Why is photography philosophical?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by travis|1, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a
    scene you like and then print it?
  2. Travis, Of course it is. But it can be more if you want it to be (or even if you don't want).

    For example, why do we take pictures;
    what are we trying to achieve;
    why do we succeed or fail;
    what constitutes "good" or "bad";
    comparisons with other visual arts;
    whether any aspect (the above) beyond the picture is justified;
    and on what basis?

  3. exactly Grant. So why complicate life? Shoot the pic you want and print it. But it's a choice, I know, to be philosophical about it. It must be quite fustrating if one cannot share his photography philosophy with anyone else, am i right?
  4. Pick up a pen. Maybe you'll write a shopping list, maybe you'll write a novel. Sometimes the shopping list will have more literary merit (and philosophical rigour).
  5. "So why complicate life?"

    Because doing so can be fun and sometimes doing so leads to interesting results.

    If one contemplates, beyond their intrinsic beauty such events as spaghrainbows, the images seen in raindrops, and the colors in oil slicks, etc., one eventually learns how to build cameras, filters, and other gadgets other people can pick up and use.

    There's no requirement that anyone complicates his life with considerations of philosophy. However, there can be benefits, it doesn't always end up in a tangle of mental worms.
  6. Travis, Photography for me is strictly personal; other peoples' views or opinions (or fashions) don't enter into it. I don't know any photographers in my area, and rarely meet any.

    I can't think of anything more boring than exchanging small-talk on the merits of lenses or cameras. I did meet an artist (painter) one day but we talked about art, architecture, selling work, conservation, everything but photography.

    There is nothing intellectual about taking pictures - we all just want to produce stunning (to ourselves) pictures. It is the things beyond, but relevant to, photography which are of interest to me. But this can be applied to almost any field.

    We are fed much mind-numbing and dumb bull-*X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* on the tv, radio and press, and these forums are one of the few places that permits one to rise above it.

    It is better to share, but not vital.

  7. Travis:
    "isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a scene you like and then print it?"

    Why ask why? You just stepped onto the slippery slope toward philosophy.

    A person has the perfect freedom to be curious, to question, or live on automatic.
  8. " isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a scene you like and then print it?"

  9. If you're brain dead....
  10. Just as you can pick up a paint brush and paint the side of a barn or a sensitive portrait, you can hastily point, shoot and print or you can use a camera as a means of expressing the gamut of human emotions and thought. Your choice.

    As with everything in life, the more you put into something, the more you're likely to get out. The kid whacking away at a guitar and the accomplished violinist are both making music by vibrating strings, but the results are a world apart.

    When you think about those differences, you're already starting the philosophicaljourney. A photographer who is an artist using a camera and a technical photographer are both making pictures, but the message of those pictures and the thought that went into them reflect different philosophies toward photography.

    So, photography is philosophical when the person with a camera wants it to be, when it makes the experience more fulfilling and satisfies the need to express something with that voice.
  11. It makes me act and react, it makes me wonder why I see what I see and question the
    purpose of reality around me...walking down the streets photographing a headless doll
    with butterfly wings through the reflective glass of a shoppingwindow, and I'm
    thinking,contemplating, why do I need to take a picture of it? but then, in a fraction of a
    second, the image is made and the damage is done 'cause maybe all I ever wanted was a
    setting sun.
  12. H. P.:
    >>isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a >>scene you like and then print it?"


    Why would an anti-intellectual read here and write frequently to espouse the same? What's his agenda except to antagonize?

    A contributing response could posit that a photographer can pursue his work without words, working in an intuitive plane, however I would expect some visual evidence of it.

    Just posting that everyting is neutral with "feelie good" aspirations is stupid.
  13. Travis,

    The tone of your query seems challenging. Let me put it back on you. Why do you bother to throw down the gauntlet if it doesn't matter to you?

  14. Travis, Yes it is important to shoot what interests you. In fact, thats what is really imoportant. Afterall, creativity is about decision making, conscious or subconscious. The view you choose, the subject of focus that you choose, all the technical camera settings that you choose, the moment of capture that you choose, etc. etc.,All of this is, in the end, what makes your work different from others. Each image is an individual moment capturing an interpretation through your own expression form. It is only after much time and thousands of other such creative moments that trends can be noticed in youir work. It becomes known how you view life, over time. If the Artist is projecting a pure vision of themseves the chance of a philosophy coming through in their work is possible. So just keep clicking away, someday it might all make sense.
  15. "isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a scene you like and then print it?"

