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Miguel Coquis
15-Sep-2014, 23:38
Equivalence: The Perennial Trend...
Bringing the subject to life again, and again.
Having had the opportunity during the 70's to camera workshop with M White, this was very often evocated:
What else can an image be ?
comments about this borning thread:
http://www.jnevins.com/whitereading.htm
Pics/visuals welcome !!!
My try:

Jim Cole
16-Sep-2014, 08:30
Miguel, nice start and thanks for re-starting this thread.

Here's my contribution:

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3661/3329840182_05a2116f9f_o.jpg

David Hedley
16-Sep-2014, 09:04
I agree, and I'd like to offer an image to follow both Miguel's and Jim's;
https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4101/4792785887_164da9d3d6_b.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/32131681@N00/4792785887/)

Miguel Coquis
18-Sep-2014, 02:13
Jim,David, glad to see your contribution on this re-borning thread.
My hope is that it would continu growing and make us grow on creative camera options.
Here is one from Berlin city, the oppression walls monument. Very impressing gift from wwII.....
RB Mentor reflex 4x5"
Ndev.
Scan neg.

h2oman
19-Sep-2014, 18:20
I've never quite understood the phrase "for what else it is," but I found the reading interesting and illuminating. I suspect I'll return to it multiple times.

Merg Ross
19-Sep-2014, 20:44
I've never quite understood the phrase "for what else it is," but I found the reading interesting and illuminating. I suspect I'll return to it multiple times.

To understand the phrase you would first have to understand Minor. He was a mystic. For whatever reason, he liked my abstract work, juried me into group exhibitions, and later into his own at MIT. However, he saw things in my work that I never intended, and he did the same with Edward Weston. That was Minor, but also the root of meaningful photography, communication on different levels. He was candid with me once when I got a bit off track, and I appreciate Minor more as time passes --- it is good to see his work being exhibited again, a flashback to a very important time in American photography.

Miguel, I like your photograph, thanks.

jp
20-Sep-2014, 05:31
This is a good topic.
Jim, I like that photo. You almost got the 10 & 2 time layout. You got a good mix of good photo qualities there.
The time, inflexible structure, wear, seem to be cracking the ledge as if a personal warning+allusion in a photo instead of words; that's the "what else it is" to me.

Bill Burk
20-Sep-2014, 08:05
I enjoy reading Minor White, and I have no problem understanding the mystique. I always have a problem implementing it.

Counter-clockwise and clockwise at the same time... That's the ideal.

http://beefalobill.com/images/white_cycle.jpg

paulr
20-Sep-2014, 08:30
These questions, of course, poke at the floodgates of critical theory.

Connotation, denotation, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, symbol, where meaning resides, how it got there, how to find it, if it even exists ...

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 08:54
What a great start to what's sure to be an interesting thread. I particularly like your initial image Miguel; there are worlds in that photo! Equivalence is something I've thought a lot about. Actually, for the last couple of years, I've been working on a project that I think is pertinent, and I'd like to share it here. It's called "Correspondence." For me the word conveys the idea of relationships between images and ideas, images and emotions, and the relationship of the images to each other, but it also means to suggest correspondence as in dispatches; communications between myself and the viewer. The photos are where we meet. In any case, I'm not sure what will become of this project, but if only a few people really feel it, that will be okay. The link is below. There are 99 photos, so it can take a minute to load. Thanks friends.

https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2848/9166473569_a5b87c54be_z.jpg

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8490/8230836977_b04cd57cf6_z.jpg

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7033/6744571991_e32f82f452_z.jpg

Correspondence:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/sets/72157644425867273/

paulr
20-Sep-2014, 10:55
To understand the phrase you would first have to understand Minor

I think you just have to understand the notion of metaphor. Minor didn't invent it!

Bill Burk
20-Sep-2014, 11:34
These questions, of course, poke at the floodgates of critical theory.

Connotation, denotation, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, symbol, where meaning resides, how it got there, how to find it, if it even exists ...

That's a lot of terminology... How long does it take to learn this stuff? Or do you have to just "get it" or not? I can't get past metaphor. What's it like? No that's a simile.

paulr,

It may sound like I'm joking, but I always appreciate your art-history background and additions to threads. Sometimes I figure you get it, and might be able to explain it to me. Other times I think I will always be one step short...

Austin Granger,

I think you get it... That's what I envision when I think of equivalents.

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 11:34
I think you just have to understand the notion of metaphor. Minor didn't invent it!



Yes, that's just it really, metaphors. Things being other things. Which is what every photograph in the world is, since everyone is going to bring whatever they bring (that is to say, their mind) to their looking at it. The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be. So far the answer seems to be... occasionally. At least I think so. I mean, has the gap actually been bridged, or is that just my thinking that it has? Are we forever stuck on our little islands? And on and on it goes. :-)

jcoldslabs
20-Sep-2014, 11:48
The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be.

If someone asked me why I take the pictures I do or what I am trying to "say" through them I would have no answer. I take pictures of things that catch my eye. For me the act of photographing, especially via the protracted process of using large format equipment, is devoid of thought. It is the one time in my daily life when I am focused solely on the present moment. The process of setting up, framing, metering, composing and exposing requires all of my faculties; it's as close as I get to a purely intuitive experience. Others are free to find connections, equivalencies, metaphors or correspondences in my work, but I am not conscious of putting any of it there.

Jonathan


EDIT: Austin, I'm curious: did you create these pairs or groupings of "Correspondence" images on purpose--having one image in mind while making another--or did you go back through and find them after the fact?

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 12:00
Austin Granger,

I think you get it... That's what I envision when I think of equivalents.

Well thanks Bill. Honestly when I go around photographing, I'm not thinking, "Hey, there's a metaphor for the human condition!" or whatever. I just photograph stuff that makes me feel something, or seems resonant in some way, and hope that it connects with people. One thing that's crossed my mind is that the "emptier" a subject is, the more likely it will work as an equivalent, as its emptiness will allow it to be "filled" by the viewer. Sometimes this can be literal emptiness, as in how a picture of a stark, empty field will likely convey a sense of loneliness or despair, but also it can work with a subject that is stripped of context. For instance, I have a picture of a neon sign (it's medium format so I wont show it here) that says simply "NUDE" without much going on around it. Without such bearings, you're left with just the word "NUDE" and your own mind. Now I don't know specifically how each individual is going to respond to that, but I am sure that they'll "fill" it up with all that nudity means to them. And in that way, the picture becomes a kind of collaboration between myself and the viewer. It's the same way with the picture of the crumpled paper. In a real sense, it's a picture of nothing, but because of that emptiness, it becomes a picture of your mind (because I know that you will make it something-that's what the mind does). I think this is why the idea of "equivalents" are often connected with abstract photos. Anyway, sorry for rambling on here; these are things that interest me.

Heroique
20-Sep-2014, 12:18
Are we forever stuck on our little islands?

A key question!

We're not always stuck on our islands, White says in his "Equivalence" article.

But whether this matters is another question…

That is, he says a photographer can use images, symbolically, to communicate personal experiences to the viewer – but trying to do so, he adds, just isn’t very important.

If this type of communication succeeds, and it can, it’s a rare accomplishment indeed between elites.

More typically, "To the innocent, well meaning young photographer, audience response to his photographs is a disheartening experience. They see what they wish to see, and not what he thinks that he is showing them."

What is important to White is that images (and he’s addressing his own) be "not self-expressive, or self-searching; they are self-found. Communication is of no importance, evocation of little significance..."

I suspect the vast majority of image posters here would agree with White that it's possible for a photographer to get conscious intentions across to the viewer, but would disagree with him that it's irrelevant.

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 12:18
EDIT: Austin, I'm curious: did you create these pairs or groupings of "Correspondence" images on purpose--having one image in mind while making another--or did you go back through and find them after the fact?

No, I only find (or make?) the patterns after the fact. Sometimes I wonder how much of it is in the world and how much is in my mind. I'm really beginning to think that the world IS my mind. Whoa... :-) Seriously though, sometimes the "correspondences" are so uncanny that it almost freaks me out. The pictures of the dead coyote and the homeless man sleeping come to mind. But no, when I saw the coyote, the homeless man never came to mind (unless it was subconsciously). It was only later that I saw they were laying in the very same way, and that together, the pictures would become about estrangement (from nature, from society, etc). I do love how pictures can be made to play off each other, and combine to make new meanings. See, after the homeless man come the bank doors and the mansion gates and now we're talking about wealth and poverty. EQUIVALENTS man, this stuff is exciting!

Joe O'Hara
20-Sep-2014, 15:00
There are so many strong images in this thread. Miguel's initial one, which is wonderful, sucked me in immediately.

Intuitively, I think that Minor White meant that the picture is, of necessity, of the subject, but if it is a good picture,
it is not solely about the subject. (Pictures that are solely about the subject are what I would call technical, journalistic, or commercial
photographs.) Learning to make photographs that are not solely about the subject, to me, is what this is
all about. It is a process that cannot be explained or taught, except, possibly, by example.

As so many of you have shown here.

blueribbontea
20-Sep-2014, 18:07
In making a photograph aren't there 2 stages of communication? First, something catches my eye, and more than my eye and then I make the exposure. Once I have the print in hand the first communication is with myself. What did I see initially and is it there in the print? Or is there something more in the print that I didn't see with my eyes, but perhaps with my mind? The second communication is with the viewer, the reader of the print. I have to allow room in their reading for their own presence as eyes and mind. Isn't even verbal conversation this way, with the necessity for allowing for the other to hear what he will hear, which may be even more than I have said? I might say "No, you misunderstood me" or "I didn't quite mean that", but what if that other actually caught a nuance that I wasn't aware of in my speaking? All communication has to allow for such things, so that I might find in the print I made more in the image than I really had known at the moment of exposure.

Bill a great topic

jnanian
20-Sep-2014, 19:18
great threat!

blueribbontea
20-Sep-2014, 19:38
122097 122098 122096

Of these, the middle is the least personally evocative of anything beyond what it is. The first acquired, in printing it, something more than I had seen on the ground glass. The third, taken with a Graflex SLR 4X5 was something I Saw on the groundglass and responded to very strongly. I am not so clear that the equivalence trend as defined my Minor resolves for me the process.


Bill

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 19:47
https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3713/13470446734_03ba7dde1f_c.jpg

While I was out grocery shopping this afternoon, I was thinking about this thread and decided that I wanted to share this door. I think it might better illustrate what I meant earlier by "empty" images making good equivalents. Obviously, this is a pretty simple door, with few attributes that give it the character of a specific door. So, with nothing to hang your hat on so to speak, the door becomes Door (with a capital 'D'); it becomes the Platonic ideal of a door; it is EVERY door, ANY door. And with that abstraction, it's a pretty short hop to it becoming becoming a symbol of birth or death or passage or whatever your mind wants to make it. So maybe equivalence is a sort of photographic slight of hand-it's the viewer that's doing the heavy lifting! I was also thinking about ambient music, say something like Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," wherein the music is devoid of qualities in a way that makes it feel like the soundtrack to the world, to the listener's own mind, and that's where it gets it's power.

I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store... :)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/

blueribbontea
20-Sep-2014, 19:50
One more. This is metaphorical, to be sure. Or maybe the most like a Rorschach inkblot.122099

paulr
20-Sep-2014, 21:27
Yes, that's just it really, metaphors. Things being other things. Which is what every photograph in the world is, since everyone is going to bring whatever they bring (that is to say, their mind) to their looking at it. The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be. So far the answer seems to be... occasionally. At least I think so. I mean, has the gap actually been bridged, or is that just my thinking that it has? Are we forever stuck on our little islands? And on and on it goes. :-)

Austin, I was being a bit cheeky by listing so many terms. My point was that the can of worms implied by this thread is a big one. I did not mean to suggest that you have to be a theorist or a historian to have a conversation about Minor White!

I think the basic ideas, like metaphor, and connotation vs. denotation, and the basic conversations about where meaning resides, are approachable by anyone who's curious. In a lot of cases this is just about finding a label to hang on a familiar idea. Maybe in some cases it will lead you to think about something in a new way.

I do think it's helpful to be aware that there's a lot more than just the basic conversation. These are big ideas, even if they sometimes masquerade as simple ones. There are whole schools of thought at play here ... smart people who spent their lives thinking about this stuff, who disagree with each other, often profoundly. Remembering this can stop me from being too sure about something, or from cozying up too quickly to an easy answer.

Your question, "whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be" is a huge one. I think you'd be surprised how many pieces that question could be broken into, and how many arguments there would be on all sides of every part of it.

My inclination is to agree with you: occasionally. I think those occasions have a lot to do with the context surrounding the work, and with the cultural contexts you share with the viewers. One of the simplest ways to control the context of the work is through edits and sequences. They help narrow down the possible interpretations of the work. Any one picture of mine might be about practically anything. But by putting it in a carefully chosen group, I can direct the audience. I'm not interested in being so authoritarian as to determine a single interpretation, or to deliver a single feeling. But I'd like to point my viewers in a general direction ... get them looking at the kinds of aspects I'm interested in.

Randy Moe
20-Sep-2014, 22:17
I checked my keyboart


great threat!

austin granger
20-Sep-2014, 22:46
I knew you were being cheeky Paul. I was actually just agreeing with you, in that I don't think a person has to follow all of Minor White's musings (I know I don't) to understand the basic idea of equivalence, as it really does boil down to the question of whether a photograph can serve as a metaphor. Of course it can! But yeah, after that it's a can or worms.

I think your point on context is a good one. Sometimes I'll share a photo with a group of people (on facebook say) and get a reaction that is so far from what I was expecting that it almost brings me to despair over ever being able to communicate anything. I mean, I can post a picture that I'm sure is the heaviest, deepest thing ever, a picture I'm sure is just going to bust their brains out (metaphorically speaking) and break their hearts simultaneously... and what I'll get back instead is some silly joke or a "cool pic man." Agrhh! Of course my first response is to think; "What the hell is wrong with you people?" but then I realize that for them, this image might just as well have dropped out of the sky; they might not really know me, or know what I've been thinking about, or know my past pictures, or how this picture fits into the larger scheme of my other pictures, or have no knowledge of ideas I might be referencing, and so on. Context. Also, there is the simple fact that people are just plain different, and respond to different things. It actually heartens me to think of this, to think of how there are people who love Beethoven and people who shrug at Beethoven, people who get chills listening to Hank Williams and people who think he sounds like a hillbilly, people who weep at a Rothko and people who think it's just a silly picture of nothing. Anyway, you well know all of this. But I guess I'm coming to peace in accepting that there are people who will get me and people who won't and that's okay. Maybe those "wrong" responses to our work is the universe's way of keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously. Ha!

jcoldslabs
21-Sep-2014, 00:07
Sometimes I'll share a photo with a group of people (on Facebook say) and get a reaction that is so far from what I was expecting that it almost brings me to despair over ever being able to communicate anything.

I'm not on Facebook, but I have heard similar complaints from other photographers who post their work there. The lack of context is a problem, as is managing expectations. When people walk into a museum they expect to see art and often react to what they see accordingly, whereas people don't expect to see art on Facebook and also react accordingly.

This begs the question: which is the more unbiased reaction? Does viewing a photograph in a museum or gallery predispose us to confer upon it some meaning or significance we would otherwise eschew if we viewed the same photo on Instagram?

Jonathan

David Hedley
21-Sep-2014, 06:13
Yes, that's just it really, metaphors. Things being other things. Which is what every photograph in the world is, since everyone is going to bring whatever they bring (that is to say, their mind) to their looking at it. The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be. So far the answer seems to be... occasionally. At least I think so. I mean, has the gap actually been bridged, or is that just my thinking that it has? Are we forever stuck on our little islands? And on and on it goes. :-)

It's more than being about metaphor, surely? I'd see metonymy as equally applicable; perhaps it's about how these work in their different ways, to transform, beyond what is simply representational. Personally, I see many forms of art - particularly literature, painting and music - as more intrinsically transformative than photography. I've generally found sequences of photographs to be more interesting than individual photographs, although there are always exceptions!

jp
21-Sep-2014, 07:34
This begs the question: which is the more unbiased reaction? Does viewing a photograph in a museum or gallery predispose us to confer upon it some meaning or significance we would otherwise eschew if we viewed the same photo on Instagram?

Jonathan

I don't use instagram, but do some facebook. The meaning or significance on facebook (and other like systems) is normally casual, often shallow, everyday existence stuff, not the place for meaning or significance except for documentary styles. People aren't looking for meaning, but might recognize you make "different" everyday photos or see the world differently without any effort on their part to understand why. It's a waste of time to put something metaphorical or equivalent on facebook. Wrong audience/social network. On facebook, Minor is someone too young to drink, White is a state of tanliness, metaphor is something they quickly forgot in 8th grade English, and gum print is a bite mark. And most of what you post will be viewed on a smart phone with a tiny grungy peanut butter smeared screen.

Museums however, a viewer must make an effort to get there and pay some admission. The viewer might appreciate something they have so they are compelled to get there. Galleries are much the same, but perhaps more actively enticing rather than collecting admission. Once a viewer is inside, of course they are influenced/biased as to the meaning/significance. Unless you study more than the people that put it together, you will have to rely on the curator/juror/gallery owner's judgement to some extent.

h2oman
21-Sep-2014, 08:03
I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store... :)




"Now what else was on that list that I left at home?"

Greg Miller
21-Sep-2014, 08:23
https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3713/13470446734_03ba7dde1f_c.jpg

While I was out grocery shopping this afternoon, I was thinking about this thread and decided that I wanted to share this door. I think it might better illustrate what I meant earlier by "empty" images making good equivalents. Obviously, this is a pretty simple door, with few attributes that give it the character of a specific door. So, with nothing to hang your hat on so to speak, the door becomes Door (with a capital 'D'); it becomes the Platonic ideal of a door; it is EVERY door, ANY door. And with that abstraction, it's a pretty short hop to it becoming becoming a symbol of birth or death or passage or whatever your mind wants to make it. So maybe equivalence is a sort of photographic slight of hand-it's the viewer that's doing the heavy lifting! I was also thinking about ambient music, say something like Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," wherein the music is devoid of qualities in a way that makes it feel like the soundtrack to the world, to the listener's own mind, and that's where it gets it's power.

I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store... :)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/

I will begin by stating equivalence is not something I feel educated about. So my comments and questions come from that place and are not intended to be critical in any way. I'm simply trying to become better educated.

When I see a photo, such as this door, I see a photo of a door that is interesting in its composition. I can see how the mind could wander and find other meanings for the door. You have done that, and I can see how you would come up with that after your explanation. But I would never come up with those meanings on my own.

So that leaves me wonder how we can define excellence in this genre. There must me millions, possibly billions, of photos of doors, not too different from this photo of a door. How do we decide which photos are brilliant/genius, which photos are mediocre, and which are simply snapshots? It is possible someone could have jmade a similar photo as a snapshot. What differentiates the snapshot photo from this photo? Again, I am not being critical in any way. I just don;t get it myself.

I will put one of my photos up for examination. I think it is a mildly interesting photo, but I think it is likely a snapshot at best. I could probably come up with many equivalencies for this, but I certainly wasn't thinking about them when I made the photo, and don't think those equivalencies have any value since there were not part of my though process when making the photo. How would anyone have any grounds for saying this photo is a masterpiece, or this photo is pure rubbish?

122124

ndg
21-Sep-2014, 09:15
What an interesting thread! I have been on this forum for a few years now and this is the first time I have subscribed to a thread. Miquel, thanks for starting this. Now my humble contribution.
I captured this image a while back. I was dealing with issues of death, dying alone and the dignity in death at that time. On a drive one day, I saw this tree and it sort of epitomized what I was pondering on.
http://nanadadzie.com/darkroom/pix/DeadTree.jpg
What I have come to realize is that, sometimes the significance of the image hits you after the capture. Other times, as with this image, it was before. Also, not everyone gets it. And that is OK too. However, it is great if one finds an audience that perceives that ones images aim to relay a meaning.
With that though, I have a question. How different is the concept of equivalents different from what the early Pictorialists tried to achieve?

