Pre-programming and blindness

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Aurore, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. Aurore

    Aurore Member

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    Reading through the 'Philosophies' thread reminded me of a lot of things I ponder often. For my own amusement (and maybe that of others) I'm going to review these things, and put them up for discussion.

    Thought #1 - To avoid seeing through the eyes of another. Pertaining to the Alvaraz quote 'many choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. Those photographers are blind.'

    This is a big issue of mine. I am a firm believer that everything one sees influences one's work in some way or another. I avoid the photography of others in most every way. Online user sites are an exception, but upon visiting Barnes & Noble, I stay well within the 'technical' section. Leave the books of other people's photographs for somebody else... I really don't care, and chances are, I won't like it anyhow. I get enough inspiration by accident, why do I need to spend my time perusing the work of others on purpose? I fear the possiblity of suffering subconscious brainwashing. My husband is a jazz musician, and is constantly listening to John Coltrane (to give one obvious example) or somebody else famous for their spectacular musical vision. 'Man,' he says, 'he gets such a great tone! I've been trying to find a mouthpiece to get that tone' etc, etc. I ask him why the hell he cares... his tone should be his own. He argues that listening to the work of others is inspiring and that he can pick up little things from each artists he likes and one day all will come together to form his own unique sound. But why does he need to listen to all those other people to get his own unique sound? I don't get it.

    Which brings us to Thought #2 - Pre-programming from birth...

    Wouldn't it be spectacular to open your eyes one day and just find yourself completely devoid of any preconceived notion of anything and everything? Of course, upon pondering such a notion, one must realize that such a situation is virtually impossible. We know what we do of the world through 'preconceived notions'. We'd be utterly lost and helpless without that programming. It is, however, a noble idea. What can one do to de-program oneself? Is such a thing even possible, truly? Are we likely to be able to concieve of anything beyond what we've experienced by observing the world around us? Is it like trying to picture infinity, or the color clear? I suppose the best one can do is constantly question oneself. To remain in tune with one's thoughts, and attack each important thought from every angle. Example: I've discovered that my 15-year-old sister who lives many miles away is into punk music. Well, cool, me too! When she tells me she really digs Blink 182 I nearly groan. And then I remember that when I was 15 I liked Green Day. Minor, but an introspective revelation nonetheless. And I try to do that sort of questioning constantly. What do you do to try and de- and/or re-program yourself? What is your strategy?

    I believe in spending most of my time in my own head, rather than in the head of others, whether through books, music, exhibitions, etc. Museums bore me. I think I have some interesting thoughts in my head and I don't need to spend every day at moma for inspiration with which to make my ideas tangible. Is that strange?

    I know there was more in my head but I suffer from ADD. I'll probably be back... :wink:

    Aurore
     
  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Interesting questions:

    My personal answer to number one is:

    I have always learned by seeing other people's work, copying it and then after a while my own "style" comes out. This style is after years of exposing myself to every photographer whose work I admire. It also comes from my philosphies of life. I personally think that the only people that successfully are their own teachers are savants. They are for some reason are able to express their genius unhampered by those that went before(Mozart). I am definately not one of those. I often see the work of people who say they don't need or want to be taught and their work is very often not very good. My opinion, you learn the rules and then you break them. Untrained artists do not have a style, they are just untrained.

    Number Two.

    I like the concept of the Zen Mind - Beginner Mind. I don't want to be a wide eyed innocent. I prefer to be world tested and hopefully gain in wisdom. Although world weary and bored is what a lot of people become. I hope to never get there. So I guess my ideal is wisdom with an open beginner mind.


    Michael McBlane
     
  3. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    I must say that I am 180 degrees from this thought. I want to see as much work as possible. I want to see what others have done with subject matter I like and dislike. More then that I want to go and see as much work in real life, go to the museums, the galleries, or wherever it is.

    How will I know if my printing needs to be pushed up a few levels if I never see what is a great print? How do you think we grow? We experience things, we process the information and then we make it ours. Hopefully taking it further then where we found it.

    I have always felt that every photograph I take is a self portrait. Even though I am not in the image, its a reflection of who I am at that moment. How I see the world or the subject, and how I want the world to see it. That's one of the great things about making images, you get the chance to let the world look through your eyes. And by doing so, you let them see who you are for that moment.



    I don't think it would be nice to wake up and not have any experiences to draw from. That's why I don't generally like the photography of young people just out of schools. They don't have anything to say yet, they haven't lived, worked, struggled to survive yet.

    I know everybody is different. But I'm an image junkie. I can't get out enough to see good photography. I would rather go and see the work first hand then just seeing it in print. You can learn so much from actually seeing work. But that's me..... and I'm living in my head and it works for me. If the other works for you, great go for it.
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I agree with your thoughts to a point. I think that there is validity in what you say.

