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View Full Version : What does "Let the Muses guide you" mean, and why is it relevant to LF?



Heroique
8-Apr-2015, 17:44
Let the muses guide you.


Let the muses guide you.
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Let the muses guide you.
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This phrase seems to get a lot of airplay around here – but what, pray tell, does it mean?

I could be wrong, but I think some people take it to mean, "Let inspiration find you" in field, studio, or darkroom, whether or not they know anything about Greek mythology.

But is the phrase really just a code word for Zen practice at best, and "Use the Force, Luke" at worst? And what, exactly, are you being guided to – or guided from? Are the Muses guiding you by a leash, a radio transmitter, mental telepathy? And can you, in turn, guide the Muses?

What about book learning, formal education, proven customs – don't they have an important role to play in LF? For example: "Let Ansel Adams' book, The Camera, guide you."

If it's advice you've offered (or taken), please enlighten the rest of us about what it personally means to you, and why it's relevant to LF photography. :D

Randy Moe
8-Apr-2015, 18:20
I always use the standard Greek Mythology definition and actively seek a muse through life and love.

Jac@stafford.net
8-Apr-2015, 18:33
To me the muse or muses point to inspiration or guidance that a person cannot articulate, but can feel. In photography it can be a drive to seek certain composition, light, subject, one or all combined. It can be a series of works contributing to a singlular vision.

By cannot articulate I mean that the maker's motive and visualization are not available to language. The maker works until satisfied, or not. Being close is gratifying, but not complete, so we work on.

Some consider the muse successful if it evinces emotion which can be the "Ah Ha" moment or an "Oh damn" moment, but our personal realization is not universal. We do what we can with lonely persistence.

That is the way I have always worked - without language being available and over thirty years in the arcane paradigm of academe has not helped one tiny bit to bring it to words. That's the way it is, and how it should be.

Old-N-Feeble
8-Apr-2015, 19:25
Nahh... some buzzwords get started and you can't shut 'em up for years sometimes. No offense to the authors at all... just sometimes things grow into a life of their own far beyond the original intent which is often said or written in jest.

Wazzuuupp?? :)

blueribbontea
8-Apr-2015, 19:58
It sounds to me as if a "muse' is a mythical creature, like a "guardian angel" that some use to describe what works as a very personal trigger. I used to tell my students, "If it catches your eye, shoot it." In my work, that is normally how I find a subject. Then the second "muse " must kick in; how to bring that subject to a sort of perfection in an image, i.e., the negative. Perfection is not quite the right word, maybe better a "satisfaction." In any case, it is something very internal in the way I respond to the world "out there." And my response is very distinct and personal. When I was a young teenager a friend said to me, as we were hanging out in the park; "You see things different." When Weston said that composition was "the strongest way of seeing" I think he was speaking of similar things. There probably is no strongest way that is universal, but there is a strongest that is personal. Even so, I think that even on personal terms our successful images still are not perfect, even when they are satisfying. This is the way I read the suggestions to "follow the muses..."

Bill Burk
8-Apr-2015, 20:06
And the spammers, I don't know what they gain from the practice but they seem to love collecting our IP addresses using their hidden images.

Heroique
8-Apr-2015, 20:37
My off the cuff answer is which ever rattles your creative muses.


The LFer has a whole bunch of other things to worry about in terms of camera, tripod, holders, film, transport, processing, wind, physical and spiritual motivation and last but not least the will of the Muses.


I am fairly certain that a high percentage of the photographers who cultivated what was known as "art photography" around 1915 ... would have known the names of the ... Muses.


Edward Weston and his various muses were Californian Bohemians.


Make your muses jealous!


I only stop when the muse abandons me, but she's back in force lately so I'll ride this wave of inspiration as far as it takes me.


What I appreciate is that Nobuyuki Kobayashi was following his own muse, rather than just plugging tripod holes at various well-known locations.

Fun replies so far – and to complement them, I've appended above a random + entertaining assortment of "Muse" remarks (a-Musing remarks?) from real people over the past few days, weeks, months. Spammers be gone!

Seems that everybody who has a Muse (or refers to them) knows what Muse means in LF, and seems to believe everyone else shares that particular understanding.

I'm not so certain there's a common understanding, but the remarks do suggest there's more than one, they're all women, and they're very important to our work – just like in ancient Greece!

But the nature of their important role in LF is a far more complicated and mysterious matter. ;^)

John Kasaian
8-Apr-2015, 20:38
I take it as being completely open to whatever unexpected occurrences are happening around you---taking cues from a creative force rather than passing up the opportunity and sticking with your pre- conceived game plan----probably the opposite of pre- visualization.

karl french
8-Apr-2015, 21:29
You're thinking too much.

Heroique
8-Apr-2015, 21:40
Probably the opposite of pre-visualization.

I like it!

One might call it "Muse-visualization" – or "Musualization" for short. :D

Seems that both are necessary for the best images – so it's too bad the best-known LF books on technique say so little about it. Probably because it always has, and always will elude formal instruction.


You're thinking too much.

I like this too.

But in view of Ken's "left brain = analytical-dualistic" post, this might mean: "You're thinking too much with the right brain."

In other words, enough with the Muse, back to the books and chalkboard!

Randy Moe
8-Apr-2015, 21:59
The muse is life itself. Without, we are dust.

Mark Sawyer
8-Apr-2015, 22:42
I'll offer this as a paraphrase of "let the Muses guide you..."

Find something you truly care about, and try to do it justice.

Bernice Loui
8-Apr-2015, 22:45
"Follow your passions and the passions will appear in the images created by the individual with passion."


Bernice

plaubel
9-Apr-2015, 00:13
For me, "Muse" is absolutely necessary in using LF.
Basically, I need a good feeling, a willing to do and given possibilities ( a clear head, and some extra time), otherwise, there is no Muse and my pictures will become ugly.

