next photograph

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by TPPhotog, Oct 30, 2004.

  1. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

    Messages:
    3,042
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Boy that's a lot of questions .....

    How do you see your photography advancing the medium, or do you?

    I am not a guru of photography nor do I want to be even if I had the chance which I wont. I shoot pictures that I want to shoot the way I want them to look. If people like my work that's nice, if they don't it won't change the way I work.

    Is it important to you to break new ground, or are you satisfied to work in an established tradition?

    If it's new ground for myself then always happy and looking for new idea's / concepts.

    Do you feel that your work accurately represents your ideas and passions?

    It's getting there. Given say another 30 years I may have something I'm 99.5% happy with and representative.

    In what direction, if any, do you feel that the medium is moving, and how are you contributing, or not, to that movement?

    As I said I'm not a guru, so other than giving advice where I can probably not.

    In what direction do you think that the medium should be moving, if any, and how are you contributing, or not, to that movement?

    Again I'm not a guru.

    How do you see the future of our medium?

    Camera's, film, etc. will continued to be produced and people like ourselves will continue to use it. Also new generations will come along and re-discover what we have found. Nothing changes really since the day the first camera's were sold.

    Can I have a cigi and single malt scotch break now please? :wink:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2004
  2. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Not that "we're doing" because I don't like to impose my artistic bent on other artists, but I have lately felt that my work has devolved into "pretty pictures." They just seem rather boring, so I have lately been going back through old work and looking for images that I still like now in an effort to see if I have moved artistically in a direction that bores me. Now I have been trying to take and print more pictures that evoke some sort of visceral feeling be it anger, serenity, confusion, or glee. The difficulty in this lies with the attachment one has to recently taken photos. To circumvent this and find photos that truly carry some emotional impact--however little--I have been storing away the recently shot images and culling through my older files (1-5 years old) for images to print. The hard part, is that my technical expertise has jumped in leaps and bounds since then and some of them are hard to work with :smile:
     
  3. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just wanted to place an addendum:

    A lot of my work is very disjointed with no themes. To this end I have decided to spend time in my girlfriend's horse pasture shooting over the course of the next couple of years to give myself a fall-back location to return to shoot when I am feeling run down. In addition, the work will probably all be done with a holga and one of those neat panoramic cameras a la Leon (when I can get one) as I spend too much of my time shooting local concerts with a complicated whiz-bang digital camera and not enough with a simple lens, shutter, box, and film.
     
  4. anyte

    anyte Member

    Messages:
    701
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2004
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    35mm
    This topic probably isn't intended for the hobbyist but I'm going to answer anyway. I hope no one minds.

    In the midst of this "digital revolution", it seems to me that photography has become polarized, with digital imaging fighting for legitimacy . . .

    I've gotten the impression that it's now traditional photography that is fighting for legitimacy. Digital is new and advanced. Is does more, faster, easier ... than ever while traditional is considered out-moded, slow, and perhaps cumbersome.

    How do you see your photography advancing the medium, or do you?
    Is it important to you to break new ground, or are you satisfied to work in an established tradition?


    I don't know that I'm breaking any new ground or working according to an established tradition. I shoot the way that works for me based on information I have gleaned from books and other sources, but I don't follow a strict set of rules. I really don't know where that places - likely exactly where I am though, in the rank of amateurs.

    Do you feel that your work accurately represents your ideas and passions?

    To an extent. I can't say that a photo of a mushroom is a clear and definite representation of who I am as a photographer but it is in the realm of what inspires me.

    In what direction, if any, do you feel that the medium is moving, and how are you contributing, or not, to that movement?

    I'm shooting film. I explain clearly why I personally enjoy the medium. I share my photos and my passion with people. Beyond that I'm not sure what else I personally could do.

    As I've written before, most of the work that we're doing bores the hell out of me, but I've begun to identify that work that seems to offer something important and interesting, and the photographers responsible for it.

    I imagine that a lot of people find my photos boring. Honestly most of them even bore me, but currently I'm not trying to wow anyone. I'm just learning the ropes. When I view the images that wow other people though I feel pretty certain that I will forever be a boring photographer because the "wow" stuff doesn't do a thing for me. The same photographers and styles don't excite me or inspire me in any way.

