View Full Version : Logical Positivism and the Phenomenology of Photography

John Kasaian
20-Nov-2003, 23:39
In attempting to understand what I'm doing when I use a camera intuitively, such as shooting a handheld Speed Graphic, as opposed to a more contemplative approach as when playing with a 8x10 or ULF, I begin to wonder if there is a correlaton between photography and Phenomenolgy vs. Logical Positivism debate. As Logical Positivism refers to to existence being determined only by what can be measured, that would support the more contemplative approach, such as reading a light meter, utilizing the Zone System, selecting a lens on its known merits and characteristics charted on the spec sheets published the manufacturers, and other scientific data like grain shape and silver content of the film selected and so on. On the Phenomenology side of the issue, and I'm refering here to more of a Husserliana definition, there is the mental existence of the image, photograph in this case, which does not submit to any form measurement---f stop and shutter speed were set before the image presented itself(OK, "sunny 16",) distance---infinity, also preset long before any idea to take the picture in question existed. It is a photographic image that exists only in my mind, then it becomes an exposed piece of cut film through the act of taking(how appropriate the word "taking") the picture. I only mention this because in practice, I'm finding this is a very refreshing way to make photographs and I'm wondering what others think, especially those with differing views. Any thoughts??

David R Munson
21-Nov-2003, 00:07
Wow - this is so much along the lines of the philosophy of mind paper that I'm specifically not writing at the moment it's almost creepy. I would definitely lean in the direction of the phenomenological stance. To me, logical positivism is highly problematic in its application to real human affairs. One thing I definitely take issue with is it's verifiability principle. Is something really only meaningful only in the event that it can be proven true or false? I say no. Particularly in relation to the kinds of things one encounters in photography - something that is innately subjective and thereby not terribly fun to try to put into true/false terms. It's rejection of any and all things metaphysical is also troubling, as it seems to me that metaphysics is a critical part of the subjective creative experience.

OK, I'm not sure if this is making sense. And so, I'll stop for now. I may post again later once I get some sleep and can devote more brain cells to the question.

Doug Howk
21-Nov-2003, 01:57
"Taking","shooting","bagging", etc. have some negative connotations vis-a-vis the subject of the image. Seize the moment, even with its inspirational tone, suggests the importance of a singularity in time. All emphasize the importance of the moment when the shutter is released. An intuitive approach to photography is a worthwhile goal, but there are no short-cuts to learning a craft. Besides the obvious technical skills that must be learned, an appreciation for & an understanding of composition requires at least an initial, contemplative approach to photography.

Michael A.Smith
21-Nov-2003, 04:06
I question your premise: the setting up as opposites the intuitive and the contemplative. When you mention conteplative, you mention zone system and light meters, selecting a lens and film based on known characteristics. None of that has anything to do with anything conteplative--or intuitive.

I believe the proper opposite to intuitive is analytic. One can use a hand-hed camera intuitively or analytically. One can use a large view camera intuitively or analytically. One can be contemplative and intuitive and one can be contemplative and analytical.

Intuitive picture making (I have never thought of what I did as "taking") is when there is a flash of recognition that what is on the groundglass or in the view finder feels "right." This can be preceded by contemplative activity or not. I think of contemplative activity as just walking around getting the feeling of a place--not even thinking of photographs or photographing. Often, when you may have been in the same spot for quite a while, things and relationships present themselves that were always there, but were not consciously registered. They register as a result of contemplative activity. At this point, for me, what registers may have nothing at all to do with any picture I may attempt to make. When I do get out my camera, chances are I will not photograph that which caused me to get it out, but something else entirely--something that is discovered as a result of looking on the ground glass. The ground glass is where the intuitive discoveries are made. And they are made in an instant.

The zone system, film, lenses, light meters: Decisions about this stuff is made years before in the case of film and lenses, and with the zone system and light meter the decisions are made so quickly and automatically (it usually takes about 10 seconds) that it is just a mechanical thing (and the least interesting part of the whole process) that helps insure the correct exposure. But outside of that, it really has nothing to do with the creative process of making photographs.

