This will probably be a matter that many of you have considered and resolved for yourself. For that reason, I will share with you what my recent thoughts and considerations regarding photography and it's application as an art form.
For many years photography has been to me a matter of "telling a story" whether that be the depiction of a mountain stream, a stand of aspens, a waterfall, or even an old building. I worked hard at refining technique to provide the tonal range that I envisioned as being "appropriate". As I critique my images today I find that they were mostly about "things".
Some years ago I encountered the work of Brett Weston...to be quite honest I initially was put off by the empty blacks that he printed in some of his images. More recently I encountered the work of Edward Weston at a showing in Fort Worth, Texas. Once again I was put off by the heaviness with which those images were printed. In fact I commented on this with some others privately.
I have come to a point recently of recognizing that there was something inherently captivating to me about the images of both of these photographers. I also found that same ingredient was involved in the work of Michael Smith and Paula Chamlee, in my experience. It took me awhile to sort out what that ingredient was.
What I have come to realize is that rather then telling a story by photographing "things" the images of the photographers that I have mentioned are asking me a question. They are addressing the nature of things as opposed to the thing itself. That is what draws me into their images. There is an inherent sense of "mystery" involved with these images. In other words they tell me only "part of the story" to paraphrase Paul Harvey.
This sense of mystery is conveyed with the empty blacks of Brett Weston, the heavy printing of Edward Weston, and the complex visual images of Michael and Paula.
To me when I look at an Adams landscape...I am initially struck by the beauty of the image...but I am not captivated in the same way. Maybe this is a personal thing but for myself I think that I will begin attempting to depict the "mystery" of life. To begin to capture the nature of "things" that I have failed to observe before, to ask the questions that I have not taken the time to formulate.
I would appreciate your comments about this.
Excellent analysis. More people should ask themselves just what it is that they are trying to accomplish with their photography.
I too find AA's images while "pretty" are generally devoid of any intellectual stimulation beyond the technical considerations of making the image. Although one must keep in context the motivation for his photography. Initially it was to showcase the beauty of nature so the conservationists could use his images as ammunition in their efforts to save the parks or establish new ones. For this he was successful.
On the other hand Weston's images showed in my opinion a far deeper intellectual analysis and representation of a message. His type of "pre-visualization" was much different and again in my opinion much deeper than AA's. Weston went beyond the shear mechanics.
Thanks so much, Don.
I have put it this way. I am not photographing things, but the relationships between things.
I have also referred to photographs as rhythmic events.
Wrote this here a long time ago: (quoting my former wife, who is a painter): "Art is about space. Illustration is about things."
Would you please adapt your theory to photographs of people and portraits and elaborate.
Is a successful portrait, in your opinion, about telling a story or asking a question, or both?
As for your appraisal of AA et all, I think that early on, in our endevours, we see certain things, and as we progress in ability and in years we begin to appreciate other things. Something that is apparent to you now, may not be apparent of even interesting to someone who is younger in this hobby or in years.
Maybe something like music. Classical music is in this country, is perhaps an acquired taste. Younger people don't usually appreciate it for one thing, another is that to them, their music is a way to distance themselves from their parents and an older generation, a way to declare their independence, so to speak. A form of cutting the umbelical cord.
Perhaps newer people to photography are so overwhelmed that they can only work on a more superficial level and are not yet ready for the overloaded or complex experience that you talk about.
Perhaps Michael it depends on the viewer.
Several years ago, the big perennial "Leica Manual" has a section on Ralph Gibson, in which he said that some photographs are highly-specific, while others show the human form in the role of a non-specific everyman -- and that the photos he prefered were those in the region between, the threshhold from the specific to the universal.
[/list:u:15da66d907][/list:u:15da66d907][/list:u:15da66d907]For my own photographs, I'm sometimes perplexed by comments from viewers who say they "agree" with the photo. Beats me what they see stated there.
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i like your post very much. if u think this way, just use this perioud and implemante things that comes in your mind. i mean in makeing photography. u will totaly benefit fromit. it may be not eassy to go further and beyound, to build or rebuild, but it worth to try it, especially when u talk in the mood i here in your comment.
about hte blacks u talk in b.westons works and the heavy prints in e.westons... and u can give more examples like old steiglitz with okeefe or more modern ralph gibson...
well, we take things like "symbols" and we assosiate it with something. in the case u talk the blaks that leads our visual experiance from that print to some mystery in our feeling. we create codes. that is art.
read my topic in this form about "principles of photography as art form" - i gave there an epistemological account and its possible outcomes on the level of our coscious behaviour. sorry if it is a bit difficult to read.
I think a great portrait makes you think in some way. It may tell a story. It may ask a question. It may simply spark an emotion -- any emotion, depending on the viewer's perspective and experiences. A great portrait goes deeper than face value (literally).
in saying that, gibson simulates in greatest way one of the most mysterios mental confussions of ours (the human mind). the tention between the singularity and the universality. the tention between the substance and the idea. this is great photography. i agree with gibson and with u.
this is not a simple tention. it is in our mind. no im not rite. this is the way our mind behaves. i think that half of my phd in philosophy deals with this issue. u know... when i refer to a singular i cannot talk. when i talk of it i talk of it in terms of "universals" and then i loose the essense of that singularity. im trying to give some explanations to this behaviour of ours, with it im trying to find within our conscious behaviour the loyalty to each of the sides. metodologically, the point is to be concentrated on the tention itself. all this is good teoretically. the research is even useful in some fields of phycology, but i have to say that this tention between the singular and universal is a true joy.
I hone my techniques to help in my visualisation of shapes around me so that together vision and technique become a reflex, an extentions of my own eyes, in order to find harmony in things around me. For me a great photograph evokes feelings of harmony and elegance somehow - these two traits being simultaneously technical and emotional.
Originally Posted by blansky
In the form of portraiture what I addressed could be both. However to be a successful portrait I think that the photographer must have an enquiring mind into the nature of his subject. He must be posing questions about the subject before him, if only at a subliminal level. His/her skill comes more from the connection that occurs from this point of enquiry then it does from the ability to regulate and control lighting, determine exposure, or print the negative. When he/she takes the time and has the interest...something of great moment occurs.