David Lobato
21-Sep-2014, 11:10
This thread is thought provoking. One benefit for me is a realization, to put something different on the ground glass. To see past the surface. I need a break from old habits, too often more like ruts.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55432652/Canyonlands%20NP%20001%20500LFF.jpg

jnanian
21-Sep-2014, 14:13
nice threads! ;)

blueribbontea
21-Sep-2014, 15:37
Minor White, in his article goes back to Steiglitz as the originator of the "trend." I've always been suspicious of Stieglitz' concept of equivalence, reading it as probably just another one of his legendary pretensions. Edward Weston strongly protested that his vegetable photographs had no sexual metaphorical intention. I believe him, as far as HIS intention goes. But many others easily read sexual imagery into those photos. That doesn't make him dishonest. Nor does it make those readers wrong. It just shows that the nature of communication must allow for room for both the speaker and the hearer and that every communication will always be both more and less.
What bothers me most about the affirmation of Equivalence as a prime photographic approach is that it is really a literary, or verbal reading of a photographic, which is not a literary or verbal device. Photography is a GRAPHIC medium and the symbols used in its "language" are not the symbols of poetry and prose, nor speech. I went out today to shoot some metaphorical images, in response to this very interesting thread, but found my approach feeling shallower than my normal way of working. I think Minor was a sincere worker, and as someone who was interested in the mystical, I understand his fascination with equivalence. But the goal of mystics of every religious tradition was not finding metaphors or equivalents, which are themselves verbal, rational concepts, but the elimination of such concepts which were understood as hindrances and "noise", in order to attain to pure prayer, immortality, oneness, you name it differently depending on the tradition. What interests me, from this thread, is whether it is possible to use the graphic photo media to create windows to that Other.

jcoldslabs
21-Sep-2014, 16:12
Photography is a GRAPHIC medium and the symbols used in its "language" are not the symbols of poetry and prose, nor speech.

It is difficult to shepherd a viewer toward a specific meaning of an image without using text. If Austin had titled his door photograph, "Loneliness," or, "Isolation," or, "Portal," or even, "In or Out?" the viewer might have a better idea of the artist's intent, but I find such titles to be too prescriptive and narrow. I'd rather come to my own conclusions based solely on the image itself, even if these conclusions stray far from the maker's goal. "Pepper No. 30" is about as literal a title as one can give a photograph, and this title supports Weston's claim that he was not seeking to anthropomorphize the object regardless of what the rest of us see in it.

Conversely, Magritte not only titled his famous work The Treachery of Images (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images) but also added the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" to the painting itself, thereby leading the viewer unambiguously to the point he was trying to make in a way that would not have been possible using an untitled and unembellished painting of a pipe.

Jonathan

Jim Cole
21-Sep-2014, 16:42
https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3713/13470446734_03ba7dde1f_c.jpg

While I was out grocery shopping this afternoon, I was thinking about this thread and decided that I wanted to share this door. I think it might better illustrate what I meant earlier by "empty" images making good equivalents. Obviously, this is a pretty simple door, with few attributes that give it the character of a specific door. So, with nothing to hang your hat on so to speak, the door becomes Door (with a capital 'D'); it becomes the Platonic ideal of a door; it is EVERY door, ANY door. And with that abstraction, it's a pretty short hop to it becoming becoming a symbol of birth or death or passage or whatever your mind wants to make it. So maybe equivalence is a sort of photographic slight of hand-it's the viewer that's doing the heavy lifting! I was also thinking about ambient music, say something like Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," wherein the music is devoid of qualities in a way that makes it feel like the soundtrack to the world, to the listener's own mind, and that's where it gets it's power.

I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store... :)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/



So, does the following image invoke different metaphors than Austin's door or none at all. I know I had a specific intent when I made this photograph, but it's more fun to let other people make of it what they will.

https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2867/11736708565_b6e9944971_o.jpg

h2oman
21-Sep-2014, 17:23
This is the best thread around here in a long time...

...maybe ever?

David Lobato
21-Sep-2014, 19:33
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55432652/911%20Memorial%20DSC_4771%20800LFF.jpg

blueribbontea
21-Sep-2014, 19:41
It is difficult to shepherd a viewer toward a specific meaning of an image without using text. If Austin had titled his door photograph, "Loneliness," or, "Isolation," or, "Portal," or even, "In or Out?" the viewer might have a better idea of the artist's intent, but I find such titles to be too prescriptive and narrow. I'd rather come to my own conclusions based solely on the image itself, even if these conclusions stray far from the maker's goal. "Pepper No. 30" is about as literal a title as one can give a photograph, and this title supports Weston's claim that he was not seeking to anthropomorphize the object regardless of what the rest of us see in it.

Conversely, Magritte not only titled his famous work The Treachery of Images (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images) but also added the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" to the painting itself, thereby leading the viewer unambiguously to the point he was trying to make in a way that would not have been possible using an untitled and unembellished painting of a pipe.

Jonathan

My wife and I always tangle a bit when we exhibit because I do not want titles on my images, and it is pretty boring to have to put up a tag "untitled" on every image. But adding too much in a title reduces the image the way captions in Life magazine reduced some of the strongest images of the 20th century, by limiting what the viewer saw with words. Isn't this why Gene Smith had such a difficult time at Life?

DennisD
21-Sep-2014, 19:58
I've often times felt an image has a "what else it is" characteristic. Perhaps it's clear at the moment I'm composing or, in other cases, it might become clear only after the passage of time.

However, that "equivalent" may be something very personal that I would not expect another person to comprehend or relate to. For that reason, I don't suggest thoughts or interject personal feelings when presenting a photograph (unless necessary for some reason). Usually a straightforward title or identification is all I provide.

The viewer may never see what I see in my image, aside from the literal. However, I hope some images will evoke an emotional response such that the viewer relates to the image meaningfully or personally on whatever level possible - should he or she wish to delve deeper.


http://www.jackandbeans.com/pbd/NM_502_dunes-grasses.jpg

jcoldslabs
21-Sep-2014, 20:51
My wife and I always tangle a bit when we exhibit because I do not want titles on my images, and it is pretty boring to have to put up a tag "untitled" on every image. But adding too much in a title reduces the image the way captions in Life magazine reduced some of the strongest images of the 20th century, by limiting what the viewer saw with words.

I'm with you on this. I don't title my photos, but then again I've never exhibited any, either. I always imagine that if I did exhibit my work I would go with "Untitled" for each image. The average viewer might be frustrated by this, hoping for at least a descriptive label that identifies subject, place and/or time, but even those seemingly innocuous pieces of information can pigeonhole an image in a way I would like to avoid.



I hope some images will evoke an emotional response such that the viewer relates to the image meaningfully or personally on whatever level possible - should he or she wish to delve deeper.

I think this is the best one can hope for.

Jonathan

austin granger
22-Sep-2014, 10:18
I will begin by stating equivalence is not something I feel educated about. So my comments and questions come from that place and are not intended to be critical in any way. I'm simply trying to become better educated.

When I see a photo, such as this door, I see a photo of a door that is interesting in its composition. I can see how the mind could wander and find other meanings for the door. You have done that, and I can see how you would come up with that after your explanation. But I would never come up with those meanings on my own.

So that leaves me wonder how we can define excellence in this genre. There must me millions, possibly billions, of photos of doors, not too different from this photo of a door. How do we decide which photos are brilliant/genius, which photos are mediocre, and which are simply snapshots? It is possible someone could have jmade a similar photo as a snapshot. What differentiates the snapshot photo from this photo? Again, I am not being critical in any way. I just don;t get it myself.

I will put one of my photos up for examination. I think it is a mildly interesting photo, but I think it is likely a snapshot at best. I could probably come up with many equivalencies for this, but I certainly wasn't thinking about them when I made the photo, and don't think those equivalencies have any value since there were not part of my though process when making the photo. How would anyone have any grounds for saying this photo is a masterpiece, or this photo is pure rubbish?

122124


You bring up a lot of good questions Greg, and I can't claim to have the answers. I'm fumbling around like everybody. I do know though, that when I go around in the world, I find objects that make me feel things and think about things that are, on the surface, not related to the thing that I'm looking at. Is that in my mind? Sure it is. But what isn't? I mean to say, in a very real way, our world is made by our minds, right? The question I struggle with is whether I can telegraph an emotion or a thought to another person using a picture of an object. I'm not sure. Going back to the door, I'd say that there isn't really ANYTHING that distinguishes it from a billion other snapshots of doors, other than maybe the fact that's it's almost completely generic; it's "empty." Or put another way, it's done in a dead-pan style which (I hope) gets me (the photographer) out of the way. I don't want people to think about me, or about photography, or about door styles or anything like that. What I really want is for that door to become a mirror! I suppose ALL photographs are mirrors (because again, you're going to bring yourself to everything you look at) but what I'm after is a really highly polished mirror. In that way the viewer will feel like that door was meant for them, and we will have made a connection. At least, I hope that's what happens.

God, reading this over it strikes me that I'm getting more and more obtuse. But I'm trying here! Like I said, I struggle with these questions myself. You know, maybe we should all lock ourselves in our rooms with our objects and do a bunch of acid and then report back to this thread. I'm kidding! Well, sort of of. Let me tell you, there was this one time in college when I sat in a friend's living room, completely out of my head, staring at his Christmas tree for about six hours. I'm telling you, that little tree was the saddest, most terrible, most beautiful, most profound thing I had ever seen in my life... :)


https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7267/7576953946_7de0cecc5d_c.jpg

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3703/12594565694_6de7af7358_c.jpg

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3685/12503768985_aa5639d0b0_c.jpg

jnanian
22-Sep-2014, 11:02
there

austin granger
22-Sep-2014, 17:16
One more post and then I'll give it a rest, I promise. I was thinking today (uh-oh) of the techniques I use to make pictures that I think of as equivalents. Aside from being attracted to objects that have known symbolism (roads=passage, missing chairs=mental illness, black dogs=depression, light=revelation, telephone poles=Christianity, etc) it occurred to me that I also use certain compositional "tricks." One such trick is to compose a picture such that two separate things are made to appear as if they're related to each other, even though in "real" life, they may not, in fact, be connected (aside from in my mind). For example, I have a picture (medium format, sorry) of a telephone pole next to a severely pruned tree. I gave them equal weight in the composition, and in doing this, I'm telling the viewer that they're of equal importance, and further that they're related (because the picture is explicitly about these two things). So a picture of a pruned tree and a telephone pole becomes a picture about transformation (trees being made into wood for telephone poles), or material, or the environment, or, if you're of a religious bent, about the crucifixion (the hacked tree a sacrifice/the telephone pole a cross). I enjoy doing this sort of thing. It's almost as if with the camera, one can make 2+2=5! Another example I thought of was how distance from the subject can impart a feeling. Imagine you find a lone car in a parking lot and you think; "Geez, what a lonely looking car" and you want to convey that feeling of loneliness to the viewer. What are your options? You could approach the car and fill the frame with it of course, but then you'd just have a picture of that specific car. But take ten steps back to show the context and now you have a picture of that car + a feeling of emptiness. Yes, it's a proven fact that ten steps back from the subject makes a photograph precisely 55% more lonely. Ha ha. But anyway, what happens if you go back a hundred steps? Well, now you're telling your viewer that the picture is not really about that specific car at all, but is instead about 'A' car in a whole sea of emptiness, just like... an individual in the universe. And with that, voila; it's still just a car in a parking lot, but now it is also something else ("what else it is"). Of course, there are people who will not get your message. Not to sound all hippy-dippy here, but there are people who are just not going to be on your frequency. Instead, they might be on the "Why didn't you fill the frame?" frequency, but in any case, I'm not sure much can be done about that. People are going to bring what they bring to the looking of any picture. Which, by the way, is why critique is completely useless. I mean, who knows better than you what your picture should look like? But that's another thread entirely... :)

Just a Rock
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5591/15046554076_031efcc248_z.jpg

Not a Creature
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5298/5477310120_e4fa547eab_z.jpg

Yes, I'm joking with the titles. But isn't the human mind amazing, how it is so intent on turning things into other things!

jcoldslabs
22-Sep-2014, 17:28
This thread is teaching me that I am a putz who takes photographs at face value.

As for the human mind being "intent on turning things into other things," see: pareidolia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia), or, more broadly, apophenia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia).

Jonathan

Joe O'Hara
22-Sep-2014, 17:56
So, does the following image invoke different metaphors than Austin's door or none at all. I know I had a specific intent when I made this photograph, but it's more fun to let other people make of it what they will.

https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2867/11736708565_b6e9944971_o.jpg

Initially I see a contemporary interior, a study in light and tone.

Then I see what looks like the bottom of a trap door in the ceiling.

It is a strange picture, and I can't guess what you were thinking, but there is a suggestion of
some something else going on, aside from just an upstairs hallway. Vaguely unsettling.

Joe O'Hara
22-Sep-2014, 17:58
there

Yes. There.

Bill Burk
22-Sep-2014, 18:01
I was just looking (online, don't have a print) at Minor White's print "Dumb Face".

Now I know it's a frosty pane of glass, and I know he could have called it "Untitled".

But the name helps that one.

austin granger
22-Sep-2014, 19:05
This thread is teaching me that I am a putz who takes photographs at face value. Jonathan

"Before you study Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; while you are studying Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers; but once you have had enlightenment mountains are once again mountains and rivers again rivers." -Zen saying

I think this means you are an advanced being Jonathan! :-)

jcoldslabs
22-Sep-2014, 19:19
My comment was meant half in jest, but there is some truth in it as well. I think spending my undergraduate years as an English major backfired. After all that time picking apart and deconstructing literature--and especially writing papers where I was forced to find themes and meaning and metaphors where quite often I did not see any--that part of my brain shut down. So in some ways your Zen saying is quite accurate: before going to college I read books and enjoyed them, during college I read books and hated them, and after college I returned to reading books for pleasure.

I've got a joke for you. When is a door not a door?
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When Austin takes a picture of it! :)

J.

austin granger
22-Sep-2014, 19:52
Everything is a door grasshopper.

Heroique
22-Sep-2014, 20:26
I positioned my tripod so those two branches would reach out to each other and almost ... almost ... touch.

Does the same Beatles song come to everyone's mind? The same Michelangelo image?

If yes, we might have a mass equivalence at hand! If no, well, at least I have an equivalence of my own. :)

122200

Tachi 4x5
Schnieder XL 110mm/5.6
Ilford FP4+ (in HC-110)
Epson 4990/Epson Scan

Merg Ross
22-Sep-2014, 21:22
People are going to bring what they bring to the looking of any picture.

Jac@stafford.net
23-Sep-2014, 06:04
I've got a joke for you. When is a door not a door?

When it's ajar.
.

Peter Lewin
23-Sep-2014, 07:39
I'm having difficulty articulating something that bothers me about this discussion. It seems to me that there is a difference between symbolism and equivalence. In his article Minor White uses words like "ambiguity" and "Rorschach Test." The examples he quotes include clouds, ice crystals, and the light on cellophane. These imply photographs of the type we would post in the "Abstracts" thread. There is a difference between these images, and those I would describe as "symbolic." The photographs of doors are symbolic, because culturally we are brought up with concepts like "what is behind door #3?" and so on. So the image of a door automatically does give rise to thoughts which are more than simply about the door itself, but at the same time those thoughts are anchored to specific images, so I don't put them in the same category as the much more random thoughts arising from a more abstract image. Austin Granger provides several images in this thread that I would use as examples. His very first image (the circular "something" in his first group of 3) seems to me to meet Minor White's concept of an equivalence. The white door posted later would to me be "merely" symbolic. The "birds on a wire" image, which immediately follows his first "round object" falls somewhere in-between. I think my question ultimately becomes "does an "equivalence" have to be abstract, or can an image containing readily identifying objects be an "equivalent" as opposed to being a "symbol?" Or alternatively, "is there a difference between a metaphor and an equivalent?"

jcoldslabs
23-Sep-2014, 08:31
Good questions, Peter. A large part of my own inability to see subjects as "other than they are" comes from the fact that photography is a representational medium. Whether shot with a murky Petzval or the best contemporary lens, a photograph of a door is clearly a door, or a tree a tree, or a road a road, whereas abstract images--those whose representational aspects have been subverted or shrouded in mystery--lend themselves more to interpretation.

Even though Weston's Pepper No. 30 is clearly a pepper, the folds and curves and organic shapes are suggestive (to me) of human curves. I doubt I would have the same reaction if the photo were of that exact pepper sitting out on a kitchen counter. One could say that decontextualizing a subject (of which abstraction is a subset) helps in opening it up to interpretation. I find Austin's image of crumpled paper on a black background far more "equivalent" than his photo of the rock on the ground, for example.

Jonathan

Peter Lewin
23-Sep-2014, 09:44
Jonathan: For me, your example hits it on the head perfectly! Weston clearly intended for the viewer of Pepper #30 to see the similarity to a woman's curves. But, at the same time, the ability of an image to make the viewer think of something else (in this case, human curves) does not in itself make the image an "equivalence." Weston's picture is exactly what it is, namely a picture of a pepper meant to make us notice the similarity in shape to a person. The sculptors Henry Moore and Jean Arp, to name two, do essentially the same thing in their sculptures, using solid abstract shapes to suggest soft human curves. (Given Weston's love of women in general, I am having trouble trying to strip the gender out of my comments!) Steiglitz's clouds, the original "equivalences," on the other hand, must be something other than simply images of clouds, otherwise they would simply be boring. I keep circling back to that question of whether only an abstraction can truly be an equivalence.

blueribbontea
23-Sep-2014, 10:59
Jonathan: For me, your example hits it on the head perfectly! Weston clearly intended for the viewer of Pepper #30 to see the similarity to a woman's curves. But, at the same time, the ability of an image to make the viewer think of something else (in this case, human curves) does not in itself make the image an "equivalence." Weston's picture is exactly what it is, namely a picture of a pepper meant to make us notice the similarity in shape to a person. The sculptors Henry Moore and Jean Arp, to name two, do essentially the same thing in their sculptures, using solid abstract shapes to suggest soft human curves. (Given Weston's love of women in general, I am having trouble trying to strip the gender out of my comments!) Steiglitz's clouds, the original "equivalences," on the other hand, must be something other than simply images of clouds, otherwise they would simply be boring. I keep circling back to that question of whether only an abstraction can truly be an equivalence.



That patterns are repeated in Nature is well known; so Thoreau in WALDEN, talks about the patterns made by water runoff on some new railroad berm near the pond and suggested that such things are repeated in many ways in the natural world. Weston strongly denied intending anthropomorphic allusions in his vegetables. He liked vegetables perhaps as much as he like women. But his intention to portray a thing in itself and to do it as well as he could would then easily evoke allusions to other things in Nature, because Nature is like that. This seems to me to every different than Stieglitz attempt to portray emotions and feelings in his equivalents. That school of portraying "my emotions or feelings at the time" is a far cry from the photographers who emphasized the way lenses and film approached reality. Think of the difference between Walker Evans and his rather clinical portrayal of the Depression South and Minor White, as well as Stieglitz. Maybe there is a kind of equivalent which is in the mind of the photographer, and an equivalent that only occurs in the eye/mind of the reader of the photograph.

jp
23-Sep-2014, 11:55
I'm having difficulty articulating something that bothers me about this discussion. It seems to me that there is a difference between symbolism and equivalence.

Indeed. Tough to articulate, but it doesn't bother me. I think that difference is part of what separates different photographers who like the equivalence idea.

Stieglitz has done every sort. Pictorialist things with heavy symbolism, later cloud equivalents effectively without symbolism. The early pictorial stuff which relied mostly on symbolism + composition predate equivalence. But the cat is out of the bag and equivalence is here to stay and be changed and used and re-used. I think of the cloud equivalents as expressing some emotion without symbols. Mona lisa expresses emotion without symbolism for example (at least visible symbolism, or in comparison to other art of the era), but it's not abstract. Much art of old used symbolism as part of it's story telling ability or consumer's poor reading skills.

austin granger
23-Sep-2014, 13:24
Peter, I think you've brought up an interesting point. I wish Minor White were here to converse with us. Maybe he could set us straight. :-) I think it's probably true that my own definition of equivalents is a bit different than what he had in mind, but is not unrelated. Basically, I think of equivalents as being pictures that are ostensibly about the thing presented, but which also clearly have other things going on, such as a feelings or ideas. They're pictures that have something going on beneath the surface. I think that abstract subjects most readily lend themselves to this sort of thing, because it's natural for us to structure the unfamiliar, or give meaning to things that don't contain it, but I also think that representative subjects can be consciously used this way as well, provided (as I was saying earlier) that they are generic or universal (so that's it's clear to the viewer that the picture is more than about that specific thing). But really, at bottom, aren't ALL pictures equivalents? Aren't they all just pictures of your head?

Which brings me to Jonathan's remark about photography being a representative medium. I know I'll come off like a contrarian here (and I am that, a little), but is it really? I mean, in the end it's just some shapes made of chemicals on a two dimensional piece of paper (or a screen), and that's not even to mention how images are mediated by the photographer's brain. So... if they're representative, what are they representative OF? It seems to me that a picture of a hamburger has, at bottom, about as much to do with a hamburger as a porcupine has to do with a bulldozer. They're both abstractions. The subjects are practically incidental! Yes, I'm trying to be funny, but my point is that I really do believe that my pictures are often more about my thoughts and feelings than about the thing itself. Or, put backwards, what things are seems to be a collection of my thoughts and feelings. Underneath... there's nothing.

