Would a connection between "Fantasy Football" and Photography be "Fantasy Photography?"

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by albert_richardson|1, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. I heard yet another discussion about Fantasy Football and gambling today. I have to admit that I'm a little at a loss to understand how a person could combine the characteristics of real players in an imaginary combination to figure out which team might win in a real world contest.
    The football analogy opening kickoff asks how an imaginary event might be connected to the real world. Can one be the same as the other? The question that comes to mind that might interest us is, "what makes two photographs the same?"
    I wouldn't take the position that only identical photos can be the same. Two prints of the same image, for example, might be overlaid on a light panel to demonstrate that they are identical. I don't even mean to assert that only pictures taken in a burst mode would be close enough for one to consider them the same.
    Sameness is something else. Some ideas that come to mind are pictures of the same subject, pictures in the same setting, pictures that suggest the same theme, pictures made from the perspective of photographer(s) having the same intention.
    So the question for this discussion is what makes photos the same, and how can you tell? How can anyone figure out a photographer's intention? Is personal style enough to make photos the same? If you can look at a photo and tell almost certainly who made it, doesn't that suggest something in common in that person's portfolio? How easy is to to put your finger on sameness among photographs?
    What do you think?
    Albert
     
  2. When the subject of sameness comes up, I like to refer to Hume's skepticism about the concept. We call a ship the same, even where each plank and each of its individual parts has been changed over time. Similarly, we call a tree the same from seedling to large tree even though not one particle of matter is the same. Calling the ship and the tree the same can only be done through an act of imagination.
    Imagination is where photography comes in. "Is personal style enough to make photos the same?" No. It's enough to make photos alike. "If you can look at a photo and tell almost certainly who made it, doesn't that suggest something in common in that person's portfolio?" Yes. "How easy is to to put your finger on sameness among photographs?" I'd call it similarity, not sameness. IMO, each situation is different. With some, it's relatively easy. Others require more work and nuanced viewing to see threads of similarity in a body of work.
    "How can anyone figure out a photographer's intention?" A good question. First, unless you know the photographer and can ask him, you may never be certain, though educated guesses can be made. Even if he answers, he may not be clearly in touch with his own intentions and his photos may not express his intentions to the extent he thinks they do. But, I think one can try, and often succeed to some extent. How? Look carefully. Look for clues. Visual clues. Consistency throughout a body of work or series. Use the language and grammar and syntax of the visual sense.
    A good place to start separating from what a photographer may think his intentions are to what they may well be is in the PN nudes forum. There's a lot of self-deception about motivation going on over there! How do I know? I can't prove it but it sure looks like it, and in photography, looks are important.
     
  3. If you tell two photographers to go and take a picture of a vase of flowers on a table then yes, you will get two different pictures of the same subject. One may shoot a horizontal and include more of the table and area around it while the other photographer may shoot a tightly cropped vertical of just the vase and flowers and may shoot it in black and white. So the subject will be the same but the way it is rendered will differ and depending on who is viewing the two photographs one will likely be more aesthetically pleasing then the other. Can one tell who took each picture just by looking at it? Perhaps. This is why I'm generally opposed to street photography workshops. Two photographers can walk a city block taking pictures of whatever catches their attentions and at the end of the block there will be two separate bodies of work. Each photographer sees and takes the pictures based on many facets of their personalities. One cannot change who they are. This is what makes photographs different but since you are asking what makes them the same I can only guess that having a single camera immobile on a tripod focused on a subject and having people come by and trip the shutter will result in a sequence of identical pictures.
     
  4. What makes a photograph unique? Each one is unique, but they don't all seem so. You could say the same of people, or anything. It gets worse. From one moment to the next, any scene actually changes, even if imperceptibly. The earth isn't in the same place as it was a moment before. The photographer's index finger isn't the same index finger that it was in any moment before, though it may seem the same. Nor is the photographer's sense of her inner state the same from moment to moment, one moment hungry, the next not, etc.
    So Hume also asked, if nothing in me or lying about me is the same from moment to moment, on what rests my sense of continuing presence, there being nothing continuous in or around me except my sense that it is the same 'sense of me' who awakens each morning? (Awakening to changed outer and inner circumstances, certainly, but it is still felt to be the same me that awakens to those circumstances.) Hume's answer was that our sense of continuing presence must be imaginary, there being nothing in or around us upon which a sense of continuing presence can rest. And Hume also wrote that he doubted that answer was correct. With good reason he doubted.
    Hume lived before Darwin. Nowadays we know that we're animals and that our minds evolved either with or from a fundamental sense of a continuing self. And we also know that a sense of self isn't unique to humans. From science we know that nothing is the same as anything else, a fact that follows from a corpuscular theory of matter. It's only from a mind's sense of continuing presence that a mind can make any sense from all the motion about and within itself. A sense of self is a fundamental of a mind. Otherwise everything is a "blooming, buzzing confusion". (William James). And after Hume, imagination itself became an object of study in a science of the mind.
    There is a display of human imagination contained in much of P/N's nudes forum. To what degree imagination amounts to self-deception is open to question. Any viewer exploration of any photograph also involves the imagination. The body of a photographer's work isn't anything except an exploration of imaginations. It isn't possible to display a series of photographs that are of the same thing over and over. It's only possible to display a series of photographs that only seem in the mind to be of the same thing. Such a presentation is never of the real world and mind itself is a natural phenomenon worthy of separate study.
    https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_feynman About 40 minutes in Richard Feynman describes a bug in a pool of water, a blooming, buzzing confusion. It's amazing to him that a bug could ever figure out how to move around in a pool. I think that Feynman's most valued contribution to physics was a math that allows us to be deterministic about quantum motion.
     
