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Thread: Does it have to say anything?

  1. #1

    Does it have to say anything?

    Moderators please move of this isn't the right forum.


    I've been photographing everything I find interesting. I think anytime 2 or more images are shown together a third dialog begins to develop.

    I am in school and there is a very heavy influence of conceptualism and post modern ideals I find myself constantly fighting. Because I tend to lean toward not thinking or planning about what I am trying to "say" with my pictures. I feel they say enough on their own.

    Now this isn't about writing or even speaking about the pictures. It's a question of at what point is the message coming through on its own, why force the work to be something other than what it is.

    I'd like to hear some of your opinions on this as I know many of you have had quite successful careers as artists.

  2. #2
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    Paraphrasing SS here. I read an interview with Sebastian Salgado. I consider much of his work pretty powerful and self explanatory yet in the interview he said that the images were simply a hook to draw people into discussions with him about broader social issues. In much the same way I use my landscape photographs to talk about SW human history even when there is no obvious man made elements obvious in the image. These images, for example, from the Petrified Forest can be seen simply as pretty desert landscapes but I use them to bring people out a discussion about the history that passed through it from Clovis hunters to Rt. 66. All photographs are potentially a teaching moment that can enrich peoples lives beyond simple obvious beauty. In that way they become triggers for broader ideas and appreciation. From decades of showing and selling images I know that people absolutely love and treasure these back stories.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    I prefer to try and express an emotion or emotions in my photos (which would be mine at the time of image capture), and if a dialog is needed I'll just talk (and listen). Oh, and make the best darn image and print I can.

    But I haven't had a successful career as an artist.
    The only trouble with doin' nothing is you can't tell when you get caught up

  4. #4

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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    I've never thought that my photographs were "saying" anything. When I compose a photo, I'm reacting to what's in front of me without a thought in my head. It's a purely intuitive act along the lines of, "Wow, that looks neat. I'll take a photo of that." All I'm hoping for is that a few viewers will think, "Wow, that does look neat." But I'm a hobbyist, not an artist.

    Jonathan

  5. #5

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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    I photograph to see how things look photographed


    who said that?? Winogrand maybe??

    on the one hand..I am trying to remove as much 'subjectivity' as I can.. as if I am photographing specimens for a scientific publication..or mug shots

    on the other..I am also trying to please the models with some of the outcome anyway

    and then, on the third hand, I am poking fun at something some of the time too

    so..with three different sets of goals..I try not to think at all otherwise I'll forget to stop down or something

  6. #6

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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    [QUOTE=DrTang;1256178]I photograph to see how things look photographed


    who said that??

    I heard Fred Picker say it, but I wouldn't guarantee he was the first.
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"
    www.brucewbarlow.com

  7. #7
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrTang View Post
    I photograph to see how things look photographed


    who said that?? Winogrand maybe??
    Yes, Garry Winogrand.

  8. #8
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    I'd suggest rethinking the question. If you ask about photographs "saying" something, there's pressure to know what you're trying to say before pointing the camera, or before leaving the house. Good work rarely comes out of this. For one thing, it tends to limit you to saying what you already know. Or to being merely as smart as you already are.

    Think instead in terms of what your photographs are exploring.

    You can do a lot of exploring before you have to form an opinion on what you've discovered.

    I'll argue that it's important to form such an opinion, eventually. You're going to have to edit your work, and sequence it, and shape it into a larger whole. This is rough going and potentially fruitless if you can't find a guiding principle. And if you can't decide why the body of work matters, it's a bit presumptuous to think others will. You'll also have a much easier time getting people's attention if you know how to talk about it.

    So yes, think about it, and yes, say something. But try to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open for a long time first.

  9. #9
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrTang View Post
    who said that?? Winogrand maybe??
    Yes. And as with most things he said, he was dodging the question.

  10. #10
    Analog Photographer Kimberly Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: Does it have to say anything?

    I don't care if my photographs say anything. I care tremendously that they ask something. I want them to start a discussion and hopefully they begin that conversation by posing a question to the viewer.

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