The seeing eye

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Aggie, May 3, 2004.

  1. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    …There are too many people studying it [photography] now who are never going to make it. You can’t give them a formula for making it. You have to have it in you first, you don’t learn it. The seeing eye is the important thing. -Imogen Cunningham,


    When do we stop studying? When do we go out and just do?

    Yes learning the craft is all important. I for one have pursued the learning end quite avidly. My real question is; When do we become satisfied with our capabilities enough to practice what we have studied? When do we trust ourselves enough to trust in our senses?
     
  2. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    When do we become satisfied with our capabilities enough to practice what we have studied?

    As soon as you have something to say. For me that was during my first semester of photography in college.

    Unless, of course, you meant commercially. In that respect I'm clueless.
     
  3. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Aggie said:
    "When do we stop studying? When do we go out and just do?"

    When we have learned how to see. That is a far different matter then learning the technical craft. If we go out and "just do" then we are going to burn a lot of film, spend a lot of money, and waste a lot of time. "Seeing" is a far different matter then just looking. It is a far different matter then copying or emulating the work that someone else has done before.

    The ability to "see" is something that we can develop. The one workshop/course that I would recommend today would be Michael Smith's since his workshop deals with this most important consideration. Everyone else is hung up on how to "do it" from the technical side of things.
     
  4. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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  5. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Oh I have no problem going out and doing. What I was asking is more of when do we as photographers learn the nuances of our senses, and let them become extentions of ourselves. Our senses are what leads us to see. Our senses are what help us see differences in light, the development in the darkroom, tonal ranges, and the final print compared to the initial view of what we saw.

    Our senses are what helps us know our equipment to the point you could forget your light meter and still know how your camera needs to be set for the scene in front of you. Our senses are what allows us to fine tune the print while we are in the darkroom, whether we do it by sight or densitometers. In essence it is our senses that must be allowed to do. After the classes, after all the gee whiz gizmos, after the emulation, it is our senses that are the final qualifier of the ability to capture what we envision.

    I hope that states it better. This is not about me taking another workshop.
     
  6. 127

    127 Member

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    Never

    Now
     
  7. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    One Twenty seven has it. In Art and Fear, the lesson is explained in a sculpture class. Half the class was to be graded on the best piece of sculpture, the other half was to be graded on the weight of sculpture produced. The best piece came out of the group that was graded "by the pound."

    Remember, "photograph" is a verb.
     
  8. mark

    mark Member

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    Cunningham was a crusty old bird. In one of her classes a student asked when she was going to show them how to do platinum. She told them when she thought anyone in class was making images worthy of platinum she would show them. :smile:

    I'll get back on track so I don't get accused of taking this thread elsewhere.

    I think going out and just doing is the hardest part. Taking those first steps means a person may stumble, or make a mistake. The willingness to trust yourself is also the willingness to make a mistake. We have been taught from early on that mistakes are not good things, that if you make a mistake you do not know what you are doing. Blame it on education.

    We never stop learning. We can stop the technical stuff because too much of that gets in the way. If we think for even one moment that we "know it" we begin to rot, and stagnate. Once the basics of the craft are learned photography becomes a very reflective and evaluative process. It is through this reflection and evaluation that we continue to grow, and learn.

    I'll quit babbling now.
     
  9. lee

    lee Member

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    Being able to maintain the enthusiasm without the group (classmates) is a very hard thing to make happen. Motivation is key here. In truth, some have it and some don't. I went to shool the last time in the early 1970's and it was a very exciting time because of all the group hugs (photographically speaking) :smile: No one had a problem turning out the work. I saw a ton of work. Some good and some not so good, the point is I saw a ton of work. Eat breath and sleep photography. Now, in reality I am on my own. I have a few online friends (like here and a few other sites) but I have to generate all the motivation I need myownself. To answer Aggie's question about when to do, it varies with each person. There are those that need to attend workshops continually and there are those that never do.

    Get a project and go for it.

    lee\c
     
  10. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    When do we stop learning and just go out and do it?

    For me it is not a "windowshade" proposition. The "learning" never stops - nor do I want it to. The "Just go out and do it" never really stops, either. They both happen at the same time ... the experiences in the "practice" feed back into the pe-conscious - the same place that the education - formal or informal - winds up.

    I don't think about it much - to me that is grinding too fine. I ENJOY when I photograph - It's all good!
     
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    My opinion, is the same as my tired old hockey analogy.

    When we were kids, we went out on the backyard rink and played. Did we sit in our room and study until we were "worthy" or until we could "see".

    NO. We went out and played. We didn't concentrate on anything except playing. Day after day the skating got better the shooting got better, the stickhandling got better. We copied our "heroes". Eventually we developed our own style.

    Later we took classes, (teams) to enhance our skills. We got even better.

    Did anyone become Gretzky, yeah he did, and a few others got pretty good. Do the rest of us care. No. We are having just as much fun.

    There will always be people who study photography to death, people who talk about photography to death, and then there are the people that are out doing it. That's what I prefer to do.