  5. Marc "So the subject will be the same but the way it is rendered will differ and depending on who is viewing the two photographs one will likely be more aesthetically pleasing then the other."
    What we know about any subject is that the subject is in flux. So is the photographer.
    Marc "Each photographer sees and takes the pictures based on many facets of their personalities. One cannot change who they are."
    Consequently, the question of the photographer's intention is necessarily an open ended question. The photographer is always in a state of becoming, of growth. Growth is partly a product of intention, but mostly not intentional at all. A photographer is always changing and really can't help that, growth and change is also part of who we are.
     
  6. What we know about a subject is what we convince ourselves about that subject and that may have no basis in reality at all. We fill in the blanks as we wish. I suppose this is how a photographer such as Jock Sturges becomes so controversial. Some look at his work and see kiddie porn, others see fine art. Each will go to great lengths to prove their stance is correct because nobody likes to be wrong.

    As far as growth goes, in what context? I Engaged photographers will know if their work is meeting their standards and intentions but I don't know how this will make their work the same as any others. I'm reminded of a fellow student in a class I took years ago who took such a liking to my work that towards the end of the semester he went and purchased the same medium format camera I was currently using. Did he hope to take the same pictures as me? I don't know. I see some photographers imitating the work of other more well known photographers and all I can think of is I wonder when they are going to (if ever) start making authentic work. They may never for any number of reasons.
    I've always felt that the work a photographer produces is a by product of their personality. People change in the way they can drop or modify certain behaviors such as quitting smoking and such but at some point usually in mid 20's of a persons core personality, who they truly are is cemented. From then on, people don't change, they only become more of what they already are.
     
  7. In what context? I like Alfred Stieglitz's life story as an example of personal growth and artistic growth. I really admire him for that. I imagine that he felt fully formed, but that too at some point can be recognized as having been an 'administrative convenience'. In the last few years I've done better for recognizing that more fully.
     
  8. I see some photographers imitating the work of other more well known photographers and all I can think of is I wonder when they are going to (if ever) start making authentic work.​
    What's inauthentic about imitating the work of well-known photographers? For many people, that's all they ever want to do and striving to do it well might suit them just fine. What would be inauthentic would be for them to claim they were being original. But just doing it could be the most authentic thing in the world, especially if that's what they want to do.
    I've always felt that the work a photographer produces is a by product of their personality.​
    I agree, for the most part. I imagine there are those whose personalities would shock us if we judged the personality by the photos they produced. In some cases, we'd be quite surprised. I think artistic expression can often release things that remain hidden in other interactions.
    People change in the way they can drop or modify certain behaviors such as quitting smoking and such but at some point usually in mid 20's of a persons core personality, who they truly are is cemented.​
    I've found this to be the case, but only regarding certain aspects. Because of things like upbringing, parental and sibling influence, early family, community, and cultural influences, much of "who we are" gets determined before and into our 20s. Genetics also plays a role in that, as well as other things. I've lived in California since I was 21 (about to be 62) and, yet, the New Yorker in me will never go away. Of course, none of that doesn't mean I haven't also changed A LOT since my 20s. I think, for example, about my friends who have had kids, and many of their kids are now in their 20s. My friends, who mostly had kids when they were in their 30s, changed drastically when they became parents, many in quite fundamental ways.

    This is a very interesting photographic point:
    I suppose this is how a photographer such as Jock Sturges becomes so controversial. Some look at his work and see kiddie porn, others see fine art. Each will go to great lengths to prove their stance is correct because nobody likes to be wrong.​
    But these differences are more about politics and social leanings than they are about the photography itself. The two groups of people you are talking about are actually probably seeing and experiencing very similar things in the work. The work is not terribly ambiguous. It's just that they are reacting very differently to what's being presented, but I think they're seeing it all in very much the same way, which is why the reactions are so different. They are all seeing nudes which push the envelope, at the very least. Some make positive judgments about that and see it as fine art and some make negative judgments and see it as child porn. But I would submit that many of the sense experiences and even many of the emotions themselves overlap. It's just that each group does something different with them. I think Jock has actually expressed himself and communicated quite successfully. Each group gets it. They just feel differently about it.
     
