Sometimes, it takes me some time to formulate in words what I am feeling. This thread has been an example of that experience. What I realize this morning is that I am stepping out of a mold of trying to emulate another body of work by someone else whether that be of subject matter or of manner of presentation. I have done that at times in the past without my realization. Not all of my earlier work is meaningless or derivative. This time is just a further refining of my photographic and perhaps "lifes" vision.
I want my photography to portray deeper meanings then the simple portrayal of a grand landscape that has been done before. I am not saying that grand landscapes are inherently inferior. It is just that they are not conveying through imagery the meaning that I see and want to record.
By way of explanation of what I mean...the central image that I have posted in the technical gallery (the rock pool--1989)...to tell you what that image means to me will possibly tell you where I am with this. To me the water in the rock pool is symbolic of "mind". In the area of the water we find the stones below the surface and the reflection of the tree on the surface. This is symbolic to me of the conscious and unconscious mind. In the image the tip of the tree is apparently touching the edge of the immersed stone. This point of tension represents the connection within us. The tree is not seen directly even though it is portrayed. It is a reflection on the surface of "mind". The reflection is not the tree itself whereas the stones beneath the surface are "more objectively real" even though covered by "mind". This brings up the question "is the apparently objective true reality?" The shape of the rocks enclosing the pool are also symbolic. The right hand rock is similar to the shape of a human knee and thigh. The pool itself appears to be within a "place of birth". While I don't normally indicate to others the meaning of my images. I thought that perhaps in this case that I would since I seem incapable of relating what I have felt by words alone. Forgive me if I have bored you by this discription.
As another example is an image that I exposed in the same time frame 1988-89. I have posted this here before but I will post it again for purposes of illustration. As Ed indicated this was a serrendipitous event. This image is of a doorway indicating another doorway but also more importantly a source of great light beyond the second doorway. The doorways are to me symbolic of points of passage...points of transition, if you will, during our life. The indication of a source of light beyond and to the right of the second doorway is an indication of another possibility that while indicated is not seen. That, apparently, there exists another choice beyond the objectively presented ones.
This is what I mean about questions asked...not everything shown.
I realize that some do not go into the meaning of their images to the extent that I do and feel. I think that I need to say that there is nothing wrong for the level of practice...no matter what it is. I would, however, appreciate your views and thoughts on my explanation as it relates to these two images. Thank you.
I don't mean one needs to force an improvement. That implies the current work is not at a level they find acceptable. Of course everyone should strive to improve in craft and art but I don't think that can be forced. I do think one needs to force themselves into new ways of seeing and becoming open to new subject matter and approaches to art and craft. It does not mean abandoning everything learned before, rather applying all that knowledge and experience to new endeavors. That may mean working with the same subject matter (eg landscape) but using a new approach to that subject, seeing it with new eyes.
There are artists who do make some of their best work late in their careers. Weston's late landscapes as an example. But in his case this was a different approach then he previously used. I think Georgia O'Keefe did some of her best work late in life.
But your post brings up an interesting point. Is it the artist who no longer fails to produce work of interest, or do we grow complacent and lazy only wanting to accept the familiar, the old style or subjects we were comfortable with. I am sure there are people who saw Picasso's more figurative and realistic work in the late 1890's and thought everything afterwards was trash.
I have read that one's favorite foods as a child become your comfort foods as an adult. Sort of a combination of nostalgia and reassurance. Maybe we also develop a taste for comfort art. What does anyone else think?
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
"Experimentation" is good - some of my "best" i.e., "the images of mine that I like the best" - are experiments - and not always deliberate experiments, either.
Interesting that you should mention Picasso ... His first really notable emergence came as a result of "Guernica", a massive piece he painted as a reaction to the shock and revulsion he felt from the Nazi raid on that Basque town on April 26th, 1937. IMHO that pushed him over a "logical" edge. He was, if not "out of his mind" temporarily, certainly "out of himself," When he painted it.
There is a story about Picasso - he leased a Studio in - I've forgotten where - and his landlord, being an enterprising type - leased the "daily contents of Picasso's wastebasket" to an equally enterprising art dealer. Every day, after Picasso left the studio, the landlord would collect the contents of the wastebasket - doodles, rough sketches, scribbles - done with *very* little conscious effort from the "Master", and give them to the dealer, who, in turn, would flatten them out, mat and frame them and place them on the walls of his gallery - to be sold at a handsome price. Picasso HAPPENED to visit this gallery, quite by chance - and was NOT amused.
Hmm ... April 26th ... tomorrow is the anniversary of that event. We should remember it, if for no other reason --- Ow... I don't like that ... the art it inspired literally changed the world, but it really pales when considered against the terrible atrocity and loss of life there.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Deleted ... double entry ...??? How? did I do that...?
Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
Ed Sukach, FFP.
donald's thoughtful soliloquy on his posted image is interesting, because it is unlikely i'd ever have made such associations or recognized such symbolism without verbal cues. however if donald were a 'famous' photographer, i might try and therein lies an inherent conundrum.
take weston's final photograph, Point Lobos, 1948. it is, no matter what anyone says, nearly incomprehensible at first glance: an extensive field of gray sand with rocks strewn haphazardly on the right and lower sides, and dark shadowy shapes across the top. but, because it is edward weston's photograph, one presumes that a depth of meaning and a lifetime of experience making images may well be distilled therein and one takes a closer....and significantly longer look. and, ultimately, a great deal is revealed. the rock shapes and shadows lead the eye in a gentle oval which turns back on itself on the left side. there is within: wet and dry, light and dark, rough and smooth, sharp and soft, angular and round, overtly above and covertly submerged, and suffusing all, the bleak and rather uniform gray sand. abundant examples yin and yang on a bed of quotidian sameness? and all this when parkinson's disease had taken away the man's physical autonomy. who really knows? i've thought about this image for years and it's one of my favorites. would i have given it a second look were it not weston's? i doubt it. was it worth the time and thoughtful reflection? immensely so.
it's just not fair though. i'm not famous, nor is donald. i'd like my abstractions to be meaningful to others just as clearly as they are to me without words, but i'm sure they're not nor ever will be. but they reflect what's within in the most profound way.