And yes, I can give my Muse a direction, so listen to Beethoven while photographing will do :-)

If there is no Muse, I'm not able to previsualize anything.

Inspiration herself is everywhere - outside in the nature, here in this forum - but I really need my Muse...

Cheers,
Ritchie

Regular Rod
9-Apr-2015, 02:04
It's all flannel! Muses indeed! In engineering there is an old saying: "If it looks right, it most probably is right." It also applies to making photographs. If it looks right (TO YOU) then it most probably is right.

The most important thing about the rules is to ignore them. Hard to do if you've been imbued with them by education. Easy to do if you never heard of them. If you see something that pleases you and in your mind's eye looks like it will make a photograph that pleases you then that is enough. Make the photograph, getting it looking right as you do so.

RR

Doremus Scudder
9-Apr-2015, 02:49
Mythology is full of Jungian archetypes that personify aspects of our humanness that tend to defy analysis and description. The nine Muses are one of the best examples of this. In antiquity, there was a common perception that our understanding and logic was only a part of or being, and not necessarily the majority of it. Gods, Fates, Oracles and Muses represented those other parts of our being, our subconscious thought-processes and involuntary hard-wired responses that form such a large and important part of how we interact with the world and each other.

These days, we tend to believe that our awareness is about all there is to us. The ancients knew better, and realized there were aspects of each and every human being that were, in essence, beyond their own understanding and control. Instead of denying this, or working to cognize it, they embraced it, and let themselves be directed by these subconscious impulses, accepting them as inevitable, and often, as gifts.

The Muses were specifically connected with inspiration in the arts and sciences, representing the flash of realization that comes from the blue or, if you prefer, the surfacing of subconscious constructs that the mind may have been working on in the background for a very long time.

When I say, "let the Muses guide you," I mean being open to allowing our sub- un- and super-conscious mind to participate in our creative process. That means believing that your mind is working there in the background of our awareness and can help guide us to better decisions. I think this is especially true if we have programmed our subconscious with lots of relevant and quality information (so don't stop reading those Ansel Adams books!).

In short, we need to be open to the part of us that is beyond our understanding and awareness and have the confidence that, once we've prepared our subconscious mind, it will solve problems and suggest innovations on its own (and in its own time) that our conscious minds simply cannot.

So, "Let the Muses guide you."

Best,

Doremus

jp
9-Apr-2015, 05:04
Some of us have heard the deference to muse influence in person from Paul Caponigro, keeping the phrase part of lf vernacular.

Peter Lewin
9-Apr-2015, 05:37
Doremus, That was a wonderful explanation!

Jmarmck
9-Apr-2015, 06:07
A muse in music is for some an absolute necessity. Those of us who "noodle" around looking for catchy musical phrases, interesting progressions, and mood changing transitions depend upon those subconscious influences to guide us through such an infinitely variable universe filled with unrequited and often sought for possibilities.

In my LF the muse helps me connect the dots between recognition and final product. But, the muse must be taught. A muse is only as good as the tools at your disposal, and I am not taking about gear. Thus, my LF muse is not as fluid as my musical muse. My work muse is a stick in the mud.

Old-N-Feeble
9-Apr-2015, 07:14
Let the guides amuse you. The guides let you amuse them. Mm... yooz guys amuse me.

DrTang
9-Apr-2015, 07:27
muse = drinking pal

that's when I come up with my best/worst ideas

paulr
9-Apr-2015, 07:34
They have names, people. It's rude talking about them like they're not here.

1. Clio: The Muse Clio discovered history and guitar. History was named Clio in the ancient years, because it refers to “kleos” the Greek word for the heroic acts. Clio was always represented with a clarion in the right arm and a book in the left hand.

2. Euterpe: Muse Euterpe discovered several musical instruments, courses and dialectic. She was always depicted holding a flute, while many instruments were always around her.

3. Thalia: Muse Thalia was the protector of comedy; she discovered comedy, geometry, architectural science and agriculture. She was also protector of Symposiums. She was always depicted holding a theatrical – comedy mask.

4. Melpomene: Opposite from Thalia, Muse Melpomene was the protector of Tragedy; she invented tragedy, rhetoric speech and Melos. She was depicted holding a tragedy mask and usually bearing a bat.

5. Terpsichore: Terpsichore was the protector of dance; she invented dances, the harp and education. She was called Terpsichore because she was enjoying and having fun with dancing ( “Terpo” in Greek refers to be amused). She was depicted wearing laurels on her head, holding a harp and dancing.

6. Erato: Muse Erato was the protector of Love and Love Poetry – as well as wedding. Her name comes from the Greek word “Eros” that refers to the feeling of falling in love. She was depicted holding a lyre and love arrows and bows.

7. Polymnia: Muse Polymnia was the protector of the divine hymns and mimic art; she invented geometry and grammar. She was depicted looking up to the Sky, holding a lyre.

8. Ourania: Muse Ourania was the protector of the celestial objects and stars; she invented astronomy. She was always depicted bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a bow compass.

9. Calliope: Muse Calliope was the superior Muse. She was accompanying kings and princes in order to impose justice and serenity. She was the protector of heroic poems and rhetoric art. According to the myth, Homer asks from Calliope to inspire him while writing Iliad and Odyssey, and, thus, Calliope is depicted holding laurels in one hand and the two Homeric poems in the other hand.


I believe that in some neoclassic traditions Polymnia is depicted with a shaggy beard, carrying a wood tripod.

Randy Moe
9-Apr-2015, 08:13
Are we moving into religious territory?

Perhaps I will read this book. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/T/bo19108877.html

Heroique
9-Apr-2015, 10:15
Are we moving into religious territory?

I pray to Mnemosyne (Memory) when I forget my reciprocity tables.

Sometimes I sacrifice a sheet of film to appease her.

As everyone knows, she and Zeus were the parents of the nine Muses – I figure she'll remind her daughters to guide me!

