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Author Topic: Of Static Things  (Read 19832 times)
Rob C
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« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2009, 03:13:42 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Rob,

This argument is similar to that which was used by early 20th century pictorial photographers to dismiss "straight" photography.  There are two fallacies with this argument:

The first is the assumption that there is a singular and universally accepted way in which to photograph each (static) subject. There is not. Each individual brings with them a varied set of personalities, experiences, tastes, abilities, preferences, and skills (to name but a few) that help to shape their personal vision, thus their unique take on any subject, no matter how "static" it may be.

The second fallacy, which is somewhat related to the first, is that the definition of "art" is entirely dependent upon the subject, which is something I am sure we can all agree is NOT true.

Good topic for discussion, though.

Chuck





Chuck

"The first is the assumption that there is a singular and universally accepted way in which to photograph each (static) subject."

That wasn't my position at all, but it is quite possible that my writing wasn't explicit enough and that you could draw that interpretation, particularly with the mention of tripod holes! No, what I am worrying about is beyond holes - it is more basic than that and concerns the situation when the photographer has created neither the moment nor the subject. Walking a few yards to one side does not change the subject. It only changes the angle of shooting something that is already there and is not of the creation of the snapper. That holds for the tricks of light, weather or focal length: these simply vary the result of the recording and are a measure of the technical competence and/or imagination of the photographer but hardly constitute an act of creation. That's why I am tempted to the thought that it requires interaction between photographer and subject, as with a model, where both react as they do and create something, not necessarily great, but something that did not exist until that moment when they made it together. In essence, there has to be, in  the photograph, something that did not exist before the photographer made it happen. A beautiful cloud sliding down a cliff isn't of the photographer's doing, an act of his creation - just his recording of it, however much skill that requires. Perhaps that's why there probably are creative still-life photographers - they do have to create the lighting or their photograph would not exist in the manner that it does.

"The second fallacy, which is somewhat related to the first, is that the definition of "art" is entirely dependent upon the subject, which is something I am sure we can all agree is NOT true."

And I would suggest that I have no fight with that - just as long as the photograph is more than a record - however exquisite - of something that's already there independently of the photographer. And that, for my mind, is the difficulty: if it would have existed without Mr Photographer, where then the art, the creation we all think we achieve with a great photograph?  And I try to stress yet again that the confusion between technique and creativity is very easy to make: I fear I might have been making it much of my life!

Rob C
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2009, 03:31:47 PM »
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Rob the problem with your assertion is that you seem to be saying that the subject or situation depicted is the work of art. I would argue that's absolutely not the case. It's the resulting photograph that is the artwork, and the photographer has plenty of control over that. Even in the case of a static subject the photographer plays a huge role in what the final photograph will look like. The photographer's choice of perspective, composition, what conditions to shoot in, along with any number of other decisions regarding exposure, filtration, etc, are all every bit as much of a creative act as telling a model which way to tilt her head. In fact I could argue that creating art from a subject or situation that you _don't_ have direct control over is a more challenging (and ultimately more satisfying) pursuit - whether it be a static subject such as a mountain which you cannot move or pose, or a 'decisive moment' unfolding on the street where you have no opportunity to direct the action.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2009, 03:34:04 PM by JeffKohn » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #22 on: October 07, 2009, 03:48:20 PM »
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Hear, hear. Jeff's right. Let's go back to the poetry illustration. The words themselves aren't the art. It's the way the words are put together that creates the art. The same thing's true of photography. The objects you photograph aren't the art. It's the way you put the objects together that creates the art.
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Rob C
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« Reply #23 on: October 08, 2009, 03:29:57 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
The objects you photograph aren't the art. It's the way you put the objects together that creates the art.




Russ

And of that there can be no argument, but you have also delineated the flaw: with the mythical rock and the slipping cloud, you are not putting anything together, God is, as he is also doing a good, bad or indifferent job of the lighting. You are simply recording, not creating. How much of Hernandez was Adams? Rapid recognition and the educated guess of an exposure was all - everything else just more skill and manipulation; but the stage-management wasn't his; he created nothing. He just happened to come along, clippety-clop, just like Jones. And with the same sentence in your own definition you have confirmed my notion of photographing a model as an example of the creative act: the way you put things together. Of course, that interaction can be either good or bad, but it (what's in the picture) is still something that is not going to be there until the two people make something happen.