  9. I've always felt that the work a photographer produces is a by product of their personality.​
    And our personality has two core elements. 1) what we are; and 2) what we think we are. Science tells us we don't know where we live, tells us that our common sense notions about external reality are formed as a sort of administrative convenience. What we think we are is also an administrative convenience. The tension between what we are and what we think we are is a potential for growth.
    Which means the only opportunity for growth after 30 is to examine our self-deceits. I think that has a lot to do with art and how we view the art of others, whether those are our own photographs of nudes, or other people's photographs of nudes.
    The problem with a public discussion is that it isn't honest discussion thought I have tried to make it so, I give up.
     
  10. Perhaps the following involves a slightly different slant on the OP.
    Suppose that two photographers are standing in very close proximity to each other. Each of them is exactly the same distance from the subject. They are using the same camera, the same tripod, and perhaps the same flash unit. Each sets the camera with exactly the same shutter speed, f-stop, white balance setting as the other. Neither uses any in-camera exposure adjustments or filters. In other words, the camera settings are identical. Each of them shoots a photograph from the same angle.
    With apologies if I missed any setup details, are the two photographs the same? In my opinion, the answer is in the negative. The first photograph was produced by photographer (1), while the second was made by photographer (2); it comes down to that dreaded word - intention.
     
  11. Michael, in your experiment, you didn't mention what either intention was, so I'm not sure in what way intention had much impact on either photo. Can you elaborate? To put this simply, the way I'd describe your situation is that, of course, the two photos are different photos. That's because they are two different photos taken by two different people. But in most artistically or communicatively relevant ways, they're the same.
    Sameness and difference is not usually a black and white thing. The determination will depend on what questions are being asked about two things, what the relevant characteristics are, and what the context for using the words "same" and "different" are. Sometimes we use "same" rather loosely. We might say, "I saw that photo in a book yesterday, and it's a coincidence that now I'm seeing the same photo in the museum today." Well, obviously there are differences between the photo in the book and the one hanging on the museum wall. But, in normal speak, I wouldn't question someone referring to it as the "same" photo. And, yet, I think it's well worthwhile considering the big difference between viewing a photo in a book and viewing a photo hanging in a museum. All this understanding can just be accomplished by using common sense and not getting too hung up on the word "same."
    _____________________________________________________
    Going back to your example, if I were emphasizing the fact that two different people snapped the shutter, I might well refer to the two photos as two "different" photos. If I were emphasizing the similarity of the result, I might refer to the two photos as the "same" or "pretty much the same." If I saw the two photos, absent your description of how and by whom they were taken, I might well say they looked like the "same" photo (though they would be two different objects). Which, again, may point up the irrelevancy of the intentions of the people pushing the shutter. Intention seems relevant when it makes a difference, when it stamps the personality or aesthetics of the snapper onto or into the photo. When the snappers are acting merely as button pushers to achieve the same result (or a result similar enough that no one could tell the difference simply by looking at the photo), I'm not sure intention has much effect.
     
  12. Michael - "...it comes down to that dreaded word - intention."
    Dreaded? How about that downright depressing word - intention. Depressing as in "Where ever I go, there I am." So with my own photography, I felt often "Yep. There I am." It's me again, and what I thought I was now all shown to myself as an administrative convenience. Maybe not depressing, but defeating. A self-defeat somewhere in my intention. The less public the better.
    Here's one. Mom the coyote. I had tricked her to get the shot. That expression. She held that expression for what seemed an eternity. Ever seen that expression in your own mother when you childishly tricked her while she was doing something important? That coyote's look is the same look. Mom the coyote had an adult life. Did I? Not according to that mom coyote I didn't. But can I really argue with a mom?
    So I see all that as a necessary part of doing our art, we may or may not call art high minded, I don't think it is. So I think part of art is examining my own intention whether I want to or not. But yeah, it's just another coyote shot. Same as any other.
     
  13. So I think part of art is examining my own intention whether I want to or not.​
    Another part is examining the result of those intentions, the art. If examining the intentions seems self-defeating, it might not be a bad idea to focus on the results, which I bet will start affecting the intentions. I notice a tendency in discussions about art to emphasize how intentions affect art but I think as much attention might well be paid to how art affects intentions.
    Ever seen that expression in your own mother when you childishly tricked her while she was doing something important?​
    I wasn't any good at tricking my mother. She usually saw right through me, though it was much later in life that I realized she could do that without letting on that she was doing that.
    But yeah, it's just another coyote shot. Same as any other.​
    No. Your framing, which cuts off the coyote, gives this a bit more than just a mom's expression. You've actually imposed yourself quite strongly with that gesture, which also infuses this with the kind of artifice photography is good at, making us very aware that this was framed from something bigger and making us also intuitively aware of what's not there but implied. All this and more makes it not the same as any other.

    Intentions are important, but so are implications.
     
  14. How can anyone figure out a photographer's intention?​
    Let me turn this question around: how can we figure out viewer's intention?
    Looking at ants on top of an anthill, all look the same, looking at the Earth from space all humans look the same.
    As a photographer I'm sometimes driven to look for more variety by fear of repetitions, of accusations of "all your images look the same" - thy don't - to me - I'm much closer to my images then any viewer will ever be.
     
