I agree with some of what has been said about abstractions and I don't understand other statements that have been made. However, they have brought me to a point of view that follows.
There is a universal system of language that underlies all language. This language speaks at a much deeper level and for that reason photography (and other visual arts) have the ability to transmit that language when the spoken language (Ed's example of Sanskrit) can not.
Will all who are exposed to this language receive or for that matter understand it...obviously not. Does that make it a failure of the language or of the potential recipient?
This language would appear to be symbolic rather then literal. It speaks of things that are present but largely unseen. This language is not the language of thought but rather the language of emotion at a very deep level.
So perhaps in the rendering of abstraction...the language of the unseen we should pay attention to emotion rather then thought.
What are your views on this?
Seeing is being not thinking.
We are after abstractions not abstracts.
All language is symbolic, since it is a representation of something else, or of an idea of something else. It's all metaphors: a picture of a mountain, or the word mountain are not the actual mountain, but representations of it. Language does not mean spoken/written language alone, but any system of communicating ideas.
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
There are linguistic conventions that systematically apply certain meanings to certain uses of certain forms of language (if that does not make sense, read it over :-) ). In photography, the conventions are much more obscure than say, English or Polish. There is no dictionary to refer to when in doubt of a certain symbol in a photograph.
Having that in mind, a photograph that fails to communicate it's message to a certain person is empty as it refers to that person. It may be perfectly succesful regarding someone else, one does not invalidate the other. Just as a poem is meaningfull and significant to some, and empty and boring to others. The more symbolic and metaphoric a message is, the higher its rate of failure.
As far as the deeper language you speak of, that seems very idealistic (very "Plato" of you) but highly improbable. The transmittion of ideas is what (in my opinion) binds language together. If this is what you mean, I agree fully. If not, I respect your position anyhow.
Originally Posted by Andre R. de Avillez
"Communication through symbolism is capable of a great deal more then the transmission of ideas. It can also be quite effective by posing unanswered questions. These questions that exist may not have been consciously considered or formulated. Beyond that it can also very effectively directly transmit knowledge that goes far beyond the synthetic knowledge that most of mankind is engaged in.
Obviously for one who has not visited France, for instance, it is difficult to consider the possibility of things that are found within the city of Paris. While this may sound foreign to you at this time, I encourage you to not shut your mind to it's possible existence forever."
Perhaps ideas was the wrong word to use. But what is knowledge if not the idea of something, the mental representation of something (be it material or not)? I did not mean ideas merely as thoughts original to the mind, but as everything that goes on in the mind. This includes knowledge, emotions (at least when we think about them), from the most basic to the most complex action of the mind.
As for the knowledge that lies beyond the synthetic one, as you refered to it, I do not shut my eyes to it. A person who has never been to France cannot imagine what the wind smells like at 5pm outside a bistro, but he can extrapolate it from previous experiences and acquired knowledge.
As I write this I think that you and me may write about things differently, but if we break our ideas down enough, we speak of the same things.
This has been (and hopefully still will be) a very good discussion
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"As I write this I think that you and me may write about things differently, but if we break our ideas down enough, we speak of the same things.
This has been (and hopefully still will be) a very good discussion"
Andre, I would agree. Someone once said "Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists...therein lies peace."
This is reminiscent to me of the three blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. The first said an elephant is like a tree...it has a trunk that attaches it to the earth. The second replied "no you are wrong, an elephant is not that way at all. It is like a building. It has a broad wall. The third replied " Oh but you are both wrong. For you see an elephant is like a rope."...many times we all grasp only a part of the whole and believe that to be the totality of truth. That is true for me and that is true for all of us. Peace.
Peace it is. This discussion only displays *possibilities* - there must be an absolute truth - somewhere - but it may not be within the range of mortal wo/man to find it.
Another One of My "possibilities":
A poet friend of mine - with his obsession toward poetry once aid that "All art when divested of its embellishments will eventually be found to be poetry."
I could suggest that the media we choose is really the carrier for our emotional content; the framework for our (reversing) embellished poetry.
Photography is one of many languages - and the fluency in that language *could* be a help in experiencing "photography" ... surely anyone who has worked in a certain area - mine is Figure Studies (read: naked women) knows something of the trials and tribulations involved (I could write a book ...), so we invariably will have something of a different reaction to figure studies than those who have never been "there".