    For me the merging of your method and what others have said is more applicable and realistic. Our ability to see is enhanced when it is stripped, so much as possible, of the conditioning that we encounter from the input of others, their vision, and their expression. I like Michael's approach. There is a great deal to be gained by pursuing the Budhist' practice of "experiencing directly". That is experiencing what is there before me without the voice inside my head judging what is beautiful, what is not, what is meaningful, and what is not. That voice, I have learned, is largely ego based and lies very often in my notions of what others will accept.

    However if we did not observe the technical side of what is possible in producing our vision then we would be limited in our expression almost as severely as we are by the conditioning we accept from others.
     
  5. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    In music school, we first learned theory by writing Baroque period music (Bach). We had to learn rules and how to operate within the rules. Then we moved through all the other periods of western music - learning the rules. After we had progressed enough, we were able to make our own rules and break them when we wanted.

    In jazz, one school of thought is that in order to play a piece, you need to learn how everyone else has played it. Then you can blow your own improvisation.

    I think photography is similar. One needs to see different approaches, copy enough to learn what's being done, then make one's own style.
    juan
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with this - except the word "avoid". You shouldn't avoid to see through the eyes of others, you should learn to see through your own. By "avoiding" it is easy to become too hung up on the avoidance, and end up being even more influenced.

    That's what I try to do every time I pick up a camera - except that I now try to avoid trying to to anything. If you see what I mean...

    Some years ago I bad some business as a portrait photographer. I have since learned how this is normally done, and am really grateful that I started doing before I learned. I was even told I have a recognizable "style"!

    Being somewhat anal retentive about the technical aspects of photography, the only photograper I've worked hard at understanding and learning is Julia Margaret Cameron. Her technique was atrocius, her images wonderful. So I no longer try to use the full zone system on portraits :wink:
     
  7. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    You have got to be kidding -- or blind. Technical books are loaded with other people's photographs, and usually ones of the worst, mannered sort -- held up as examples of "good."

    Ah, blind and ignorant! Please be sure to forget how to operate the scanner when the notion strikes you to post these photographs.
     
  8. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Aurore,

    Those who don't know the past are doomed to repeat it and they do so unknowingly.

    Not wanting to know past work is a mark of great insecurity. You can only go beyond that past once you have learned all of the lessons it has to teach you. Of course, yes, you could get trapped into being derivitive, but that can only happen if you do not continue to question yourself.

    Picasso: "The artist who tries to be original deceives him/herself. If he/she achieves anything at all it will only be an imitation of what he/she likes."

    As one great artist said, "If I have acheived anything at all it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

    Mozart, genius though he was, was not exactly unschooled. His father was a relatively famous composer of his day and Mozart listened to all of the great composers of the past. As did every other composer who achieved anything at all.

    It is only a sick art-school idea that each individual can start over as if there was nothing important that has gone before. That idea is so limiting. By following it, you are limited by who you are and deny yourself the opportunity to learn from others.

    If you asked your questions in seriousness and are really wondering how other view this, the responses you have received so far, from just about everyone, should alert you that you are way off base. And this is true no matter what kinds of photographs you make--whether you make straight traditional photographs or whether you paint on them and they are hardly recognizable as being photographs at all.

    Second part of the discussion--how to get to that innocent state: feel, not think.

    Interesting that you said you believe in spending a great deal of time in your own head. That's thinking--and exactly the wrong way to get out of your (unknowingly) self-imposed trap.

    All in all, Aurore, you could not have it more wrong. This is not said to be critical, though it is, but to perhaps get you to question some of your own assumptions. A more gentle response, though this one is not ungentle, would not get through someone as well defended as yourself.

    Good luck to you, and I mean that sincerely.
     
  9. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    I only avoid things that I think are useless (totally subjective and undefinable). I look at other peoples work to learn from, and to simply enjoy. Some people, I look at so I know what to avoid too. Sometimes the best lessons come from unexpected places. I don't think I would care to wake up and suddenly find that my mind had been wiped clean either. We are the sum of our experiences, and I've had enough good ones to want to keep them. It is one thing to clear your mind, to gently let distractions go - it would be another to have everything erased. What would be your reference point? Knowing nothing, what could you do? The trick is to know what is just noise, and then to filter it out.
     
  10. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Once I spent time looking, seriously looking at the images of other my own skills have increased in leaps and bounds. I have learned not only what I like, but also what I don't like and how to incorporate each into my images to approach a final picture that I'm personally happy with. I believe it was John Locke who spoke of being a tabula rasa, or blank slate, upon birth and this has been pretty much overturned completely in modern philosophy and psychology as not only a detriment to progress, but also totally untrue. I also agree with Don in that 'experiencing directly' is a wonderful tool not just in the arts, but also in life. The Western world would do itself good to incorporate more Eastern thought.

    Finally, it was Newton who is typically attributed the 'giants' quote, but he spoke it to insult Robert Hooke. Hooke was a contemporary of Newton's working on optics and such and is credited with a number of discoveries including the reflecting telescope. Hooke was also a very short man.
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I disagree - intensely.

