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Thread: "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

  1. #1

    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Thirty years ago I dreamed of becoming a (motion picture) filmaker. I was later to discover that something about the whole thing made me sick in my gut. It wasn't until years later I realized that, for me, motion picture had been filled with a kind of fraudulence. Not only the caste system of the entertainment business and all the associated nonsense, but the idea if filming actors portraying those whom they were really not. Documentary (and cinema verite) was ok, but even that seemed to lack any real power.

    I read "Theory of Film," then. The author had subtitled his book, "The Redemption of Physical Reality." He talked about the strength of the camera (he meant cine, but comments were applicable to still generally, and especially ULF, I think).

    Krackaur said he thought dramatic film was merely a recording of persons pretending to be other persons. This, he said, was not pure cinema. A kind of misuse or (my word) a prostitution of the camera. (I cannot help but think of the photo-pictorialist movement which Alfred Stieglitz had so wanted to break away from.

    Krackaur said that the camera had early on seemed to instinctively wind up in the " street." That was where the life and energy. True, he was talking from the perspective of motion. Moving people, animals, wagons.

    But he referred to the camera's ability to redeem what the eye and brain had seemed to miss. He called it (German translated to English) "plastic beauty." And he spoke about redeeming this reality. That's where I believe that I and others fit in.

    I find that the beauty of the sheer physical material I am surrounded by is absolutely pregnant with amazing and wonderful possibilities. If it were not for the camera, we would be "stuck" with eye and brain only. I need, of course, to remember the painters, too. Didn't Stieglitz feature photographs and paintings in gallery exhibitions?

    Man, when I find the scene I want to photograph my pulse quickens. Then I hope I can translate to shades of gray in two-dimentional space some of what was happening for me at the time my eye and brain experienced it. As others have said, if someone can make what is private public, then perhaps "art" has been created.

    Always fun to try to talk intelligently about something that the human intellect is not capable wrapping itself around.

  2. #2

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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Stieglitz was in great part responsible for the acceptance of "pictoralism" as the ultimate expression of the photographic process, despite the fact that his own photographs were not in that genre. It took 40 years of LIFE Magazine to reverse that Victorian abortion of good taste.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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    tim atherton's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Robert, I've often been very taken by John Bergers writings on art (and some times strongly disgareed with them!) - but what you say resonates with me and with some of the things Berger writes about photogrpahy in Another Way of Telling, along with some of his shorter essays.

    But by chance, last night, I read another essay of his in Keeping a Rendezvous called Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye - this is all about film/cinema (as well as comparisons to painting and photography) and while it takes a slightly different tack from what you say aboiuve, it certainly seemed to echo some of the ideas and emotions in your piece.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

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    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    My opinion only, but...

    Film (of the commercial, "go to a movie" variety) is almost all fiction. So are many of the best books ever written. If you can't stand the untruth of fiction, you need to be very careful what you read -- even some photography texts seem more intent on selling a bill of goods than on conveying "Truth" in its pure form (which I'm not certain I'd know if it bit me on the arse, but that's another discussion).

    Don't ever forget that the "untrue" process of entertainment cinema has financed most of the advances in film and developers over the past century, forced the creation of the exposure rules that were simplified to become the Zone System -- and just incidentally made documentary film possible (if documentary were the only use of film, newsreels would still be shot on B&W with hand cranked cameras and television would still be live).

    If you can't stand to make fictional films, no problem. But do be aware that "redeeming reality" (as strongly epitomized by Ansel Adams with his analogy of the negative as the score and the print as the performance, and his lifelong enthusiasm for embellishing the performance) is no less an act of creating a fiction than is filming actors speaking lines in the voices of people who don't exist.

    Fiction sells a lot better than truth. If art doesn't sell, it's a hobby -- and hobbies don't create trillion dollar industries that can drive a whole technology for a century.
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

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    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    "Stieglitz was in great part responsible for the acceptance of "pictoralism" as the ultimate expression of the photographic process, despite the fact that his own photographs were not in that genre."

    He was actually a hardcore pictorialist. His work didn't shift to modernism until many years after he first started calling it modern, well after Paul Strand's work (which he championed) helped usher in photographic modernism.

    I think calling that whole movement an abortion of good taste goes a bit far. you might make a case that pictorialism overstayed its welcome by a few years.

    I wonder what Krakauer would say about theatre? Just a bunch of people pretending to be someone else?

