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Author Topic: Why Do Photography?  (Read 12505 times)
wolfnowl
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« on: May 13, 2009, 12:05:37 PM »
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Hi Folks:

I thought this was worth reading...

http://tao-of-digital-photography.blogspot...admonition.html

Mike.
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Christos Andronis
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2009, 02:52:27 AM »
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Quote from: wolfnowl
Hi Folks:

I thought this was worth reading...

http://tao-of-digital-photography.blogspot...admonition.html

Mike.

Hi Mike,

Thanks for bringing this article to our attention. I've been following this blog for a couple of months now and I do find that Andy Ilachinski's writings (and photographs) are really top-notch. As for the subject of his latest article, I couldn't agree more on his point of view. I think he speaks for many of us here...

Best regards,

- Christos
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feppe
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2009, 12:45:56 PM »
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I added this blog recently to my list as well, as I'm getting increasingly frustrated of the constant pixelpeeping and measurbating on most blogs and forums (this included), instead of becoming a better photographer. Andy has a lot to say, and he is insightful - and doesn't take tens of thousands of words to say it.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2009, 04:25:55 PM »
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Thanks for the link, Mike.  That was excellent!  (And, as feppe points out, all about photography instead of about the gear, which is a breath of fresh air...)

Lisa
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JDClements
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2009, 07:42:45 PM »
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Great essay, thanks.

(I had to do a Google search to figure out where I knew Andy Ilachinski from, and it turns out to have been a series published in Lenswork.)
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bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2009, 01:31:34 AM »
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Yes, a good collection of words about photography that I read with interest.

But what's with all the words, you make art because you're an artist.  Why the compulsion to explain imaging with words?  If your photographs can't immediately explain why you do photography, close the text editor and work on your art.  If your photographs require the support of words, they are incomplete.  I prattle on about the how-to's, but I would never compromise my Muse by telling you what she whispers in my ear to get me to take pictures, and it's too personal for anybody else to understand anyway.  Your Muse knows what you should do, don't let others replace her words.

For a photographer the tangible answer to "why do art" should be a pile of prints.  A few mumbled words are OK, but then just nod your head towards the prints.  If most people say "oh, wow!" to your images you're there.  If they ask you what kind of camera you used, hit them.

An interesting show would be to have x number of artists explain why they do art embodied in an art piece, no words allowed and leave the artist's statements at home.

So, what's YOUR explanatory picture?

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tom b
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2009, 12:24:33 AM »
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Unfortunately words are important in art and photography is included. On several recent occasions I have been asked, 'What was "such and such" photographic exhibition like?" Most of the recent exhibitions at the two Sydney galleries that I go to have been technically excellent but just plain visually boring. When asked to describe what the the exhibitions were about it became a different matter. Most sounded quite interesting and full of potential.

Upon pontificating about this I think that the common problem is that the photographers have been to art school. In our present generation if you attend art school you just can't make art, you have to be able to talk about it, write about it and philosophise about it. I think actually producing it is secondary. I was talking to a teacher at one of our art schools and she was showing us the first year students' paintings. She said they were just about to select who would be chosen to continue into second year. She was talking about the selection process and asked how would you choose who would proceed. I said that you could select the best painters. She replied derisively that they would never do that.

With the current trend for artists to seek grants to survive, I think that we are generating a group of artists that can speak and write about their work, producing art that is accessible to the general public is secondary or to be avoided.

I hope fellow LL forum photographers are having better luck at their local galleries.
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feppe
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2009, 02:59:43 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
Yes, a good collection of words about photography that I read with interest.

But what's with all the words, you make art because you're an artist.  Why the compulsion to explain imaging with words?  If your photographs can't immediately explain why you do photography, close the text editor and work on your art.  If your photographs require the support of words, they are incomplete.  I prattle on about the how-to's, but I would never compromise my Muse by telling you what she whispers in my ear to get me to take pictures, and it's too personal for anybody else to understand anyway.  Your Muse knows what you should do, don't let others replace her words.

For a photographer the tangible answer to "why do art" should be a pile of prints.  A few mumbled words are OK, but then just nod your head towards the prints.  If most people say "oh, wow!" to your images you're there.  If they ask you what kind of camera you used, hit them.

An interesting show would be to have x number of artists explain why they do art embodied in an art piece, no words allowed and leave the artist's statements at home.