    How do you see the future of our medium?

    I think it will be a growing struggle to validate using film over digital as digital makes more advances. That could just be my overwhelming pessimism coming out though.
     
  5. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Interview with Wynn Bullock, March 1975
    From Dialogue with Photography by Paul Hill and Thomas Joshua Cooper:

    Are you pleased that photography has been reacching an increasingly wide audience? If you are, how would you like to see this increasing awareness developed?
    I feel that photographers of the future should not do the things Stieglitz did, not the things Edward Weston did. They should have more to do with symbols. But for me the great strength of photography is its reality. However, I think we have to evoke new symbols-equivalence is one of them-that expand our minds so that we may be more at home in this scientific and terrifying age we live in.

    Do you see photographers as being able to fulfull that need?
    I think so, but I don't think they're doing it. I think most of them are doing the opposite.

    Do you mean the younger photographers?
    Yes, particularly those younger photographers who are presenting political and social manifestations of all the things that are wrong in the world. That has a useful purpose, but I personally think that if you keep doing it, you lose part of your life. I would rather think of the more positive things, the things that can develop, and then maybe these other things can be changed. Just continually being anti...I'm pro.

    Do you see yourself as an explorer with the camera?
    The world is so mysterious. If you grow, you grow with your own powers, your own faculties; space is one, time is another, recognition of reality now becomes one. You can develop your sense of different realitites, but you can't develop existence. So you come to principles that are in harmony with your nervous system and with your experience. I feel that this is the direction that photography is going to have to take, because the external world has been photographed until it's simply repeated and repeated and repeated. Reality can change. If you develop your own powers, you can develop your realities to express things symbolically.
     
  6. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think the problem is that my recent work all tries to fit into some sort of formula of what "works." Having done too much work for others in the need for live concert photos (and a few other projects) most of my shots fit one of these formulas (i.e. Faces of the band members in the shot, all of the instrument, even flash lighting, minimal blur). In my opinion my best work is when there is no formula and this applies to the concert shots. I used to break the formula all the time while shooting gigs, but 99.9% of the time the band would just pick out the shots that fit the formula and toss the rest--I have recently been paid by the shot kept so I spent more of my time shooting within the formula to make the sales. Sadly this has pushed its way over into my personal work and all of my photos seem to look the same. To beat this predicament I want to work with new subject matter that interests me to help break from this mold--I enjoy spending time out at the pasture (~8 horses), but I can't ride that often being allergic to the horses (stupid allergies again!). The equipment is also meant to help me escape from this structure I have worked myself into--the concert work is shot on digital in a jpeg format and then burned directly onto cd for the band so the color balance, cropping, and exposure has to be done on the fly in dank, back-alley clubs and bars. Whenever I work with the holga I feel much freer and loose, I don't know why, but if I work with it enough I am hoping it transfers over to more controllable cameras. This has had me so upset recently that I have decided only to shoot concerts for the few bands that not only like, but prefer the shots that break the mold.

    The panoramic camera? Well, I have always wanted one and this seems like a good excuse :smile:
     
  7. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    That's a fair bunch of questions Jay.

    Only because certain parties want it to be polarized. From my view point, I see the digital group being the reactionaries, elitist reactionaries at that. They come off to me as saying "we are better because we are digital". Their whole argument revolves about that agenda.

    I don't associate traditional photography with some sort of reverence for the past. That's being hidebound which I'll have none of. I do it the way I do it because it feels good and works for me. And the methods I use, while they are "ancient" and therefore "traditional" still produce better photographs than any digital method that's come along yet. I suppose there are some very, very expensive digital rigs that may do as well but those are far beyond my means. Even on the analog side, I spend and have spent less getting an 8x10 Deardorf rig, Azo, Amidol et al than a lot of people have tied up in just one lens for their Hasselblads.


    Well, that's one of the follies of war. If you want to make war, don't complain about what it brings about. If you don't want what war brings, don't go there. No allegory to current politics intended or meant. Just the observation of one old soldier who is content to fade away.

    Only by the fact that I am one person practicing large format photgraphy with contact printing. I will never be famous nor written about. It does seem to attract attention and curious questions though. Maybe it plants a seed or two somewhere. I'll never know.


