Is it really just about the image?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by roteague, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Someone mentioned in another thread that what we do is about the final image, but I ask "is it really"? I would be willing to bet, there are alot of people who find the total process fascinating; the final image is just one aspect.

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. mark

    mark Member

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    There is a market for both, I am one of those people who are in it for the whole process, when I do BW. For color it is about the image. If I had the means for a color enlarging system then my attitude about color would change. Nothing beats the feeling I get when i get an image I like on film and can carry the realization of that image to fruition in a traditional non automated fashion.

    Think of it like this. DO you want a true amish quilt or something turned out by a computer in china? If it were just about the cover and it's souless utilitarian nature then the cheap chinese knock off would be just fine. The handmade Amish quilt holds a lot more intrinsic value for many. It may look the same but holds much more meaning, it is personal. Just my feelings.
     
  3. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    yep, otherwise I'd use a DSLR!
     
  4. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It may be for some (as in most commercial photographers) for others it may be about the process.

    I once went to a seminar by a Japanese ceramist. This individual threw the most beautiful cups I have ever held in my hands. They were made from white porcelain (EPK or equivalent) glazed and fired to a deep charcoal satin. The glaze and style of firing (oxygen reduced) kept you from experiencing the near translucent qualities of this clay body when fired perfectly -- and they were fired perfectly as seen by the feet of the vessels.

    He told us that he was taught that to throw the perfect pot was the goal and that perfection was not a point on the map but the journey.

    I'm sure it may sound a bit like a line from 'Kung-Fu' the 70's TV program, but it is how I pursue my art (but not how I pursue commercial work).
     
  5. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    This is going to run the risk of being a digital/anti-digital debate as this mantra is inevitably invoked by someone making a case for digital imaging at some or all parts of the image making process - however in the hope that it will not:...

    For me, the process is important. If sitting in front of a computer and using software to manipulate an image before sending to either a printer or digital enlarger was the only method of creating an image then I would probably not bother. I'd take up another craft based pastime instead. Note that for me, this is not a profession, nor do I consider myself an artist (at least, not by any "High Art" definition) - the best I can describe it, is as a limited vehicle for self expression of subjects that interest me (which, you could argue, at least makes it "art" with a small "a"...). I am sure that a scanned MF negative, processed in computer and printed digitally on to fibre paper would look at least as good as any traditional print, but that is not the point for me: I enjoy the craft aspects as a side step away from the high tech world we inhabit. I've always held great respect for craftsmen - frankly, much higher than for most artists: a craftsperson can't fake it. Those artists I do admire are invariably also great masters of their materials (e.g. JWM Turner).

    For others who are only interested in the message imparted by the final image, then obviously different criteria apply, but then I wonder why they are restricting themselves to photographic based images. Surely they should be expressing themselves in other, more flexible, mixed media? Many artists have used photography in their art but do not feel constrained by it and freely work in other mediums or combine two or more to express their intentions.

    Bob.
     
  6. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I'm not saying this is always true, but it seems in many cases when an image is achieved with ease the phrase "It's only about the final image" is used heavily. A guy spends 10hrs in a darkroom making a fine print he tells about the effort put in when asked - A guy snaps a digital pic, adjusts levels, outputs to his Epson and is asked about it usually says "That doesn't matter, it's only about the final image you elitist punk" (well maybe not that bad, but you see what I'm saying...)
     
  7. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    There have been some great photographers whose participation in the process after exposure was minimal. They sent their film to a lab, selected the image from a contact sheet & had their favorite printer do the rest. Others have gotten involved in all aspects of creating a print viewing the entire process as a creative opportunity. Even though their level of participation in the process varies, the final print is only the "proof" of their creative endeavor.
     
  8. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    I don't think anyone was referring to the final image as all there is to photographic process. I've often said here, that APUG is about the print as object. A tangible thing done via traditional methodology. Bostick and Sullivan have a slogan to the effect, "When a picture is more than an email attachment".

    But, the cult of object can be taken to extremes where the tonal scale or the sharpness of the object become more important than the picture itself. Most pictures can be judged using an x, y type of axis for evaluation. One axis being technique the other being the emotional content of the photo. The best have high numbers in both the x and y axis, a good photo can have a high value on either one of the axes.

    I used to dislike the net for posting pictures since a 72dpi image doesn't give enough weight to an actual 8x10 contact print relative to something taken with a Coolpix. The net became a great equalizer. I've come to see, however that if your thumbnail image isn't as compelling as said Coolpix picture, it's probably not far enough up on the "emotional content" axis to be more than a technical exercise.

    To answer Robert, the whole process is theraputic and personally beneficial, but if to be more than that, then it's ultimately about the image.
    Take care,
    Tom
     
  9. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Personally, I find the process to be magic and fascinating, BUT, for me it is more about the final image. I never say "oh good, I'm going to spend 6 hours in the darkroom today". I don't really like to spend the time there, it is a necessary part of the process to get the results I want.