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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    I am astounded of how still there are people and movements that try to box the creative realm in a little box.
    And then again I am a supporter of the idea that we need this tension.
    One of the first things I learned as a photographer was that if you have 1000 photogrpahers shooting the same subject, you will have 1000 different photographs.
    Robert , if you and me look at a polished stone, how can you be sure that the subject is percieved by both of us in the same manner with the same intention of presenting it in a realistci fashion?
    You could probably be attracted by the light quality giving it a certain shape and I could be enthusiastic instead of the relationship the stone has with its surroundings.
    Oscar wilde said :" No great artist ever see things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist."
    Another of his statements:"Art never express anything but itself. It has an indipendent life, just as thought has, and develops purely on its own lines....and he goes on saying: All bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them to ideals. Life and Nature may sometimes be used as part of Art's rough material, before they are of any real srvice to Art, they must be translated into artistic conventions.
    The moment Art surrenders its imaginative medium it surrenders everything.
    Life imitates art far more than Art imitates Life.
    Now it may sound that Wilde himself is trying to box the concept of Art, but my perception is instead that it is giving to its terminology a broader meaning .

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    tim atherton's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Further to Domenico,

    what our little boxes capture is appearances - not the truth, not reality. Just the outward or visible aspect of something. Only what our eyes (and the camera see). That may or may not be true. It may or may not be real. Whether it is or not is entirely indpenedent of our sense of sight (and of our cameras way of "seeing").

    Appearances are in the realm of the senses and photography in the end only deals with appearances. What is real (reality) exists independantly of our human awareness of our senses(and is usually beyond what our cameras can see and what our film can record).

    When we take a photograph, what we end up with is how something looks to us - to the photographer. That's all.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    And, if I shoot a rock in B/W , that in itself is an abstraction.

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    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    "Krackaur said he thought dramatic film was merely a recording of persons pretending to be other persons. This, he said, was not pure cinema. A kind of misuse or (my word) a prostitution of the camera."

    Yeah, and...? Of course dramatic film is a recording of people pretending to be other people. People pretending to be other people has been going on since man first formed thought! That's what theater is all about. Duh! Same thing goes for fiction, an author writes about what does not exist.

    But is that "prostitution" of the camera? Or of the stage? Or of the printed page?

    I think that it has nothing to do with misuse of anything. I consider that to be a completely bogus statement. What concepts are you arguing for or against? Are you arguing against the very concept of fiction? That anything should be used in the persuit of fiction? I don't know what you read, but I like Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice. Excellent science fiction, that one. I would never complain if that were made into a film.

    How is this "plastic beauty" a redemption by the camera? I will lay odds that my concept of beauty may radically differ from yours. I ride the bus a lot. I see a lot of motion, and not much of it is worth two frames of 8mm. I fail to see the beauty of some snearing foul-mouthed graffiti-writing young miscreant who verbally abuses other passengers. I fail to see beauty of the actors actively live to strip beauty from the world around them. This is the motion of the street. There isn't much beauty to many lives, because those who live those lives actively foul their own lives and try to foul the lives of those around them.

    I do see the beauty of those who actively help those around them. Lending a hand or giving a dollar to a stranger. Righting an overturned trash can. Picking up a discarded newspaper. The things that nobody will reward, yet they do it regardless of recognition.

    Does "plastic beauty" simply refer to anything in a camera's focus? And why call beauty plastic? The word "plastic" has many definitions. Which one is used here? Formative and creative? Moldable and adaptable? Or made of plastic, mass-produced, cheap and fake? Leo Tolstoy complained of counterfeit art. Is that what is captured by the camera?

    Much of modern art focuses on cheap and fake beauty. No photo in my neighborhood has any bearing on world hunger. None of it. If you want there to be photographs of world hunger, grab your kit, hop a plane, and go photograph it. And does any of that alleviate world hunger? No. Photographs do not feed. What beauty is there in photographs of neighborhood trash bags? What beauty is there in 3,000+ cell phones? Are these pictures you would pay for and hang them on your wall? If there was no name attached to that photograph, no cult of personality, would you do it? I bet not. As artworks, I find such photographs boring and banal.

    I think that fiction, when done well, lifts the spirit and sparks the mind. How does the camera, a little machine whose nature is fixed on a reproduction of the real, create fiction? It is by the artifice of the operator and the perception of the viewer. I don't consider this to be a bad thing. Lifting up another's spirit is wonderful. Sparking someone's imagination is excellent. When asked how to make children smarter, Albert Einstein answered, "Read them fairy stories."

    Robert, would you consider those fairy stories to be a misuse and prostitution of a medium? I do not. It is with our imagination that we can turn life's lemons into lemonade, given a little sugar.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    There is nothing about photography that is indexical in nature. Every photo is purely subjective. There is nothing real about a two dimensional grey scale photo that is a size that can be hung on a wall.

    Pictorialism is just as real as anything else in the world of photography. To say that there is objective reality in photography is to say that there are universal truths in photography. There is no truth here.

    There are not unsharp lenses and sharp lenses, there are just unsharp lenses. That's what filmmaking is. Film makers know that they are trying to fool you and you know it also. There is no dishonesty there at all. It's all a manipulation which is also what photography is.

    Photos are the result of decisions. The great photographers are the ones that are able to make the decisions necessary to "make" the photos no matter what the light is bouncing off of, whether its a cloud floating by or the loose body parts strewn about at the scene of a bombing.

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