At the risk of beating a dead horse please read.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Eric Rose, Dec 6, 2004.

  1. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    This article has several interesting points. The first being the development technique of expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows, and then the old argument on whether photography is really art. He makes some valid points, many of which I personally agree with.

    What do you think? The only problem I have with some of his logic is that I think he may be intimating that to be a real photo artist you must also be a trained fine art painter. While we have several photographers on this forum who are infact excellent painters as well, I question whether it a necessity.

    http://www.thescreamonline.com/essays/essays06-01/rsb_photo_essay.html
     
  2. mark

    mark Member

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    I like this statement a lot "For photography to have its place in the world of Art, it must have within it that quality of having been achieved by the hand of a competent Artist, along with the hand of a technically competent photographer."

    I think it is the artist quality that gives some photographs that certain something that takes them past the technical and brings out the emotion. Your shot of the inside of a church did this for me. I am not sure I agree that the person needs to be a trained painter though.

    When looking at his portraits I do not really see anything special about them, though he feels they are.
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't want to be too harsh, but his portraits are derivative to the point of being comically cliché.
     
  4. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Now Mr. Callow, I know you have strong feeling about the issues at hand. So please share your insight and wit with your fellow photogs and aspiring artists.
     
  5. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    Here's my 2c:

    The main point of the article is to discuss photography's merit as "Art," but at no point does the author define "Art" anymore than to be art "it must have within it that quality of having been achieved by the hand of a competent Artist." So, what makes some one an "Artist"? I'll slap the first one who says "the ability to create art."

    The author hints at composition as being the key artistic element of a photograph, but hisses at the F/64 group for not allowing manipulations. If you can't manipulate a photograph, what are you left with? Composition! The author's point is then invalid.

    As for his exposure methods, it's one way to do it. I'm sure it will lead to bullet proof negatives, but what do I know? Really, I don't know much, no sarcasm here. Well, maybe a little.

    His portraits look a lot like old oil paintings... as for their merits: It's his work, and he seems to adore it, so they are successful. Are they "Art"? How should I know? No one has defined art yet...

    By the way, whoever defines it, could you please define "beauty" and "justice" as well? I'd really appreciate it. I'm sure it could stop a lot of killing.

    Please forgive the sarcasm,

    André Rosenbaum de Avillez
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It is only my 1/2 wit opinion, but...
    In a manner, I DO think art can be shit thrown on the wall. Tools are meaningless message is ultimately the thing. There has to be quality to the message, both in content as well as as delivery, for it to be successful, but the tool doesn't determine that as much as the artist. To question whether the camera or photography can be art has been answered time and again. In the last 100years the same questions were asked of watercolour, guauche, ceramics and glass. It is not the medium that determines whether something has artistic value (at least not by my definition of art). Although, a good/great artist will utilize the uniqueness of a given medium to augment his/her message. I would doubt that there are many here on this forum who would argue that photography is not a unique, if not transcendent way to communicate.

    I am speaking of Fine Art not the art of craft.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Mortenson vs. f/64--that horse really is dead.

    Personally, I don't think it's really worth worrying too much about whether something is "art." Better to ask whether it's meaningful (does it make me think? does it make me feel?), and let the generations to come decide whether it's "art".

    As for "fine art"--that's just a technical term, something to put on your tax forms if you produce visual work for display only, as opposed to "applied art" (commercial, illustration, journalism, etc.).
     
  8. photomc

    photomc Member

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    I can agree with this 100%..would I like this type of art? no!

    Take a look at what is considered ART! The auto designs of the 50's are considered art by some, the Hood ornamantes of some cars are collected as art, heck some perfume bottles are considered art. Will they be in another 50-100 years, don't know and don't really care. Work today could be accepted as Art Today..but in a hundered years will be considered craft. Some buildings are considered Art, but not everyone see's them that way..unless of course someone tells them.

    So what is ART, Heck I don't know..is there more than one way for photography to be viewed as ART? You bit your sweet bippy (by the way what is a bippy?) For all I konw, Art is just a guy at work..if someones work moves you, and you like it enough to want to hang it on your wall, place it in your study or view it on the lawn..well it may be a 'visual' art object..and then again, maybe you just like it and said the heck with what anyone else thinks...

    shit on the walls? My cat can do that, did not know he was an artist...
     
  9. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Recognizing of course that his portraits as presented via electronic means are probably not the truest representation, I do personally think that he has succeeded in presenting work that is apart from a lot of the "cookie cutter" images that are derivative of the F64 group's influence. The heavy retouching, interpositive, and enlarged paper negative process does produce something very different in my opinion.

    At first glance, his technical approach seems to be so foreign as to be unworkable...yet I have used the same approach in my proportional exposure approach to high inherent contrast objects/scenes. So yes, it does work and pretty darned well at that.

