By George!!! He's GOT it!!!
Originally Posted by BobF
Ed Sukach, FFP.
An interesting thread. Perhaps if Michael and others would care to weigh in, I would certainly appreciate your opinions on this and perhaps this is what Michael is addressing.
For the purpose of this discussion I will eliminate commercial and portrait photography since my knowledge of how the following applies to those areas is limited. My focus is making photographs based upon my own motivation.
When I began to photograph I began making exposures of "things". After a certain period (several years), I began to make exposures of "things" in relationship to other "things". Lately I have been thinking more along the lines of making exposures of "things about things". Does this make sense? What do you think about this and have you noticed this tendency as well? Thanks for any input that you may be able to share.
Well, I don't understand "things about things."
All artists deal with space. As I have said before (quoting my former wife, a painter), "Art is about space. Illustration is about things." Photographing things IN SPACE is art. Just photographing things is not. It makes no difference what one photographs--things, things in relationship to other things, or things about things--whatever that is.
Weston's still-life photographs are always about things in space.
I heard it put this way once. " Put a peanut on a table and you have a peanut. Put a peanut in a small matchbox and you have a piece of sculpture. The difference, obviously, is the space around the thing.
When photographs fail, it is usually because the photographer did not see the space, but only the thing.
As I recall EW is reported to have made a quote (and I probably don't have it correct). Something about photographing the thing about the thing itself...I always took to mean that he strived to capture the essence of the object itself. I believe that he succeeded in accomplishing that in a number of his images. I would guess that is why his and Bretts images have always touched me in ways that some other's work have not.
I sense that quality in most of those images that you have created. Additionally Paula has a quality about her work that is different from yours. It seems her images have the capacity to more effectively portray the organization in what at first appears to be disarray within the environment.
If I have the EW quote wrong, please report it as it was...I am sure that you have heard it before. Thanks.
You raise other points entirely, Don. These threads do wander.
Edward Weston wrote this. It was a statement for an exhibition of his work.
"Clouds, torsos, shells, peppers, trees, rocks, smokestacks are but interdependent, interrelated parts of a whole, which is life.
"Life rhythms felt in no matter what, become symbols of the whole.
"The creative force in man recognizes and records these rhythms with the medium most suitable to him, to the object, or the moment, feeling the cause, the life within the outer form. Recording unfelt facts by acquired rule, results in sterile inventory.
"To see the Thing Itself is essential: the Quintessence revealed without the fog of impressionism--the casual noting of a transitory mood.
"This then: to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.--Significant presentation--not interpretation."
Note what he wrote was photographed: "these rhythms." NOT the things.
At another time Weston wrote that what he photographed was, "the me of universal rhythms."
Essences are another matter entirely. Things do not have essences. Definitions do.
The reason Weston's work, and all great art, touches so many of us, is that by connecting with universal rhythms, it stimulates our own connection to those rhythms and we truly feel a part of the cosmos.
Eliciting these connections is what art is ultimately about if it is about anything at all.
At another time, and elsewhere, I wrote: "Working in a traditional manner with large view cameras and making only contact prints, I have attempted to extend the potential of photography as a medium for connecting ourselves to the world in which we live and to each other."
The only way this can be done is to somehow hook into the universal rhythms. How to do this? Beats me. One cannot TRY to do this--to connect with universal rhythms. If one is connected oneself, it possibly may happen--given the talent and the skills to do execute the work. All one can do is live and work as fully as possible. Connection in the work happens or it doesn't, and people are touched and respond or they do not. All of the words and the theories and the philosophies are ultimately supremely irrelevant.
Michael A. Smith
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Thanks for sharing those quotes and thoughts. I will copy and paste those to a file so that I may contemplate those in the time ahead.
My immediate reaction when I read what you had written was to recall a memory of a quote from Lao Tsu's work entitled Tao De Ching..."Ever desiring one observes the manifestations, ever desireless one observes the mystery".
I have taken that quote to mean that to be free, so much as is possible, of ego considerations and then one can observe the mystery, the rythmns, the flow of life.
Thanks again for sharing those quotes and your thoughts.
I've certaily been through that phase. I called it "snap-itus". It was most contageous when carrying a 35mm. Carrying an all-manual TLR, it wasn't so bad. Using a 4x5 went a long ways to ending it yet it can still relapse.
