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Thread: By Reason, or by Faith?

  1. #21
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrus View Post
    ...I like Salgado, Araki, Pierre Molinier, Weegee, Jan Saudek and Joel-Peter Witkin. I’m not a big fan of Ansel Adams, Edward Curtis, Weston or Eggleston. I can justify it to myself because the photographers I like are transgressive, while the ones I don’t particularly like are sentimentalists. (I’m not sure what the heck Eggleston is all about!) That’s the extent of my reasoning. It’s what I like, and nothing more. Purely subjective...
    Cyrus, your remarks are thoughtful enough to leave a few of us curious – how did you find out about your favorite “transgressive” photographers?

    Did Arnold Bennett’s “passionate few” (post #1) point them out to you in, say, books, exhibits, or personal communication?

    Also, did Bennett’s passionate few bring the “sentimentalists” to your awareness?

  2. #22

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Well I'm flattered you asked. This is going to sound a bit crazy and long-winded.
    I have been thinking for a while now about this and I posted something on this forum a while back about it too: I've spent years accumulating the gear, the darkroom, the cameras, the technical know-how etc....but what's my "point"? WTF am I doing with my photography? How does the creation of one of my photos make the world into a different place? Yes I can take nice photos of rusting cars in fields, old barns, windswept canyons, fluffy dogs, naked chicks, pretty flowers, bell peppers, animal skulls, majestic mountains, etc just fine but does the world need yet another trite cliche? How many more long exposure shots of running rivers and waterfalls does anyone need? What's the "point" of my photography if not to reproduce more of this? So I've been thinking a lot about it lately. It has occurred to me that the kind of photos that attract me are (or were, in their time) transgressive in some way. (incidentally they also mostly involve staged still life shots -- sculpture, really.)

    So after some thought it occurred to me that to figure out the answer, I had to strip photography back to its essence. I also realized that my photography education to that point was all wrong, thanks to Ansel and Cartier-Bresson. Their ideas of "previsualization" and a "decisive moment" contained a built-in but unjustified assumption that photography was about recording external reality in one way or another. And so the negative was a record of that external reality. Instead, it occurred to me that really, photography is just a medium, just like paint on canvas except the paint is light, and the canvas is the paper. Instead of taking pains to ensure the absence of dust or watermarks on the neg, I can stomp on it, scratch it, cut it and past it back, etc. etc. I can use light on a negative or a paper just like I can splatter paint on a canvas or draw a line on a plate with a burin. I can skip using a camera entirely (after all cliche verre is also photography.) I don't even have to "take" a photo "of" anything - I can make it all up. Even make my own emulsion just like mixing paint or etching ink.

    So now my "photographs" consist of giant bands of jet black, mottled gray blobs, marks splattered or brushed on the print with fixer or stop before it is inserted into the developer, etc. The bare essence of photography, literally, "painting, with light". No majestic mountains or other identifiable external reality, no zone system, no previsualizing etc. No control, very random. I'm find this quite satisfying. I still do "regular" photos but I am not satisfied with my old work which I consider now to be trite and amateurish and cliche and embarrassing, which is also why I don't have a website. And I guess that's my transgression. Poeple can't even identify my photographs as photographs but instead think they're etchings or abstract ink drawings. I love that! One LF'er even accused me of not making "serious" photos because "serious" photography requires using fancy lenses and zone-modified Pentax spotmeters and climbing up mountains etc. I haven't even used my enlarger for a while and am instead experimenting with "drawing" on the paper with a laser pointer, then developing the paper.

    Addendum: Yes I am aware that Ansel and friends were transgressive in their own way at the time. But why do so many modern photographers settle for recreating their stuff? I just wanted a bigger view of the possibilities of photography.

  3. #23
    Peter J. De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    The 'point' in anything is that someone finds value in it. You've found a style of photography that you find satisfying, and that's a good thing. You should pursue it. But your justification as to why it is more meaningful in a non-subjective way than other genres of photography isn't very persuasive. How many images of anything do we need? None, as the pursuit of creating aesthetically valuable photographs is not about 'need'. After all, humanity made it for thousands of years without photography, and since 'need' means 'something we have to have', we don't need photography. Thus, you're right that we don't need a photo of another bell pepper, majestic mountain, naked chick...but we also don't need another abstract manipulated photo. At the level of generality that you're talking about, not only has that been done before, it's no more necessary for our thriving than any other type of photography.

    Since photography, as an artistic activity, isn't about need, it's about something else. It's about each of us, as individuals, finding out what we find aesthetically valuable and attempting, more or less successfully, to make objects that reflect that ideal. Nonetheless, it's not even so much about the object produced, as we already have billions of images after all, and it's doubtful that any of them will have long-term value to others. Rather the value to be found in artistic photography is the extent to which, as individuals, the activity of pursuing it enriches our lives.
    "No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." - Helen Keller
    www.peterdesmidt.com/blog

  4. #24

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    in reply to cyrus's last post.

    imo, this thread is way off the rails of the original premise.

