aesthetics or significance?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ElectricLadyland, Aug 4, 2006.

  1. ElectricLadyland

    ElectricLadyland Member

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    When either taking or viewing a photograph, do you concern yourself more with the aesthetic, visually appealing aspect; or do you find yourself contemplating the meaning and significance of the photograph? Surely we all appreciate both, but one aspect may have more of an appeal to each individual. I prefer to photograph scenes that I find some abstract meaning in, and although I also concern myself with composition, the idea is usually most important to me. So, how do you like your art?
     
  2. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    At the risk of sounding hopelessly bourgeous, I find it difficult to appreciate things that are ugly. Generally, I'd go with the aesthetics of a photograph over meaning and significance in terms of the photograph as art. In terms of meaning, its a deeply subjective thing. Some of my photographs are attractive, some are decent looking, and enevitably the worst ones have the best stories attached.
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Neither.

    I pay attention to focus, aperture and shutter speed. If I "pay attention" to things like aestethics, significance or even basic compositon, the photograph will always fail to show all three.
     
  4. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    For me it's always the visual aspect. I don't think photograhs even have 'meaning' unless someone imposes one with words...i.e., "Migrant Mother" (sans title) could have been documentation of the aftermath of a disaster, the circumstances of a real lowpoint in the life of an migrant family, a refugee awaiting relief, a psychologically disturbed woman clinging to her children in an otherwise 'normal' setting, or a host of other 'stories', but it is, fundamentally, a telling portrait...a visual connection to a clearly troubled situation. Obviously, news 'graphs may have significance as reportage or even as forensic artifacts, but that significance only emerges as time passes. Other photos may prove more 'telling' than mine, and become more 'significant' if they reveal more than mine does. So, for me, it's a visual thing...what I choose to photograph either resonates visually, or it doesn't. My photograph has meaning or significance only after the fact if ever.
     
  5. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    My color work is much more based on aesthetics which relies mainly on composition (placement) of objects and utilizes line shape, form, texture, and color contrast. However of prime importance to my work is focus, exposure, aperture (depth of field), and shutter speed (particularly regarding movement). Additionally for much of work time of day/lighting are of prime concern and importance.

    Rich
     
  6. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I'll take both.

    I like a lot of different genres of photography as well as I do music. I can appreciate the aesthetics of a David Muench landscape as well as the humor of an Elliott Erwitt "snap" or the banality of William Eggleston or the off-kilterness of Lee Friedlander or the neo-romaticism of Sally Mann or...well, you get it. Some things are interesting to me simply because of their beauty and some things because they touch a deeper level.

    When I make my own photographs, I'm pretty much a generalist. I will happily accept beauty as a subject on its own or I will break every rule of Photography 101 to attempt to make a statement (and fail miserably, more often than not).
     
  7. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    My most important "concern" is the effect the future photograph will have on my ... uh ... "state of being" (chosen after much thought). That is not really aesthetics - if "aesthetics" is taken as "pretty" - or significant if "significant" is meant as "carrying a message". Nor is "emotional state" entirely accurate. "State of being", indicating emotional and intellectual; conscious and preconscious reactions, is the closest I can come up with.

    That is a sort of "conditioned reflex" -- in practice, I don't usually analyze deeply - translation "think very hard".

    To me, photography has a lot in common with playing a musical instrument, or Flycasting, or Smallbore rilfle target competition, or Bull Fighting: There is a time to think and analyze; a time to practice technique and pay attention to minute details, a time to correct errors in technique. When the "moment of truth" comes, preparation time is over - you either have it or you don't.

    More later. This machine is still unstable.
     
  8. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Very interesting question. When I look at a photo, I'm like John, I am looking for something visually gripping first. So I think that means more importance on the aesthetics. That's why I was nonplussed at first by the Eggleston photo in the recent thread. The significance of an image requires sometimes an imaginative engagement with the photo: you have to read around it, or read into it. Sometimes I'm not willing to care about it if I wasn't arrested first by the image. That's why I have little interest in conceptual art.

    With my own photos, it depends whether at I'm at the taking stage or the editing stage. When I have my camera, I just take whatever seems worthwhile, as a document or as an image, and when I print I make a more aesthetics-driven decision.
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I probably lean more to the aesthetic side of the equation. I think the signature of a great image is a balance between the two. Ansel Adams commented that you are doing good to make a dozen good images a year. I imagine that balance would be a part of those "keepers".
     
  10. severian

    severian Member

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    aesthetic attention

    I agree with Ole on this one. Of course there is always something that attracts your attention. It is what makes you set up the camera. I can look at a scene on a groundglass for a half hour and then fiddle with the camera for another half hour and then be very surprised at what is on the negative.I know the things that are in the negative are things that I saw on the groundglas but I just did not recognize all of them. Perhaps it's ADHD or plain lack of mindfulness butI can never really previsualize a photograph. The process is only complete when the prints are made. I like to challenge students by saying"why did you choose to put such and such in your image"?
    I'm just asing them to take posession of their work. Everytime I say this to students I am also saying it to myself. Ole said" I pay attention" he did not say I am trying to pay attention. If he was trying to pay attention he would not be paying attention.