John Cook
21-Nov-2003, 06:15
Fifty years ago, my Dad used to tell me that, "It's all in how you hold your mouth" while working.

Don Wallace
21-Nov-2003, 07:47

The only point on which I would agree with your model is this: one of the main criteria of positivistic science is repeatability. Adams' method offered a way of understand the basic materials in such a way that one would know what to do in a given situation in order to produce a desired result. However, Adams also emphasised visualization, something that you have missed. He was a musician (and a very good one) and what he did with photography, in terms of method, is very similar to what a musician does. One learns the basic materials only to be able to use them in an unconscious and intuitive way. There is no contradiction. Those who use theory as if it were practice have missed the point. I teach music and tell this to my students all the time.

David Mark
21-Nov-2003, 08:00
Sound technique is a prerequisite to a good photograph whether your approach to making photographs is analytical or intuitive. If someone gives you a hammer, a chisel and a big block of marble, whether your vision for your sculpure comes to you in a flash of insight or from weeks of preliminary drawings and careful study of the marble, you are unlikely to be able to realize your vision unless you have mastered the craft of sculpting.

The marvelous technology of photography sometimes allows us to delude ourselves about the need for craft. We don't need to make our own lenses, cameras, and film. A very rudimentary knowledge of exposure and development will allow us to get some sort of printable image. But to get the image we intended, even -- or perhaps especially --the image borne of a momentary flash of inspiration, we must have mastered the technical aspects of photography.

To resort to yet another analogy: Could you sit down at the piano and improvise brilliantly if you have not put in thousands of hours playing scales and arpeggios?

Consider your example of intuitive photography: You are wandering the seashore with your Speed Graphic, focused at infinity and with exposure preset according to the sunny sixteen rule. Suddenly you see a striking arrangement of boulders in the sand, partly in sunlight, partly in shadow. If you have the craft, you can refocus and reset the exposure in seconds, and make a negative that will support your vision for the finished print. If not, you have two choices: you can pass on the picture entirely, or take it, and then pretend to yourself that the featureless black shadows and blown-out highlights in the final print are what you intended.

In short, I am agreeing with what I take to be Michael A. Smith's point: technique is a prerequisite to either an analytical or intuitive approach to making photographs. It is not a part of the analytical approach that can be dispensed with when one is working intuitively.

Pierre Auguste Renoir said, "Be a good craftsman; it won't stop your being a genius."

Beyond that, I can't speak to your assessment of how logical positivism and phenomenology would play out as approaches to photography. I have never read the phenomenologists, and have only the faintes memories of having read A.J. Ayer in college. I do think that speculations, philosophical or otherwise, that stimulate you to make photographs must be counted a good thing.


david clark
21-Nov-2003, 08:10
Hi all, I think, basically, logical positivism has to do with making scientific claims and, basically, phenomenology has to do with placing what-is into categories. And neither intellectual tool was fabricated for squeezing an art image out of a camera or vocing artistic judgments. I think this is a trial and error game, true some are more methodical in their experiments.

David L.
21-Nov-2003, 09:27
Wow, interesting subject!! Yes, I think the Logical Positivism/Phenomenology dichotomy does indeed apply to the universe of photography and it plays out, in a non format dependent way, something like this. The Logical Positivist defines his existence in terms of characteristic curves, Airy disks, MTF functions, hyperfocal calculations, AZO emulsions and other such things. The Phenomenologist defines his existence by how many times he gets laid.

