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Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Aggie, Jul 13, 2003.
Hey, I love Sylvia Plachy's work, but I wouldn't discount the possibility of there being photo-rationalist trance-like states.
I'm bi-photolar. I swing wildly between the the two extremes.
I often try and be analytical about it, but then my brain starts to hurt and I just say screw it and go with my gut feelings.
I suppose in the end there is a bit of both disciplines in my work.
Aggie was in a trance? I just thought she was trying to reach the mother ship LOL.
Best description of me I've ever heard. I keep reading APUG and wondering why I can't be more disciplined and systematic about my photography but my sloppy nature keeps taking over.
I often just take out my SLR and happily snap away letting the camera do most of the work with little thought on my part. These rolls are some of my best as far as inspiration and composition but I always end up wishing I had just done this or that, or used the 4x5.
I am in awe of the knowledge on this board but often wonder if you gurus are that disciplined. I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.
I disagree with this premise. I think at first we start as technicians, we read book, we test, try the zone system, beyound the zone system, the zone system cubed, then we obsess over equipment, we want this lens, that lens, this camera or that camera. As time goes by, and we gain practice and experience, the technical part does not matter any more....or at least it is not the main reason to pick a camera...to get this waterfall shot with the water placed in zone VIII, and the shadow a perfect zone III...
So IMO I think any proficient photogrpaher starts as a technician and then with experience he/she moves more into the emotional aspect where technique is only secondary. This so called trance is only a narrowly focused intent.
Sometimes I'm very technical, using the full repertory of zone system, Scheimpflug and Merklinger, as well as developing the film in any one of six different developers depending on what I'm after.
Today I took my "pocket view" - Voigtländer Bergheil 9x12 - out for some "street photo". No light meter, no rangefinder, no ground glass - just point and shoot at "sunny 11".
I have to say that after a while the rules become second nature or automatic solutions which allows us to respond to the moment . For me their are images that take a lot of work I.E. testing and research and other times the image just happens. Either way when it comes to execution all the notes, testing and drawings are put away so I can stay in the moment. You can call it anything you want: trance, instinct Or experiance. As long as your doing it, just follow your feet and every thing is wide open to be challenged! (sorry for the soapbox)
I went by two phases - firt one, when I started and lasted about 15yrs - I was mostly a techician.
If I would, for some reason, get a bad neg I would get very mad - at myself, of course.
That's one of he reasons, for instance, I started using HC-110 diluting it from the concentate - I wouldn't run the risk of using less than optimal developer.
Now, after some 15yrs hyatus, I still like to do it well done - but if something (technical) goes wrong, it really doesn't matter, as long as I can get MY image.
Age helps a lot!
It does go in phases with me, but mostly I am the "trance" type
When I discover a new technique that I would like to try, I go through a technical phase for a while, and when I have mastered the technique, go back in "trance"...
I strongly believe that technique is very important, it is the base on which (my) photography rests, but creativity and vision is far more important IMHO.
Despite the "technical" articles I have written, my interest in the technical aspects of photography is less than minimal.
Interesting how we attribute our motivations to others.
Jorge wrote: "I think at first we start as technicians, we read book, we test, try the zone system, beyound the zone system, the zone system cubed, then we obsess over equipment, we want this lens, that lens, this camera or that camera."
That comes as a surprise to me. Since I came to photography just wanting to make pictures, not even knowing that the term "f-stop" existed, let alone what it was, I always assumed that everyone else's interest in photography was the pictures, and that the technical things held little interest.
I do not think, however, that the oppostite of "technical" is "trance-like." When making photographs I am in a state of heightened attention, open to what the world may present. Nothing trance-like about it at all. Nothing technical about it either.
Michael A. Smith
maybe we start of wanting to take pictues, go techy real quick and as knowledge builds, revert back to concentrating on the pictures, since the techy bit is all happening in the background anyway.
I think the best and most enduring photographers probably came at it from an emotional level first. They had a concept or emotion they wanted to convey. Once they found they couldn't get what they wanted they found they must master the craft. Thus becoming technicians. As MAS said above technical considerations become minimal, especiallyl once they are mastered, and who is to argue he hasn't mastered his craft. Once they are mastered then the photographer can concentrate on his artistic journey.
If the artist wants to do something new and requires a different set of skills then he/she must then again emerse themselves in the technical aspects again until they get what they want.
The problem is when people get so caught up in the technical aspects that it becomes an end in itself. What results are technically perfect, boring photographs that say nothing and only evoke feelings in the photographer themselves. If this is all that interests them, then all the power to them. Nothing wrong with that. But if they truely want to communicate something to a non-photographer, then they should probably spend as much time studying master painters as they do studying Dmax curves and developer formulas.
Their is a place for technical efficiency When a commercial client sais: I need this to do this or that within whatever perameters they specify, then it's our job to technically satisfy their needs. within that is creativity of a technical sort to satsfy the goal of someone else's idea. Course I am in a trance when I get to deposit the check! When we go it on our own above above someone else's demands and create solutions to our own problems and images based on our own demands is when every thing gets blocked out during the process which can be seen as "trance" My assistant calls it ANAL.
