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Author Topic: What isn't "photography"?  (Read 33119 times)
David Sutton
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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2009, 07:52:04 PM »
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Hmm, coming back to “what is photography”. The last time I was doing my own printing was in the 1960s (please no wisecracks). Sometimes I would copy other people's printed work onto tracing paper, rearrange it and expose it as a large contact print. Or take a collection of objects (not “found objects” thank you very much) and arrange them on the unexposed paper and turn on a light. It never occurred to me that this wasn't “photography”. Indeed, the “painting with light” definition has always held meaning to me.
Now in a new age I guess I haven't thought through whether that definition is still 100% valid. I have become interested in taking my photographs apart and reassembling them in symmetrical patterns to challenge myself over the questions of what beauty and harmony means to me, and at what point I can have these things but lose a sense of  “humanity” in my images. I think I am about to bite off more than I can chew. At any rate, the results are 20% photograph and 80% Photoshop. If I were printing through an enlarger I would say that it's a photograph, so what about an inkjet print? I'm guessing we will reach a point where there is a grey area where we will agree or disagree, just as we do about whether something is “good art” or excrement.
Yesterday I visited an exhibition of painting and photography. It was a salutary reminder that most paintings that have been done since the dawn of time raise the question “why did you bother?” They weren't very good. People today often speak about the world being flooded with digital images of rather poor quality, as if this is something terrible. Have they never looked at what has been happening in the other arts for ever? Photography has a lot of catching up to do. So in answer to the question “why did they bother?” I guess the answer is “because they loved doing it”. If I think the result is art of poor quality, well, I don't have to buy it or look at at again. I see no harm in struggling to be creative.
And the question of creativity is often all we can discuss with some work, particularly with the “what is art?” genre. I begin with rendering the artist's statement into plain English to see whether I am left with something 1) genuinely interesting to me or 2) not, or 3) whether the result is cant.
Cheers, David

Edit: I see Chuck's thread title is actually "What isn't photography". Which is a much more interesting question.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2009, 09:20:42 PM by Taquin » Logged

ChrisS
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2009, 12:45:03 AM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
... it certainly should not and cannot be considered photography.

So, 'photography' excludes certain photographic outcomes because of their subject matter. (This is news to me.) Could we exclude clichéd images of certain rock formations in Arizona, then? The same motif taken from precisely the same spot, with just technical proficiency, equipment, light and post-processing making the difference. Very much like a photograph of a photograph. To re-phrase your original question, 'what other motifs make a photograph not a product of photography?'

ps Suppose 10 of us were each presented with the opportunity to photograph the same Rodchenko photograph (or just the same reproduction in a catalogue, as Levine did). We all tend to have different kit, different demands of lighting, make different choices in post-processing etc.. Don't you think the 10 final printed outcomes could be interesting?

pps I've no doubt there are still great shots to be done of the rock formations in Arizona.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 03:19:49 AM by ChrisS » Logged
RSL
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2009, 09:48:43 AM »
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Quote from: Taquin
Hmm, coming back to “what is photography”. The last time I was doing my own printing was in the 1960s (please no wisecracks). Sometimes I would copy other people's printed work onto tracing paper, rearrange it and expose it as a large contact print. Or take a collection of objects (not “found objects” thank you very much) and arrange them on the unexposed paper and turn on a light. It never occurred to me that this wasn't “photography”. Indeed, the “painting with light” definition has always held meaning to me.

Edit: I see Chuck's thread title is actually "What isn't photography". Which is a much more interesting question.

And so, to borrow from my last post on the cropping thread: If I take a sheet of photographic paper out of the package, turn on the light for a few seconds, then develop, stop, and fix the result, what I have is a "photograph" since I've used photographic materials. Also, when the guy down the street paints his house I can call the house a "painting" since it has paint on it.

I doubt you'd say that since I suspect you're beyond first grade and the kind of literalness you get from kids that age.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2009, 10:04:13 AM »
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When we speak or write, we take a lot of shortcuts.  It would be terribly inconvenient and unwieldly to constantly have to refer to a photo as "a digital camera photograph" or "a chemically produced photograph from camera and film."  Logical argumentation is also a problem because of shortcuts and assumptions that aren't valid for all parties.  So far as I've seen, nobody has tried sneaking "photos of photos" or blank canvasses into this forum for critique, which suggestions that this discussion is about experimental art, something we're all in favor of.
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RSL
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« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2009, 10:20:44 AM »
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Quote from: dalethorn
When we speak or write, we take a lot of shortcuts.  It would be terribly inconvenient and unwieldly to constantly have to refer to a photo as "a digital camera photograph" or "a chemically produced photograph from camera and film."  Logical argumentation is also a problem because of shortcuts and assumptions that aren't valid for all parties.  So far as I've seen, nobody has tried sneaking "photos of photos" or blank canvasses into this forum for critique, which suggestions that this discussion is about experimental art, something we're all in favor of.