Jmarmck
9-Apr-2015, 10:24
Obviously, one cannot survive on a single muse!

TXFZ1
9-Apr-2015, 10:50
Doremus, That was a wonderful explanation!

+1 and paulr

David

cjbroadbent
9-Apr-2015, 12:13
Thanks Paulr!

Peter Lewin
9-Apr-2015, 12:21
And because we're getting way too serious about this, I thought that "following one's mews" had something to do with my following the cats around the house...

Drew Wiley
9-Apr-2015, 13:44
I thought that if anyone hears muses, they either went on medication or into an institution capable of handling that kind of problem.

Struan Gray
9-Apr-2015, 13:56
Melpomene for me :-)

'Follow your muse' can be as vapid as 'fulfill your vision', or as deep as a zen koan read in a soft rain on a remote Chinese mountain.

I have been lucky enough to have had a couple of photographic epiphanies brought on by being attentive to the small voice yelling at the back of my skull that I should take a photograph of this meaningless scene in front of me. That, for me, is what following your muse is really about - being mindful of your own sense of creativity.

paulr
9-Apr-2015, 14:20
Melpomene for me :-)

Definitely the hottest.

Struan Gray
9-Apr-2015, 14:29
I've always had a thing for girls bearing bats.

John Layton
9-Apr-2015, 15:47
I'm so lucky that my muse is also my spouse:132128

John Layton
9-Apr-2015, 15:49
...oh, there is also a question. I'll ponder this a bit more and get back later.

Jac@stafford.net
9-Apr-2015, 17:30
It might be helpful to consider that the Muses, and other Greek gods and their entities were a means to categorize ideas, behavior, nature within Greek culture. Think of how such stereotypes were useful to describe the indescribable in society.We do the same today. Gods/Entities in Greek culture were touch-stones that were probably common in everyday language. People could speak of social issues as the gods' behavior or influence without actually believing the gods existed except for purposes of quotidian, and poetry which was important discourse then. Poetry today is entirely different, self-obsessive. There is no comparison to the Greek.

Popular ancient Greek poetry was to them as the big-screen is to us today.

Please consider.
.

Randy Moe
9-Apr-2015, 17:51
I had to look that word up.

I like that.

:)

John Kasaian
10-Apr-2015, 06:27
Mythology is full of Jungian archetypes that personify aspects of our humanness that tend to defy analysis and description.

Conversely, Jungian archetypes are full of mythology since the myths predate Jung

paulr
10-Apr-2015, 07:37
People could speak of social issues as the gods' behavior or influence without actually believing the gods existed except for purposes of quotidian, and poetry which was important discourse then.

The gods themselves had pretty quotidian concerns. They were having petty brawls over lovers and power just like regular folks. They just happened to be immortal, and to wield lightning bolts. This opened the need for humans to figure out the big issues for themselves ... you could say this is why Greece was the birthplace of philosophy. Their gods were too busy seeking vengeance and chasing tail to answer the usual godly questions of ethics, esthetics, and how to live a life. Poetry and drama were other means of working things out.



Poetry today is entirely different, self-obsessive. There is no comparison to the Greek.

It was in the Romantic era that poetry and the other arts became about the self. That hangs on today in many circles, but I wouldn't say contemporary poetry is self-obsessive. I see every imaginable kind of poetry today. If there isn't an audience for poems in the style of the classical epic, I'd suggest it's because we have other mediums for that. People looking for heroic tales and histories go to the movies.

tgtaylor
10-Apr-2015, 10:06
They have names, people. It's rude talking about them like they're not here.

1. Clio: The Muse Clio discovered history and guitar. History was named Clio in the ancient years, because it refers to “kleos” the Greek word for the heroic acts. Clio was always represented with a clarion in the right arm and a book in the left hand.

2. Euterpe: Muse Euterpe discovered several musical instruments, courses and dialectic. She was always depicted holding a flute, while many instruments were always around her.

3. Thalia: Muse Thalia was the protector of comedy; she discovered comedy, geometry, architectural science and agriculture. She was also protector of Symposiums. She was always depicted holding a theatrical – comedy mask.

4. Melpomene: Opposite from Thalia, Muse Melpomene was the protector of Tragedy; she invented tragedy, rhetoric speech and Melos. She was depicted holding a tragedy mask and usually bearing a bat.

5. Terpsichore: Terpsichore was the protector of dance; she invented dances, the harp and education. She was called Terpsichore because she was enjoying and having fun with dancing ( “Terpo” in Greek refers to be amused). She was depicted wearing laurels on her head, holding a harp and dancing.

6. Erato: Muse Erato was the protector of Love and Love Poetry – as well as wedding. Her name comes from the Greek word “Eros” that refers to the feeling of falling in love. She was depicted holding a lyre and love arrows and bows.

7. Polymnia: Muse Polymnia was the protector of the divine hymns and mimic art; she invented geometry and grammar. She was depicted looking up to the Sky, holding a lyre.

8. Ourania: Muse Ourania was the protector of the celestial objects and stars; she invented astronomy. She was always depicted bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a bow compass.

9. Calliope: Muse Calliope was the superior Muse. She was accompanying kings and princes in order to impose justice and serenity. She was the protector of heroic poems and rhetoric art. According to the myth, Homer asks from Calliope to inspire him while writing Iliad and Odyssey, and, thus, Calliope is depicted holding laurels in one hand and the two Homeric poems in the other hand.


I believe that in some neoclassic traditions Polymnia is depicted with a shaggy beard, carrying a wood tripod.

I was born on Thalia with Melpomene, Terpsichore, and Euterpe to the immediate south and Erato, Calliope, and Clio to the immediate north.

