Andy K, there is a guy on APUG with a 'little' mind. His name is David Lyga. Would you tolerate him , through you as proxy, to query the deceased Henri Van Lier?
Is the nexus of "captured specific time" and "captured specific light" any matter to this philosopher? Do the two synergize, thus provide 'real' indice of their own, wholly unrelated to the individual 'reality' components that we know and understand through our own cultural brand of semiotics? (During the last century photographs were shown to tribes who had never had contact with 20th century imaging and they actually could not 'see' a 'correct' image, like we are trained to do.)
The spectacle, the actual photograph, has 'contained' within it this discrete 'nexus' and only THAT specific 'nexus'. Thus, maybe 'light' and 'time' become somehow 'different' when combined in this way because they share nothing with any other combination of these 'reality' components. Only during the actual exposure are these two components captured (but, only as indice, i.e., latent). We, as ignorant humans, turn this unique (truly unique) combination into 'reality' through the recognition of a respectable 'spectacle' in order to 'force' sense out of the mess.
Is this 'nexus' the key that is finally needed to 'open the door' so as to allow our basal understanding through transformation of the indice into index? - David Lyga
Last edited by David Lyga; 02-01-2013 at 03:05 PM. Click to view previous post history.
One should not underestimate the physicality of light and the process of photography. I offer some Gedankenexperiments to illustrate matters that photographers don't need to think about but philosophers mulling about photography versus reality need as basic physics information. I'll leave the mathematics out.
Quote Originally Posted by Maris View Post
Since there seems to be a lot of anxiety about reality I would offer the observation that there IS something particularly realistic about a photograph that separates it from virtually any other kind of representation. A photograph is generated when a physical sample of subject matter travels across space (at 300 000 Km/sec!) and penetrates the sensitive surface, lodges in it, and occasions changes that result in marks. This arrangement of marks, if it coheres as a picture, is a photograph.
Going to have to disagree with you here - photography is light interacting with a sensitive surface and is therefore not a physical sample of the subject matter since the light is reflected by the surface and not generated by the surface (a photograph of a light source being exempted). When the light hits me and reflects towards the camera, it does not carry a piece of me with it and I am not diminished by it - rather, my clothing, skin and the physical characteristics alter the light to produce the image. Put it another way, if theoretically you could take an infinite series of photographs of me instantly, I would not disappear since you are not taking anything away from me.
Experiment 1: You are in a lighted room standing on very sensitive scales. The lights are switched off and instantly the scales show a loss of weight. Your weight stabilises at a lower level.
Experiment 2: Again you are standing on those scales but this time in a dark room. Someone a couple of metres away fires a Metz 45 flashgun at you. The scales indicate an increase in your weight and then a decrease back to your original weight. If you are a phosphorescent being (unlikely) the full return to original weight might take some hours!
Experiment 3: Gold is yellow.
These experiments indicate that the light that illuminates things actually becomes part of those things. Light is a quantum entity with a particle aspect called a photon and a wave aspect manifest as an electromagnetic field. It's not a shower of tiny bullets as Isaac Newton thought.
Experiment 3 sharply illustrates an apparent anomaly. If photons are tiny billiard balls that reflect off hard things then how come a beam of white light hitting gold comes back yellow? For a photon to discover gold is yellow it actually has to do something impossible in classical physics. It has to penetrate metal. Quantum physics explains photon tunnelling and how photons penetrate gold (billions of atoms deep even) then become part of the gold and later get re-emitted in a changed form. Re-emission can be spoken of in terms of elastic and non-elastic scattering. We see the "changed form" as yellow light coming back where white light went in. If light is thought of as a wave instead of a photon then an analogous process proceeds and the end result can be quantifiable as re-radiation. In informal speech scattering and re-radiation are subsumed in the term reflection.
The serious point here is that the light collected by a camera really was a physical part of the substance of the subject matter. The classical mind-picture of reflection as light "bouncing" off the external surface of things is not what actually happens.
Another point missed by Van Lier and other philosophers who think about (but do not do) images, imaging, and possible connections to reality is that there is a whole class of image making procedures that are utterly physical in their workflow and their output. These include life casts, death masks, brass rubbings, papier-mache moulds, coal peels, photographs, and even footprints in a sandy beach. All of these things are unaguably embedded in reality and there is no philosophical credibility in vaporising about the opposite. Where things go off the rails, in the particular case of photography, is mistaking it as a species of painting or drawing; just with some mechanical aspects thrown in. The great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out that many of the conundrums of philosophy originate from getting the original assumptions wrong, following up with the wrong words, and ending up with a labyrinthine confusion of impenetratable text. Henri Van Lier would not be the only one to have run this hazard.
Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.
I prefer the more simpler statement that I have outside my office door as my "Quote of the Week". It is by Ted Orland from his book The View From the Studio Door (paraphrased): It is the artist's duty to make art -- go out and do it.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.
David, in a word, "yes:"
Originally Posted by David Lyga
| PART ONE
THE TEXTURE AND STRUCTURE OF THE PHOTOGRAPH
Theoretically, one can assume that a certain number of photographs have no other purpose than to unintentionally capture light.