    Neither concept is important to me. Breaking new technical ground is far beyond the means of most individuals although it occasionally happens. I have no desire to invent something for photography. My 60+year old camera and lenses seem to work just fine for some strange reason. And, again, traditionalism has nothing to do with it.


    To a certain extent, yes. But I'm not completely satisfied at the moment. I don't think one should ever be because I think that dissatisfaction, to some extent, is a valid driving force behind creativity, or refinement of current practices. I would like to do more.



    That's rhetorical. I'm contributing to Large Format B&W photography as an individual practicing and displaying it. No more than that.

    That's rhetorical again. I try to stay away from any prescribed "movements" because they are inevitably driven by someone with a self-centered agenda.

    Boredom is a matter of personal feeling. What bores one excites another. I find most "art school" junk to be just that - junk. Most art school people say the same about my junk. That's fine, doesn't bother me a bit. But I do have a couple friends who are art school grads and I value their opinions. Neither one is caught up in the digital elite movement.

    The future is bright from where I sit.
     
  8. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I think Jim is being symbolic.
     
  9. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think that being caught up in the creative process somewhat blinds one to the kind of overview being probed here. I have no idea how to describe what I'm doing or what I've done until my wife offers a 'critique'. Whether it breaks new ground or not couldn't matter less to me....the ground I'm covering is new ground for me. I do confess to being aware of being repetitive, however, and when that begins to happen, I try to avoid it as much as possible.

    I think people using digital processes could care less about film photographers in the same way I stopped even thinking about LP's when CD's came along (I hated LP's anyway and used prerecorded open reel tape for years before CD's were ever conceived.). The people who rant and rail are the ones more interested in equipment than in image making....the digitalists making images are likely to be too busy with their work to bother with belittling anyone else.
     
  10. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

    Messages:
    3,042
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My pleasure and I'll clarify if I can.

    I suppose in a way I tend to think of a guru in this context as someone like the great photographers who really pushed the boundries of our art. A small example would be Adams. Capa, Weston, May Ray, Hosrt P Horst, Cartier- Bresson. the list goes on.

    My work has been and always will be insignificant to the world of photography. That isn't to say that it isn't important to me because it is. But if I had a heart attack here at the keyboard before you finish reading this the history and future of photography would not notice.

    I think the only concious thing I can do is offer advice based on experience to those who are coming into the art of capturing light. At the least my advice may help them to enjoy their photography more and maybe who knows they will be they ones that do push the boundries.

    My point is that the materials will continue to be produced and we will still have them available for our art. I don't feel that the introduction of digital and the loss of some suppliers if any will cause us problems in the long term.

    Self expression and content is of course very important and I'm sorry that I failed to make that point. Hopefully we are all expressing ourselves with every depression of the shutter release.

    Hopefully and looking back I have always rebelled in some ways even when on paid shoots. I use 28mm lenses when the purists say I should use a 100mm to make a model look good. I use a 105mm when a picture editor tells me I should use a 24mm and get run over by the demonstrators. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm giving-up all pro work.

    I think over the next 30 years if I have them left, I will break more of the rules finding out which of them can or cannot be broken in relation to the style I like or discover. I only recently discovered Rodinal not bad as I first used an SLR back in 1976. If I had tried it earlier maybe I would have found the style I like earlier, but too late to worry over spilt ID-11/D-76 or DD-X.

    Interestingly from my point of view I think I am also shooting things and in ways I would have previousely dismissed. I was recently shooting at my local arboretum and was told by the groundsman that in all the years he's worked there people have used it for model shoots to landscapes. I am the only person who got on their knee's that he's seen and shot close-up /macro's. My lastest shoot this week was Tmax P3200 shot with a flash in almost complete darkness of the flooding here and souped in Rodinal 1+50. The negs look good but when I told other fools out there trying to capture the scene they all thought my plan for processing the shoot was enough to call the men in white coats.

    Sorry that was such a long reply and I hope you stopped for a coffee break reading through it. I hope my reply makes a little more sense now but ask away if not and I'll try to reply with something shorter.

    Best wishes Tony
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Nah. We here in APUG are part of that world and we would notice.

