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  1. #11
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
    All in all, Aurore, you could not have it more wrong.
    I disagree - intensely.

    I don't read into Aurore's response a tribute to remaining stupid. What I see and I'd agree with, is starting from a clean sheet - without the "dots to connect". If we choose to study another's work, we should be getting into the way things happen... but it is as valid to avoid another's work, as it is not - depending on what works for each one of us.

    Chalk this up to ignorance, if you like, but I've never been able to explain *my* emotional reaction to a photograph, or any other work of art. That emotional - a.k.a. "aesthetic" is the most important aspect of all art.

    Some may choose to evaluate a photograph in technical terms ... "proper contrast, good Dmax, balanced composition ..." I would rather experience the work aesthetically ... either standing there, struck speechless, or possibly, taking stock of my response ... I see this photograph of a waterfall, and suddenly I feel wet, and somehow my ears seem to hear the sound of rushing water. I have no idea of how to teach this - or how it could ever be "learned" .

    Now, I'll preface this by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Michael, and *everyone* here ... I don't mean to submarine or disparage anyone, but I might suggest that ... strike that....
    *I* will be careful NOT to characterize another photographer, of whatever ilk, as "having gotten it all wrong." That is just a tad too dangerous; I'm left open to the response, "Oh yeah? ... And just what is it that makes you so sure that YOU have it right?"
    Not doing that is a course of action that *I* would follow. I cannot speak for another.

    A conversation between two accomplished and respected critics at the opening of an exhibition:

    Critic 1: Look at that!! Some people call this art? Composition is 'way off' colors are muddy.."

    Critic 2: I agree ... totally without redeeming quality. Wait, here is a description in the program ... Uh ... It was just sold for three million dollars... !!"

    Critic 1: "... What marvelous brush strokes... what a unique, expressive composition ... "
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  2. #12
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    I'm almost 100% positive it was Newton.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  3. #13
    c6h6o3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
    As one great artist said, "If I have acheived anything at all it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."
    "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."
    -Sir Isaac Newton, as quoted in On the Shoulders of Giants, Lynn Arthur Steen, editor, copyright 1990, The National Academy of Sciences.

    Was he a great artist? Maybe. Certainly food for thought there. I'm especially intrigued by the reference to "seeing farther...". Maybe we don't need cameras to see.

  4. #14
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    When I realized that I didn't need a camera to actively see the world around me my life became much more enriched (that's some hellish syntax). I "see" all of the time, but use my camera when I want to record, document, or share what I see.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  5. #15
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
    I don't read into Aurore's response a tribute to remaining stupid. What I see and I'd agree with, is starting from a clean sheet - without the "dots to connect". If we choose to study another's work, we should be getting into the way things happen... but it is as valid to avoid another's work, as it is not - depending on what works for each one of us.
    Thank you, Ed! That's what I was trying to say, but you managed to say it!

    By all means study the works of others, but do not try to emulate them. To stand on the shoulders of giants, you have to move out of their shadows (and it was Newton, by the way - I checked).
    A friend of mine was once apprenticed to a very well-known portrait photographer. For six months he was absolutely forbidden to study photographs - at all - but was encouraged to go to as many art galleries as he could (not much photography in Norwegian galleries then - or now).

    I don't think I could get any good pictures without my "Wen" approach. Wen, not Zen - as in "Wen the Eternally Surprised" in "The Thief of Time" by Terry Pratchett. The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  6. #16
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    Good point, Ole, and I like the way you stated:

    "The whole point is to see what's outside your own head, instead of the inside like most people do."

    But I don't agree with it completely. There is no way to disassociate yourself from your own, personal viewpoint. The whole point for me is to document my personal relations and interactions with what is actually outside of me and the manner in which I affect it. There are also many wonderful images which are the product of documenting the inside, Sally Mann's "What Remains Behind" and David Levinthal's work with toy figures and the 20"x24" polaroid camera.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  7. #17
    Ole
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    Of course, Jeremy.
    Whatever I see, it's my decision what to photograph and how to do it. In a way I think that everything we do are self-portraits, since it's always an interpretation. Whether we interpret "found scenes" - landscape etc. - or constructs built for the purpose, the element of interpretation is always there. But it's a lot easier (as well as more fun) with an open mind.

