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  1. #1

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    Reading through the 'Philosophies' thread reminded me of a lot of things I ponder often. For my own amusement (and maybe that of others) I'm going to review these things, and put them up for discussion.

    Thought #1 - To avoid seeing through the eyes of another. Pertaining to the Alvaraz quote 'many choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. Those photographers are blind.'

    This is a big issue of mine. I am a firm believer that everything one sees influences one's work in some way or another. I avoid the photography of others in most every way. Online user sites are an exception, but upon visiting Barnes & Noble, I stay well within the 'technical' section. Leave the books of other people's photographs for somebody else... I really don't care, and chances are, I won't like it anyhow. I get enough inspiration by accident, why do I need to spend my time perusing the work of others on purpose? I fear the possiblity of suffering subconscious brainwashing. My husband is a jazz musician, and is constantly listening to John Coltrane (to give one obvious example) or somebody else famous for their spectacular musical vision. 'Man,' he says, 'he gets such a great tone! I've been trying to find a mouthpiece to get that tone' etc, etc. I ask him why the hell he cares... his tone should be his own. He argues that listening to the work of others is inspiring and that he can pick up little things from each artists he likes and one day all will come together to form his own unique sound. But why does he need to listen to all those other people to get his own unique sound? I don't get it.

    Which brings us to Thought #2 - Pre-programming from birth...

    Wouldn't it be spectacular to open your eyes one day and just find yourself completely devoid of any preconceived notion of anything and everything? Of course, upon pondering such a notion, one must realize that such a situation is virtually impossible. We know what we do of the world through 'preconceived notions'. We'd be utterly lost and helpless without that programming. It is, however, a noble idea. What can one do to de-program oneself? Is such a thing even possible, truly? Are we likely to be able to concieve of anything beyond what we've experienced by observing the world around us? Is it like trying to picture infinity, or the color clear? I suppose the best one can do is constantly question oneself. To remain in tune with one's thoughts, and attack each important thought from every angle. Example: I've discovered that my 15-year-old sister who lives many miles away is into punk music. Well, cool, me too! When she tells me she really digs Blink 182 I nearly groan. And then I remember that when I was 15 I liked Green Day. Minor, but an introspective revelation nonetheless. And I try to do that sort of questioning constantly. What do you do to try and de- and/or re-program yourself? What is your strategy?

    I believe in spending most of my time in my own head, rather than in the head of others, whether through books, music, exhibitions, etc. Museums bore me. I think I have some interesting thoughts in my head and I don't need to spend every day at moma for inspiration with which to make my ideas tangible. Is that strange?

    I know there was more in my head but I suffer from ADD. I'll probably be back...

    Aurore

  2. #2
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    Interesting questions:

    My personal answer to number one is:

    I have always learned by seeing other people's work, copying it and then after a while my own "style" comes out. This style is after years of exposing myself to every photographer whose work I admire. It also comes from my philosphies of life. I personally think that the only people that successfully are their own teachers are savants. They are for some reason are able to express their genius unhampered by those that went before(Mozart). I am definately not one of those. I often see the work of people who say they don't need or want to be taught and their work is very often not very good. My opinion, you learn the rules and then you break them. Untrained artists do not have a style, they are just untrained.

    Number Two.

    I like the concept of the Zen Mind - Beginner Mind. I don't want to be a wide eyed innocent. I prefer to be world tested and hopefully gain in wisdom. Although world weary and bored is what a lot of people become. I hope to never get there. So I guess my ideal is wisdom with an open beginner mind.


    Michael McBlane

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    Thought #1 - I stay well within the 'technical' section. Leave the books of other people's photographs for somebody else... I really don't care, and chances are, I won't like it anyhow. I get enough inspiration by accident, why do I need to spend my time perusing the work of others on purpose? I fear the possiblity of suffering subconscious brainwashing.
    I must say that I am 180 degrees from this thought. I want to see as much work as possible. I want to see what others have done with subject matter I like and dislike. More then that I want to go and see as much work in real life, go to the museums, the galleries, or wherever it is.

    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.

    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.



    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    Which brings us to Thought #2 - Pre-programming from birth...

    Wouldn't it be spectacular to open your eyes one day and just find yourself completely devoid of any preconceived notion of anything and everything?

    What is your strategy?
    I don't think it would be nice to wake up and not have any experiences to draw from. That's why I don't generally like the photography of young people just out of schools. They don't have anything to say yet, they haven't lived, worked, struggled to survive yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    I believe in spending most of my time in my own head, rather than in the head of others, whether through books, music, exhibitions, etc. Museums bore me. I think I have some interesting thoughts in my head and I don't need to spend every day at moma for inspiration with which to make my ideas tangible. Is that strange?
    I know everybody is different. But I'm an image junkie. I can't get out enough to see good photography. I would rather go and see the work first hand then just seeing it in print. You can learn so much from actually seeing work. 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.
    George Losse
    www.georgelosse.com

  4. #4

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    I agree with your thoughts to a point. I think that there is validity in what you say.