  15. As a photographer I'm sometimes driven to look for more variety by fear of repetitions, of accusations of "all your images look the same" - thy don't - to me - I'm much closer to my images then any viewer will ever be.​
    The question, then, would be, whether you want to step back and view your photos as viewers do or whether you want to maintain the inside view you're describing. How important is the sharing aspect of your photography and to what extent does the perspective of the outside viewer matter to you? Are fear and imagined or real accusations constructive motivators? What's the difference between, for example, fear of repetition and desire to think in fresh ways?
     
  16. Fred, et.al. - Please don't think I'm ignoring your responses to my previous post. I just recently returned from a brief vacation, and I'm trying to catch up.
     
  17. ...what extent does the perspective of the outside viewer matter to you?​
    I'm coming to a position that viewers perspective should not matter at all to me - a position of total control and independence of an artist from the viewers. The expression: "customer is always right" turned into "artist is always right". I would say that many artists of the beginning of 20th century had this approach - necessity to fight traditionalists. But in can be also used to preserve traditional forms of art from dictate of change.
     
  18. Me, I do photography as a way of sharing. My approach is not to have viewers dictate to me. It's about having a dialogue through photography. Since I think much art is born of empahty, community, and culture, I don't think it's possible for an artist to have a position of complete control and independence, nor would I find that kind of approach fulfilling. I never thought art had much to do with being right.
     
  19. "That's because they are two different photos taken by two different people. But in most artistically or communicatively relevant ways, they're the same." Definitely, Fred, this is part of what I meant.
    Here's where intention comes into play. Suppose for the sake of discussion that each photograph is of a rocky stream with rapids, surrounded by lush vegetation. One photographer's intention is just to shoot a pretty landscape. The other's is to demonstrate the power of moving water. The first thinks that the resulting image has succeeded, while the second may think that his shot is a dismal failure.
    Charles, have I also addressed your concerns?
     
  20. It depends on why and how they're each judging success and failure. I don't judge my own success by necessarily fulfilling my intentions. I allow for accidents and unknowns and I allow for myself to learn from my photos. So, a photo of mine may not succeed in terms of accomplishing what I thought I was setting out to do (if I was specific to myself in those thoughts). But it may succeed to me as a photo nonetheless.
    In any case, with such different intentions on each of their minds, I doubt things would go according to how you set them up in your thought experiment, because I doubt they'd wind up using the same camera settings, the same lens, the same f-stop, and the same shutter speed. That would be highly unlikely given the differing intentions each of them has.
     
  21. I don't know Michael. Let's say Eggleston took photos that I could claim were 'the same' as some of mine, ordinary subjects. What I think I recognize in some of Eggleston's photos are scenes I've seen. I might be tempted to say "I could have taken that." But mine obviously wouldn't be the same. It's hard for me to put my finger on it.
    So with my coyote shot above, mom coyote's expression was situational. Just one photo of that situation doesn't necessarily make the situation clear to a viewer. So with Thomas, I agree that I'm closer to that situation in that photo than the viewer. But I am trying to communicate something specific to a viewer with that specific coyote photo. For example, the sameness of a coyote reaction and a human reaction in a similar situation. That situation being childrearing. And to try and pass on that sense of recognition I had between a coyote and a human. Those contexts may not be clear enough in my photo. So its difficult with just that one photo to suggest to a viewer what I felt. It less about the mom coyote's behavior and much more about her mental process and emotional reactions, her maturity. In any case, I think it was important to my personal growth to have spent the time taking coyote photos over a couple of years.
     
  22. It's hard for me to put my finger on it. . . .
    But I am trying to communicate something specific to a viewer with that specific coyote photo. For example, the sameness of a coyote reaction and a human reaction in a similar situation. That situation being childrearing. And to try and pass on that sense of recognition I had between a coyote and a human. Those contexts may not be clear enough in my photo. So its difficult with just that one photo to suggest to a viewer what I felt.​
    Charles, some really important issues raised. True about it being hard to put one's finger it. Maybe it's impossible to really pinpoint all of this, especially with words since we're dealing with a visual medium. Nevertheless, I do think it's worth considering what we can do, thoughtfully. If you're willing, it might be a great opportunity to talk about ways that, at least to some extent, you could in a photo or series of photos, communicate what you are talking about regarding the mom coyote. I already have some ideas, and I'm no expert on coyotes by any stretch of the imagination. I'm sure you'd have some better ideas.
     
