I don't really think human beings are very well equipped to separate the two. We often fool ourselves into thinking we see the difference - but we really don't. I believe that was proven in the Friedlander thread. We are culturally trained to see and evaluate according to a certain 'language of perception' - sort of a 'visual mythos' or 'cultural decoder ring'.
Originally Posted by ElectricLadyland
An example of this - I had a third year philosophy class in aesthetics. We were looking at Kant, Schoepenhauer and Hobbes, I believe, in terms of their definition of the sublime. The professor brought in an example of artwork he considers to contain an element of the sublime. Well, it was a picture of a naked lady in a bathtub! Clearly, there was an element of transference going on here! Of course, you weren't there to see for yourself - but I think often times people function almost PURELY, on the psychological plane, by association. So - seeing a picture of something that generates fond memories in you, for example, is going to have a very different reading for you than it will in someone else who's been enculturated in a very different way.
So - what I'm trying to SAY here - is that I think it's important for one to be very cautious when speaking of such separations, if at all. The very best art criticism does not assume an exact understanding of a mechanisitic mind.
Composition is very important but must be almost invisible
Nice question, Electric Lady. Can I see some work you made?
Any photograph should contain meaning and at the same time the composition should be superb. But the composition should be an almost invisible matrix behind the scene. You can immediately see when a photograph has a compositon that is (too) consciously made. And it loses meaning instantly.
A photograph that is only aesthetical is not interesting and a photograph without a good composition makes no statement.
So, composition I think is far more important than most photographers realize, but the trick is that it must be near invisible.
When I make experimental architectural photographs, I use the arch. designs for my own purpose, so that the buildings look like reaching the spiritual skies.
But the composition must be perfect, absolutely excellent. Otherwise the visual impact is not catching and not mesmerizing.
In the old days I made my landscapes completely on the auto pilot. But since I teach Composition (also basic courses photography) I notice that I sometimes make slight corrections, like positioning the diagonals not exactly in the corner.
Last week I made a list of compositional factors that you can correct consciously during the shooting, and factors that you have to do intuitively.
The first list contained 33 points and the second 23 points. I was surprised at how many things you still can correct while shooting.
But during the last seconds before I push the button, everything goes on the auto pilot. When you are still looking at the composition then, it will be artificial.