    Even though photographing people, mainly kids, is something I have to get "up" for, it is a probably more fun than the darkroom stuff for me. I also figure that I expend as much energy doing a sitting of a kid or kids, as I do during one of my hockey games.


    Michael
     
  10. roteague

    roteague Member

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    That is the best description I've heard yet of the process.
     
  11. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    For the photographer, the process is important; for the audience, the image is all that matters. But for that audience, the image may also include knowledge of how it was made which may be important to them.

    There is a continuum of discernment in those who care about art of any sort. A tiger on velvet is just fine for some...a cellphone pic just fine for others as is a street vendor's knock off of a designer's work. These discussions always seem to end up having to acknowledge the diversity that is the nature of a 'public'. Just about the time you've 'educated' an audience, their children show up old enough to buy liquour and you have to start all over again.
     
  12. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    I think photography is a great excuse to be outside and look at interesting stuff. After all, most times it doesn't result in an exceptional image. And the chemistry doesn't interest me very much. Once I took empty film holders by mistake; It was still a great trip...

    Jon Shiu
     
  13. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I believe the process is inseparable from the final image, and as a result, it is only about the final image because that is the culmination of the effort.

    However, the chosen process to produce the final image is, in many cases (but not all) what makes the final image a unique, artistic object.

    I say "but not all", because some processes serve only the needs of the craftsman, and not the consumer of the object. As an absurd example, perhaps I could set up a scene in a studio, measure it a point at a time with some sort of meter, enter that information manually into a text editor, convert the resulting data into a tiff file, then print that tiff on an inkjet. It might take me 5 years of painstaking, highly skilled work to pull that off.

    But I could take a simple digicam and photograph the scene, and print the captured image on the same inkjet in 5 minutes. In this admittedly absurd case, the consumer perceives no difference in value, regardless of the effort of the craftsman. Why? Because while the craftsman was working very hard for years to produce the result, he wasn't adding value in any way. The bits weren't prettier, or more archival, or more accurate, or more abstract. Nothing of the craftsman shows through the result.

    Dipping into the grey a bit, a film photographer and digital photographer could capture the same scene on the same day, one with a 35mm leica, one with a digital back Contax 645. Lets say the film photog then drum scans his negative and ships it to a commercial printer to produce a lightjet print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Lets say the digital photographer does the same thing. Same image, same light, essentially the same bits sent to the printer, same archival result. Is it the image or the process? Is the film shooter's result somehow better because he caught it on film? To the consumer, I presume the answer is no. (Perhaps this is APUG heresy, but I don't think so.)

    What if one of the photographers above, after scanning the image, changed the result, adjusting levels, or performed local enhancements in some other way to improve the image? What if that photographer did so in such a way that was perceived by the consumer as "better"? Is it somehow more better if that effort was done by the film photographer rather than the digital photographer? I think not.

    Greyer still: same image, but the film photographer carries the print completely through an analog process, by hand. No hybrid digital process in path of print production. The photographer is a master printer, and the result looks identical to the commercially printed result: both equally rendered images, beautifully produced, archival, fiber paper, well mounted. However, the film photographer's print is enscribed on the back as being an "Authentic archival wet process photograph, hand made by Adam Jones on xx/xx/xx".

    In this case, I believe the consumer perceives additional value, even if the two prints are otherwise identical. There is an intangible "collectors" value at play here. This is a unique object, unlike the commercially produced print from a digital image. That one can be mass produced by machines, this one can only be made by hand. And the next one made may not be exactly like this one, so it is essentially unique. This is different from the first example, because somehow the consumer can understand this effort, and can appreciate (even if scientifically unmeasurable) the added quality of a hand made object. (Porsche has served a market that appreciates hand made objects even though arguably higher quality objects are available at a lower price that serve the need.)

    Again, and maybe this isn't clear from the examples, the image and the process are fused, but in the end it is still about the image (the result, the object.)

    Hmm, I'm not sure even I'm clear with myself. But I'll let this note rip anyway, and see what folks think...

    -chuck
     
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  15. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    While I think of myself as a "total process" sort of person, and really enjoy the magic of the darkroom, I doubt that I'd go to the trouble absent (what I percieve to be) the benefit to the final image. For me, fine tuning the photographic process is like the difference of hiring a professional makeup artist and hair stylist when shooting a model. Or, the time a writer spends digging in the dictionary or thumbing through a thesaurus.

    The cool thing about photography, however, is that there's plenty of room for all types. Thus, anyone can do what pleases them most, and/or what best suits their individual talents.
     
  16. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    I'm with jovo on this one: for myself, it's the journey and the thrill of "collecting" the images. For the people who look at my work, it must be "all about the image", since they have nothing else to make a judgement on.

    (BTW, my journey from film to print includes the computer, but I enjoy that aspect of producing the print.)
     
  17. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    Well, the image is first in my head. I then have a process by which I verify that image, primarily for myself. I enjoy the photographic process immensely. The final print is trivial, just something I show someone to let them in on the thing inside my head. Whether they get it or not is almost meaningless to me.