    I don't read into Aurore's response a tribute to remaining stupid. What I see and I'd agree with, is starting from a clean sheet - without the "dots to connect". If we choose to study another's work, we should be getting into the way things happen... but it is as valid to avoid another's work, as it is not - depending on what works for each one of us.

    Chalk this up to ignorance, if you like, but I've never been able to explain *my* emotional reaction to a photograph, or any other work of art. That emotional - a.k.a. "aesthetic" is the most important aspect of all art.

    Some may choose to evaluate a photograph in technical terms ... "proper contrast, good Dmax, balanced composition ..." I would rather experience the work aesthetically ... either standing there, struck speechless, or possibly, taking stock of my response ... I see this photograph of a waterfall, and suddenly I feel wet, and somehow my ears seem to hear the sound of rushing water. I have no idea of how to teach this - or how it could ever be "learned" .

    Now, I'll preface this by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Michael, and *everyone* here ... I don't mean to submarine or disparage anyone, but I might suggest that ... strike that....
    *I* will be careful NOT to characterize another photographer, of whatever ilk, as "having gotten it all wrong." That is just a tad too dangerous; I'm left open to the response, "Oh yeah? ... And just what is it that makes you so sure that YOU have it right?"
    Not doing that is a course of action that *I* would follow. I cannot speak for another.

    A conversation between two accomplished and respected critics at the opening of an exhibition:

    Critic 1: Look at that!! Some people call this art? Composition is 'way off' colors are muddy.."

    Critic 2: I agree ... totally without redeeming quality. Wait, here is a description in the program ... Uh ... It was just sold for three million dollars... !!"

    Critic 1: "... What marvelous brush strokes... what a unique, expressive composition ... "
     
  12. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I'm almost 100% positive it was Newton.
     
  13. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."
    -Sir Isaac Newton, as quoted in On the Shoulders of Giants, Lynn Arthur Steen, editor, copyright 1990, The National Academy of Sciences.

    Was he a great artist? Maybe. Certainly food for thought there. I'm especially intrigued by the reference to "seeing farther...". Maybe we don't need cameras to see.
     
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  15. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    When I realized that I didn't need a camera to actively see the world around me my life became much more enriched (that's some hellish syntax). I "see" all of the time, but use my camera when I want to record, document, or share what I see.
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you, Ed! That's what I was trying to say, but you managed to say it!

    By all means study the works of others, but do not try to emulate them. To stand on the shoulders of giants, you have to move out of their shadows (and it was Newton, by the way - I checked).
    A friend of mine was once apprenticed to a very well-known portrait photographer. For six months he was absolutely forbidden to study photographs - at all - but was encouraged to go to as many art galleries as he could (not much photography in Norwegian galleries then - or now).

    I don't think I could get any good pictures without my "Wen" approach. Wen, not Zen - as in "Wen the Eternally Surprised" in "The Thief of Time" by Terry Pratchett. The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do.
     
  17. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Good point, Ole, and I like the way you stated:

    "The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do."

    But I don't agree with it completely. There is no way to disassociate yourself from your own, personal viewpoint. The whole point for me is to document my personal relations and interactions with what is actually outside of me and the manner in which I affect it. There are also many wonderful images which are the product of documenting the inside, Sally Mann's "What Remains Behind" and David Levinthal's work with toy figures and the 20"x24" polaroid camera.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Of course, Jeremy.
    Whatever I see, it's my decision what to photograph and how to do it. In a way I think that everything we do are self-portraits, since it's always an interpretation. Whether we interpret "found scenes" - landscape etc. - or constructs built for the purpose, the element of interpretation is always there. But it's a lot easier (as well as more fun) with an open mind.

    I find that photos I have taken when consciously thinking of composition are invariably dull. But every once in a while I'm surprised to find elements of classic composition in pictures I have taken just because I liked what I saw. And those are the pictures worth taking!
     
  19. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I agree, I think I may have just overstood what you wrote; I read into it more than what you meant. I agree that it is always much more fun to photograph when there is not a pre-conceived notion of what to photograph. If there is, then I feel some undisclosed pressure to make that picture work and this weighs down the whole experience.
     
  20. Aurore

    Aurore Member

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    Oh dear, apparently I'm not any good at expressing myself clearly first thing in the morning after 5 hours of sleep and on an empty stomach. Or perhaps people are simply reading too much into what I'm saying? Well, suppose it doesn't really matter one way or another, but I enjoy discussions and will try to clarify while responding to each person in turn who has posted. First, I should say that many people seem to have skipped bits and pieces of what I wrote, reading fragments here and there out of context. Or so it would seem. Not the best idea, I think, to respond to a post without reading it thoroughly first.