    I find that photos I have taken when consciously thinking of composition are invariably dull. But every once in a while I'm surprised to find elements of classic composition in pictures I have taken just because I liked what I saw. And those are the pictures worth taking!
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  8. #18
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    I agree, I think I may have just overstood what you wrote; I read into it more than what you meant. I agree that it is always much more fun to photograph when there is not a pre-conceived notion of what to photograph. If there is, then I feel some undisclosed pressure to make that picture work and this weighs down the whole experience.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  9. #19

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    Oh dear, apparently I'm not any good at expressing myself clearly first thing in the morning after 5 hours of sleep and on an empty stomach. Or perhaps people are simply reading too much into what I'm saying? Well, suppose it doesn't really matter one way or another, but I enjoy discussions and will try to clarify while responding to each person in turn who has posted. First, I should say that many people seem to have skipped bits and pieces of what I wrote, reading fragments here and there out of context. Or so it would seem. Not the best idea, I think, to respond to a post without reading it thoroughly first.

    Clarifications:

    In mentioning waking up with a 'blank slate' of a mind, I was referring to something somebody said in the 'Philosophies' thread. I believe I mentioned the connection earlier in my post. I then went on to point out that it would be virtually impossible... and yes, if it were plausible, it would of course be unpleasant. "We know what we do of the world through 'preconceived notions'. We'd be utterly lost and helpless without that programming." (Yes, I said that originally)

    I should have said that I avoid OBSESSING over the work of others, as so many people seem to do. Of course I've absorbed a working knowledge of photography's history (keep in mind I've only been at this for 3 years now). Of course I peruse the work of others and occasionally find work that I like. But I can't help noticing the amount of praise so many artists exude over other artists. Too often people seem to spend much too much time looking at everybody else's work. I prefer to observe what comes to my attention by chance, rather than running madly in circles looking for the next hot artist to gush over. I do enjoy interacting with other artists when the opportunity presents itself (or why the hell else am I here?), but I feel no desire to know the life history of Ansel Adams (who, in my opinion, was a technical genius but rarely an artist [oh yeah, I'm really asking for it now, aren't I??]) or Jan Saudek (a wonderfully creative and talented artist). I don't care who they are, where they live, what else they've done. I just care to enjoy the art they create for what it is and for what it makes me feel. Understandable?
    *Note - Adams created texturally rich and detailed photographs that are pleasing to examine, but they don't elicite a deeper response from me. There is often no emotion or expression of a message involved in his work. He has created a few moving artistic pieces, but generally I don't feel that he is an artist so much as a master craftsman.
    Yes, I thought I'd try to head off the (inevitable) arguments this time by clarifying my thoughts beforehand.


    Michael M.-

    "I have always learned by seeing other people's work, copying it and then after a while my own "style" comes out."
    Yes, I understand what you're saying. I think it's a matter of personal preference. Whether one prefers to absorb and learn learn learn until one feels confident to explore his or her own personal style, or whether one prefers to just get out there and do do do until things come together of their own accord to ultimately become ones personal style. I believe either approach can and is valid, along with all the other options one has in growing artistically.

    "So I guess my ideal is wisdom with an open beginner mind."
    If I am understanding you correctly, I agree with this concept immensely. I think it is quite comparable to the way I feel about experience, intelligence, wisdom, receptivity, etc, etc...


    George -

    "How will I know if my printing needs to be pushed up a few levels if I never see what is a great print? How do you think we grow? We experience things, we process the information and then we make it ours. Hopefully taking it further then where we found it."
    Hmm, I would consider that technical knowledge that does not require constant perusal of other people's work in that sense that I meant it. But then, technical perfection is not always my priority so much as creating a work that best expresses my intention. That may sound contradictory... Basically, I have little need for working knowledge of the zone system with which to produce 'perfect' negatives, even thought I understand it in concept.

    "I have always felt that every photograph I take is a self portrait. Even though I am not in the image, its a reflection of who I am at that moment. How I see the world or the subject, and how I want the world to see it. That's one of the great things about making images, you get the chance to let the world look through your eyes. And by doing so, you let them see who you are for that moment."
    Perhaps that is why we differ in opinion. I don't really care one way or the other whether I am revealing my inner self each time I show somebody my work. Rather, I experience strong, often enjoyably melancholy, thoughts and feelings that often seem intangible and unreachable, which I feel are likely universal, or as near so as a thought or feeling can get. I want to create art that captures those elusive emotions, art that anybody can view and respond emotionally to without having to connect directly to me or anybody specific, but rather to everybody at once. This doesn't go nearly so far to explain my intentions as I'd like, but this post is getting long...

