So Why Don't We Ever Discuss Vision?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by photomc, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Anyone ever notice we can lament on and on about this developer or that paper...or how much we dislike this format or that, but we never really discuss the making of a photograph? Why is that?

    This is not meant to start anything, or to say that what we do in the darkroom is not important...in fact the skills we have in the darkroom should help us when we trip the shutter. But still, on and on I (we) dron about enlargers, timers, meters,etc. We don't even have a Forum to discuss 'Vision', or least not one that I can find..otherwise this post would be there.

    Just wondering how many other folks would like to have some discussions on the setup - why xxxx camera format, xxxx film, you know the stuff we should be writting down for notes before we trip the shutter.

    And most important, Why are we making the photograph...what did we feel, why did we stop...I mean if it is a LF shoot, there is a bit of work that goes into the set-up before the darkslide is ever pulled. Why did we place the camera/tripod where we did?
     
  2. AllenR

    AllenR Member

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    Mike,

    I couldn't agree more, it would be nice to have some discussions about why we photograph rather than the mechanics. For many photogrpahers, the "why" is a difficult thing to verbalize, but I think it is worth the effort.

    Allen
     
  3. lee

    lee Member

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    I agree with both statements above the why is equally or more important than the nuts and bolts.

    lee\c
     
  4. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    OK, I'll start:

    Why do i take pictures?

    I'm not sure!

    I just like to do it. Always have. There were always cameras in my house, and there are always cameras at family functions.

    It was the same with music. Both parents and an older sister were amatuer musicians and everyone sings (or tries to :wink: ). But, I took it further and got a degree in music, taught for a while and made a little money at it. I went "professional".

    And, I did the same thing with photography. I went "professional" and financed my college (music training) by shooting weddings. However, I didn't like weddings much, and so it backed off to a hobby after college and has ebbed and flowed until recently.

    Now I have time and a little money to spend and I really want to make pictures! However, I have no illusions of myself as an artist. I am happy to be derivitive (sp?) or outright imitative. I would die happy if anyone ever looked at one of my prints and said: "That looks just like a Weston." Whether the speaker meant it as a compliment or a criticism, I'd still be happy. :smile:

    It doesn't even matter which Weston ...:tongue:

    Now, why B&W and why analog? Why not? It is it's own medium and it is simply what I choose to do! Formats: 35mm because of the convenience, and all the toys (bodies and lenses) I can afford. Medium format, almost the same reason, much better negs, of course. Why not LF? Just haven't gone there yet. Who knows ...

    Cheers y'all.

    David
     
  5. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

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    Well… Let’s talk about it then. I find much of what I shoot by driving around, keeping an eye open for something intriguing. What is it that makes me stop? Why do I take the effort to setup?

    For me it’s a pattern, or an isolated bit of real estate with out the touch of mans hand. Light plays less of a factor for me than composition.

    I have pulled over at what on first glance looked interesting, but then upon closer examination turned out to not work for me compositionally. Perhaps the primary elements didn’t work together like I thought they did driving by at 60.

    For me it’s a feeling, solitude, calm, at rest in nature. Much of what catches my eye falls into that emotion.

    Pete
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    I have moved this thread to ethics and philosophy. It is an excellent post that doesn't belong in the lounge.

    For my part i have been trying to meld my desire to record/document our environment (man made) within the constraints of my format (usually square) with film that (usually the overheated colours of x-processed chromes) adds a pictorial or subjectiveness.

    I have plans to add to my tools. 1) experimenting with reducing the bleach step. 2) to pull fast films 1.5 to 2 stops.

    Within x-processed film I have a pretty full pallet (from kodalith like film to effects that are similar to "the matrix"). For me it is less important to depict it as it is but to depict it as my mind sees it or as I would like to see it.
     
  7. Carol

    Carol Member

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    I think it comes down to an appreciation of the world around me. Whether it's the fine detail in a flower or a spectacular landscape, I'm always thinking "isn't that amazing", I wonder if anyone else stopped and looked at it.
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Why don't we talk about vision?--Because it's difficult.

    For myself, I'd rather not think too much about the "why" of my own work. My day job is thinking about why other people create art (literature for the most part, but not exclusively) and what the work means. Most artists aren't terribly articulate when it comes to talking about their own work--even those who are articulate as critics--and that's probably a good thing. I think that people who can explain their work in very clear terms tend to produce work that is formulaic or programmatic. Not having a conscious formula or program is not necessarily a guarantee that what one does is original, and having a conscious formula or program doesn't necessarily mean that there's nothing unconscious going on, but on balance, I think a little uncertainty in this area is a good thing in the creative process.
     
  9. gr82bart

    gr82bart Member

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    I think I have no vision or many mini-visions. I really don't know. I think it is the bane of hobbyist like myself, especially when I see inspirational work and read the artist statement, I often say, "Wow, that was designed and not random."

