "Events acquire a public significance as such only when they become crimes. The criminal act is a moment of private life that becomes involuntarily public."
    [quotes are from M.M. Bakhtin]​

    Rounding this back on topic, I really viscerally dislike, and find no pleasure in, making 'private' pictures. That's odd because when I was a budding photographer, when my six or seven year old self was on the prowl with her box Brownie, I took only 'private' pictures of cats and dogs, and family members — and derived great pleasure from it. That little girl would have agreed with Tony's ex-parents-in-law and thought 'public' pictures were ... nuts.
  13. I consider all my photography that I present for the world to see as also being private in the sense that it's a continuation of myself and my self in past, present, and future. It's the whole point of why I take the photographs I take, as some exterior manifestation of an inner existence. The choices made are more between the exclusive and inclusive than between the private and public.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  14. ............



    "As a 13- or 14-year old boy, I gradually saved up enough money to buy myself a paintbox containing oil paints. I can still feel today the sensation I experienced then — of paints emerging from the tube. One squeeze of the fingers, and out came these strange beings, one after the other, which one calls colors — exultant, solemn, brooding, dreamy, self-absorbed, deeply serious, with roguish exuberance, with a sigh of release, ...


    " ... with a deep sound of mourning, with defiant power and resistance, with submissive suppleness and devotion, with obstinate self-control, with sensitive, precarious balance, living an independent life of their own, with all the necessary qualities for further, autonomous existence, prepared to make way readily, in an instant, for new combinations, to mingle with one another and create an infinite succession of new worlds." — Wassily Kandinsky


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  15. In Bacon I see something about pleasure as pain and pain as pleasure. There's something transgressive happening between the flesh and the spirit.
  16. ............
    “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them like a snail, leaving a trail of human presence and memory traces of past events, as the snail leaves its slime.” — Francis Bacon


    " Clichés and probabilities are on the canvas; they fill it, they must fill it, before the painter’s work begins. And the reckless abandon comes down to this: the painter himself must enter into the canvas before beginning."

    " … We do not listen closely enough to what painters have to say. They say that the painter is already in the canvas, where he or she encounters all the figurative and probabilistic givens that occupy and preoccupy the canvas. An entire battle takes place in the canvas between the painter and these givens."
    from Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation by Gilles Deleuze

  17. .............
    What's the difference between my photography (the topic of this thread) and my compositing (not the topic of this thread)?

    In the following, pay close attention to the difference between the meanings of the words visible and visual:

    "Old art attempted to make the non-visible (energy, feelings) visual (marks). New art is attempting to make the non-visual (mathematics) visible (concrete)." — Mel Bochner [emphasis added]

    Think Minimal art and, beyond that, Sol Lewitt (who was neither conceptual nor minimal, though he used both).

    What I do with my photographic composites is the second kind, but I use the visual to do it, or maybe it's more accurate to say, to play with it. I use the visual to make the non-visual visible. Again, note that non-visual is not the same as Old art's non-visible. Got it? :)

    I get an extreme pleasure from doing this. Compositing is my obsession: it's my work, it's what I do all day (in between all that other staying-alive stuff).

  18. Art and science overlap. Photography since its invention has been used and still is being used as a scientific tool to make the invisible visible on the microscopic and macroscopic level and in terms of both space and time.

    When I took this picture (taken some 7 years or so ago but only recently 'developed') it wasn't the bed sheet casually thrown on top of the vacuum cleaner in my bedroom that I was seeing but a snowy mountain top, mount Fuji probably. So which one of those and of what I saw in the picture and made visible by the camera was and is the truth?

    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
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