I think there's a type missing here: The Experimentalist.
That's what I seem to be, most of the time...
As long as I can remember I've looked at the effect of light falling on objects, landscape, in fact anything. Seeing my first Rhembrandt original painting had a startling effect on me in that I wanted to create light as he does. My abilities with a pencil and paint brushes at school were dreadful so I turned to a camera to capture the light and mananged to produce some pretty awful negatives. The next step was to learn technique to enable me to put the light I saw on to the paper, so I set about teaching myself.
I'm driven by the vision but cannot describe it as a trance like state, I think Michael's description of "heightened attention" sums it up although I do consider technique. As I'm working to set up the photograph and use the light I'm also thinking of the best techniques to help me express the feelings of the moment. We all work in a very personal way to achieve the result we are after.
I'd consider myself "Holistic". It is possible to separte the "Technical" photographer from the "Trance" ... possible, but why?
I view photography as I would any other ... I don't think "skill" is the right word ... "Conditioned-reflex supported, Mystically Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts" activity. That could apply to Flycasting, Target Shooting, Bowling, Origami, Gymnastics, Oil Painting, Music, Acting...
One starts by learing "basics"... the elements that are the foundation of the activity... whether it may be how tightly to grip the Fly Rod, or where the shutter release is located ... or how to select a new paint brush from the display stand in the Arts Supply Store. There is a LOT of learning, at various levels of educational efficiency, and that phase is *never* completed, only continued and advanced.
As we apply and repeat those "learned" elements we *will* internalize them ... they will become "conditioned reflexes" - we do them automatically, without conscious thought. In gymnastics it is often alled "muscle memory" ... the performing muscles seem to have a life of their own - a memory of what to do properly - of their own.
That can be *very* complex. A friend of mine was an active Captain for the Massachsetts Steamship Authority ... the operating organization for the Ferry Service between Woods Hole, Hyannis, and Martha's Vineyard - Nantucket. The most amazing part of that ferry trip came in docking. There are two massive "eyes" - they look like large metal lollipops with holes through their centers, both fore and aft on the Ferry. These fit in corresponding "sockets" at the dock.
Using whatever maneuvering devices are avalable - bow thrusters and the like - the Captain will place the eyes on that massive ship - 202 feet (55 meters?) long (50 or 60 vehicles, a couple of hundred passengers) into the dock sockets within a centimeter or two, so that attendants can *drop* anchoring rods into place. That requies "fantastic* accuracy.
I asked my friend, "How on earth do you do that?". His answer, "If I had to *think* about it, I wouldn't be able to do it."
It has been said that we are competent in what we do when we no longer have to think about doing it ... and we know we have mastered it when we no longer can remember how we learned to do it in the first place.
So... I do a lot of my photographic activity without conscious thought - there isn't TIME to think - a LOT of it; but not ALL of it... there is always something new to consider.
If "without conscious thought" translates to "Trance"... yes, I do that ... but I'm not a Zombie... I think about it, too, sometimes ... especially if I'm trying something new.
I agree with Michael's assessment. In the first place I don't think photographers are artists. I think that is an ego driven term. Ocassionally we may turn our art but I believe we are craftsmen.
We all started out by being attracted by someone's work and we tried to learn to copy it. Along the way we learn technique and skills that eventually help us to shoot to our occasional satisfaction. To create a successful photograph we must be in a mode that I think "heightened awareness" describes very well. The word trance I don't really like.
I think there are many technical photographers who are in fact technicians who probably turn out perfect, wonderful negatives. However since we don't sell negatives, who cares. I think the joy in photography is in turning out wonderful prints and that must include a photograph that has "impact" and a fresh look.
Since most on this forum are landscape photographers I would suggest try being a technician and photograph a six year old. You may get a great negative but will probably get a lousy print
Photographing people requires a constant rapport and intimacy. If you spend your time thinking and messing with your equipment you will miss the magic every time.
I will use the analogy of playing hockey, my other passion. You play at a heightened state of awareness because of the speed, flow and also the possibility of injury. Very little is scripted, so it is all very creative and improvisational. The plays you execute are done at a high speed so there is no time for thinking. It is all muscle memory, and instinctive because of years of practice. The skates, stick, puck and the ice are all just tools that allow you can arrive at this place in your head that gives you this feeling.
I treat photography the same way. The photographic equipment is a tool. Our knowledge is a tool. Once I get behind the camera I treat them as tools that allow me to arrive in this place in my head, my creative side, to hopefully make great photographs.
Just an opinion,
I disagree with the statement that "photgraphers are not Artists" Craftsmen do become artists once they cross over from simply putting a puzzle together together To creating their own puzzle and succeeding assemblig it. Magic Johnson was an artist the way he lead a fast break, A person who designs and builds furniture that exceeds normal standards in the use of or sculpted styling of their materials should be allowed the self confidence of being called an ARTIST. Painters use light, medium and dark values to tell their story on canvas. How is it that a Photo artist who actually harnesses light, then creates within the value range to tell their story is any different than a painter. Everything has a technical beginning, It's how far you push the technique and evolve it to a point of absolute comfort that allows you the freedom to create. Is that not what we expect from an artist?