  23. Let me give an idea of what I have been able to convey about coyotes. With still pictures, with video. In a word, instinct is what I've been able to convey. Not mind primarily. Portraying a coyote mind at work is elusive for me.
    Here's a video example where what's shown are family greetings: http://coyoteyipps.com/2012/09/09/parental-greetings-by-charles-wood/ .
    Within the first 40 seconds is a dad waiting for junior and then junior arrives. The video gives more context than one photo. My guess is that the young one is about a sixth grader.
    I was also able to show that kind of parent/child interaction with one photo. http://www.photo.net/photo/11541251 . That shot was from a distance. It's the mom getting disrespected by her older kids. But its hard to make out.
    If I would get too close then this could happen: http://www.photo.net/photo/11117050 . What had happened was that a 10-12 week old sole puppy had come up to my dog and me. Then the dad found out about that, ensconced the puppy and then came and freaked out at my dog and me.
    Page 3 (Habitat Herald, A Publication of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Fall 2015 Volume XX, Issue 3) http://www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/Vol_20_Issue_3.pdf is this shot: http://www.photo.net/photo/11114651 . It looks like a fairly friendly coyote, but that was taken during a pause before yet another display of bluffing aggression. It was the dad coyote protecting his pups. So let's just say the Conservancy saw what they wanted to see, a smiling coyote. It wasn't like that at all and it took me half a mile to shake him.
    I think it fair to say we expect those kind of instinctive behaviors of a social animal like coyotes and wolves. Those behaviors look familiar, but don't show mind, for lack of a better word. There are a lot of such videos and still pictures around, more or less similar.
    So updating my single photo folder: http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=954582
    That's the series where the 2nd one was posted in this thread earlier. The four as a series don't clearly show the viewer that the mom coyote was acting from mind. Even with a narrative supplied that isn't an easy case to make.
    So Fred if you have any suggestions or ideas, I'm open to them.
     
  24. Fred, that's the beauty of a thought experiment. As unlikely as the results may be, they are possible. In the realm of actuality, your point certainly is spot on.
     
  25. Michael, I don't think so. A thought experiment has to make logical sense. Let's do it this way. What is your thought experiment actually meant to show? If it's meant to show that, despite differing intentions, two photos can turn out looking the same and garner different reactions from the photographers taking them, then it completely undermines the thought experiment that you've artificially set it up so they take the same photo. Your thought experiment winds up showing absolutely nothing about intentions. In fact, you've only pretended the two photographers had different intentions. Nothing in the thought experiment shows that they do. You claim they do but they act as if they don't. That's not a reliable or even a reasonable thought experiment.
     
  26. Charles, you might have to go for more overt. Bringing a human mother and child into the series could be one way, though perhaps too obvious. What your cropped coyote showed (the one called 1momuntitled) was expression, though it was unclear to me the expression had anything to do with being a mom. I think your subsequent video and photos, though they have more action/interaction, are taken from a distance or an angle where expressions aren't as well seen as in that one. I think expressions can lead us to mind in a significant way. So can narrative, and your video does have narrative to it but without your accompanying commentary it's not clear enough to be effective communication of your thoughts about the similarity of human and other animal mental process. Verbal communication of a descriptive sort often relies on metaphor and I think photography relies on it often more so. In your writing, you haven't used metaphor and thinking metaphorically might help you establish the kinds of connections you want to convey even though the communication you seek is rather literal. How often does visual art convey such literal comparisons or renderings of mind?
     
  27. That's another thing, where humans read facial expressions and have expressive faces and we aren't easily tuned into the body language of animals. One thing I do like about photography is that it is literal.
     
  28. I'd question that. If it were so literal, why wouldn't your photos be communicating what you want them to. Ironically, I think to make your photos more literal, you might have to approach them more metaphorically. One doesn't "literally" see the process of the mind, which is what you want to show. So, what a photograph is showing is something other than a literal representation of the mind at work. In order to visually communicate what is literally a process of the mind, you're not able to take a picture of that actual process. You have to and you have to get your viewer somehow to deduce or infer it.
     
  29. I'm not opposed to metaphor. I just suspect that with a coyote, a metaphor would blur the distinction between them and us. For example, in native American lore, a coyote is a trickster figure. That metaphor says more about us than about a coyote. So I suspect a metaphor would mythologize, romanticize, or sentimentalize a coyote. But I think that also applies to human photographic subjects and their framing, what's in the frame, what isn't, etc.
    So that relates to Fred's question: "The question, then, would be, whether you want to step back and view your photos as viewers do or whether you want to maintain the inside view you're describing." Some views are always going to be inside views that defy expression?
     
  30. Fred, I just took a quick look at Wikipedia's definition and analysis of a thought experiment. I withdraw my previous response, accordingly.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_experiment
     
  31. Charles, do you think you've set yourself an impossible task? If you are ruling out metaphor, is there any possible way to literally portray a coyote mind . . . or a human mind for that matter?
    I'm not sure the mind or the operations of a mind could ever be portrayed, though I think the results of using one's mind can be portrayed. Maybe that's not metaphorical, but it's not a literal portrayal of the operation of the mind either.
     
  32. And, as far as mythologizing, romanticizing, or sentimentalizing a coyote, I think that's something to guard against with humans as well. A lot of photographers do that to their human subjects and a lot of viewers do that when they look at photos. As a matter of fact, in another thread, there's a discussion about portraits that supposedly capture the "essence" of their subjects, which I think is a viewer-induced mythology projected onto portraits.
     
