Mod: boot this to off topic discussion if it's more appropriate there.
I'm very interested in the concept of establishing and exploring one's own personal æsthetic. This is obviously something that I'm applying to photography here, but ultimately it goes far beyond that. It's something that characterizes the things you appreciate in many different pursuits in life. Art, music, theater, advertising, the car you drive, the color of your front door - virtually everything that you like. Granted, there are plenty of things that we like simply because they do their job well and make our lives easier. I'm getting at the things, though, that we enjoy not because of practical considerations (or soley because of them), but because of æsthetic considerations. It's wholly a product of your personal psychology.
What things define your personal æsthetic? How did you come to recognize them? How do they make you feel?
Thoughts on the idea of a personal æsthetic in general? Is it an intellectual thing? A visceral thing? Neither? Both?
I'll chime in with my own response a little later...
I’ve always had a great desire to make things, people, places, better when I leave them, than when I found them. What attracted me to photography initially was the desire to make people beautiful. At least to try. To see their raw or untapped beauty and try to bring it out and enhance it. Not necessarily just traditional beauty, but also sensuous beauty, the kind that makes us react in the pit of our stomach.
Everything about my life, is about beauty, as I define it. My home and surroundings must be beautiful and also comfortable and lived in at the same time. I really don’t like sterile surroundings. I prefer “people places”, people colors, earthy tones and people friendly buildings.
An interesting thing I found when working in a bar a number of years ago, which was a classy nice bar. Before the patrons arrived it was nice, aesthetically nice. But when it was full of people and full of life, it was outstanding. It was a work of art. Vibrating and alive with humanity.
I feel the same way about my home. It is a very nice home but when my wife is travelling, I sit back and look at it, and it is just a house. When she walks in the door again, it is a home. Warm, inviting and alive.
So my aesthetic always has to do with the beauty that involves people. The vibration and energy that humans emit from themselves and the interplay with each other. Anything that doesn’t have that quality to me is just a hollow shell, although it may be physically beautiful. To me it is just showing off. Sterile. Uninviting and often, in my opinion, ugly.
Music is the same way, it must be sensuously beautiful to me. Tactile. Full of feeling. I play melancholy stuff on the piano all the time. After a while my wife tells me she is about ready to hang herself, I have played her into a total state of depression, and me, I’m happy as a clam. Go figure.
I feel much the same way when I see landscape photography. To me much of it is empty and hollow. Quite a number of years ago, National Geographic started to include people in their landscape photographs. Before that they were the traditional, no people, shots. Once they started using people in the shots I really thought they said so much more about the landscape. They added interest, scale and dimension that in my opinion, they didn't have before.
I guess my aesthetic is, that in order to have beauty, you must have people.
After you have it all figured out, you get older and your perspective changes. What I thought were wonderful things in my teens changed. Now that I can qualify for AARP (grumble grumble if anyone dares call me a senior citizen....) I find my tastes aesthetics and such have changed many times over the years. Once I wore high high heels. Now I like sneakers. Once i wore short skirts, now I like my butt covered and no breezes. Once I loved fast low slung cars. Now I want one where i don't have to fall into it. Once I could sleep anywhere, now give me a king sized bed with all the creature comforts, and Mike's 1000 thread count sheets. the list goes on. I do find myself taking more time to enjoy simple things where younger I was in too much of a hurry to care. Age is an aesthetic of its own.
It depends on the moment, there are lots of factors that come to play for a lot of the decisions then there are those decisions that are personal and immediate. I suspect to evaluate your aesthetic you really need to hear from people on the outside looking in because we are all to close to ourselves to be objective. When my wife and I are looking to add an aesthetic to out home we look some times for years then when we come across something that fits all it takes is a look at one another and we know it works. If we have to talk about it we walk away.
As far as colors, music, food, art even clothes I'm sure we have an aesthetic, but the moment serves us well on that.
I am in full agreement with Michael on the issue of people and environments. They bring the world alive, change from second to second and keep my attention. So maybe my aesthetic is an accumulation of and what I've obsorbed through socialization. Who Knows?
Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!
This is really not as deep as it seems. For me, it is what moves me..sometimes a person, sometimes music, I think to a degree you are correct it is visceral.