Poetry? Er... I think not! Unlike the magic of word and sound, the slipping and sliding, the ducking and the weaving within the tapestry of invisible imagery, photography, as drawing with light, is by accepted definition about (and limited to) the visible and claims to anything beyond that are suspect to say the least. Only my humble of course - but what else can I offer you that's true to me? It might not be popular and I can hardly claim to derive any personal gratification from the thought either - just some doubts about my own oeuvre - but once the thought has taken hold it's a harsh if hard one to throw.

I blame those damn plumbers and the rats.

Rob C
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EduPerez
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« Reply #24 on: October 08, 2009, 03:46:01 PM »
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A sculptor does not create his sculptures, he just destroys and then we admire the leftovers of that destruction;
a musician does not create anything, he just disrupts the air in the room;
a poet just rearranges pre-existing words;
...
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RSL
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« Reply #25 on: October 08, 2009, 04:13:21 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Russ
You are simply recording, not creating.
Rob C

Rob, Renoir was just recording when he painted "Le déjeuner des canotiers." The people in that painting are recognizable individuals, and a good art historian can tell you who they are. Was the result not creation?

Sounds as if you need to get away from the plumber and go shoot some pictures.  
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #26 on: October 08, 2009, 08:18:01 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
You are simply recording, not creating.

Rob,

You speak of "recording" as if it were a bad thing. Isn't that the photography's core purpose and strength....recording? Isn't  that what makes it unique among the art forms. That said, I'm sure you mean it more philosophically than that, so I'll try to address it on that level: IMHO, the very act of photography a subject, any subject, is a means of creation. Not simply because a photo was taken, but because it was taken by a person, a human being (no matter how banal the final product).

Chuck
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« Reply #27 on: October 08, 2009, 09:03:51 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Poetry? Er... I think not! Unlike the magic of word and sound, the slipping and sliding, the ducking and the weaving within the tapestry of invisible imagery, photography, as drawing with light, is by accepted definition about (and limited to) the visible and claims to anything beyond that are suspect to say the least.

Rob, I should have dealt with this one in my last response, but I was in my office and actually had to do some work -- printing photographs from yesterday's street shoot in Manitou Springs.

I said earlier that to me poetry is very close to photography. Go back to "O westron wind" and look at what makes the poem. Images! Although recent poets seem to think they can write good poetry without vivid imagery, I can guarantee their work will soon be forgotten. especially since unlike a painting or a photograph you can't sell a copy of a poem, a good one or a bad one, at an ever increasing price. Here's another example -- one of my own:

[blockquote][blockquote]                 OVERTURE

I wait for you
at the foot of the stairway and
the morning air blooms
with bright smells of green sap
sounds of mowers
scent of sprinkled grass and
on the steps you pause
and smile.
 
The sunlight behind you
is in your hair.
You are so young.

And so was I.
But that was long ago
before our worlds
swept both of us
away from there,
away from then.

But on that stairway
you are there, so young
and so am I
and still the sunlight
holds us there.
Your smile is
starlight
from a thousand distant stars.
[/blockquote][/blockquote]
That poem is built on the same kinds of images I try to capture when I have a camera in my hands. The images are everything, though they're not all visual. But would you say that because I used images of common things like the smell of wet grass and sunlight in a girl's hair I haven't really created something new in that poem?

Come on. Grab a camera and go out among 'em. They're out there, just waiting for you to do something creative with them.
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Rob C
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« Reply #28 on: October 09, 2009, 03:42:01 AM »
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"But would you say that because I used images of common things like the smell of wet grass and sunlight in a girl's hair I haven't really created something new in that poem?"

[/quote]



But Russ, that isn't at all what I am implying!

