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Author Topic: Of Static Things  (Read 21459 times)
Rob C
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« on: October 01, 2009, 03:01:05 PM »
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Had a funny little thought to myself this afternoon whilst watching the plumbers' bill rising: if you take a wonderful photograph of an even more  wonderful piece of architecture, of a rock even or anything else that just happens to be sitting there waiting for you, can you claim to have created a new piece of art?

Extending the thought, as one sometimes does in times of stress, I concluded that perhaps the only true photographic art comes out of the transient, catching the instant that either you choreographed, co-creating it with another person either via stealth as in street or with money as in model. Either way, it's the result of intent to make something exist that did not exist before you tried to make it exist.

In short, unless you can lay claim to both the idea intrinsic to the shot as well as its execution, then all claims are off and you created nothing, just copied what was there and open to being copied by anyone else standing in your footsteps - or tripod holes, should you prefer the usual photographic expression.

Oh, as I knew they didn't care, I didn't broach the topic with the plumbers.

Rob C
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2009, 05:03:09 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
if you take a wonderful photograph of an even more  wonderful piece of architecture, of a rock even or anything else that just happens to be sitting there waiting for you, can you claim to have created a new piece of art?


Rob C

Rob,

Let me take a stab at this...

Can we not consider the fact that you have captured a moment and preserved it AS creating art?

That rock will never look EXACTLY the same as it does in the instant you captured it. Its a unique moment in time, and your photograph of it is a unique piece of art.

I don't want to get involved in a "what is art" debate. Suffice it to say that I believe that anything you create is art (to me anyway)

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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2009, 02:33:51 AM »
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Quote from: Joe Behar
Rob,

Can we not consider the fact that you have captured a moment and preserved it AS creating art?

That rock will never look EXACTLY the same as it does in the instant you captured it. Its a unique moment in time, and your photograph of it is a unique piece of art.



Joe

On the first idea, that of capturing a moment, perhaps all you have been is quick at capturing what something/someone has been doing, or looking like, regardless of your input; would you be creating original art if you had happened to photograph a guy called Mike painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? What would have been your input, other than recording which, per se can hardly be called art; skill, yes!

On the second point, how the static subject looked at the moment of exposure, that again is but reportage and not something created by the camera operator. In fact, it's another version of 'f8 and be there!' which has never been touted a claim to artistic creation. Creation, after all, implies input to achieve the situation. The only creative talent at work in that scenario, unless you are doing something with the aid of a dump-truck or similar, has been your God or mine, who both made the shape and then lit it.

Rob C
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2009, 07:53:11 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Joe

On the first idea, that of capturing a moment, perhaps all you have been is quick at capturing what something/someone has been doing, or looking like, regardless of your input; would you be creating original art if you had happened to photograph a guy called Mike painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? What would have been your input, other than recording which, per se can hardly be called art; skill, yes!

On the second point, how the static subject looked at the moment of exposure, that again is but reportage and not something created by the camera operator. In fact, it's another version of 'f8 and be there!' which has never been touted a claim to artistic creation. Creation, after all, implies input to achieve the situation. The only creative talent at work in that scenario, unless you are doing something with the aid of a dump-truck or similar, has been your God or mine, who both made the shape and then lit it.

Rob C

Rob,

The image itself is the art...regardless of the subject. Maybe I was not clear in my post.

YOU created the image, it did not exist before. The event or subject did, but the image of it did not.

Might sound simplistic or naive, but for me that's all that matters.
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michael
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2009, 08:58:44 AM »
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Reminds me of when the Pope dropped in to Michaelangelo's studio while he was sculpting David, and marveling at the artistry of it said, "Michaelangelo, God has indeed given you a great gift. How do you know what to carve away?"

The great sculptor's response was, "It's very simple Your Holyness. If it doesn't look like David I remove it."

The "art" in photography lies in the knowing of what to include, what to exclude, and when to do one or the other. Otherwise it's monkeys and typewriters.

Michael
« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 09:17:00 AM by michael » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2009, 10:39:11 AM »
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Quote from: michael
Reminds me of when the Pope dropped in to Michaelangelo's studio while he was sculpting David, and marveling at the artistry of it said, "Michaelangelo, God has indeed given you a great gift. How do you know what to carve away?"

The great sculptor's response was, "It's very simple Your Holyness. If it doesn't look like David I remove it."

