Personal Æsthetic

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by David R Munson, Apr 5, 2004.

  1. David R Munson

    David R Munson Member

    Messages:
    425
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2003
    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Mod: boot this to off topic discussion if it's more appropriate there.

    I'm very interested in the concept of establishing and exploring one's own personal æsthetic. This is obviously something that I'm applying to photography here, but ultimately it goes far beyond that. It's something that characterizes the things you appreciate in many different pursuits in life. Art, music, theater, advertising, the car you drive, the color of your front door - virtually everything that you like. Granted, there are plenty of things that we like simply because they do their job well and make our lives easier. I'm getting at the things, though, that we enjoy not because of practical considerations (or soley because of them), but because of æsthetic considerations. It's wholly a product of your personal psychology.

    What things define your personal æsthetic? How did you come to recognize them? How do they make you feel?

    Thoughts on the idea of a personal æsthetic in general? Is it an intellectual thing? A visceral thing? Neither? Both?

    I'll chime in with my own response a little later...
     
  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,981
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I’ve always had a great desire to make things, people, places, better when I leave them, than when I found them. What attracted me to photography initially was the desire to make people beautiful. At least to try. To see their raw or untapped beauty and try to bring it out and enhance it. Not necessarily just traditional beauty, but also sensuous beauty, the kind that makes us react in the pit of our stomach.

    Everything about my life, is about beauty, as I define it. My home and surroundings must be beautiful and also comfortable and lived in at the same time. I really don’t like sterile surroundings. I prefer “people places”, people colors, earthy tones and people friendly buildings.

    An interesting thing I found when working in a bar a number of years ago, which was a classy nice bar. Before the patrons arrived it was nice, aesthetically nice. But when it was full of people and full of life, it was outstanding. It was a work of art. Vibrating and alive with humanity.

    I feel the same way about my home. It is a very nice home but when my wife is travelling, I sit back and look at it, and it is just a house. When she walks in the door again, it is a home. Warm, inviting and alive.

    So my aesthetic always has to do with the beauty that involves people. The vibration and energy that humans emit from themselves and the interplay with each other. Anything that doesn’t have that quality to me is just a hollow shell, although it may be physically beautiful. To me it is just showing off. Sterile. Uninviting and often, in my opinion, ugly.

    Music is the same way, it must be sensuously beautiful to me. Tactile. Full of feeling. I play melancholy stuff on the piano all the time. After a while my wife tells me she is about ready to hang herself, I have played her into a total state of depression, and me, I’m happy as a clam. Go figure.

    I feel much the same way when I see landscape photography. To me much of it is empty and hollow. Quite a number of years ago, National Geographic started to include people in their landscape photographs. Before that they were the traditional, no people, shots. Once they started using people in the shots I really thought they said so much more about the landscape. They added interest, scale and dimension that in my opinion, they didn't have before.

    I guess my aesthetic is, that in order to have beauty, you must have people.


    Michael McBlane
     
  3. Aggie

    Aggie Member

    Messages:
    4,925
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    So. Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    After you have it all figured out, you get older and your perspective changes. What I thought were wonderful things in my teens changed. Now that I can qualify for AARP (grumble grumble if anyone dares call me a senior citizen....) I find my tastes aesthetics and such have changed many times over the years. Once I wore high high heels. Now I like sneakers. Once i wore short skirts, now I like my butt covered and no breezes. Once I loved fast low slung cars. Now I want one where i don't have to fall into it. Once I could sleep anywhere, now give me a king sized bed with all the creature comforts, and Mike's 1000 thread count sheets. the list goes on. I do find myself taking more time to enjoy simple things where younger I was in too much of a hurry to care. Age is an aesthetic of its own.
     
  4. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

    Messages:
    1,627
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2003
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    It depends on the moment, there are lots of factors that come to play for a lot of the decisions then there are those decisions that are personal and immediate. I suspect to evaluate your aesthetic you really need to hear from people on the outside looking in because we are all to close to ourselves to be objective. When my wife and I are looking to add an aesthetic to out home we look some times for years then when we come across something that fits all it takes is a look at one another and we know it works. If we have to talk about it we walk away.
    As far as colors, music, food, art even clothes I'm sure we have an aesthetic, but the moment serves us well on that.
    I am in full agreement with Michael on the issue of people and environments. They bring the world alive, change from second to second and keep my attention. So maybe my aesthetic is an accumulation of and what I've obsorbed through socialization. Who Knows?
     
  5. photomc

    photomc Member

    Messages:
    3,575
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is really not as deep as it seems. For me, it is what moves me..sometimes a person, sometimes music, I think to a degree you are correct it is visceral.