Wait, huh? Okay, I give up. I've tied myself in knots. I'm going to go out photographing now. It's really one of the few times where I stop thinking and am wholly present, and that makes me happy. :-)

Signs, Astoria
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5294/5479562320_e734032935_z.jpg

Fireplace, Battery Russell, Oregon Coast
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5058/5480423188_3b2a76aa44_z.jpg

https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/

swmcl
23-Sep-2014, 13:24
Austin's previous set is missing the scissors.

swmcl
23-Sep-2014, 13:32
Isn't the idea of equivalence the conjuring up of a memory for someone from something less abstract ? It may need to be a quite compositionally simple photo but not a hard-core abstract as such. Indeed a real abstract where you have little chance of guessing what the object actually is sort of defeats the purpose in a way. At least that is how I understand it. It is the ability of a photograph to take the viewer to another place and time after they have acknowledged / accepted / understood the bare content of the photograph itself.

To have equiv-alence it needs to remind someone of something equivalent and you can't get an equivalence when you don't know what the subject of the original photo was ! If a photograph of a set of stairs starts to remind me of a tulip garden in Europe I think it might be time to lie down.

Peter Lewin
23-Sep-2014, 13:49
Fireplace, Battery Russell, Oregon Coast
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5058/5480423188_3b2a76aa44_z.jpg

https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/

The he** with all this philosophy! Fireplace is one gorgeous photograph! And I actually think that (seriously) it also qualifies as what Minor White would classify as an equivalence. A winner all around.

ndg
23-Sep-2014, 14:15
I think ever since the dawn of photography, there have been those who see the craft as being more than just a tool to document the real. The Pictorialists may be the patrons of this movement. The attempt to see more in a photograph that what is plainly evident will always persist. "Equivalents", I believe, is just another form of this phenomenon. So is symbolism. Or the photograph as a metaphor. Naturally, there are those who staunchly believe that a photograph has no place in emoting ones thoughts, feelings, psyche or try to be more that what it's supposed to be. I think the craft will stay strong and grow if both camps can coexist without one group trying to subvert the others work or trying to debunk the beliefs of the other.

Maris Rusis
23-Sep-2014, 14:30
Photographic Equivalence = Elaborate Rorschach Ink Blot Test?

austin granger
23-Sep-2014, 14:43
I think Maris and ndg's posts wrap things up nicely. Take my fireplace photo above (thanks for the compliment Peter). A bricklayer will see bricks, a historian will see history, and a poet will see extinguishment. The WORLD is a bloody Rorschach Test-the whole damn thing!

Right, I'm supposed to be photographing. I'm out the door for real this time.

paulr
23-Sep-2014, 15:14
But I guess I'm coming to peace in accepting that there are people who will get me and people who won't and that's okay. Maybe those "wrong" responses to our work is the universe's way of keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously. Ha!

One of the challenges is figuring out at what point to let nature take its course ... when to say that you've turned it into as complete a statement as it ought to be, and now the world can take it or leave it. I think this is difficult in any medium, because you are going to be fluent in the world of intentions that produced the image, and you have little way of knowing how fluent your viewers will be. It can seem like a fine line between being insultingly obvious and annoyingly obscure.

An editor can be of great help with this. Someone with a good eye for your work and good sense of sequencing and grouping. But the most important thing is that they be someone else. I've learned a lot about my own work by handing it over to a trusted friend and letting that person work some magic.

paulr
23-Sep-2014, 15:44
I'm having difficulty articulating something that bothers me about this discussion. It seems to me that there is a difference between symbolism and equivalence. In his article Minor White uses words like "ambiguity" and "Rorschach Test." The examples he quotes include clouds, ice crystals, and the light on cellophane. These imply photographs of the type we would post in the "Abstracts" thread. There is a difference between these images, and those I would describe as "symbolic." The photographs of doors are symbolic, because culturally we are brought up with concepts like "what is behind door #3?" and so on. So the image of a door automatically does give rise to thoughts which are more than simply about the door itself, but at the same time those thoughts are anchored to specific images, so I don't put them in the same category as the much more random thoughts arising from a more abstract image. Austin Granger provides several images in this thread that I would use as examples. His very first image (the circular "something" in his first group of 3) seems to me to meet Minor White's concept of an equivalence. The white door posted later would to me be "merely" symbolic. The "birds on a wire" image, which immediately follows his first "round object" falls somewhere in-between. I think my question ultimately becomes "does an "equivalence" have to be abstract, or can an image containing readily identifying objects be an "equivalent" as opposed to being a "symbol?" Or alternatively, "is there a difference between a metaphor and an equivalent?"

I'll admit that I project a lot of my own ideas about metaphor onto Minor White's terminology. If he were here there's a good chance he'd correct me on some points. He was a student of George Gurdjieff's teachings, which have alternately been called "esoteric Christianity," "The 4th Way" and "Theosophy." Most of what I know about Gurdjieff comes from Minor's own writings about him. I gather he was what philosophers might call a transcendentalist in the Platonic tradition, which would mean, basically, he believes in some kind of deeper truth beyond this superficial life we all skitter around on. Minor believed he could find truth in metaphors, but instead of looking for various truths, as I might think think of it, he believed in THE truth. And that truth didn't reside in the physical surfaces that photograph can capture anymore than the outside world resides in a windowpane. Weston's early ideas about "quintescences" are similar. Universal forms revealed everywhere. The universe in a grain of sand. Etc..

The difference between a symbol and a metaphor is an interesting question in visual arts. In language, it's simple, because we can point to a metaphor as a rhetorical technique. But I think the differences are more subtle with pictures. I think of a symbol as more static, and as being more rooted in a tradition or even in a culture at large. The most obvious ones are iconic: a crucifix, a national flag. Some slightly less obvious ones might be a gravestone or (as you mentioned) a door. Metaphors are more fluid, and can be defined by the specific context in which they occur. I also believe that metaphors in visual arts can be subtle, even working in ways we have trouble putting into language. I think sometimes of Stieglitz's pictures of poplar trees at Lake George ... those have a very powerful, sometimes uncomfortable effect on me. But I can't explain why. I don't have a complicated past with poplar trees! Something's going on there that I don't know how to talk about.

I think metaphor or symbol or "equivalence" has to come from an abstract image. Just like in language ... we can understand things on many levels at once, including a literal level. This is where White's use of "ambiguity" comes in. Ambiguity suggests that multiple possible interpretations. In a good ambiguity, the resulting meanings reinforce each other, or work against each other in compelling ways. Or in ways that defy our understanding (poplar trees, etc.)

I talked about this a bit in an interview (http://photographyinterviews.blogspot.com/2012/06/paul-raphaelson-urban-disjunction.html) a couple of years ago. (Dean Brierly asked if I considered my work spiritual):


If spiritual includes anything that’s not of the material world, then I suppose it could include metaphor. That’s a subject I think about a lot in relation to this work. And it’s one area where the discourse might be richer in the visual arts than the literary ones; writers can fixate on the technicalities of figures of speech (is it a metaphor or a metonym?), but I’m interested in the concept broadly. I like that it comes from the Greek metapherein, which simply means transference. Like when Minor White said that a photograph is about what the subject is, and also what else it is: He’s not concerning himself with syntax or mechanics. And he’s describing something richer than the simple binary relationships of symbolism. I actually wish he’d said, “what it is, and what else it is, and what else it is, and what else it is …” Some of those “what elses” rumble too far below the surface to talk about. But they’re powerful. I think that’s central to the beauty of great art — the mysteriousness of its hold on you.

DennisD
23-Sep-2014, 18:42
Any photograph can be a metaphor *
Not every photograph can be an equivalent**
Any equivalent can be a metaphor

* Interpretation is in the eyes of the beholder.
** According to Stieglitz's definition and others, a photograph should be an abstraction, (i.e. not literally recognizable), to be considered an equivalent.

Heroique
23-Sep-2014, 19:01
Any photograph can be a metaphor *
Not every photograph can be an equivalent**
Any equivalent can be a metaphor

* Interpretation is in the eyes of the beholder.
** According to Stieglitz's definition and others, a photograph should be an abstraction, (i.e. not literally recognizable), to be considered an equivalent.

I’m curious if you're certain?

If you're right, then Minor White may deeply misunderstand Stieglitz, and as a consequence, he could very well be misleading the rest of us.

"Equivalence is a function, an experience, not a thing," White says in the link from post #1. "Any photograph, regardless of source, might function as an Equivalent to someone, sometime, someplace. If the individual viewer realizes that for him what he sees in a picture corresponds to something within himself—that is, the photograph mirrors something in himself—then his experience is some degree of Equivalence."

paulr
24-Sep-2014, 06:23
If you're right, then Minor White may deeply misunderstand Stieglitz, and as a consequence, he could very well be misleading the rest of us.

Did Minor ever say he was advocating for Stieglitz's definitions? He may have been proposing his own.

Either way, Stieglitz was an incredibly unreliable witness, even to his own ideas and experiences. His explanation of his own "equivalents" series changed radically over the years. You can find examples of several completely different and irreconcilable ideas. The only thing that stays consistent is his confidence and resoluteness.

Miguel Coquis
24-Sep-2014, 08:16
Seeing remains the central point on this "essay",
the question could be attached to what one is "deeply" and "constantly" interested on,
to what one remains open or not,
checking oneself limitations, borders, preferences and habits (always talking only about "seeing"...),
...which hemisphere is prevalent at the decisive moment ?
Somehow, "equivalence" relates me to awareness on the creative visual process, no matter how far I could be from reality of seeing...

Struan Gray
24-Sep-2014, 08:24
I think that looking for neat universal definitions is always going to cause hiccups. I prefer to think in terms of themes or guiding ideas, which are present in various pure and alloyed forms, or only as a trace element. An equivalent can be pure metaphor (Minor White's own universe in an apple is an excellent example), or it can be a pure abstract which relies on our own tendency to grope for meaning and recognition (Charlie Brown cloud spotting), or it can be fairly heavy-handed symbolism (Meatyard, for example), or, of course, a mix of all three.

Even 'the thing itself' spirals off into the divide between 'an apple' and 'an apple', (which I think the philosophers call quiddity vs. haecceity), whether the thing is the epitome of its type, or a unique individual within that type. I don't think its surprising that more abstract forms of representation are even more fluid and difficult to pin down.

Some of my pure pattern photos could be seen as equivalents, but I don't think of them that way myself. I see the order too clearly, even in aleatoric patterns, so see no need to find other 'reasons' within the groups of shapes or lines. Most of my successes have been with small formats, as that degree of experimentation with LF colour runs contrary to domestic economy.

DennisD
24-Sep-2014, 08:40
I’m curious if you're certain?

If you're right, then Minor White may deeply misunderstand Stieglitz, and as a consequence, he could very well be misleading the rest of us.

"Equivalence is a function, an experience, not a thing," White says in the link from post #1. "Any photograph, regardless of source, might function as an Equivalent to someone, sometime, someplace. If the individual viewer realizes that for him what he sees in a picture corresponds to something within himself—that is, the photograph mirrors something in himself—then his experience is some degree of Equivalence."

I'm not certain about anything ! However, my point of reference is to Stieglitz, as the father of the "equivalent" concept, not necessarily Minor White. From reading about Stieglitz, it seems clear that for an "equivalent", the subject matter was irrelevant and that non recognizable form or content was most important, i.e. abstraction.

There is divergence between the two and, as Paulr suggests, White may have been promoting his own ideas and definitions.

White often used very recognizable imagery to pose the question of "what else it is". His equivalence concept is no less valid, though it may differ from the Stieglitz POV.

paulr
24-Sep-2014, 08:47
Some of my pure pattern photos could be seen as equivalents, but I don't think of them that way myself

You could open an equally squirmy can of worms by declaring your work equivalent to nothing. As Hemingway allegedly once did.

Struan Gray
24-Sep-2014, 08:55
I don't mind other people seeing things in my abstracts. I rather enjoy it. But it's not my motivation for making or showing them.

Too much apophenia leads to the collecting of flower fairies.

Jim Cole
24-Sep-2014, 09:14
I offer two more to this interesting thread. Both are abstracts, and offer either equivalence or metaphor to me which after this great discussion here, may be the same or different.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7289/8744518181_7001a4904d_o.jpg



https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3566/3339718262_70dd23937f_o.jpg

jp
24-Sep-2014, 09:20
I think that looking for neat universal definitions is always going to cause hiccups. I prefer to think in terms of themes or guiding ideas, which are present in various pure and alloyed forms, or only as a trace element. An equivalent can be pure metaphor (Minor White's own universe in an apple is an excellent example), or it can be a pure abstract which relies on our own tendency to grope for meaning and recognition (Charlie Brown cloud spotting), or it can be fairly heavy-handed symbolism (Meatyard, for example), or, of course, a mix of all three.

Even 'the thing itself' spirals off into the divide between 'an apple' and 'an apple', (which I think the philosophers call quiddity vs. haecceity), whether the thing is the epitome of its type, or a unique individual within that type. I don't think its surprising that more abstract forms of representation are even more fluid and difficult to pin down.

Some of my pure pattern photos could be seen as equivalents, but I don't think of them that way myself. I see the order too clearly, even in aleatoric patterns, so see no need to find other 'reasons' within the groups of shapes or lines. Most of my successes have been with small formats, as that degree of experimentation with LF colour runs contrary to domestic economy.

I'd credit Paul Caponigro with the universe apple, but since he was a student of Minor White, it certainly supports the example.

Struan Gray
24-Sep-2014, 10:33
I'd credit Paul Caponigro with the universe apple

Oof. My bad.

paulr
24-Sep-2014, 11:05
Too much apophenia leads to the collecting of flower fairies.

I've been meaning to compliment you on all your recent flower fairy work!

Struan Gray
24-Sep-2014, 11:40
I've been meaning to compliment you on all your recent flower fairy work!

Bunnies too :-)

Darin Boville
24-Sep-2014, 17:13
An equivalent can be pure metaphor (Minor White's own universe in an apple is an excellent example), or it can be a pure abstract which relies on our own tendency to grope for meaning and recognition (Charlie Brown cloud spotting), or it can be fairly heavy-handed symbolism (Meatyard, for example), or, of course, a mix of all three.

From my way of thinking I don't think "metaphor" is quite the right word (or idea). When I think of "Equivalent" in the Stieglitz sense (and in my recent work which refers directly to his images, see my post on my Waves project and my Stieglitz Nebula Project) I think the idea is to have a "subjectless" image which at the same time is something, not just a jumble of shapes or colors or shadows. Caponigro's Apple is very far from this, I think, in that you wither see the Apple or you see an astro photograph, or you see a bit of both in a sort of stoner "there's a universe in every cell of my fingernail" sort of way. A viewer's reaction to the image is guided all the way by subject matter, the apple, the universe, the whatever. Subject matter is everything in this image.

Cloud spotting also doesn't quite make sense in this context for me. If the clouds are of the type where subject matter is being suggested (a ship, a giraffe) then we are right back to subject matter carrying the emotional weight of the image. As for Meatyard, I'm never quite sure what I'm looking at in his images, intriguing as they can be.

The trick, i think, is not to *not* have subject matter--that would almost deny the medium of photography itself--but to have subject matter that, in the end, that doesn't really matter in terms of carry the emotional weight because of that subject matter's nature ("subject matter that doesn't matter"). If the subject matter is such that you can only vaguely describe it yet the image has power then you are probably doing something interesting along this line.

--Darin

Struan Gray
25-Sep-2014, 00:33
I agree about the characteristics of a Stieglitzian equivalent, but I think this thread has shown how Stieglitz took a generalist term and appropriated it to a specific purpose. The three examples (metaphor, clouds, symbolism) I gave were of what I think of as reasonably distinct processes by which an individual viewer constructs their own equivalent out of the visual information before them. By using the term 'equivalent' a photographer invites this kind of interpretation - I would almost say 'demands'. Those three exemplify routes to finding the thing that the photograph is equivalent to rather than the type of photograph I thought Stieglitz was trying to make.

Aaron Siskind is my favourite photographer who made this kind of image. I wish there was more of his teaching available in print or online. I have read, for example, that he liked to include two objects in his photographs, so as to set up a dialogue or tension between them. This, while working in a movement which valued - proselytised - abstracts for their own sake. You can use didactic tools or modes of thinking even when not giving a lecture.

My impression is that most thinking photographers come up against the frustration of viewers wanting to know what the photograph is a photograph of. I agree that avoiding subject matter altogether is usually not a workable solution (if only because there are other, more expressive media for this), but every step away from pure lines and shapes adds thingyness back into the image. The trick, I think, is to balance just the right amount of object and abstract to intrigue and captivate the viewer. I suspect it is a trick which is impossible to pull off for all viewers at once.

One of mine (#fauxtographyalert): http://struangray.com/miscpics/faochag_pattern_IMG0059_1000.jpg

Miguel Coquis
25-Sep-2014, 00:43
en-trance...
the moment when something is offered to my perception,
something "moves" towards realization of a visual meaning,
I like doors,
I do not like them....
...primary levels on visual discourse ascension !

jp
25-Sep-2014, 06:34
http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/11025/equivalence/

JPC says
White's equivalence is an extension of Stieglitz,
Equivalence transcends metaphor,
Resonance is a consequence of equivalence.

(resonance is something JPC likes to talk about, and I consider him sort of a 4th generation of equivalence practitioner-descendant. Maybe he felt equivalence was an aged term and needed a new name? Maybe I'll ask him sometime)

paulr
25-Sep-2014, 06:45
My impression is that most thinking photographers come up against the frustration of viewers wanting to know what the photograph is a photograph of.

This brings back your example of the apple. People asking what it's "of" often don't grasp the scope of their question. There's the specific apple that the light bounced off of to make the image (the referent, in semiotic lingo). There's the universal idea, apple, which is what most people notice first, if the image leans toward representation and away from abstraction (this is the signified). Then there are the various connotative meanings of the image—the what elses. Here we can have an icon (the logo for Apple, inc.), a symbol (fruit of the tree of knowledge, etc.), or any number of metaphors established by the image or the body of work or some other cultural context.

The connotative stuff might fall under the heading of what's the picture about rather than of. But even in the pure realm of of—whether we're looking more at this apple or the universal apple, is a significant question. It's one I grappled with in a body of work that looked a lot like a documentary project. Although at the time, I was more interested in showing a kind of place, rather than a specific place. I had to come up with cues in my editing and presentation to point viewers away from a documentary interpretation.


I agree that avoiding subject matter altogether is usually not a workable solution (if only because there are other, more expressive media for this), but every step away from pure lines and shapes adds thingyness back into the image. The trick, I think, is to balance just the right amount of object and abstract to intrigue and captivate the viewer. I suspect it is a trick which is impossible to pull off for all viewers at once.

Agreed.

David Hedley
25-Sep-2014, 06:50
Interesting discussion, particularly on the relationship between semiotics and photography running through the thread. Two broad links seem to have emerged. The first is 'the word is not the thing' - ie, the word 'tree' is not a tree, and how this might play out in a photograph both being a representation of reality, and also offering a commentary beyond its subject (or non-subject). The second is 'the death of the author' - we can apply whatever meaning we like to our own images, and relate the tales of how they were created, but ultimately that's irrelevant to the image, as it has no bearing on how someone else may respond when they look at it.

Is there also the idea of animism? I think this is relevant to Weston's Peppers, and much of Minor White's work, and particularly how a photograph might illustrate an archetype that connects all of us (whether or not this was the intention when the photograph was made);
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5045/5311947715_632a0a2559_b.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/32131681@N00/5311947715/)

paulr
25-Sep-2014, 07:06
The "death of the author" is especially to grasp in photography. The photographer doesn't even have to be in the room.

Friedlander attributes much of photography's wonder to its resistance to authorship:

I only wanted Uncle Vernon standing by his own car (a Hudson) on a clear day. I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary’s laundry and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on the fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch and 78 trees and a million pebbles in the driveway and more. It’s a generous medium, photography.


Authorship was also hinted at in that great intellectual property conundrum with the monkey selfie (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110706/00200314983/monkey-business-can-monkey-license-its-copyrights-to-news-agency.shtml)

jcoldslabs
25-Sep-2014, 13:08
This brings back your example of the apple. People asking what it's "of" often don't grasp the scope of their question. There's the specific apple that the light bounced off of to make the image (the referent, in semiotic lingo). There's the universal idea, apple, which is what most people notice first, if the image leans toward representation and away from abstraction (this is the signified). Then there are the various connotative meanings of the image—the what elses. Here we can have an icon (the logo for Apple, inc.), a symbol (fruit of the tree of knowledge, etc.), or any number of metaphors established by the image or the body of work or some other cultural context.