You're right, Dale. The whole question on this thread and on the cropping thread has degenerated into semantic quibbling. The real question isn't whether or not something produced with photographic materials, either chemical or digital, is a photograph. Sure it is, in a literal sense. The real question is this: "Is this object, made with photographic materials, a work of art worthy of showing?" I suspect most of us on this forum would agree that it's a wild stretch to call a photograph of a photograph a work of art, and a wilder stretch to say it's worthy of showing. I'd go even farther and call the idea that this is "experimental art" a travesty. But there always are people -- generally the "modern art" folks -- who'd disagree. All you can do when that happens is shrug and move on.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 10:25:20 AM by RSL » Logged

slide
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« Reply #25 on: May 24, 2009, 01:49:34 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
One of those portfolios caused me great grief and I was unable to prevent myself from making a statement and derailing a goodly portion of the intended presentation. In this particular "photographic" portfolio were scans of historical photographs, which were duly claimed by the presenter to be original and creative photography. These were not parts of other images, but were presented as stand-alone photographs in the portfolio. I was stunned. In my eyes, this was no more creative than photocopying a list of address, yet the presenter and many in the audience argued the merits of these unaltered scans. I was, as far as I could tell, the lone voice of dissent although, in reality, I probably had my backers. I was the only one brazen enough, though, to make this sort of comment during an art museum presentation.

Due to politics, people are afraid to challenge any art authority which may later block them from their own showings or otherwise hurt their career. Also many will not argue with authority for fear of looking like a bumpkin. It's all a variant of the Emperor Has No Clothes. No one will speak out.

As to this example, it's not an issue of if it's photography, it's just plagiarism. I define photographic art (as opposed to photography which is only making an image & your example passes) as visualizing what you wish to create and then using photographic tools and techniques to realize that vision.

Simple. Well, I"m a simple guy.

PS: I too really enjoyed the work I saw on your Web site.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 01:50:00 PM by slide » Logged
ChrisS
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« Reply #26 on: May 24, 2009, 01:52:20 PM »
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« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 02:27:41 PM by ChrisS » Logged
David Sutton
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« Reply #27 on: May 24, 2009, 02:59:23 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
You're right, Dale. The whole question on this thread and on the cropping thread has degenerated into semantic quibbling. The real question isn't whether or not something produced with photographic materials, either chemical or digital, is a photograph. Sure it is, in a literal sense. The real question is this: "Is this object, made with photographic materials, a work of art worthy of showing?" I suspect most of us on this forum would agree that it's a wild stretch to call a photograph of a photograph a work of art, and a wilder stretch to say it's worthy of showing. I'd go even farther and call the idea that this is "experimental art" a travesty. But there always are people -- generally the "modern art" folks -- who'd disagree. All you can do when that happens is shrug and move on.
Exactly. My point is that the discussion becomes centred around the creative merits of a work. Someone is going to have to work mighty hard to convince me of the creative merits of a straight photograph of a photograph.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #28 on: May 24, 2009, 06:21:07 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
The whole question on this thread and on the cropping thread has degenerated into semantic quibbling. The real question isn't whether or not something produced with photographic materials, either chemical or digital, is a photograph. Sure it is, in a literal sense. The real question is this: "Is this object, made with photographic materials, a work of art worthy of showing?" I suspect most of us on this forum would agree that it's a wild stretch to call a photograph of a photograph a work of art, and a wilder stretch to say it's worthy of showing. I'd go even farther and call the idea that this is "experimental art" a travesty. But there always are people -- generally the "modern art" folks -- who'd disagree. All you can do when that happens is shrug and move on.

This is interesting. Having been immersed in art with people who sketch, paint, etc. for years, I'm inclined to say "yes it's art, no matter how trivial or derivative." OTOH, the comment made here about plagiarism is also valid - copying someone else's art, even when modified somewhat to disguise the fact, is plagiarism. But there's that old saying you know - copy one person and it's plagiarism, copy several and it's research.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2009, 08:59:51 PM »
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Quote from: dalethorn
But there's that old saying you know - copy one person and it's plagiarism, copy several and it's research.

Plagiarism generally requires an element of fraud--representing the work as one's own when it is someone else's. The number of "others" involved is not nearly as relevant.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #30 on: May 24, 2009, 11:41:41 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Plagiarism generally requires an element of fraud--representing the work as one's own when it is someone else's. The number of "others" involved is not nearly as relevant.