    For myself, and I respect Michael and Thomassauerwin's opinion, it is not always people - at least not people here and now. Having ventured to places in the middle of no where, my first thought is always - what did they think when they arrived. How many have seen the same site, but years and years before me. Canyon de Chelly is such a place, there is rock art that dates to 200 B.C. - I can't see them, I do not know what the place looked like then, but I can feel them.

    There are many wonders in this world, for me people are just some of them. I'm just happy to see the works of man and nature...it can make you feel so small...and yet inspire you to do more, see more - enjoy more.
     
  6. b.e.wilson

    b.e.wilson Member

    Messages:
    141
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Provo, Utah
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Aesthetics.

    I must confess I've never used the word before.

    I don't suppose that I've ever sought out beauty for beauty's sake. I've never studied it, I rarely think about it, even when I'm standing looking at something I know is beautiful.

    I guess I'm after the experience. I like standing on the limestone floor of a desert uplift, sun at my back and a light breeze in my face, listening to the faint buzz of the few insects around me, waiting for the rock to light up. Photography is the thing I do to keep my hands buzy, to give me an excuse to be there.

    I've found over the years that I don't make shots to sell, I just shoot what I'm looking at. If it's beautiful, great; if not, great, because it was the experience I was after, not the print. I'm certain this shows in my images, and because of it I'll never be a great photographer.

    But it sure is fun.
     
  7. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

    Messages:
    965
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    ask me in a few years...


    right now I can tell you this: I'm a fake non-conformist. I'm not trendy, dislike advertising and marketing in general, and as a result I dislike things that mirror comercialism.

    I can't shoot pretty pictures. I don't like to. If I'm not trying to say something, it's not worth pushing the button. I've been criticized by professors and colleagues, apparently I think too much about my photography. Well, I think too much about life. that's why I can't and never could sleep (even as a baby, I'm told). Sometimes I'll drop from exhaustion, other times I take pills...

    Either way, this shows. In myself and my work.

    Cars take you places, clothes keep you warm, pockets hold your stuff. Brandnames steal your money. True, I like certain styles more than others, but they don't define me.

    Personal Aesthetics are only a glimpse into your mind. I don't know who I am, so I can't tell you what my aethetic is. I wouldn't bet on anything original or special. I'm only human, afterall.

    Before I said I don't take pretty pictures. By that I meant Hallmark/Glamour Shots/"look at the birdie" kind of stuff. Not that it's easy to do, it's just pointless.

    Beauty, however, is another story. But I don't know what that is, so I don't worry about it. If I like it, good, if not, who cares. If you like it, good for you and my ego.
     
  8. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

    Messages:
    965
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    the above statements are only my personal, very biased, fatigued, and pissed off opinions, and in no way represent reality or anything of significance at all.

    Take it with a grain of salt. life just sucks right now, and I'm taking it off on Hallmark.

    "Hallmark" is a registered name, and is in no way connected to me. If they read this, they probably won't like me.

    Please don't tell them.
     
  9. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Michael,

    At the risk of taking this off topic somewhat, I have a question to ask of you. I have noticed a bit of this sterile aspect that you mention in regard to landscapes. In fact I have observed it in my work much to my dismay, I might add. It seems that Ansel has failed me once again. So in casting about for a new direction for myself, I am so happy that I came across your enlightened post on this most "heady" subject. Because of your insightful depiction, I really feel that I have come up with a new direction for myself. However before I begin I thought that it might be prudent to ask your opinion on the matter.

    My idea is this. I am about to start a body of work on the hookers on south Broadway here in Wichita. I think that I know what you are going to say at this point. Yes, Michael, here in downtown Bible Belt we do have hookers. Not many and not very comely. But we make up for lack of numbers with a great deal of "daring do".

    Now my question to you is this. Do you think that this subject matter will make my images more appealing to you? As I see it a bit of human interest would be involved. I foresee a fair amount of the "vibration and energy" that you addressed. What do you think, Michael? Irrespective of how you receive my efforts, I imagine that I will feel better.

    Now back to the topic of this thread. I really don't have a clue why I like what I like. I kinda feel about this "heady subject" like I do when I sit for hours contemplating my naval. Why does mine go in when someone elses goes out? What made mine shaped the way it is, I never have figured that out either.
     
  10. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,247
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Port Hueneme
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    People are part of the landscape for me

    My tastes change frequently

    Some rules (in photography) need to be broken once in a while - not everyone will get it - but that is why it is "art" and not .... something else.
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    In reading all this, there is little that I can add.
    I certainly cannot *prove* there IS something that we call "aesthetics" ... I can't prove we have souls, or "being" or psyches, either. I am ... more than reasonably ... sure that they do exist and they are there.
    I can't prove that there is something called electricity, or light, or music, or life, either - all I can do is extrapolate from their effects.