The connotative stuff might fall under the heading of what's the picture about rather than of. But even in the pure realm of of—whether we're looking more at this apple or the universal apple, is a significant question. It's one I grappled with in a body of work that looked a lot like a documentary project. Although at the time, I was more interested in showing a kind of place, rather than a specific place. I had to come up with cues in my editing and presentation to point viewers away from a documentary interpretation.


"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

:)

Jonathan

Struan Gray
25-Sep-2014, 13:27
The connotative stuff might fall under the heading of what's the picture about rather than of. But even in the pure realm of of—whether we're looking more at this apple or the universal apple, is a significant question.

I think this is a perpetual tension in portraiture too, not just rocks, trees and apples.


David: I can't say I've ever had much time for animism per se, either as a motivation or as an interpretive tool. It's too open to proof by gnostic proclamation. But I do like photographs which subtly hint that there may be more going on in the world than meets the eye. I'm fond of the word 'fey' - fairies again - as it suggests a pre-romantic, conception of the landscape which avoids the usual sublime and picturesque catagorisations. To me, Fay Godwin was a master of this:

http://www.faygodwin.com/landmarks/im05/pages/l6(p58).html

Peter Lewin
25-Sep-2014, 13:35
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Jonathan
Jon: I recognize the smiley, but you are really hitting on a theme that runs through this thread, that absolutely nothing is simply "what it is." Given the cultural baggage that anything carries, your cigar triggers images of Churchill and his cigar (which could lead to Karsh and his portraits), or Cuban cigars, which leads to Castro, or cigars and whiskey, a common pairing, ad infinitum. Paul in his previous post made the same observation about the multiple references triggered by a simple apple. But the difficulty this raises for me is that now everything is an "equivalence" because nothing has only a singular meaning, but then if everything is an equivalence, the concept has become meaningless.

jcoldslabs
25-Sep-2014, 15:54
Peter,

I struggle with this because I react to images (of all kinds) in a very childlike and literal way. I prefer photographs that evoke an emotional response, one that is by definition pre-cognitive. Minor White would say that this emotional response is unique to me and is therefore "Equivalent," and that's fine. But it is rare that I can put into words what that emotion is. Sometimes awe, sometimes wonder, sometimes confusion, sometimes all three at once.

Let's take Austin's door photograph as an example. When I look at that image I see a black and white photograph of a door, painted white, in bright sunlight. I find the photograph pleasing because of its straightforward and balanced composition, but it evokes little emotion in me. I do not think of other doors I have seen; I do not ponder the notion of "doorness"; I do not wonder what is behind it; I do not take it as a symbol of anything. This points to a lack of imagination on my part, perhaps. But all of these erudite discussions about the subject or object being "more than it is" or "what else it is" seem rather academic. To quote Harry Nilsson: "You see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear."

While I was quoting the "cigar" line in jest, there is truth in it for me. I see an apple as an apple, a door as a door, a tree as a tree. What fascinates me most is not what these subjects suggest or what they mean, but how each photographer chooses to portray them. While Austin's door photograph alone may not resonate with me, his body of work taken as a whole provides a map of his unique way of seeing the world and insight into his method of portraying it, and that is what interests me more than anything.

Jonathan

Peter Lewin
25-Sep-2014, 16:54
Jonathan: We are actually talking, in our own ways, about the same thing. Like you, most of the time (I would say almost any time the image is not abstract) I look at an image and see "the thing itself." To use the images I posted most recently, of the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial in Liberty State Park, I was responding to both the visual architecture, the light, and the fact that the scene had resonance for me because of the events that both commemorate, the 9/11 attacks (I don't think I would take a picture of a random skyscraper). But I was taking pictures of a skyline, and anyone seeing the image probably said "oh, a nice image of the Freedom Tower." I don't think anyone saw an image about Islam, religious conflicts between the East and West, the Iraq War, or any of a myriad of themes I could, if forced to, overlay on the image, and certainly not what I was thinking about when I tripped the shutter. But someone so inclined could let the image send them off in that direction.

But this entire thread, about equivalences, implies that an image in which the viewer "sees a mirror of him or herself" or in some way sees more than just the image in front of them, is an equivalence. Hence my "complaint" that since any image carries, if one wants to pursue it, the possibility of multiple layers of interpretation, then every image is an equivalence, and as I said, if everything is an equivalence, the concept of equivalence becomes meaningless. For the philosophical concept of an equivalence to be meaningful, there have to be images which are not equivalences, and I essentially defy anyone to come up with an image which cannot be "forced" to work on multiple levels.

I have a vague memory about reading of a college seminar with Robert Frost, where the students dissected his poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night. After they had found multiple insights into the "true meaning," they asked Frost what he thought. He said it was just a poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night ("sometimes a cigar is just a cigar").

I have enjoyed this thread, because I enjoy being forced to think. But unfortunately I am ending at a point where I need someone to show me an image that does not in some way satisfy the definition of an equivalence!

paulr
25-Sep-2014, 18:20
Re: a cigar just being a cigar ...

The trouble isn't with the cigar as much as with the beholder. We humans are such active metaphor-makers. We just can't help ourselves. Contemporary linguistics and neuroscientists talk about metaphor in terms of the way the mind grapples with everything.

If you are an artist concerned with authorship, you might it find it every bit as hard to make a cigar just a cigar as to make an apple the book of mormon.

Re: animism ...

I try to keep my belief in this quiet, but know that someday after losing my keys and freaking out at them, I'll end up in the asylum.

jp
25-Sep-2014, 18:41
I have a vague memory about reading of a college seminar with Robert Frost, where the students dissected his poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night. After they had found multiple insights into the "true meaning," they asked Frost what he thought. He said it was just a poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night ("sometimes a cigar is just a cigar").


I had that discussion at some point with teachers too. I enjoyed the poem for what it was and not what else it might have been. I've spent plenty of time in the woods at night, and it's a wonderful experience sometimes and I'd understand why someone would write a poem about it. Other people who have not personally spent time in the woods at night in the winter would understandably jump to other conclusions.

I clashed with some English teachers in school because what I got out of some books was different than what they expected students to get out of it, so they assumed I was BS'ing book reports/discussion and hadn't read.

blueribbontea
25-Sep-2014, 18:47
Probably the most mature idea ever presented to picture-making photography was the concept of Equivalence which Alfred Stieglitz named early in the 1920's and practiced the rest of his life. The idea has been continued by a few others, notably at the Institute of Design in Chicago under Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, and at the former California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco under the efforts of the present author. As a consequence the theory is in practice now by an ever increasing number of devoted and serious photographers, both amateurs and professionals. The concept and discipline of Equivalence in practice is simply the backbone and core of photography as a medium of expression-creation.
Minor White

The above quote from early in White's article now seems, after so much discussion in this thread a little naïve. I knew there were some excellent photographers on this forum but now I know that there are many with a talent for thoughtful reflection and solid theoretical analysis. This feels almost as if I had participated in a symposium on photographic seeing, or some such thing. Equivalence now seems a lot less an approach to image making and more a take on how we see, whether we are the picture makers or the picture readers. Especially the latter contributions seemed to be getting more clear-headed, and that the cumulative sense of the discussion leads me, in any case, to conclude that the idea of Equivalents, as presented in White's essay is much ado about nothing, as long as that discussion lays the claim that a small number of practitioners only understand and can claim the honor.

One of the things that I have always loved about photography is that I could work very spontaneously, without a theoretical framework, but rather responding somehow physically to a view through the camera's eye. That's not the only way I could and do work but it is to me very liberating to let light and the world pull me to an image.

This thread in just a few days has been both very exciting and very satisfying to me. Well done all.

Bill

jcoldslabs
25-Sep-2014, 19:13
If you are an artist concerned with authorship, you might it find it every bit as hard to make a cigar just a cigar as to make an apple the book of mormon.

Paul, I'm not being dense on purpose, I swear, but this sentence is impenetrable to me.

First, I am not an artist, but I do take photos on occasion for fun. Am I "concerned with authorship"? Maybe I don't know what authorship means. I know which photos I have taken (authored) and which I have not. There is nothing to be concerned about as far as I can tell. Am I missing something?

Second, I would not find it "hard to make a cigar just a cigar." I would find a cigar and take a photo of it. Thus, I would have photographed a cigar as a cigar, full stop. What the world chooses to make of the resulting image has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Again, no disrespect intended, but I feel like a simpleton lost in the woods in this discussion.

Jonathan

paulr
25-Sep-2014, 19:14
I have a vague memory about reading of a college seminar with Robert Frost, where the students dissected his poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night. After they had found multiple insights into the "true meaning," they asked Frost what he thought. He said it was just a poem about traveling through the woods on a snowy night ("sometimes a cigar is just a cigar").

We need to be careful about giving much weight to authorial intent. None of the critical movements since the 1950s pay attention to it; it's just too fraught.

Just because you made something, you think you have special authority over what it means?

Consider Friedlander's picture, mentioned above, and how much it has in common with most pictures ever made.

You also have to consider the credibility of the author's reporting. In his essay to the exhibition catalog for Alfred Stieglitz at Lake George, John Szarkowski talks at length about Stieglitz's explanations of his cloud pictures (the one's I believe were the first to be called Equivalents). Stieglitz offered five or six completely contradictory versions of the story, of his intent, and of his interpretations ... all at different times of his life, and all without any acknowledgement of changing his tune.

This is typical. Of photographers, painters, novelists, poets.

I'm interested in Stieglitz's version, because I'm interested in him generally. Not because I think his version is authoritative.

austin granger
25-Sep-2014, 21:16
Second, I would not find it "hard to make a cigar just a cigar." I would find a cigar and take a photo of it. Thus, I would have photographed a cigar as a cigar, full stop. What the world chooses to make of the resulting image has nothing whatsoever to do with me.
Jonathan

I find this statement rather amazing, coming from you! :) For I know of very few photographers, if any, who devote as much time (as you yourself have said) to studying the "simple" objects that you find laying about your house. It seems to me that, of anyone, you would know the best how even the most "mundane" objects can "unfold" (yes, lot's of quotes in this sentence) into something far beyond what they might have appeared to be on the "surface." I mean to say, what I've always loved about your work is the sense of wonder at the fact that these "ordinary" things are nothing of the kind; they are, all of them, loaded with the infinite! Just look at that last one of the rim of the vase-that's "a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower" right there! So yeah, I think you're being a little cagey about the cigar being a cigar, but if that's true, I do understand the impulse. There is a part of me that wants to say, looking back one more time at the door picture, "Nah, it's just a damn door." How refreshing and relieving it is, when everything returns to being just what it is! Actually, I have had this experience on occasion, where everything is simply what it is, and yet each thing is marvelous, and it's... enough, but then, inevitably, this way of being slips away, and the ideas come flooding back in. Maybe a few people will understand what I'm talking about. I've come to realize though that some people are always "in focus" with the world; their minds and the world are engaged like interlocked gears, but that is not how I live at all. I am envious of those people!

Darin Boville
25-Sep-2014, 21:29
<<We need to be careful about giving much weight to authorial intent.>>

I'm not all that worried. So much of this seems a word game to me. From my view (as an artist, not a philosopher or sociologist) you have "intent" (the meaning intended) and then you have all the other meanings that accrue to a work--all those meanings that are attached to a work.

Credibility isn't a big deal to me either. In my own work I find that there are different layers that I talk about. In the recent Waves project I can talk about the physical colors and how they emerged from the simple, almost trivial process. People respond well to that sort of discussion. I can also talk about it's connection to the Equivalents (but that leaves the average person confused). I can also talk about the Thatcher illusion and it relation to the work, which appeals to certain other people. I can talk about the relation of this work to thinking like that which led to the SFMOMA "Is Photography Over" conference. I can talk about other aspects of the work, other approaches to "get into" it and each are valid, and yet I've never really talk about the core of the whole thing. Not an evasion so much as a conviction that I've I've done my job well that core is impossible to talk about intelligently as it is visual in nature. It is a visual medium, after all, not just photographs illustrating theoretical constructs!

Stieglitz's differing versions of the Equivalents? Not surprising in the least. He spent many years on this--made something well over 200 pictures. His version of what he was doing and why no doubt changed over that time, no doubt he was working out the ideas out loud in real-time, trying them out on people. An artist is both the creator of a work (with the intended meaning) and a viewer of the work (with the accrued meaning). It's a mess to figure out. Stielglitz is unusual in that he is really famous and that this process was recorded to a degree.

I'm perfectly happy with authorial intent, even if it changes over time, even if it isn't that clear to the artist in the first place. Even if they are liars. I think intent is avery different beast than what comes next, the thoughts of strangers to the work, even if they are expert in the field. No one will ever know my work like I do. I'm too busy producing the work to leave a detailed history of it--all those words! I think most god artists are the same.

The meaning an author intends in a work and the meaning others place upon a work are not different points on the same spectrum. They are different things altogether. It's like being a lowly foot soldier in a great battle versus being a historian of that battle. They are both deeply interested in the battle. Their lives are dedicated to that same battle but in ways so different as to defy any common categorization.

--Darin

David Hedley
26-Sep-2014, 00:23
I think this is a perpetual tension in portraiture too, not just rocks, trees and apples.


David: I can't say I've ever had much time for animism per se, either as a motivation or as an interpretive tool. It's too open to proof by gnostic proclamation. But I do like photographs which subtly hint that there may be more going on in the world than meets the eye. I'm fond of the word 'fey' - fairies again - as it suggests a pre-romantic, conception of the landscape which avoids the usual sublime and picturesque catagorisations. To me, Fay Godwin was a master of this:

http://www.faygodwin.com/landmarks/im05/pages/l6(p58).html

I partly agree, particularly when the interpretation is 'forced'. (Although you should have seen the image that appeared on my toast this morning :)). When done well, is there not a connection to something that underpins our consciousness, and perception of the natural world?

Thanks for the link to Fay Godwin's photographs. I like the quiet, unforced surrealism, all the more powerful for that.

Miguel Coquis
26-Sep-2014, 01:37
Equivalence and the power of seeing.
...this man was making his house, I ask if it was possible to make a portrait of himself.
He came down from the roof and choosing a comfortable place, he took a sit, completely relax, over the "adobes"...
Have not think about "equivalence" at that moment, but the atmosphere and contact with this sitter was good.
Every time I come to this photograph, there is an strange feeling of something I know without words.
Perhaps, the picture of the walls alone, without this person, could be an interesting scene.
But finally, man and wall in this example, offers me a complete story.
This man was seeing.

David Hedley
26-Sep-2014, 01:45
Miguel - that's a great image! The tonality and texture of the mud bricks is as much foreground as background.

austin granger
26-Sep-2014, 08:54
I can't seem to stay away from this thread. Fantastic picture Miguel! I liked the earlier one of the field a lot as well.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8366/8367770971_f722036f30_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/dKr1Mi)Gash, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/dKr1Mi) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5229/5673476526_579c18f1b3_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/9Dm3UN)Shrouded, Portland (https://flic.kr/p/9Dm3UN) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

No one seems to think the shrouded building picture is as good as I do, but they're wrong. :-) In any case though, I think it is at least an example of using composition to try and push an image into "equivalent" territory. I hate to tell people how they should look at my pictures, but I will say that the "DO NOT ENTER" at lower left and the blank white piece of sky at upper right are there for a reason.

hendrik faure
26-Sep-2014, 13:09
photogravures show objects in my environment or history and may find their meanings in the imagination of the beholder.
http://i1322.photobucket.com/albums/u568/hfa8/spectre_zps953bc254.jpg
Any resemblance to real existing dreams or fear might be entirely coincidental.
hfa

austin granger
26-Sep-2014, 13:59
I find your picture terrifying Herdrik, which I mean as a compliment. It has real power. For me, the way it fluctuates between abstraction and representation adds to the effect, making it indeed very dreamlike. I can't stop looking at it!

Harley Goldman
26-Sep-2014, 14:36
I've often times felt an image has a "what else it is" characteristic. Perhaps it's clear at the moment I'm composing or, in other cases, it might become clear only after the passage of time.

However, that "equivalent" may be something very personal that I would not expect another person to comprehend or relate to. For that reason, I don't suggest thoughts or interject personal feelings when presenting a photograph (unless necessary for some reason). Usually a straightforward title or identification is all I provide.

The viewer may never see what I see in my image, aside from the literal. However, I hope some images will evoke an emotional response such that the viewer relates to the image meaningfully or personally on whatever level possible - should he or she wish to delve deeper.


http://www.jackandbeans.com/pbd/NM_502_dunes-grasses.jpg


cool image!!

h2oman
26-Sep-2014, 16:26
Although all of this is a bit confusing to me at times, I like the way this thread is about aspects of photography that are much deeper than lenses, films and developers, etc.

I was just listening to something on NPR about Jimi Hendrix that might be relevant:

"To me, Jimi is a consummate artist," Ridley tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "He wasn't so much about going out and trying to please a crowd, but trying to create something that brought people to his vision for music, his vision for life, the way he expressed things."

Here's the link for those who are interested:

http://www.npr.org/2014/09/23/350888599/from-sideman-to-star-a-new-film-captures-jimi-hendrixs-pivotal-year

Jac@stafford.net
26-Sep-2014, 16:35
Just an aside: this thread has brought out some exceptionally insightful views that if I were still in higher education I would present as a model of dialog. I will submit the URL to the remaining two professors . I doubt they will take it up. I feel it is the best thread on the subject I have ever experienced, and I am one old scholar.

austin granger
27-Sep-2014, 11:05
I've photographed a lot of fields. Only recently though, did it strike me that oftentimes, what I really want to do is not to photograph the fields exactly, but photograph what it feels like to stand in the fields. This might sound like an irrelevant distinction, but it completely changed the way I approach making these pictures. Specifically, I am more likely to level the camera and use some front rise than I am to point the camera up or down, and is this way I hope to keep the attention off the field or the sky and more on a general feeling. Does it work? I don't know. It works for me.

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3828/11439607165_e4c35cb874_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi)Frozen Field, Canby, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

Heroique
27-Sep-2014, 12:02
Does it work? I don't know. It works for me.

Brr.

Works for me too.

The intensity of "feeling the weather" here blurs my other senses, such as vision, and the indistinctness of the barn (or farm house?) illustrates my equivalence born from your image.


Did Minor ever say he was advocating for Stieglitz's definitions? He may have been proposing his own.

As you'll recall, White attributes the concept of Equivalence to Stieglitz as "probably the most mature idea ever presented to picture-making photography" – but he doesn't make it clear whether he's advocating a definition by Stieglitz, or presenting his own variation on a theme. I was under the former impression. However, White does call it a "pregnant" discipline, which I think strongly implies plenty of room for personal, flexible, and changing use of the concept. Certainly lots of that going on in this entertaining thread!

Peter Lewin
27-Sep-2014, 13:31
But I'm feeling a bit like a devilish advocate :). I would argue that while effective images, neither Austin's field, nor his wrapped building, nor Michael Coquis's images, while all appealing photographs, are "equivalents," which is the subject of the thread. IMHO, they are excellent images of "what they are," and they can be viewed as metaphors, especially given Paulr's post that the human mind essentially "sees in metaphors" (my paraphrase of what I believe he suggested), but I don't think they are Equivalents in either Minor White's or Alfred Stieglitz's meaning. What do the rest of you think?

jcoldslabs
27-Sep-2014, 13:51
From the essay linked to in the opening post:


When the subject matter is rendered in such a way that it is obscure, ambiguous, or impossible to identify, the response to the image takes on a completely different aspect. [...] When we cannot identify the subject, we forget that the image before us may be a document of some part of the world that we have never seen. This puts a different bearing on the ambiguous or unidentifiable subject in a photograph. Our usual tendency, if we make the attempt to engage, rather than reject, the ambiguous rendering of a subject in a photograph, is to invent a subject for it. What we invent is out of the stuff and substance of ourselves. When we invent a subject we turn the photograph into a mirror of some part of ourselves.

For White it seems the more abstract the image the more "Equivalent" it is. In other words, the more the viewer invests in figuring out what he or she is looking at the more the image functions as an "Equivalent." By this definition just about every electron micrograph ever made is an "Equivalent."

Jonathan

ndg
27-Sep-2014, 13:57
Stieglitz with his clouds came up with the term. Years later (say a generation?), Minor White brought it up again but with a much different take. What if we say in our time the Coquis-Grainger axis has resurrected "Equivalents" but with their own take of it? What if this generation of photographers want to see"Equivalents" in doors and crumpled paper and snowy fields?