John Kasaian
21-Nov-2003, 09:43
Interesting, but I can't see how something thats intuitive can't be an example of Phenomenology, though perhaps the arguement for contemplative photography as a model for Logical Positivism is not so strong. It seems like the elements of photography constructed from science---chemistry, optics etc...have to be "children" of Logical Positivism. The contemplative approach, the way I understand it, calls for careful selection of the materials & equiptment as much as it does compostition and tonality---this isn't to say the yield isn't creative or "art," but rather that its vitally important in the process of creating a picture. Have you ever taken a photo, convinced that if you had a wider, or longer, or MC, or APO lens, the fruits of your exercise would turn out better? Have you ever passed up a shot because you felt you didn't have the lens you could use along?(Ansel Adams remarked something to the effect that if you have more than on lens, the lens you have on the camera won't be the right one) I think thats a sound example of Logical Positivism being a force in photography. You know from a technical stand that you won't get the performance what you want, and the performance you expect from your gear and/or the materials you use drives if not the creative process, the ability to realize the creative process. If you never snap the shutter, the image you desire might still exist in your mind, and that would be an example of Phenomenology. Any further "tweaking" of the mental image exists in the mind. The difference then between a Phenomenological approach might be that the image is not 100%(or at least predominantly) dependent on the selection of gear and materials used to measure or somehow place a photograph into existence. The Phenomenological approach then, could jive with the old Kodak ad copy that goes "You press the button, We do the rest" though the approach is that Photographer is driven by a mental picture exclusivley and that mental picture is unable to be measured or catagorized. The Photographer then thinks that "x" f-stop and "x" shutterspeed should produce an image, not because a light meter says so, but by intuition(which may well be from an earlier experience thats become, to the mind, a piece of recognizable furniture) and that the lens onboard is merely that---no "silver bullets" allowed. The image is not finessed, like a choreographed dance or fired like an artillery shell with range, windage and elevation painstakingly computed before launch, but taken---siezed I think is a term someone used---by the hands, though some might argue that Phenomenology cannot go beyond the mind, since in order to exist, something would have to be maesurable(Cyril vs. Dennet?) I'm not saying one way is better than another, just trying to clarify what the differences are between intuative and contemplative(or analytical) methods. I heartily agree with David R. Munson in that such mental gymnastics can leave the brain hurtin' after awhile, but hey, no pain-no gain. Any other ideas or comments?

Paul Metcalf
21-Nov-2003, 11:28
And it's hereditary as to how you hold your mouth when doing something contemplative. My wife's kids all stick their tongue out when they play the piano, as she does when she's quilting.

As for me, I must have missed these thought provoking classes in my engineering studies. Or I need to drink more.

David Mark
21-Nov-2003, 12:35

You raise several interesting points, but I'm not sure that your references to positivism and phenomenology actually add anything to the discussion. You might as reasonably refer to "apollonian" and Dionysian" approaches to photography, or, more simply, analytic and intuitive approaches.

There are certainly photographers who love the technology of photography, and for whom the making of a picture is simply an excuse to use the technology. Such people rarely produce a picture worth looking at, except by accident

But I rather think the same charge can be levelled at some of the "intuitive" photographers, by which I mean, in this case, those who choose deliberately to ignore the technical component of photography. Remember that the laws of physics and chemistry operate to determine the image on the film whether we take heed of them or not. If I do not control the process then chance will determine negative densities, and in extreme cases perhaps the image as well. I may still make a compelling image, but only if, after the fact, I have the artistic skill to recognize what is realizable from the negative I happen to have produced.

The mental image that caused you to trip the shutter may be unquantifiable; it will also have very little to do with the physical print that you make if you have not, somehow, internalized rules for making a usable negative.

Perhaps I am still missing your point, but to me it seems that the "intuitive" approach to photography that you describe simply delays necessary aesthetic decisions until later in the picture-making process. You will decide about the final image in the selection and printing of the negatives. But in declining to control the process at the exposure stage, you have drastically limited what you can do with the negatives when you print them. Since you will have to exercise both craft and aesthetic judgment at some point, why not do it at the stage that will give you the best options when making the print? After all,the goal is to make expressive pictures, and not just to take a walk while occasionally exposing some film.

So I return to Michael A. Smith's point: if you have mastered your craft and internalized it, it will not get in the way of your intuition. It will allow you to realize as fully as possible that unquantifiable image you had in your mind's eye when you tripped the shutter.


