What Matters in Photography?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bdial, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    This is the APUG sneek peek for the blog, discussion and the call for entries for the March show at Vermont Center for Photography.

    I'll post a link to the blog when it's ready to roll. Meanwhile, I think it is an interesting topic for discussion here as well.

    In March of 2011, the Vermont Center for Photography will present an exhibit titled, "What Matters About Photography" even though we are not really sure what that means or if anything does matter in photography. We hope that by exploring what matters with images and writings we will get to some kind of understanding of photography's place in the world of ideas and art.

    There are probably billions of photos taken every year. Why is photography so important to so many people? What is it about the image that makes it matter? What does photography mean now as it leaves the world of chemistry and joins into our virtual world?

    Now, anything that looks like a photograph based in our physical world could very well be made up, so should every photograph, whether digital or analog, be considered fake? Doesn't it feel as if photography has rejoined the world of painting?

    Even if it is an ersatz reality, how do we judge it?

    Perhaps on some, all, or none of the following: veracity, composition, personal expression, memories, intent, story telling, subject matter, or what?

    What matters in Photography?
     
  2. mfratt

    mfratt Member

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    One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from V for Vendetta: "Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use lies to cover the truth up."

    Photography is, by its very nature, a lie. It captures light from the physical world and stores it on a two-dimensional medium. Unlike painting, for instance, photography is generally a very descriptive, very real representation of the real world, which leads the viewer to believe that he is actually looking at the object photographed, not the photograph itself.

    For most people snapping away with their cell phones and digicams, this is all fine and dandy. They see something and want to capture it. They want to remember that moment; the grand landscape or their family on vacation. They want to look back at that photo and revisit that moment, which they do not through the photograph itself, but by connecting that photo to their memory of the particular event.

    For the art photographer, the challenge is different. When I see something that grabs me - that I respond to or feel something about, I have to try to capture that emotion that I feel on my film, not merely a representation of the object I'm looking at. If I were to capture just the object, I might be able to look back at the photo and feel the same thing I felt then, but another person will look at it and see a mountain, a river, a person, whatever is on the film. The emotion is devoid to the other observer because he was not there to react to what I was seeing.

    The challenge, for me, is to try to circumvent the descriptive nature of the photograph, and make it more ethereal in nature. A photograph is a lie, what you do with that lie is up to you. You can lie to the viewer to make them think they're looking at something, or you can lie to the viewer so as to (hopefully) make them uncover some emotional response within themselves.
     
  3. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    The only way to find out why photography is important to people is to conduct a survey. Asking questions on a forum is really not going to give you an answer. Nothing really matters in photography--ultimately, it is a subjective problem. You may find a few pithy quotes or cliches (example, "art make you think"), but nothing that is meaningful to any degree. It is a pity that you simply cannot have outstanding work without framing it in a rather weak concept like "What Matters About Photography." The work should be primary rather than used to support show type of philosophical concept. Unfortunately, many centers have taken their educational portion of their mission statement too literally. Putting great art in front of an audience is education enough.

    The only thing that matters about photography is that it is vital on an individual or social level.
     
  4. CGW

    CGW Member

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    What matters in Photography?

    Composition. Background. Exposure.

    I sometimes write "CBE" on my left palm for navigational purposes.
     
  5. emraphoto

    emraphoto Member

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    for me... humanity
     
  6. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well... at least you didn't ask what matters most, that'd really heat the place up quickly :wink:

    What matters? Everything matters. All the ingredients matter. And when a photographer combines the ingredients effectively, then sometimes the result matters to people other than the photographer. That's a bonus.
     
  7. softshock

    softshock Member

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    That I enjoy it.
     
  8. jglass

    jglass Subscriber

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    What matters in life?
     