    For me the merging of your method and what others have said is more applicable and realistic. Our ability to see is enhanced when it is stripped, so much as possible, of the conditioning that we encounter from the input of others, their vision, and their expression. I like Michael's approach. There is a great deal to be gained by pursuing the Budhist' practice of "experiencing directly". That is experiencing what is there before me without the voice inside my head judging what is beautiful, what is not, what is meaningful, and what is not. That voice, I have learned, is largely ego based and lies very often in my notions of what others will accept.

    However if we did not observe the technical side of what is possible in producing our vision then we would be limited in our expression almost as severely as we are by the conditioning we accept from others.

  5. #5
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    In music school, we first learned theory by writing Baroque period music (Bach). We had to learn rules and how to operate within the rules. Then we moved through all the other periods of western music - learning the rules. After we had progressed enough, we were able to make our own rules and break them when we wanted.

    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 think photography is similar. One needs to see different approaches, copy enough to learn what's being done, then make one's own style.
    juan

  6. #6
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    Thought #1 - To avoid seeing through the eyes of another. Pertaining to the Alvaraz quote 'many choose to use the eyes of another photographer, past or present, instead of their own. Those photographers are blind.'
    I agree with this - except the word "avoid". You shouldn't avoid to see through the eyes of others, you should learn to see through your own. By "avoiding" it is easy to become too hung up on the avoidance, and end up being even more influenced.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    Which brings us to Thought #2 - Pre-programming from birth...

    Wouldn't it be spectacular to open your eyes one day and just find yourself completely devoid of any preconceived notion of anything and everything?
    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...

    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"!

    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
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    ...upon visiting Barnes & Noble, I stay well within the 'technical' section. Leave the books of other people's photographs for somebody else...
    You have got to be kidding -- or blind. Technical books are loaded with other people's photographs, and usually ones of the worst, mannered sort -- held up as examples of "good."

    Quote Originally Posted by Aurore
    Wouldn't it be spectacular to open your eyes one day and just find yourself completely devoid of any preconceived notion of anything and everything?
    Ah, blind and ignorant! Please be sure to forget how to operate the scanner when the notion strikes you to post these photographs.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
    KBPhotoRantPhotoPermitAPUG flickr Robot

  8. #8

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    Aurore,

    Those who don't know the past are doomed to repeat it and they do so unknowingly.

    Not wanting to know past work is a mark of great insecurity. You can only go beyond that past once you have learned all of the lessons it has to teach you. Of course, yes, you could get trapped into being derivitive, but that can only happen if you do not continue to question yourself.

    Picasso: "The artist who tries to be original deceives him/herself. If he/she achieves anything at all it will only be an imitation of what he/she likes."

    As one great artist said, "If I have acheived anything at all it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

    Mozart, genius though he was, was not exactly unschooled. His father was a relatively famous composer of his day and Mozart listened to all of the great composers of the past. As did every other composer who achieved anything at all.

    It is only a sick art-school idea that each individual can start over as if there was nothing important that has gone before. That idea is so limiting. By following it, you are limited by who you are and deny yourself the opportunity to learn from others.

    If you asked your questions in seriousness and are really wondering how other view this, the responses you have received so far, from just about everyone, should alert you that you are way off base. And this is true no matter what kinds of photographs you make--whether you make straight traditional photographs or whether you paint on them and they are hardly recognizable as being photographs at all.

    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.

    All in all, Aurore, you could not have it more wrong. This is not said to be critical, though it is, but to perhaps get you to question some of your own assumptions. A more gentle response, though this one is not ungentle, would not get through someone as well defended as yourself.

    Good luck to you, and I mean that sincerely.

  9. #9

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    I only avoid things that I think are useless (totally subjective and undefinable). I look at other peoples work to learn from, and to simply enjoy. Some people, I look at so I know what to avoid too. Sometimes the best lessons come from unexpected places. I don't think I would care to wake up and suddenly find that my mind had been wiped clean either. We are the sum of our experiences, and I've had enough good ones to want to keep them. It is one thing to clear your mind, to gently let distractions go - it would be another to have everything erased. What would be your reference point? Knowing nothing, what could you do? The trick is to know what is just noise, and then to filter it out.

  10. #10
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    Once I spent time looking, seriously looking at the images of other my own skills have increased in leaps and bounds. I have learned not only what I like, but also what I don't like and how to incorporate each into my images to approach a final picture that I'm personally happy with. I believe it was John Locke who spoke of being a tabula rasa, or blank slate, upon birth and this has been pretty much overturned completely in modern philosophy and psychology as not only a detriment to progress, but also totally untrue. I also agree with Don in that 'experiencing directly' is a wonderful tool not just in the arts, but also in life. The Western world would do itself good to incorporate more Eastern thought.

    Finally, it was Newton who is typically attributed the 'giants' quote, but he spoke it to insult Robert Hooke. Hooke was a contemporary of Newton's working on optics and such and is credited with a number of discoveries including the reflecting telescope. Hooke was also a very short man.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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