Jay DeFehr
21-Nov-2003, 13:40
I won't pretend to know anything about logical positivism or phenomenology beyond what has been written here, but the Art/science relationship of photography is one of the medium's many appeals for me. Each aspect has its place in my own approach, and acts as a buffer or release from the other. I enjoy grappling with the many technological and scientific aspects of photography and simultaneously applying what I've learned, or am in the process of learning in a totally creative and intuitive way. For me that is the yin and yang of the medium. It is not useful for me to try to separate these two halves. There are often times when I am working out of equilibreum, that is to say that either my creative impulses are running out ahead of my technique, or visa versa, and happy accidents do occur, but I'm always seeking a balance. I don't think that it would be possible for me to study the science of photography in isolation, without practice, until sufficiently knowledgeable and then go into the field/studio and apply that knowledge subconsciously in an intuitive way. The two aspects are parts of the same whole, and have no desire to try to part them. I don't look forward to a day when I've learned all there is to know about photographic technique and the science behind it, and can practice photography without being aware of it. The open ended nature of photography is very appealing to me, and not something I am trying to master, or complete. I enjoy the act of learning, and the surprise and wonder it can bring, and have no desire to move beyond it. As I work and study, an accumulation of knowledge is inevitable, and along with it, a refinement of technique, but for me, there is no end point. In the end, neither logical positivism or phenomenology ring true for me as I understand their connection to my own approach to photography.

James Phillips
21-Nov-2003, 14:22
Wow !!!

You people are starting to scare me. <grin>

John Kasaian
21-Nov-2003, 14:37
Doug Howk:

I'm not sure that the terminology isn't appropriate. Dosen't the photograph "freeze" the image the moment it is taken---isn't that why photographs are used as historical records? Later, in printing the image may be manipulated, but at its core is the instant the Dracular silver halides meet with the light of day, No?

Michael Smith:

Very interesting point about the intuative discovery being made on the ground glass. I've got to think about this one---to me, the aerial image is an abstraction. I doubt that(for me) it can be intuitive in that it cries out to be analyzed---where is the plane of focus? Down is Up, Up is Down? How do I get one part of the image in focus, yet keep another part from getting out of focus? I'm not disagreeing, but it seems as if making the intuative discovery on the ground glass would depend on the ability and experience level of the Photographer more than anything else.

John Cook:

Right on!

Don Wallace:

The repeatability of the methodology like the zone system is I think, a good thing. It applies sound principles to art, but A.A. was taking great photos before he and Fred Archer(?) worked out the Zone System. I'm not coming down on Logical Postivism---I wouldn't want to fly in an airliner that was the product of Phenomenology! I'm just trying to apply some kind of philosophical theory to differences in taking pictures.

David Mark:

Nor am I advocating the dispensing of acquiring a mastery of technique. Rather the requirement by Logical Positivism that existence has to be measurable to be proven as factual. Music is, if my Junior High saxophone teacher taught me correctly, dependent on measures and beats, and timing in order to be written and read. I can't see that notes on the bars and spaces suffice alone without notations like "arpeggio" "animato" or "glissando" which are neccesary to the score but don't seem(to me anyway) catchwords of Logical Positivism.

david clark:

I'm not sure I follow. The debate I'm following is how something can exist internally, like in the mind(which defies measure) can translate into action as opposed to basing existence on only those thinks that have physical---measurable---substance, and if this applies to the practice of photography in any way or form.

David L.:

I like your thinking!

I'll have to get back to answering the rest of the posts later on---I'm doing this in between putting dry-wall up in the guest bathroom and I've got to get the job done before a party thats on tap for tomorrow and the joint compound should be dry by now, so I better start sanding & priming! Please keep your thoughts coming---this is getting very interesting!------------Cheers!

Jay DeFehr
21-Nov-2003, 15:14
Hi John, If you have any drywall related questions, I'm much more qualifieds to speak on that subject than on photography. Good luck, and wear a dust mask if yoiu MUST sand.