So, what's YOUR explanatory picture?

Glad to see someone who shares this view. I've always been suspicious of visual artists who feel the need to provide verbose explanations of their works.

I appreciate that in some specific cases context and background heightens the appreciation, but quite often when someone goes to great lengths explaining an artwork it implies that either they don't trust the viewer to make their own conclusions, or they're afraid the piece doesn't convey what the artist wants to convey.

I just recently visited a Richard Avedon exhibition in Amsterdam, and there was his famous Marilyn Monroe portrait. There was a video where he explained how he took the photo: he took it after a long day of shooting Marilyn, while she was sitting in a corner, with the Marilyn "mask" off. That is exactly what the photo meant to me when I first saw it: it was of Norma Jean Baker - I didn't need an explanation. That's art!

I'm sure a lot of it has to do with what Tom described about art schools requiring words, as well as gallery owners and media expecting such soundbites to sell the works, so it's hard to put the full blame on the artists. In the Avedon example above, I'm sure the documentarist asked him how he got around to taking that photo.
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russell a
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 09:01:16 AM »
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As I have said before regarding discussions such as this, galleries sell works based on what I call the "BS Back-story"  (Or BSB-S, if you like.)  Check out descriptions of photography, it's most often about how much insane effort the photographer expended (Wall, Crewson, Demand), or about the arcane or archaic technology (schools are pushing this - gum-bichromic, pinhole camera, camera-less works, etc, etc,), or just how flipping big the prints are.  The image doesn't matter.  So, the pile of prints cited above is irrelevant in the marketplace.  It's only words, or personal attractiveness, or connections that have currency.  So the schools that emphasize word-craft are at least being honest (in this regard) for the .01% of their students who may actually have a career in the arts.   This leaves the photographer working out of personal commitment in a very lonely place.
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bill t.
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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2009, 12:44:09 AM »
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The kindest thing that can be said about the BSB-S is that humans still don't have visual memories, they have anecdotal memories.  We remember stories, not images, that's so cavemen could communicate and retain knowledge way back when.  And why the best memory tricks involve reducing information to stories.  So to register an image on someone's brain you can't go wrong story-izing it, otherwise it's just too hard to impress it on somebody's consciousness.  Of course evolutionary pressures from MTV will soon produce Homo Visualis, but in the meantime the back story will prevail.

Yes, that Marilyn picture is incredible, what an story that tells.  I doubt if any number of words could evoke the emotional impact that image projects.  If ever an image transcended words there it is.  A completely successful photograph.  But just try to remember only the image, not so easy.  Once you know it that back story it will not go away.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2009, 09:47:44 AM »
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Quote from: candron
Hi Mike,

Thanks for bringing this article to our attention. I've been following this blog for a couple of months now and I do find that Andy Ilachinski's writings (and photographs) are really top-notch. As for the subject of his latest article, I couldn't agree more on his point of view. I think he speaks for many of us here...

Best regards,

- Christos
He certainly speaks for me, too.

The issue of the relationship of words to photography is a tricky one. I agree that most critical essays on photography tend to obscure rather than inform or illuminate. But sometimes words can be useful to convey ideas that are difficult to get across with photographs alone. In an early issue of Aperture, Minor White included an "essay" on one page that consisted of, if I remember correctly, three images and no words. By contrast, most articles in Aperture in recent years have seemed to me wordy, obscure, and irrelevant -- in stark contrast to the essays in Lenswork, which are direct and meaningful (as are the photographs.)


The title ofIlachinski's blog made me run to my book collection to find a book by the very same title, "The Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing", by Phillippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro, published by Ten Speed Press of Berkeley, California (ISBN 1-58008-194-0). I find both the photographs and writings in this book to be in a league withIlachinski's.

Eric M.

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-Eric Myrvaagnes

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Chris_T
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« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2009, 07:35:27 AM »
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Quote from: russell a
As I have said before regarding discussions such as this, galleries sell works based on what I call the "BS Back-story"  (Or BSB-S, if you like.)  Check out descriptions of photography, it's most often about how much insane effort the photographer expended (Wall, Crewson, Demand), or about the arcane or archaic technology (schools are pushing this - gum-bichromic, pinhole camera, camera-less works, etc, etc,), or just how flipping big the prints are.  The image doesn't matter.  So, the pile of prints cited above is irrelevant in the marketplace.  It's only words, or personal attractiveness, or connections that have currency.  So the schools that emphasize word-craft are at least being honest (in this regard) for the .01% of their students who may actually have a career in the arts.   This leaves the photographer working out of personal commitment in a very lonely place.
Not only that, but galleries can completely misrepresent the works, either intentionally or due to ignorance. Here's how Stieglitz trashed O'Keeffe' work:

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....24136&st=30

It is done solely for the purpose of selling (to the gullible), not far from pimping.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2009, 07:58:44 AM »
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Quote from: EricM
He certainly speaks for me, too.

