Darkness Photographs???

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by davetravis, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. davetravis

    davetravis Member

    Messages:
    659
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It seems that at every show I do, I get at least one fruitcake who wants to argue some abstract point with me about photography. I've pretty much talked it all, so too many to list here.
    But this one guy at my last show tried to convince me that if someone shoots an image of a completely dark room, I mean completely dark, like my color darkroom, that the resulting image should be considered a "photograph." He argured because the print would be all black, and since B&W is still around, that makes it a photograph.
    Is this guy wacko, or am I just being too traditional?
    DT
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF

    Technically and logically, he's in the right. In the real world, I'd go for the first of your diagnoses.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  3. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It would be a photograph...a boring photograph, but...

    In conceptual terms, given context, it could be interesting and thought provoking. A diptych: One image of room with a dim candle in the corner. A second image of the candle blown out.... It illustrates a conceptual question. If the one is a photograph, how can the other not be?

    People responded viscerally, sometimes violently when Ad Reinhardt showed his black canvases.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Reinhardt
     
  4. Helen B

    Helen B Member

    Messages:
    1,557
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hell's Kitch
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, if you stick with the traditional dictionary definition of a photograph as being produced by the action of light or other radiation on a sensitised surface how could it be a photograph? No light, no photo.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  5. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

    Messages:
    1,602
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2005
    Location:
    Henrico, Vir
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If he's willing to buy it, I'd consider it a photograph.
     
  6. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    *yawn*

    A piece of sensitive paper was exposed to light, that of the enlarger, so you have a photo-graph. Who said that there was a constraint on where the light must come from? A photogram is some kind of photograph. A print of a normal negative is a photograph of this negative, which in turn is a photograph of an actual scene.

    Ask your loony whether he considers the original blank negative to be a photograph at all, and you might have a debate.
     
  7. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,597
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The answer to a proposal such as this is: "Yes, of course. It's already been done." And then roll your eyes and walk away.

    :rolleyes:
     
  8. Helen B

    Helen B Member

    Messages:
    1,557
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2004
    Location:
    Hell's Kitch
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It certainly has. I did it in both Cibachrome and B&W in 1974, and I'm sure that many other people have done it. I guess the Cibachrome wouldn't count in this case because it never was exposed to any light. I did it after going to a badly lit show where the photographs were overwhelmed by the reflections from the surface, so I decided to do it properly for them and cut out the images altogether.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,075
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I have accomplished this, and images close to it many times. Not on purpose, of course. It would be hard to get the black just right. Is it a photograph? Yes. Most of the time it is a mistake. If it isn't and total non-exposure is the goal, one has to ask, whats the point? The real question involves trees crushing mimes in forests, and something else I don't remember.
     
  10. butterflydream

    butterflydream Member

    Messages:
    192
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Korea
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Can I change that question into "can we see total darkness?"

    We certainly can't see "anything" in the total darkness, but do we see the "darkness" itself? We perceive darkness because we can't see anything in the darkness?

    Ever since I had been operated my eyes for retinal tear, I see some floaters and sometimes flashes inside my eyes even in the total darkness. These things I see, but can never be photographed.
     
  11. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

    Messages:
    4,090
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    NYC or Copak
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I've made these kinds of photographs at times - without even needing to use a dark room. In fact, it's very easy with a RF camera - somewhat more difficult with a SLR.

    You can duplicate this type of photograph right now.

    It's accomplished by tripping the shutter with the lens cap still on! :wink:
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    We must go beyond this amusing trickery and try to reach for the big bucks of high art:

    Exhibit one: take a sheet of Ilford MGIV paper, and with the lights turned off, put it in the fixer for the requisite time. Next, tone it in selenium until acceptable. Put on display

    Exhibit two: take a sheet of Cibachrome, do the whatever-it-is procedure that follows developer. Put on display.

    Exhibit three: take a sheet of RA-4, throw it in blix, do whatever is needed after. Put on display.