But I'm feeling a bit like a devilish advocate :). I would argue that while effective images, neither Austin's field, nor his wrapped building, nor Michael Coquis's images, while all appealing photographs, are "equivalents," which is the subject of the thread. IMHO, they are excellent images of "what they are," and they can be viewed as metaphors, especially given Paulr's post that the human mind essentially "sees in metaphors" (my paraphrase of what I believe he suggested), but I don't think they are Equivalents in either Minor White's or Alfred Stieglitz's meaning. What do the rest of you think?

Miguel Coquis
27-Sep-2014, 14:07
It works... and eases mind.
One image can say more then a thousand words

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3828/11439607165_e4c35cb874_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi)austin granger (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi)

Sublime !!!
thanks for sharing

austin granger
27-Sep-2014, 17:12
From the essay linked to in the opening post:


When the subject matter is rendered in such a way that it is obscure, ambiguous, or impossible to identify, the response to the image takes on a completely different aspect. [...] When we cannot identify the subject, we forget that the image before us may be a document of some part of the world that we have never seen. This puts a different bearing on the ambiguous or unidentifiable subject in a photograph. Our usual tendency, if we make the attempt to engage, rather than reject, the ambiguous rendering of a subject in a photograph, is to invent a subject for it. What we invent is out of the stuff and substance of ourselves. When we invent a subject we turn the photograph into a mirror of some part of ourselves.

For White it seems the more abstract the image the more "Equivalent" it is. In other words, the more the viewer invests in figuring out what he or she is looking at the more the image functions as an "Equivalent." By this definition just about every electron micrograph ever made is an "Equivalent."

Jonathan

Well that's the crux of it isn't it? If White were here, I would argue with him that in my opinion, a photograph does not need to be abstract in order for one to invent a subject (or meaning) for it. They're ALL mirrors! I would agree though, that a photo is better material for equivalence when it is "ambiguous" (see White's first sentence), even if that ambiguousness includes an identifiable subject. That's again what I was trying to get at when I talked about "empty" subjects, or maybe it would be better to say universal subjects (see door again, sorry). It's their universality which, if the viewer "engages, rather than rejects" makes the viewer invent a subject, that is to say, invent the SIGNIFICANCE of it. Obviously the subject in that case is just what is presented (door), but it ALSO then becomes whatever meaning that the viewer infuses that subject with. See what I'm saying? With it's blankness, or generality, the subject takes on a kind of mirror-like quality, and then the viewer sees what they themselves bring to it, which in turn (hopefully) makes it speak more deeply to that viewer (because they're the one who have made it!). It seems to me that every picture is a correspondence between the photographer and the viewer, but as the photographer, we might learn to be better listeners, or put another way, we might learn to step out of the way so that the voice of the subject (and the mind of the viewer) can be better heard by the listener/viewer. Of course, that's another can of worms, bringing up "straight" photography and all that jazz, and I already feel like I'm back in college in an "Appreciation of Art" class or something so I'm going to give it a rest.

It's funny though, while I was typing the above, just now, the photographer Robert Adams came to mind. It seems to me that Adams is a photographer that has gotten out of the way of himself so perfectly that ALL his photographs are equivalents; they are of things, obviously, but what you make of them, what their significance is, really becomes all about your mind. Shoot, even the structure of them (I mean, their composition) feels left up to you, as often they can appear to be very random. If there are patterns, or structures, it is clearly up to you to create them. Full disclosure, I have to confess that though I respect what Adams has done, and have heard that he's a kind and thoughtful man, I have a very hard time enjoying his photographs. But then, maybe he doesn't mean for me to enjoy them.

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5189/5635099855_cc8bdafd61_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/9zXmS4)Old Ball, Brentwood Street (https://flic.kr/p/9zXmS4) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3755/12483826004_3ba6eb9314_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/k29Sxo)Ticket Booth, Canby, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/k29Sxo) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

austin granger
27-Sep-2014, 17:13
Thanks Heroique and Miguel!

austin granger
27-Sep-2014, 17:35
As an addendum to my last, regarding "getting out of the way," it would be more honest to say that for me, the goal is to make my photographs LOOK fairly straight, while at the same time secretly employing a thousand little tricks that aim to steer you toward thinking the thoughts and feeling the feelings that I know you have inside. :)

D-tach
27-Sep-2014, 17:50
http://Tomkeymeulen.zenfolio.com/img/s12/v187/p897714093-5.jpg

Joe O'Hara
27-Sep-2014, 18:39
I've photographed a lot of fields. Only recently though, did it strike me that oftentimes, what I really want to do is not to photograph the fields exactly, but photograph what it feels like to stand in the fields. This might sound like an irrelevant distinction, but it completely changed the way I approach making these pictures. Specifically, I am more likely to level the camera and use some front rise than I am to point the camera up or down, and is this way I hope to keep the attention off the field or the sky and more on a general feeling. Does it work? I don't know. It works for me.

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3828/11439607165_e4c35cb874_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi)Frozen Field, Canby, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/iqSYEi) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

I've always thought of you as out standing in your field ;-)

It works here. Composition is the strongest way of seeing, EW said. Finding the best
composition is often a matter of letting the subject speak for itself, rather than the
photographer speaking for it. Interesting how eloquent frozen fields can be, when we
allow it.

Joe O'Hara
27-Sep-2014, 18:41
http://Tomkeymeulen.zenfolio.com/img/s12/v187/p897714093-5.jpg

I like this very much, D-tach.

h2oman
27-Sep-2014, 19:31
I think I would have preferred this one without a caption, in the spirit of this thread. For me, taking any image at more than face value is accomplished best when there is a sense of mystery to the image. In this case, telling the purpose of the window leads me to think less deeply about it.


https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3755/12483826004_3ba6eb9314_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/k29Sxo)Ticket Booth, Canby, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/k29Sxo) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr[/QUOTE]

austin granger
27-Sep-2014, 20:46
It just occurred to me that the majority of the photos in this thread are black and white, and it makes me wonder if that is because black and white pictures, already a clear abstraction, are more amenable to being made into further abstractions. That's not to say that a color picture can't be an equivalent, just that by making an image in black and white, you are very clearly telling the viewer that there's more going on than simply representation. To go on a bit of a tangent, in a strange way, this is why I've long thought that black and white pictures come closer to reality than color pictures do. Unlike a color photograph, which often pretends to show unmediated reality (but doesn't), a black and white photo says; "Look, this picture is NOT the thing represented. Obviously, it has some relationship with the thing, but it also has a relationship with me, the photographer, and also with you, the viewer. It is something in-between. Which, when you think about it, is how we live our lives, continually mediating (or creating?) things with our thoughts and feelings about those things.

If someone ever asks me; "Don't you see in color?" I'll think I'll say, "Sure, but I FEEL in black and white." And anyway, is what we're doing trying to make a copy of what our eyeballs see? Personally, that's not how I think of photography at all.

Oh, H2oman, I grabbed that picture from flickr without considering that, but I think you're right.

And thanks Joe!

jcoldslabs
28-Sep-2014, 00:06
When I see a black and white photo of my wife I recognize my wife; when I see one of my house I recognize my house; when I see one of Half Dome I recognize Half Dome. So I am unclear how a black and white image is an abstraction. Non-literal perhaps, but not abstract.

In practical terms photographs do depict "reality," at least functionally. I mean, my driver's license photo--as grainy and unflattering as it is--looks enough like the "real" me for someone to sell me some beer or let me on an airplane.

Jonathan

austin granger
28-Sep-2014, 08:19
By abstraction I don't mean abstract like a Jackson Pollock painting, but instead something removed from the source, an idea of a thing rather than the actual thing. All pictures are abstractions, but my point was that a black and white picture is more honest about it.

As long as I'm here, a couple more pictures :):

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5541/11303164935_e575f44328_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/idPF94)Molalla (https://flic.kr/p/idPF94) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2915/13887670434_f2f4c57e16_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/nacWzG)Untitled (https://flic.kr/p/nacWzG) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

austin granger
28-Sep-2014, 09:02
Maybe "more honest" is a little loaded. How about more upfront? I wasn't making a value judgement. I love color photography! Really, some of my favorite photographers are color photographers. Anyway, what I was trying to get at is the question of what a photographer is doing by making a picture in black and white. It seems to me that one thing we're doing is telegraphing to the viewer that when we made the picture, we were interested in more than just making a simple facsimile of the thing that was in front of us. Maybe we were interested in form, or pattern, or light, or mood, or some idea. You see? We're making equivalents like crazy! *If we agree that equivalents are pictures that are of the thing and also of more than the thing. And this isn't even to mention the fact that simply by choosing to make a picture of this thing instead of that thing, by putting our rectangle (or square) around that particular object, we're telling the viewer that we believe that that thing is of some significance, that it deserves their attention.

I imagine I'm wearing out my welcome on this thread. I really need to get back to making pictures. :)

Randy Moe
28-Sep-2014, 09:51
Oh Struen, you made me look that word up. Good one!


I don't mind other people seeing things in my abstracts. I rather enjoy it. But it's not my motivation for making or showing them.

Too much apophenia leads to the collecting of flower fairies.

h2oman
28-Sep-2014, 10:42
I suspect that it is easier for many of us to create abstractly when working in black and white, and it probably helps a viewer to "read" an image in a less literal way if it is B&W. That said, there are people who are making/have made wonderful equivalents in color:

http://math.oit.edu/~watermang/ss.jpghttp://www.stephenstrom.com/

http://www.murrayfredericks.com.au/projects/salt/#14

and Jonathan's photograph (post #770) here:

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?58941-Abstracts/page77

These definitely qualify as being fairly "empty" (Grainger), and "the subject matter is rendered in such a way that it is obscure" (White) as well. I went to a workshop with John Wimberley last year (Joe O'Hara was there as well), and he had some wonderful color photos he made after his wife's death that I felt were equivalents. (FWIW, he is also a bit of a "mystic" too.) Unfortunately none of them seem to be viewable online.

blueribbontea
28-Sep-2014, 10:59
After 130 contributions to this thread, I don't believe that we can all settle on a definition that an equivalent is a photograph "of a thing and more than the thing." Almost any photograph could fit into that definition and that makes the idea of "equivalent" a vacuous one. Even the idea of abstractions seems a bit strained. Too much a draw from the 20th century painters, in my mind. I have to say, though, that this thread has been stretching my mind in a lot of different directions but it remains troublesome to think that "we are shooting equivalents all the time..." If so, then what is the point of talking about equivalents?
Austin, whatever your photographs are, equivalent or not, they are beautiful.

paulr
28-Sep-2014, 12:12
<<We need to be careful about giving much weight to authorial intent.>>

I'm not all that worried. So much of this seems a word game to me. From my view (as an artist, not a philosopher or sociologist) you have "intent" (the meaning intended) and then you have all the other meanings that accrue to a work--all those meanings that are attached to a work.

It's much more than a word game. The idea that other meanings accrue in the work didn't really emerge until the 20th century. That's a long time, considering how many thousands of years people have been wrestling with these questions. It's is all an extension of the most basic question people bring to works, whether they're talking about stories, photographs, scripture, or even laws. One of the first is, where does the meaning come from? Answers include the author (of course), the structure of the work itself, culture (which includes the language used to create the work), and the readers' own acts of interpretation.

Of all of these, authorial intent is the most slippery. It's the thing we can never know, because even if the author is alive, or has made a statement, we don't know how credible their version is. To what degree do we even believe the creative process was conscious? If less than 100%, why do we trust the author's interpretation of it? How do we know they haven't just made up a story that they find satisfying, or that we will find satisfying? And if this is a story from a long time ago, don't we encounter the same problems looking back and trying to understand it that we encounter trying to understand the work directly?


Stieglitz's differing versions of the Equivalents? Not surprising in the least. He spent many years on this--made something well over 200 pictures. His version of what he was doing and why no doubt changed over that time, no doubt he was working out the ideas out loud in real-time, trying them out on people. An artist is both the creator of a work (with the intended meaning) and a viewer of the work (with the accrued meaning). It's a mess to figure out. Stielglitz is unusual in that he is really famous and that this process was recorded to a degree.

I agree. This is one of the better illustrations of why authorial intent is a red herring. You'll find equally reliable information in the Farmer's Almanac.


The meaning an author intends in a work and the meaning others place upon a work are not different points on the same spectrum. They are different things altogether.

I think the lesson is actually that they're not so different. Authorship implies authority ... that the person who made the thing has some special privileged position regarding its meaning. This is what all the 20th Century Death of the Author (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_the_Author) and intentional fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorial_intent#New_Criticism) business has challenged. No one's saying that Stieglitz's opinion is worthless. And of course, it's valuable in terms of biographical interest. But in terms of understanding the work, his word is not necessarily more privileged than anyone else's ... a good thing, considering how completely incommensurable his versions have been.

If the ghost of Stieglitz pontificates to you on a cloud picture, feel free to channel the Dude from the Big Lebowsky, and tell him, "that's just like, you're opinion, man."

paulr
28-Sep-2014, 12:21
Paul, I'm not being dense on purpose, I swear, but this sentence is impenetrable to me.

... I would not find it "hard to make a cigar just a cigar." I would find a cigar and take a photo of it. Thus, I would have photographed a cigar as a cigar, full stop. What the world chooses to make of the resulting image has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Exactly. It has nothing to do with you. But it has everything to do with the life of your image in the world. Your ideas about what the cigar is or isn't may change, and they may disappear completely when you're gone.

But the images may live on, and then the ways people interpret them will be determined by factors unrelated to you.

pdmoylan
28-Sep-2014, 13:21
I offer two more to this interesting thread. Both are abstracts, and offer either equivalence or metaphor to me which after this great discussion here, may be the same or different.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7289/8744518181_7001a4904d_o.jpg

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3566/3339718262_70dd23937f_o.jpg

Jim,

I love this work. Exquisite.

One needs context to identify something beyond the image prima facae. It could be a collection of similar or disimilar images, perhaps as Austin has done with an oblique word or reference. Remembering years of undergraduate study of Art History, context for metaphor was created not by a single image, but by what the artist(s) imposed on the image, reduced from past history and experience, shifted as to color form shape and choice of what is included in the image - but more importantly, what the artist stated about the image to offer it a rightful place among hords of others. Manifestos were common during the last century to convey what was intellectually intended in image making. One can find among Marcel Duchamp, the Symbolists, Impressionist etc. enough verbal commentary distinguishing an individual's or group's work from others. Art critics became the engine for discernment by organizing image makers for more accessability, for those less informed. And to latently enhance careers, both their own and those who they showered with attention.


Photograpy, being inherently illustrative, and therefore in many minds a lesser art form, is not sufficiently facile to convey ideas. There is less of an ability to impute then in painting. Additionally, (and to which Ansel complained often) I suggest that color photography distracts from the finesse of the transfer of intent. B&W with the extreme control of the ultimate image, for which most here have given examples, peels away all but the form, shape and texture and perhaps amplifies a bit more what may have been behind the image. It is the simplicity of retention of information which provides a universal language for what photography can be as an art form. Metaphor potential, whatever it may be, I believe is lost with the use of color. What remains the standard for color is the "awe" response.

As another point of reference for this discussion, is it possible to convey "ideas" resorting only to nature images (without any immediate reference to human intervention). Is the outcome of such images only to convey beauty, or can a collection of isich mages become fuel for further thought about photographer intent?

PDM

jcoldslabs
28-Sep-2014, 13:38
By abstraction I don't mean abstract like a Jackson Pollock painting, but instead something removed from the source, an idea of a thing rather than the actual thing.

The crux for me is your notion that a black and white photograph is "an idea of a thing rather than the actual thing." Of course your door photograph is a visual representation of a door and not an actual door that one can open and walk through. (Ceci n'est pas une porte.) But the image clearly depicts a door and not an apple or a tree or a person. So I'm unclear how a depiction of a door is an idea of a door. To me an idea is something formed in the mind, not something formed by an object in space. Painters and sculptors and writers all have the luxury of their ideas beginning in the mind and flowing outward into the physical world, but for us as photographers that paradigm is inverted.

In the case of my recent color abstract, the subject (a glass vase) already existed and was sitting there on the table. I simply moved the camera around it until I found an arrangement on the ground glass that I liked.

This begs the question: can you photograph an idea? For my money Teun Hocks (https://www.google.com/search?q=teun+hocks&client=firefox-a&hs=z01&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=DGwoVMzhIYSXyQTqqIGoCQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=867) comes close, but his work is mixed media, not purely photographic.

Jonathan

Maris Rusis
28-Sep-2014, 14:39
...This begs the question: can you photograph an idea?...Jonathan

Yes, it is possible if the idea can be manifest in a physical shape; usually via the devices of simile, metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, and so on. Personally I entertain a lot of ideas that are crying out for appropriate photographic subjects (would that I could find them) to bring them into realisation.

One way of thinking about this is to imagine an idea as a mental picture, a template, that is projected upon the world through the eyes. When the template fits something "out there" the process can be culminated by fetching the camera and making a photograph. The photograph and the template are mutual equivalents.

Once the photograph is completed the critical viewer (should there be one) may care to run the process backwards and attempt to discover the mental template and gain an insight into the mind of the artist.

D-tach
28-Sep-2014, 14:59
I like this very much, D-tach.

Thanks Joe

paulr
28-Sep-2014, 15:01
The crux for me is your notion that a black and white photograph is "an idea of a thing rather than the actual thing."

It's interesting to me that this is modernists reacted against, in many cases. William Carlos Williams: "No ideas but in things"; Wallace Steven: "Not ideas about the thing but the thing itself"; William Bronk: "Ideas are always wrong."

And they're referring to a medium that's less concrete than photography.

Stieglitz was a champion of modernism, although many of his ideas, including some of his descriptions of equivalence, sounded thoroughly Romantic. And most of his photography, at least until he was in his fifties, looked pretty romantic to me.

You might say a lot of the modernists could be described like this. They rejected Romanticism vocally, but in their work did so incompletely, at best. For example, "Ideas are always wrong" is, if nothing else, an idea.

Jim Cole
28-Sep-2014, 15:07
Jim,

I love this work. Exquisite.


PDM

Thank you.

Jim Cole
28-Sep-2014, 15:10
This is a good topic.
Jim, I like that photo. You almost got the 10 & 2 time layout. You got a good mix of good photo qualities there.
The time, inflexible structure, wear, seem to be cracking the ledge as if a personal warning+allusion in a photo instead of words; that's the "what else it is" to me.

Thanks, JP. Setting up for this one definitely ran a bunch of metaphorical ideas through my head. I actually titled it, "Outside of Time".

Sorry for the delayed response.

Jim Cole
28-Sep-2014, 15:14
Initially I see a contemporary interior, a study in light and tone.

Then I see what looks like the bottom of a trap door in the ceiling.

It is a strange picture, and I can't guess what you were thinking, but there is a suggestion of
some something else going on, aside from just an upstairs hallway. Vaguely unsettling.

Similar thoughts to mine when I took the picture. Sorry for the delayed response. Curious that you commented that this was an upstairs hallway. How did you know that?

austin granger
28-Sep-2014, 20:27
This begs the question: can you photograph an idea? Jonathan

Man, every picture I make is of an idea! :)

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7127/6878209452_2f9d9cf8bd_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/btNC39)Jesus and Mary, Portland (https://flic.kr/p/btNC39) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5466/8981477694_6087d4d2d3_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/eFEqpG)Recreation Area, Washington Park, Portland (https://flic.kr/p/eFEqpG) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5269/5635399322_c16e35fa99_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/9zYTTh)Ghost Structures, Willamette Mission (https://flic.kr/p/9zYTTh) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

austin granger
28-Sep-2014, 20:33
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8166/7557938680_a9fb101c32_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/cvSpRA)All White Help, Huntington, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/cvSpRA) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7010/6426471703_90e4d22163_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/aMTm9g)St. Paul, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/aMTm9g) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8092/8507908942_5153eb6671_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/dXPfVd)Along Highway 97, Washington (https://flic.kr/p/dXPfVd) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

Darin Boville
28-Sep-2014, 21:12
It's much more than a word game. The idea that other meanings accrue in the work didn't really emerge until the 20th century. That's a long time, considering how many thousands of years people have been wrestling with these questions. ...[big snip]........No one's saying that Stieglitz's opinion is worthless. And of course, it's valuable in terms of biographical interest. But in terms of understanding the work, his word is not necessarily more privileged than anyone else's ... a good thing, considering how completely incommensurable his versions have been.

If the ghost of Stieglitz pontificates to you on a cloud picture, feel free to channel the Dude from the Big Lebowsky, and tell him, "that's just like, you're opinion, man."

But that's a little crazy, Paul, despite what the academics would have. The originator of the work is certainly in a privileged position to explain the intent of a work of art--no one else is. Whether they are able, willing, or reliable are subsequent questions that do nothing to the potential value of the author himself explaining the impetus for the creation of the work.

