aesthetics or significance?
When either taking or viewing a photograph, do you concern yourself more with the aesthetic, visually appealing aspect; or do you find yourself contemplating the meaning and significance of the photograph? Surely we all appreciate both, but one aspect may have more of an appeal to each individual. I prefer to photograph scenes that I find some abstract meaning in, and although I also concern myself with composition, the idea is usually most important to me. So, how do you like your art?
At the risk of sounding hopelessly bourgeous, I find it difficult to appreciate things that are ugly. Generally, I'd go with the aesthetics of a photograph over meaning and significance in terms of the photograph as art. In terms of meaning, its a deeply subjective thing. Some of my photographs are attractive, some are decent looking, and enevitably the worst ones have the best stories attached.
I pay attention to focus, aperture and shutter speed. If I "pay attention" to things like aestethics, significance or even basic compositon, the photograph will always fail to show all three.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
For me it's always the visual aspect. I don't think photograhs even have 'meaning' unless someone imposes one with words...i.e., "Migrant Mother" (sans title) could have been documentation of the aftermath of a disaster, the circumstances of a real lowpoint in the life of an migrant family, a refugee awaiting relief, a psychologically disturbed woman clinging to her children in an otherwise 'normal' setting, or a host of other 'stories', but it is, fundamentally, a telling portrait...a visual connection to a clearly troubled situation. Obviously, news 'graphs may have significance as reportage or even as forensic artifacts, but that significance only emerges as time passes. Other photos may prove more 'telling' than mine, and become more 'significant' if they reveal more than mine does. So, for me, it's a visual thing...what I choose to photograph either resonates visually, or it doesn't. My photograph has meaning or significance only after the fact if ever.
My color work is much more based on aesthetics which relies mainly on composition (placement) of objects and utilizes line shape, form, texture, and color contrast. However of prime importance to my work is focus, exposure, aperture (depth of field), and shutter speed (particularly regarding movement). Additionally for much of work time of day/lighting are of prime concern and importance.
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I'll take both.
I like a lot of different genres of photography as well as I do music. I can appreciate the aesthetics of a David Muench landscape as well as the humor of an Elliott Erwitt "snap" or the banality of William Eggleston or the off-kilterness of Lee Friedlander or the neo-romaticism of Sally Mann or...well, you get it. Some things are interesting to me simply because of their beauty and some things because they touch a deeper level.
When I make my own photographs, I'm pretty much a generalist. I will happily accept beauty as a subject on its own or I will break every rule of Photography 101 to attempt to make a statement (and fail miserably, more often than not).
My most important "concern" is the effect the future photograph will have on my ... uh ... "state of being" (chosen after much thought). That is not really aesthetics - if "aesthetics" is taken as "pretty" - or significant if "significant" is meant as "carrying a message". Nor is "emotional state" entirely accurate. "State of being", indicating emotional and intellectual; conscious and preconscious reactions, is the closest I can come up with.
That is a sort of "conditioned reflex" -- in practice, I don't usually analyze deeply - translation "think very hard".
To me, photography has a lot in common with playing a musical instrument, or Flycasting, or Smallbore rilfle target competition, or Bull Fighting: There is a time to think and analyze; a time to practice technique and pay attention to minute details, a time to correct errors in technique. When the "moment of truth" comes, preparation time is over - you either have it or you don't.
More later. This machine is still unstable.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Very interesting question. When I look at a photo, I'm like John, I am looking for something visually gripping first. So I think that means more importance on the aesthetics. That's why I was nonplussed at first by the Eggleston photo in the recent thread. The significance of an image requires sometimes an imaginative engagement with the photo: you have to read around it, or read into it. Sometimes I'm not willing to care about it if I wasn't arrested first by the image. That's why I have little interest in conceptual art.
With my own photos, it depends whether at I'm at the taking stage or the editing stage. When I have my camera, I just take whatever seems worthwhile, as a document or as an image, and when I print I make a more aesthetics-driven decision.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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I probably lean more to the aesthetic side of the equation. I think the signature of a great image is a balance between the two. Ansel Adams commented that you are doing good to make a dozen good images a year. I imagine that balance would be a part of those "keepers".
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
I agree with Ole on this one. Of course there is always something that attracts your attention. It is what makes you set up the camera. I can look at a scene on a groundglass for a half hour and then fiddle with the camera for another half hour and then be very surprised at what is on the negative.I know the things that are in the negative are things that I saw on the groundglas but I just did not recognize all of them. Perhaps it's ADHD or plain lack of mindfulness butI can never really previsualize a photograph. The process is only complete when the prints are made. I like to challenge students by saying"why did you choose to put such and such in your image"?
Originally Posted by Ole
I'm just asing them to take posession of their work. Everytime I say this to students I am also saying it to myself. Ole said" I pay attention" he did not say I am trying to pay attention. If he was trying to pay attention he would not be paying attention.