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Thread: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

  1. #31

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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Quote Originally Posted by Jody_S View Post
    Every group has outliers...



    I can't confirm this from any social sciences viewpoint, it's just something I've heard a couple of times. And compare camera collectors to just about any other group of hobbyists, it doesn't see far-fetched. I've spent my life surrounded by people into hockey and curling, snowmobiling and diving, and I can say with personal experience that many of these people used their pass-time as a means of getting out of eyesight from their wives, so they could get drunk and fool around. But a camera swap meet? Unless you're gay and into older men, there isn't anyone there likely to arouse your interest. Nor is there an active bar scene afterwards, unless nobody tells me where they're holding the party.
    Having been to some swap meets in the US, I can confirm that Jody_S' observations are just as true here in Canada's poxy nether-regions. I think it safe to assume that all that got polished at these events were brass-barrelled, soft-focus lenses. But who knows... maybe there's an amoral group of wild polyamorists who fetishize paunches and halitosis just as much as they do vintage Leitz Thambars. After all, stranger things do exist. But whether or not there's a greater occasion for transgression as you move up in format is a question that I am not prepared to answer here. Lecherous apertures indeed.

  2. #32
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Quote Originally Posted by frotog View Post
    Having been to some swap meets in the US, I can confirm that Jody_S' observations are just as true here in Canada's poxy nether-regions. I think it safe to assume that all that got polished at these events were brass-barrelled, soft-focus lenses. But who knows... maybe there's an amoral group of wild polyamorists who fetishize paunches and halitosis just as much as they do vintage Leitz Thambars. After all, stranger things do exist. But whether or not there's a greater occasion for transgression as you move up in format is a question that I am not prepared to answer here. Lecherous apertures indeed.
    Sheesh – what happened to simple and direct language?

    Please un-mix all your metaphors.

    And keep it clean! ;^)

  3. #33

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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    You're right, Heroique, I got carried away there. Must be all the half-frame I've been shooting lately!

  4. #34
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Quote Originally Posted by Heroique View Post
    Me, I can imagine a number of LF prints (used) by Ansel Adams that clearly suggest our moral relation to the natural world; I can also imagine several that are rich enough to transcend any moral code, and need little if any context to do so. (For the former, see Peter's post #6 about AA and Aldo Leopold's worldview.)

    His best images do both in my opinion – they are moral + amoral.
    They only do that because you've been trained in how to look at them. You grew up with those images being presented in a certain cultural context, and with Ansel's ideas about them widely publshed and repeated. His images have been "used" since the beginning by conservation organizations like the Sierra Club.

    A more instructive example might be images whose use has changed over the years. Consider Timothy O'Sullivan's work (which also happens to be large format, but I still can't imagine why this is relevant). His work on the Survey expeditions was used primarily for public relations and fundraising. People bought posters of the strange, ugly, barren landscape of the west. Landscape isn't even the most accurate word, because at the time, images of barren land were not generally seen as part of of a landscape tradition at all. And photography (at least straight photography) was not seen as belonging to the world of art.

    When perspectives changed half a century later, O'Sullivan's work changed. Photographers from the early modern era rediscovered it, and were enthralled by the formal invention. It went from document to esthetic object, simply by a shift in the viewers' perspective. Another half a century later, the work became charged politically, as it became a jumping-off point for photographers who would eventually get branded as the new topographers. Robert Adams, the most influential among them, borrowed many of O'Sullivans pictorial techniques to frame the visual bleakness of the contemporary world. Mark Klett borrowed O'Sullivan's actual tripod holes, rephotographing exact landscapes, to show both change and lack of it.

    It's almost impossible for us to look at those pictures and see them the way they were seen in the 1870s. We viewers are different, what we know and believe is different, so what we see is different.

    I find it quite peculiar that 19th century ideas (like immanent moral content in images) can hang on for so long. These ideas fall apart under the most basic scrutiny.