A better explanation - thank you.
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John Camp
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« Reply #31 on: May 25, 2009, 12:20:43 AM »
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I wish people would stop referring to Modern Art when they mean contemporary or Post Modern art, or some other ism. "Modern Art" generally encompasses a time period from sometime in the late 19th century to sometime in the middle 20th, and involves an abstraction and simplification of figurative art, with some complete abstraction. Ansel Adams considered himself something of a modernist, as did most of the other famous photographers of the years around WWII. Referring to contemporary art as "Modern Art" is like referring to Robert Mapplethorpe as an "Impressionist." It's simply wrong.

Most the artists disparaged here do NOT practice Modern Art.

JC
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RSL
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« Reply #32 on: May 25, 2009, 08:17:41 AM »
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Quote from: John Camp
I wish people would stop referring to Modern Art when they mean contemporary or Post Modern art, or some other ism. "Modern Art" generally encompasses a time period from sometime in the late 19th century to sometime in the middle 20th, and involves an abstraction and simplification of figurative art, with some complete abstraction. Ansel Adams considered himself something of a modernist, as did most of the other famous photographers of the years around WWII. Referring to contemporary art as "Modern Art" is like referring to Robert Mapplethorpe as an "Impressionist." It's simply wrong.

Most the artists disparaged here do NOT practice Modern Art.

JC

John, You're quite right of course. "Modern Art" really includes people like Toulouse-Lautrec and Edward Munch. Unfortunately "Post Modern" doesn't mean much of anything unless you know what "Modern" means, and anything done recently could be called "Contemporary." In the end, unless you're at least a little bit familiar with the names given to these periods, saying that Jackson Pollock's stuff isn't Modern Art sounds like a distinction without a difference.
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John Camp
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« Reply #33 on: May 25, 2009, 02:11:31 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
John, You're quite right of course. "Modern Art" really includes people like Toulouse-Lautrec and Edward Munch. Unfortunately "Post Modern" doesn't mean much of anything unless you know what "Modern" means, and anything done recently could be called "Contemporary." In the end, unless you're at least a little bit familiar with the names given to these periods, saying that Jackson Pollock's stuff isn't Modern Art sounds like a distinction without a difference.

Maybe people should be just a little bit familiar with terms before using them. Speaking authoritatively of hammers when the tool is a screwdriver really doesn't help much with clarity.
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RSL
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« Reply #34 on: May 25, 2009, 02:29:35 PM »
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Quote from: John Camp
Maybe people should be just a little bit familiar with terms before using them. Speaking authoritatively of hammers when the tool is a screwdriver really doesn't help much with clarity.

Ah yes... In a perfect world... But in the world of art and art critics there's no such thing as clarity.
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #35 on: May 26, 2009, 10:40:13 AM »
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Quote from: John Camp
Maybe people should be just a little bit familiar with terms before using them. Speaking authoritatively of hammers when the tool is a screwdriver really doesn't help much with clarity.

That's true, but the mistakes are understandable given the term "modern art" is a misnomer, or sorts. Really, why would anyone outside the art world think that the term "modern" refers to anything other than "contemporary", as that is similar to its common meaning.

I give the example of MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art. Anyone who has ever visited this place knows that its focus is NOT on early 20th century art works, but rather those of a contemporary nature. A better name might be MOCA, but I doubt that's gonna happen.

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Chuck Kimmerle
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« Reply #36 on: May 27, 2009, 08:54:29 AM »
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Quote from: John Camp
I wish people would stop referring to Modern Art when they mean contemporary or Post Modern art, or some other ism. "Modern Art" generally encompasses a time period from sometime in the late 19th century to sometime in the middle 20th, and involves an abstraction and simplification of figurative art, with some complete abstraction.

That term might be common in the art circles but it's conflict with the general meaning of "modern". Why not use terminology which is clear so that the rest of the world can understand it?

Outside of the art world, people try to use words in order to convey meaning as clearly as possible. I bet that hundreds of years from now,  there will be lots of people who will use contemporary and modern to mean the same thing.
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Rob C
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« Reply #37 on: May 28, 2009, 09:56:36 AM »
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[quote name='inissila' date='May 27 2009, 02:54 PM' post='286913']


"Why not use terminology which is clear so that the rest of the world can understand it?"


What, and have the rest of the world see the emperor naked?


"Outside of the art world, people try to use words in order to convey meaning as clearly as possible. "


But it IS meaning that is being conveyed, if only in code. Without code there is no cabal; without code perhaps not even a da Vinci! (Okay, that´s a cheap shot.) The code is the doctrine; the medium the message.

Rob C
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walter.sk
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« Reply #38 on: May 28, 2009, 10:39:07 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
"Why not use terminology which is clear so that the rest of the world can understand it?"

What, and have the rest of the world see the emperor naked?