    What you are describing is the 'act' of taking a picture. The 'act' of playing the piano is just pressing the keys but the results may not be anything we might call music. In the same way, merely knowing how to press the shutter may not be anything that we would call 'photography'.

    When dealing with any artistic endeavor we have to be concerned with more than the 'act'. There is the 'craft' (knowing how to use the tools to perform the 'act) and there is the 'art' (know the intangible elements that makeup an effective picture). You need to have all three.

    Take an expert photographer who knows how to construct a picture but take away his camera and give him a canvas and brushes and paint. He may be able to conceive the image. He may be able to put paint on the canvas (the act) but because he doesn't know the 'craft' of painting and drawing...his results will not be up to same level as his photography.
  16. Actually, although your point has some validity, "the craft" is only important to the beginner. The way he framed the question,I think,puts Travis as a beginner. However, Craft is the least important thing once you know it. In fact it must never rear its head when creating. Most Artists I know feel traped when the "craft" dominates. Especially in painting. It must be subconscious and a part of us ,like air we breath that we dont remember breathing. It is though, perfectly possible for a photographer to paint a painting with nearly no experience as long as he is relating to the subject with his true nature. The same goes for the painter taking a photo with little experience with a camera. These are all gross generalizations and depend on the individual circumstance. To the real Artist or phographer, "craft" should always be a distant second to the 'act" or intent in creation. When craft is most important , content gets lost, We only see the how and not the why. Philosophy comes from the mind and heart, not the craft, I think. Hips
  17. Anyone who knows anything about Travis knows he's no beginner. You can compare and contrast this with Pico who only ever seems to have posted pictures stolen from other photographers.
  18. Sorry, I didn't mean to imply Travis was a beginer other than that the way he posed his question showed a lack of understanding and experience with the medium. I am open to the possibility that what ever made him ask the question also is interested in possible answers.
  19. If he's not a beginner, he's posing as a beginner.

  20. H. P.:
    "Anyone who knows anything about Travis knows he's no beginner. You can compare and contrast this with Pico who only ever seems to have posted pictures stolen from other photographers."

    Are you refering to the pictures that I posted and you machinated to have removed? Those are my pictures. I have plenty more. Are you so small that on the one hand claim they are "boring" and on the other too good to be mine? Yes, you are that small. Or smaller.

    It must suck to be you.
  21. Bubba,

    I'm 55, an English Lit major from Chapel Hill, and a lawyer, a man of words and discussion by inclination. But I've also been an administrative judge, dealing with "the public" for 30 years, and that tends to put a damper on the "inner ultimate meaning" chase, and force one to put things in the simplest and most direct manner. As a result I too am pretty bored by a lot of what passes for "philosophy"

    I tend to agree with you, as far as my photography goes. I look for colors, shapes, lines, contrast, etc. that make a visually interesting and entertaining shot.

    But there is some philosophical consideration in the matter of what am I pointing my camera at, and why? And why are you pointing yours at something different?

    I want to convey beauty, and a sense of the wonder of the landscape (my favorite subject). I don't usually harp on conservation, but will at the drop of a hat, and I do want my viewers to appreciate it's need.

    Others want to illustrate the human plight, or the human spirit, or the soul or something, I dunno. They have a reason for what they photograph, like I do, and that reason is the result of their, and my, "philosophy of photography".

    I guess most of us don't talk it to death, or even sit down and try to puzzle it out for ourselves, or feel the need to, but it's there.

    OK, I'm tired of this, think I'll download my CF card and see what I liked this weekend, might even wonder "why" in a couple of cases
  22. Jack Floyd:
    "Bubba [...]"

    To whom are you responding? Where did your name come up in this thread?
  23. I'm responding to the original poster, what is your concern?
  24. I agree with CR that a conscious focus on the gear and how to use it (the 'craft') can get in the way of the 'art'. And I agree that a novice will be more conscious of the workings of the equipment and, as experience is gained, the operational details become internalized and no longer need to be kept in the forefront of the 'act'.