Originally Posted by ader
I found that the real key is photographing the thing within the thing and looking for the rhythms. I've shot lots of frames filled with "things". Only when I got the thing within the thing, or found the rhythm, did the photo strike a note with anyone.
That and photographing something you have a feel for. I used this approach when I started my Hardworker series. Given that farm tractor engines are not nudes nor postcard sunsets, and never will attract the audience of the former two, I sought to frame the subject within some context of its shape, form, lines and textures. I shot each one with the same view and elements so there would be similarity between each photo yet each one having obvious differences when looking at the entire series.
I think I succeeded in a small way. The guys who own the tractors love the prints. So have several others. One of the wives asked me why I didn't shoot the whole tractor? I said "Well, uh, you know, uh, backgrounds, clutter, uh,uh" and she said "Yeah, its a guy thing". Guilty as charged!
Have to give credit where credit is due. A few converstions with Michael A. Smith changed my whole viewpoint. Then APUG member Lee referred me to the work of David Plowden. Both of these masters have shown me one can be successful photgraphing what one loves. Shooting what people will love on postcards does it for some but not me.
Bottom line - shoot what you have feeling for but seriously study before you press the shutter. Fine Art photography ain't a basketball game. Don't mistake the quantity of film you shoot for improving your chances of making a good picture. I've hardly touched the 35mm since I got the 4x5. And the 4x5 may give way to an 8x10.
YOu all are making this very difficult.....if you have a photograph that just wont come out as you envision it, move on! take other pics and then, if possible go back to it.
I am sure you have found yourself in a situation where you cannot solve a problem and give up...and as soon as you relax and think of something else the solution just springs to you mind, well photography is the same, as the saying goes, stop beating a dead horse......
We all fall into a rut now and again, also we sometimes fall into what I call format syndromes...for example I "suffer" from the "lanscape photographer syndrome" I want everything pinpoint sharp, when in some cases (of course after I have traveled hundreds of miles) I realize that if I had used selective focusing it would have made for a better photograph.
You are not alone, I think most of us have gone through a similar phase, which only tells me that you lack practice and perhaps confidence on the materials you are using.
Just stick to it, pick a developer and film you like and get to know it backwards and forwards and you will see that with time and practice your photographs will start to appear as you envision them, after all Michael has been using super xx and ABC pyro for more than 20 years, Sexton has been using TMX and Tmax RS and now Xtol for more than 10 years, there most be a reason...no?
So Sexton uses Xtol now? I have been toying with the idea, but I think I will work with PMK for now.
Here is something I started last night:
Rhythms of the world? You have to bring in music into the discussion. What makes one a photographic Mozart, Beethoven per say?
Apparently Mozart could compose music without making a mistake, without erasing anything on the manuscript, to hear in his own minds ear, what the symphony, sonata, would sound like. Then just write it down so others could play it.
Beethoven was stone deaf for most of his life. He never, ever heard much of his music that he composed in real life. Can you imagine the complexities of composing his incredible, intricate, full orchestration "Ode to Joy" in all its movements, instruments, horns, strings, percussion, voices and never ever hearing one single note! All was done in his head, his own minds ear. He just wrote it down so others could play it and hear it as he did in his mind.
I wonder what sort of photographs they would have taken if they had cameras?
I would think that an image either works or it doesn't, period. I would think all serious, true artists have plenty of those images in that category. Sexton stated essentially that if a print was not his best, it goes into the garbage. Who's to know? But not necessarily the negative. Some negs I do shred. Almost all get filed. How many negs have we rediscovered after a number of years that now print wonderfully? Is it just new materials, or do we finally understand what we shot years ago?
Artists have to be not just true to themselves, but their own worst, ruthless critic. Being able to discern that the image says exactly what you want to say, regardless what the auidience thinks.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
Well, RAP, no, not exactly, where Beethoven is concerned. He had already been studying, composing, and performing for over twenty years by the time he bacame near-deaf. He was only truly deaf for the last dozen or so years of his life.
For me, the answer, if there is such a thing, to the original question is to not overanalyze and not second-guess too often. Then again, I shoot very intuitively and emotionally. If I were shooting Ansel Adamsish landscapes, my approach would be different.
The bottom line is, something in the scene moves me and makes me hit that shutter. That doesn't make every image a keeper, but it keeps the waste under control while preventing me from missing critical moments. Over time the 'reaction' has converted to 'anticipation', which is much more efficient and trustworthy.