    I checked you out. I think you are selling yourself short. You do good work.
     
  12. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think a big problem is that art in general moved into the idea-based modern and then post-modern art. During this stage we have seen the techniques and supplies drop to the point of a blank canvas being hung, but even that held pre-conceived notions which interfered with the ideas. So where do we go from the extreme of modern/post-modern art? In my opinion somewhere along the lines artists decided to become hack philosophers and now they are suffering. They have re-hashed all of the old arguments, but so far nothing new.... Either art will have to revert to a previous stage or something entirely new must happen. In speaking with art historians, artists, and academic artists (college professors and their ilk) they seem the same stagnation that jdef calls boring.
     
  13. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,765
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I feel like a potter spinning a wheel throwing a pot - nothing technicaly new in traditional pottery & photography. The digi revolution is a new medium that doesn't interest me from a personal self-expression point of view. I prefer working in the confines of traditional photography for the process of getting to the end result is as important as the final object. A fine print, like a well-made pot, has intrinsic value; and the craft & creativity of traditional photography will continue to be supported by those who can appreciate a fine art print. Nothing very earth-shattering or revolutionary, just enjoyable for the maker & hopefully for the viewer.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

    Messages:
    3,042
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you Ed I'm honoured by your comments on my work. My work isn't exactly pushing the boundries though. I'll agree that one of the wonderful things about APUG is that we notice each other very much like in a physical community or even more so these days.

    Tony
     
  16. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Once I began to take seriously the process of building a body of work, the philosophical dilemma presented itself to me in very stark terms. Namely, do I emulate the masters of the past or seek to do something new? And if the latter, what?

    I came to the conclusion that the only intellectually honest thing to do is to place myself in locations which hold great spiritual and/or emotional power for me and simply see what I could see. Whatever results will be a reflection of my unique perspective. Whether or not others will respond to it is another matter.

    My most pressing aesthetic struggle at the moment is with portraits. How do we reconcile the fact that by definition, the portrait is "about" the subject? (I mean it's tautological - you can make the person an effective part of the overall composition, but the basic focus is to represent the subject.) Ah, but I wax philosophical. Better we should start a new thread on that one.
     
  17. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Sheesh Jay, I elicited just about as many questions on my answers as you originally posted questions.

    No, I'm suggesting that you want to make war. I'm saying that these little fights between digitalis and analogues wouldn't be occurring if some people would quit perpetuating them, people on both sides of the argument. To me, there's nothing worth arguing/fighting about. There's simply far more important things in life. As you suggested, a lot of it may be the same old hardware snobbery that vexed a lot of film users. One may construe that the hardware snobs transcended from the 'Blads and Leicas to the digitals, so to speak.

    I really have no idea where the medium is moving. I'm glad to see an ongoing interest in traditional B&W. I'm glad to see ongoing interest in LF. I'm especially glad if young persons are interested in one or the other or both. Outside of those two items, I haven't a clue. I'm one individual photographer in Kansas who couldn't care less what the movers and shakers on either coast do, say, or think about the movement of the medium.

    Art schools are a pet peeve of mine. I think, and its just an opinion based upon many years of observation, that many art schools do their students a dis-service by convincing them that the righteous way of looking at the world is the way art school teaches it. That's a very myopic view but it does serve to maintain the flock, so-to-speak. I have always thought the purpose of education was to sharpen the mind, not turn it to mush. But again, just an opinion based upon many observations.
     
  18. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Painting used to be about representing the actual scene, such as landscape painting or portrait painting. After photography came on the scene painting was more free to slowly delve into more esoteric areas such as impressionism, abstract, and then the depth of pigment sitting atop the canvas and fields of solid color. Photography initially took the place of painting as a means of recording the scene, whether a portrait or pictures of faraway places. The portrait is still here, but with the modern ease of foreign travel this also took some of the burden off of photography and it has moved into the same areas as painting. Pretty much all of the arts have become vehicles for ideas which aren't easily accessible to those not within the art circle. Pop art was an attempt to break down this barrier, but even it was eventually categorized and laced with philosophic undertones by academia.

    If I knew to when we could revert without making the same "mistakes" then I would be writing a best selling book right now!

