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

  1. #11

    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Robert,

    "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, "

    Buy a MacG5 and a digicam and have at it, it is to Hollyweird what mp3 is to the music industry, scaring the hell out of them.

    "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. "

    This I don't understand, anyone over 5 years old is an actor playing charades, we all put on the armor as a defense.

    Nice thread though.

  2. #12

    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Thanks Bill and Paulr. I am mistaken about Stieglitz relative to pictorialism. I have long understood, and perhaps incorrectly, that he wanted to move away from this. I think of "The Steerage" (AS?) as well as the vertical shot of the horsedrawn cabs in the NY snow early 1900's. That's who I think of when I think of Alfred Stieglitz.

    I, for one, could benefit from one of you or anyone else explaining generally how the transition was made from photo-pictorialism to realism. Who were the players? What did they do? I had thought Stieglitz had really railed against pictorialism.

    Brian Miller, my post really seemed to touch a nerve in you. I was not minimizing dramatic cinema. Just citing my recollections of what the author's positions had been. Krackauer had been a kind of purist, and thought that dramatic film tended to ignore (or fail to exploit) what he saw as the real strength of the camera. He believed that strength was the camera's ability to reveal (in two-dimensional abstraction) the inherent beauty of the material that was actually out there.

    Put another way, and I think he was also saying this, eye/brain see one kind of "reality." Eye/brain (when viewing the abstracted image hewn from the original "reality") can see something different - or, one might say, what was "really" there in the first place. Of course, as one of you seemed to say, it's all abstraction. I guess one might include even the image registered by the optic nerve.

    I guess what I have been trying to say is that I find it a truly marvelous and exhilerating experience to expereince a piece of reality (a scene), to feel a kind of pulse-quickening exhileration, and to then click the shutter. Wow! It feels like I have participated in something that is way beyond me. Beyond my senses, my intellect. As though I have touched something eternal. A hundred pounds of gear so that I can have that experience. If a print seems to turn out well, that's more than I can ask for. It's the icing on the cake.

    Brian, you should know that I am fond of dramatic film. It seems to have its own strengths, too.

    A few things come to mind. (A 19 or 20-year-old) Lauren Bacall asking Humphrey Bogart, "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve? Just put your lips together and blow."

    And to confirm I am definitely not high-brow in my tastes, how about Jessie Ventura's comment to his sidekick in that first Schwartzeneggar "killing aliens" picture. (With a sizeable wad of chew in his cheek) "... sons-of-bitches are dug in deeper than an Alabama tick."

    Cheers to all!!

  3. #13
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Yes, Robert, it touched a nerve in me, and its a good nerve to touch! :-)

    I used to have philosophical debates with Chris Jordan on Usefilm's "Philosophy of Photography" forum. I like exercising my mental philosophical muscles!

    Yeah, I can see that you were discussing Krackaur. If I don't see a phrase like "I don't agree with this guy" when you reference him, then I presume agreement. Debates of philosophy are only relevant when one references one's own viewpoint, not the viewpoint of somebody else. Another person's viewpoint can be used to reinforce your own, but its boils down to BS if you aren't working to hone your own vision, to forge your own path.

    I agree with you that the camera (and print) are used to focus attention. This is what we do every time the shutter goes "click." I think we both seek the extraordinary in the ordinary.

    I simply disagree (and how!) that using film to express a fairy tale is a bad thing. We need better fairy tales.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  4. #14
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Steven Barall wrote: "To say that there is objective reality in photography is to say that there are universal truths in photography. There is no truth here."

    Nihilism, the corrosive acid which seeks to destroy all! Phah!

    There can be objective reality in photography, and universal truths can be conveyed by photography. It is the photographer's choice to choose the subject and render it according to personal vision. If you don't want to convey truth, then you won't persue it or photograph it.

    Many of my photographs contain this universal truth: This, too, shall pass away. When you seek a universal truth, you will find it. If you seek that truth in a photographical context, you will capture it on film. Seek and you will find, and if you ain't seekin', you ain't findin'!