    You now have a black and white and two color photographs, all of which record not the object itself, but merely its idea. You have reduced photography to its materiality, and went beyond the tyranny of the signifier, binary oppositions, patriarchy, and Western oppression. You have freed art from the misery it had no idea it was in.
     
  13. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,383
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Montgomery,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Smile & Nod!
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

    Messages:
    147
    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Location:
    Lexington KY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That brings the question: is he talking about conventionally sensitized film?

    I'm sure we could take an IR photograph of a dark room and find "light"? That is, unless he means strictly light in the visible spectrum...

    And if that doesn't work, is the room still "dark" if I put an IR source in it, and thus be able to make a photograph, just not see anyhting with the naked eye? Does he mean meerly a blank negative?
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This sort of reminds me of the photographer who would set up his camera in a theater, open the shutter at the start of a movie and then close the shutter when the final credit scrolled down the screen. Of course in the photograph the screen was simply blank white. But I remember reading in a book on photography how this was hailed as some kind of a great conceptual idea. I mean how clever. 90 minutes of movie captured on a single piece of paper! And when one thinks about it, it really was quite a clever idea. But you certainly can't go to that well more then one time. But I guess you could do the same with a play, a television show, sporting event etc.

    It also brings to mind the minimalist artist Ad Reinhardt ( who someone else mentioned) who painted canvasas solid black. There was some light modulation due to brush strokes and perhaps a little heavier application of black in some areas, but all black is what you got. On its face such work seems to border on the absurd. But a 10'x9' canvas of pure black does make one think about how we define what is art and beauty.
     
  17. bjorke

    bjorke Member

    Messages:
    2,032
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    SF & Surroun
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Finally, someone has figured out how to photograph my heart.

    Dave, find that guy.
     
  18. GraemeMitchell

    GraemeMitchell Member

    Messages:
    414
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You must be thinking of Hiroshi Sugimoto?? He's a LF black and white master. Though he's doing color work now.

    You make it sound gimmicky, but it's all gorgeous work.

    His seascapes are wonderful too.

    Link: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/theaters/
     
  19. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Conceptualization can be taken past the point of common notions and seem absurd at times but absurtity is sometimes germaine. Conceptualization is one of the intellectual and aesthetic values that distinguishes art from craft. The overlap of art and craft can range from nill to complete, quite legitimately. Sometimes the elevation of something to art is all in the mind and all about context.
     
  20. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

    Messages:
    1,565
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Thunder Bay,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Can you photograph cold? After all, cold is just the absence of heat.
    Why the hell am I answering this?

    Every time I forget to pull the darkslide....
     
  21. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,392
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Rural NW MO
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And the conceptual artists who get their best ideas with their heads in dark places could borrow the necessary equipment from their proctologist and photograph what they haven't been able to see.
     
  22. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I guess in a way I meant for it to sound gimmicky, but what I was trying to say is that a lot of conceptual or cutting edge (how ever one defines that!) art can first appear that way. But if one can get past that idea, it may have a very valid message. I look at a lot of contemporary art with a very skeptical point of view. That does not mean that down the road I do not accept the work as valid, important or relevant to me in some way. For example I do find relevance in Ad Reinhardt's black canvasas, but I still do not find the work of Jeff Koons anything but pure schlock.
     
  23. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You should have asked him, "if I punch your lights out, are you still awake or are you looking at a photograph in a black room".



    Michael
     
  24. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,571
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Tonopah Neva
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    I liked the idea so much I went into my dark room with my digital camera. No need to waste film (I waste enough on real pics). Once again, I find it's impossible to accomplish a perfectly simple picture with a digital camera. And don't give me any of that read the instruction book crap. :D
     
  25. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,824
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jim:

    The automatic flash went off again, didn't it?:D

    Matt
     
  26. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The "Conceptual" part of it is gimmicky because he could arrive at the same result if there was no film in the projector. But the result, on purely aesthetics ground is very beautiful. Which of course is the downfall of a conceptual approach.