Thomas

sun of sand
10-Apr-2015, 16:06
4 pages of this nonsense and people have the guts to talk crap about me and my ideas
Where are the mirrors in this house


Can an artist have intentions if they're busy trying to follow/being led around by the impulses given them by some subsuperconscious unicorns based on everything they've learned to that point in life and even if so that true creativity
Originality
If everything is built upon what we already know what need for more

sun of sand
10-Apr-2015, 20:18
Skip the last sentence
Not worded well at all and knowing you guys

Writing on a phone is difficult

sun of sand
10-Apr-2015, 20:19
The rest counts
Go ahead

Swear the people around here change their beliefs depending on the thread they're in at the moment

Randy Moe
10-Apr-2015, 21:10
The answer is blowin in the wind...

paulr
11-Apr-2015, 07:22
Can an artist have intentions if they're busy trying to follow/being led around by the impulses given them by some subsuperconscious unicorns based on everything they've learned to that point in life and even if so that true creativity Originality
If everything is built upon what we already know what need for more

[with understanding that this was typed on a phone]

This is the crux of the skeptical argument. What if "the muse" equals your habits and prejudices and unquestioned received ideas?

I think this is a risk. It can take thought and rigor to to tell the difference between an inspiration and a habitual tic. The critical thinking can happen later, while editing ... it may just get in the way when you're out in the world with the wind blowing and the light changing.

In general I'm for banishing the head / heart dichotomy.

Randy Moe
11-Apr-2015, 10:09
[with understanding that this was typed on a phone]

This is the crux of the skeptical argument. What if "the muse" equals your habits and prejudices and unquestioned received ideas?

I think this is a risk. It can take thought and rigor to to tell the difference between an inspiration and a habitual tic. The critical thinking can happen later, while editing ... it may just get in the way when you're out in the world with the wind blowing and the light changing.

In general I'm for banishing the head / heart dichotomy.

It seems you and OP both want to 'champion' Logic over Mind. There is a difference. Your agenda is obvious.

I'll try an example. How many of us have 'slept on it' meaning an idea or problem, not a muse. Upon awakening we have a clear head, perhaps a different thought, perhaps inspiration. An internal personal change in a manner unknown and perhaps undiscoverable.

Our 'sleeping' mind has worked.

Who is Captain? Spock or Kirk.

paulr
11-Apr-2015, 10:28
It seems you and OP both want to 'champion' Logic over Mind.

I can't speak for the OP, but that's not my agenda at all. I'm for using all the arrows in the quiver. Not necessarily at the same time.

I do believe it's lazy to equate all spontaneous acts with inspiration. Sometimes they are; other times they're just unexamined habit. The solution isn't to abolish spontaneous acts but to examine them. And also, I'd wager, to keep feeding that unconscious imagination with new sights and ideas and experiences.

Bill Burk
11-Apr-2015, 11:00
In general I'm for banishing the head / heart dichotomy.

I'd like to hear more... So the heart and head are not divided, like the left and right brain are?

You're saying the emotions are in the head anyway? So let's figure out which side they're on?

Heroique
11-Apr-2015, 11:28
It seems you and OP both want to 'champion' Logic over Mind.

Who is Captain? Spock or Kirk.

As OP, I wouldn't exclude any faculty of mind when appropriate to its subject.

But if I had to choose, I'd go with Kirk every time. (Original series.)

Besides, he has plenty of Spock in him...


8. Ourania: Muse Ourania was the protector of the celestial objects and stars; she invented astronomy. She was always depicted bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a bow compass.

Now, as for the Muses, some have already expressed interest in Melpone since she's the hottest, but Ourania is clearly the most romantic. She's the one I'll take to dinner and a movie. Maybe if I pay the tab, she'll invite me up to Mount Olympus. For a better view of the stars, of course.

Peter Lewin
11-Apr-2015, 11:39
I believe we are making a separation between logic and subconscious which is almost irrelevant to our creation of photographs. In common usage, a muse is something which makes us create something. In "Group f.64" I believe Alinder wrote a sentence along the lines that "Charis Wilson became Edward Weston's muse." This has little to do with either the subconscious or logic, it says that the presence of the younger and in some ways more open and enthusiastic Charis Wilson was a catalyst for Weston's creative urges.

The dictionary definition of "inspiration" includes (from Webster's): "something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone." In this definition, inspiration doesn't imply a good or poor outcome, it is something that works as a catalyst. So when I read Paul's sentence, "it's lazy to equate all spontaneous acts with inspiration. Sometimes they are; other times they're just unexamined habit," that overlays the suggestion that all inspired acts (photographs) must be good images. Speaking for myself, I can find myself inspired to make exposures, some of which turn out to be "good photographs" and some of which I deem to be failures. So a muse can help a person make both good and bad images.

When I read comments which separate Logic from Mind, or Right Brain from Left Brain, Lee Friedlander comes to mind. Many of his images work because of the logical juxtaposition of objects/people in situations that we find humorous or though-provoking. But they are images constructed with logic, they are not the product of a subconscious seeing juxtapositions that our conscious mind wouldn't recognize; they are indeed products of that conscious mind. In a similar vein one can recognize that his Weimeraners were William Wegman's "muse," but his photographs have much more to do with Logic than with Mind (he creates the situations in which the dogs are photographed). And regardless of our individual feelings about Wegman's work (or Friedlanders, or Elliot Erwitt, another photographer who consciously used irony as the source for many of his images) they are all included in most photographic anthologies.

What I am trying to say, perhaps in too many words, is that we are tying the concept of a muse to either Logic versus Mind, or inspired versus habit, or some other conflicting duality, when the idea of a catalyst (which simply causes a reaction) comes closer to the mark.

Heroique
11-Apr-2015, 12:32
The dictionary definition of "inspiration" includes (from Webster's): "something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone."

Peter, I really enjoyed your post, but you do find it a little ironic (don't you?) that you're sending us to a lexicographer for a better understanding of "inspiration." That seems tantamount to sending us to Jonathon Swift's Houyhnhnms (or Spock for that matter) for guidance about romantic love. On second thought, maybe it's an okay place to start, but not to finish.