  33. No literal way to portray a mind, I agree. With a coyote their language is a body language, behavioral.
     
  34. Indeed, Charles. I guess that your last set of comments apply to a photographer's intentions as well.
     
  35. Clarification - I was not addressing coyotes.
     
  36. With a coyote their language is a body language, behavioral.​
    I do not see them here in Chicago, but I can hear coyotes "sing" in the summer - it must have some important meaning.
     
  37. Michael: To some extent, maybe. I can only speak to my own photographic activity specifically. I can generalize about myself. Those generalities may not apply to others and their processes.
    So there are a lot of frames, mythologizing, romanticizing, sentimentalizing, objectifying, etc. I can put a photographic subject into any number of frames. A viewer can too.
    I framed a hostile coyote to look friendly. It was published in a sympathetic article as a friendly looking coyote. Is history but a sequential framing of "lies agreed upon."? I don't think so, but everything seems to get framed one way or another.
    Photographing "essence" presumes there is anything we can call "essence" in our lived experience. Assuming there is, it does sound like hubris for a photographer to say she captured "essence".
    Assuming there is such a thing as essence, it would be hubris for me to assert the following: from my experience of 'you' I have with my thinking and framing captured your "essence".
    Fred wrote: "As a matter of fact, in another thread, there's a discussion about portraits that supposedly capture the "essence" of their subjects, which I think is a viewer-induced mythology projected onto portraits."
    And I agree that a portrait is recognizable to but a degree, can't capture "essence". If by a flight of fancy we fill in the gap between recognizable and essence I think it is still fruitful to explore how and why we fill in that gap. Because we don't just do that with pictures. We do it all the time. Constantly argue with our self and others about our framings.
     
  38. " . . . it is still fruitful to explore how and why we fill in that gap." Well said, Charles.

    I really have no idea about the how. As to the why, it's possibly because humans seem driven to make sense of the world. As for me, I am quite comfortable operating on the premise that the best sense I can make of the world is that ultimately there is no one way of making sense.
     
  39. I heard yet another discussion about Fantasy Football and gambling today. I have to admit that I'm a little at a loss to understand how a person could combine the characteristics of real players in an imaginary combination to figure out which team might win in a real world contest.​
    "Fantasy Football" is a game of statistics and choices, basically a strategy game that derives its statistical basis from real life game day performance of players so its a virtual game with virtual results. Like many strategy games, the craic is in the kibitzing between the games, trades etc. I don't play, but half the people at work do and my office mate is one of the main players so I hear it all day, especially on Weds and Friday, when the trade deadlines are in. Its amazing how much the fanatics know about who the players are etc., and listen to them try to figure out who the best ones are to plug in for the weekend games.
    I don't really understand how you then morph into the question of what makes two photographs the same. But given that, so the topic is sameness in photographs, how can you tell.
    I guess to parse that question you kind of have to choose what qualities of sameness and difference you are comparing . As Phil says above, the largest display I've ever seen of photographs that exhibited sameness in virtually every facet was the Bleacher's work. I saw the retrospective at the Getty Center in LA and I've never seen so many photos in one place that so slavishly exhibited unity of style, intent and subject matter. I had a huge headache by the time I got done. A work like that transcends the concept of what makes two photos alike. Even though the Blechers professed a desire to document the demise of modernist industrial architecture before it was gone, the exhibit entered post-modernism because of the overall impact of so many photographs minimized the impact of any single photograph or even any 10 photographs. And then at the same time, I believe it was also at the Getty Center was an exhibit of Robert Adams, (could have been at LACMA) but again it was rooms with hundreds of small photographs of sage brush plants and desert scenes that were totally similar in style and subject though huge amounts of individual photos. Each of those artists combined a unity of both style and subject, to the point that my head would explode if I didn't stop viewing them.
    But sameness and difference, when presented as polar opposites is difficult. What qualities do you look at? Is it a similarity of feeling? Mood? Expression, Subject matter/content, or of style. I think most of the photographers I admire, I will see a similarity, or consistency in their work or at least in phases of their work in both subject and style. It really is an open ended question that I hope isn't intended to really be looking for answers.
     
  40. I like to go out shooting with friends. We are all different in our personalities as well as our work. It is somewhat disconcerting for me when we discover a common scene, but I have gotten to love their always unique renderings. I usually find myself photographing photographers. One of the friends brings his full-size poodle and we share hanging on to it’s leash. He is our Wabi Sabi, guide dog.
    00daxM-559317284.jpg
     
  41. Alan, a big "Thank you." The phrase "common scene" is really what I was after in my previous dialogue with Fred. Indeed, the ensuing dialogue would have been much different had I couched my remarks accordingly. Different photographers, of course, can take shots of a common scene or of elements within that scene. Just because there is indeed a common scene doesn't entail sameness or even similarities among the photographs that result.
     
  42. Just because there is indeed a common scene doesn't entail sameness or even similarities among the photographs that result.​
    No? It seems to me the common scene would, in most cases, represent a similarity if not a sameness!