    Clarifications:

    In mentioning waking up with a 'blank slate' of a mind, I was referring to something somebody said in the 'Philosophies' thread. I believe I mentioned the connection earlier in my post. I then went on to point out that it would be virtually impossible... and yes, if it were plausible, it would of course be unpleasant. "We know what we do of the world through 'preconceived notions'. We'd be utterly lost and helpless without that programming." (Yes, I said that originally)

    I should have said that I avoid OBSESSING over the work of others, as so many people seem to do. Of course I've absorbed a working knowledge of photography's history (keep in mind I've only been at this for 3 years now). Of course I peruse the work of others and occasionally find work that I like. But I can't help noticing the amount of praise so many artists exude over other artists. Too often people seem to spend much too much time looking at everybody else's work. I prefer to observe what comes to my attention by chance, rather than running madly in circles looking for the next hot artist to gush over. I do enjoy interacting with other artists when the opportunity presents itself (or why the hell else am I here?), but I feel no desire to know the life history of Ansel Adams (who, in my opinion, was a technical genius but rarely an artist [oh yeah, I'm really asking for it now, aren't I??]) or Jan Saudek (a wonderfully creative and talented artist). I don't care who they are, where they live, what else they've done. I just care to enjoy the art they create for what it is and for what it makes me feel. Understandable?
    *Note - Adams created texturally rich and detailed photographs that are pleasing to examine, but they don't elicite a deeper response from me. There is often no emotion or expression of a message involved in his work. He has created a few moving artistic pieces, but generally I don't feel that he is an artist so much as a master craftsman.
    Yes, I thought I'd try to head off the (inevitable) arguments this time by clarifying my thoughts beforehand. :wink:


    Michael M.-

    "I have always learned by seeing other people's work, copying it and then after a while my own "style" comes out."
    Yes, I understand what you're saying. I think it's a matter of personal preference. Whether one prefers to absorb and learn learn learn until one feels confident to explore his or her own personal style, or whether one prefers to just get out there and do do do until things come together of their own accord to ultimately become ones personal style. I believe either approach can and is valid, along with all the other options one has in growing artistically.

    "So I guess my ideal is wisdom with an open beginner mind."
    If I am understanding you correctly, I agree with this concept immensely. I think it is quite comparable to the way I feel about experience, intelligence, wisdom, receptivity, etc, etc...


    George -

    "How will I know if my printing needs to be pushed up a few levels if I never see what is a great print? How do you think we grow? We experience things, we process the information and then we make it ours. Hopefully taking it further then where we found it."
    Hmm, I would consider that technical knowledge that does not require constant perusal of other people's work in that sense that I meant it. But then, technical perfection is not always my priority so much as creating a work that best expresses my intention. That may sound contradictory... Basically, I have little need for working knowledge of the zone system with which to produce 'perfect' negatives, even thought I understand it in concept.

    "I have always felt that every photograph I take is a self portrait. Even though I am not in the image, its a reflection of who I am at that moment. How I see the world or the subject, and how I want the world to see it. That's one of the great things about making images, you get the chance to let the world look through your eyes. And by doing so, you let them see who you are for that moment."
    Perhaps that is why we differ in opinion. I don't really care one way or the other whether I am revealing my inner self each time I show somebody my work. Rather, I experience strong, often enjoyably melancholy, thoughts and feelings that often seem intangible and unreachable, which I feel are likely universal, or as near so as a thought or feeling can get. I want to create art that captures those elusive emotions, art that anybody can view and respond emotionally to without having to connect directly to me or anybody specific, but rather to everybody at once. This doesn't go nearly so far to explain my intentions as I'd like, but this post is getting long...

    "They don't have anything to say yet, they haven't lived, worked, struggled to survive yet."
    Don't make assumptions. I've suffered through divorce, alcoholism, abduction, death... and then, after I turned 10, I proceeded to experience homelessness, wealth, poverty, childbirth, mental and physical abuse, childrearing, debt, rape, love, clinical depression, marriage, and, finally, self-respect and assuredness. That is most certainly only a partial list which doesn't include the obvious, like the ignorance and ugliness of people/the world around me. I'm 22. I'm struggling like hell. I haven't even gone to art school yet, though I would, if I had the time and could afford it...

    "But that's me..... and I'm living in my head and it works for me. If the other works for you, great go for it."
    Exactly! :smile:


    dnmilikan -

    Well said, and much agreed. No arguments or counterpoints from me. :smile:


    Juan -

    "In jazz, one school of thought is that in order to play a piece, you need to learn how everyone else has played it. Then you can blow your own improvisation."
    I assure you I've heard it many times from my husband. I don't particularly understand/agree with the idea of having to play 'a piece' (a standard) in the first place. It seems so common in jazz for music to be recycled, each time with a personal interpretation, but still labeled as the song it was originally. Why not retitle it and simply consider it an original piece (yes, same key, same changes, I know), or better yet, write a whole new original piece? Why is this so common/important in jazz? Is it because improvisation is so valued, and each person can display their talents in their interpretation, sticking to the same root tune so as to facilitate comparison? I hope you realize, I am asking from a purely speculative point of view, and not trying to speak between the lines. I am truly curious as to what you think.

    "One needs to see different approaches, copy enough to learn what's being done, then make one's own style."
    Understood, and very slightly practiced, but generally that just isn't my approach, I guess.


