The Philosophy of Stieglitz

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Alex Hawley, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    While reading Ansel Adams' "Polaroid Land Photography" book, I ran across this passage where Alfred Steiglitz his view of the creative photographic process.
    Reference: Ansel Adams, "Polaroid Land Photography", 1978 edition, page 72.

    That pretty much does it for me, although I've never been able to articulate it so well.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    That would be Stieglitz.
     
  3. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    Sometimes I photograph because I find something interesting, beautiful, or powerful. Usually its a need to communicate or share.

    I don't exactly agree with Steiglitz, but I would say we have similar motivation. Although he's much better at it than I am!
     
  4. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Yes, that's pretty straight forward isn't it. Though I must say that doesn't quite fit for me. A large part (I guess the majority) of my anticipated result is made when I expose the film, but a smaller but very significant part occurs at the time of printing.

    There may also have been a general shift in that regard since Stieglitz's time, when often the objective was to make the printed image very closely match the viewed scene. The out clause of course was how ridged the image in my mind's eye was. I suspect that M Kenna for example allows himself a little more creative freedom in the darkroom perhaps than Stieglitz did.

    Of course this must vary from one photographer to the next, and probably leads to topics already well debated.
     
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  5. Markus Albertz

    Markus Albertz Member

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    STIEGLITZ !!!
     
  6. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    Id have to agree with you on this alex. thats a wonderfully simple and concise definition of a fairly complex thing (at least in my mind)
    If you havent already, there is a fascinating book about steiglitz and that entire time period in photography/art world and the world at large called "an american lens" by Jay Bochner

    it can be a bit wordy and long winded but nonetheless a good read. It discusses everything from music to photography to painting to writing. But all within the context of the avant garde and beginning of modernism. Its a great book talking alot about steiglitz as whole and the time period he lived and worked in.
     
  7. sattler123

    sattler123 Member

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    It's Stieglitz NOT Steiglitz
     
  8. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    I think most people still get the idea.
     
  9. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    "i" before "e" :rolleyes:
     
  10. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Please excuse my typo.
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Photographically, the whole doctrine of 'equivalence' has always struck me as more religious than useful. 'Religious' as in the sense 'if you have to ask why, or what it means, you'll never understand anyway'.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Excellent point Roger. Here's what Adams wrote expanding on the term equivalence. (same reference, page and paragraph)

    Of course, everyone's opinion on this concept is going to differ. Adams does not try to explain Stieglitz's own personal opinion; rather he interprets Stieglitz's opinion based upon his own opinion.
     
  13. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Such a simple statement for such a complex event. This would drive the art majors and their "Art Speak" crazy. Five sentances instead of five pages!

    And I agree Alex, it pretty much sums up the motivation thing for me also.
     
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  15. ilya1963

    ilya1963 Subscriber

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    Hmmm... Yes

    Thanks Alex

    Thought of the day ... and life time...
     
  16. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Here is a recent quote from an interview with John Szarkowski about this very subject (from Focus magazine):

    I don’t like to argue
    with Stieglitz, but the term equivalent has always
    made me a little uncomfortable. It seems
    to suggest that the same thing can be said in
    two different ways, which I doubt; it also suggests
    that the possible meaning of a photograph
    is potentially larger or nobler if it can be
    translated into philosophical or psychological
    language. As for Minor’s attempt to explain
    photography by dividing its practitioners into
    four classes—from peons to priests, more or
    less—I’m afraid this is merely silly and represents
    White at his least interesting and least
    useful.


    I tend to fall into the camp that believes that the whole 'equivalents' rap is thinly veiled psuedo-mysticism.

    But, hey, if it works for you, then full speed ahead.


     
  17. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Sounds like much has been made over this "equivalents" thing in the past. I'm not an art school person nor am I well-read on the subject, so I'm seeing this for the first time.

    Personally, I don't see it as any big deal nor do I see any kind of mysticism of any sort involved in it. Trying to translate what my eye sees onto the film and paper seems to be the basic process. Note that I said trying to do it. I don't feel I'm ever 100% successful nor do I come close except on rare occasions.
     
  18. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I certainly agree that I often attempt to convey what I saw. But I'm not as certain that a photographer can convey what he/she "felt" at the time of shooting.

    Firstly, does he mean "feel" in the sense of what the photo image is meant to convey? Or does he mean "feel" as in his mood or disposition when he conceived and took the photograph?

    Think for a moment of a mundane snapshot. It's easy to "see" what the shooter "saw" but one doesn't intuitively get a sense of what the shooter felt. In fact, often with such a photo the shooter "felt" intensely about his subject yet a detached viewer will feel nothing.
     
  19. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    George,

    First, good name!

    you asked, Firstly, does he mean "feel" in the sense of what the photo image is meant to convey? Or does he mean "feel" as in his mood or disposition when he conceived and took the photograph?


    Let me add something that I believe. With every exposure a photographer makes, he/she give a little insight into themselves, in how they view a subject and the world it lives in. They reveal how they feel about the subject...do they like it, hate it, or have no feeling about it at all..... all in the way they compose the photograph of the subject.

    A photograph is really not about the subject of the photograph but about how the photographer wants you to see the subject of the photograph.

    just my feelings, your mileage may vary.....
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Post-structuralists (post-modernists, deconstructionists, Lacanian psychoanalytics, pick your -ist) would have a field day of "Ah-hah! See? I told you so!" with that. The equivalence Stieglitz refers to would be seen as direct proof of the simulacrum-effect of representational communication. The photograph is only an inaccurate, false representation of the actual feeling, because it is NOT the feeling itself. Just as the objects depicted in the photograph are not the objects themselves, but a two-dimensional representational reduction of the objects that serve as a communally-accepted shorthand for "truth". Truth of course cannot actually be communicated because even verbal communication is a substitution for the actual truth, and written communication is a substitution for verbal communication. Photographic communication complicates the failure to communicate truth because it is a reduction of a depicted object from three dimensions to two, and an abstraction of the characteristics of that object into silver grains and pigments, which stand in for the tones and colors of the object.

    Anyway, enough Po-Mo BS about photography. Just go out and make more of those beautiful things!
     
  21. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Uhhh - thanks Scott (I think). Can you get a Master's thesis out of this? (There's probably been a jillion of them already)

    Amen to that one!
     
  22. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    MFA/Artspeak
    myspeak

    :smile:
     
  23. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I respect Stieglitz and his motivations for making a photograph.
    I have always rather liked the simplicity of Garry Winogrand.

    Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed. -Garry Winogrand

    I have a burning desire to see what things look like photographed by me. -Garry Winogrand , said when he was asked why he photographs.
     
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  24. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    I think I would like Stieglitz' "equivalents" more if just one of the clouds looked like a bunny, or a race car, or Winston Churchill with an extra big cigar. As it is, they look like clouds.
     
  25. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I've actually seen some of these clouds "in the flesh" as it were: 4x5 contact prints. Yes, it struck me that they were pictures of clouds, too. But as pictures of clouds go, they were extraordinary. Just my opinion.
     
  26. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    Maybe I need to see them in the flesh. I have seen reproductions at all possible sizes and print quality. I want to like them, or at least I feel I should be able to see something of what Stieglitz valued them for, but I just can't.