John Kasaian
21-Nov-2003, 18:30
Michael Alpert:

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm currently slogging through Analecta Husserliana.

Paul Metcalf:

Don't let your tongue stick to the ground glass when you're out in freezing weather! ;-)

David Mark:

Interesting...especially regarding Michael A Smith's point about internalizing a craft. Is that something measurable(probably) but is that mastery of craft have any correlation to the pictures taken? Yes and No. There are successful Masters of the Craft(I think Michael Smith is among them) but there are also Masters of the Craft who are Masters at Imitation and are searching for a personal style(unless they've given up completely!) Then there are competent photographers who can produce photos that are interesting and certainly more creative than the norm, often with dated tools and/or non-alternative chemistry and technique. I'm not sure if testing One's Mastery of Craft would be considered Logical Posivitism if it couldn't be graphed or statistically analyzed and reduced to mathematical values, which could dangerously approach absurd levels---as if the Art scene isn't absurd enough! Is an 11x14 four times better than a 5x7? In square inches of image it would be---see what I mean?

Jay De Fehr:

The issue, in a broader sense is this: Logical Postivism requires that what is considered "real" must be measureable whereas Phenomenology---the Husserl drift as I get it, is that what is in the mind is no less real and the mind can be the cause of a physical act, whereas the Logical Positvist would maintain that ideas are real only when they manifest as measurable data(I think)

James Phillips:

This thread tends to make my brain hurt---but it is an interesting diversion from the exploring the usefulness of cheap forstner bits;-)


John Kasaian
22-Nov-2003, 11:10
I got the drywall job finished and was able to distil the issue of Logical Positivism and Phenomenology in its application to photography further(while priming the new wallboard)---the main difference would be, if I have my definitions down right, that if you "see" the photograph(or more accurately "potential" photograph) in your imagination, or "mind's eye" that would be Phenomenology since you couldn't take physical measurements of "it" then "it" according to Logical Positivism, dosen't exist. If, on the other hand, you first "see" the potential photography on the ground glass, which by the fact that it is contained within a measured border of whatever format you're shooting, can be manipulated by movements, and can be analyzed as a physical(though at this point an aerial)image, that would indicate a Logical Positivist approach. Does this correlate with the Intuitive/Contemplative approaches to Photography??

Mark Farnsworth
22-Nov-2003, 11:51
I don't think your analysis will bear any fruit.

First, Ansel Adams is famous for advocating the pre-visualization of the final image (on paper) in one's mind's eye before exposing the image on film. Yet he was one on the most technically astute photographers ever.

Secondly, your preoccupation with thinking about the philosophy of photography is a somewhat abnormal mental preoccupation with the process, which is a lot closer to logical positivism that you are willing to admit. Most people just do it.

Michael A.Smith
22-Nov-2003, 13:09
No John, I don't thiok you have it right. If you see the finished photograph complete in your mind before looking on the ground glass, then the act of looking on the ground glass would be as measurable as you could get, since you are trying to recoed something that is already known.

To you, what is measurable--the dimensions of the ground glass--the negative size--or the millions of relationships in a photograph? If you are only referring to the dimensions of the negative or ground glass, then that is pretty uninteresting. If you are referring to the, realistically unmeasureable relationships within a picture, it is an impossibility, unless you (or anyone) is the most compumsive person anywhere.

In any case, none of this has anything to do with intuitive:contemplative.

For me, if not for others, the most intuitive moments are those moments of discovery on the ground glass. If I see the photograph ahead of time, as I did once in 1975, making the picture becomes nothing more than a mechanical event. Since you can only respond to what you already know, if you see the finished picture ahead of time, and then make it, you are only confirming what you already know. Nothing could be less intuitive. But if you see something on the ground glass that baffles you, that you cannot figure out, but which nonetheless "looks good", it is only your intuition (or mine) that is at work telling you, or me, it looks good. As I said above, the contemplation happens ahead of time. On the ground glass there is contemplation, too, but it can easily segue into analysis.

