It's a little disheartening to read not just one, but three or four accounts of people who've been in contact with serious thought about photography and refuse to give this book a half an hour or an hour on its own before deciding whether to procede or not. As well, there's an overwhelming confusion about whether or not this is philosophy(?!) which is greatly confounding to me; this is clearly analytic philosophy in the mainstream of the continental tradition. I get the feeling that the majority of what you folks are talking about, with reference to your preferred topic of inquiry, is a very constrained area of applied aesthetics. I know that if anyone would take the plunge and trust me, they would find that yes, these aspects of "what makes a good photograph/being a good photographer" (chapter 12, and it begins with a quote from Minor White <-- click the link) is very uniquely and interestingly considered, but there is also a huge range of attention paid to what photographs themselves are, what makes them special, and what makes us special to think of doing it in the first place.

I'd much rather talk about a book, than talk about why you should be reading a book (books are good for you, read more); first things first I guess. I have always meant this thread not to be a busy, instantly responded to thing (although, it's a message board) but something more at the regular tempo of this community, which is slow as hell--by necessity! The kinds of large projects that a great number of the regulars here undertake need a lot of time, and so too is the same with this kind of activity, even for just one book! I could have brought up and suggested any book among dozens and dozens I've read lately, and this one I feel is especially good, and especially valuable to the analogue practitioner.* Sales pitch over for the moment. Given airspace I can say a lot, and given that my last post was roundly ignored (although I thought the points I made were interesting ) I'll make a habit of breaking things up to keep them bite-sized.

*footnote: the essay was first published in 1983, the 2007 date cited on my original post was the publication date of the english translation I'd read, and I presume the time it appeared on the website in english as well.

Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
If people are stimulated to make images as the result of reading philosophical or semiological texts that is great. Many people want or desire to work within a given concept. Many of the most important art movements have been driven by a philosophy (albeit rarely using the language of philosophers) or a set of 'rules'. Many of the greatest artists, photographers, film-makers, authors, etc who have subscribed to such movements quickly 'broke the rules' because their creative development demanded it.
Yes this is what I mentioned in my reply to Maris, that this kind of investigation is important for people who want to improve their art, rather than conduct a fun nostalgic hobby.

Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
I well remember meeting students who were almost paralyzed in terms of making images because of their not being able to square the circle between the philosophical texts they were reading (with the very noticeable exception of Mitra Tabrizian and Karen Knorr) and the desire to make images. In short they were at a point where every single thing in a potential image was being considered for it's semiological meaning to the regrettable point that the shutter was never depressed. I was always perplexed that most of the images that were being 'decoded' were always journalistic images and nobody thought of considering the indexical, denotive, punctum, etc aspects of Adams' manipulation of reality (I vividly remember Burgin saying that Adams was a 'glorified postcard photographer' which, to me, demonstrated a notable lack of understanding of how much Adams actually manipulated - through technical prowess - his prints) in pursuit of his support for the environmental movement.
Well, tensions-between-conceptual-artists-who-happen-to-be-photographers-and-American-formalist-photographers-who-happen-to-be-artistic aside, I must absolutely reject the suggestion that difficulty in progressing toward a more conscious and deliberate practice is detrimental insofar as it slows creative production. Of course, pure paralysis is not productive outwardly, but demonstrates enormous (and often rapid) internal productivity and advancement. This is what education is about, its difficulty, its cruelty (in this case to less conscious creative production), making you change how you do and think about things.

I think that given the right combination of a good mood and enough booze, even someone as resolutely condemning of Adams would be able to admit some aspect of artistry in his intention. I think I need to say this to prevent a maelstrom of APUGers conservatively revolting against the kind of self-reflexivity I'm trying to engender here (at least to those who would want to take up the burden), if it meant disparagement of the Most Holy and Revered.

Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
These comments are not intended to imply that I think that APUG is the wrong place for such discussions. Far from it! - I would love to see more discussion about image making here but do also realise that, for many, APUG is a highly valuable 'database' for those starting out on the enjoyable journey of engaging with analogue photography.