    As has been said above, trying to discuss sameness or similarity without specifying in what regard won't get us very far. The same subject can be shot differently. Different subjects can be shot similarly. Were we to take any two photos, we could find some similarities (or samenesses) and some differences, depending on the qualities or aspects we were considering.

    The interesting thing about intentions to me is not that they might vary, but why they likely will. When considering intentions, I'm mindful that they get formed for many varied reasons. Much of what goes into the formation of intentions is not just the will of the photographer, but his life experience, the culture he was brought up in, the circles he's traveled in, his genetic makeup, his education, even his class, gender, and social status, etc. Considering all these factors, I think, leads us to a less individualistic notion of photography and more of a shared one, the idea that photos are not my own but rather belong to a world much greater than the one in which I make certain choices intentionally.
     
  43. I usually find myself photographing photographers.​
    To continue the thought, this is very adeptly put and descriptive of the photographic process on so many levels, yet so simply stated. Alan did not say he forms the intention, each time, to photograph other photographers. Rather, he finds himself doing this. It's a build-up. It becomes a vision, which is less about the overtly intentional and much more about a flow of experience over time. We make choices, we find unknowns, we learn, we grow, we find ourselves in certain ways and positions after all that comes together. We affect our photos and our photos affect us in certain ways and we evolve in that back and forth dialogue with our own work, the work of others, the history of photography to the extent we know it as well as the effects of social change and culture around us.

    I think one of the strongest aspects of photography (and it plays a role in all art but to quite a degree in photography) is accident. A lot comes together in a good photo, not all intended. There's a lot of right place, right time that goes on and a lot of stuff that winds up in the finished product that we never saw to being with and never thought about. This doesn't mean I don't approach my photography mindfully, which I do. It means, though, I respect the limitations of mindfulness and intention and allow a more holistic view of how a photo comes together, a lot of which is not of my own doing. One of the beauties of photography is how it puts us in touch with the world around us in different and sometimes unforeseen ways. It gives that world weight.
     
  44. Fred - The key term in my previous post is "entail." Would your response have been different had I added a bit of clarification, i.e., a reference to a possible connection - not necessarily a logical one?
     
  45. Michael, I think a lot that's been discussed here has been very valuable. I'm trying to flesh out the ways in which intention and individual choice are involved in photography. My comments are my thinking on the subject, motivated in part by your statements but not needing to be read as a direct response to them. My specific point above was that sameness and difference can be found in any two photos, depending on the qualities or aspects being looked at. The word "entail" doesn't much affect my thinking on the subject.
    Phil, I've been moving toward a less possessive notion of art and photography. I have to square that with a strong sense I have of my being responsible for the photos I put out there, but I think I can feel responsible for without emphasizing ownership of.
     
  46. Thanks for the last response, Fred.
     
  47. OP "So the question for this discussion is what makes photos the same, and how can you tell?"
    http://c4gallery.com/artist/database/bernd-hilla-becher/bernd-hilla-becher.html
    In the above, all are the same as to qualia, as to the subjective component, where that qualia is the viewer disquiet associated with the word 'blight'. Becher's stylized visualizations of blight seems formed from a Sisyphean preoccupation, a compulsive, hopeless reframing of blight. How else account for his lack of growth as an artist except that his art practice ritually voided personal narrative?
    So if we say Becher's photos all look the same, aren't we thereby saying they all 'feel' the same?
     
  48. So if we say Becher's photos all look the same, aren't we thereby saying they all 'feel' the same?​
    I wouldn't be saying that.

    I was helped by reading the intro and then being able to see the Bechers' photos as each being very far from the same (though there are important samenesses that help create the overall effect of each series). This intro also got me to browse through some of August Sander's portraits which I think helps. Regarding the Bechers' work, I'd say that it is just that sameness of subject, scale, and perspective that allows the more subtle differences to make me feel something both when looking at each photo distinctly and especially when experiencing each photo as part of a larger body of work. In other words, for me, the feeling is cumulative, building upon the more individually relative feeling of each. It's not the "each" that's important to me here, but rather the "each to the next."

    After a bit of time spent with the Becher photos, I can't help but think of Bach's fugues. They rely on repetition and some will experience them as merely repetitious. But, I experience the slight differences of each voice and each development of the exposition as magnified by the sameness that others will hear that, to me, is an almost sameness that makes all the difference in the world.

    Things that look the same, such as these photos may look to some, don't necessarily feel the same. My brother looks the same this minute as he does the next but I may feel very differently about him from one minute to the next. I think a lot of art that appears repetitious is asking us to be part of it and when we incorporate ourselves into the mix, our changing perceptions or impressions of our perceptions become significant. Photography helps teach us that no two moments are exactly the same (and, as a matter of fact, it can teach us just how much difference a split second can make), so I'm not obliged to feel the same from one moment to the next just because the "thing" in front of me doesn't seem to change, which is far from the case with the Becher photos anyway.

    I think an interesting contrast to the Bechers' work are BLOSSFELDT'S FLOWERS. There's a visual and stylistic sameness in Blossfeldt's work yet I think most would observe more difference because of the differences in design and graphic aspects of each different subject, each flower he's chosen. Still I think Blossfeldt offers a similar "exacting documentation" of form that has some similarity to what the Bechers are offering.
     