It has always seemed curious to me that Ansel Adams advocated previsualizing the final image before exposing the film, developed the Zone System to make sure all of the technical things were right, and still had to do more darkroom dodging and burning than any other photographer I ever heard of except for W. Eugene Smith--who did it for different reasons. Is that being technically astute?

I agree with Mark, that most people just do it. To me, philosophical thinking about this stuff can only get in the way. Years ago, when I got rid of about 1,000 books, the first to go were all of the philosophy books (except for one). I have never regretted it. The one I kept was one by Heidegger. I kept it becquse it was so ridiculuous. When people were around I would sometimes open it at random and start reading. It was so absurd that it was always good for some real laughs. Eventually, that book got tossed, too.

John Kasaian
22-Nov-2003, 15:19
Not to flog an apparently dead horse, but what has me confused is that Phenomenology dosen't, as far as I've read, deny that Logical Positivism exists, yet Logical Positivism rather flatly denies the existence of anything that dosen't fit within its rules---it denys that anything unmeasureable can exist. This would mean that the process of making a photograph has to a process which can be measured for analysis, right? Thats very logical, but I don't see that that process for discovering a potential photographic image(pre-photograph? pre-visualization?) would always have to be the result of the Logical Positivist philosophy. The model would be like this: I see a small creek traversing rocks with wild lilies growing on the banks and I have a desire to make a photograph of that creek and those lillies. I might have seen several creeks with lillies growing that I've passed up. By what measure does this one particular creek exceed the other creeks? Can it even be measured by any logical method? Perhaps, but quite likely only by some kind of unmeasureable intuitive process. How the photograph becomes some "thing" in the Logical Positive sense, begins on the ground glass, with light meters and movements and silver halides and eventually chemicals, temperature, & cetera. I only maintain that a photographic image can exist outside of a physical photographic process. Any image that haunts your memory would be an example that the Logical Positivist would, in a textbook scenario, deny an image exists.

I've got to agree wih Mark, this is an abnormal mental preoccupation with process resulting from having to stay home snorting joint compound and drywalling instead of going out and taking pictures---perhaps I should be abnormally mentally preoccupied with comparing the performance between Artars and Ronars or if AZO and Amidol being better or inferior to Platinum/Palladium?

Mark Farnsworth
22-Nov-2003, 17:30
John, unlike some others, I still have my philosophy books, and enjoy reading them sometimes. I also enjoy photography. These are fundamentally different activities.

Philosophy is contemplative metal activity. Photography is a kind a "making," as opposed to thinking. We make a photograph when we are finished thinking about it (otherwise we would never press the shutter release).

It seems to me that you are trying to disprove logical positivism based on your knowledge and experience as a photographer. Maybe your arguments have some merit, but it seems to me that they are better suited to a philosophy forum than a photography forum.

My suspicion is the logical positivists and phenomenologists make photographs pretty much the same way, even though they may think they do it differently.

David Flockhart
22-Nov-2003, 21:46
Kierkegaard noted that we live by passion, not logic. This thought seems germane to the topic. Feelings, impressions and the like are not quantifiable as such and these things move us to make images beyond the banal sort. That inner movement corresponds to a need to manifest that 'vision' in the world where craft becomes essential. Why must we resort to an either/or or an x versus y when, even by paradoxical standards, seemingly contradictory impulses and means are needed to integrate and complete a vision that is outwardly tangible? And then, even in the end to have no quantifiable means of determining the meaning or excellence of the creation (the print). The process is endless from the mystery of 'seeing' an image to the mystery of understanding the vision once manifest.

Michael A.Smith
22-Nov-2003, 22:12
John wrote, "I only maintain that a photographic image can exist outside of a physical photographic process."

I thought that by definition a photograph (the same as a photographic image, right?) can only exist as a tangible thing. A thought in your mind of what the finished photograph will look like is a thought--not a photograph, nor a photographic image (whatever that is if it is not a photograph).