Heroique
11-Apr-2015, 12:34
But they are images constructed with logic, they are not the product of a subconscious seeing juxtapositions that our conscious mind wouldn't recognize; they are indeed products of that conscious mind.

Sheesh, you'd think the Id had no say in the matter. ;^)

Always suppressed, never recognized, forever out of sight – like an embarrassing family member kept in the basement.

I bet each and every Muse had an Id, whether she knew it or not. To be sure, the Greeks acknowledged the great importance of irrational impulses in society and art, especially as portrayed by that coolest God of them all, Dionysus.


What I am trying to say, perhaps in too many words, is that ... the idea of a catalyst (which simply causes a reaction) comes closer to the mark.

I like your term "catalyst," and hope the discussion will follow-up on it. I'd suggest the Id, for lack of a better term, acts as a catalyst every time – even if it's not the only catalyst.

Struan Gray
11-Apr-2015, 13:51
Logic does not have to be a substitute or antagonist for inspiration and feeling. I prefer to think of it as part of the process of refinement or feedback. The subconscious can be trained, whether naively (nightmares after a scary movie), consciously (a lot of athletes and other sportsmen do this), or as part of a more general training (most arts and crafts). The names you give the processes by which you learn and mature are, in the end, less important than the mere fact of them taking place.

Peter Lewin
11-Apr-2015, 13:56
Heroique: I would never argue that the Id, or the subconscious mind, does not play a role in most, if not everything, that we do. What I was pushing back on was the idea that art must be either logical or intuitive, rather than both. So in the examples I chose (Wegman, Friedlander, Erwitt) I was trying to find examples where I feel the balance was tilted more to the side of logic, or conscious thought and recognition, than intuition (or an Id, or a muse, we have many words which deal with the same concept). But to repeat, both "sides of the brain," to use another image from an earlier post, play their part.

I was tempted to bring in some of the "constructionist" (I'm making up my own term) photographers like Sandy Skoglund (who constructs elaborate sets, with repeated objects, and then photographs them), or Gregory Crewdson, who essentially creates movie sets and then photographs then, or Philip deCorcia who sets up ambiguous situations, and then photographs them, as examples of logic over subconscious. But it would be naive to argue that the Id (I keep changing terms!) did not play an important role in their original idea, which they then constructed and photographed. So their work is again a combination of the conscious and the subconscious.

As for my falling back on a dictionary, it was simply to verify my own impression that "inspiration" was actually a "value-less" term, i.e. one's inspiration can be either wonderful or banal, just as I suggested that one's muse may be either wonderful or banal, or even that the same muse can be either at different times. I like some of the images Weston created while under the influence of his muse, Charis, but not all of them.

Heroique
11-Apr-2015, 14:51
What I was pushing back on was the idea that art must be either logical or intuitive, rather than both.

Yes, I like this idea, similar to Paul's suggestion that we stop dividing heart from mind, and maybe think of them as, say, one organ: Heart+Mind.


The names you give the processes by which you learn and mature are, in the end, less important than the mere fact of them taking place.

I won't disagree with this modern-day claim, but I would like to add some historical perspective since we've been talking Greek, and end with a few remarks about drugs:

In the first line of The Iliad, and in the first line of The Odyssey ("Sing Muse," etc.), Homer seems to think that invoking names is exactly what gets the inspirational juices flowing.

No name, no juice.

Virgil, in later Roman times, copied Homer's practice in The Aeneid.

In medieval times, people believed in the great importance of names and the magical consequences of knowing the right ones and saying them in the correct order.

No name, no juice.

-----
In more modern times, drugs and alcohol are commonly substituted for the names of the Muses – that is, for the cause of artistic inspiration. Think Coleridge ("Kubla Khan"), Emerson (his essay, "The Poet"), The Beatles (and LSD). Perhaps a means of re-uniting heart plus mind.

No juice, no inspiration.

As for me, I'd hate to apply camera movements while under the influence. :D

John Kasaian
11-Apr-2015, 20:13
I think classical Muses are interesting while Freudian and Jungian notion of Muse-oids are merely conjecture catering to a flawed world-view.
But that's just me.:rolleyes:

Jac@stafford.net
11-Apr-2015, 21:08
The heart and mind. Remember Blaise Pascal's, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." His thought occurs to me very often when I realize that there are things we do, believe, and act upon which are not available to consciousness in the sense of language. We behave without knowing in subtle and important ways.

paulr
11-Apr-2015, 21:34
I'd like to hear more... So the heart and head are not divided, like the left and right brain are?

I'm suggesting that whether or not they're divided, they may both be our allies. We are under no obligation to take sides, as the Romantic dichotomy would have us.
"Head" and "heart" are just metaphors for different aspects our minds. I can't imagine we're well served by imagining a war between our most human qualities.


Logic does not have to be a substitute or antagonist for inspiration and feeling. I prefer to think of it as part of the process of refinement or feedback. The subconscious can be trained, whether naively (nightmares after a scary movie), consciously (a lot of athletes and other sportsmen do this), or as part of a more general training (most arts and crafts).

A helpful way to look at it.

Randy Moe
11-Apr-2015, 22:04
The heart and mind. Remember Blaise Pascal's, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." His thought occurs to me very often when I realize that there are things we do, believe, and act upon which are not available to consciousness in the sense of language. We behave without knowing in subtle and important ways.

This

jp
12-Apr-2015, 06:50
Yes, I like this idea, similar to Paul's suggestion that we stop dividing heart from mind, and maybe think of them as, say, one organ: Heart+Mind.



I won't disagree with this modern-day claim, but I would like to add some historical perspective since we've been talking Greek, and end with a few remarks about drugs:

In the first line of The Iliad, and in the first line of The Odyssey ("Sing Muse," etc.), Homer seems to think that invoking names is exactly what gets the inspirational juices flowing.

No name, no juice.

Virgil, in later Roman times, copied Homer's practice in The Aeneid.