    It is like when we first learned to drive a car. At first, we are hyperaware of everything...our speed; the other cars; traffic signs...we start out being very conscious of all of those things...but as we gain experience driving...we internalize the variables of driving and may no longer think consiously about them...BUT we still drive in the correct lane, we signal our turns, we stop for red lights...but the 'craft' of driving is still a part of the 'act' of driving even if it is no longer our primary focus...our focus is to get from here to there in one piece. In Photography, the understanding of our gear can become internalized so that we don't need to consult the manual for every setting change...but that knowledge is still essential even if it is not the primary thing on out minds...our focus at that time is to get the shot.
  25. Meryl, The comparison to driving is a good one. Remember Sterling Moss the graet English
    driver who had a bad crash and never recovered mentally enough to continue driving? He was
    so in tune with his instincts that after the crash he started to think consciously about what he
    was doing while driving and lost that instictive relationship. I couldn't drive in a race if he was
    conscious of the craft of driving. The violinist Menuhin suffered the same thing after his
    teens when he started to think about his craft and how he made music. He retired from
    playing for many years. He could not play anymore once he started analyzing his technique.
    The list goes on and on of Artists self examining themselves and destroying the source from
    where it came.
  26. It reminds me of the story of the grasshopper and the millipede.

    One day the grasshopper met the millipede on the road.

    "You know," said the grasshopper, "there is something that I have always wanted to ask you."

    "Well, ask away." answered the millipede.

    "With so many legs, how do you know which one to move first?

    "Hmmmm," said the millipede, "I never thought of it before."

    So he sat down and thought..and thought...and thought...and never walked again!
  27. I thought that one of the great joys of photography was that it could be almost anything you wanted it to be.
  28. "It must suck to be you."

    Pico loves to hand it out but he sure hates to be on the receiving end. If he learnt manners he might be able to contribute something usefull to these threads but he seems to be so full of spite that he just has to have a go at anyone he thinks will put up with it. A while back he promised to ignore me but, like everything else he posts around here, that turned out to be a lie. I suppose we'll just have to learn to put up with it.
  29. See what I mean ? It can even foster acrimony :)
  30. The analogy to playing jazz or racing fast cars is appropriate for certain types of
    photography, including the street photography that Travis is in to.

    It's all about
    being spontaneous, uninibited and fast.

    Think about your picture too much and the
    picture will pass you by. Save your thoughts for the contact sheets. (Though if you're
    good at this type of photography, you will have learned to think very quickly, in an

    Other types of photography benefit from prolonged philosophical engagement - indeed
    they're dependent on it.

    Duane Michals, Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky.

    At this level, photography is absoloutely not about picking up a camera and snapping
    at things 'you like' (which seems kind of retarded).

    The photography I enjoy would be better compared to building a cathedral, writing a
    novel, or making a feature film. It's the result of a prolonged and complex thought
    process. At its heart is imagination, but that imagination must be structured to facilitate
  31. This all sounds very mechanical and materialist...<BR><BR>

    If all one can do by being alive is just to move different parts of one's body at different times (for instance, choosing to move a finger when it happens to be touching the shutter of a camera), then yes, what is the point in thinking about anything, what's the point of art, music, philosophy, literature or even emotions? What's the point in being alive? Why not just become a photo-taking robot?
  32. "Why not just become a photo-taking robot?"

    Why bother being even that? It's not clear to me that intelligence or self-awareness evolved for any purpose beyond my own amusement but I don't see much point in turning them off before I might find out if the roaches inherit the earth.
  33. Jack,

    "pretty bored by a lot of what passes for philosophy...most of us
    don't talk it to death, or...try to puzzle it out...or feel the need to... "

    But thank you for addressing the forum, your Honour.

    Grant (Philosophy major/English minor, stockbroker, dishwasher, derivatives trader, labourer).
  34. I think Travis' question is valid. He may be reacting to the endless angst expressed on this forum about everything from, "is it art" to "is the picture mine if someone else pushes the shutter release". He's saying just go out and shoot what you feel is a valid image.

    Generally, Travis is a street shooter and the very nature of that often reqires a more reactive technique.

    BTW, IMHO Travis is far from a beginner. Check out his pix, which are reliably terrific. Perhaps that is so because he shoots more from instinct than from a preconceived notion of what makes a good image.
  35. Photography itself cannot be philosophical. You can be philosophical.
    If you are not philosophical, then photography can be very depressing and seem almost pointless. Go placidly amid the noise and haste. Be calm. And remember to measure the light. Or, as an old friend of mine said, put it on "P" for professional and press the button. Either way, you may need to be philosophical with the result.
  36. The Philosophy of photography is that the camera has nothing to do with making the photographic image-the photographer sees the image he wants to record, (either mentally,visually,or both)He needs to answer 3 questions- 1. What is the main subject? 2. How do I make the main subject stand out? 3. What do I leave out of the picture ? When he has answered these questions-the image has been made- without the camera-the camera is then used to record the image for posterity,regards, Kenneth William Caleno (Dip.Phot.)
  37. As Travis says, just point the camera at what interests you and press the shutter release...
  38. Oops! (no thought used there)
  39. I'm not sure which is worse, the cookie-cutter wedding photo or the jolly snap at the jolly

    Aren't we talking about more than this in this forum?
  40. I'm not sure which is worse: Eliot's elitist posturing or the Simpsons.