MAX KOZLOFF, Photography and Fascination, 1979.
4. Isomorphic Imprints
Photographic photons, focalized by optical lenses according to relentlessly constant deviations, obey continuous equations. This regularity allows the rigorous positioning of their sources, and thus also a prospective spectacle, in accordance with spatial coordinates, as can be seen in geological and astronomical photographs. But simultaneously it subtracts from spectacle its local accentuation which would render it a true place. Besides being monocular (cyclopean), the photograph is also isomorphic. As it is rigorously spatial, it is always a non-place.
5. The Synchronous Imprint
Also, a photographic imprint can be dated close to a billionth of a second. Regardless of the time of exposure and the moment of impact of each specific photon, their appearance is ultimately datable by the arrival of the last of the photons. In case of a moving source and therefore also a possible spectacle, the succession of incoming photons can never give rise to what has always judiciously called movement. Thus, much in the same way the isomorphism of lenses and imprints evacuates the concrete place by replacing it with a purely localizable space, the alignment toward the passage of the last photon expels concrete duration, substituting it with a physical and exclusively datable time (tn).
8. Surcharged and Subcharged Imprints
In some respects, every photograph is disinformed. If we compare the visual singularities of the spectacle and what remains of it on the photographic imprint, the loss of information will be considerable, while colors (dozens instead of thousands) and lines become a sort of sharpened stains. But, conversely, even a mediocre photograph of the facades I pass every day in my street will reveal, thanks to its immobility and its accessibility to my sight, thousands of things that my perception, unstable and purposeful as it is, had never noticed there before. And this is yet another abstraction in relation to the concrete of everyday existence of these simultaneously filtered and superabundant representations.
Chapter IV - THE NON-SCENE:
ON THE OBSCENE IN STIMULI-SIGNS AND FIGURES
Surrealism lies at the heart of the photographic
SUSAN SONTAG, On Photography, 1973.
Before anything, the photograph unsettles the scene. Firstly, the scene is a specific and marked place that is at a good distance from our eye and body, neither too near nor too far so that we can embrace with our sight what is taking place there. Next, it are [sic] the objects, characters and actions that will manifest themselves in this place with the desired clarity. The scene cannot be found in every civilization, it is lacking in that of Africa for instance. However, the scene was so forcefully introduced over here by the Greeks, and then penetrated the entire western history so intensely that it attained a fortunate immortality within a beatific vision, so that, in the eyes of many, photography is seen as undoubtedly invented to stage things and present dramatic or touching scenes even better than in painting.
His concepts of 'index' and 'indice' are not such that one becomes another, but indexes are the projections that we make onto the world when we're photographing things, and when we're looking at photographs. I'd say that your thoughts are very parallel with his.
Last edited by andy_k; 02-02-2013 at 02:17 PM. Click to view previous post history.
That's all quite lovely, but I don't think that forgoing a distractingly complex (arcane?) explanation of the precise behavior of light (when it has so little influence on the rest of the consequential qualities of photographs, negatives et al) means that his ideas as written are somehow so deficient that it's beyond understanding or redemption. Also, I don't think you were paying enough attention to see that yes, he absolutely accounts for the permeation of light, its role as messenger, the simultaneity of illumination, etc.
Originally Posted by Maris
Again, your language is confusing the concept of reality, and 'the real,' at least as far as his ontological position understands that relationship; more than that, it seems you're entirely confused about nearly all of the initial assumptions he states, and those that inhere, within this specific text. If you'd read even just the introduction it's clear that he is talking about how photographic objects are completely different from manugraphic images and objects--even those that are impressions of real people or things, in a number of ways.
For your benefit I'll furnish this post with another excerpt as well, to save you the trouble of looking through to see if there's anything in there that you're complaining he missed (I don't think there is):
Chapter X - THE INITIATIVE OF NATURE
In temperatures up to 40 million degrees that reign at the core of pre-stellar collapses, hydrogen runs out by being converted into helium, at the same time a gamma ray photon is released. Its energy dwindles at every step, and the photon undertakes its heroic journey: it will take a million years for it to reach the surface and to soar into space in the form of light, visible at last. A star is born.
CARL SAGAN, Cosmos
Nature is at work in all instrumentation. Clocks activate the laws of mechanics, and ink activates those of chemistry. However, in the majority of cases, natural laws are hidden, and all we can see is artifice.
In the photograph, by contrast, light is eminently present and explicit; as such, it marks its own naturality. Moreover, it unveils nature in its most basic aspects. In fact, light not only has the more or less localized naturality of water, air or rock. It takes on the structures of the universe in what is most wide and thin, in its transmissions from afar and in its minimal energies. This means that light contains and shows the two cosmic constants, i.e. c and h, coming across the photographer in a pronounced way.
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If for the sake of argument, I was a cabinet maker and had spent many years working with wood, creating beautiful furniture as works of art. Can you also apply this navel gazing Philosophy, devoid of practical experience and artistic merit and make it meaningful?
