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Thread: Aesthetics

  1. #1
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Aesthetics

    I'll start this thread by attempting to define "Aesthetic" ... copying, in part, from my "World Book Dictionary":

    aesthetics: - n. the study of beauty in art and nature; philosophy of beauty or taste; theory of the arts.
    {<German aesthetik < New Latin aesthetica < greek aisthetikos sensitive < aistha'nesthai perceive.

    Also:

    aesthetic: - adj., n. - adj. 1. having to do with the beautiful, as distinguished from the useful, scientific, or moral; based on or determined by beauty rather than by practical or moral considerations: ...

    Having laid this groundwork, I would suggest we limit the discussion here to our individual perceptions of photographs and photographic styles.

    I will propose that a successful photograph, through some process that I really do not understand - possibly, some sort of mystical osmosis - will produce the same emotion that the photographer felt - perceived - at the time s/he tripped the shutter. I'm going to be the first guinea pig, and attach a copy of my "Seated Nude" - the black and white version - and try to explain the situation - what my emotional state was - what I FELT - at the time.

    This was the third session with this model, and a state of rapport began to develop. She began to understand my underlying philosophy and modus operandi, and from that, what I was trying to do .. what I was trying to express, and how I was trying to say it. She - WE were comfortable with each other ... and I showed her one or two images from Ruth Bernhard on this machine ... immediately adjacent to my studio. We were both "zeroed in" on making a Ruth Bernhard-inspired image, something that would be modified by her memory of the images at the moments of truth... not at all a "disadvantage".
    In each image captured, there is a "moment of decision" (credit to Cartier-Bresson), where my neurons fire, and I press the shutter, accompanied by a thought approximating, "Damn!! I HIT it!! This is going to be great!!". That was thought at the time - whether or not it turned out "great" to others, is something I cannot determine.
    Overall there was an emotion of joy, of discovery, of appreciation for the skill and ... help (invaluable help) from the model.

    There are my insides. What are your emotional responses (aesthetics = perceptions) when you experience this image?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ES7b.jpg  
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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    This is a real grey area. From this point beauty would have to be defined and so on. I think this is why technical things are talked about more. The technical aspect of photography is much easier to master and discuss, and get into pissing matches over.

    This will take some thought.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

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    jovo's Avatar
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    Mark's right; this will take some thought. Meanwhile it's worth noting that the most amorphous and troubling thing about photo.net is their rating system based on aesthetics and/or originality. I can't imagine how many different opinions of what those things mean are brought to bear on the hapless photographers there seeking a critique.
    John Voss

    My Blog

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    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    I realize the difficulty here ... it will almost require a new language.

    Let us NOT try to evaluate each other's "reasoning" here; reasoning and logic do not apply. There are *NO* "rights" or "wrongs" here - only what we each "feel".

    Someone (no I don't know who, nor do I care) once wrote that the critique says more, much more, of the Critic than it does of the work. If that is true, and I believe it is ... we will be, aesthetically, "dropping our pants in front of the audience" -- what one's first gallery exhibition feels like.

    I once played an "Environmental" tape in my studio - recorded on a canoe trip. One of the listeners commented, "You know, I can smell skunk cabbage." To me, that was an indication of a successful tape. Logical ... no, not unless tape players have some sort of "scent" capability.

    As far as photo.net ... I do not mean to set up any kind of "ranking" sytstem ... that, in the last analysis will only sound like the babbling of idiots ... which it actually IS.

    It is intersting, although not a engine that should propel our work, to learn of other's reactions - emotional reaction to our work. And in the discussion, under the burden of describing and articulating our own .. aesthetic state ... we may - will discover more about ourselves.

    I take great exception ot the idea that SEVERE criticism is NECCESSARY if we are to improve our work. Beef By-product!! --- in fact, BEEF BY-PRODUCT!! The only thing accomplished by excoriation is the satisfaction of the masochist bent of some of the "stranger" types in this game.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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    This should be an interesting thread. When I respond to a beautiful photograph it's really a gut level response, and depending on the image I'll feel different emotions from joy, sadness, excitment or amazement to name a few. I'm not sure my response would be the same as the photographers emotions at the time of making the photograph. I think we can bring our own emotional baggage to viewing photography, and it's a success if you have tapped into a viewers emotions.

    You may not have smelled skunk cabbage on your canoe trip, but the other listener must have at some point, and you tapped into that gut response!

    Cheers,
    Suzanne

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    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Exactly the idea, Suzanne!

    I don't think it is necessary to confine our reactions to our own work, either.
    This image is the MAJOR inspiration for a great deal of my work. When I first saw this ... MANY moons ago, I was awestruck and speechless. I progressed from there to .. a state or reverence .. for the artist, his model, ... and the sense that I had received a "gift" of a beautiful image.
    It has convinced me that "Fine Art Photography" does not have to limited to black and white ... certainly this image would lose a lot of its impact if devoid of its color.. and at that, the figure emerges ... I have a sense of "discovery"... from am illogical riot of color. From a genius of color ... and an artist who often expressed the wish that he could draw "better" - Renoir. His "Torse au Soleil", 1875:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails RenoirTdS.JPG  
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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    "I will propose that a successful photograph, through some process that I really do not understand - possibly, some sort of mystical osmosis - will produce the same emotion that the photographer felt - perceived - at the time s/he tripped the shutter. I'm going to be the first guinea pig, and attach a copy of my "Seated Nude" - the black and white version - and try to explain the situation - what my emotional state was - what I FELT - at the time."