In medieval times, people believed in the great importance of names and the magical consequences of knowing the right ones and saying them in the correct order.

No name, no juice.

We use names as identifiers. They used names as meaningful descriptions of whom they were talking about. For example there are more than a dozen Hebrew names for God.

Struan Gray
12-Apr-2015, 13:49
I won't disagree with this modern-day claim, but I would like to add some historical perspective since we've been talking Greek, and end with a few remarks about drugs:

In the first line of The Iliad, and in the first line of The Odyssey ("Sing Muse," etc.), Homer seems to think that invoking names is exactly what gets the inspirational juices flowing.

...

No name, no juice.

Not being argumentative, just throwing out thoughts.

It's very hard to know what the Greeks meant to the Greeks. We have our own Greeks, just as Milton and Shakespeare had theirs.

A Wizard of Earthsea does the naming thing to excess. Like a lot of ritual, it's hard to know how much people really believed ancient beliefs, and how much they just went along with the ritual because that's what you did. A lot of the mystique of names and nicknames in oral-tradition poetry could just as well be a way of aiding memory. 'Kennings' in the Norse Sagas are nicknames or nickname phrases, but the resonance is with knowledge and memory.

These days, most references to the Greeks are attempts to garner authority, not understanding.

My favorite take on Homer – Logue's War Music – omits the muses altogether. The start seen as being about putting the story-telling act in context, telling listeners to sit down, shut up, and pay attention (and turn off their mobiles). Even Hollywood hasn't entirely abandoned the voiceover prologue. It's a useful device.

The military still has badges only the qualified can wear. Some sports have exclusive blazers, but only public ridicule to police them. The arts tends to work with Shibboleths, which are superficially easy to adopt.

paulr
12-Apr-2015, 16:48
It's very hard to know what the Greeks meant to the Greeks. We have our own Greeks, just as Milton and Shakespeare had theirs.

It's interesting how often figures of Greek mythology work as metaphors for subjective experiences that seem universal. I say "seem" because the universal is tough to prove. I don't know if someone from Papua New Guinee or one of the ancient Mayans would agree. But there are so many accounts, from European painters to composers to American jazz musicians, of artists saying that at their best they felt they were channeling something.

I think we've all experienced this ... in the midst of working so hard on other things, something fresh and new just appears almost fully formed. It's so easy, and so seemingly passive, that we feel more like receivers than creators.

Sometimes the source of this inspiration isn't so profound ... we can recognize it as a synthesis of familiar elements. Or just an unconscious regurgitation. It's pretty common for people to write a song and then hear it on the radio a day later. I love that Paul McCartney assumed this is how he'd conceived "Yesterday." It seemed so perfectly formed, and so familiar, that he figured he'd heard it somewhere. It was only after singing it to dozens of friends and colleagues who swore to have never heard it that he realized it was his own.

Struan Gray
13-Apr-2015, 05:21
It's interesting how often figures of Greek mythology work as metaphors for subjective experiences that seem universal.

They fit broad categories well. I'm just wary of the tiresome sorts who want to pin down the category boundaries to six decimal places of precision. It all ends up as flower fairies.

Agape, Eros, Philia - a useful conceptual framework, but not a rulebook for dating (or anything else).

And the Greeks changed their minds. The muses, like calender saints, tended to accumulate meanings and change their patronage over time.



I think we've all experienced this ... in the midst of working so hard on other things, something fresh and new just appears almost fully formed. It's so easy, and so seemingly passive, that we feel more like receivers than creators.

One of the great joys of learning any skill beyond those required for mere existence.

And why I'm an advocate for lifelong learning - you increase the chances of this happening.

I'm not convinced I see the need to personify and codify this feeling. Or to privilege the arts.



Sometimes the source of this inspiration isn't so profound ...

Which is why it is useful - artistically, not just in a utilitarian sense - to examine the dentistry of all gift horses life happens to throw your way. If only to make sure Odysseus and his mates aren't lurking inside.

Peter Lewin
13-Apr-2015, 07:05
Which is why it is useful - artistically, not just in a utilitarian sense - to examine the dentistry of all gift horses life happens to throw your way. If only to make sure Odysseus and his mates aren't lurking inside.
Once again, this conversation has moved to a plane well over my head. But just two nights ago I heard two comments about the muses, one of which contradict Struan's thought above. I was at a Tom Rush folk music concert. Those of you who are American, and around my age, may remember Tom as one of the key figures in the folk music revival of the 1960s, along with Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, etc., and he is still performing. During the concert, while discussing song writing, Tom offered two rules concerning the muses:

(1) "Never talk back to a muse." What he meant (and I think this is in direct contrast to Struan's comment above), don't over-think inspiration, accept it and run with it.

(2) "Always let your muse come in." He followed his second rule with a short anecdote: It was 2 A.M. in the morning, and Tom was trying to sleep. The muse "arrived" and announced herself. Tom asked if she could go away, and come back in the morning. To which she replied, "You know, its a very good song, but if you don't want it now, I think I will go over and give it to Arlo." (Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody, was another famous folksinger.) Tom said in that case he would get up and write the song down right then and there.

I think in his typical humorous way, he was making two very reasonable recommendations about inspiration or our subconscious: that we shouldn't over-analyze it, and that we should accept it on its own timing.

paulr
13-Apr-2015, 07:19
(1) "Never talk back to a muse." What he meant (and I think this is in direct contrast to Struan's comment above), don't over-think inspiration, accept it and run with it.


I think you're arguing with me, not Struan.

But while I would indeed suggest interrogating the muse, there's a right and wrong time. Shut up while she's talking. Write down everything. Goad her on. It's later, when it comes time to edit and bring some kind of shape to what you're working on, when the gloves should come off. Then you can and should scrutinize your work relentlessly.

Struan Gray
13-Apr-2015, 07:35
Peter, I agree with both your points. I see these issues as varying aspects of the creative process, which dance about each other and take turns in the lead.

