Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
Here's another one of these Big Questions, but it always need more tackling. It's been bugging me for a while because most academic papers I've read seem to be one-sided.

When people write about photography, they often take the transparency position about it.

Its briefest summation was given by Gary Winogrand: "I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs." (*) In other words, that we do not look at photographs, but through them, like the late John Szarkowski said.

When I go out actively to photograph a landscape or other subject, I tend to adopt a differing attitude and look at the World in a much more intense manner, thus actually seeing what is there rather than 'interpreting' the scene through my normal data smoothing filters.

My theory is that these filters allow me to acknowledge what features of my environment I find important to function in a basic manner, avoid danger and allow my brain to function more abstractly, but they often dither-out subtleties that become important 'artistically'.

I might adapt that quote to say, "The act of making photographs makes me look at the World in a different manner, a more clear manner than routine functioning and I try to capture that unusual state in my photographs".

But maybe that is the same thing, in a way...

Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post

This means two things:

a) That we have a different interest in the photograph of a thing than we do for the thing if we were to actually encounter it
Perhaps, but not necessarily; I think it would depend on if the photograph was a 1. "realistic" (oh boy what a can of worms that opens) or 2. Abstract interpretation of the object/subject.

By "realistic", I mean a means of producing a photograph of a subject that is generally accepted in the mainstream of society as a photograph that is a truthful representation of the object/subject. (Don't stroke-out, give it a chance) More along the lines of documentation...

By "abstract", I mean a means of producing a photograph of a subject that, while it may or may not be recognizable as the actual subject/object, is generally accepted (or reviled) by the general public as an "artistic interpretation" that could never likely appear that way in nature. More along the lines of impressionistic photographs.

Of course there is no clear delineation between the two states, which makes it very amorphous and calls (to me) to the forefront a question; which came first, the urge to document or the urge to express oneself through the item?

Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post

b) That photographs have a privileged relationship to the world that painting or drawing do not have.
Not really. The frame is a contextual construct and demands input from the artist. Why would a photograph hold any privilege over a painting or a drawing unless you strictly demand it to be "realistic"?

In fact, I would say 90% of all photos in the gallery are NOT in the slightest, a "realistic" representation of the actual scene they are photographing, but are the representation of an aesthetic the photographer projects onto the scene via their tools -- the camera, film, and darkroom processes.

Even the purely documentary-type of photograph that strives for pure "realism" is hopelessly rooted in the film stocks, chemical processes and aesthetic underpinnings of "modern" photography. Want proof? Just go back a decade and look at any and all photographs. We are defined by our time, materials and processes, which are as biased and unique to our time as to the 1920's, or 30's or whenever...

Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
Claim a) is not controversial to me, I think it is fairly obvious to most people who either appreciate or produce photos. Claim b) is where the meat is.

We've all heard (or taken) positions to the effect that photography is a trace, whereas a painting is an interpretation, an act of will. Fiction in painting is indeed more accepted than it is in photography.

But what if we actually had an interest in painting because we like to see how things look when they are painted? Did not Monet paint the same cathedral over and over because he wanted us to appreciate its changing appearance through painting?
I maintain that all of photography is a fiction (no two people see anything exactly the same way with the same resonances upon viewing) and that we all photograph the same images over and over again -- just look at the gallery. Not that I am putting anyone down; repetition is a major part of any artistic expression. We refine, hone and search for like images that more perfectly express the concept we are trying to express, whatever that may be...

Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
The problem with b) is that it actually prevents any meaningful creation of fiction in photography. Why would a painting of a Cyclop be a painting of a Cyclop, whereas a photo of a person dressed as a Cyclop will never be a photo of a Cyclop? Why would Cindy Sherman's "untitled film stills" be only self-portraits, whereas a movie with Marilyn Monroe is not a portrait of her?
I think a photo of a person dressed as a Cyclops can certainly be a graphic representation of Cyclops, and interpreted as such, as long as there are "artistic" clues that allow the viewer the right of suspension of disbelief -- all contextual and, gosh darned if I can define them, but you know they are there. If they weren't, how can motion pictures function very effectively on that level?

Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
No swearing, no name calling, discuss!

(*) He also said "A photograph is the illusion of a literal description of how the camera 'saw' a piece of time and space," so I don't want to say that he believed in photographic transparency.
Oh NOW you trip me up with this bit of philosophy! Got to think about this...