    Have to disagree with your proposition that I'm going to feel what the photographer felt at the time. I can appreciate and be moved by art, but never feel what the artist felt. Why would you expect that? I sincerely doubt you can tell me exactly what the artist felt the moment a piece was finished - if you think you can, I'd have to call that projection on your part.

    Tell, me...just exactly what did Picasso feel the second after he put the last brush stroke on Guernica? You can't tell me because you're not Picasso and can't be expected to understand his emotion at the that time.

    "Overall there was an emotion of joy, of discovery, of appreciation for the skill and ... help (invaluable help) from the model."

    You REALLY expect people to get that from the photograph you presented?

    Looking at the image - I have absolutely none of the responses you describe that you had in making it. I find it boring, out of focus, poorly lit (or exposed) and a bit trite - then again, the scan and digital handling of the image may just be bad - hard to tell.

    Or, perhaps...the image just doesn't resonate with my personal aesthetics? Which is why I would never expect anyone to ever understand why I took a photograph or what I personally felt at the moment of exposure.

    More than that, making the exposure is only half the problem. How you handle the image after exposure is just as important - and can change the aesthetic and your response to the image.

    I may be excited that I saw and made a photograph, but translating the film image into a print is all part of the process, and adds another dimension to the work. I'm not thrilled with an image until I see it on paper, fully realized as a specific type of print, on a specific type of paper so the idea and aesthetic of the image are fully realized to MY personal intention - which, I guess - you could call my personal aesthetic.

    At that point, if I like the image, it no longer matters to me what you or anyone else thinks, gets out of it, or how you react - I've finished the work to my own personal, internal requirements and that's it.

    This too, may be part of why I didn't respond to your image, I don't have all of the information that is contained in a print. It is that moment when you have a one-on-one encounter between you and the image, and you have an internal memory/sensory/feeling reaction based solely upon your life experiences - not on the artist's personal feelings.

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    I will propose that a successful photograph, through some process that I really do not understand - possibly, some sort of mystical osmosis - will produce the same emotion that the photographer felt - perceived - at the time s/he tripped the shutter.
    I would have to agree with Steve above... Rather then being able to get the viewer to see and feel what you did, each viewer will come to the artwork with their own emotional response.


    Having laid this groundwork, I would suggest we limit the discussion here to our individual perceptions of photographs and photographic styles.
    In my own appreciation of photographic art, I would say that I am influenced by many factors.

    1. Emotional response - Something that is hard to quantify. More like my gut reaction, does it interest me right away... Like looking at a sheet of thumbnails, what makes you choose the first one?

    2. Materials - I am always interested in seeing a technique that best suits the work. If this is a fiber print, platinum, polaroid, whatever... The artist's job is to find the best match with materials. This can also HELP the viewer get into a frame of mind like the photographer... But again, they will come to the image with their own interpretation.

    3. Presentation - How the image is presented could affect me... I might approach an image pinned to a wall differently than I might one that is matted and framed.

    4. Technical Mastery - How all the elements are mastered and finished to perfection (or lack therof) might also influence me.

    Off the top of my head, that's how I'm influenced by the aesthetics.


    Is this along the lines of what you were looking for in your post?

    joe

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    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Interesting, Steve.

    How many of your comments were directed to the technical (more properly, scientific) characteristics of the image: "Out of focus", "poorly lit, or exposed" --- "trite" - I will accept "trite" as a gut feeling. One can critique technically ... (read "scientific" in the opening definitions of this thread) in the Critique gallery.

    I have made the error of allowing a narrow interpretation of "What I consider to be a successful photograph" ... Some could take it as, "Feel EXACTLY as the artist did when s/he created the work"... that should have been "Feel something of the emotion that the artist felt upon the production of the work."

    To precisely, and exactly, with NO chance for error, be sure of the artists' "state of mind"" ... of course that is not possible ... I didn't think there would be a need to indulge in such excruciating precision ... that there would be enough intelligent life here to make that unnecessary.

    Interesting you should cite Picasso's Guernica. I know more of that work than his others. I think Picasso went a trifle - or quite a bit more than a "trifle" - "off the deep end" after the Nazi bombing of that Basque town, without warning, and with horrendous loss of life. I guess I'm able to do the impossible ... as I look at that work, I can sense an amount of the revulsion, the feeling of helplessness and loss ... of reacting to an incomprehensible injustice.

    I have read a lot about Guernica, but I can't remember one word about Picasso's technique in this painting.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Symchyshyn
    I would have to agree with Steve above... Rather then being able to get the viewer to see and feel what you did, each viewer will come to the artwork with their own emotional response.

    In my own appreciation of photographic art, I would say that I am influenced by many factors.

    1. Emotional response - Something that is hard to quantify. More like my gut reaction, does it interest me right away... Like looking at a sheet of thumbnails, what makes you choose the first one?
    ...
    2., 3., etc. ....

    Is this along the lines of what you were looking for in your post?

    joe
    I'm not looking for an overview - a list of all the things that "count".
    Rather, I hope to focus on the "elements" of a work that relate to the "soul", "being", "humanness" of a work - as described in your "1." above, -and affect our individual reactions - no matter what our "presets" are. It is likely, and expected that all of our reactions are going to be different - as we are all different. This is not to deny the possibility of discovering some common ground.

    It will be interesting to see how many of us will have the discipline to refrain from comments of "blown highlights, featureless shadows, doesn't conform to the `rule of thirds' etc., ... and `This is just no good' (translation: ~you have not pleased me")"... and investigate our own feelings toward an image. Interesting to see how many "This can be improved by ..." comments will surface.

    There is plenty of opportunity to discuss the "nuts and bolts" elsewhere on APUG.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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