    Let's face it 95% of the people here don't need to make money from it, don't care if they money from it and it is just for fun anyway. It is a hobby, all hobby's cost money, so just burn up some film and enjoy yourself and your journey.


    Michael MCBlane
     
  12. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Here's another way to look at it.

    When does the orchestra PERFORM? Think of the final image as the PERFORMANCE, (yeah! I know it's the old Ansel thing).

    But it is true, those folks work together and along, they 'Know' the work, so that they can express themseleves (sounds kinda of painfull when you saya it that way).

    The Point Is....You can't just 'SEE', you have to get what you see onto the film, then on the paper so that what you 'SAW' is what you have in the image you want others to 'SEE', ie a part of you.

    Just a ramble, but if you see and can't print it, then you are the only one to see it.
     
  13. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    photomc said:
    "but if you see and can't print it, then you are the only one to see it."

    I can't speak for anyone else. My photographs are for my benefit...first and formost. That means the visual experience is most important to me. I believe that Michael Smith and others indicate this same priority too.

    It seems that a great deal of confusion exists about who it is that we are making photographs for.

    I agree with Blansky...It is time to engage in photography from more then the vocal standpoint. I am outta here....
     
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  15. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Michael Smith is an excellent photographer. He is not the only one in the world producing great work. I was struck by one of his talks at the LF conf. When the question of seeing was discussed, it all came down to what YOU saw. You can be taught to look, but not to see. Seeing is an individual experience. Michael never brackets, or takes a second shot of a scene. To him the experience of taking the picture is most important. the image is secondary to the enjoyment of seeing and feeling.

    I don't know how many of you have felt that rush of excitement when you find a place or object that captures you senses. I Love old abandoned places. They speak to me of the ghosts that once populated the buildings. We when this excitement takes over can feel, smell, taste, and observe that excitement. It may be that only the singular person can see that excitement.

    I know I embarked on a totally new type of photography lately. It is our of my realm of experience. Yet I feel that familiar excitement I had when I viewed an old building, as I do when I am setting up a shot. Will I ever share these images with others? Maybe, and then again, maybe not. For me it is a very personal project. What does this have to do with this thread? I can grab my familiar medium format and it is the extension of me. Or I can use my 4x5 and stop and think. I have to really delve into the workings and set up for each shot. The masters, were able to make calculations in their heads like I do with my medium format. I would like to do that with a large format camera. I am just scared of letting go of the comfort zone of the gizmos to help me take the picture. Is this something the rest of you experience? Do you just let your senses take over and you do? Or are you still stuck with the familiar crutches that bypass the senses.
     
  16. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Aggie,

    Since you are doing this just for yourself, what do you care if you fall out of your comfort zone.

    When I was first starting in business, or just before, I was using a Nikon. IT was a part of me. Then I bought My Hasselbalds. For every shoot I did then, I first shot with the Nikon, to get what I needed. Then did some shots with the HAsselblad. I slowly weaned myself off the Nikon and rarely used one since.

    Since you don't have paying customers, leave the medium format in the case at home and immerse yourself in your new found big stuff. It will soon become second nature.

    My opinion,


    Michael McBlane
     
  17. photomc

    photomc Member

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    BTW, Michael...Welcome back!
     
  18. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I prefer to do than to study. Less blah blah and more printing. I appreciate the fact that most people do it for their own satisfaction BUT we certainly love public admiration of our work. So, go and do more work and less philosophising. Aristotelis, Socrates, Plato - useless unless they inspire action. Same with photography. If action is not inspired then it is mute.
     
  19. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Concert pianists generally practice every day, and perform perhaps weekly. I'm aware of the different meanings of the word "practice", and in this case i feel the question is it's own answer.
     
  20. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I think Cunningham was basicaly right. There is no magic bullet formula that people can plug/chug and produce a masterpiece. Being able to see is one of the few absolute trusims of the art/craft. I think it can be learned to some extent with a combination of doing and coaching. But one has to beware of who is doing the coaching.

    When does one stop studying? Well, really, never. Doing it is also studying if one critiques oneself, hopefully not critiquing yourself into depression.

    I've always favored the intuitive approach. There are a few basic technical points that must be learned, the fundamentals, but beyond those fundamentals, I have found no realistic gain in worrying about technical trivia. I take an exposure reading then I look at it to see if it makes sense. The times it didn't make sense and I shot anyway have always produced a bad negative.

    Calculations; What do you need to calculate? Accounting for reciprocity and filter, yes, but what else? Aggie, with a view camera, you have the great benefit of the Ground Glass, and the Ground Glass is Truth. Don't take just my word for it though. Read Steve Simmons' article in View Camera Magazine about using movements. He makes the same statement. The Scheimflug stuff is just a way of teaching/describing how the movements of the view camera work to manipulate the plane of focus. Does one need a Scheimflug calculator? Well, no, but one already exists on the camera - the Ground Glass. Same goes with calculating optimum f/stop. Do it intuitively and with the Ground Glass.