    There are images - situations, that draw me in -, that "enrapture" me ... not always beautiful - although most seem to lean that way... others are thought provoking, or curious, or unique... or ...
    I really don't understand "why" - not because I haven't wanted to - I just haven't been able to.

    So feeling over intellect - most certainly. I would much rather - and do - "feel" a photograph rather that analyze (intellectualize) it. Takes less energy, less time, I don't have to justify anything to anyone.
    I would make the world's worst critic - but I smile a lot.
     
  12. David R Munson

    David R Munson Member

    Messages:
    425
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2003
    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Well, a personal æsthetic isn't something that one necessarily establishes consciously - I don't think one really can. That said, one can be quite conscious of it when something comes along that fits a preexisting æsthetic unique to one particular person (that person being you).

    Ultimately no, maybe it shouldn't be defined by things, but that doesn't mean we can't be interested in the things in which we find that æsthetic manifested. It is a wholly personal thing that is in a permanent state of transistasis. It never stops changing, never stops evolving, devolving, or shifting in some way or another. Everything we experience in life, I believe, has a particular effect on it and every other part of our conscious or unconscious psychological state.

    I'm just interested in what things different people have found that fit their particular set of preferences - what things fit them, within the context of the æsthetic in question. And, for that matter, how they've happened to come across these things. By sheer chance? In the normal course of work? How?

    Can we ever really know the intricacies of that internalized set of æsthetic values that dictates our tastes, preferences, etc? In the sense that we can know the contents of a book or a room, I would say probably not. It doesn't operate on a logic that we can necessarily rationalize in everyday terms. But can we understand it within the context of how it manifests itself in our lives? Most certainly - and through that we can use a little inductive reasoning to make some broader judgements about what it is that we value most and why.

    Personally, I keep a running list of things I've found that fit into that æsthetic of mine. It's constantly changing - things get added, things get removed - but ultimately it's slowly becoming a clearer picture of a particular aspect of my personal psychology. From an outside perspective, I'm sure a god number of the elements look incongruous next to one another, but I swear they fit.

    Here's a taste of the list itself...

    Music:
    Clubbed to Death ~ Rob Dougan
    The Bends ~ Radiohead
    OK Computer ~ Radiohead
    Mezzanine ~ Massive Attack
    Ágætis Byrjun ~ Sigur Rós
    Splinter ~ Sneaker Pimps
    Peel Slowly and See ~ The Velvet Underground and Nico
    The Fragile ~ NIN
    Rhode Island ~ Pelican City
    Progress ~ Ultraspank
    Security ~ Peter Gabriel

    Photographers:
    Nobuyoshi Araki
    Masataka Nakano
    Daido Moriyama
    Hiroshi Sugimoto
    Bill Henson
    Gregory Crewdson
    Mark Seliger
    James Fee
    Craig Cutler
    David Emmite

    Artists:
    Gerhard Richter
    Anselm Kiefer
    John Rogers Cox
    Andy Warhol
    Carvaggio
    David Ho

    Anime:
    Jin-Roh
    FLCL
    Neon Genesis Evangelion
    Serial Experiments Lain
    Akira
    Ghost in the Shell


    Books:
    Lolita, Nabokov
    Catch-22, Heller
    1984, Orwell
    Snow Crash, Stephenson
    Neuromancer, Gibson
    Anything Kafka
    Everything Kerouac

    ...you get the idea. Or at least you can see an example of what I'm talking about...
     
  13. harveyje

    harveyje Subscriber

    Messages:
    166
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2003
    Location:
    Colorado Spr
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Aggie wrote: [After you have it all figured out, you get older and your perspective changes. What I thought were wonderful things in my teens changed. Now that I can qualify for AARP (grumble grumble if anyone dares call me a senior citizen....) I find my tastes aesthetics and such have changed many times over the years.]

    Welcome, fellow senior citizen! (I took your dare!) I couldn't agree more. I no longer have any desire to "rough it". I prefer all the creature comforts. I find beauty in all around me, especially if I don't have to walk very far to see it. there is beauty in new technology, nature, family, children, senior citizens, etc. I don't always try to take photos that capture this beauty, rather, I just enjoy it for myself as I usually feel that I cannot adequately express it. On the other hand I enjoy looking at my own photos for their sake and don't really try to share them very much.

    I don't know if I have an "aesthetic" but I truly enjoy the things around me!
     