If such philosophical texts help you to improve your photography - fantastic. However, for me, my inspiration will continue to come the development of my own personal photography and from looking at images by other people.
I agree completely that it was a good idea for me to overcome my usual suspicions of the internet and its internetness. I want to clarify though that this book does not inspire me to make images, but affects how I think about process, and thinking about process affects how I make images. Like you, or anyone, I am inspired to make images to communicate, and participate in the kind of social discussion and circulation of ideas that many of us (I hope) are inspired by. This is different from being inspired to copy the masters, and experience the same kinds of things they did when making an image. This kind of activity is noble and good in its own way, but yes, absolutely does not require the kind of examination of the activity that I think we can have by talking about the ideas in the book I suggest, and related ideas.

Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
I also agree, this is fairly vacuous as he seems to be trying to define what a photograph is, not necessarily what a good photograph is or how photographs can convey emotion/ideas/meaning. In doing so, he is trying to use prose and philosophical language to describe a scientific phenomena, which is the reason for the obscurity of his description and why it fails (in my opinion).

I don't think it is a philosophy beyond the common understanding of the term.
I was thinking of you, and this remark when I was writing the first paragraph. I admonished Maris, though I don't think unkindly, for dismissing things out of hand like this. But, then I quickly realised that there's just some confusion about what exactly you're reading; this passage is not about aesthetics--photography in practice and experience--but rather about the ontological and epistemic character of the photographic object, and how we as animals relate through them to the universe we live in.
I am going to need some help in seeing the vacuousness of what you're reading--could you provide an example of where you're confused?

Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
Going to have to disagree with you here - photography is light interacting with a sensitive surface and is therefore not a physical sample of the subject matter since the light is reflected by the surface and not generated by the surface (a photograph of a light source being exempted). When the light hits me and reflects towards the camera, it does not carry a piece of me with it and I am not diminished by it - rather, my clothing, skin and the physical characteristics alter the light to produce the image. Put it another way, if theoretically you could take an infinite series of photographs of me instantly, I would not disappear since you are not taking anything away from me.
Yeah, I was also suspicious of his physics there, but I didn't want to distract the topic (or seem mean). However, he did make me think about this thread all afternoon.

Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
I really enjoy these statements but they need a bit of clarification - I think what you mean is that a subject must be present for a photograph to be made. I can make a photograph of a space alien in my backyard and that does not confirm the existence of space aliens, it confirms the existence of a bi-pedal creature with the appearance of a space alien in my backyard which may or may not be my son in his Halloween costume. So, you are right in that you can not photograph place/people/things which remain only in my imagination, but photographs can "lie" in that they confirm the existence of a subject, not what that subject purports to be (i.e., the interpretation). The Lord of the Rings movies were shot in an imaginary world (Middle Earth) but it is a real movie and I actually watched it. So a photograph confirms the existence of a subject, not the subject.

Semantics I know, but an important distinction.
Thank you, this is precisely the falsely attributed epistemic quality of the photographic object that I was alluding to.

Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
Could you define "dominant information"?

Not trying to dodge here but the grass being real depends on what you mean by "real"? Does it mean that there is something in the universe which is commonly understood as grass, some of which is located in my back yard, my son is standing on it and the photograph accurately represents that situation to the best ability of both the photographer and medium (i.e., film)? Then yes, it is real. If you mean that the photograph contains literally grass in it, then no, the grass is not real. The grass is not the subject since I am imparting meaning into the picture to make something else the subject - if I was at a convention of grass seed sellers, the subject would be the grass.
And right here, I knew that in you I (could potentially) find my foil. Please, please, I beg you on bent knee, please take some time for this book. A solid second chance, start at chapter one, and tell me what you think. Please.

Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
we could say the photograph confirms the existence of the photograph and nothing else, since the image could be completely fabricated and represents the intention of the creator of the photograph. But that is a very cynical view that my ex-wife hated when I took it with her. My point was that a picture of something does not confirm the existence of something, a picture of something confirms there is a picture of something - it is the viewer that implies meaning and the artist who tries to convey meaning but there is no meaning independent of the two.

I completely realize these types of posts is beyond what 99.9% of most APUG members desires on a forum but I enjoy these types of discussions. For me, "just make photographs" is as fun as telling a mechanic "just drive cars" - the fun is in the why and how but the enjoyment is in the doing.
This is the kind of thing that I was hoping to get out of this thread. But, without a kind of common place to begin a discussion on such a difficult subject (for the totally uninitiated) with some discourse about some very carefully considered and well explained ideas, I don't think the conversation could get very far. So, if my desperate and sincere pleading succeeds, I think we could make this a hell of a thread to read.