    Knowing how art is marketed these days, I say that much less often unless I know the artist.

    I guess my vision is: "I take pictures I like." Why I like those pictures can be a whole host of reasons. Many diametrically opposite.

    Regards, Art.
     
  10. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    It is difficult to articulate what it is your after and often counter productive to hear what the artist has to say about their work.

    What I have found for myself is that as I experiment with different subjects, tools, methods, etc.. I find some combinations that resonate. This leads to others and then as the process, matures so do the images and my ability to identify potential.
     
  11. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    I'm not really sure I ever thought about "why" before.

    There are many reasons I shoot what I shoot. When I shoot wildlife, I do so for several reasons. Most of the time I'm somewhere where very few, if any, people are around, which is a definite plus. I've always been an outdoors person and it saddens me to see new strip malls and new neighborhoods by the dozens destroying our natural areas. I try to create a personal link between the animal and the viewer. I think (maybe naively so) that if people have a chance to see what we're killing them by killing their habitat they'll think twice about how humans are treating the world.

    Black and white is another way I escape the grind of everyday life. I don't really know how to articulate it, but I have a sense of calm about me when I shoot b/w. The darkroom allows me to, once again, get away from it all and focus on bringing my ideas and thoughts out onto paper.
     
  12. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    We have had these discussions before and they ended up in discussions about the meaning and semantics of the word vision. But when considering the question why do you place the tripod where you do, I think it is really about what are the basic qualities in the subject that resonates with us. Those qualities can carry across a wide range of subject matter.

    For myself I am more interested (or drawn to) form, volume and balance of tones in a scene than a particular subject. Tha is why a mountain of discarded heavy machinery can be just as captivating as a real mountain or a jumble of discarded cables and wires hanging down a wall as interesting as a wall covered with hanging vines. Also, growing up on the Great Plains you learn to look at details, abstractions and subtleties when you do not have the grand landscape to focus on.

    A great deal of what our vision is probably determined in our youth from geographic and social experiences. One can go to photography or art school and try to escape those early influences, but I think they are always there, somehow coloring are vision towards are work today.
     
  13. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Well said.

    My pesonal work is a long term portrait project of my kids. I say portrait, now, but I conceived as a documetary project. It has evolved beyond the merely documentary. I find that sticking with the same subject matter, forces me to be experimental, so I don't keep making the same photographs over and over. It can get frustrating... there are times (like last winter where I felt I was incapable of making anything orginal!), but then, as you say, something will resonate, which leads me to the next small step in the process. This past summer has been incredibly productive shooting wise, I'm not sure it would have been without hitting that wall last winter. I feel that my work has taken a great big leap. It's exciting, but I'm mindful that I may hit that wall again.

    Perhaps I've digressed into more the how's, than the why's. I try not to overanalyze the why's too much. Afterall, it's simple. Why photograph my kids, or anything else? It's just a gift to offer. Hopefully, a meaningful one.
     
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  15. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    There are as many answers as there are pictures.
     
  16. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I dont discuss vision because it cannot be quantified. Art begins where craft ends and your "vision" starts to develop once you are free from the shackles of methodology.

    Unfortunately many get stuck in the testing phase (at least in B&W), ZS, BTZS, Picker Max black, etc, etc. Where having a beautifully printed photograph with 6 million gray tones becomes the goal, rather than having an interesting picture where the 6 million tones are just one of the tools to make the picture more interesting.

    I dont think anybody can teach you how to "see," nor can we discuss our "vision" and explain why we like what we like or what is it that catches our attention, or I least I cant in written words.

    Alternatively, you might go to a workshop and the instructor from experience might tell you "why dont you put the camera or focus this way" but this is no longer your vision, but theirs.

    I have gone out with friends to photographs, we have been exactly at the same place, and then later on they show me a picture where my first thought was "dammit, how come I did not see that?"....... practice, practice, practice...is the only way to develop vision and cannot be taught, IMO.
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I agree with this. We are constantly learning the language to come up with our own sonnets.

    Most of us are stuck in limericks where we merely transpose one set of words for another.


    Michael
     
  18. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    All I know about my 'vision' (seems dreadfully pretentious) is that it is tied to the back brain and is non-verbal. All I do consciously is try to follow the hints until the 'signal' is strongest.

    My uncle used to teach oil painting, and he was strongly of the opinion that he could teach anyone to paint, but not to see. I think that at best one learns some visual literacy, but there is the risk of producing pure cliche - 'Ah! this is a type 9c picture with a major and a minor diagonal.'