I am totally convinced that poetry is art; my statement was supposed to underline the fact that poetry is of the magic of words and its remit is the poetic painting of mental pictures. And that is almost totally the product, a creation from and of your mind, and if you have the talent it requires no other input than the stimulation.

And its enjoyment is also within the mind: a poem, looked at on a sheet of paper does nothing to you until it is read. Quite unlike a photograph which hits you first, often before you have time to get your mind into gear.

Where I disagree with you is in the idea that you can transpose that concept to photography which is not simply about pictures in the mind, but about pictures on paper (or screen etc. to keep everyone happy). Unless the poet is only rehashing previous work, he is making something new - creating. It has been said that once you get the great idea it may not be worth the effort of producing it - that the idea is sufficient and the picture superfluous; I don't think I'd go that far! But I do think that it isn't enough (in photography) just to recognize something and think that is creation.

Creation implies something now exists which did not exist before the action that brought it about. I have to repeat, simply recording with a camera whatever is already there, from whichever angle, is not creating it, unlike poetry where the words do, of course, exist already, but their meaning within the created context did not, precisely because the poet creates the context from scratch. In a sense, that words exist already is the same as saying that cameras and lenses exist already; yes indeed they do, but that doesn't preclude either set of tools from being creative tools if used in a creative manner.

I think we are at one of those stages where we all see our own point of view but have lost the position from where we could see another's with clarity!

Ciao

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #29 on: October 09, 2009, 03:53:26 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
A sculptor does not create his sculptures, he just destroys and then we admire the leftovers of that destruction;
a musician does not create anything, he just disrupts the air in the room;
a poet just rearranges pre-existing words;
...




All very profound, but not of photography which might not ever be profound!

The original post was about a thought about photography and not the other arts, which have been brought into the discussion as comparators, which simply defeat the point of the discussion by avoiding it. This has nothing to do with painting, scupture, music, poetry or prose. Bringing them in has just altered the focus as well as the frame - derailing the conversation many posts back.

Ciao

Rob C
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #30 on: October 09, 2009, 08:20:37 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
All very profound, but not of photography which might not ever be profound!

Rob,

Extrapolating from your initial post and subsequent responses, one can infer that hands-off voyeuristic photographic pursuits such as photojournalism, documentary, and street photography would, in your eyes, also fail as an art form (be profound) because the photographer had no creative control over, nor communication with, the subject, but rather simply recorded what is in front of the lens. Other than motion, it's no different than shooting a landscape, rock, or tree.

Would you consider these other photographic avenues as not being profound or even art?




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Rob C
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« Reply #31 on: October 09, 2009, 10:11:26 AM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Rob,

Extrapolating from your initial post and subsequent responses, one can infer that hands-off voyeuristic photographic pursuits such as photojournalism, documentary, and street photography would, in your eyes, also fail as an art form (be profound) because the photographer had no creative control over, nor communication with, the subject, but rather simply recorded what is in front of the lens. Other than motion, it's no different than shooting a landscape, rock, or tree.

Would you consider these other photographic avenues as not being profound or even art?




Chuck

Hoping not to detect a note of sarcasm, which would render this thread pointless, I think my reply to your first paragraph would be that you have been fairly accurate in your deduction, which has nothing to do with the profundity or otherwise of the sub-sections of the media at all.

So, in attending to your last sentence, one might need to define for one's self the difference between profound and self-absorption, the former's state  depending somewhat on an outsider's opinion whilst the other most certainly does not. If something, in order to be art, requires creation, then possibly they are not art but its old companion artifice. Or great technique, fantastic vision, exemplary anticipation but not creativity.

But, to paraphrase Olde Hennery Vee, I think it time to sheathe my sword for lack of argument...

;-)

Rob C
« Last Edit: October 09, 2009, 10:12:31 AM by Rob C » Logged

Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #32 on: October 09, 2009, 10:11:32 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
All very profound, but not of photography which might not ever be profound!

Rob,


I feel very sorry for you. It sounds to me as if you have never been moved deeply by a photograph. I agree that there is a vast quantity of photographic imagery in this world that is not profound in any way, but I also find much that is, to me, truly profound (Paul Caponigro, Edward Weston, Minor White, Cartier Brsson, Frederick Sommer are a few who come to mind). 