    Joe
     
  18. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Robert, for myself this is a question I've been going through almost mental torment over for the last few weeks. From a personal view the process of selecting the film and exposure based on the look I want is fascinating. With street shoots the thrill of the hunt and capture is addictive and in some ways the ultimate motivation. The final print provides the "trophy" to complete the process.

    That said at the end of the day if no-one is interested in looking at the final print, then it has all been for little more than self indulgence which means I may as well take up fishing as a hobby again.

    So I guess ultimately it is about the final image.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2005
  19. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Well, I like what JoVo and Jon said. My photos usually are the result of having gone for a morning drive with my sweetheart and a cup of coffee. I carry my camera with me all the time and so the photos are a happy accident.
    I treat my hobbies as hobbies and if I like the photo when it's done that's a bonus. If I dont' then I still had a great morning with my sweetheart.

    Summary? - for me it's neither the process NOR the image - it's all just part of a life which I try to enjoy as much as possible.

    cheers
     
  20. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    I think I fall pretty close to your philosophy of it, John. I think that many people spend their entire lives trying to do what pleases other people without fully realizing what pleases them.
    I love the entire process of photography...am I any good...well no one is beating down the door to buy prints. Do I care? Not really.

    I went on a weekend photo trip last fall to shoot waterfalls. I love waterfalls! I don't care if they are "last year" or passe or anything else! There were two "pro" photogs on the trip. I had an opportunity to talk to each of them separately. I asked them who they shoot for...the potential client or themselves. One said she shoots with the buyer in mind. The other said she shoots strictly for herself, and that if she loved it probably someone else would.

    The pro who shot for the 'sale' was generally hyper-critical of her shots, and appeared to have very little fun taking them...she was intense, and upon finding the 'perfect' place to take a shot, she generally planted herself there. Her shots were ok, but not breathtaking.

    The pro who shot for 'self' had the attitude that she was there for the fun of it. She explored, and upon finding a good 'spot' would often show others. Her shots were breathtaking.

    I think attitude is everything. If you are into photography and you are unhappy with yourself...load up the camera, walk out the door and shoot a roll of film for the hell of it... not for anyone...not for any reason. Just because the light is good and you like the play of light and shadow! :smile:

    I am frequently disappointed in my photos...but rarely in the experience of making them.
     
  21. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I find the creative process, vital to the final image, but I don't think it really matters what that process is... be it digital or in the wet darkroom. (Of course, I choose the b/w printed in the wet darkroom!) But, if I try to short circuit that process, I never quite get a final print that is worth showing.

    Although, many viewers would probably find the details of all those decisions about the process a crashing bore, better just to let them enjoy the final print!
     
  22. jim kirk jr.

    jim kirk jr. Member

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    As they say about fishing-"It's not about the fish...it's about the fishing".
    Can be taken at least two ways:
    You just never catch any fish and are a lousy fisherman
    or
    It's just getting out there and enjoying yourself.

    I prefer number two-the same with photography.For me,a bad day may lead to a better
    one next time out.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Jim
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Overheard on the bank of a stream...
    Typical dumb question:

    Doofus: What are you doing?

    Fisherman: Fishing.

    D:
    Oh, yeah? Where are the fish you've caught? (complete with terminally irritating smirk).

    F: I said I was fishing. I didn't say anything about "Catching".
     
  24. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    Being in art school, I have a different take on the phrase "it's all about the final image." I consider myself a Modernist in my aproach to art, so I consider only the aesthetics of the final print as the most important part of the photograph. Classmates of mine are post-modern in their art, so the print is only the means to an end in order to tell the audience a message. Their photographs are about the subjects, mine are the subject.

    -Greg
     
  25. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    As an amateur/hobby photographer I consider myself very fortunate in this aspect.
    There is absolutely no pressure on me to produce anything, so I do as I feel. For me, it is a question of the 'adventure' and 'learning' gained through the process and not the end result. My recent adventures with FP4 and Rodinal are silent witness to this; I have nothing to gain from messing around with this stuff, I do it because I find the process challenging. I suppose it is a question of setting a goal for myself and seeing if I can reach it. In fact, my recent experiments had little to do with printing at all! I just wanted to see if I could achieve useable negatives.

    That said, however, I have to admit that I'm surprised and humbled when someone praises my prints. Last week we had some friends over for dinner and my wife wanted me to show our guests some prints. I was very reluctant to bring any out (it makes me very uncomfortable to have people look at my prints) but in the end I did and was quite surprised by the favourable comments. In this case, then, I suppose that it was about the image insofar as I managed to communicate a message to an audience.

    Just my $0.02.

    Kent
     
  26. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Ed I love it and soooo true :D

    Jim I'm with you on the second reason. I suspect the difference between fishing and photography is that my family don't expect me to have anything to show from fishing, except for either a suntan or the flu :wink:

    There again my family think I've gone back to string and a bent pin as I've moth-balled my F100 (might even sell it off soon) and have been shooting with a Fully Manual Pentax clone for the last few weeks. Photography has never been as much fun but I could do with a nice sharp Ashi 50mm lens.