The issue of the relationship of words to photography is a tricky one. I agree that most critical essays on photography tend to obscure rather than inform or illuminate. But sometimes words can be useful to convey ideas that are difficult to get across with photographs alone. In an early issue of Aperture, Minor White included an "essay" on one page that consisted of, if I remember correctly, three images and no words. By contrast, most articles in Aperture in recent years have seemed to me wordy, obscure, and irrelevant -- in stark contrast to the essays in Lenswork, which are direct and meaningful (as are the photographs.)
If you are interested in "critical essays on photography", check out

Criticizing Photographs by Terry Barrett ISBN-10: 0072977434

A college course book he wrote to teach his students how to write "critical essays on photography". An eye opener for me, not only on how to write critiques, but how to view and critique a photo. Instead of just uttering "nice work", now I know the need to support my comments with "why" I think so.

Quote
The title ofIlachinski's blog made me run to my book collection to find a book by the very same title, "The Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing", by Phillippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro, published by Ten Speed Press of Berkeley, California (ISBN 1-58008-194-0). I find both the photographs and writings in this book to be in a league withIlachinski's.
Agreed. A fine book. If you like this one, you may also like:

The Art Of Photography: An Approach To Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum ISBN: 0840396473 (OOP though , but in YOUR library)

and

Art and Fear by David Bayles, Ted Orland ISBN: 0961454733
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russell a
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« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2009, 08:59:51 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
The kindest thing that can be said about the BSB-S is that humans still don't have visual memories, they have anecdotal memories.  We remember stories, not images, that's so cavemen could communicate and retain knowledge way back when.  And why the best memory tricks involve reducing information to stories.  So to register an image on someone's brain you can't go wrong story-izing it, otherwise it's just too hard to impress it on somebody's consciousness.  Of course evolutionary pressures from MTV will soon produce Homo Visualis, but in the meantime the back story will prevail.

You make a reasonable point.  My problem with it, however, is as follows:  1)  the BSB-S, as others above have noted, is, often as not, misleading,  2) the "sound-bite" is used as a substitute for seeing,  3)  if, as you say, we forget the image, so much the better.  That means, without the interference of a pre-conceived label, one can have a fresh experience with the image and likely form a new and/or enhanced relationship with it.  This is how I like to approach images.
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ArunGaur
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2009, 11:50:40 PM »
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Quote from: feppe
I added this blog recently to my list as well, as I'm getting increasingly frustrated of the constant pixelpeeping and measurbating on most blogs and forums (this included), instead of becoming a better photographer. Andy has a lot to say, and he is insightful - and doesn't take tens of thousands of words to say it.

Pixel-peeping is O.k. However, by no stretch of imagination it can replace taking of a good picture.
Arun Gaur

http://tripolia-indianlandscapeimages.com
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jecxz
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« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2009, 07:34:43 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
But what's with all the words, you make art because you're an artist.  Why the compulsion to explain imaging with words?  If your photographs can't immediately explain why you do photography, close the text editor and work on your art.  If your photographs require the support of words, they are incomplete.  I prattle on about the how-to's, but I would never compromise my Muse by telling you what she whispers in my ear to get me to take pictures, and it's too personal for anybody else to understand anyway.  Your Muse knows what you should do, don't let others replace her words.

For a photographer the tangible answer to "why do art" should be a pile of prints.  A few mumbled words are OK, but then just nod your head towards the prints.  If most people say "oh, wow!" to your images you're there.  If they ask you what kind of camera you used, hit them.

Quote from: feppe
Glad to see someone who shares this view. I've always been suspicious of visual artists who feel the need to provide verbose explanations of their works.
Perhaps his writings on photography are another outlet for his creativity.

Kind regards,
Derek Jecxz
http://www.jecxz.com/

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