    Ole -

    "By "avoiding" it is easy to become too hung up on the avoidance, and end up being even more influenced."
    Oh, the catch-22! I ponder that quite frequently. I've made myself dizzy at times doing such. Elitism. Anti-snobbery. Anti-anti-snobbery. I can only try to avoid such traps. Ooops, did I say avoid? There I go again! Darn, it's inescapable... Obviously, there is no end to this discussion with myself, so I better just leave it at that. :wink: But I hear you.

    "That's what I try to do every time I pick up a camera - except that I now try to avoid trying to to anything. If you see what I mean..."
    Ha ha! Absolutely! And it's not far off from what you said above. Not at all! Another trap to, err... skirt.

    "Some years ago I bad some business as a portrait photographer. I have since learned how this is normally done, and am really grateful that I started doing before I learned. I was even told I have a recognizable "style"!"
    I have had very similar experiences, which have influenced my current opinions and philosophies as originally expressed. I'm grateful for my initial niavete, or whatever else you might choose to call it. Hmmm... lack of programming??

    "Being somewhat anal retentive about the technical aspects of photography, the only photograper I've worked hard at understanding and learning is Julia Margaret Cameron. Her technique was atrocius, her images wonderful. So I no longer try to use the full zone system on portraits."
    Took my very little time to learn that technical perfection was not particularly important to me, personally, in trying to achieve the artistic goals I have. A decent exposure, yes (hey, I work with craptastic plastic and pinholes... 'decent' is excellent in that case), and accurate focus, dof, and all of the other things that come together to create the final expression are certainly important. But when things don't all work out the way I pictured, or I don't have time to focus, adjust dof, etc, sometimes that can produce wonderful surprises as well. For me, it's the idea to be expressed that is of utmost importance... if it doesn't come out as originally intended ready for enlargement, I'll use alternative methods to 'fix' it or maybe I'll just go in an entirely new direction with my 'mistake'. You never know what you'll get and what you might be able to do with it... I'm content to go with the flow when it chooses to take me. Seems like you and I think a lot alike. :smile:


    Bjorke -

    LOL! I should really leave this without any comment, but I can't help myself. If I am indeed blind and ignorant, as you say, well, I must say that it somehow seems preferable to being so very bitter and condescending. Ignorance is bliss, at least, or so they say.

    "Technical books are loaded with other people's photographs, and usually ones of the worst, mannered sort -- held up as examples of "good.""
    Gosh, did I say something about the excellent art in technical (i.e. instructional) photography books? No? Ah, right. But I will clarify even after pointing out yet another blind (did I say blind?) assumption. Technical books are full of simple photographs meant to be examples, and I rarely, if ever, examine any of them for artistic excellence. Again, if I wanted to peruse a book of photographs in the search for artistic excellence, I would go to that *other* section...


    Michael S.-

    "should alert you that you are way off base ... All in all, Aurore, you could not have it more wrong"
    In this world, we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs. You needn't agree with me, nor I you. But surely you don't presume to know who's on 'base' and who isn't. Did you really fail to see the irony of your statement?
    "Second part of the discussion--how to get to that innocent state: feel, not think...Interesting that you said you believe in spending a great deal of time in your own head. That's thinking--and exactly the wrong way to get out of your (unknowingly) self-imposed trap."
    My feelings generally can be found hanging out right alongside my thoughts. In fact, they seem to co-exist quite comfortably in my head. Am I misinterpreting what you've said?
    "A more gentle response, though this one is not ungentle, would not get through someone as well defended as yourself."
    Trying to remain clear-headed and unoffended, now. Should I have included in my clarifications that I have feelings just like everyone else? I thought that was a given. Or maybe you've met me personally and discovered enough about me to assume I was so very tough? Unfortunately, I can be just as easily hurt by criticism as anyone else. If only...
    "Good luck to you, and I mean that sincerely."
    I appreciate your well-meant intentions, and appreciate the time you took to try and steer me down the path you chose. Thank you (yes, I do mean that sincerely as well). :smile:


    SteveGangi -

    "I don't think I would care to wake up and suddenly find that my mind had been wiped clean either."
    Nope, me either. I swear I said that. I must have been unclear, as so many seem to have read something entirely different from what I said.

    "We are the sum of our experiences, and I've had enough good ones to want to keep them."
    Agreed. The bad ones come in handy too.

    "It is one thing to clear your mind, to gently let distractions go"
    Oh, I wasn't referring to distractions, I was referring to cultural beliefs... 'preconcieved'. What one is raised to think, believe, 'know'. Prejudice is one example. And a good one, because who would disagree with the assertion that de-programming such a preconcieved notion is a very good thing? It's about learning to see more than what you were programmed to see. Whether that is even possible or not was put up for debate in the original thread.

    Generally, I agree with what you say. I just don't understand why I get the feeling that you feel you are being contrary to what I originally said?

    ****

    Oh whew, I'm finally done. Of course, when I refresh this thread after not having done so in several hours, I'm likely going to have even more to respond to. Carpal-tunnel syndrome, anyone?