    Surely we can talk about less than this in this forum?
  41. HP, The point of this forum is to "philosophise". Some abstract notions may be unintelligible to some (including myself) but the charge of elitist is misplaced.

    Some postings may benefit from elucidation but its absence should arouse the curiosity to pursue or explore vague ideas further. That's how we learn - if we wish.

    The antithesis - an appeal to philistinism or dilettanteism - benefits no one, and is counterproductive in the context of a forum.

    Keep life simple, sure, but not the mind.

  42. Grant Lupton: "Keep life simple, sure, but not the mind."

    To quote the person who made a revolutionary invention in our lifetime, "When the answer is found, it will be simple."

    I'm speaking of Domina Jalbert, inventor of the Parasail (Jalbert Parafoil), the most radical new invention in sail/wind technology that could have been made at almost any time in the past few thousands of years. Was it simple? Well, it was one of those inventions that made people say, "Well, if you want to do it THAT way!" which tells me it was fundamentally brilliant and affirms his quote.

    Aside - persons who come to this particular forum just to denegrate it remind me of Xtian evangelists who believe they earn a special place in God's eye for receiving abuse because they post antagonizing anti-philosophical rhetoric. Don't pay any attention to them. It just ruins their day.
  43. There's nothing wrong with people going on at length or reading depth into things. There's everything wrong with gratuitous nastiness. Personally, I don't mind being nasty in return but others may be put off and simply stay away, which would be a shame. As for Pico, I intend to be gratuitously nasty about him for just as long as it takes to teach him to leave me in peace but that's a special case.
  44. "As for Pico, I intend to be gratuitously nasty about him for just as long as it takes to teach him to leave me in peace but that's a special case."

    I wasn't talking to you, but if the shoe fits... So it looks like you are a self-identified anti-intellectual.

    And finally, you deserve nothing good until you apologize for calling me a liar and a thief (stealing other peoples "pictures"), and for having my images deleted from this forum while your stuff goes on forever like a bad dream. Explain, or just shut your cookiehole.
  45. I was going to post a nasty reply but, hey, I can be magnanimous. If Pico stops digging at me, I'll stop reminding him of those pictures he posted. If I recall correctly, he promised to ignore me, so, Pico my lad, you stick to that promise and I'll ignore you in return. But no cheating, mind, no sleekit comments on my postings and I won't make any on yours.
  46. SFB said: "If Pico stops digging at me, I'll stop reminding him of those pictures he posted."

    REMIND ME! Make my day! If those are not my pictures, then who's are they? Why do you think they are not mine? You don't even know me!
  47. Alas, such a short memory, so much ire! Posting pictures taken by HCB and some military photographer. Tut-tut! And forever sniping at people instead of contributing to the thread. Naughty, naughty. Just learn to play nice and there need be no further fuss...
  48. That Lady Said: "Posting pictures taken by HCB and some military photographer."

    First of all, I apologized for the HCB picture. It's history. It was an honest error, and besides I am sure that if you investigate (instead of casting innuendo blindly) you will see that it fell within the FAQ as fair use, and besides it was a public thumbnail.

    I don't know what you mean by the "military photographer". Point it out or shut up.

    Finally, you explicitly said that the pictures of my own that I posted were stolen then you machinated to have them deleted. If you had an email address, I'd take this to the private side but you do not. I DO have an email address. What are you ashamed of? Are you our moderator playing power trips on us? I guess we will find out Real Soon Now.

    Like I said; if you are here to negate the purpose of this particular forum, then you are out of line, old girl.
  49. Poor old Pico, perhaps it's not lies so much as paranoid delusions. Everyone knows I have zero influence on what goes on around here and I couldn't get anything deleted even if I wanted to. Having said, which, no doubt this entire thread will go to the bit bucket when a moderator gets around to looking at it. So I take it that my offer of mutual ignoration is being refused, then...
  50. "isn't it a simple activity of picking up a camera and shooting a scene you like and then print it?"

    it depends on if you are taking a photograph or making a photograph.

    hp and pico

    why don't you two get a forum for yourselves so that you can have some privacy and spare the rest of us.....
  51. I have a life. I make photographs. I am out of this group as of this moment thanks largely to the hostile and negative posts within the spirit of "H.P." If "H.P" evinces the aspirations of this forum, then I have no part of it. Life is short. Spend no more time here.