  9. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    Mostly lpmm.
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    My sanity, and my happiness.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi barry

    a lot of photographs have been faked, since photographer have made .. photographs.
    it isn't a negative, but a positive, because it gives the image maker authorship and control over the final product. while people scream " manipulation " ... in the end that is what all photography is, manipulation,
    whether it is the manipulation of the reflected light onto the sensitive surface, the manipulation of the image as it becomes
    a negative, and in the end the manipulation of the final image.

    it is something that matters ...
     
  12. wfe

    wfe Member

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    Perfect !!!

    I suspect that the purpose behind the question is really not to have it answered but to stimulate photographers to think about their work along with photography in general and perhaps discover some nuances that they might not have discovered otherwise.
     
  13. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    People around the world take a lot of photos, there is no doubt about that. When we look at all those photos and try to figure out what is important about them it should be clear to us but it is not. A large number of the photos that we remember seeing are art photos that were made to be pleasing to the eye and for no other reason. The most important photos that we see are the ones we often forget were photos because they do what they were intended to do and that is capture a memory with the emotions intact. What is important in photography? For me it is that the photo makes me feel like I am there physically and emotionally.
     
  14. Shadowtracker

    Shadowtracker Member

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    "Eye sight is Insight" from Art and Visual Perception by Rudolf Arnheim.

    Visual anything must have meaning or the medium of sight it useless - yet the mechanical process of sight is impossible without "understanding" which, to me, also means without 'misunderstanding' sometimes; both of which are mental process. The above quote jumped out at me begging to be manifest in my images; so that is an important aspect of photography for me or a goal if you will.

    Most important, at this time, is to push my self to improve my own abilities in the mechanical portions of it in order to forget those aspects as I actively take photographs (study the rules, then chuch them out when actually shooting and what I have studied will show in my work or not), with the hope of moving someone else emotionally and mentally through the images. I have found that the way I approach this changes with circumstance; a family get together is approached differently than a class assignment or personal assignment. Since starting to use this approach, I have also noticed that even when in the field, especially with people, most of my photographs have better composition now that they were lacking a while ago.

    But it's true, there is no short answer to this.
     
  15. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Call for Entries What Matters About Photography?

    In April of 2011, the Vermont Center for Photography will present an exhibit titled, "What Matters About Photography" even though we are not really sure what that means or if anything does matter in photography. We hope that by exploring what matters with images and writings we will get to some kind of understanding of photography's place in the world of ideas and art. Please post your thoughts and photographic examples about what matters on our wordpress blog. We hope this discussion will lead to what the April exhibit will be. You are also welcome to submit to this juried show. Instructions for submissions below.

    The Vermont Center for Photography invites you to participate in WHAT MATTERS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY, Images and Commentary. A juried exhibition APRIL 1-MAY 1, 2011.
    Images should illustrate why photography is important, both to you personally and to the world in general. Images should show why you are a photographer.

    What to submit:

    From traditional to digital, all photographic techniques and approaches to photography are welcome. Photographers can submit up to 10 images by CD only. Name files with your last name and first initial. Images should be no longer than 7 inches on longest side at 300 ppi. Include a separate printed sheet with your name, phone, address, email, image titles, and original print size for each image. This exhibit will also include short essays written by the photographer about what matters about their work. Please include this in your submission. You must include a 9 x 12, self addressed, stamped envelope if you wish your CD returned.

    How to enter:

    Send your submission and a check for $30 payable to VCP ($25 with a photocopied student ID or if you are a member of VCP) to Vermont Center for Photography, 49 Flat Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

    Deadline:

    Entries must be received at VCP no later than Sunday, March 13, 2011. Selected exhibitors will be notified by Wednesday, March 16. Selected photographs (framed or under glass) must be delivered to the gallery on Friday, March 25, Saturday, March 26 or Sunday, March 27 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Shipping information will be provided by email at time of acceptance. The exhibit opens Friday, April 1, 2011, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. during Brattleboro's Gallery Walk.

    Questions?

    Contact Sarah Horowitz, Gallery Manager at vcphoto@sover.net or 802.251.6051

    Participate in the online discussion at http://vcpwhatmatters.wordpress.com/