    I would agree that training/talent in any of the visual arts is a definite aid to departure from the aforementioned "cookie cutter" duplication that has in many cases been done ad nauseum.

    Thank you for sharing this article. A wonderful departure.
     
  10. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Donald has grasped ahold of the main argument. Do you need to be an accomplished or trained artist in the medium of painting to be able to create "art" with a camera? That is the main issue here, not the old saw about whether photography is art or not.

    It seems to me at least that the writer holds the opinion, right or wrong, that you can not be considered a photographic artist unless you are successful at painting or some other traditional art form as well. Personally I think this is hog wash, but I have noticed that the art produced by our members who I know to be artists in other media definitely have a different slant on things. Thomas's nudes are a good case in point.

    The f64 mentality while creating many wonderful landscapes I think has cobbled many a photographer. These aspiring Ansel's are pumping out wonderful "cookie cutter" images and never progress beyond that. People like Weston and Barnbaum both initially and still do in Bruce's case to a small degree produced magical landscapes. In both cases these photographers recognized the limitations of this framework and quickly departed on their own creative paths. To the best of my knowledge I do not believe either Bruce or Weston are painters or sculptures etc. Can anyone deny they produce art? I think not.

    I find that the snobbery presented in the writers article to be prevalent in the art community. Especially at the gallery end of things.
     
  11. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    It may be worth noting that Brett Weston was an accomplished wood sculptor.

    Additionally, I recently noted that Cartier-Bresson spent the last thirty years of his life returning to his true love which was painting.
     
  12. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    This is like saying that the best financial traders (i.e. those who can make money from price action of financial and/or investment products) are those that have a PHD in mathematics, physics, etc., are great chess players blah blah blah. A case in point, the collapse of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management. How may Nobel Prize candidates were part of that "profitable" outfit. There is no correlation between success and objective criteria. Sometimes it is all a matter of feel. And most case, it is simply coincidence. You are only as good as your last trade.
     
  13. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Or your last photograph.. :smile:
     
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  15. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Shouldn't even dead horses be treated in an ethical manner? :wink:
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Francesco,

    I am not sure that I understand your correlation between financial trading and artistic pursuits, or even if you were drawing a correlation.

    I think that there are several aspects to artistic expression, no matter the medium chosen. Certainly a certain technical knowledge must be present whether that involves knowledge of exposure or of the characteristics of the materials used as in the case of photography...or it could be the ability to play a musical instrument in the creative expression within the field of music. Beyond that, in the field of photography, there must be an ability to see consistant with one's message. But it would appear that the photographer would have knowledge, a desire, or a need to express something. If not then the exercise is one of futility.

    It would seem that this all involves knowledge. Without that knowledge the expression could not take place.

    Once this knowledge is present then one can truly begin to express at an individual level apart from the influence of groups like F 64. I think that what I have been aware of is based in my own experience as it relates to photography. In that I began by emulating certain photographers. Then I developed a deeper appreciation of still other photographers and from that after many years I have come to a point of a more genuine self expression. That is what I observe in the link to this particular photographer and his efforts at self expression.

    Self expression at the exclusion of following the flock is to be applauded in my opinion.
     
  17. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Exactly!

    And Ralph, what's your point?
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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  19. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Apparently, it was a "dull", instead.

    I just found some humor in the fact that it's generally acknowledged that the "photography as art" horse was killed decades ago, but it's still being beaten periodically. In a PC-obsessed environment, shouldn't we be concerned about the ethics of doing so? :wink:
     
  20. 127

    127 Member

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    I believe (at least vaguely) that Jackson Pollock said that his art was not in the creation, but in the selection. He could make 50 paintings, and select one as being worthwhile. Duchamp also had a lot to say about art being selection.

    If art is selection, photography is almost pure selection, and therefore Art at it's most pure.



    I think the painting thing is about learning to see - I'm a better musician than a photographer, and practised for years to the point where I was actually competent. During that time I THOUGHT I was learning about fingerings, and breathing - the physical stuff. I was actually learing how to listen. A lot of digital technology allows you to make music withouth the physical requirements of playing - but novices can't make great music with it, as they lack teh ability to hear. If I were a "digital" musician what would I do with my time to "trick" me into learngin to listen.

    To a certain extent photography allows you to create an image without skill. To make a GOOD photograph requires a lot of skill, but how do you learn to see? I think that painting is a physical process that keeps the artist ocupied while they learn to see. It is possible to learn to "see" directly as a photographer also, but it takes just as long as learning to see by painting.

    Ian
     
  21. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Donald, would not disagreee at all - in fact I applaud you for taking the next step in 'seeing'. However, I do not think the link, at the start of this thread, does anything new - IMO. It could be that I just do not 'see' his vision, but for me they are just more of the same..work that feels like I have seen it before. Now, Michael Kenna and Rolfe Horn have done some work that IMO has moved out of the crowd and stands on it's own. W. E. Smith did some of the best artistic photojournalism work I have ever seen. So, this work just did not do it for me, it could be my own vision did not accept the work the way you did.
     