    "They don't have anything to say yet, they haven't lived, worked, struggled to survive yet."
    Don't make assumptions. I've suffered through divorce, alcoholism, abduction, death... and then, after I turned 10, I proceeded to experience homelessness, wealth, poverty, childbirth, mental and physical abuse, childrearing, debt, rape, love, clinical depression, marriage, and, finally, self-respect and assuredness. That is most certainly only a partial list which doesn't include the obvious, like the ignorance and ugliness of people/the world around me. I'm 22. I'm struggling like hell. I haven't even gone to art school yet, though I would, if I had the time and could afford it...

    "But that's me..... and I'm living in my head and it works for me. If the other works for you, great go for it."
    Exactly!


    dnmilikan -

    Well said, and much agreed. No arguments or counterpoints from me.


    Juan -

    "In jazz, one school of thought is that in order to play a piece, you need to learn how everyone else has played it. Then you can blow your own improvisation."
    I assure you I've heard it many times from my husband. I don't particularly understand/agree with the idea of having to play 'a piece' (a standard) in the first place. It seems so common in jazz for music to be recycled, each time with a personal interpretation, but still labeled as the song it was originally. Why not retitle it and simply consider it an original piece (yes, same key, same changes, I know), or better yet, write a whole new original piece? Why is this so common/important in jazz? Is it because improvisation is so valued, and each person can display their talents in their interpretation, sticking to the same root tune so as to facilitate comparison? I hope you realize, I am asking from a purely speculative point of view, and not trying to speak between the lines. I am truly curious as to what you think.

    "One needs to see different approaches, copy enough to learn what's being done, then make one's own style."
    Understood, and very slightly practiced, but generally that just isn't my approach, I guess.


    Ole -

    "By "avoiding" it is easy to become too hung up on the avoidance, and end up being even more influenced."
    Oh, the catch-22! I ponder that quite frequently. I've made myself dizzy at times doing such. Elitism. Anti-snobbery. Anti-anti-snobbery. I can only try to avoid such traps. Ooops, did I say avoid? There I go again! Darn, it's inescapable... Obviously, there is no end to this discussion with myself, so I better just leave it at that. But I hear you.

    "That's what I try to do every time I pick up a camera - except that I now try to avoid trying to to anything. If you see what I mean..."
    Ha ha! Absolutely! And it's not far off from what you said above. Not at all! Another trap to, err... skirt.

    "Some years ago I bad some business as a portrait photographer. I have since learned how this is normally done, and am really grateful that I started doing before I learned. I was even told I have a recognizable "style"!"
    I have had very similar experiences, which have influenced my current opinions and philosophies as originally expressed. I'm grateful for my initial niavete, or whatever else you might choose to call it. Hmmm... lack of programming??

    "Being somewhat anal retentive about the technical aspects of photography, the only photograper I've worked hard at understanding and learning is Julia Margaret Cameron. Her technique was atrocius, her images wonderful. So I no longer try to use the full zone system on portraits."
    Took my very little time to learn that technical perfection was not particularly important to me, personally, in trying to achieve the artistic goals I have. A decent exposure, yes (hey, I work with craptastic plastic and pinholes... 'decent' is excellent in that case), and accurate focus, dof, and all of the other things that come together to create the final expression are certainly important. But when things don't all work out the way I pictured, or I don't have time to focus, adjust dof, etc, sometimes that can produce wonderful surprises as well. For me, it's the idea to be expressed that is of utmost importance... if it doesn't come out as originally intended ready for enlargement, I'll use alternative methods to 'fix' it or maybe I'll just go in an entirely new direction with my 'mistake'. You never know what you'll get and what you might be able to do with it... I'm content to go with the flow when it chooses to take me. Seems like you and I think a lot alike.


    Bjorke -

    LOL! I should really leave this without any comment, but I can't help myself. If I am indeed blind and ignorant, as you say, well, I must say that it somehow seems preferable to being so very bitter and condescending. Ignorance is bliss, at least, or so they say.

    "Technical books are loaded with other people's photographs, and usually ones of the worst, mannered sort -- held up as examples of "good.""
    Gosh, did I say something about the excellent art in technical (i.e. instructional) photography books? No? Ah, right. But I will clarify even after pointing out yet another blind (did I say blind?) assumption. Technical books are full of simple photographs meant to be examples, and I rarely, if ever, examine any of them for artistic excellence. Again, if I wanted to peruse a book of photographs in the search for artistic excellence, I would go to that *other* section...