Quote
I think we are at one of those stages where we all see our own point of view but have lost the position from where we could see another's with clarity!

Truly spoken. Do try to open your eyes a bit.

Eric
« Last Edit: October 09, 2009, 10:11:54 AM by EricM » Logged

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ckimmerle
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« Reply #33 on: October 09, 2009, 10:46:38 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Hoping not to detect a note of sarcasm...

None intended! Sorry it came out that way.

As I said earlier, I appreciate this discussion.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2009, 10:48:08 AM by ckimmerle » Logged

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« Reply #34 on: October 09, 2009, 11:14:03 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
if you have the talent it requires no other input than the stimulation.

No. In both cases it requires images, and in both cases it requires images people can grasp. Nowadays many poets -- especially the ones who are being published in little magazines like Poetry -- believe they can avoid images and substitute what amount to political arguments, but the thrust isn't there. It falls flat. The same thing is happening in photography magazines such as B&W and Color. The sorts of fuzzy photographs they seem more and more to be publishing are pretty, like a nicely woven tablecloth, but without concrete images universal enough to be recognized by their viewers, they're meaningless.

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...a poem, looked at on a sheet of paper does nothing to you until it is read. Quite unlike a photograph which hits you first, often before you have time to get your mind into gear.

A really good photograph doesn't "hit" you before you have time to get your mind into gear. A really good photograph requires the same kind of reading a poem requires. HCB's "Lock at Bougival" doesn't "hit" you at all when you first see it. On first glance it's merely a nice picture of some people and dogs on and near a boat. You need to stop and read the photograph and let your eyes and your mind range over it before the meaning beyond what the mind can grasp "hits" you.

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I have to repeat, simply recording with a camera whatever is already there, from whichever angle, is not creating it, unlike poetry where the words do, of course, exist already, but their meaning within the created context did not

Rob, I think you're confusing the objects being photographed with the image that results. The objects are three-dimensional and they exist at a point in what we see as time, but which actually is outside time. Think about it: How long ago is past? How soon is future? There aren't any answers to those questions. "Now" is a point, in other words, an imaginary thing. When you trip the shutter you cut a unique two-dimensional image out of reality as it exists at this point -- a reality that never again can exist. Even on a snapshot level though the result may not be art it's certainly creativity. Someone's going to argue that you don't really capture "now" because the shutter isn't truly instantaneous, but I'd argue that a 500th of a second is close enough. The image is not the reality before the camera any more than the painting on a plein air painter's easel is the reality before him. Both images are something new.

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« Reply #35 on: October 09, 2009, 12:17:00 PM »
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Creation implies something now exists which did not exist before the action that brought it about.
The photograph is a creation. You didn't address the points from my previous post. The problem with your argument is that you're saying the object or scene photographed is the only creation, which essentially dismisses photography as a medium for art, limiting it to the role of a mere documentary record of the "real" art. I reject that argument.

If two photographers can photograph the same location at the same time (let alone at different times), and come away with completely different images, how can you say there is no creation in that? I just don't see how you can completely dismiss composition, framing, perspective, depth of field, and exposure decisions as not being part of the creative process. Finding a new way to look at and photograph a natural scene is just as much of a creative act as arranging a collection of objects into a still life.
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EduPerez
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« Reply #36 on: October 09, 2009, 03:46:35 PM »
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I suppose all these ideas exposed in this thread are restricted to realistic photographs... because the moment the photographer plays with B&W, long exposure, macro, you-name-it, the resulting photograph no longer reflects the reality that the viewer could see with his own eyes. Aren't those manipulated images are a new creation? Don't they show us something that we could not see with our naked eyes? Something that was not there for us to see?

Then, where is the limit? Isn't focus blur a manipulation of the context of the subject? And framing?