  14. juan

    juan Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,745
    Joined:
    May 7, 2003
    Location:
    St. Simons I
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Aggie - my grandmother was 84-years old and still daring anyone to call her a senior citizen. "I'm old, dammit," she would say.

    Fugazi Dave - Kerouac is who I thought about while reading the first paragraph of your first post above. He claimed to be writing blues - which sounded like foolishness, considering he was talking about a novel. Then I found, and gave a listen to, an mp3 of his appearance on The Tonight Show, in which he read an excerpt from "On The Road" and another, "Dharma Bums"? - I'm not sure. Well Jack read and Steve Allen and the band played a blues turnover, and guess what? Jack did write blues.

    Donald - I anxiously await your posting of the new "landscapes."

    The correct aesthetic is obvious - It's what I like.
    juan
     
  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Aarrrggghh!!!! I can't take it any more! The "Wise!!" reflex / condintioned response in me is just too strong ...

    .... And just who else is on these "Mike's 1000 thread count sheets?"

    ... Sorry ... it just had to be said ... :tongue:
     
  16. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,981
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Donald wrote:


    My answer is Donald, your images already appeal to me and YES if you incorporated hookers, or for that matter any person into your photography I would like it better.

    Futhermore, for your efforts you would indeed feel better, whether or not they performed any "daring do" on your "you know who" or not. In fact you would probably not have a need to contemplate your naval ever again.

    So please go back to the great spot( Dock 410 - standard gallery) where you shot the old building and now include an old hooker, and show us the results. We will both be so much better off for the experience.


    Michael McBlane
     
  17. Aggie

    Aggie Member

    Messages:
    4,925
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    So. Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    my hubby, and 3 cats for that all important catus interuptus
     
  18. bjorke

    bjorke Member

    Messages:
    2,032
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    SF & Surroun
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    As far as I can recall, Ansel Adams is the only photographer on the usual sets of top-ten photographer lists who is not known best for his photographs of people.

    I liken the effect to music -- there are many brilliant pieces written purely for instruments, but songs still dominate, worldwide and for centuries. The direct human presence in art is unbeatable.
     
  19. 127

    127 Member

    Messages:
    581
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    uk
    Shooter:
    127 Format
    Well thats cleared up then...


    more on topic: It's probably easier to get a technically good landscape than portrait (in the sense you can work for an hour setting up, and metering), but its harder to say something original. Looking through the gallery: the first long exposure stream you see looks awesome - when you've seen ten you've seen them all, no matter how well executed they are.

    In terms of being INTERESTING, try going to one of the gallery pages, and sort by views so that the most viewed one's are shown first. I tried this a few days ago, and the first two pages were ALL nudes... I think thats says something about what we find visually intresting...

    Ian
     
  20. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Michael,

    Thank you for the idea about incorporating a hooker into that 410 Dock image. After quiet reflection, while contemplating my naval, I came to a decision on this matter.

    My idea is this to have a fellow in a "period" fedora, possibly a bowler, sitting upon the bench and have a young and comely lass appropriately dressed in period garb with a parasol engaged in conversation with the fellow. I figured that this would be in keeping with the theme of the image and still incorporate the aspects that you mentioned.

    My problem with this began almost imediately. I drove down Broadway about 11:30 last night and there she was standing on the corner. Now I have to admit, Michael, that upon closer examination she was neither young or comely...but I figured "what the hell"...she won't be recognizable in the photograph anyway. So we struck up a bargain...or so I thought. It seems that this lady was not well educated. Case in point...when I mentioned a parasol, she immediately became very defensive. I figured that something that I had said had offended her. In the next breath she told me..."look buster I will do trapezes and trampolines but that parasol crap is out unless you want to come up with more money.

    That was only the beginning. The next thing I knew the vice guys busted me...because after all we were engaged in what appeared to be illicit negotiations. To make a long story short, I just bailed out of jail a while ago...what a night!!!
     
  21. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,981
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Donald, I told you. See, people photography is far more fun and you get to meet all kinds of new and interesting people.

    Granted they don't all go as well as this one, but you see what I'm driving at. Now with the police involved you get a whole new batch of ideas to use. Instead of a parasol, you can use a pair of cops.

    I think you're really getting into this. Get some sleep and get back out there.

    Shit, I'm really happy for you.


    Michael
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

    Messages:
    2,032
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    SF & Surroun
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    but... did you get the SHOT?
     
  23. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,247
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Port Hueneme
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    There is a lot to be said about indigenous fauna. I never have the luxury of a model tag along so if I didn't backpack to get there, I can set up my camera and wait. Often people won't know it is a camera cause you are not chimping with a view camera and they will walk into the scene -stop look around - kind of like a pose. I got a few good ones that way