I feel that you should have grave doubts about the academic developments the last few generations that diminish that role and elevate the opinions of others to an equal standing.

Thinking of it in arts own terms, that of the post-modernism deconstruction stuff that was so popular in the 1980's etc. One of the "big thoughts" to come out of all that was that artworks, by the fact that they were created (there was a funder, there was a market) and their choice of subject matter....indeed, the nature of the artist himself, his gender, his political views, his choice of medium....all reflected a "hidden" power structure that was revealed when you analyzed art through the post-postmodernist prism.

Now look at the line of reasoning that suggests that, as you say, the artists' "word is not necessarily more privileged than anyone else's." That line of thinking was developed by academics, not artists, and the "anyone else" they are referring to are themselves! So, in other words, they are elevating themselves to an stature in discussing the inner world of the art work equal to that of the creator. I think this is more than a little self-serving....

Combine that with the thought that as art became more centered in the university you quickly come up with the problem of "what are you going to teach?" Not craft, you need something that will hold up against the sciences and the social sciences. You need something that sounds respectable in that world and so you borrow all sorts of post-Marxist, post-Freud stuff from the English department.

It seems to me that this line of academic exploration is not only boring and irrelevant from a practitioners point of view but looks to be an intellectual dead end...

--Darin

Miguel Coquis
29-Sep-2014, 02:05
Trying to see with this body eyes, many things will keep hiden.
Hanging on time/space dimension, memory can only do with something I thought it was.
New recognition of my need could grasp for a new quality of attention.
"Equivalences" brings me to the present.
Keep wondering until the moment comes when revelation will re birth insights.
From "Autisme to Contemplation Series III"

pdmoylan
29-Sep-2014, 05:44
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8166/7557938680_a9fb101c32_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/cvSpRA)All White Help, Huntington, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/cvSpRA) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7010/6426471703_90e4d22163_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/aMTm9g)St. Paul, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/aMTm9g) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8092/8507908942_5153eb6671_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/dXPfVd)Along Highway 97, Washington (https://flic.kr/p/dXPfVd) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr



Austin,

Perhaps it is my limitation, but what I get from many of your images as a collection in this thread is a need for symmetry/balance. There is a discrete orderlyness to each image and as a collection. Likewise, the takeaway from David's initial image is frames within the frame. The juxtaposition of your images tells me more about you then one image can I believe. So are your ideas conveyed better through your selection?

Another, and this is along with Jonathan's preceptions, shouldn't an image stand on its own merits first and foremost without the need for context? But to convey ideas particularly in a selection, should the individual image have less impact than others (an egalitarian effort)?

I have often heard from musicians that the highest form of expression is by the use of improvisation. In the photo medium, experimentation like Jonathan's evokes more to me than a series of well conceptualized and produced images. This is not to diminish the quality, intent or concepts behind the your images.I think really evocative images take risks, conceptually and otherwise. I am not sure that Minor White would disagree.


PDM

paulr
29-Sep-2014, 06:57
The originator of the work is certainly in a privileged position to explain the intent of a work of art--no one else is.

The question is about the relevance of intent. Most critical positions assume the question of intent is either irrelevant, or some combination of unimportant and impenetrable. If we're interested in what something "means," we need to ask questions besides what did the guy who made this hope it would mean.


I feel that you should have grave doubts about the academic developments the last few generations that diminish that role and elevate the opinions of others to an equal standing.


My experiences in photography and writing just reinforce all this for me. My intentions don't somehow enter a work and create a locus of meaning. If I wan't people to interpret something a certain way, I need to shape the work—and the context in which the work will be seen—in ways that I believe will elicit those responses. I may have some success at this. Success will never be complete, and will never be guaranteed, but it always depends on a relationship between form, content, context, and viewer. My intent may have motivated me to craft things in this way, but the intent itself is no longer present. It's no longer in a place where it can be observed or questioned.

If people see things differently, I can't argue based on the authority of my intentions. I can argue based on what's there for everyone to see, but then I'm not invoking any authorial privilege. I'm just acting like any other viewer or critic.


[QUOTE]Now look at the line of reasoning that suggests that, as you say, the artists' "word is not necessarily more privileged than anyone else's." That line of thinking was developed by academics, not artists, and the "anyone else" they are referring to are themselves! So, in other words, they are elevating themselves to an stature in discussing the inner world of the art work equal to that of the creator. I think this is more than a little self-serving....

Sure, and that's an old critique. It mostly applies to a particularly radical thread of post structuralists (Derrida, etc.) who believed the critic was the real artist. Today it's not easy to get your hands on whatever these guys were smoking.

The broader idea, which includes the idea of "intentional fallacy," goes back to the 1940s, to a group of theorists that wore suits, included T.S. Elliot (not an academic!), and who would have been horrified by Derrida and Barthes. Their point was a little bit closer to mine, which is that intentions don't reside in the work. The only thing in the work is what was actually put there. They did not pay attention to what the viewer puts there, and they did not look so much at what culture puts in there by way of the materials and ideas the artist has at his or her disposal. But their point about the weakness of intentionality seems to me to hold up.

A more practical look: ask a bunch of artists what their work is about. Read a bunch of artists's statements. How often do their statements of intent contribute much? I find that artists often have extremely narrow ideas about the implications of their work. It's sometimes as if their first idea blinds them to other possibilities, and they keep repeating it, long after the work has morphed into something else.

Or it's as if they never even had "ideas" about the work, but felt the need to make up stories, either for themselves or for us viewers—because we expected artists to say something. In those cases we get the thick soup of clichés that comprise so many art statements—the perennial dumb words about smart work.

Or we get Stieglitz, with his authoritative pronouncements that change with his pet theories and moods, accumulate, and obliterate each other.

Questioning authorial intent isn't about intent; its about authority.

paulr
29-Sep-2014, 07:09
It seems to me that this line of academic exploration is not only boring and irrelevant from a practitioners point of view but looks to be an intellectual dead end...

I think it's vital. It keeps you from falling into the Humpty-Dumpty trap of thinking your work means something just because you want it to. It enforces rigor. It encourages you to find a critical distance when evaluating your work—to try to step out of the mindset in which you're blinded by your intentions.

If you care about how your work is received, you'll want to look at it, to the best of your abilities, as if you're someone else who doesn't know your backstory. This is difficult. Probably impossible to do perfectly. Another, more thorough solution, is the workshop. Get feedback from a room full of people who aren't you.

If you think the apple is love, and the 9 other people in the room think it's death, that's valuable information. You can learn from that!

jnanian
29-Sep-2014, 08:25
i really have no idea what this thread is about
i guess its about different things to different people

pdmoylan
29-Sep-2014, 09:24
Whether from a viewer's perspective or from the artists, I recall Pound's comments (paraphrased here) in the Pisan Cantos which I apply to my work "What thou lovest best remains, the rest is dross."

Taking Pound a bit further, given his mentoring and support of a wide diversity of painters and writers (Elliot, Joyce, Yeats among many others), he utilized the juxtaposition of to him at that time meaningful graphical and language references, and shifted them on the page as if in a photograph. When he was imprisoned at Pisa, his reality of worldly items at hand, as diminished as they were, created a simplicity with which to shift his work into a merger of his at hand reality and his memory. One can take from his work purposeful ideas when their intent (as to some extent was Yeats with his "Vision") was to allow for a structure within which the artist/writer could find identity; creating a new path unknowingly the result of what your experience provides you, not what you impose upon it. The latter is more akin to religion and notwithstanding the stability and great inconography created from such social disciplines (i.e. religions), unless one can create levels of allegory within the art which reference the underlying belief structure, such imposition is IMHO inexpansive and stultifying.

PDM

Randy Moe
29-Sep-2014, 09:33
+1.


Paul, I'm not being dense on purpose, I swear, but this sentence is impenetrable to me.

First, I am not an artist, but I do take photos on occasion for fun. Am I "concerned with authorship"? Maybe I don't know what authorship means. I know which photos I have taken (authored) and which I have not. There is nothing to be concerned about as far as I can tell. Am I missing something?

Second, I would not find it "hard to make a cigar just a cigar." I would find a cigar and take a photo of it. Thus, I would have photographed a cigar as a cigar, full stop. What the world chooses to make of the resulting image has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Again, no disrespect intended, but I feel like a simpleton lost in the woods in this discussion.

Jonathan

pdmoylan
29-Sep-2014, 12:31
Having just quickly reviewed Manifestations of the Spirit, I am taken with White' articulation of abstract images and of course his predilection for the male nude. There is some ruminating that White was a closeted homosexual and the choice of images in this books seems to support that notion, at least in part.

His choice of abstract material is interesting and perhaps this kind of work and his social isolation contributed to his intellectual perceptions of what the medium could offer. Another point is the amount of space he uses in his images. Not many are terribly cluttered if you will.

The book is worth another look in a few weeks for new discoveries.

PDM

jcoldslabs
29-Sep-2014, 13:10
It seems to me there are two primary approaches one can take when viewing a photograph:


1. React to what you perceive. (White's "photograph-as-mirror" idea.) If you see beauty, then for you the photograph is beautiful; if you see irony, then for you the photograph is ironic; if you see no meaning then for you the photograph is meaningless.

2. Try to determine what the photographer had in mind when he or she made the exposure. This approach feels like a guessing game, and one that ultimately may have no correct answer if, as Paul has pointed out, authorial intent is a moving target.

Number one assumes a photograph will be a reflection of the viewer's mind, while number two assumes a photograph will be a reflection of the photographer's mind. I suppose all photographs are both, but the photographer who expects viewers to successfully guess his or her intent is in for a lifetime of disappointment.

As Minor White put it: "The mental image in a viewer's mind is more important than the photograph itself."

Jonathan

Darin Boville
29-Sep-2014, 13:14
I think it's vital. It keeps you from falling into the Humpty-Dumpty trap of thinking your work means something just because you want it to. It enforces rigor. It encourages you to find a critical distance when evaluating your work—to try to step out of the mindset in which you're blinded by your intentions.

If you care about how your work is received, you'll want to look at it, to the best of your abilities, as if you're someone else who doesn't know your backstory. This is difficult. Probably impossible to do perfectly. Another, more thorough solution, is the workshop. Get feedback from a room full of people who aren't you.

If you think the apple is love, and the 9 other people in the room think it's death, that's valuable information. You can learn from that!

Three responses, in general:

1) One of the advantages of the Critical Theory approach (in what I might view as a Critical Theory vs Art situation) is that the battle takes place on the Critical Theorists' field of choice. In politics a key way to win an argument is to choose and control the framework and vocabulary of the debate. In battle, as I understand, the choice of battlefield is similarly important. In this debate the artist is at a major disadvantage since we are engaging in the debate with words, with fragments of philosophy, not images.

2) When I was much younger, in the late 1980s I suppose, I went through what I jokingly refer to as my "October Magazine period." I read many journals with an intellectual bent, gave them close study. Tried to incorporate those ideas into my work in some way. Then gradually a revelation began to grow in my mind--that the people writing these articles, that the people participating in the conference panels, that the people publishing these books didn't have *it.* That didn't have that mysterious thing that allows a person to *see,* to really feel a work, a photograph. It was all high-end grad school seminar, academic research to these people. They didn't see the beyond. That idea is a sort of shock when you are growing up, to realize that the "experts" on art really didn't get it, really weren't in love.

3) On authorship and authority: I crossed the country by land (yet again) this past summer. Somewhere in the middle of the Great Plains I'm playing a classic rock station and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" comes on the radio. When it concludes the DJ comes on and says, "Ah, wouldn't it be nice to do just what the song says and kick back, light up, and just enjoy this beautiful day." I've been to a number of Roger Waters concerts and I can attest that perhaps 90% of the audience also feels that the song is a call to kick back, light up, and relax. Do you think the DJs interpretation of the work is equally valid as Roger Water's? Do you think Glenn Beck's interpretation of the song "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen is also equally valid as the songwriter's? (Beck was certainly not alone in his "understanding" of the lyrics--I'll bet that same 90% thought the same way.)

Making the artist's intent in any way equal to that of others doesn't keep them from falling into any trap. It gives weak artists a shield to hide behind. After all, if the work will accrue meaning without reference to intent then really all you have to do is put work out that is "ambiguous"--how often do you hear that term in artist statements and descriptions by galleries?--and let the "meaning" the artist failed to feel and fail to provide be supplied by others. You can get good at that sort of thing--becoming more the catalyst than the reaction itself.

--Darin

Drew Wiley
29-Sep-2014, 13:54
Although there are a number of interesting images on this thread, damn few of them seem to remind me of any "equivalent" in the sense that Stieglitz and Minor White
used the expression. Those things could hit you in your Gestalt gut.

paulr
29-Sep-2014, 15:22
Three responses, in general:

1) One of the advantages of the Critical Theory approach (in what I might view as a Critical Theory vs Art situation) is that the battle takes place on the Critical Theorists' field of choice. In politics a key way to win an argument is to choose and control the framework and vocabulary of the debate.


Well, this presumes there's a theory approach and a non-theory approach. I think this is a common but mistaken notion. Theorists in many cases are just putting labels on what people do anyway. Some have advocated that there's a "naive" response to art, but this falls apart quickly. Once you inherit language, or the vocabulary of images of your culture, you are no longer naive. You are operating on layers of received ideas. You may be naive when it comes to discerning these ideas, but you are still putting them to use.

Listen to non-academic enthusiasts of art or literature talk about work, and you'll see people shift between approaches that are author-centric, work-centric, culture-centric, and viewer-centric. They may not be aware of those shifts, but they make them all the time. A little theory just makes you aware, so you understand the assumptions behind each angle, along with the strengths and weaknesses.

I think you're right that there are critics who use theory like bullies, to define the debate and further an agenda that's essentially political. Artists do the same thing (consider all the modern movements with their 'isms" and manifestos) but critics are probably worse. These are bad critics, not good ones. Good ones use theories like tools. A work will usually tell you what approach or approaches will be most fruitful, so it's handy to have more than just a hammer in your bag.


2) When I was much younger, in the late 1980s I suppose, I went through what I jokingly refer to as my "October Magazine period." I read many journals with an intellectual bent, gave them close study. Tried to incorporate those ideas into my work in some way. Then gradually a revelation began to grow in my mind--that the people writing these articles, that the people participating in the conference panels, that the people publishing these books didn't have *it.* That didn't have that mysterious thing that allows a person to *see,* to really feel a work, a photograph. It was all high-end grad school seminar, academic research to these people. They didn't see the beyond. That idea is a sort of shock when you are growing up, to realize that the "experts" on art really didn't get it, really weren't in love.

I've read some critics like that, mostly when doing research at the library for High School English term papers. I don't encounter it much these days. The critics I read are passionate about their subjects. Usually much more so than I am, to be honest. I mean, I like photography just fine, but I don't see all the shows and read everything available, I don't have a photo collection or floor-to-ceiling book cases, and I didn't go into debt to study this stuff. Are you sure the people you're talking about couldn't see? Is it possible they just didn't see things the way you do?


Do you think the DJs interpretation of the work is equally valid as Roger Water's? Do you think Glenn Beck's interpretation of the song "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen is also equally valid as the songwriter's?

Ok, you're making an assumption which is really common and equally problematic. Taking authorial intent out of the equation does NOT imply relativism.

Not one little bit. Consider this: Stieglitz showed us that accepting authorial intent made us highly susceptible to relativism (which Stieglitz do we trust?)

Different critical theories look for the locus of meaning in different places: the work itself, language, culture, the viewer's response, etc. etc.. That last one, the viewer's response, is where charges of relativism are most often found, but even reader response theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reader-response_criticism) applies rigor to the critical process and looks at what ranges of interpretations are in- or out-of-bounds based on cultural contexts (I recommend Stanley Fish's excellent essay, Is There a Text in this Class? (http://teacherweb.com/IN/Burris/Comber/Fish-Is-There-a-Text.pdf)").

At any rate, I don't know what Roger Waters said about "Comfortably Numb," and I don't have to, to think the DJ is an idiot. There's enough in the song itself, and its social context (and the context of the rest of The Wall) to tell me he's missing the point. And this kind of missing the point is common: it's simply a matter of missing irony. That's also why someone like Beck might think Born in the USA is about flag-waving patriotism (although with the Springsteen song you also have to ignore literally everything between the choruses, but I wouldn't put that past him).

jcoldslabs
29-Sep-2014, 16:37
Writing about the visual arts has always been fraught, hasn't it? Whatever critical framework you use, you are still using words to describe something that exists outside the realm of spoken or written language. Those concerned with the making of images may have trouble explaining in words what it is their photographs are "about." I know I do.

J.

Miguel Coquis
30-Sep-2014, 06:51
Equivalence and the sense of aliveness.
Flesh and bones of the process.
Perhaps it shows a possible path, a transition through the perennial trend and productive, evocative photography.
Here is an extract from a letter written 40 years ago by one of traditional pionners.
Having share it for long with my students, I am glad to post it here and now.

Miguel Coquis
7-Oct-2014, 00:43
front&shadows

Darin Boville
7-Oct-2014, 00:53
I wonder if we might differentiate between the words "evocative" and "Equivalent" in terms of this thread. To my way of thinking, if a photograph has a subject (or rather, depicts an object) that holds your visual attention then it probably isn't an Equivalent. (I like to think of "Equivalent" type photos as "subject-less" even though they depict *something.*) However, a picture of an object might evoke a feeling, thoughts, emotions, that are not "about" that object.

They are quite different things.

--Darin

paulr
7-Oct-2014, 15:54
I think "evocative," while more vague and wooly, is also more honest. A formal arrangement of objects might evoke a feeling, but it isn't the equivalent of that feeling (or of anything else).

Struan Gray
8-Oct-2014, 00:11
I suspect Stieglitz chose 'Equivalent' over 'Evocation' or any other option precisely because it sounds less vague and woolly.

My evidence is only anecdotal, but my grandfather, who was born in 1902 and in the 1920s was starting life as a physics and maths teacher, always emphasised 'equivalence' as a mathematical concept. This was a time when a great deal of 'airy-fairy' pure mathematics invented in the late C19th turned out to have applications in the new fields of quantum mechanics and relativity. The idea that disparate branches of knowledge were linked by a formal equivalence was explicitly stressed in secondary and higher education - in Britain, at least.


I've been grieving over the death of the author, and have decided that said death was but wishful thinking. If art were delivered through a wormhole or portal – as some art of the ancient past – then authorial intent is erased, but anything else is made and experienced as part of a society, and an economy. Photography is not experienced as images flashed onto our retinas at random, but comes with literal and metaphorical frames. Reviews, galleries, interviews, 'likes', and even discussions on LF.info, all contribute to our understanding and enjoyment of a given work. If we are not sure why a photograph looks the way it does, the natural tendency is not to throw up our hands and bemoan the impossibility of even imperfect communication, it is to go and ask the photographer what the hell they thought they were up to.

I do like serendipidity. I love landscapes, but I often draw most inspiration from painters and photographers who are not best known for their landscapes. Several times I have been to blockbuster shows at major art museums, only to find that my favourite work is not available in any other form, online or offline – often it's not even in the catalogue. So I appreciate the value of the viewer's privileged position, and am at least partially immune to crowd sourcing my own aesthetic judgements, but I am still approaching those works via the sacralising environment of an art exhibition, with the full weight of canonising authority there to back up my supposedly independent taste.

paulr
8-Oct-2014, 07:20
The death of the author is hardly without controversy. My feeling (to paraphrase Twain) is that its death has been exaggerated. Except in this case it's not ironic, because we're talking about an idea (authority), not a biological organism (an artist). So death can be a matter of degree.

I don't think anyone's saying that an artist's stated (or conjectured) intent is uninteresting, or even that it isn't potentially helpful. I'd even accept that the artist's perspective is a privileged one, since it isn't like anyone else's. But none of this actually grants it authority—claim to the one true interpretation a work.

Struan Gray
8-Oct-2014, 08:15
I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but... do many artists these days actually even attempt to define how their work should be approached, let alone insist on a single 'true' interpretation?

My feeling is that ambiguity is the new orthodoxy. Determining how a work should be approached seems to be done most by choice of venue for showing it, not through explicit assertions of authority.

But perhaps I'm just surrounded by limp-wristed Euro types :-)

Miguel Coquis
8-Oct-2014, 10:42
A short youtube where Ansel Adams mentions with great simplicity how Alfred Stieglitz answers about creative photography and equivalence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT-G42cskH4

Holdenrichards
8-Oct-2014, 16:09
So impressed with this thread, this is the next level work. You know how to use your camera, your development and printing techniques are sorted. You can start responding with the camera, instead of merely recording. It becomes more improvisational the more skilled you become, because technique is assured. Great read, thanks for the link. The images in this thread are first rate. The very first image of the web, window and world is nothing short of a complete revelation.