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Originally Posted by Donald Miller
I just looked at the image you posted and my reaction was quite different from yours. To me it is a mysterious one, hard to put your finger on it. You said that the great light was the most important factor of the image, but to me the white door is. The way it is framed(white frame, dark door, image edge), and the sharp lines leading to it make it jump at me. I read it (the image) as a pun, as a door within a door. The washed out highlights (although I'm sure the print is not) only emphasize the importance of the white door, while the perfectly readable dark door gives it more mood.
I think this is the most I've ever verbalized about an image before (I remember once telling a photographer that I loved how, "I don't know, formal" her documentary stuff was, only to agree with her that it wasn't formal at all), so take it lightly.
But the thrice framed white door does not stop jumping at me.
I have thought about this for the better part of a day. I agree that the normal tendency would be to give more time to studying a photograph by someone "famous". But I think the tendency to give weight on that characteristic robs us of a great deal of the experience of viewing an image.
Originally Posted by jovo
I think that the language of symbolism in imagery is something that most are absolutely illiterate about. In making that statement, I don't mean to disparage anyone or to diminish in any way. It is a language that can be relearned in just the same way that any language can be learned. In fact, I think that we already have the basis for this language deep within our being. It is just that most of us haven't been sensitive to this aspect and so we have lost the ability to enjoy it as much as we might.
The reason that I make the statement that the language of symbolism is a part of our makeup is that we dream symbolically. That is why many of us are confused about the meaning of our dreams. Having said that I will continue to pay attention to symbolism in imagery.
Thank you for your thoughts on the matter.
Originally Posted by Andre R. de Avillez
I would never try to define the meaning of an image to you and in your experience. That should be a personal matter between you and the image.
The reason that I see the unseen source of light as being vitally important to me in this image is that it presents an unknown into the image. That element is one of the points dealing with the abstract within this image. We observe that an increased level of light is present. It does not emanate from either of the openings portrayed. Yet we know that a source must exist.
Now you could say that the door also poses an unknown...for instance, where does it lead? The door is objectively portrayed and so to me the source of abstraction is not as questionable in where the door may lead. One of the symbolic meanings of light is life and the source of life. Thus to me in this image that carries the greatest weight.
As I stated earlier, this is the meaning that I draw from this image. Your meaning may be different and that is as it should be. We do not need to agree about that aspect. Remember the three blind men and the elephant?
Thanks for your viewpoints.
This discussion reminds me of attending during the 60's exhibits of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko's work where someone tries to "explain" the deeper meaning of the painting. Such an analysis may be valid - the artist may have included symbolic concepts or hidden messages, consciously or unconsciously, during the creation process. Later, a curator, gallery owner, etc., can try to discover the symbolism as part of attempting to come to a deeper understanding of the painting and the artist - part of the cult of the artist. Does such an analysis increase the visual "worth" to the viewer of that painting - maybe but as an acquired taste?
Can photography, especially when of abstract images, benefit from such an analysis; and when is the symbolic interpretation or deeper meaning manifested? For photography & unlike painting, the initial creation process is brief. At the time of creation of a phoptographic image, I'm lucky if I can remember all the manual steps necessary prior to shutter release. Maybe there is some symbolism behind my initial "this looks interesting" decission to make the image. More likely, a deeper meaning will occur during the selection/culling process in deciding which image would make a good print & how to print it. Does knowing the photographer's reasoning for selection/printing a particular image increase the aesthetic value of the print - possibly? Does it affect the ultimate value of a print - don't think so since photography, as also with painting, is a visual medium; and in photography, with very few exceptions, we do not have the cult of the artist/photographer.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
Originally Posted by doughowk
Thank you for your thoughts. To answer your first question as I understand it, I would respond by saying "certainly". Anything that can enhance the total experience of observing the work is worth pursuing...I would assume that would fit within your catagory of "worth" The matter of acquired taste, I addressed in an earlier post. On your second point, I don't see that it is the photography that can benefit...but "I" sure as the world can benefit from analysis as I have proven in my experience.
I don't consider the length of creation as being of consideration in this matter. The "blueprint" within you and I that causes us to say "this looks interesting" existed far beyond our dimmest memory.
The aesthetic value that you speak of does not become involved within my choice of images. That is a personal matter, since I make images primarily for my enjoyment. That also defines my considerations of "ultimate value". Those considerations don't become involved since they are largely ego driven and it would seem that when that becomes the driving force then my images lose personal meaning.
The meaning within my images are for my purposes, in other words they are an extension of why do I think "this looks interesting"? My point in explaining the symbolic meaning in some of my images is that most people have very limited exposure to considering this matter in their images or the images that they may view.
Why would I care what the symbolic meaning is? I strongly suspect that, since I do have an unconscious componant to my mind, this is something that would be beneficial to experience in the manner that it seems to operate.
As I stated earlier...this is not about what others may take away from my images in a symbolic way. That seems to indicate that I make images for other people and that is not the case.
In addition, I would add again, that everyone that engages in photography, no matter what the level, should do what fits. This happens to fit for me.