  22. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The author of the article makes some valid points, but muddies his argument by contrasting his style with f/64 and by insinuating that it is helpful if the photographer to have a traditional art discipline in their background to be justified as an artist,.

    Some things that can be pulled from his essay that I fully agree with are that the methods used should be a vehicle for producing the results and that there is not a single right way; the artist should have his fingerprints all over the process;and when some step of the process is handled by another there should be some acknowledgement made. I disagree that setting up ridged parameters negates the art, as in the f64 example.

    I was a bit harsh regarding his work. Technically it looks good and it is consistent. I found his process, or maybe his presentation, made the prints look somewhat muddy. This is a pretty subjective view point. I found the poses coupled with the process were over the top. This too is subjective if not a pretty arrogant comment.

    David G. made a comment that 'Fine Art' is a technical term that can be/should be ignored and that we shouldn't worry about the art/non art of our work and strive to make work that is emotive. I wholeheartedly agree with the first part. You don't start hearing the term Fine Art with any regularity until you start talking to photographers. I suspect that this is because photographers are somewhat sensitive about their place and or standing in the art world.

    The second part of David's comment is contradictory. Art is emotive and if we want our work to make the viewer think and or and feel than we want our work to be art.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2004
  23. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Mike,

    I understand your feelings about this photographers work. You reaction is very similar to my initial reaction to the work by Brett Weston. What I observed in the work on this post is that the photographer stepped away from the drumbeat of the masses not so much in his subject matter but in his technical approach to the presentation of this subject matter.

    It is interesting to me that we human beings have a "herd instinct". This is observable in the F64 groups influence that extends into this day. It is more recently observable in the influence of those that are moving into the older alternative processes simply because someone else is currently doing them or they happen to be in vogue at the moment. It applies as much to those who believe that contact printing with Azo and Amidol is the only true silver expression worthy of note. I must admit that I have been party to this herd instinct. I think that the truly accomplished artists are those that plough new ground. Who use the common materials in new ways. It also applies to those who see the uncommon in the common and then go about presenting that.

    As I observe the output of most "photographers" today (and I do include myself in this grouping), I see nothing new. I see images about things. These are sterile representations of the commonly recognized. These are nothing more then representation. Art is not about representational depiction alone, it must have a human componant. What is missing, in my opinion, is the human componant of the individual interpertation. O.K. so I have a photograph of the interior of an abandoned cathedral. It is beautiful...what the heck does it mean to me? How do I go about presenting this meaning in a photograph? That I think is what I observe in the work of this photographer in the link that was presented. Human faces are old and they are new...they are with us always...how does one present this commonplace object in the manner that has meaning to the photographer?
     
  24. steve

    steve Member

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    He seems to be able to accomodate a lot of conflicting views as part of his philosophies and truly doesn't understand f/64 aesthetics at all.

    f/64 was a reaction to the vogue at the time for soft focus photography. The group was anti soft focus, therefore, they were accused of being anti-Mortensen - mostly by Mortensen himself - and, of course his admirers. This continues to this day, and when asked to give specific examples on how they stifled Mortensen, I have yet to hear a clear explanation other than lots of conspiracy theory level hyperbole.

    How did the f/64 group keep him from getting a Gugenheim grant for example? f/64 was only a formal group for a brief period of time. Yet, Mortensen and his devotees have lots of theories about how they continued to supress him for decades. Give me a break. This implies that Mortensen was so important that these people took valuable time from their careers and life to expend energy on a plot to keep Mortensen from being all that he could be - give me an F'ing break.

    Nothing was ever said by members of f/64 (that I can find) about NOT manipulating negatives or prints. As we all know, AA was famous for manipulation of negatives and prints. Weston developed his negatives and prints by inspection. Weston was not above using retouching on commercial portraits - and made no bones about doing it.

    Mr. Balcomb likes systems. "And now, for over forty years I have successfully enjoyed a practice employing a system."

    If you have a system, you don't really have attempt to be creative as the system does that for you. That goes directly to his admiration of Mortensen looking at prints for a show and choosing images, not on how they look, but rather if the photo was "Schnitt," or "not Schnitt" composition.

    Yeah...that's the key to creating art - use a formula. That way, if it fits the formula - bingo! It must be art.
     
  25. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Hmmm...where does "The Zone System" fit in this view that you have?
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    As with most things, I don't really have an opinion.

    It did strike me that in every portrait he used a "broad light" as a lighting pattern.

    It has no great significance, just that in most people's body of work you will find many different patterns of lighting.


    Michael