  5. #35
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Paul's right that the meaning of a work of art depends on the viewer's outlook, but don't most moral judgments require a context?
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  6. #36
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter J. De Smidt View Post
    Paul's right that the meaning of a work of art depends on the viewer's outlook, but don't most moral judgments require a context?
    Yes, and I think if you want to really pursue it the question becomes about how much context you need and where it comes from.

    Morality is one of the two branches of philosophy that concerns itself with values (the other, conveniently, is esthetics). A moral value can't be attached to a bare fact.

    Some typical facts might be:

    -72 seniors graduated from Springfield High School This Year
    -Men clearcut the forest on the north side of the hill
    -The soldier shot a woman pushing a stroller

    Some added context might be:
    -72 seniors graduated from Springfield high—fewer than half the class, a 30% decline from last year
    -Men clearcut the forest on the hill, saving the town by preventing the fire from jumping the gorge
    -Soldiers shot a woman seen pushing a stroller filled with explosives toward the school.

    It's trivially easy to frame these facts in other ways, yielding different meanings, different moral implications. You could look at this as the difference between fact and truth.

    This brings back the old question, can photographs lie? I believe no, because a photograph, by itself, cannot contain a truth. It contains (or at least suggests) facts. The truth or lie resides in how the photograph is used. You can most certainly lie with a photograph. Just as you can lie with a statistic. But the statistic isn't the lie. The greater power lies with the editor.

    To be clear, I'm not talking about a falsified photograph or fact or statistic. When you airbrush out Stalin's political enemy, you are falsifying a fact (if you are indeed presenting it as a fact). This is a whole other discussion.

  7. #37
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    All of this stuff is highly controversial, including whether there are facts, either scientific or moral, whether truth is an interesting concept, whether the fact/value distinction is categorical, whether reason is the slave of the passions.... Just as an example, pragmatic theories of truth don't necessarily suppose a strict fact/value distinction.

    Getting back to photography, one doesn't need to know about Adam's Sierra Club activities, or really anything about him, to be moved by an experience of viewing his prints to a feeling or respect or awe of nature. That's likely a fairly common reaction. Whether such an experience does happen depends on both the print and the viewing subject, but that doesn't differ from many moral or value laden experiences. Stealing, for example, is often thought to be wrong...but not always.

    As I said before, photographing with a large format camera _can_ be an expression of respect, and the respect of persons is essential to one of the main branches of moral philosophy, namely, Kantian deontology. As I mentioned earlier, some acquaintances of mine photograph decidedly non-famous people. They use an 8x10 or larger camera, and they make huge silver gelatin prints from them. They go on to professionally mount the photos and have serious shows at universities and museums. All of this effort, which is much different from a casual snapshot, speaks to their respect for their subjects, with the implication that these people are worthy of effort and attention. Sure, someone viewing the prints could come away with a different impression, but....so?

    If you're a consequentialist, one of the other main branches of ethics, then every action has moral import.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  8. #38
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Hmmm effort and attention = respect. Would the subject feel respected if say the photographer sold the print for $100k and the project was full of effort and the subject got "respect"?

    A few times in my life I have gotten incredible attention and effort from people who were trying to swindle me.

    Feeling a bit cynical today...........
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  9. #39
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter J. De Smidt View Post
    ... some acquaintances of mine photograph decidedly non-famous people. They use an 8x10 or larger camera, and they make huge silver gelatin prints from them. They go on to professionally mount the photos and have serious shows at universities and museums. All of this effort, which is much different from a casual snapshot, speaks to their respect for their subjects, with the implication that these people are worthy of effort and attention.
    So the logical extension is that 11x14 shows more respect than 8x10, etc, 35mm is much less respectful, and tiny digital sensors, especially cell phones, breed contempt. Thus, a 6ft x 4ft connotes near-worship, as gargantuan cameras are such a pain to build and haul around.

    This, of course, definitely justifies buying a Goerz 47-1/2 inch, and building a camera for it! It has nothing to do with being a nutjob...
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  10. #40

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    Re: On the influence of LF upon the moral faculty

    I've considered committing a little white crime for a good set of flat files to store my ULF negs, so I guess the answer is that LF has had a bad effect on my morals

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