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Thread: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

  1. #21
    Bill Kostelec
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Of these, the middle is the least personally evocative of anything beyond what it is. The first acquired, in printing it, something more than I had seen on the ground glass. The third, taken with a Graflex SLR 4X5 was something I Saw on the groundglass and responded to very strongly. I am not so clear that the equivalence trend as defined my Minor resolves for me the process.


    Bill

  2. #22
    austin granger's Avatar
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend



    While I was out grocery shopping this afternoon, I was thinking about this thread and decided that I wanted to share this door. I think it might better illustrate what I meant earlier by "empty" images making good equivalents. Obviously, this is a pretty simple door, with few attributes that give it the character of a specific door. So, with nothing to hang your hat on so to speak, the door becomes Door (with a capital 'D'); it becomes the Platonic ideal of a door; it is EVERY door, ANY door. And with that abstraction, it's a pretty short hop to it becoming becoming a symbol of birth or death or passage or whatever your mind wants to make it. So maybe equivalence is a sort of photographic slight of hand-it's the viewer that's doing the heavy lifting! I was also thinking about ambient music, say something like Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," wherein the music is devoid of qualities in a way that makes it feel like the soundtrack to the world, to the listener's own mind, and that's where it gets it's power.

    I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store...

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/austingranger/

  3. #23
    Bill Kostelec
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    One more. This is metaphorical, to be sure. Or maybe the most like a Rorschach inkblot.Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #24
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Quote Originally Posted by austin granger View Post
    Yes, that's just it really, metaphors. Things being other things. Which is what every photograph in the world is, since everyone is going to bring whatever they bring (that is to say, their mind) to their looking at it. The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be. So far the answer seems to be... occasionally. At least I think so. I mean, has the gap actually been bridged, or is that just my thinking that it has? Are we forever stuck on our little islands? And on and on it goes. :-)
    Austin, I was being a bit cheeky by listing so many terms. My point was that the can of worms implied by this thread is a big one. I did not mean to suggest that you have to be a theorist or a historian to have a conversation about Minor White!

    I think the basic ideas, like metaphor, and connotation vs. denotation, and the basic conversations about where meaning resides, are approachable by anyone who's curious. In a lot of cases this is just about finding a label to hang on a familiar idea. Maybe in some cases it will lead you to think about something in a new way.

    I do think it's helpful to be aware that there's a lot more than just the basic conversation. These are big ideas, even if they sometimes masquerade as simple ones. There are whole schools of thought at play here ... smart people who spent their lives thinking about this stuff, who disagree with each other, often profoundly. Remembering this can stop me from being too sure about something, or from cozying up too quickly to an easy answer.

    Your question, "whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be" is a huge one. I think you'd be surprised how many pieces that question could be broken into, and how many arguments there would be on all sides of every part of it.

    My inclination is to agree with you: occasionally. I think those occasions have a lot to do with the context surrounding the work, and with the cultural contexts you share with the viewers. One of the simplest ways to control the context of the work is through edits and sequences. They help narrow down the possible interpretations of the work. Any one picture of mine might be about practically anything. But by putting it in a carefully chosen group, I can direct the audience. I'm not interested in being so authoritarian as to determine a single interpretation, or to deliver a single feeling. But I'd like to point my viewers in a general direction ... get them looking at the kinds of aspects I'm interested in.

  5. #25
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    I checked my keyboart

    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    great threat!
    sin eater

  6. #26
    austin granger's Avatar
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    I knew you were being cheeky Paul. I was actually just agreeing with you, in that I don't think a person has to follow all of Minor White's musings (I know I don't) to understand the basic idea of equivalence, as it really does boil down to the question of whether a photograph can serve as a metaphor. Of course it can! But yeah, after that it's a can or worms.