  49. http://www.onshadow.com/artists/schles-ken/an-interview/
    From Ken Schles interview:
    "Right, but photographs have many different functions. And I feel like a certain function it has traditionally served within the art community is being overwhelmed and eclipsed by photography’s more vernacular uses."
    And:
    "But more than anything, I begin to start thinking about photography as practiced in the larger world and how it is totally overwhelming our little practice of critical photography. I think a lot of what is seeping into… On the one hand we can say photography is cross-pollinating itself, but it’s also acting in ways that very much negates traditional critical practice."
    Another excerpt from the interview:
    "In the end it’s all about significance and finding meaning. That’s why it’s interesting to me that Flusser would say images are significant surfaces. That’s why this whole discussion revolving around significance is so fascinating. And that’s why my 7 year old taking a photograph is also so interesting–because he’s trying to parse significance from the world, he’s trying to find significance. Finding significance is our human nature, our drive. It is our manifest destiny to divine meaning in a meaningless universe."
    And updating what I previously wrote of that interview:
    Maybe that language was destined to be extinguished because Szarkowski led photographic art away from its critical function and into the more vernacular uses Schles ruminates today; led there partly because of that democratizing trend from Szarkowski, a precursor of all that has now placed the curator in today's reduced position (that position also described by Schles in the interview.) From one point of view (mine maybe), Szarkowski led a great leap backward into the sort of static model of society found in the portraiture of August Sander (called 'cyclic model of society' in that linked material, though my substitution of the word 'static' better conveys Sander's elitist social philosophy.) Naturally, in a 'Sander-static" world, meaning escapes and alienation inundates photographic art.​
    So a Becher contributes entirely vernacular photographic images because they are formed from no critical tradition at all. That shouldn't be surprising, that drift in 'art' photography toward an ego-centric, atomized, anomic individualism with its reification of the object as subject per se. It just isn't possible to parse repetitious blight into Bach. Blight has its own qualia and so does Bach, it has to do with what one repeats and why.
    Blossfeldt's flowers aren't photographs of blight. Still, from Wikipedia "He believed that 'the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.' " So he isn't intending to elicit qualia in his flower picture viewers. And that's fine that he shares a non-artistic, engineer's view of what to an 'engineer' is a harvestable world in its entirety. Yet an 'engineer' is a construct, a human invention, whereas a flower is not a construct. In case Blossfeldt missed it, a flower is a reproductive organ in heat. As a living object in heat, apparently Blossfeldt kept the feminine power of a flower at bay with his insistent love talk about architectural structure. No doubt he was a bore in the parlors. Yet he did a fine job in the vernacular.
     
  50. I'm sorry, Charles, but once again (and this is happening with consistency), I've lost you. You're offering so many strands of so many different thinkers, using quotes of others embedded within quotes of yet others. It's really impossible for me to follow. You seem to be responding to me, and I can only tell that because you've mentioned Bach but I don't know what you're saying about Bach or how you're relating it to Becher. Again, I'm sorry, but it's become rare that I comprehend what you're saying and even whether it's you saying it or someone else saying it.
     
  51. OK, I get those distinctions. There may also be a thin distinction between art and artful sophistry when it comes to my sensibilities over blight as a subject of a photograph.
    Fred thanks for saying so.
     
  52. Michael L. Thanks for response. I also found new threads within the topic.
    Finding something unique in mobs of people is a special challenge I enjoy that could be likened to FFB as described here. The challenge is being quick enough to capture somebody else similarly enthralled by the antics of the other photographers (everyone on earth with a cell phone) trying for the same thing.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Gate
    “Fred G. I'm trying to flesh out the ways in which intention and individual choice are involved in photography.”​
    I want to toss the ball to the viewer. I am wary of titles and want the viewer to consciously bring something of themselves to the picture - "Title" it in their own mind.
    00dblE-559427284.jpg
     
  53. “Fred G. I'm trying to flesh out the ways in which intention and individual choice are involved in photography.”​
    Just to be clear, as a response to things said in this thread, this is part of what I was trying to think about in this thread, NOT what I do with my photos nor an overall project I have. Very frequently, I've talked about photography for me being a collaboration/dialogue both with the people I photograph and with viewers and with history.
     
  54. Fred G.
    I know you have explicitly stressed the collaborative aspect of your work.. Sorry for the response I gave that overlooked (ignored ) that. I have a new topic that I hope continues with more in the same vein as influences of outcome that make each photographer and photograph unique.
    AZ
     
  55. I am grateful to you all for turning my intro into a such a sincere and thoughtful discussion. I really don't have any more of an idea of which elements play the major role in establishing continuity in photographs than anyone else. It is indeed an open-ended question.
    Thank you for all your comments.
     
  56. Drive-by comment:
    If it were, would not it more properly be
    PHANTASY PHOTOGRAPHY
    ?
     

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