Thinking about this further, I realize that the making of a photograph is a combination of right brain and left brain activity--and when the two halfs are in harmony and balanced, something wonderful can possibly result.

Near as I can figure, one of the sides corresponds to what you call a phenomenoligical approach, and the other to the logical positivist approach, more or less. (Close enough for me at any rate.)

David said it wonderfully: "The process is endless from the mystery of 'seeing' an image to the mystery of understanding the vision once manifest." And to quote one of my favorite poets, e.e.cummings, " Mysteries alone are significant."

Hugo J. Zhang
22-Nov-2003, 23:45
Very interesting! I actually did a paper called "Zen, Phenomenology and Art" for my Master degree 17 years ago.

I started LF a few years ago and I have to agree with Michael here that philosophy does not help one's photography. But on the other hand, all those reading did shape my vision in some way and might even reflected in the way I look at Things.

I do not read Kierkegaard any more. I am more enchanted with images now. The best phenomenologist is not a philosopher or a scholar, but actually a non commercial fine art photographer. Just think, can you find a better way to under this world in phenomenological terms than a photographer?

Hugo J. Zhang
22-Nov-2003, 23:55
Sorry, I meant understand this world.

John Kasaian
23-Nov-2003, 01:03
Mark, David, Micheal and Hugo,

Thank you all for generously sharing your thoughts. I had only the germ of an idea I wanted to convey when I started this thread, but I've found I've grown in my understanding of Photography while reading your input. It should come as no surprise that the language of Philosophy is difficult for me, but David Flockhart and Hugo Zhang have clarified for me the sentiments I've been unable to express.

What possible good can come of this friendly little discussion? For me anyway, I want to know as much as I can about Photography, and trying to understand the philosophical theories that are said to apply to life (and to my photography since I am still a living thing) is no less important than trying to understand relevant physical, mechanical, artistic, optical and chemical theories.

Kind of a funky way to put up dry-wall, huh?;-)

Witold Grabiec
24-Nov-2003, 14:41
Just wanted to comment on Ansel Adams being technically astute or not. His burning and dodging was almost always for specific reasons. Something that should not be used against his utter ability to analize a scene before him. His desire was always to print every image as perfectly as his imagination would define it. Given the limited latitude of photogrpahic materials, it is almost always impossible to get the straight print (even with a negative as pin-pointed as one can get). This leads to further alterations of the process in the darkroom. None of it holds true however, if one takes what he's got and "re-analizes" the outcome afterwards,because it would take too much time (or skill) in the darkroom to get what he originally intended.

Not to mention that many of his photographs were recorded on inferior material, given todays standards or manufacturing ability to deliver a uniform emulsion regardless of production date (and it is still not perfect).

Mike Chini
24-Nov-2003, 15:24
"Thinking about this further, I realize that the making of a photograph is a combination of right brain and left brain activity--and when the two halfs are in harmony and balanced, something wonderful can possibly result. "

As a lifelong musician, and all-around creative person, it is only when the creative half of my brain 'opens up', for lack of a better term, that I am able to do my best. Musically, this only happens late at night when I am surrounded by silence and am fully awake. Speaking photographically, when I am out and about 'looking', or 'thinking' or 'trying' to photograph, it just doesn't happen. But then there's that 'click' when my creativity seems to kick in and I am suddenly ably to make good pictures out of almost anything. However, this happens seemingly at random and is one of my personal frustrations in general - making it difficult, if not imposssible for me to work with another person or to be able to produce great work when I want to etc.. I always felt that the analytical in my head has always impeded my creativity rather than worked in conjunction with it when I am actually in the process of shooting.

On the other hand, the analytical DOES help me prepare and learn when I am at home. When I go out to shoot, it is the analytical preperation which subconsciously helps me avoid cliche's, poor compositions, technical problems - in other words, mistakes or lessons learned.

I also have to agree with Michael in that I seem to use my photographic ideas and objectives as starting points towards making images. Whenever I do form a potential image in my mind it is always superceded by much better/stronger/more interesting images once I am actually out there shooting.