    So, in short, I believe one learns some basics then goes forth and does it. That's the best way of studying in my humble opinion.
     
  21. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I set out to learn the basics of technique so that I could stop thinking about them and simply react to what I see, what moves me. Of course, there is always more to know, more to put into practice, and more experimenting to be done. I've never been one to book-learn anything, relying more on my own hands-on experiences.

    It's never the wrong time to simply 'do.' In my opinion, if you don't 'do' when you feel led to, you will stifle yourself before you've even started. Analysis paralysis, although I despise that expression.

    And besides, how can you learn from your mistakes if you never allow yourself to go out there and make any?

    (Of course, the 'you' is generic, and I'm using it even though it's a grammatical sin.)
     
  22. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    I agree that we can (and should) shoot anything until we can create a technically perfect negative and print and then toss it because it doesn't say anything. That is a good exersize for the real test:

    A worthy photograph:
    What did you see?
    What did it say to you?
    How do you feel about it?
    How does your photograph communicate this?

    What is it about old stuff that facinates me? A connection with memories of old loved relatives I visited as a boy? Their ghosts haunting certain photos and I like them for no apperent reason. Why are some landscapes captivating and others boring? Characature exageration of perspective and contrasts (or mysterious fog and shadows) that bring back memories of places I've been (idealized) or dreamed of going?

    As I look through magazines that describe "collectable" photographs, what strikes me is the emotional content. There is something in these photographs that makes a feeling pop up (something deeper then anger or passion) in a great number of people that it reasonates with. Kids often don't get it because it is an "experience insider" idea for a generation or several generations.

    I don't have all day for making photos so I must pick a few that are worth my time and costs. They will be the ones that say more than illustration. They will say .. Did you get it? Did you feel it? Will you look at it closer and think about it later. Does it baffle you and make you dig deeper? Some times I am the only one that gets it. Some time others get it too.

    I just don't ever want them to look like commercial clip art, textbook illustration, random pointless snaps or a remake of someone elses vision.

    That is my thought on it FWIW
     
  23. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    Getting comfortable with gear is the first step toward creativity. Luckily, this stage can be mastered relatively quickly. With LF gear, you can practice at home. Start with your tripod collapsed and camera packed away. Extend tripod, set up camera, focus, set aperture, shutter, insert film holder, remove dark slide, make exposure. Replace dark slide, remove film holder, dismantle camera, return to bag, collapse tripod. Repeat about fifty times.

    Harvey Penick told his golf students to practice as if they were being paid by the hour. No need to rush, just do it the same way. As you get comfortable, it will become easier and quicker. Then, the night before you go out to photograph repeat this exercise about ten times.

    Make this portion of your photographic ritual automatic, so you have time to concentrate on the image before you, not equipment.
     
  24. mark

    mark Member

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    Aggie.

    Michael SMith has a point. You can't teach a person to see in the sense that they have a connection to the scene. I think many of us can point to the epiphany we had when we were able to be wholly in the moment and truly see. It does not always have to be with a camera, but it has happened at some point. You can teach someone to observe, and you can point out the things that stick out for you but in the end the seeing has to be done by the individual. Above all else they have to be willing to see.

    Not all photos are taken for ourselves. There are many different motives for a photograph. Because we may make something for someone else does not mean that it is any less personal. If people did not seek the affirmation of their peers and only shot for themselves there would be nothing in the gallery for comment. In the end even Michael A. Smith has to have the desires of his collectors and museums in mind when he takes some of his photographs. If not foremost in his mind it is there somewhere. He wants to sell these prints so he is in fact not only working to please himself but the buyer as well IMHO. This in no way lessens the seeing experience for him, or anyone else.

    I would also have to say that photography is a means of communication. creating a photograph means there is a desire to communicate what one sees. When one snaps the shutter, they, somewhere in their brain, hope the scene speaks to someone as it spoke to them. There are many times when I sit with camera poised or set up and never snap the shutter. Those are the personal pictures I take soley for my benefit.
     
  25. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    Bravo! Well said!

    Matt
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Jdef said:

    Jdef expound on this for me.

    I know that you are bored with 95% of the photogrpahy that you see from previous posts but I don't think I understand how commercial and consumer applications going digital will all of a sudden make photography more "artistic".

    Just as I don't see how photography liberated painting to make painting, what, less commercial? more artistic?

    Personally I think that 50 years ago there were far less photographers as well as far less photographs inundating our lives. We now are bombarded with hundreds of magazines, hundreds or TV commercials, thousands of images available to view at one sitting on the internet. I think we are just over exposed. When we see so many images we almost unable to see anything as fresh, or original because of this constant bombardment.

    50 years ago I would bet the average person saw maybe 10 or 20 images a day maximum from ads and Life Magazine type publications. Virtually everything then seemed fresh. No mass media.

    Hell, at one time the studio portraits that you dislike so much were fresh. There are only so many ways to do them, essentially a copy of studio portrait paintings.

    I just think we are all jaded.

    What do you think?


    Michael McBlane