    History shows again and again
    How nature points up the folly of men

    -- from Go Go Godzilla, by Blue Oyster Cult
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  5. #15
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    "I am mistaken about Stieglitz relative to pictorialism. I have long understood, and perhaps incorrectly, that he wanted to move away from this. I think of "The Steerage" (AS?) as well as the vertical shot of the horsedrawn cabs in the NY snow early 1900's. That's who I think of when I think of Alfred Stieglitz."

    You're definitely in good company. Most of the world thought Stieglitz's work was modern long before it was, because Stieglitz said it was, and he was almost supernaturally convincing. by the early 1900s, his work was straight, but was still heavily romantic and symbolic. His work from the previous two decades was basically pictorial. He didn't become truly modern until he was in his fifties, and was learning from the example of artists like strand and sheeler and the european painters.

    In an interview, Beaumont Newhall was asked why he called Stieglitz's pictorialist pictures from the 19th century straight. Newhall said something like, "well, he told me they were straight and i believed him."

    You're definitely right that Stieglitz wanted to move away from the victorian esthetic. He talked about doing so publicly and in print. It just happened to take his work a long time to catch up with his ideas.

  6. #16
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    "Many of my photographs contain this universal truth: This, too, shall pass away. When you seek a universal truth, you will find it. If you seek that truth in a photographical context, you will capture it on film. Seek and you will find, and if you ain't seekin', you ain't findin'!"

    Can we really say that the photograph contains these truths, or does it just contain signs that people from certain cultures or groups have learned to read a certain way? I wonder, once you get past pictures of the most base human emotions ... smiling faces, pain, fear, etc... how many of the pictures with a meaning we agree on here would mean the same thing to someone uneducated in the medium, or to an African villager, or to a European from 17th Century.

    Or for that matter, how many of us right here would agree on what that picture means. This, too, shall pass away? Maybe some people will see that, but I promise some others will see something different. Which suggests that photographs contain something more like "loosely shared implications" than universal truths.

  7. #17
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    Ah, but Paul, I can aim for the photograph to contain that truth, can't I? :-) And showing a photograph to "a European from 17th Century" is a bit out of the question, isn't it? (Unless you have a time machine, in which case get on the Art Bell show as soon as you can!)
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  8. #18
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    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    You can definitely aim for the truth ... and if you aim well, you'll capture something that reads like the truth to yourself and to others who share the same iconography. Nothing wrong with that ... it's been keeping art alive since the beginning. It's just easy to overlook that that the truth actually hasn't been trapped in that emulsion. The image typically contains a bunch of richly ambiguous, open-ended fragments. We who make and look at the image complete the sense of truth with our cultural contexts. Recognizing this helps ease the frustration when someone sees our work and thinks it's about something bizarrely unrelated to the truth we chased.

    As soon as the time machine is up and running, I'll be taking orders for $5 Stieglitz prints, turn-of-the-century platinum paper, and vintage fender guitars. Who really cares what those old fops have to say about my pictures?

  9. #19

    "Theory of Film" made some wonderful points.

    It makes me laugh when people talk about truisms in photography. Discussions like this seem to polarize people and instill arguments about hair-counters vs. holgas, digital vs. darkroom, this vs. that.

    I have seen the capitol-T-Truth used also. Like it was a diction from a higher power. Photography is not truth anymore than abstract art is a lie. Neither is documentary cinema truth and fiction lies. No documentary can make you wholly understand expeience. No photograph can tell you who is the real person behind the face. No reality TV show will make you understand what it is like to be Paris Hilton.

    I think most people are confused about what art is. Art simply a form of communication. Whether it be documentary or contrived, the idea is to communicate some aspect of life to another. A good photograph may give you a hint of a personality, a representation on how hard/good life was at a certain time, or the sense of enchantment in a secret location. But none can comapre with the experience.

    You might say that the only 'Truth' is in knowing. That is a very Tao expression, but I think it fits well regarding art. So I will accept the actors, the contrived reality, the embellished page, just as I would a voice in a conversation.

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