    I think your point on context is a good one. Sometimes I'll share a photo with a group of people (on facebook say) and get a reaction that is so far from what I was expecting that it almost brings me to despair over ever being able to communicate anything. I mean, I can post a picture that I'm sure is the heaviest, deepest thing ever, a picture I'm sure is just going to bust their brains out (metaphorically speaking) and break their hearts simultaneously... and what I'll get back instead is some silly joke or a "cool pic man." Agrhh! Of course my first response is to think; "What the hell is wrong with you people?" but then I realize that for them, this image might just as well have dropped out of the sky; they might not really know me, or know what I've been thinking about, or know my past pictures, or how this picture fits into the larger scheme of my other pictures, or have no knowledge of ideas I might be referencing, and so on. Context. Also, there is the simple fact that people are just plain different, and respond to different things. It actually heartens me to think of this, to think of how there are people who love Beethoven and people who shrug at Beethoven, people who get chills listening to Hank Williams and people who think he sounds like a hillbilly, people who weep at a Rothko and people who think it's just a silly picture of nothing. Anyway, you well know all of this. But I guess I'm coming to peace in accepting that there are people who will get me and people who won't and that's okay. Maybe those "wrong" responses to our work is the universe's way of keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously. Ha!

  7. #27

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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Quote Originally Posted by austin granger View Post
    Sometimes I'll share a photo with a group of people (on Facebook say) and get a reaction that is so far from what I was expecting that it almost brings me to despair over ever being able to communicate anything.
    I'm not on Facebook, but I have heard similar complaints from other photographers who post their work there. The lack of context is a problem, as is managing expectations. When people walk into a museum they expect to see art and often react to what they see accordingly, whereas people don't expect to see art on Facebook and also react accordingly.

    This begs the question: which is the more unbiased reaction? Does viewing a photograph in a museum or gallery predispose us to confer upon it some meaning or significance we would otherwise eschew if we viewed the same photo on Instagram?

    Jonathan

  8. #28

    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Quote Originally Posted by austin granger View Post
    Yes, that's just it really, metaphors. Things being other things. Which is what every photograph in the world is, since everyone is going to bring whatever they bring (that is to say, their mind) to their looking at it. The question for me is whether one can make someone else see the thing, or feel the feeling, that you want them to see or to feel, without telling them directly what that might be. So far the answer seems to be... occasionally. At least I think so. I mean, has the gap actually been bridged, or is that just my thinking that it has? Are we forever stuck on our little islands? And on and on it goes. :-)
    It's more than being about metaphor, surely? I'd see metonymy as equally applicable; perhaps it's about how these work in their different ways, to transform, beyond what is simply representational. Personally, I see many forms of art - particularly literature, painting and music - as more intrinsically transformative than photography. I've generally found sequences of photographs to be more interesting than individual photographs, although there are always exceptions!

  9. #29
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Quote Originally Posted by jcoldslabs View Post
    This begs the question: which is the more unbiased reaction? Does viewing a photograph in a museum or gallery predispose us to confer upon it some meaning or significance we would otherwise eschew if we viewed the same photo on Instagram?

    Jonathan
    I don't use instagram, but do some facebook. The meaning or significance on facebook (and other like systems) is normally casual, often shallow, everyday existence stuff, not the place for meaning or significance except for documentary styles. People aren't looking for meaning, but might recognize you make "different" everyday photos or see the world differently without any effort on their part to understand why. It's a waste of time to put something metaphorical or equivalent on facebook. Wrong audience/social network. On facebook, Minor is someone too young to drink, White is a state of tanliness, metaphor is something they quickly forgot in 8th grade English, and gum print is a bite mark. And most of what you post will be viewed on a smart phone with a tiny grungy peanut butter smeared screen.

    Museums however, a viewer must make an effort to get there and pay some admission. The viewer might appreciate something they have so they are compelled to get there. Galleries are much the same, but perhaps more actively enticing rather than collecting admission. Once a viewer is inside, of course they are influenced/biased as to the meaning/significance. Unless you study more than the people that put it together, you will have to rely on the curator/juror/gallery owner's judgement to some extent.

  10. #30

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    Re: Equivalence: The Perennial Trend

    Quote Originally Posted by austin granger View Post

    I wonder what everyone else was thinking about at the grocery store...

    "Now what else was on that list that I left at home?"

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