    Jose Ortega y Gasset (Spanish philosopher) wrote The Dehumanization of Art, in which he referenced "dehumanization" to the emergence of the modern painting. He argued that the elimination of the human figure and human metaphors lead to the misguided belief that the quality of art is not based primarily on its content but on its form. Art had become idea-driven and was useless without understanding the notions behind the work. Instead he championed a phenomenological approach to art where the focus was on the content and art lied in its ability to let the artist investigate, disect, discover, and amaze at the thing (their subject) itself. This is very much in-line with the artistic approach (note: artistic approach does not equate to technical approach nor subject matter) of Edward Weston and is exemplified today (in my opinion) in Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee's approach to photography (whether they succeed is up to you, but I am speaking about the mindset behind the photography). Today the majority of art cannot be appreciated without prior knowledge of the ideas behind the work.

    It is away from these idea-impregnated images that I am trying to take my own work. In my opinion a photograph is unsuccessful if it needs further explanation and the most universal language I can think of is emotion. Yes, it will always be translated wrong, but with my work I try to evoke emotion and stemming from this emotion thought and contemplation--but FREE thought and contemplation, I have no agenda or viewpoint I am trying to further! This is in contrast to my take on modern art where the aim is to skip the emotion and force specific ideas down the throat of the viewer.

    Ortega also said that artists should be content to be artists and not try to be philosophers and prophets. Personally, if I want philosophy I will return to my extensive library and not to something like this:

    http://vrm.vrway.com/issue13/A_PHILOSOPHICAL_APPROACH_TO_PHOTOGRAPHY_MAURA_DONATI.html

    This is what I was talking about as an unsuccessful photograph; without the words at the opening web page these photos do nothing. I don't photograph to give myself something to write about, if I could write what I feel then I wouldn't need to photograph.
     
  19. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I think Wynn Bullock was quite prophetic here and its an example of what I see as the problem with the art schools. This sort of thing was in full force in 1975, the era when I was in college. Its been a good 30 years since so there are many who have never seen it any other way. And since the schools teach it this way, there are no checks nor balances since the opposing view point is marginalized by the academics who are, by definition and position, the ones who are moldng the young minds.

    I say get away from the art schools. I'm not saying don't study art, but get a good education and learn to think independently and logically so that you develop good BS filters.

    I'm not trying to hijack your thread Jay, but I think this is an influence that your questions touch on. I fully agree with Jim's response:

    Whatever results will be a reflection of my unique perspective. Whether or not others will respond to it is another matter.

    One doesn't get their without being able to think for one's self. That is something I believe is truly important.
     
  20. Art Vandalay

    Art Vandalay Member

    Messages:
    287
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Knowing a number of graduates from (only) one art school I think that they do sharpen the mind if only because they set goals that have to be achieved before moving on. A good school should have a balance between the technical and creative aspects of art, which is probably where many run into problems because this is a tall order. But I believe that someone is better off with an education in the long run if only because they are exposed to ideas that may not be available to them any other way. Unless someone can hook up with a great mentor, it is difficult for most to progress.
     
  21. lee

    lee Member

    Messages:
    2,913
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Location:
    Fort Worth T
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    alex said this, "Art schools are a pet peeve of mine. I think, and its just an opinion based upon many years of observation, that many art schools do their students a dis-service by convincing them that the righteous way of looking at the world is the way art school teaches it. That's a very myopic view but it does serve to maintain the flock, so-to-speak. I have always thought the purpose of education was to sharpen the mind, not turn it to mush. But again, just an opinion based upon many observations."

    Lee said this, "Spoken like the engineer he is!" For me it is all right brain and left brain. Some got one and some got the other. One ain't more right than the other.

    lee\c
     
  22. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    You got me Lee!
     
  23. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,765
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jay,
    If the only intinsic value of a pot/cup is that it holds a substance, drink your coffee out of a styro-foam cup; and if the only intrinsic value of a fine art print is wall decoration/documentation or whatever, then hang a digital print. And yes, there is more than enough room within confines of traditional photography for creative expression. Many photographers in art schools seem compelled to discover "new" aspects while denigrating the past; but, except for digital manipulation, there is nothing new under the light. This is not a shortcoming of traditional photography just as with any other medium of expression for working within the confines of whatever medium enables you to explore its expressive potential. Combining mediums such as computer aided graphic arts & digital image capture may lead to new areas of creativity, but the newness of the medium is no guarantee of such an outcome.
     
