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Thread: By Reason, or by Faith?

  1. #1
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    By Reason, or by Faith?

    When it comes to “Great” or “Classic” photographers, you might be able to name several, and believe you’re being fair and objective – but did you ever consider the true origins of your most heart-felt convictions?

    To what extent did you reason-out such beliefs – or do you mainly accept them on faith?

    I asked myself that question when I came across the quote below by Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), an English journalist and novelist who’s still remembered today and whose photo is below. The quote summarizes how a literary work becomes a “Classic,” but his argument – thoughtful & eloquent, if a touch naive – might apply to other arts too, such as photography.

    I’ve excerpted it from his handbook Literary Taste: How to Form it (1909), so if it sounds old-fashioned or hopelessly dated – and it might not sound that way to everybody – it’s because the work is more than 100 years old. And besides, few would rank Bennett among top-tier thinkers of culture, certainly not up there w/ his more talented contemporaries, such as Matthew Arnold or George Bernard Shaw, but the man sure is quotable for our purposes.

    So try giving this a quick read w/ an open mind, as it might apply to your most cherished convictions about the art of LF photography:

    ...The passionate few only have their way by reason of the fact that they are genuinely interested in literature, that literature matters to them. They conquer by their obstinacy alone, by their eternal repetition of the same statements. Do you suppose they could prove to the man in the street that Shakespeare was a great artist? The said man would not even understand the terms they employed. But when he is told ten thousand times, and generation after generation, that Shakespeare was a great artist, the said man believes – not by reason, but by faith. And he too repeats that Shakespeare was a great artist, and he buys the complete works of Shakespeare and puts them on his shelves, and he goes to see the marvelous stage-effects which accompany King Lear or Hamlet, and comes back religiously convinced that Shakespeare was a great artist. All because the passionate few could not keep their admiration of Shakespeare to themselves. This is not cynicism; but truth. And it is important that those who wish to form their literary taste should grasp it...


    -----
    • When we’re discussing the best LF photography through the years – Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, etc. – are you one of the “passionate few,” or a “man of the street”?

    • Do you go by reason, or by faith?

    • Or perhaps by some other means that Bennett would be slow to recognize, but would be profitable for the rest of us to know?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Arnold Bennett.jpg  

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    I lost my faith years ago... and am rapidly losing my ability to reason. I see what I see... nothin' more... nothin' less... and that ain't nothin' more than nothin'...

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    IMO we don't know all the rules, nor do we have a complete knowledge of all that surrounds us socially or physically.

    Our myths and stories and theories and postulates and hopes and dreams and various faiths fill in the blanks.

    We can sway or be swayed and habit is a tool for that work employed by leaders of family, franchise, friar, or feudal realms.

    We do learn though, and we can replace myth with knowledge, but that is a choice, and an emotional one.

    Pitting physics and math against psyche and mother against profit and managers; is a war of titans.
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    While I may be faithful in other areas, Curiosity is the word when it comes to photo history.

    We were shown who to like by posters and pop art.

    Then anyone with formal education were told who is good predominately through Beaumont Newhall's material. As time went on, I realized that is a very incomplete overview of a vast and interesting topic that can't easily be summarized.

    I don't mind disagreeing with someone about who is/isn't a great artist, but I'd rather be learning and shooting.

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    The statement in that paragraph is a bit vague to be really discussed. What I can glean from this is that Bennett believes in a dichotomy of "taste" and "tasteless" person, evidenced by the studied passionate person and the man on the street examples. For our purposes, and most likely Bennett's, we'll avoid the man on the street. (Also that it is a false dichotomy to start with...) Focusing on the man studied in critiques. How can we be certain of what is good? A pitfall to any critic is passing judgement on a piece, instead of just determining if the piece or body of work is worthy to be viewed critically. An opinion beyond that minimal amount of consideration towards the work should be approached carefully, or we may fall into faithfully following an opinion without objectively viewing for ourselves. With reason and good critics, we gain consensus among the critics to understand and define what has taste and who that taste is for, thus society can define how a work, or body of works, fits with its audiences.

    imo, there are all to few good critics in all aspects these days. Too much pressure to define for the lazy audiences. Also just a lack of respect for decent critical thought in general. lol you can give a man fish, or teach him to catch his own...

  6. #6
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Quote Originally Posted by Heroique View Post
    When it comes to “Great” or “Classic” photographers, you might be able to name several, and believe you’re being fair and objective – but did you ever consider the true origins of your most heart-felt convictions?

    To what extent did you reason-out such beliefs – or do you mainly accept them on faith?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Barendt View Post
    Pitting physics and math against psyche and mother against profit and managers; is a war of titans.
    Uh, Mark, Heroique is referring to the "greats" of photography, not the fundamental Questions and Answers of Everything.

    Myself, I started photoraphing because I was inspired by moonlight, and nothing else. I found out about Adams because he wrote books on photography, not because of the photographs he made. I like some of Adams' photographs because they resonate with me. I don't pay attention to Weston's photographs because they don't resonate with me. I prefer Arthur Fellig (Weegee) over Weston.

    So I would say that I "reason" that Adams is a great photographer because I have learned much from him, and that his photographs resonate with me. I haven't learned squat from Weston. From Fellig I learned confidence: "What I do, anybody can do." And to also look around, and see what's behind you.
    "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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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Uh Brian,

    Heroique actually asked a variety of questions, quite open ended too.

    I answered from the perspective I saw at that moment and considered the questions in the context Heroique provided to help define his own.

    We saw different things there, that's ok. We might see different compositions if we were standing beside each other on a day out shooting too.
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    To what extent did you reason-out such beliefs – or do you mainly accept them on faith?

    Or ? Why not And ?

    There are many equations with two solutions, where both solutions are true, and both solutions are real. For example, what is the square root of 25 ? The solution is both +5 and -5.

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post
    To what extent did you reason-out such beliefs – or do you mainly accept them on faith?

    Or ? Why not And ?

    There are many equations with two solutions, where both solutions are true, and both solutions are real. For example, what is the square root of 25 ? The solution is both +5 and -5.
    Or neither. Is the square root of 25 3, or 7? We might neither reason about a photo, or adopt the views of others, but come to our own opinions by way of our idiosyncratic biases.

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Faith and Reason are not opposite of each other but complimentary. The man in the street recognizes mountains, in particularly what mountains say and will likely choose an Ansel Adams print over a picture of a pile of garbage. If an art critic dictates that a photo of a pile of garbage has profound trancendental meaning, the man in the street will still choose the Adams, but museum curators the world over will likely clamor to buy the garbage.
    I am not aware of any prehistoric cave paintings of piles of garbage so the link between man and beauty (just as the link between man and domesticated dog) predates modern times.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.

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