Originally Posted by andy_k
Last edited by cliveh; 02-02-2013 at 02:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
I'm not sure what you mean, are you asking if there's a benefit to thinking about what photographs are, in terms of my creative production? Yes, I absolutely think so. I'm not long into my serious photographic career, just in its nascence really, but this one book has had a very deep and real effect on the way that I perceive the actions and objects employed to produce images, and what these image objects are to me and other people (and thus, opening a new line of understanding points the way to novel use and technique).
Originally Posted by cliveh
If you mean to ask if reading this book could help you be a better hypothetical carpenter, the answer is no. It's not an essay on aesthetics in general, and really concerns itself with the specific qualities and characteristics of photographs and photography that make it special and important.
Scales are stupid, they can't differentiate between force and mass. A perfect reflector will not gain mass from a flash, but the photons will exert pressure on it. The weight change indicated by the scale will depend on the direction the light hits! If you have a less than perfect reflector, some energy from the light flash will be converted to heat, which will actually increase the mass of that object until the excess heat gets radiated away. Same thing applies when a phosphorescent body takes on energy from the photons.
Originally Posted by Maris
This was trivially explained decades before photons or quantum physics were postulated. Any material absorbing/reflecting/transmitting electromagnetic waves differently dependent on wavelength will change white light to colored light.
Originally Posted by Maris
You can make a filter that passes all visible wavelengths except for some range that gets reflected. This lossless filter will not take on any light, and the light passing through it or being reflected never becomes part of that filter. You can argue that the light and the dielectric filter layer somehow interact (else the layer wouldn't be dielectric), but we shouldn't mistake interaction for "becoming part of".
Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.
This almost reads like a middle age hymnus! I think it's quite a stretch to claim all these things for light, in particular visible light (which the author probably means given he writes about photography). Despite Maris's claims that light somehow penetrates and becomes part of Gold, it is a very limited means of exploring nature, it will reveal the surface of an object but rarely its interior. While it will reveal the structure of an object billions of light years in diameter, it will fail to do so with objects smaller than its wavelength. And it is beyond me how light would have any of the naturality of water, air or rock.
Originally Posted by andy_k
Most animals would completely ignore photos regardless of what they show. We have gained some insight into how our brain sees but that understanding is still too shallow that we could teach a machine vision system to detect non-trivial objects in changing scene lighting. I don't think one can derive the importance and significance of photography without considering the specific importance of the visual sense to us humans. Deriving it from superficial knowledge of modern physics is bound to create a mess, regardless of how much philosophical lingo is used to hide this.
Last edited by Rudeofus; 02-02-2013 at 06:00 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.
I understand why most members of this community are not interested in this type of discussion, the same reason most people who attend university either never take a philosophy class or just the required single class, it just isn't very popular. However, as I earlier said, nobody walks into a room of guys talking about transmissions, gears and the building of hot rods and says "can't we just drive cars?". Or into a fantasy football league and says "can't we just watch the game?". I don't take part in either of those activities but I understand that others do and they actually get some form of satisfaction out of them - I get satisfaction out of philosophy, of trying to understand why it is that I do something and in applying philosophical thought to photography, I find myself enjoying my photography more. If you don't enjoy philosophy, I don't mind. But please don't suggest it is not meaningful or devoid of artistic merit. Almost everything you value, find meaningful or interact with in someway is heavily influenced by philosophy, even if you aren't aware of it.
Originally Posted by cliveh
While I am not trying to pick on you Clive, you are not the only one who has made a comment like this on the thread - how about the next thread that asks "what is the ideal developer for film X?" or ask "how do I accurately perform Y technique?", I post "why can't we just take pictures and stop worrying about all of this other stuff that is devoid of artistic merit or meaning?". We are trying to bring greater merit to photography except that we are discussing why we do it, not how. My mother once asked me if I could give her a final answer in philosophy, as in could I just tell her the conclusion of a thesis I was working on so that it would be meaningful and therefore absolve her of having to read the 50 pages - I told her if I gave her the final answer without her reading the argument, the final answer would be meaningless since it only has value if you understand the process and the whole of the argument.
To use your cabinetry example, say you had two cabinets that were almost identical but cabinet A was outselling cabinet B 3-to-1. Would you not ask why this is such? What is it that draws buyers to this model over another? Are you navel gazing? Yes, since you are not doing anything, selling anything, creating anything but does it not still have merit or value as a maker of cabinets? The question that Andy is asking seems to be what makes a photograph into a photograph and not just a piece of paper with tones on it. How is the production of this item different than what any other artist does, apart from technique? I can't draw worth spit but if I put as much time into drawing as I put into my photography it would be a lot better - why do I continue to photograph and not draw then? Ask yourself this Clive - why do you photograph anything in the first place and not just make cabinets? If you practice photography to record events/times/places that are meaningful, then there is nothing wrong with that. If it is because you enjoy the process of photography and it makes you happy, then there is nothing wrong with that. If it is because as an artist, you have something to say and this is you way of saying it - congratulations, you now need to understand why photography provides you with your artistic voice and you are a philosopher. Or, if you are an artist who picked this medium at random and are too lazy to give your audience everything they deserve including your mental sweat of what it is you are saying, in my opinion, your art will suffer. I could tell you why I picked photography but without explaining the process, it would be meaningless.
Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.