An awareness has been fermenting within me for some time now and it is best illustrated in my observation of the nature of my images, the observation of the images of others, and the reactions of others to images (mine and others).
When I began practicing photography over twenty years ago I began taking pictures of "things"...identifiable objects with which I and others have an awareness that is identifiable and definable. These early images may have been as simple as a single object or more complex as in a relationship between objects. These early images don't have much of an emotional content to me today. The reason that is true, I think, is that I was showing too much, showing it too well, and identifying it too completely. As I observe the images of others the same tendency seems to occur.
I am aware that "pretty pictures" don't do much for me anymore. Pictures of readily identifiable objects do not excite me...they don't engage me and they do not keep me engaged. That is true whether these images are mine or someone elses. They portray one part of life...but they don't address the totality of life.
I think that a great deal of our time here on this earth is not about what is seen but probably more about what is unseen. That is why photography can be such an excellent means to self discovery. While we can't photograph the "unseen"...we can allude to it in our images. That is the component of an image that keeps me engaged. That is the component that prompts me to keep asking questions.
Last week I posted two images to ascertain the reaction of the viewers on this forum. I found the results to be informative. The one image was of a mountain stream with the trees beyond. The second image was of the streaked plastered wall with a window opening and a broken window opening beyond. The first photograph was a "pretty picture" and told a story. The second photograph posed a question. The photograph that got the most views and comments? Predictably it was the "pretty picture". Why is that? Are we afraid to confront the unseen and unknown? Are we afraid to question? Are we afraid to think? I don't know. I would like your thoughts on this. Thanks for your views.
My guess is not all folks heard or understood there was a question. I saw it as an abstract design myself.
Who's to say the mountain stream had no questions to ask?
I would agree with glbeas and go a step further.
The image of the mountain stream I'm sure I saw but honestly can't remember it.
The abstract I can remember today. My response to it at the time was 'why is he showing me this? What am I to take away?'
Perhaps the photograph is an answer to a question we did not know we had?
Wouldn't it be nice if people looked at our photographs and said: I see, now I understand.
I saw both, and remeber both (and I'll be d*mmed if I can't find them now). I commented on the treeline one, but decided to keep my mouth (hands?) shut on the second one. I simply had nothing to add. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
I purposely did not identify either image for that reason. I always want an image to be a personal experience (primarily for myself and additionally for others).
Originally Posted by glbeas
The matter of the question of a mountain stream...other then the location and other matters pertaining to the objective reality, what question could be posed?
Prior to the post this evening, I visited with another well recognized photographer last week about this same matter. I asked this question of him..."What am I missing?" when I observed the variance in the number of views. His response was "you are not the one that is missing the point". I guess that this is a matter of different places in our view of life and of the place that photography can play.
"The abstract I can remember today. My response to it at the time was 'why is he showing me this? What am I to take away?'...I would say in response that apparently the question that you posed "
I would respond by saying that apparently the mountain stream was not of a lasting impression. I am heartened by that because apparently the abstract engaged you. The question of the image is one for you to pose to yourself and one for you to answer.
Thanks to both of you for your views.
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Certainly true. There is no right or wrong answer to my post of this evening. Rather this is a another matter of consideration, if you will.
Originally Posted by Andre R. de Avillez
Thanks for your view.
I assume this, http://www.apug.org/site/main/album_...hp?pic_id=2796, is it. The pretty picture seems to be gone. You got 19 comments; not too shabby.
I guess we've all gotten inured to it, but judging fine B&W prints by looking at a relatively low resolution digital file is poor substitute for the real thing. This print may not translate to this medium; it may, however, be a knockout as an 11x14, nicely mounted, hanging in nice light.
"Are we afraid to confront the unseen and unknown?" I would think that this crowd would be all about the unseen, but I could be wrong.
"If You Push Something Hard Enough, It Will fall over" - Fudd's First Law of Opposition
No, the link that you provided is not to either of the images that I am speaking of.
Please understand that this is not intended belittle anyone or to address the number of comments that viewers offered other then to recognize that the overwhelming number of comments were about an image that in my opinion has been done to death. As I remember that "pretty picture" image received something over 20 comments. The abstract received 2, as I recall.
My question, phrased in another way, is why do recognized and acknowledged photographers gravitate to the "known"? Are we doomed to be copiers of copiers?
donald poses a question that's important to consider. i've thought about it for years and have some ideas that are relevant to me.
as a cellist and teacher, i am sometimes engaged to learn and perform (and sometimes to teach) music that is...well....obscure (to be kind). the composer has chosen to use musical language that isn't readily accessible... that isn't even particularly comprehensible after practice and study. yet, for reasons that probably have to do more with professional pride than anything else, i peresevere and learn the piece. occasionally the effort opens up an unexpected world of interesting ideas....just as often however, it's just plain awful. the thing is...music is temporal, and you have to sit through the entire performance (unless you run, quietly, out of the room.) in real time. the point is...the composer required, in fact demanded, a great deal of both performer and listener. most people have absolutely no intention of making such a committment in time and attention so the music is neither performed nor heard a second time.
photography is far easier to dismiss. i read once that the average viewer spends no more than two seconds looking at images when there are many to view in an exhibition. so if the image is obscure and requires committment to really look at and attempt to comprehend it's not surprising that an audience is even less likely to make the choice to make that effort.
so...neither the composer nor artist/photographer need necessarily offer work in the language of the medium that's the most readily digested, but should certainly not be surprised when there are few takers.
We know (or I do...)
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
I did not mean to come off as aggressive as I did either. What I meant was this, sometimes we cannot find the vocabulary to describe our opinions correctly. Sometimes we don't know what that opinion is. That does not discredit the photograph at all. "Hallmark" type photography (no insult intended) is easier to comment simply because we have had time to formulate our ideas about them. we've seen them a million times.
New work (or intriguing work) should ask for no more than dropped jaws from its audience. Maybe some mumbling. Gestures can't hurt either. But a gramatically structured opinion would be asking too much.