Photography has as valid a claim to being "art" as any other medium does. However - I don't think the medium itself is much of a deciding factor when it comes to applying labels. Is "painting" art? What about a house painter - is he an "artist?". Anything else I can think of -- dance, poetry, music, sculpture... may or may not be "art" ... and their practioners may or may not be "artists".
It is not very difficult to think of photographers who were easily as creative as anyone else ... think of Phillipe Halsman's "Flying Wet Cats", or Man Ray's ... anything.
Photography as "art"? Sure... why not?
It is not the medium that makes something art. Artists make art. Of course there are a lot of folks who call themselves artists (in all media) whose work is not very good or accomplished, but they are simply artists who are not very good. There is good art and bad art, just as there is good and bad of everything else.
So othe question of whether or not photography is or can be art is the wrong question.
Michael A. Smith
Lets not even start that old debate about whether photography is art. Way to off the mark for this thread.
This reminds me of the old saw: "There are two kinds of people - the good ones and the bad ones - and the good ones will choose which is which."
It has been a long time on this quest, but the question of "What is art?" still ramins unanswered. I've heard a number of fairly good tries... but nothing really definitve... yet. I've reached the point where I do not WANT to know... If I succeed in defining it it just might disappear ... the basic mystery is an essential part of the whole.
I've written this before ... In *my* book, I am affected by "art" in three ways:
First, the works that 'enrapture' me - that set me off into an unreasonable, hypnotic trance. Second, the works that are "finely done", beautiful, expressive works skillfully worked... the pieces that I would hang in my living room. Third, the works *I* do not "get" - that I don't understand... no, that is not quite right ... there are many works of all stripes that I cannot rationalize - a.k.a. "understand". I'll try again - the works that *I* can't place in the two other categories.
I can't call any art "bad". I may not be "seeing" the work from the viewpoint - from the "mindset" of the artist. I remember once seeing a painting that was somehow deeply disturbing ... an incoherent "jumble" of sharp edges and garish colors, with no recognizable patterns. I later learned that it was painted by an artist deeply afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia ... and it was an expression of the terrifying demons that pervaded his existence ... and I could recognize it as desperate cry for help through the only means of communication left open to him. That did not make it a "good" work... but I saw it in a completly different "light" and perceived it as as having a completely different character.
I may not "like" a particular work... but I do not, and WILL not accept the delusion that I am somehow superior in some respect, and that I have the authority, or the superior wisdom to judge another's work. I don't even WANT that kind of responsiblity.
I once had a conversation with a self-styled critic. In *HIS* opinion (which everyone knew was superior to everyone else's - just ask him - he'd tell you), Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Wyeth, Sargent, Winslow Homer, Ansel Adams, Weston ... NONE of them were artists - they were nothing but poseurs producing "sham" work, not worthy of the waste bucket. We probed more deeply, naming Cassat, Botticelli, Alma-Tadema, Waterhouse, Fragonard ... he knew their work ... ALL junk.
Finally, after a LOT of probing, we got him to tell us who he considered to be an "Artist" ... there was only one ... Norman Rockwell.
That led me to a profound sense of ... pity for this guy. He was so "bound" by his convictions, that he could no longer "see" beyond them. Rockwell was, no doubt, a significant artist - but he was certainly not the entire universe of art.
Photographers make "interesting" pictures. So do painters, watercolorists, those who work in pastels, charcoals, and pencil. The end result is "art". How it comes into being is only a minor, secondary bit of trivial information.
Holy chicken or egg, Batman!
Weird thread, in that I can't disagree with anything that's been said.
In general, I think most of us were initially drawn by the desire to make pictures, not own equipment, or obsess about technique. We quickly discover that we have to get good enough at technique that our pictures aren't limited by our technique.
Some people go down that long slippery slope of ever more technically perfect static pictures (which is viewed on this forum as being bad), while others never produce anything original enough that their vision overcomes their mediocre technique.
I do think that most of the really good photographers mastered technique (according to their natures) and now concentrate on the "vision" thing.
I've personally decided that "expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights" is good enough for me. I've picked my favorite film and paper and focal length. I've gotten past the pictures of the kids growing up stage. Now it's time to have fun working on getting past the mediocre vision thing, with the emphasis on the having fun part.
BTW, poor Aggie, she's like a teacher who gave multiple choice test and all the students wrote essays on the back!
Art is an object of no practical value or utilitarian use, that one person has manufactured, and then he or another person has hornswoggled an unwitting victim into thinking he needs. The price of this object is in direct relationship with the number of years since the maker left the planet.
Some people are just untrainable LOL.
But in keeping with the continuing morphing of this thread I will weight in on the "art" subject and how it relates to me.
I am of the firm opinion that once I start charging $1500 for a 20x24 then my stuff will suddenly become "art". Especially if I con some well heeled mouthy types into buying the stuff. They will make sure everyone thinks my stuff is art just so they don't look stupid for paying so much for my crap.