  24. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

    Messages:
    2,894
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    That reminds me of a digitali I know. He's going nuts with his digital stuff and is convinced his work is in the spirit of Andy Warhol. I don't know how much money he has spent having 16x20s and 20x24s printed up and offering them for sale, but I doubt if he's recouping any costs. I always compliment him though because he's having fun.
     
  25. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

    Messages:
    3,219
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Michael has written (see Letter to a Young Photographer in the Writings section of his website) that what makes a piece art (and the only thing that makes it art) is the form. Content without form is not art to him. He and Paula hammer this pretty hard in their workshops.
     
  26. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

    Messages:
    2,767
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Location:
    Denton, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jeremy,
    I am very interested in your thoughts on "idea-impregnated" photography. In your example you wrote:

    "In my opinion a photograph is unsuccessful if it needs further explanation"
    That is a very subjective position. What might require further explaination for one, might be immediately obvious to another. Do you think that an aversion to ideas could lead to a dumbing-down, or lowest common denominator mentality? Why should ideas, even esoteric ones, be avoided by any artist? Do you think it's possible to be passionate about an idea? Is mass appeal an important standard for an artist to aspire to? Does an idea automatically portend an agenda?

    There is no reason that a photograph can't have further explanation, but it is when the photograph needs further explanation to further the idea. The link I posted was an example, but here's an extreme fictional one:

    On the wall is hung a straight, un-manipulated photo from a disposable camera of two people looking directly into the lens standing in front of a department store. You then look at the placard next to the photo which tells you the photo is a symbol of the delusioned Western consumer who buys products made at sweat shops in Taiwan.

    Here the photograph has nothing to do with the idea and nothing related could be gleaned from it. I put this in the same category as many modern paintings which have nothing to do with the idea behind them. There is nothing wrong with having an idea associated with the photo, or even the basis of the photo. There are a number of documentary photographers whose work is based mostly in part on humanitarian concerns. I would classify a lot of the work by James Nachtwey as art--look at one of his images and it pulls at your heartstrings. This image in my opinion is VERY successful. It is met with a visceral response in line with his aim, that your response will drive you to take notice of the plight (his idea), but if you don't take notice, but it makes you think of other things I still consider it successful. The image of the smiling people has immediate appeal to the masses, but aimless wandering follows. For some people it may make them think, but for the majority it is just another snapshot. There is a photographer who actually photographs the banal and tries to get this response on purpose--from an artistic standpoint I would say that these are also successful.

    Also take our own Thomas Sauerwein, his work evokes feeling and contemplative thought, but I sure don't understand his ideas behind it. I actively create my own ideas for his work from my own experiences so I consider them successful. I guess my point is a lot of what I see today is basically just a manifesto of elementary philosophy with photographic accompaniment--many do consider this art and who am I to gainsay them, but I just don't find it appealing, I find it more of a dead-end.


    "...he championed a phenomenological approach to art where the focus was on the content and art lied in its ability to let the artist investigate, disect, discover, and amaze at the thing (their subject) itself. This is very much in-line with the artistic approach (note: artistic approach does not equate to technical approach nor subject matter) of Edward Weston and is exemplified today (in my opinion) in Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee's approach to photography..."

    Mike Smith has repeatedly stated that he does not photograph "things", while Edward Weston often did. In what ways do you see their respective approaches as similar, and how do they relate to the phenomenological approach that you reference?

    I think "thing" was the wrong word to use, stemming from the phenomenological calling card of "to the things themselves." I believe Michael Smith once said that photography was about seeing photographically, which is what I am talking about. Photography in its purest form should be a reason unto itself--thinking of Winogrand who said he photographed things to see what they looked like when photographed (paraphrasing here). The problem with this is that I personally find pure photography to sometimes be stale (as in the case of many of Ansel Adams' photos) so a mixture of idea is essential to me. I don't know if this is because of the mass of photos now in circulation or personal bias.

    I will call it quits for now as I feel like I am just rambling at the moment.