At the same time there is some universal quality that even if not understood, has its influence. I don't understand much Latin; I understand even less "spoken" Latin - yet, the Carmina Burana has a definite effect on my mood.
Some poetry has no rational interpretation ... yet it "works" - Lewis Carrol, etc..
Music is probably a prime example of an embellished poetry that "works" without satisfying any requirement of "being understood". Certainly formulae have been developed in an attempt to formalize works - I know very little of them - yet listening to Sibelius always creates in me a vision of dense, dark, coniferous forests.
So - photography ... Let the Band Play On!! My goal is in some way to affect MY moods and emotions. If it works to induce the same - or even an unexpected - significant change in another human being - GREAT! - If not - well there is always another selection to play.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
This reminds me...
Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
When a local choir was rehearsing Carmina Burana, they were evicted from the church they usually rehearsed in. The bishop had happened to be there one day - and he understood mediaeval Latin!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I have been gone awhile so I skimmed through the replies and will add a few comments of my own.
With regards to the two pictures, I think I liked the first image because of the balance and composition of the various areas of tonality. Perhaps seeing an actual print or a large print might not provide me the same perspective, but there was a certain balance to the elements that made the image a strong one IMHO. The second I did not comment on because that was the one I thought was derivative. I think I could look through my library and find several examples of the same subject matter in a variety of compositions and contexts. It is interesting but does not improve or add to the dialogue of broken glass window pictures.
The important thing is to keep exploring and experimenting. Challenge yourself to work in new ways and new subject matter. Maybe the issue is not the really wonderful landscape images you make, but the dozens in between the good ones that make shooting become a chore and a mechanical exercise. If you look at the greatest photographers they always evolved. The Weston's, Callahan, Siskind, Minor White, Evans, Bullock all moved beyond initial ideas and subject matter. Most great artists of any medium that last beyond the 15 years of output do so because they move from one phase or work to the next, rarely looking back and working with previous styles again.
Of course to move from a familiar subject matter, format, medium or style can be a daunting experience. On one hand one may have mastered the language of a certain style, even put their own unique "twist" on it. On the other hand that is probably when the 15 year rule kicks in which is probably the effective time span that it takes to exhaust ones creativity and excitement.
Ideally one needs to admit that they have pretty much ended that phase of their creative life and create new challenges. I think one can still return to old subjects and styles, but the main focus needs to be in new directions.
From your original comments Don, it seems this is where you stand. Realizing that to continue to create art, you need to move beyond where you are now. I hope you do move on to explore the more abstract. It was the next phase or addition to the works of most of the photographers I mentioned earlier.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
Of corse this is a valid argument: One *must* always "strive" to improve - but there is always a "flip" side... and this involves what "striving" means.
Originally Posted by Jim68134
With me, "challenging myself" - implying both the "carrot and stick" approach ("Nothing is EVER good enough) and the idea of ascetically FORCING "an improvement - has never worked.
My "best work" - in my eyes - who else matters? - has always been the result of some "free act" - nearly an out-of-body experience, where I don't over-rationalize. Call it "looseness" or "stream-of-consciousness"... or ... "fluency".
I'll draw a parallel to driving an automobile. We certainly all WANT to drive well - but to try to FORCE the "right" action will only result in "white knuckles on the wheel" - a "tightness" and hypersensitivity that will slow our reflexes and ultimately degrade our performance. Where we will do our best is in the familiarity with the skills necessary - and we will probably not think much - at least not be obsessed - about what we are doing, and each individual, minute detail. In doing this we are not slacking off - we are really trying to "do our best"."
"Challenge"? I DON'T try to "challenge myself" each time I drive --- some do, I guess ... In the words of Charlie Brown, "Good Grief". Someone once said, "God MUST love Massachusetts drivers - there is NO way they'd last more than five seconds if he didn't."
As for photographers "evolving" - True - they do... if "evolving" means "changing". Whether or not that change-evolution is always for the better - that question opens the possibility for a great deal of discussion. Some of the "Greats" you mention strike me as having produced ... uh ... "better", more emotionally affective - more "significant" work - in MY eyes - during the early periods of their art. As they changed they became more hardened - stiffer and less free. The elements of genius that caused them to become famous faded.
I try to do my best - I don't consider that at all unusual. To me that means always trying to "see" through the eyes of a child ... open and receptive to the wonders that abound in this world.
Ed Sukach, FFP.