    Michael S.-

    "should alert you that you are way off base ... All in all, Aurore, you could not have it more wrong"
    In this world, we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs. You needn't agree with me, nor I you. But surely you don't presume to know who's on 'base' and who isn't. Did you really fail to see the irony of your statement?
    "Second part of the discussion--how to get to that innocent state: feel, not think...Interesting that you said you believe in spending a great deal of time in your own head. That's thinking--and exactly the wrong way to get out of your (unknowingly) self-imposed trap."
    My feelings generally can be found hanging out right alongside my thoughts. In fact, they seem to co-exist quite comfortably in my head. Am I misinterpreting what you've said?
    "A more gentle response, though this one is not ungentle, would not get through someone as well defended as yourself."
    Trying to remain clear-headed and unoffended, now. Should I have included in my clarifications that I have feelings just like everyone else? I thought that was a given. Or maybe you've met me personally and discovered enough about me to assume I was so very tough? Unfortunately, I can be just as easily hurt by criticism as anyone else. If only...
    "Good luck to you, and I mean that sincerely."
    I appreciate your well-meant intentions, and appreciate the time you took to try and steer me down the path you chose. Thank you (yes, I do mean that sincerely as well).


    SteveGangi -

    "I don't think I would care to wake up and suddenly find that my mind had been wiped clean either."
    Nope, me either. I swear I said that. I must have been unclear, as so many seem to have read something entirely different from what I said.

    "We are the sum of our experiences, and I've had enough good ones to want to keep them."
    Agreed. The bad ones come in handy too.

    "It is one thing to clear your mind, to gently let distractions go"
    Oh, I wasn't referring to distractions, I was referring to cultural beliefs... 'preconcieved'. What one is raised to think, believe, 'know'. Prejudice is one example. And a good one, because who would disagree with the assertion that de-programming such a preconcieved notion is a very good thing? It's about learning to see more than what you were programmed to see. Whether that is even possible or not was put up for debate in the original thread.

    Generally, I agree with what you say. I just don't understand why I get the feeling that you feel you are being contrary to what I originally said?

    ****

    Oh whew, I'm finally done. Of course, when I refresh this thread after not having done so in several hours, I'm likely going to have even more to respond to. Carpal-tunnel syndrome, anyone?


    BTW, I appreciate the open-mindedness some of you so admirably displayed (as in; 'I understand your opinion and the position you take, even though I don't neccessarily agree...'). If I somehow came across as not-so-open-minded in my original post, as it may seem judging by some responses, I want to apologize. Next time I'll form such a personal opinionated post over the span of a day or so, as I did this time (you don't think I sat at the keyboard and wrote this painfully long response all at once, do you?).

  10. #20

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    Thanks to several for the identification of Newton for the quote I used. I wil not forget the source again.

    Ed, I cannot imagine how you took my comments to have anything to do with anything technical.

    Aurore, it is a pleasure to read your long response. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of language here, partly, at least.

    Of course, and really, I hope it would go without saying, that when photographing, to see the world freshly, as for the first time, is the goal--to be totally open and fully tuned in--and, to see, really see, as much as possible. What each of us are capable of seeing is a function of who we are. And who we are is a function of both what we are born with and the experiences we have had. The experience of others' art, and to see what other artists have seen is one way to expand one's own experience of the world. And it makes it far easier, really, to then go beyond them.

    Take Weston's peppers, for example. Few people have really looked at peppers as intensely as Weston did. Occasionally, I find myself really seeing vegetables the way Weston did. That does not mean that I have even the slightest interest in photographing them, but probably, had I not seen those photographs I would not looked as carefully at vegetables. So as a result of those photographs my experience of the world is enhanced. Will that ever come out in a photograph I make? Maybe, maybe not. It does not matter. For me the point is to see as much as possible. Thereby my experience of the world is enhanced and I become richer for it. And hopefully that richness will find it's way into my photographs one way or another.

    And since on one level all art is a self portrait, whether we want it to be or not, all one's life experience will find its way into one's art; whether we want it to or not.

    Of course, there is no substitute for direct experience. Experiencing art is one way one's own direct experience of that part of the world that is not art may broaden and deepen. That has to be true. Why else would art be important at all or why would they build all those museums to it?

    Bottom line: it is my belief that the experience of art, in all its forms (including photography) expands and deepens, rather than limits, one's direct experience of the world. Why willfully limit oneself? We're all limited enough already by who we are. I'm for whatever will expand those limits--and art is one of the things that will help do just that.

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