Sense of Presence

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, Feb 10, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,804
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Why do some photographic images have a sense of presence? I am not referring to carefully hand-crafted prints in this question, but images. Take some of Fox Talbots or Atget’s images, which exhibit a wonderful power of presence. They are merely a photomechanical process. So how can such a detached process embody the soul of the creator?
     
  2. Toffle

    Toffle Member

    Messages:
    1,859
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Point Pelee,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That is a good question. I honestly think the answer lies in the photographer's true love for his subject. Ronis' Paris pictures make me weep for the beauty of that city. He knew and loved the places he photographed. His street photography never intrudes, but pays homage to the people, the places and the time in which he lived.
     
  3. clayne

    clayne Member

    Messages:
    2,805
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is what makes a photographer a good photographer in my opinion. It's the core separator of what has true feeling vs what doesn't.
     
  4. ajmiller

    ajmiller Subscriber

    Messages:
    510
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Location:
    North Yorkshire, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Isn't it about the ability/skill/talent of connecting 'through' the camera probably unconsciously in a lot of cases.
    I played trumpet and it often amazed me how music came through a piece of bent brass with three valves to press - I blew in one end and out the other came music of a sort. That music contained all my experiences, my practise (the scales, the chords and the listening) - not only the sum total of my musical education but also my 'self'.
    It's the same with any intermediary tool that's used for creative expression isn't it?
     
  5. Toffle

    Toffle Member

    Messages:
    1,859
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Point Pelee,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I was a trumpet major as well, and I recall an experience in music school which profoundly shaped my whole career as a music teacher. While the rest of us were practicing scales and repertoire, (and, I'm sure, arguing over tubing bore and mouthpiece specs) one trumpet player I knew would talk about the sensation of playing... what it felt like to play the notes; the impression a line, phrase or improvisation left behind in its passing. It opened my eyes to a whole new musical experience. He would not know it, but his example to me influenced hundreds of music students over my 30 year career.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 10, 2012
  6. mbsmith

    mbsmith Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Location:
    Utah, United
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    This talk of music and photographic expression reminds me of a quote I read in the Larry Fink book, Somewhere there's Music.

    "You blow in this end of the trombone and sound comes out the other end and disrupts the cosmos." - Roswell Rudd

    In regards to how a person achieves a sense of presence or "disprupts the cosmos", well, it's my creative life's goal to find out :wink:
     
  7. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,804
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I appreciate the analogy, but can we return to visual imagery rather than music?
     
  8. lecarp

    lecarp Member

    Messages:
    44
    Joined:
    May 8, 2009
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I think your answer is in your question. They both may have considered their work to be "carefully hand-crafted prints".
    They also may have considered the medium to be more than "merely a photo-mechanical process" or a "detached process".
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    20,217
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    it is because the creators were one with the process.
    photography was an extension of who and what they were.
     
  10. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Go take some street scenes in a surreal medium like black and white and in 100 years someone may think you're incredible too.

    Make sure you blow the exposure, grind some grit into the negative, and print poorly and you're all set.

    In 100 years you're a genius.

    To me there is nothing all that special about the work like Atgets, just that it transports you back to another time. No great trick here.

    Time does it on its own. It's called nostalgia.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2012
  11. MDR

    MDR Member

    Messages:
    1,410
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Location:
    Austria
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Blansky how can you say that Atget the great, the powerful who inspired Friedlander and countless other modern photographers works only because of nostalgia? I never saw the allure of Atget myself either and believe you're right.

    Dominik
     
  12. zumbido

    zumbido Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Agreed. Not that I don't like some of the images. But yeah.
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,070
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In the case of portraits, I think it is connection photographer-to-subject, which makes possible a real subject-to-viewer connection. In that case, the subject has presence in the eyes of the person who views the print.

    That connection is entirely separate from all the technical stuff... it is a personal, human, emotional and/or intellectual connection that transcends all the technicals and allows the subject's expression / mannerisms and the photographer's intent to speak for themselves.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2012
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Or the so called connection can be entirely imagined by the viewer, much like celebrity stalkers imagine that when they see movies and pictures of actors they think the actor is talking only to them.

    Much like magazine covers in newstands where the photographer has the model look straight in the camera so the magazine maintains that eye contact with the customer making them feel a connection that really isn't there, but makes them wants to buy the magazine anyway.

    One always has to be careful of which illusions one buys into.

    Some people also imagine that their cats talk to them, when really the cats can't really stand them. Usually for good reason.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2012
  16. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So when my cat tells me that she can't stand me does that mean it isn't true? Or am I merely spiritually connecting with the truth?
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You're just projecting.

    Cats are sinister creatures who spend the days toying with you until they can find a way to open up the food tins on their own. Then they'll just kill you.

    Some may even pretend to like you but most don't bother wasting their time.
     
  18. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I used this example when I judged a show a while back. Some photographers (new) like to photograph things to show they were there, they experienced, they found something. (sort of like a dog marks it's territory). A "seeing" photographer shows through a photograph what a place smells like, sounds, what it meat to be there, or be in the presence of the subject.

    I was "called out" for giving a technically fine photo of a bald eagle a red ribbon rather than a blue. I said you may as well shot the eagle with a gun, it was a centered photo of a eagle in flat bright light sitting on a telephone pole. It told me nothing other than you got close to an eagle and wanted to tell the world that you had. I said, show my your passion for the eagle. I don't think he got it.
     
  19. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Drat! That must mean it's my wife who leaves the love notes.

    Now I'll have to buy her a Valentine's day card.
     
  20. Maris

    Maris Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    Noosa, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No photographic image has a sense of presence, rather it has technical qualities that interrogate the sensitivities of the viewer. Long experience with photographic exhibitions incline me to think that the majority of viewers leave with the same preconceptions, preferences, and prejudices that they came in with. If a picture tweaks something in a viewer that viewer will say the picture has presence, is cool, waxes sublime, etc, etc. Some people see nothing, say nothing.

    As for the detachment of the photographic process from the soul of the photographer I think it is more a case of someone with such-and-such a psychological make up inevitably produces pictures with a such-and-such appearance. Tracing the connection between the two is both fascinating and rewarding and underlies much of the appreciation of art in general.
     
  21. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think you nailed it.
     
  22. musila

    musila Member

    Messages:
    30
    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    That's a strong western rationality.. I think the word nostalgia has been used to degrade experiences that are not objectively rational. If you think of things in that context, there can never really be a connection on a higher level than the five senses, your rationality won't let you. I'm guessing the higher level wouldn't even exist.

    My opinion is that certain objects not only speak to you, but you can have a shared conversation with them, from your experiences (almost like Barthes' studium and punctum idea, probably misspelt). And that's regardless of the photographer's intentions and reasons. And the idea of presences in this question is a more relevant "conversation" to you than the other photographs.
     
  23. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,070
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Musila your reference to studium and punctum is very apt. "Presence" is one of those subjects that can be academized to any degree, and yet, at the end of the day, one of the most important things a viewer can say about an image is what can't be said... "I don't know why, but this image really... I can't describe it, it just, you know, I just feel it..."
     
  24. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,804
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Maris, do you have the same view about other artistic mediums?
     
  25. CPorter

    CPorter Member

    Messages:
    1,662
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Location:
    West KY
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
     
  26. Maris

    Maris Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    Noosa, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    At the risk of a gross generalisation, yes; that's the art game in a nutshell.