    BTW, I appreciate the open-mindedness some of you so admirably displayed (as in; 'I understand your opinion and the position you take, even though I don't neccessarily agree...'). If I somehow came across as not-so-open-minded in my original post, as it may seem judging by some responses, I want to apologize. Next time I'll form such a personal opinionated post over the span of a day or so, as I did this time (you don't think I sat at the keyboard and wrote this painfully long response all at once, do you?). :wink:
     
  21. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Thanks to several for the identification of Newton for the quote I used. I wil not forget the source again.

    Ed, I cannot imagine how you took my comments to have anything to do with anything technical.

    Aurore, it is a pleasure to read your long response. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of language here, partly, at least.

    Of course, and really, I hope it would go without saying, that when photographing, to see the world freshly, as for the first time, is the goal--to be totally open and fully tuned in--and, to see, really see, as much as possible. What each of us are capable of seeing is a function of who we are. And who we are is a function of both what we are born with and the experiences we have had. The experience of others' art, and to see what other artists have seen is one way to expand one's own experience of the world. And it makes it far easier, really, to then go beyond them.

    Take Weston's peppers, for example. Few people have really looked at peppers as intensely as Weston did. Occasionally, I find myself really seeing vegetables the way Weston did. That does not mean that I have even the slightest interest in photographing them, but probably, had I not seen those photographs I would not looked as carefully at vegetables. So as a result of those photographs my experience of the world is enhanced. Will that ever come out in a photograph I make? Maybe, maybe not. It does not matter. For me the point is to see as much as possible. Thereby my experience of the world is enhanced and I become richer for it. And hopefully that richness will find it's way into my photographs one way or another.

    And since on one level all art is a self portrait, whether we want it to be or not, all one's life experience will find its way into one's art; whether we want it to or not.

    Of course, there is no substitute for direct experience. Experiencing art is one way one's own direct experience of that part of the world that is not art may broaden and deepen. That has to be true. Why else would art be important at all or why would they build all those museums to it?

    Bottom line: it is my belief that the experience of art, in all its forms (including photography) expands and deepens, rather than limits, one's direct experience of the world. Why willfully limit oneself? We're all limited enough already by who we are. I'm for whatever will expand those limits--and art is one of the things that will help do just that.
     
  22. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    In response to your question about jazz, in PLAYING jazz (and I suppose this is different than listening to it) a lot of the challenge/pleasure/excitement comes from the interaction of the musicians. Thus, playing a standard gives a structure (key, changes, basic melody) to the ensemble for the soloist to improvise over. An entirely new song could do the same thing, but all of the musicians would have to learn it before they can play it. The ensemble improvisition is the act of creation, so yes, improvisation is that important.

    It all comes down to creating art within a structure, and photography is the same way. (I don't believe one can create art without first devising some kind of structure to work within.) I think Adams was trying to create, or maybe visualize, such a structure when he devised the zone system. It's a systematic way of thinking about the structure of photography - film speed, light, development - in his words, writing the score.

    I see a lot of similarity between jazz musicians interacting with one another and a photographer interacting with light.
    juan
     
  23. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    To Aurore:

    Having seen a little of your work and read your posts, I see a very creative person reaching out for support and ideas. There is no doubt, in my mind, that you will succeed. This is a great group for aid and support.

    It is very important to study the work of others even though it may be offensive and objectionable - to you. The works of past masters have had a very positive effect on my own perception and results, not because I try to copy style of technique, but to act as a goal of excellence. Try Ed Weston for example. There are a few living here at APUG who have given me as much if not more inspiration. At age 68, I am still learning and experimenting in the "art" of photography.

    Rules are good! They allow one to examine one's "failures" in an analytical way in order to learn and improve. However, to really create, one must not be afraid to break them. If it satisfies you, what else matters?

    Truly, dr bob.
     
  24. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Aurore, this has been an interesting discussion.

    When one is stating ones opinion, it gives them the opportunity to think them out and question them. This thread is one that did that for me. When I mentioned that I believed that you should copy the people you admire and eventually adapt a "style" of your own, it got me thinking that there was a good reason for me to do this but not necessarily for everyone else.

    I started taking pictures when I was 23 and opened a portrait studio when I was 25. I had to learn very quickly and copy to be able to eat or at least to stay in business. For me a "style" really didn't emerge until 25 years later. I, like 95% of portrait photographers, was doing the exact same work as most successful portrait people were doing in every city in North America and probably the Western World. We attend the same seminars, conventions, and read the same trade magazines. We were interchangeable. The Stepford Photographers. Once I decided to work alone, out of my home, with virtually no overhead, I could relax and let my "style" emerge.

    Those who don't do this for a living, don't usually have to fall into this trap.

    About the Jazz, and the guys getting together to improvise it reminded of a story that Ram Dass told in one of his books.

    I'm paraphrasing: He said that every Saturday he would go and visit his father and they would get out the checkerboard and play for an hour of so. Somehow it was revealed by one of them that they really didn't like checkers, the other one said that they didn't like it either. They just played because they thought the other one did. He later reasoned that the checkers was the catalyst, the way for them to get together to "make love" to each other.