Inspiration is a bit like criticism. If you wallow too much in its superficial aspects you never grow. If you ignore it, you never grow either.

Jac@stafford.net
13-Apr-2015, 07:35
This conversation reminds me that yesterday I thought ... wait, sorry. That wasn't me.

Peter Lewin
13-Apr-2015, 08:00
This conversation reminds me that yesterday I thought ... wait, sorry. That wasn't me.
Jac (and everyone else): I'm not sure if you've heard this, but it is apt and I'm on my Tom Rush kick: its called the "Memory Song": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yN-6PbqAPM

Not relevant to the muses exactly, but it might make some of you chuckle, and then you can get back to a serious discussion of Greeks and/or creativity (if you remember where we were in the conversation...)

Jac@stafford.net
13-Apr-2015, 08:33
[QUOTE=Peter Lewin;1235269]

Thanks for the link, Peter.

Back to the topic, I'm surprised that Julian Jaynes' term bicameral mind has not come up yet. He posited that the oracles came about from the social need of to have an external authority after the bicameral mind ceased to work. If there was such a thing as the bicameral mind, then I wonder if today we have yet another big shift in mentality to become due to the global network of persons.

Heroique
13-Apr-2015, 12:21
Back to the topic, I'm surprised that Julian Jaynes' term bicameral mind has not come up yet.

Probably the most provocative statement, by a credible author, about what those mysterious voices really are (or were).

And a great physiological discussion about brain-halves, left and right, and the role they used to play in creating them. Let's just say that if you read this book, or simply browse it, you'll never think of the Muses again as pretty women of child-bearing age in flowing robes who occasionally whisper in your ear.

Close thy Joseph Campbell, open thy Julian Jaynes.

-----
Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976).

sun of sand
13-Apr-2015, 16:19
So people hear voices and theyre universakly craxy
Unless you happen to be in an arena where people get to stroke one another for mutual enjoyment
Then hearing voices is just intellectual physiological discussion fodder


Does the subconscioys even exist
Do you truly believe it

Thats what i care aboyt

Not wheyer yoy can argue for it and make some exercise oyt of it

But do yoy really truly believe in it

sun of sand
13-Apr-2015, 16:22
Can you tell me what being in the zone is
Means
And how one achiwved it

You may know it as "flow"

Jac@stafford.net
13-Apr-2015, 19:16
Does the subconscioys even exist


If you can accept that human beings perform tasks that they cannot explain, then yes the subconscious exists because we humans cannot know why/how we behave certain ways. When I write 'explain' I mean we cannot verbalize the experience, and cannot understand how we are successful in the tasks. Begin with 'blind sight', then move on to what is more important.

As it concerns photography we might look to Minor White even if his words have been disrespected not for his works, but for his lifestyle, which is so wrong. Emmet Gowin is another I would point to, but having nothing to lifestyle. Gowin evinces a deep influence from intuition, for lack of better words. I sense mythological, perhaps Biblical inference from his work.


OMG, so very many good photographers including members here who show work but cannot explain their deep motive, and it is good. Technical explanations do not suffice.

The subconscious exists.
.

sun of sand
13-Apr-2015, 22:47
Do snakes have a subcnscious

Struan Gray
13-Apr-2015, 23:38
No. They have a sssssubconssssciousssss.

Struan Gray
13-Apr-2015, 23:57
I have been lucky enough to have a few of those magic days when you not only see excellent photographs everywhere, but they actually turn out to be excellent when reviewed later. One of them, early on, was very much the kind of epiphany of inspiration which traditionally would be ascribed to a muse. Whoever the small god of scraggly weeds is, I thank her.

That time, inspiration took the form of repeated walking past the same patch of vegetation and getting a 'wow' each time I stood in a particular spot. In that exact place, the patterns, colours and mutual alignments of the undergrowth were mesmerising. One step to the left or right, forward or back, and the magic was lost.

Photographically, I ignored it. Mostly because convention said that nobody took good photographs of that kind of thing. But eventually prejudice faded, I took a camera with me, and suddenly found myself with a whole new range of subjects, and a visual language which I see everywhere, but people tell me is my own.

I have had other, similar epiphanies, which often take the form of a day when everything just goes right, and things I had walked past on countless quotidian mornings, suddenly take on an air of significance and demand to be photographed. Or, one time in Barcelona for work, with a free afternoon and an intention of hitting the big name attractions, I ended up wandering the minor streets of the new town, fascinated by the oddly-coloured construction equipment, scaffolding, and protective shrouds at all the many building sites.

The conventional interpretation would be to say that I have learnt to listen to my muse, and not argue back. I think that would be appropriate if I were working within an established tradition, but for me at least, the muse metaphor doesn't cover the sense of learning and discovery that such days bring about. There is a *class* aspect to the Greek Gods which I find annoying, anti-modern, and simply don't want to be true. Lofty superiors indulgently handing down little nuggets to their pets is not how I choose to see my creative process.

So while there are certainly aspects of the muse meme that accord with my experience and how I go about photographing, I resist it as a model for my photographic life. It's a useful shorthand for some kinds of experiences, but it misses some aspects which are highly important to me, and which are a major part of my motivation to take photographs in the first place.

Old-N-Feeble
14-Apr-2015, 10:00
Can you tell me what being in the zone is
Means
And how one achiwved it

You may know it as "flow"

Bagger Vance called it 'being in the field'.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JonTiBDur3c

sun of sand
14-Apr-2015, 13:14
Well what is it
After telling me what beinf in the is
Tell me what the yips are

Old-N-Feeble
14-Apr-2015, 16:17
Well what is it
After telling me what beinf in the is
Tell me what the yips are

Huh?

paulr
14-Apr-2015, 17:18
Huh?

I have nothing to add to this.