    Jack
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I photograph what pleases me from what appears to me to be the best viewpoint. I photograph pretty much ordinary everyday things. I guess that I may be a master of the ugly and the insignificant.
     
  12. severian

    severian Member

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    ugly and insignificant

    If you chose to photograph it then it is not insignificant.
    Jack
     
  13. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    "Try not.D:blink:r do not. There is no try" (Yoda).
     
  14. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    Aesthetics...definitely. What makes me stop by one photo on the wall of a gallery and not another? Aesthetics. It could be the gallery presentation itself. If there were six photos of sunsets all in a row (assuming that it was not the presentation's theme), even though all may be very good photos, what is the likelihood that you'll give each its fair share(?) of your attention?

    Mine may be a simpler view, but I'm somewhat casual and reliant on first impressions when viewing art. Something grabs my attention, then I make a decision if the image is pleasing to me or not. If it pleases me, I then look for why it does so and then start to examine it for the technical aspects (mostly with photos). I'm less concerned with "Do I think that he or she got the photo technically right?", than I am with how I like it or what it "says to me".

    If I don't like the image, I still ask why and ponder the aesthetics, but I tend to spend less time with it...because I don't like it. If I don't like it, but it still sends an interesting message or tells a compelling story, I will spend a little more time with it; but I'll be moving on soon.

    This process of viewing photos/art may be due to my own lack of mastery and formal art education, but ...it works for me! :smile:
     
  15. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    "So, how do you like your art?"

    I do not make photographs I do not like and then run into try to find one that like it. It works other way around.
    I make what I like and I do not care someone like 'em or not. I like equally just each photograph I ever made.

    There is no such thing as "YOUR ART". Art is an imaginary number, it does not exists. Artist yes they exists.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  16. siorai

    siorai Member

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    I only concern myself with the aesthetics. I couldn't actually care less about what someone wants to read into my images because whatever they deem the image to be "about," because it's wrong. My images don't mean anything. I don't shoot with any mindset of what the image means, or what it will convery to the viewer. I only care about the lines, tones, textures, etc.
     
  17. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I just shoot. I find that when I worry is when I get really bad shots.
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    For me a good photograph has got to have a "hook"...something that engages me. I don't try to show things in photographs normally. I prefer to pose questions. These may be questions of aesthetics, symbolic meanings, and compositional considerations. Photographs of "known objects", whether they are mine or others, portrayed as they are normally seen by everyone are boring to the point of distraction for me.

    I don't get too hung up on focus, shutter speed, and depth of field. That is something that I would have hoped to have gone past a long time ago. I mean it is important...but it is second nature now.
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    When I'm at a show, I just view the photographs there and think about all other stuff later.
     
  20. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    Whatever hits me first, usually. If it's a terribly ugly or beautiful photo, I might look for the message, if it's got a strong message I'll look at he subject more. It all really depends. I don’t usually try to work out the technical aspects, I don’t think I'm experienced enough and even if I was my guesses would only be to feel I knew what the photographer was thinking at the time, really.
     
  21. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    I don't really think human beings are very well equipped to separate the two. We often fool ourselves into thinking we see the difference - but we really don't. I believe that was proven in the Friedlander thread. We are culturally trained to see and evaluate according to a certain 'language of perception' - sort of a 'visual mythos' or 'cultural decoder ring'.

    An example of this - I had a third year philosophy class in aesthetics. We were looking at Kant, Schoepenhauer and Hobbes, I believe, in terms of their definition of the sublime. The professor brought in an example of artwork he considers to contain an element of the sublime. Well, it was a picture of a naked lady in a bathtub! Clearly, there was an element of transference going on here! Of course, you weren't there to see for yourself - but I think often times people function almost PURELY, on the psychological plane, by association. So - seeing a picture of something that generates fond memories in you, for example, is going to have a very different reading for you than it will in someone else who's been enculturated in a very different way.

    So - what I'm trying to SAY here - is that I think it's important for one to be very cautious when speaking of such separations, if at all. The very best art criticism does not assume an exact understanding of a mechanisitic mind.
     
  22. Edwin Westhoff

    Edwin Westhoff Member

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    Composition is very important but must be almost invisible

    Nice question, Electric Lady. Can I see some work you made?
    Any photograph should contain meaning and at the same time the composition should be superb. But the composition should be an almost invisible matrix behind the scene. You can immediately see when a photograph has a compositon that is (too) consciously made. And it loses meaning instantly.
    A photograph that is only aesthetical is not interesting and a photograph without a good composition makes no statement.
    So, composition I think is far more important than most photographers realize, but the trick is that it must be near invisible.
    When I make experimental architectural photographs, I use the arch. designs for my own purpose, so that the buildings look like reaching the spiritual skies.
    But the composition must be perfect, absolutely excellent. Otherwise the visual impact is not catching and not mesmerizing.
    In the old days I made my landscapes completely on the auto pilot. But since I teach Composition (also basic courses photography) I notice that I sometimes make slight corrections, like positioning the diagonals not exactly in the corner.
    Last week I made a list of compositional factors that you can correct consciously during the shooting, and factors that you have to do intuitively.
    The first list contained 33 points and the second 23 points. I was surprised at how many things you still can correct while shooting.
    But during the last seconds before I push the button, everything goes on the auto pilot. When you are still looking at the composition then, it will be artificial.