    Best and goodbye

  52. It's not an uncommon myth ... the garden. That there was a golden age ... a more natural ... a more human time ... in the distant past ... that we must somehow return to ... if we want to become more fully loved ... is on the minds of many. Philosophy? A Love of Wisdom? It's that which will deliver us ... our wisdom ... our ability to navigate the rough times that we find ourselves lost in ... it's our compass ... and it tells us when we see love on a distant shore. Can a picture change the world? Can a rock song? What if a rock song delivered the message that it's OK again ... OK to rebel against authority? ... that our masters are steering us awry? ... out ... away from the garden? Could a picture of a rock band singing a rock song change the world? forever? Can it remind us ... like a beacon ... about our purpose ... about our incompleteness? ... and remind us to get back ... Get Back ... on the road ... to freedom? All pictures change the world. It's HOW they change it, that's all. We all philosophize all the time ... we just don't know it ... probably because, in our time, it is not so much in the fashion ... to know that we think ... maybe 'cause our masters ... our previous navigators ... thought it best that way? But no longer. Now is the time for us to think again. To say "why think?" ... is to remain a slave ... a slave at sea ... taking pictures of pretty chains.

    (Ah. *sips coffee* .... *mmmm*) :)
  53. That must be excellent coffee, Douglas. :)))
  54. to HP and PICO, could you please take your petty *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* throwing contest offline ? I have lost
    count of the amount of times I have read a post from HP that seems to be a 7 year olds
    playground retort along the lines of "Well he said he'd ignore me but nya nya nya" and it is
    fu**ing boring so, please....?
  55. actually - I apologise to Pico there.
  56. the way i see it pico got what he was asking for - old hp just stood up to a schoolyard bully
  57. I've been lurking here for a while, wondering whether to sign up and join in.

    I was put off by all the nasty comments that get made when a polite answer would be more helpfull. I decided to join in because I've seen someone prepared to stand up to what Jimmy called "a schoolyard bully".

    I don't know who this HP is but he seems to have a sense of humour which is probably necessary to deal with the rudeness and aggression of a few who seem to be spoiling it for everyone else.
  58. Philosophy = why. Like why a simple question prompted such a flame
    war. Why take a picture of the scene you like at all? How did you
    come across such a scene? To make the scene last longer than the
    time you spent walking by it is a clue. Communication,
    documentation, and artistry. Why not?
  59. Pico, Get a grip, and come back.

  60. a couple of posts after mine have made me rethink what I posted - so apologies to both HP
    and Pico. I havent really followed what Pico has said to start the spat. What I reacted to was
    HP's post about Pico ignoring him - I just seem to have read that so many times it was
    getting tedious. I for one would really appreciate it if the two of you could just email each
    other off forum and at least come to an "agree to disagree" understanding or something...?
  61. Robert, What you said was correct, and the sentiments (almost verbatim) crosssed my mind prior to your posting (so why didn't I respond accordingly? Tricky).

    Maybe it should be Pico and HP that should apologise.

  62. I do apologise for causing this furore. I'm not going to attempt to justify my actions because, in retrospect I don't think I can. I let Pico get under my skin and instead of backing off I went for the throat, which really wasn't the correct thing to do. I'm sorry folks.
  63. HP, Apology accepted, and spoken as a true Gentleman (obviously British).

  64. I'm new to this site, just reading over a few threads. Philosphy and photography...my two passions.

    Pico diGoliardi, you wrote:

    "A person has the perfect freedom to be curious, to question, or live on automatic."

    so simple, yet so poetic.

    that sums it up in a nutshell.
  65. There's as much art in craft as there is craft in art.

    Photography is visual, it usualy gives a fixed image to a viewer. The viewer is able to form an opinion, emotion, or whatever. If that viewer has a philosophical nature the photograph becomes philosophical to the viewer.
  66. Nothing is inherintly philosophical except as people make things such in their own mind.

    PEOPLE can make a urinal the topic of philosophy as much as photography or any other thing that is causing them existential grief. Philosophy is a mode of human thinking that can be applied to anything, for better or, usually, for worse...


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