Peter Lewin
14-Apr-2015, 19:06
Old-N-Feeble, Paulr: Your attempts to respond to several posts above brought to mind a great piece of literature:

“Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I'm afraid the two of you tried to follow a White Rabbit right down his rabbit hole.

Jac@stafford.net
14-Apr-2015, 19:30
The following is almost certainly not interesting to self-motivated LF artists. Stop reading now if you are one. I am for certain not a Fine Art photographer, but I deeply respect the genre.

I began my career after Vietnam as a desperate staff photographer for Chicago Daily News organizations (then Field Enterprises). I was simply thankful to make a living, supporting a new family (later lost). I moved onto magazine journalism, and while I have always had a compelling vision, I could not verbalize it. Verbalizing or justifying was not important. Making the image did. In my view I succeeded in the daily deadline world maybe 5% of the time, as far as my editors were concerned it was 10% to 100%, but that is not important in the historical view. You won't find one single image of mine that has survived. I am good with that.

There was no muse; no time to consider consulting in leisure.There was only what philosophers just hate to hear, a "gut feeling", I was led through the viewfinder to make sense of nonsense.

No muse except in retrospect, asking myself "What was there that you saw, what you missed, and where is the vector that ties your frames together."

Just thoughts I cannot point to in photos because they were miniature, but we regard them aesthetically equally. No?
Peace,

Jac

Old-N-Feeble
14-Apr-2015, 19:38
I want nothing to do with any rabbit's hole.

Heroique
14-Apr-2015, 19:42
I'm afraid the two of you tried to follow a White Rabbit right down his rabbit hole.

Maybe a job for Google Translate – {X} into English.

Problem is, I'm not sure what {X} is.

And I don't think Google could auto-detect the language, either. :(

sun of sand
14-Apr-2015, 21:37
What is
being in the zone
In the flow
In the field


After that explain the yips

We were talking subconscious
Snakes have one
Dont you have to be conscious to have a sunconscious
I dont truky know myself
I figure that if a dnake isnt conscious then what is being termed sub is actually something else

Of course yoy can just say no but thats no answer to the question
And i figure those proclaiming knowledhe shoukd never tire of andwering questions relating to its validity

Just seems like mych of tjis thread stops short of validity amd cruises on poetic sweetness



Hey look at what i read and can namedrop
Ok cam you andwer his simpke question right off the top of my uneducated head
Uhhhhhh
Thats compppplicated
Here are the 3 competing popular viewpoints i read

Old-N-Feeble
14-Apr-2015, 21:40
I pretend to be ignorant and stupid so people won't bother me with questions. If I pretend to be educated and intelligent then people ask me questions and I have to look stuff up and pretend I knew the answer all along.

Struan Gray
14-Apr-2015, 23:59
Poetic sweetness has a particular validity all of its own.
One aimed at by much contemplative, self-aware art.
Including photography.


Jac: I hear you. But I personally have had good luck, and success, in training my gut. In fields as disparate as mountain climbing and maths. The Jazz greats used to practice improvisation. I think a vital part of any creative activity is learning which kind of feedback works for you, even if the learning takes place on a non-verbal level too.

Jac@stafford.net
15-Apr-2015, 07:11
The Jazz greats used to practice improvisation. I think a vital part of any creative activity is learning which kind of feedback works for you, even if the learning takes place on a non-verbal level too.

My most memorable and inspiring experiences are from attending avant garde jazz improvs in Birmingham England in the Sixties. It was a synesthetic experience, like building brilliant colorful sculptures in the air. I can still see, feel and hear some of it.

A moment stands out. At a lull point one of the musicians, a saxophonist, asked the group, "Man, how can we know when to stop?" and a senior answered slowly, "Just take the horn outta your mouth." There is a lesson in there somewhere.

paulr
15-Apr-2015, 07:46
But I personally have had good luck, and success, in training my gut. In fields as disparate as mountain climbing and maths. The Jazz greats used to practice improvisation. I think a vital part of any creative activity is learning which kind of feedback works for you, even if the learning takes place on a non-verbal level too.

Amen to that. This gut (or whatever you want to call it) needs to be informed, exercised. I have yet to see a baby enter the world with anything worthwhile to say, by word or picture or saxophone.

We can let the learning happen unattended, and hope for the best, or we can cultivate it. No guarantees either way, but I'd rather bet on the latter.

There's a reason I always greet discussions of muses and intuitions with "yeah ... but ... "

I see the language of inspiration and intuition attached to work of great genius, and also to work marked by the most tedious clichés. Which suggests that being open to inspiration is itself not enough.

Struan Gray
15-Apr-2015, 08:02
A moment stands out. At a lull point one of the musicians, a saxophonist, asked the group, "Man, how can we know when to stop?" and a senior answered slowly, "Just take the horn outta your mouth." There is a lesson in there somewhere.

:-)

I can't remember which painter said that the true art of abstraction lies in knowing where to stop.

sun of sand
19-Apr-2015, 22:05
:-)

I can't remember which painter said that the true art of abstraction lies in knowing where to stop.

And yet how many great abstract artists would work and work their paintinga till overworked and then paint over to begin anew or simply trash it

"art of abstraction" i doubt is what wad said but
Just art in general

Kooning would paint and repaint trace and then after a year edit again when thoyght was dead
Then i believe he editef after a painting was shown and aubsequently sold

And he wad a remarkable draughtsman
So intent?
Perhaps of the minute
And i realize that it coyld be argued the other way
I just think the other way is simplified

Just doing crap till a result is achieved that mirrors your intuition
Or finding
Searching
For a relationship in the chaos



When i was young and collecting baseball cards id hover my hand over the boxesof card packs meditatinf waiting for the feeling of the correct one to choose

I got some good packs
Almost always better than my friends whod take the next in line

Who knows
Maybe just honing interpersonal skills and got lucky a bit

sun of sand
19-Apr-2015, 22:09
Just how many here use a viewing device while out taking photos

Randy Moe
19-Apr-2015, 23:03
-1.