Heroique
8-Oct-2014, 16:40
So impressed with this thread, this is next level work. You know how to use your camera, your development and printing techniques are sorted. You can start responding with the camera, instead of merely recording. It becomes more improvisational the more skilled you become, because technique is assured. Great read, thanks for the link. The images in this thread are first rate. The very first image ode the web, window and world is nothing short of a complete revelation.

Sheesh, let's just forward it to the United Nations to help ease world tensions! :cool:

paulr
9-Oct-2014, 09:31
I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but... do many artists these days actually even attempt to define how their work should be approached, let alone insist on a single 'true' interpretation?

My feeling is that ambiguity is the new orthodoxy. Determining how a work should be approached seems to be done most by choice of venue for showing it, not through explicit assertions of authority.

But perhaps I'm just surrounded by limp-wristed Euro types :-)

There are limp-wristed American-types, also ... they just aren't as well dressed.

Ambiguity is a big deal, but is perhaps too broad to be an orthodoxy. This whole thread is technically about ambiguity. Any time a sign is "overdetermined," meaning, pointing to more than one thing, you've got ambiguity. Metaphor, symbol, subtext, even puns: all ambiguity. It's not a postmodern or even a modernist phenomenon. Shakespeare was the great master of it, and William Empson (http://lostritto.com/risd2013spring/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/empson.pdf) in the 1930s its best known navigator.

I think trouble (and bullshit) emerge when we confuse ambiguity with vagueness. It's easy to see these ideas as (ahem) equivalents, but they're in fact opposites. Vagueness suggests an underdetermined sign—one that points nowhere, even if it suggests otherwise.

Think of ambiguity as something that points simultaneously to a number of different, but discrete and defensible meanings. While vagueness is something that may seem meaningful, but just sends you out into to the desert to fend for yourself, wondering if maybe you're the only one who's missing the point.

Peter Lewin
9-Oct-2014, 10:36
I think trouble (and bullshit) emerge when we confuse ambiguity with vagueness. It's easy to see these ideas as (ahem) equivalents, but they're in fact opposites. Vagueness suggests an underdetermined sign—one that points nowhere, even if it suggests otherwise.

Think of ambiguity as something that points simultaneously to a number of different, but discrete and defensible meanings. While vagueness is something that may seem meaningful, but just sends you out into to the desert to fend for yourself, wondering if maybe you're the only one who's missing the point.

Seems to me that this thread continues to circle around on itself. It started with many references to the two primary sources of Equivalences, Steiglitz and White. Stieglitz's original Equivalences, I believe, were his cloud pictures, which I would consider "vagueness." I'm sitting with Minor White's "Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations" in front of me, and the majority of what we would all agree are Equivalences are pictures of almost unidentifiable rock strata, ice and water abstracts, and similar - again, to me at least, almost the definition of vagueness. Perhaps I'm missing the distinction you are drawing between ambiguity and vagueness.

Another way to look at it is the distinction between abstract images and those with an identifiable subject. The abstracts have to be considered vague, since they are nothing but patterns. The images with an identifiable subject are more likely to be ambiguous, due to symbols and metaphors. But this thread can to some extent be divided into two schools of thought: those who argue that an Equivalence has to be abstract, and those who argue that any image which gives rise to metaphor, symbolism, or other cultural artifacts can also be called an Equivalence. Which again leaves me confused about your distinction between vagueness and ambiguity in the context of Equivalences.

jcoldslabs
10-Oct-2014, 01:34
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.


http://www.kolstad.us/ebay/35mm---Light-and-Doors-02.jpg

Jonathan


*This image is not large format, but I hope the moderators will allow it for the purposes of this discussion since it is the most illustrative example I could find.

Miguel Coquis
10-Oct-2014, 02:17
[QUOTE=Peter Lewin;1177970]Seems to me that this thread continues to circle around on itself...
Meanwhile, creative camera work moves as perpetuum mobile.
Besides the endless comments, some have chosen to "say" with grey tones (including black and white) and to "play" low, middle and high keys light intensities through their photographic production.
Some photographs can represent outer/inner visual process, all together in a particular intensity producing physical, emotional or intellectual reaction in the viewer.
One can be more or less aware of energy moving during a lecture, it is also possible to recognize different qualities of attention (...what kind of attention, now ?).
When trying to maintain alive the dynamics (symbiosis) between real, symbolic and imagined, and sharing with others, perhaps one is getting a taste of "equivalence"

Darin Boville
10-Oct-2014, 13:11
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.

.[/SIZE]

If you are talking about the light forming the shape of a Christian cross then I would call that a metaphor, not an equivalent.

--Darin

Peter Lewin
10-Oct-2014, 13:24
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.


http://www.kolstad.us/ebay/35mm---Light-and-Doors-02.jpg[/SIZE]

Jonathan: I think this is a great image. And yes, like Darin, of course I see the image of a cross, although I think as a really good abstract, it is open to other interpretations, or phrased differently, various viewers will probably see different things in it. So to repeat, I think it is a wonderful abstract image. The difficulty I have with this entire thread is that, as many have pointed out, it is taking a visual art form and trying to deconstruct it with words. And while I sincerely appreciate the amount of art study that several posters bring to the thread, I also see another of these "two groups" things going on, those with art education, and those like me who simply love photography. And of course I have to make an admission: whenever I get into debates about art majors and their efforts to intellectualize everything, I do get into arguments with my daughter, who was one...and is now working on her MA in Art Education...

Darin Boville
10-Oct-2014, 13:57
whenever I get into debates about art majors and their efforts to intellectualize everything

Hey Peter, I don't have an MFA or any other degree in the arts. I think that is probably one of the worst things an artist can do to themselves. Well, not as bad as a degree in English or Philosophy but you get my point! I'm not anti-intellectual--I highly recommend a degree in *something.* For myself, I have a masters degree in public policy....it's been quite useful.

--Darin

jcoldslabs
10-Oct-2014, 14:08
I don't have an MFA or any other degree in the arts. I think that is probably one of the worst things an artist can do to themselves. Well, not as bad as a degree in English or Philosophy...

D'oh! I've got both a BA in English and an MFA. I hope I haven't damaged myself irrevocably. :rolleyes:



The difficulty I have with this entire thread is that, as many have pointed out, it is taking a visual art form and trying to deconstruct it with words.

I agree. It might be better to "reply" to images with other images instead of words, but that would be equally futile.

Jonathan

pdmoylan
10-Oct-2014, 15:16
[QUOTE=Peter Lewin;1177970]Seems to me that this thread continues to circle around on itself...
Meanwhile, creative camera work moves as perpetuum mobile.
Besides the endless comments, some have chosen to "say" with grey tones (including black and white) and to "play" low, middle and high keys light intensities through their photographic production.
Some photographs can represent outer/inner visual process, all together in a particular intensity producing physical, emotional or intellectual reaction in the viewer.
One can be more or less aware of energy moving during a lecture, it is also possible to recognize different qualities of attention (...what kind of attention, now ?).
When trying to maintain alive the dynamics (symbiosis) between real, symbolic and imagined, and sharing with others, perhaps one is getting a taste of "equivalence"

For me this evokes mystery. Yet I do not have a correspondent reaction lacking an immediate emotional connection with it. It may not rise to equivilence for me. Yet Miguel may have intended to provide a basis for such recall. I am particular to images which are distinctly individual, a creative perspective that I could not have envisioned but which has a distinct emotional impact upon me. A newness/freshness is what I seek both in my own work and in others. Perhaps this is what White had in mind.

As to intention, ideas, however, are best conveyed in a series of images (think Diptychs or Tripdychs) creating a "platform" for intellectual discernment. Aren't we more taken with artists whose productivity across decades provides the fodder extraction of intentions.

With the visiccitudes of light, movement etc imposition of intention in photography becomes rather suspect. I refer back to my prior points which suggest that a "controlled enviroment (i.e. studio, unchanging night lights or other controlled circumstance) may allow for perhaps what Miguel is attempting to evoke in us. Otherwise, it is a crap shoot :).

PDM

pdmoylan
10-Oct-2014, 15:28
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.


http://www.kolstad.us/ebay/35mm---Light-and-Doors-02.jpg

Jonathan


*This image is not large format, but I hope the moderators will allow it for the purposes of this discussion since it is the most illustrative example I could find.

Jonathan,

As I said many months ago, your fresh vision which is sourced by experimentation (without needing to emulate others it would appear) frequently brings me through the doors of new emotions. I am not sure there is any real correspondence here, that it, dismissing the obvious christian reference which I immediately discount; however I submit that your "construction" of the end size of the print which is singular lends itself to a notion of intention more than typical 4x5 and 8x10 (and their proprotional derivatives). You have taken a perhaps serendipitous event and molded it into a intentioned shape. This perhaps is afar as the equivilence experience can take us.

Having graduated with a BA double major in Comp Lit and Art History, I wish I could see with your eyes. Keep it coming.

PDM

Kirk Gittings
10-Oct-2014, 16:13
So impressed with this thread, this is the next level work. You know how to use your camera, your development and printing techniques are sorted. You can start responding with the camera, instead of merely recording. It becomes more improvisational the more skilled you become, because technique is assured. Great read, thanks for the link. The images in this thread are first rate. The very first image of the web, window and world is nothing short of a complete revelation.

I have been watching this thread but never felt like I needed to say anything-perhaps because the ideas here are second nature to me having "grown up" in photography in the late 60's and early 70's. It didn't really cross my mind that this could be new to anyone much less a revelation. Good for you Holden! This is this forum at its best.

Kirk Gittings
10-Oct-2014, 16:14
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.


http://www.kolstad.us/ebay/35mm---Light-and-Doors-02.jpg

Jonathan


*This image is not large format, but I hope the moderators will allow it for the purposes of this discussion since it is the most illustrative example I could find.

Friken' brilliant.

austin granger
10-Oct-2014, 16:42
I've decided that from here on, I'm going to try and only speak in photographs. That way I won't risk tying myself into knots in attempting to explain myself. You are probably relieved. :)


...I don't have an MFA or any other degree in the arts. I think that is probably one of the worst things an artist can do to themselves. Well, not as bad as a degree in English or Philosophy but you get my point!...-Darin

Hey, I resemble that remark! (BA in Philosophy, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1996. With honors-ha!)




https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5528/10470255425_11931240fc_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/gXdNag)Winchester Bay, Oregon (https://flic.kr/p/gXdNag) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8175/8011263333_b3e5cfd578_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/dcVPtT)Astoria (https://flic.kr/p/dcVPtT) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8432/7836069834_9b7a61192f_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/cWrUyj)In the Basement, Brentwood Street, Portland (https://flic.kr/p/cWrUyj) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

Holdenrichards
10-Oct-2014, 18:55
I have been watching this thread but never felt like I needed to say anything-perhaps because the ideas here are second nature to me having "grown up" in photography in the late 60's and early 70's. It didn't really cross my mind that this could be new to anyone much less a revelation. Good for you Holden! This is this forum at its best.


Cheers Kirk! And yeah I get a lot from this forum, helps more than you know

David Schaller
11-Oct-2014, 06:32
[QUOTE=austin granger;1178297]I've decided that from here on, I'm going to try and only speak in photographs. That way I won't risk tying myself into knots in attempting to explain myself. You are probably relieved. :)



Hey, I resemble that remark! (BA in Philosophy, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1996. With honors-ha!)

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8175/8011263333_b3e5cfd578_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/dcVPtT)Astoria (https://flic.kr/p/dcVPtT) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

I can definitely see your evocation of the iconic Banana Slug in this image!
Dave

austin granger
11-Oct-2014, 08:45
[QUOTE=austin granger;1178297]
I can definitely see your evocation of the iconic Banana Slug in this image!
Dave

See, and here I thought it was a casket. :) Go Banana Slugs!

gogo120
11-Oct-2014, 10:28
123059

4x5
150mm
N

jcoldslabs
11-Oct-2014, 12:49
Friken' brilliant.

Thanks, Kirk.

J.

jcoldslabs
11-Oct-2014, 12:54
...and here I thought it was a casket.

Why not a covered train car? Can't it just be a covered train car? I mean, I see a covered train car. :)

Jonathan

TXFZ1
11-Oct-2014, 14:40
Why not a covered train car? Can't it just be a covered train car? I mean, I see a covered train car. :)

Jonathan

I see the Ghost of Thomas the Train

David

austin granger
11-Oct-2014, 20:13
It is either a covered train car or a casket, depending on who's looking. It is not however, the ghost of Thomas the Train, as Thomas the Train, to the best of my knowledge, is still alive. :-)

"With our thoughts we make the world." -Buddha

jcoldslabs
11-Oct-2014, 23:37
"With the world we make our thoughts." - not the Buddha.

:)

Miguel Coquis
12-Oct-2014, 03:54
123059

4x5
150mm
N

Impressing contribution !
Would be really interesting to see more...
Thanks for sharing gg120 !!!

TXFZ1
12-Oct-2014, 08:03
It is either a covered train car or a casket, depending on who's looking. It is not however, the ghost of Thomas the Train, as Thomas the Train, to the best of my knowledge, is still alive. :-)

"With our thoughts we make the world." -Buddha

True, but in my mind I have equivalently murdered Thomas the train many times due to an autistic nephew with OCD about watching his videos over and over. Maybe, I should have wrote Thomas was getting ready for Halloween.

David

gogo120
12-Oct-2014, 11:25
Impressing contribution !
Would be really interesting to see more...
Thanks for sharing gg120 !!!

here You are

123108

4x5
210mm
FP4 (@200asa)
zone system N+3 / rodinal 1:50



Thanks!

Holdenrichards
12-Oct-2014, 12:08
Thought about it, this an image that always brings more to mind than what it is for me. I think it fits here...

123128

Heroique
12-Oct-2014, 17:27
...an image that always brings more to mind than what it is...

Say, that sounds like a concise way to describe equivalence in lieu of overly scholarly articles with overly precise definitions and overly pregnant jargon.

It's probably one good way to start if someone, other than a scholar, asked me to explain what it really means.

If they're smart, they'd ask follow-up questions since, after all, they'd realize there's a "two-ness" to every art object (i.e., the object + what's "brought to mind" by it) – something that's certainly not unique to photographic art. In response to these follow-up questions, rather than build on my effort to explain, I think I'd offer the link to this thread for their mobile device, say you're on your own, and with a friendly wink and mysterious smile, disappear into the night.

Miguel Coquis
13-Oct-2014, 02:12
here You are

123108

[QUOTE=Holdenrichards;1178712]Thought about it, this an image that always brings more to mind than what it is for me. I think it fits here...

123128

Interesting shots, gg120, Holden !!!
The perennial trend remains open offering opportunity to discover and share new ways of writting, new individual sintaxis.
...so much can be fitted inside a window in despite of what one could be able to read !
Waves movements cleans trivial traces...

johnmsanderson
13-Oct-2014, 22:58
Maybe??

http://www.john-sanderson.com/files/gimgs/28_pennsylvania-landscape-1-john-sanderson-american-traditions-sm.jpg

Struan Gray
13-Oct-2014, 23:40
John, I'm sure that Minor White would have come up with a portentous title for that photo. 'Arboreal Vanitas' or some such :-)

Paul: I'm confused by your use of 'overdetermined' - in the sciences it means a situation where there is only one choice, forced on you by more than one factor. It's not just a lack of ambiguity: ambiguity is ruled out for several reasons at once, any one of which would be sufficient on its own.

h2oman
14-Oct-2014, 07:33
"overdetermined" comes up in mathematics when solving a system of equations with more constraints than unknowns. It usually results in there being no solution to the system. Conversely, an underdetermined system has too few constraints and results in a multitude of solutions (perhaps infinitely many).

austin granger
14-Oct-2014, 17:10
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7005/6799419143_dceb9cf8d0_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/bmQNqx)Sculptured Beach, Point Reyes (https://flic.kr/p/bmQNqx) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

hendrik faure
14-Oct-2014, 21:20
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7005/6799419143_dceb9cf8d0_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/bmQNqx)Sculptured Beach, Point Reyes (https://flic.kr/p/bmQNqx) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr
austin, great picture - I would like to see the neg under microscope
compare http://www.wired.com/2010/09/fractal-patterns-in-nature/
Hendrik

David Hedley
15-Oct-2014, 03:54
As to intention, ideas, however, are best conveyed in a series of images (think Diptychs or Tripdychs) creating a "platform" for intellectual discernment. Aren't we more taken with artists whose productivity across decades provides the fodder extraction of intentions.

With the visiccitudes of light, movement etc imposition of intention in photography becomes rather suspect. I refer back to my prior points which suggest that a "controlled enviroment (i.e. studio, unchanging night lights or other controlled circumstance) may allow for perhaps what Miguel is attempting to evoke in us. Otherwise, it is a crap shoot :).

PDM


More interesting discussion, and it’s inevitable (I think), that the main tenets of critical theory will surface, as they underpin all discussion on aesthetics, whatever the medium. (Not least because many have declared a background in literature or fine arts – I’m also guilty – language, literature and anthropology in my case).

This post is interesting, because it begins to point at aspects which are often specific to photography, including the elements of chance (weather, light, unknown obstacles) which frustrate us at the time of exposure. The tonal range, and depth of colour and tone are also factors which are specific constraints to achieving an image, no matter whether it is documentary or figurative in nature. Writers, artists and composers can enjoy recollection in tranquility; photographers generally can’t. I’ll have to do some more reading of Stieglitz, but I think this is partly what drove his thinking. His ‘equivalence’ images are explorations of chance images of clouds, within the tonal range of film & paper available at that time, and with no visible stylistic stamp of the photographer – interpretation is entirely up to the viewer. I think many of the images in this thread so far are not like this, in that they seem to try to lead the viewer down a particular path.

Maris Rusis
15-Oct-2014, 15:39
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8149/7532024712_094ce25938_c.jpg
Stranded Jellyfish, Granite Bay


Gelatin-silver photograph on Agfa Classic MCC 111 VC FB photographic paper, image size 24.5cm X 19.3cm, from a Kodak TriX 4x5 negative exposed in a Tachihara 45GF double extension field view camera fitted with a Voigtlander Heliar 21cm f4.5 lens.
A mandala shaped animal lies in a mandala shaped tomb as it traverses its mortal journey.

Struan Gray
15-Oct-2014, 23:33
Excellent Maris!

paulr
16-Oct-2014, 20:21
Paul: I'm confused by your use of 'overdetermined' - in the sciences it means a situation where there is only one choice, forced on you by more than one factor. It's not just a lack of ambiguity: ambiguity is ruled out for several reasons at once, any one of which would be sufficient on its own.

It describes ambiguity if you flip the sign and signifier around. If in overdetermination, there are more causes present than are necessary to cause the effect, the effect would be the words present on the page; the cause would be possible meanings expressed by the words. This use isn't standard, as the uses are standardized in science and mathematics. It's just a way of describing a kind of indeterminacy.

If ambiguity corresponds roughly with overdetermination, vagueness corresponds quite closely with underdetermination. In an underdetermined system, there is either no possible solution or an infinite number of possible solutions.

Indeterminacy plays an important role in philosophy an linguistics and criticism. These borrowed phrases from math and science, I suspect, are really metaphorical descriptions of its different flavors.

Struan Gray
16-Oct-2014, 23:42
That's a neat way of looking at it.

Rasputin was poisoned, shot, clubbed, shot again, and drowned.

Science would say he is definitely dead.

Art would say we don't know how he died.


Science does odd things to words. I once tried to convince a room full of historians that strain is not just a bit different from stress, but is a fundamentally different quantitiy. I didn't make much progress.

Miguel Coquis
17-Oct-2014, 11:20
This photograph was taken by one of the students during session of "pin-hole" camera workshops.
The circumstances and conditions of the "making" of this photograph would have to be considered,
and in a certain way can explain how equivalence roots connections among the print, the viewer and the original scene.
I have not yet myself, clearly understand this phenomena !
This photograph is called: Oh..., July !

During the workshop session,the student (X), seeing July (see picture) in the middle upper window, (X)took immediately his wooden tripod and pin-hole camera box to point in that direction to make a photograph of July.
He(X) got everything set for the making of "July" on the window and started to expose film.
When July saw she was being the star for the photo session, she started to arrange herself, her hair, clothes etc...
She kept moving back and forward for a short time and finally went away.

Our student keep counting the minutes and continued his task, holding his tripod and camera in place, exposing film for the long necessary time !
... 20 minutes later, picture was done. Took the pin-hole camera to the dark room and things where ready for developing sheet film.