    Perhaps the jazz is the same thing. Just a way to get together, only they do really like the music, but it is the getting together, the improvisation together, that is the magnet and not necessarily the songs being played.

    I feel the same way about playing hockey.



    Later,

    Michael McBlane
     
  25. Aurore

    Aurore Member

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    Michael M -
    "I started taking pictures when I was 23 and opened a portrait studio when I was 25. I had to learn very quickly and copy to be able to eat or at least to stay in business. For me a "style" really didn't emerge until 25 years later. I, like 95% of portrait photographers, was doing the exact same work as most successful portrait people were doing in every city in North America and probably the Western World. We attend the same seminars, conventions, and read the same trade magazines. We were interchangeable. The Stepford Photographers. Once I decided to work alone, out of my home, with virtually no overhead, I could relax and let my "style" emerge."

    You know, that got me thinking too. While I'm happy with the path I've followed thus far, I sometimes realize the difficulties one can encounter by doing the opposite of what you've done. You see, after having explored photography on my own, and deciding that my goals are purely artistic, and realizing the ideas that I want to express artistically (though, yes, I'm sure these ideas will inevitably evolve), I would now find it virtually impossible to work with photography in any commercial sense. I was offered work as a commercial photographer, shooting portraits, architecture, etc. And I considered, and even went to speak with the man interested in hiring me. But one look around the reception area, and the photographs hanging on the walls, and I realized I'd be utterly miserable working there! Now that I've formed these ideals, I couldn't possibly work against them. So, I would love to be involved in photography as a 'career' (ie making money), but my only option would likely be professional darkroom work. I couldn't photograph what other people told me or expected me to. I just couldn't do it. And art rarely becomes a 'career' for anybody. I do have a family to feed. I'll be lucky if I ever get a gallery show in all of my life, and even more so if I actually sell anything! So, I'll continue working a menial job (in my case, usually office/clerical work) and exploring my art on the side. Still can be depressing if I let it get to me, but I try to avoid that. lol.

    But as far as traps go, there are plenty to fall into, apparently. :wink:

    Good point on the jazz. I think you're quite correct. Again, I can see this in my husband. He might be called to a local studio by somebody who has heard him play to record on a hip-hop tune, or reggae/ska... once they even wanted him for techno. I'm always surprised at his enthusiasm. 'Don't you hate that sort of stuff?' I say. But he's unperturbed. And I'm sure you've hit the nail on the head. Whether or not he's working in the genre he prefers, he's still working, creating music, 'getting together' with other musicians. I suppose if I was invited to a painting party, I'd be thrilled to go, even if I can't paint. I could just fling paint randomly at the canvas. Oh, wait, that's been done already, hasn't it? :D

    Dr. Bob -

    Thanks for the support and encouragement. It's appreciated. Whether or not I will succeed... I suppose that depends on the definition. Become recognized at least nationally as an artist? Well... my chances are probably slight. But if I create work that pleases me, and am at least able to share it with a small number of people who appreciate and understand it, then I may still have succeeded when all is said and done. But I won't know for quite awhile now, I think.

    If you mean offensive and objectionable as in great art that nonetheless is controversial and eye-opening, possibly upsetting, well, that is unlikely to offend me. But I admit to being offended and generally appalled when I see some of the work people are passing off as 'art' these days. And more so when the critics start gushing over some of this crap. But, hey, it'll always be that way, won't it? Best I can do is try to avoid practicing such disgusting deception, or perhaps it's simply ignorance and stupidity. Gosh, don't get me started! *taking deep breath*

    Regarding 'the work of the masters', I'm still not convinced. I just don't feel the need to study study study. I observe what is around me and ponder everything, and for me I feel it is enough. I don't know how best to describe my philosophy, really. I've become familiar with rules over the years simply by perusing user sites like this one, reading articles I come across, and occasional technical photography texts, observing the work of others, generally average people posting to websites such as this, sometimes people who are long established (Jan Saudek, again, one of my favorites), and I have learned bits and pieces here and there of the work of 'the masters' and their techniques. But I'm still just doing what I do as it comes to me. Of course the desire to work with traditional photography was inspired in me by other people and other photography. Of course the desire to take it further with pinholes, plastic cameras, medium format, alternative processes, etc, was inspired in me by other people and other art. But I didn't go searching for it. It found me of it's own accord and I feel things will continue to work in that way.

    If I do ever find the time and money and opportunity to attend art school (I'd love to go to the Art Institute of Boston one day), I realize that studying the history of photography will be important and required. But I plan to take it all with a grain of salt. I refuse to let people influence me so strongly that I should feel inclined to do what they've done or what they tell me I should do. Some have even suggested that attending an art school would be a very bad idea for me. Professors who only want to see work that they deem is 'art', students who critique based on their own preconcieved notions, those inevitable people who refuse to believe that not everything deemed by the big critics as great isn't neccessarily so, etc, etc. But I believe I can persevere. My desire is to search and find those people whose minds are open, to gain access to opportunities, equipment, techniques that would be otherwise near impossible for me to find on my own, to be part of a community, even if I don't agree with everybody. In life, it is so.