Quote from: Rob C
I think we are at one of those stages where we all see our own point of view but have lost the position from where we could see another's with clarity!
Here in Spain (the land of the weird roundabouts), copyright laws have a different treatment to photography: it is considered as a mere recording of an event, not a piece of original work, like a painting; so, perhaps you have a point, Rob... But I must refuse that idea: I have seem lots of photographs that truly moved me, and some of them pictured a scene that would have told me absolutely nothing if I had seen them by myself; that has to be art.
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Rob C
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« Reply #37 on: October 10, 2009, 03:19:10 AM »
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I understand what most of you are saying, which is not really addressed at what I have been saying, but at something standing close by but independent of my position.

I don't think that I have stated photography cannot be art.

I think I have stated that photography is having a hard time being worthy of the description creative.

In the latter case I have made reference to the need for something to be created and not simply recorded. Moving the camera to a different spot, say in the case of landscape or architecture, isn't enough; catching the magic of great available light isn't either. Those sorts of things are simply, if only for me, making the most of what's already there. The landscape photographer who returns time after time to the same chosen spot, looking for the magic moment, isn't being creative: he awaits the moment when his God is feeling creative - otherwise, he should have been able to make his perfect snap on the first visit; but no, he awaits something that he, himself, cannot create. What that photographer is doing is using his experience to catch the moment that might come, not the one that he is able to create for himself. He exercises patience and experience but creates nothing. That is so basic and obvious to me that unless it is understood by others, there's zero that I can add to convince, not that I feel the need to so do - it's all in my own mind, the same place where any of this matters.

If I may answer EduPerez directly: you are right; but I never did say that there is no photographic art, that it cannot ever be creative. I simply put the point that I think it very seldom reaches either goal because there are not that many photographic avenues that allow it to happen. I cited the model/photographer co-operation as a distinct possibilty of both art and creativity, although that might as easily lead to both these things but not necessarily on a particularly high plane, which is another judgement altogether, but at least there is the chance. I also mentioned still-life photography, where the photographer is indeed creating the scenario as he is the lighting, neither of which existed before he put them together.

Focus tricks; blur? No, they are manipulation and technique. Nothing is created by them, it is manipulated; which does not, of course, prevent technique playing its part in the creation of something. Look, I have used differential focus a great deal - one of the reasons for my love of long lenses, and I was as convinced as the rest of us that I was being creative and the thrill of seeing different planes come and go into and from focus was magical and almost tangible; but was it creative? I used to think so, and with a vengeance! Now, I am far from so cocksure about all of that. Perhaps it was no more creative than riding a bicycle: just something I could do and enjoy.

Maybe we take photography too seriously, burden it with baggage it hardly needs.

Rob C

EDIT: My daughter is coming to stay for a few days, so I shall probably have to maintain radio silence: Please don't take that as offence.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2009, 03:24:56 AM by Rob C » Logged

EduPerez
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« Reply #38 on: October 13, 2009, 02:32:40 AM »
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I think we have arrived to the core of this discussion: from your point of view, we are mere spectators watching a play, a play directed by God and played solely for His own amusement; in my books there is no God, and thus the play exists because we watch it. These two articles at the Wikipedia probably express my position better than my own words: from XVIII century philosophy "If a tree falls in a forest", to quantum physics "Schrödinger's cat".

Now, going back to photography... when I place my camera somewhere, I am not choosing a point of view, one of the many points of view created by God; I am creating the point of view: a point of view does not exists if nobody places his camera there. Not only that: I create a scene not only when I manipulate the model, I create the scene as soon as I watch the subject. That is, assuming God does not exists, of course: because as soon as He enters the room, the argument changes, completely.

Sadly, I think this is also the dead end of this discussion, as I will not argue about religion.
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« Reply #39 on: October 13, 2009, 11:20:42 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
I think we have arrived to the core of this discussion: from your point of view, we are mere spectators watching a play, a play directed by God and played solely for His own amusement

I think you took Rob's reference to God a bit too harshly. In his absence, I can only guess, but am assuming it had less to do with religious ideology than with his assertion that many of the things we photograph (be they created by God or by Nature or by Little Green Men) exist outside of our creative influence (thus his assertion regarding photography). He just happens to believe in the first.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2009, 11:21:54 AM by ckimmerle » Logged

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