For myself, and I respect Michael and Thomassauerwin's opinion, it is not always people - at least not people here and now. Having ventured to places in the middle of no where, my first thought is always - what did they think when they arrived. How many have seen the same site, but years and years before me. Canyon de Chelly is such a place, there is rock art that dates to 200 B.C. - I can't see them, I do not know what the place looked like then, but I can feel them.
There are many wonders in this world, for me people are just some of them. I'm just happy to see the works of man and nature...it can make you feel so small...and yet inspire you to do more, see more - enjoy more.
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I must confess I've never used the word before.
I don't suppose that I've ever sought out beauty for beauty's sake. I've never studied it, I rarely think about it, even when I'm standing looking at something I know is beautiful.
I guess I'm after the experience. I like standing on the limestone floor of a desert uplift, sun at my back and a light breeze in my face, listening to the faint buzz of the few insects around me, waiting for the rock to light up. Photography is the thing I do to keep my hands buzy, to give me an excuse to be there.
I've found over the years that I don't make shots to sell, I just shoot what I'm looking at. If it's beautiful, great; if not, great, because it was the experience I was after, not the print. I'm certain this shows in my images, and because of it I'll never be a great photographer.
But it sure is fun.
ask me in a few years...
right now I can tell you this: I'm a fake non-conformist. I'm not trendy, dislike advertising and marketing in general, and as a result I dislike things that mirror comercialism.
I can't shoot pretty pictures. I don't like to. If I'm not trying to say something, it's not worth pushing the button. I've been criticized by professors and colleagues, apparently I think too much about my photography. Well, I think too much about life. that's why I can't and never could sleep (even as a baby, I'm told). Sometimes I'll drop from exhaustion, other times I take pills...
Either way, this shows. In myself and my work.
Cars take you places, clothes keep you warm, pockets hold your stuff. Brandnames steal your money. True, I like certain styles more than others, but they don't define me.
Personal Aesthetics are only a glimpse into your mind. I don't know who I am, so I can't tell you what my aethetic is. I wouldn't bet on anything original or special. I'm only human, afterall.
Before I said I don't take pretty pictures. By that I meant Hallmark/Glamour Shots/"look at the birdie" kind of stuff. Not that it's easy to do, it's just pointless.
Beauty, however, is another story. But I don't know what that is, so I don't worry about it. If I like it, good, if not, who cares. If you like it, good for you and my ego.
the above statements are only my personal, very biased, fatigued, and pissed off opinions, and in no way represent reality or anything of significance at all.
Take it with a grain of salt. life just sucks right now, and I'm taking it off on Hallmark.
"Hallmark" is a registered name, and is in no way connected to me. If they read this, they probably won't like me.
Please don't tell them.
Originally Posted by blansky
At the risk of taking this off topic somewhat, I have a question to ask of you. I have noticed a bit of this sterile aspect that you mention in regard to landscapes. In fact I have observed it in my work much to my dismay, I might add. It seems that Ansel has failed me once again. So in casting about for a new direction for myself, I am so happy that I came across your enlightened post on this most "heady" subject. Because of your insightful depiction, I really feel that I have come up with a new direction for myself. However before I begin I thought that it might be prudent to ask your opinion on the matter.
My idea is this. I am about to start a body of work on the hookers on south Broadway here in Wichita. I think that I know what you are going to say at this point. Yes, Michael, here in downtown Bible Belt we do have hookers. Not many and not very comely. But we make up for lack of numbers with a great deal of "daring do".
Now my question to you is this. Do you think that this subject matter will make my images more appealing to you? As I see it a bit of human interest would be involved. I foresee a fair amount of the "vibration and energy" that you addressed. What do you think, Michael? Irrespective of how you receive my efforts, I imagine that I will feel better.
Now back to the topic of this thread. I really don't have a clue why I like what I like. I kinda feel about this "heady subject" like I do when I sit for hours contemplating my naval. Why does mine go in when someone elses goes out? What made mine shaped the way it is, I never have figured that out either.
People are part of the landscape for me
My tastes change frequently
Some rules (in photography) need to be broken once in a while - not everyone will get it - but that is why it is "art" and not .... something else.
My photos are always without all that distracting color ...