"Outside of the art world, people try to use words in order to convey meaning as clearly as possible. "

But it IS meaning that is being conveyed, if only in code. Without code there is no cabal; without code perhaps not even a da Vinci! (Okay, that´s a cheap shot.) The code is the doctrine; the medium the message.
Rob C

I think that attributing nefarious motives to the art world's use of "Modern" as opposed to "Post Modern" or "Contemporary" is misunderstanding the actual process by which such terms develop.  

In music as well, among laymen the term "Classical" represents anything performed in a concert hall or opera house.  However, those who study music learn that a style of composition with certain emphasis on form, style of orchestration and melodic/harmonic language emerged toward the end of the era of Bach and Handel, with the music of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven best representing what has been termed Classical (pertaining to European music, at least.)  As Beethoven and later composers began to push and then exceed the limits of the so-called classical period, emphasis shifted and historians and music critics identified new musical and aesthetic values which they termed "Romantic."

The average person refers to music of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and others as Classical, even though to those educated in music there are at least 3 eras of music represented there.

In art, from the Impressionists on, there was such a break with past techniques and goals that the term "Modern" was applied.  It covered impressionism, abstract, abstract expressionism, etc.  Certainly by the 1960's, new techniques, philosophies and goals in painting, sculpture and other arts began to make clear distinctions in the art that was being made, and the term "Modern," like the musical term "Classical" began to be understood by those trained in art, as a loose body of styles of painting, sculpture and other art media that was qualitatively different from the newer art.  "Post Modern" as one descriptor of the differences, was introduced in the art world not as a means of pulling the wool over the public's eyes, but as a means of understanding and describing what had happened in the way many artists now made their work.

You said, "Why not use terminology which is clear so that the rest of the world can understand it?"

In reality, most of the rest of the world is educated in the arts to a degree much higher than what happens in the USA.

Actually, some of the blame for the problem should lie not with the art world for using confusing, or "deceptive" terms, nor with the poorly informed public, but with our attitudes toward education, which has almost totally squeezed the arts out of education, particularly at the elementary school level, but in most educational systems, through high school as well.

I am not trying to "talk down" to anybody here, but the ascription of motives such as deception or worse, I think, are misplaced in reference to the so-called "insider" terminology describing different periods of art.

My firewall is up, so let the flames begin!

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RSL
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« Reply #39 on: May 28, 2009, 08:15:30 PM »
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Quote from: walter.sk
I think that attributing nefarious motives to the art world's use of "Modern" as opposed to "Post Modern" or "Contemporary" is misunderstanding the actual process by which such terms develop.  

In music as well, among laymen the term "Classical" represents anything performed in a concert hall or opera house.  However, those who study music learn that a style of composition with certain emphasis on form, style of orchestration and melodic/harmonic language emerged toward the end of the era of Bach and Handel, with the music of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven best representing what has been termed Classical (pertaining to European music, at least.)  As Beethoven and later composers began to push and then exceed the limits of the so-called classical period, emphasis shifted and historians and music critics identified new musical and aesthetic values which they termed "Romantic."

The average person refers to music of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and others as Classical, even though to those educated in music there are at least 3 eras of music represented there.

In art, from the Impressionists on, there was such a break with past techniques and goals that the term "Modern" was applied.  It covered impressionism, abstract, abstract expressionism, etc.  Certainly by the 1960's, new techniques, philosophies and goals in painting, sculpture and other arts began to make clear distinctions in the art that was being made, and the term "Modern," like the musical term "Classical" began to be understood by those trained in art, as a loose body of styles of painting, sculpture and other art media that was qualitatively different from the newer art.  "Post Modern" as one descriptor of the differences, was introduced in the art world not as a means of pulling the wool over the public's eyes, but as a means of understanding and describing what had happened in the way many artists now made their work.

You said, "Why not use terminology which is clear so that the rest of the world can understand it?"

In reality, most of the rest of the world is educated in the arts to a degree much higher than what happens in the USA.

Actually, some of the blame for the problem should lie not with the art world for using confusing, or "deceptive" terms, nor with the poorly informed public, but with our attitudes toward education, which has almost totally squeezed the arts out of education, particularly at the elementary school level, but in most educational systems, through high school as well.

I am not trying to "talk down" to anybody here, but the ascription of motives such as deception or worse, I think, are misplaced in reference to the so-called "insider" terminology describing different periods of art.

My firewall is up, so let the flames begin!

Walter, Well said, but I have to tell you that after 30 years in computer science I could write an expository paragraph using technical language that few on this forum would understand. I think the point is that in order for the specialized art community to be intelligible to their audience they need to use terms their audience can understand. If they think their audience is themselves, as is the case with the people involved in modern poetry, then what they're doing is hunky dory. But don't expect the people who normally enjoy and buy art to understand.
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