    I am satisfying myself, as much so as I possibly can, and you're right, it is all that matters. :smile:


    Jeremy said; "I agree that it is always much more fun to photograph when there is not a pre-conceived notion of what to photograph. If there is, then I feel some undisclosed pressure to make that picture work and this weighs down the whole experience."

    This is very much a part of the core of my ideals. I battle with it, and try to fight it off. Trying to keep my mind open and clear...

    Ole said; "I find that photos I have taken when consciously thinking of composition are invariably dull. But every once in a while I'm surprised to find elements of classic composition in pictures I have taken just because I liked what I saw. And those are the pictures worth taking!"

    Again, exactly. I just responded to a pm from somebody else on the site regarding this. He said "By shooting exactally what you need with the final product in mind printing is fast and easy", and I responded to it;
    "My approach is definitely different than yours. I tend to be less 'conscious' of what I'm recording when I press the shutter. I find that when I try to create a scene deliberately and then shoot it, it always seems stiff and contrived. For me it always works out best when I just shoot what I 'feel' and then do the most creative work afterward, exploring alternative techniques to create from my 'fleeting moments captured on film' a final work that expresses something moving or thoughtful. I guess mine is a path of discovery after pressing the shutter, whereas you've followed your path long before pressing the shutter. I admire your ability to do so; I am entirely incapable of it. But I imagine it's rewarding and fun either way."

    "The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do."
    I realize that I cannot entirely disassociate my own personal experiences from the work I create, but I try, in order to make art that can be universally understood and appreciated. I agree with this statement completely.

    Ed -
    Your defense of my position is much appreciated. :wink: You're absolutely correct in your translation of my original post. As I think I probably made clear when I mentioned my belief that Adams was a master craftsman much more so than an artist, I feel the same way about technical details. If it works on an emotional level, the technicalities are utterly unimportant.

    Um... what's Dmax? :roll: lol

    "And just what is it that makes you so sure that YOU have it right"
    Indeed. I hadn't read your response yet when I posted my last, but I could have quoted you rather than saying; "In this world, we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs. You needn't agree with me, nor I you. But surely you don't presume to know who's on 'base' and who isn't. Did you really fail to see the irony of your statement?" We indeed think alike. And attempting to avoid making such assumptions myself is another part of my big silly philosophy. :D

    Oh and a big LOL @ your ' critic's conversation'. It happens way too often! Hey, don't get me started, I said. :wink:

    Gosh, I did it again. I can't believe people even attempt to slog through my long-winded responses. Probably most people don't! lol.

    :smile: Aurore
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    ... And I didn't take it as if there was anything about "technical" there. My point was that the technical aspects of photography *could* be taught - specifically; but the "human involvement"; the aesthetics - could not, at least not in the traditional "lecture - followed by test", scenario. I think we do "assimilate" some sort of intelligence about the characteristics of our work... and that does change to some small extent, minute to minute, with our moods and experiences.

    Certainly, there is a learning process - but to tell the truth I don't know- and I can't imagine just what it is. It *may* help some to learn the "rules" - but I can't find anything that says it is mandatory. Certainly there are models and sculptors that understand the "S-Curve of Praxiteles" ... but there are countless successful models and sculptors - and figure photographers - who do not.

    Jorge - I think you may be overlooking the roots of Jazz - where a few people with instruments would get together and "blow". NO music, no structure - I'm sure that most had *NO* formal musical training at all - I'll draw attention to the funeral processions in New Orleans - where they walked down the street - and *played*.

    I wonder if anyone here has ever participated in one of those "Primitive Drum Sessions" ... where one selects a drum (from various types) and sits around in a group - and plays. No structure, no leader, nothing like any kind of blueprint to follow.
    At first, this sounds like a crazy idea, nothing seems coherent .. just disassociated beating - but gradually, a sort of collective melody .. "appears".
    Strange, mysterious - "weird" ... but it DOES happen. It is a liberating experience.

    I would suggest an exercise for all ... just sacrifice one roll of film, or a couple of sheets, and NOT try to make the photograph that "rocks the world" .. as a sort of relief valve. If one has a 35mm camera, set the self timer and toss the thing into the air so that the shutter fires randomly. With a medium format, hold the camera overhead and point it in back of you, not looking through the viewfinder. Some of the results *may* really surprise you.

    I've tried this with some of my "mentor-ees" ... Walk down the street and just trip the shutter - without using the viewfinder - as an exercise in gaining freedom. The most resistance to this was NOT from the possibility of wasting film, or the perceived "danger" of making a "bad" photograph - but that someone would SEE them and think they were crazy.

    Come to think of it, I haven't done that for a while. It is a good way to maintain ones' sense of balance in this game. It *IS* possible to try TOO hard - to overwork.