    And this is just the motivation for producing the photograph. My experience is that people bring their own vision to the viewing process. It is a wonder any two people have a similar response to a photograph :cool:
     
  19. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    I don't shoot to please anyone but myself. Other than the occasional "pretty" picture I might take, I am more driven to explore vistas, manmade structures, etc to glimpse what is triggering some distant memory I have. Buried inside of me are many memories that some sight I see develops into a nebulous vision of what was part of that memory. (pull the hip waders on at this point it is getting deep) It's not so much trying to tell a story as it is to give voice to what is in my head about the scene before me and the memories. No matter how many times some professor, workshop teacher, or just well meaning photographer tries to guide me in their path, I always go back to the things that trigger my responses. I do not have a herd mentality. I am not one who blindly follows what others do or tell me what to do. If no one likes what I do, then that is fine as well. It's part of why I normally do not post in the gallery.
     
  20. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Ahhh! This is the APUG I love. A parallel is music. Maybe twice or 3 times a year I'll come upon a piece in my listening that strikes a chord in me. In the dark room I'll rewind over and over to take it in. Sometimes my throat will get thick and my eyes will tear up with the experience. Music is a shunt to my soul. I want to make photographs that will have that effect to some viewers. Certainly I'll never know who or when or why. I don't have the gene to create or sadly even play music like that, but what if my photographs could touch a chord from time to time in others. Only a partial answer to the "why"
     
  21. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    The only meaningful way I have found to discuss my "vision" is to show pictures. If I could describe my "vision" in words I would have taken up poetry instead of photography :wink:
     
  22. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Well, that's mostly a practical decision. I tend to shoot the largest format I have that is suitable for the subject and how portable I need to be. This means either 6x6 MF or 4x5 LF or 35mm rangefinder these days.

    Ah, the easy question :wink:... In landscape, it's a reaction to the place. Might be its intrinsic beauty, might be its history, might be the marks left by generations of humanity on the landscape (my main interest), might be the fleeting play of light on a detail, might well be part of a project I have set myself. Where I set the tripod is a aesthetic matter where I try to compose so as to give myself the best chance of expressing what I intend about the landscape. I don't think it is possible, not for me at least, to express how I go about that decision in any detail - on the practical side it very much depends on what is available to me in the landscape WRT near/mid/far objects as well as where my main subject is situated, all of which may change as I move around the area.


    Cheers, Bob.
     
  23. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I really like Aggies post.
    I believe it all boils down to what interests you and the story you want to tell.
    I work on several series at a time and try to imagine how the work will look , even before I pick up the camera.
    For years I did not pick up a camera , because I was not settled in my life and every time I did it was just pretty pictures that I have seen time and time again.
    I picked up a book *On being a photographer* bill jay and this short little read helped me .
    Now when I pick up the camera it is very satisfying as I work on stuff that I like and am doing for my own pleasures, and not trying to please anyone else.
     
  24. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    The vision thing is why I started into MF and LF in the first place. Professionally I'm a Graphic Designer and Illustrator but there were things I just couldn't do (for my personal projects) in those mediums that I might be able to do with photography. I say might because I won't really know until I can get past the tools and processes. Once I can just think and do I will maybe see some success.

    Until then, the left side of my brain is having a good time with all the details and processes.

    Alan.
     
  25. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    I agree. This is why I think that the gallery is great and I always post my photos in the critique gallery. I am hoping that folks will discuss the images in some way that helps me see better and refine my vision and technique.
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Generally speaking, the things I photograph can be divided into two types:
    1) things I want to record; and
    2) things which inspire me visually.

    Some times, I am lucky, and a subject will fit into both classes.

    As an example, last Christmas, we had a number of friends and relatives over, and one of my wife's 2nd cousins had her infant baby in her arms, high enough to look back over the mother's shoulder, and directly at me - the image of the back of the mother's head, the curve of her neck, and the fascinated eyes of the infant appealed strongly to me, and at the same time provided to me an image that I wanted to have and keep as part of a family record.

    Other times, the image itself is the reason for the photograph.

    I am lucky in that in the short distance (about a 30 minute commute) between my home and my work, there is a very large variety of environments - densely urban, rural, industrial and natural. If the play of light and the arrangement of the objects and/or people are such that my attention is distracted, and my interest is piqued, I think there is at least a possibility that I can make a good photograph out of it.

    When talking about photographic vision, it is important, however, to also consider the process. I am not particularly good at communicating with words the effect that a particular vista has on me, but sometimes I can elucidate that effect in myself (and hopefully others) with a photograph. That is where the thrill arises for me - I see the subject, and I envision the resulting print or slide, plus what it will likely take to get a result that will please me.

    I do not think it is correct to say that I only take photographs that please me - much of the pleasure comes from the attempt to create something that may allow me to share my pleasure.

    If I am taking photographs for other purposes, or to fulfill the requirements of others, there is another sort of vision involved, and that too has merit. The process of fulfilling a requirement is a process of translation - conversion of a need into a photograph that fulfills that need. In order to do so successfully, I have to understand the need, envision a photograph that fulfills the need, and bring to bear my craft and my imagination in a way that successfully answers the challenge. If I do so, the process is both creative, and very personally satisfying.