    However for even more derailment, the purpose of art, as generally defined, is to create something that illicits an emotional response. In some ways you can measure the value art by the amount of response it gets, and the size of the audience. The purpose of it all is not to reshape the world. Not to be novel for it's own sake. Afterall we do rely on definitive paradigms, even if it is only to be novel. Without common defintion and precision we can not create anything. Another thread with the John Cleese video, which I don't particularly agree with most of, states well that, solemnity what good is it. There's a bit of truth to that, albeit with extreme hyperbole. Although, lol at relating this all back to the original topic and the fatal fallacies inherit with it. Either/or's and equivocations are rearing their ugly heads.

    I will agree with you that photography does tend suffer from too much interest in the tools and their related precision rather than the end result. To that end many photograph's are merely an excersize. (imo, this exists heavily in all arts, is learning really that bad?) Photographers tend to have small niche audiences, rare is the large audience that an Ansel Adams et al enjoy. Yes, the world needs more of what has been done before and will be done again, because their is art for an audience. E.G. if I go to Yosemite and take all the "classic" shots, they will have more value to my audience, wether it is done with a point and shoot or the bestest whatever camera availible, than any Adams' shot. Even it is only the smallest possible audience of myself, or friends and family.

    Honestly, for the rest of this thread it's getting into metaphysical territory... sometimes a chair is just a chair. Causality is way OT.
    Last edited by MrJim; 18-Apr-2012 at 06:18. Reason: bah.. forget it, too many spelling errors.

  5. #25

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Of course you are right. I was speakibg entirely subjectively. For me, another bell pepper photo does nothing. I'm just trying to find my own point for it all. We each should have our own points.

  6. #26

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    cyrus... You're such a rebel!!

  7. #27
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Cyrus, I went searching amidst the image forum. I have the same whine with you that I have with Rick Denny: Where's the images??

    When you start talking about your images, honestly, I want to see them! Good, bad, indifferent. "My image is of the second coming of that which hasn't yet come the first time around." I wanna look! I wanna see it!

    Naturally, we all have our own "points." Where do the points come from, where do they go? Were the points handed to us and we think they're good because a respected authority handed them to us, or did we spend some time figuring them out for ourselves?

    From the photographers you've listed, a few are news photographers. A few are pictorialists, specializing in "grotesques." Shock value. Does photography need a hit of electricity before it's good? Or memorable? The shock value comes from your viewpoint based on the society in which you were raised. In average society, people don't get summarily executed in the street (link), or people get blown up on holiday (link). In another society, in another time, it happens.

    While conventional photography hasn't worked for you, have you tried Chromoskedasic Sabatier process? That pepper might have a different light to it.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  8. #28

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Well, for better or for worse I don't have an audience and would hate to think that I'm supposed to make other people happy with what I do. And I don't really shoot for eliciting an emotional response (aka sentimentalism.) In fact I doubt that was the primary motivating factor of any of the well-known artists either. After all, what the heck kinda emotional response was Jackson Pollack going for...confusion? LOL I suppose once these great artists settled into the life of a money-making career artist, they stuck to their "tried-'n-true" motifs and just repeated them over and over for the sake of the market but that sounds very unappealing to me personally especially since audiences tend to be fickle. When I kick the bucket and go to the great big darkoom in the sky, I want to have left a body of work that says something more than "Wow, what an interesting bell pepper!" or "Gee, he really knew the zone system and his lenses didn't have any schneideritis and just look at that great adjacency effect!"

    Anyway enough about me on this thread -- back to the original issue. Yeah, I don't know where anyone gets any sort of "reasoned" way of looking at any art work. If there is some sort of objective, reasoned standard out there to determine the good from the bad, which does not depend on "faith" or the opinions of others, I'd sure like to know it too! In the meantime, I think I just like "transgressive" image-making. That's the extent of my "reasoned" approach. I don't know about others but some of my own best photos were "happy accidents" and reason played no role in creating them!

    [And yes Brian the photogs I mentioned do grotesques and such but they also do 'fantasy' images (which is why I dig the "post your pixies" thread) which is just 'surprising' or 'novel' rather than 'grotesque'. That's what I find interesting, personally. For a while there I tried fetish but it has become passe now. Again, doesn't "say" anything, at least not to me. I haven't tried Chromoskedasic Sabatier but it certainly seems interesting. I have posted some of my "ordinary" stuff already but generally don't post my newer images for lots of reasons - not being happy with them since I really haven't become adept at the processes and am just experimenting, and not having a calibrated monitor, etc. But I'm going to try the Chromaskedasic thing with the photo of the two skulls I posted recently in the still life thread.]

  9. #29

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    cyrus... I'm trying to understand... "shock and "confusion" aren't emotional responses? The "artists" didn't intentionally illicit those responses?

  10. #30

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    Re: By Reason, or by Faith?

    Not one's I'm going for. Not even sure that Pollack was going for "confusion" either. I don't think artist predefine some intended emotional response and then aim for achieving it.

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