Developing done, film was wash and hanged to dry.

It is important to clear my story by saying that this workshop was running once a week in a Hospital for people with mental disorder.

So, one week later, I came back for a new session. The student was very excited waiting to see a result.
I was very worried of what I have to show, it was a contact print from the negative exposed the week before...
I was also afraid with the unexpected reactions that the print could generate on my student !
Finally, I give a close envelope with the photograph inside.
The student precipitate and open it...
A long silence followed and suddenly the student turning his eyes to me, with a tender expression on all his body, he exclaims:
Oh..., July !!!

paulr
18-Oct-2014, 07:49
Science does odd things to words. I once tried to convince a room full of historians that strain is not just a bit different from stress, but is a fundamentally different quantitiy. I didn't make much progress.

I tried to explain to my dad that in physics, a car slowing down is a kind of acceleration. He's a Harvard grad; I didn't get anywhere.

Language is funny like that. A word means something completely different to specialized tribes than to the general population. You've probably heard rock climbers use "formation" in a way foreign to geologists. Electric musicians and string musicians mean something totally different by "tone." Philosophy is full of technical language made out of everyday words. You might even think you understand what they're talking about ...

paulr
18-Oct-2014, 07:57
A long silence followed and suddenly the student turning his eyes to me, with a tender expression on all his body, he exclaims:
Oh..., July !!!

This reminds me of the drawing of the sheep in "The Little Prince."

123529

pdmoylan
20-Oct-2014, 17:37
I was digging through my scanned images trying to find a shot that exemplifies White's notion of "equivalence." I think this one qualifies, in that the shape of the light is rather blatantly suggestive of something other than doors and carpet, and, uncharacteristically for me, I had this duality in mind when making the image.* Does it succeed based on White's definition? I really don't know.


http://www.kolstad.us/ebay/35mm---Light-and-Doors-02.jpg

Jonathan


*This image is not large format, but I hope the moderators will allow it for the purposes of this discussion since it is the most illustrative example I could find.

Jonathan,

A self rebuttal and additional comments if you will. In intially considering this image I was striking my years of parochial education which for me would emboss a certain prejudice onto its interpretation.

But the image has cast a long shadow and here are my afterthoughts:

This could easily be construed as a benediction with a the backlighting of a monstrance during a transfiguation event. What is so compelling is the line vertically through which suggests a line on pavement ("the pavement grey" to quote Yeats). Yes meaning could be extracted to show a miraculous event in a city environment. A compelling image which I dare say might pique the interest of believers. Again, context can enlighten many compelling images and in this case it is what I bring to the image that provides a symbolic interpretation. Whether or not it was intentioned or Jonathan had a sublimital construction to his own belief structure is perhaps irrelevant. The image has imprinted itself.

See Gustave Moreau's use of similar light in "The Apparition". Powerful stuff.

PDM

jcoldslabs
20-Oct-2014, 18:21
Ahh, Yeats is music to my ears. (Quite literally, as I find him to be one of the most musical of the modern poets and perhaps my favorite writer of all time.) Thanks for the commentary.

J.

pdmoylan
20-Oct-2014, 20:41
Very interesting.

I spent the better part of two semesters studying Yeat's plays and his collected poems and have read him forever since it seems. The Yeats Reader has a nice selection including prose and discussion of A Vision. There should be a recording on youtube of Yeat's reading the Lake Isle at Innesfree. His upward inflection at the end of each stanza is somewhat unique. If you haven't experienced, check it out.

Great to share this stuff with you.

PDM

mdm
21-Oct-2014, 18:49
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-UjQwBK_n06Q/VEcMEJXVOAI/AAAAAAAACGw/8gM-pZ9DX5w/s1600/Scan-141022-0002-Edit.jpg

Struan Gray
21-Oct-2014, 23:31
Ah yes. The old hogg <--> sheep dichotomy.

swmcl
23-Oct-2014, 13:30
I see the hog as jumping for joy. It should be titled "Joy".

austin granger
23-Oct-2014, 14:23
That's a fantastic picture David.

swmcl
23-Oct-2014, 21:46
I do apologise if my comment is seen as being critical of the image David. My comment is having some light jest at the thread concept only - nothing at all to do with the image.

Miguel Coquis
24-Oct-2014, 02:03
"What is below is like what is above, and what is above...."
L'Yvette, Vaux de Cernay, 78720 France

George E. Sheils
24-Oct-2014, 05:33
Ghost echoes: shadow of the lost mariner


https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3163/5771504524_467871c5a0_z.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/seoirseosial/5771504524/)
Barnageera groyne 2 - 5x4 pinhole (https://www.flickr.com/photos/seoirseosial/5771504524/) by George Sheils (seoirseosial) (https://www.flickr.com/people/seoirseosial/), on Flickr

Peter Lewin
25-Oct-2014, 08:57
George - beautiful image! The pinhole vignetting only adds to it. Would you care to enlighten us as to the Gaelic?

George E. Sheils
26-Oct-2014, 08:02
George - beautiful image! The pinhole vignetting only adds to it. Would you care to enlighten us as to the Gaelic?

Hi Peter, if you mean the words Seoirse O'Sial ....well that's my name in Gaelic.

George = Seoirse and Sheils = O'Sial.

You know, I was a bit unnerved with the reflection of the groyne in the sand. To me it bears a resemblance to some of the old fishermen I used to know when I was a young lad growing up. Some were lost at sea, never to return again. Although, looking at it now it is obviously just a reflection.

I'd just like to shout out to Miguel and everyone else for contributing to this fantastic and engaging thread. ��

Darryl Baird
27-Oct-2014, 20:28
I promised myself that I would read every page of this lovely thread before wading in with my own contribution… I failed in that effort. I simply couldn't wait to nudge into the mix, as I find the conversation and imagery too compelling to resist. I will read the previous (16) pages, I promise.

After the question about the context of the image (museum versus Instagram), I retraced my own experience of the first five pages of imagery and thought that I had already begun to "read" each with a bias -- I was looking at the "idea" of equivalence and metaphor as a jumping off point. I was influenced by the context/theme of the thread itself. Perhaps it was also the mental thinking that had already begun upon reading several initial posts. Whatever, I was fun. I was looking past subject matter to the experience of the image itself, as if in the actual scene. The white door by Austin felt hot to view; I experienced something that wasn't in the print/screen viewing.

Is the reference always external, or can it also be felt more directly, more as an experience rather than as a graphic image?

This idea intrigues me to no end (perhaps it was all that acid I did too, who knows?), but I've been making (and struggling with) work that approaches subjects as gestures, or metaphors, and/or icons, but calling it "pictorial drawing," named in homage of Talbot's 'photogenic drawings' and the Pictorialism movement.


[One area that might move this work a little outside of an (my) understanding of "equivalents" or "equivalence" is a use of focal plane manipulation to pull a viewer through/around the images. Not sure it works better, but it keeps me busy.]

Images from the series, and they're salt prints.

Darryl Baird
27-Oct-2014, 20:37
This is probably the first image that got me to thinking about those external references. ...a way to indicate the writing of time by the forces in the landscape. For awhile, it was all I wanted to find and photograph, but it grew too confining and I left it, and sometime later began the latest work, not realizing the connection until thinking about it today. …more fun. :)

124178

Richard M. Coda
28-Oct-2014, 16:01
http://www.pctype.com/rcphoto/test/NudePear.jpg

Nude Pear, 1990

Richard M. Coda
28-Oct-2014, 16:05
http://www.pctype.com/rcphoto/test/Opus40.jpg

Opus 40, Saugerties, NY, 1988
8x10 Tri-X

Inspired by Minor White

Miguel Coquis
5-Dec-2014, 03:45
Difficult to fit simplicity onto fine art pretended work...
here is a try, a planned shot trying to match elements from into an abstract composition with camera work options,
enjoy it,
MAC

RSalles
26-Jan-2015, 07:41
Just a Audio interview made in 2000 just for who has missed: Getting to Know Carl Chiarenza

https://soundcloud.com/chiarenza/lenswork-interview-2000

Enjoy,

Renato

stradibarrius
31-Jan-2015, 06:04
Dennis as I understand this thread an the intent, for me this photograph made the light bulb come on. I don't know wjat your vision was but I know what I see. I love it! Thanks.
I've often times felt an image has a "what else it is" characteristic. Perhaps it's clear at the moment I'm composing or, in other cases, it might become clear only after the passage of time.

However, that "equivalent" may be something very personal that I would not expect another person to comprehend or relate to. For that reason, I don't suggest thoughts or interject personal feelings when presenting a photograph (unless necessary for some reason). Usually a straightforward title or identification is all I provide.

The viewer may never see what I see in my image, aside from the literal. However, I hope some images will evoke an emotional response such that the viewer relates to the image meaningfully or personally on whatever level possible - should he or she wish to delve deeper.


http://www.jackandbeans.com/pbd/NM_502_dunes-grasses.jpg

austin granger
2-Feb-2015, 15:22
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8628/15810678233_ae3bee8796_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/q68RNz)Portland (https://flic.kr/p/q68RNz) by austin granger (https://www.flickr.com/people/60005435@N08/), on Flickr

David Lobato
2-Feb-2015, 17:23
This is probably the first image that got me to thinking about those external references. ...a way to indicate the writing of time by the forces in the landscape. For awhile, it was all I wanted to find and photograph, but it grew too confining and I left it, and sometime later began the latest work, not realizing the connection until thinking about it today. …more fun. :)

124178

Writings in the landscape are ephemeral poetry.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55432652/Great%20Sand%20Dunes%202%20450LFF.jpg

Joe Smigiel
2-Feb-2015, 20:51
Austin,

I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of your images. I'm wondering what it is like for you walking around with the camera.

Sometimes I see something and record it just to prove to myself that I really did see it and such things actually existed physically. At times I'm enraptured. Other times, dumbfounded at the visual connections. Sometimes everything seems to call to be photographed (or so it seemed during those particular strolls) and I'll look back on a sequence of shots and wonder why the percentages differ so much day to day.

What goes on in your head? What is it like for you?

austin granger
3-Feb-2015, 10:35
Austin,

I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of your images. I'm wondering what it is like for you walking around with the camera.

Sometimes I see something and record it just to prove to myself that I really did see it and such things actually existed physically. At times I'm enraptured. Other times, dumbfounded at the visual connections. Sometimes everything seems to call to be photographed (or so it seemed during those particular strolls) and I'll look back on a sequence of shots and wonder why the percentages differ so much day to day.

What goes on in your head? What is it like for you?

Thank you Joe. You are always very kind.

As for what's inside my head, I imagine it's not much different than what's inside most people's heads, that is, a roiling ocean of thoughts and desires and well worn dead ends. Oh wait, is that just me? :-) Seriously, I can certainly relate to all of the things you mentioned experiencing when you are out looking for photos, but I think the last thing (something that "calls out" to be photographed) is the thing I relate to the most. I was thinking about it this morning (I saw your note last night but wanted to stew on it) and it struck me that when I'm out photographing, it's more like listening than anything. That is, when I'm out roaming around, I try to still that roiling ocean of thoughts and just "listen." Honestly, I never really know what it is I'm looking for, but I know it when I see it, or "hear" it. The subject is a thing that "sounds" (like sounding a bell) within me. It is a thing that I recognize, an external representation of an internal condition. If things are going really, really well (photographically speaking), it feels like the world IS my mind, or that my self has expanded to encompass the whole universe.

Reading that last bit back over, I imagine I sound like I'm completely nuts. But look, to turn to the photo of the foggy steps, at the time I made it, I wasn't thinking anything other than; "That's a photo!," but now, looking back, it's clear why I recognized it as such. I recognized it because it's a pretty good representation of where I'm at in my life: not really knowing where I'm going, barely understanding where I've come from, not even realizing whether I'm headed up or down, half lost on an endless path in the fog. You get the gist.

I think that if my pictures appeal to other people, it's because the more specific one gets, the more universal one becomes. When you go inward, you're going outward as well. We're all human, and so experience the same struggles.

jp
3-Feb-2015, 12:29
Thank you Joe. You are always very kind.

As for what's inside my head, I imagine it's not much different than what's inside most people's heads, that is, a roiling ocean of thoughts and desires and well worn dead ends. Oh wait, is that just me? :-) Seriously, I can certainly relate to all of the things you mentioned experiencing when you are out looking for photos, but I think the last thing (something that "calls out" to be photographed) is the thing I relate to the most. I was thinking about it this morning (I saw your note last night but wanted to stew on it) and it struck me that when I'm out photographing, it's more like listening than anything. That is, when I'm out roaming around, I try to still that roiling ocean of thoughts and just "listen." Honestly, I never really know what it is I'm looking for, but I know it when I see it, or "hear" it. The subject is a thing that "sounds" (like sounding a bell) within me. It is a thing that I recognize, an external representation of an internal condition. If things are going really, really well (photographically speaking), it feels like the world IS my mind, or that my self has expanded to encompass the whole universe.

Reading that last bit back over, I imagine I sound like I'm completely nuts.

That's pretty reasonable. I'm nodding sort of in agreement. It's not nuts compared to what many artists write. Joe I was on one of those enraptured outings Saturday. I had two rolls of film and ran out (12 shots per roll). I enjoyed what I had. I couldn't call my wife to bring me more since she was snowed in. Now I'm going to keep a pro-pack of 5 rolls in my jacket pocket for next time that happens.

Joe Smigiel
3-Feb-2015, 21:18
Thanks for the reply Austin. Your response makes a lot of sense to me tonight in particular. I'm enrolled in a meditation class that met earlier this evening and I was trying to quiet that ocean of thoughts as well.

austin granger
3-Feb-2015, 23:23
Thanks for the reply Austin. Your response makes a lot of sense to me tonight in particular. I'm enrolled in a meditation class that met earlier this evening and I was trying to quiet that ocean of thoughts as well.

Photography and meditation are closely related I think. Large format photography, with all it's wonderful, slow rituals, especially so!

Miguel Coquis
5-Feb-2015, 10:22
...light and shadow, continuosly offering an "enter to the dance",
as says Austin:
...When you go inward, you're going outward as well.
I will just add a little:
...mirrors, in between, and an opportunity for self-manifestation through creative camera work !
(5x7", D76, Ilford Delta 100, Ross Xpress 250mm f:3 in my bed room :))

Miguel Coquis
7-Feb-2015, 15:24
one little more view from light movements series, staring,
(5x7", D76, Ilford Delta 100, Ross Xpress 250mm f:3 in my bed room)

RSalles
8-Feb-2015, 07:28
...light and shadow, continuosly offering an "enter to the dance",
as says Austin:
...When you go inward, you're going outward as well.
I will just add a little:
...mirrors, in between, and an opportunity for self-manifestation through creative camera work !
(5x7", D76, Ilford Delta 100, Ross Xpress 250mm f:3 in my bed room :))


Amazing!

Cheers,

Renato

stradibarrius
8-Feb-2015, 07:45
129027I drive by this tree all the time and it has always generated an imagine in my head. I hope you see it???

Miguel Coquis
20-May-2015, 10:48
Wonder...
14x17"
CZJ 700mm f:5

Darryl Baird
20-May-2015, 15:12
I'm back, mostly to say how much I appreciate a meditative thread like this and how it adds to my experience as a photographer. The work I had already considered last fall bore some fruit and I made another series to "answer" the original from White Sands (NM). Now I find myself looking harder for these symbols, marks, and notations (and homage to Nathan Lyons and Harry Callahan).

Miguel Coquis
21-May-2015, 15:33
I'm back, mostly to say how much I appreciate a meditative thread like this and how it adds to my experience as a photographer. The work I had already considered last fall bore some fruit and I made another series to "answer" the original from White Sands (NM). Now I find myself looking harder for these symbols, marks, and notations (and homage to Nathan Lyons and Harry Callahan).

...beautiful writting Darryl !
it seems completely weld with essentials, hard to say more (sumi e...?)
Me like it much !

jcoldslabs
21-May-2015, 16:05
http://kolstad.us/ebay/4x5-Glass-Pans-No-2.jpg

Darryl Baird
21-May-2015, 16:20
Writings in the landscape are ephemeral poetry.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55432652/Great%20Sand%20Dunes%202%20450LFF.jpg

Guess I didn't read my email when this was posted. Love it, so much sensation in the textures represented. I'm finding that my earlier images of the sand dunes are more interesting to me now with lighter tonal values… so I'm revising all the images with similar visual attributes. That's a first for me. Have others revisited earlier works with a heavy revisionists agenda?

Miguel Coquis
25-May-2015, 13:40
...in between ?

Miguel Coquis
1-Jun-2015, 02:36
always trying to to get one's head above water and get reconciled with the different voices/languages on oneself,
words, feelings, sensation and why not: intuitions
suddenly something is given, removes me, shows a possibility
the process is renewed
that is one powerful reason why "the making of a picture" can relate me to this singular B&W world !
Doesn't it ?

StoneNYC
1-Jun-2015, 23:34
I've been really struggling to understand this, it's such a complex yet simple thing. I welcome feedback and please tell me if I'm missing the idea behind this.

4x5 cropped to 2x5 TMY-2 in Rodinal

134714

jp
2-Jun-2015, 07:06
I've been really struggling to understand this, it's such a complex yet simple thing. I welcome feedback and please tell me if I'm missing the idea behind this.
4x5 cropped to 2x5 TMY-2 in Rodinal


Not sure where the truth lives, but I think maybe 1/3-1/2 of the images here don't exhibit equivalence or I'm thick and ignorant to not see it. It's perhaps a bit of both.

To help you:

In the book, "Minor White Manifestations of the Spirit", page 4 talks about White learning equivalence from Stieglitz. If you've got that book or can see it at the library, I think that's a pretty solid practical basis for equivalence, due to the influence of these two photographers. (I'm not sure what is fair use for showing that page here)

Separate from this description, I've heard Paul Caponigro mention "what else it is" as being important without saying the word equivalence, He was a student of White, and was speaking to a general audience and not a photo history audience.

Jim Noel
2-Jun-2015, 07:12
Not sure where the truth lives, but I think maybe 1/3-1/2 of the images here don't exhibit equivalence or I'm thick and ignorant to not see it. It's perhaps a bit of both.

To help you:

In the book, "Minor White Manifestations of the Spirit", page 4 talks about White learning equivalence from Stieglitz. If you've got that book or can see it at the library, I think that's a pretty solid practical basis for equivalence, due to the influence of these two photographers. (I'm not sure what is fair use for showing that page here)

Separate from this description, I've heard Paul Caponigro mention "what else it is" as being important without saying the word equivalence, He was a student of White, and was speaking to a general audience and not a photo history audience.

Excellent comments.

Darryl Baird
2-Jun-2015, 08:28
Not sure where the truth lives, but I think maybe 1/3-1/2 of the images here don't exhibit equivalence or I'm thick and ignorant to not see it. It's perhaps a bit of both.

To help you:

In the book, "Minor White Manifestations of the Spirit", page 4 talks about White learning equivalence from Stieglitz. If you've got that book or can see it at the library, I think that's a pretty solid practical basis for equivalence, due to the influence of these two photographers. (I'm not sure what is fair use for showing that page here)

Separate from this description, I've heard Paul Caponigro mention "what else it is" as being important without saying the word equivalence, He was a student of White, and was speaking to a general audience and not a photo history audience.

Here are two different articles and a critique on Manifestations… both show a wide variety of images from an exhibition of his work. The quote on Lenscratch is good as a reference too. The critique, by James Miller, mentions Minor's equivalence and suggests one series of images was his best:

Sound of One Hand is certainly one of White’s most distinctive sequences for that reason, and is the culmination of his absorption of Stieglitz’s theory of equivalence, which opened up abstraction and metaphor to photography. “White pushed himself to do the impossible,” writes Martineau, “to make the invisible world of the spirit visible through photography.” It was a bold and unusual effort—probably one of the boldest and most unusual in photography at the time.

The critique, in full (http://www.zyzzyva.org/2014/07/17/paths-untrodden-minor-white-manifestations-of-the-spirit/). And the images from Sound (https://mrmartindemowordpress.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/17/white-minor-1961-sequence-of-photos-the-sound-of-one-hand-clapping-photographs/)

Looking at all these jpeg images, it's a little easier to get or (better) sense what Minor was doing with the camera. Abstraction was a common element, but not exclusively and (for Minor) every image was a reflection of himself and, frequently other references to a world outside of the frame.

Aline Smithson (http://lenscratch.com/2014/09/minor-white-manifestations-of-the-spirit/) on her blog Lenscratch

and

Amber Terranova (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/minor-whites-manifestations) in the New Yorker

Robert Langham
2-Jun-2015, 08:43
134739

Robert Langham
2-Jun-2015, 08:45
134740