The "art" in photography lies in the knowing of what to include, what to exclude, and when to do one or the other. Otherwise it's monkeys and typewriters.

Michael




Well, I can't speak for the Pope, but I guess he would have been better to go visit Donatello if he wanted to rest his eyes upon the better Dave; having said that, I agree with your definition of art as being one definition, especially from a photographic perspective where reduction is almost ever necessary unless against a roll of Colorama, but by no means can I accept it as the definitive one. That does, of course, throw the game wide open to daydreams as mine. Incidentally, I wasn't offering the definitve definition either - just speculating on the thing and wondering whether we have generally put ourselves onto a little platfom of self-admiration or, at  minimum, given ourselves titles we perhaps don't deserve. I certainly have suffered from such little attacks of hubris now and again, but experience has taught me to avoid them as they generally come before unavoidable and uncomfortable self-generated moments I would rather forget, even if I can forgive.

Of monkeys and typewriters, it's not generally known that Shakespeare had a pet Nilgiri Black Langur, if not an Olivetti, so who knows who influenced or wrote what; but Titian had no Photoshop, either, so speculation can be rife.

Rob C
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daws
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2009, 09:09:21 PM »
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I think if you stand before your subject with the goal of creating a statement of visual art, and then execute your vision -- whether with camera & print, oil on canvas, fingerpaint on cardboard, chisel & stone, fruit compote on glass, steel & welding torch, motion picture film, spraypaint on stucco or fifty kilos of Silly Putty shaped by your naked feet -- if you have done the work of executing your vision, the result is a piece of visual art.

If you give a paint brush to a chimpanzee or an elephant and set them before a canvas, you're not doing the work, you're arranging a stunt.

Purely my opinion, informed by the number of chimpanzees I have known.

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EduPerez
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2009, 11:52:00 AM »
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The moment you take your photo, you have chosen a moment in time, a point of view, a composition, a depth of field, ... Others may watch the same rock, but they will not see the same photo. A photo freezes a moment in time, but it crops a part of the space, too.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 12:52:03 PM »
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daws

Handing the chimp the paintbrush isn't art: it's (by) design. Which, I'm sure, those chimps you have known would be happy to accept. Actually, you have confused the issue, as did Michael, by including exercises other than the photographic, which was the entire point of the post.

EduPerez

Yes, they have frozen their moment, much as I might a piece of fish in the Bosch, but that does not prove claim to anything beyond reportage, I fear, which would possibly be pushing the definition of art a little far. I have recently wondered about HC-B et al and whether my original thinking of them as artists was flawed, more by my admiration of their reportage skills than anything else. Now, had they manipulated their models into their postures, then that could indeed be art and not pure reportage - the big, big Parisian kiss, anyone?

I think that even taking a photograph with intent and getting something close to your expectations isn't enough to be worthy of the name art. How about good try?

I have shot thousands of commercial pics, thought of some of them as quite artistic, yet on finding myself playing about with the scanner, even decades later, it is surprising just how few of them though technically good and suited to the shoot, are anything but what I feel, now, that I could fairly imagine to sell today under the guise of art. Great shots do not always equate with art. Neither, come to think of it, do they have to equate with the selling of art, as one can plainly see almost anywhere today.

Rob C
« Last Edit: October 03, 2009, 12:52:28 PM by Rob C » Logged

Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2009, 02:22:48 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Had a funny little thought to myself this afternoon whilst watching the plumbers' bill rising: if you take a wonderful photograph of an even more  wonderful piece of architecture, of a rock even or anything else that just happens to be sitting there waiting for you, can you claim to have created a new piece of art?

Extending the thought, as one sometimes does in times of stress, I concluded that perhaps the only true photographic art comes out of the transient, catching the instant that either you choreographed, co-creating it with another person either via stealth as in street or with money as in model. Either way, it's the result of intent to make something exist that did not exist before you tried to make it exist.

In short, unless you can lay claim to both the idea intrinsic to the shot as well as its execution, then all claims are off and you created nothing, just copied what was there and open to being copied by anyone else standing in your footsteps - or tripod holes, should you prefer the usual photographic expression.

Oh, as I knew they didn't care, I didn't broach the topic with the plumbers.

Rob C

Interesting questions.
The first thing that comes to my mind is architectural photography. Certainly the subject matter can be an art form in its own right. But then I look at work by folks like Julius Schulman or Norman Carver, and it's clearly art, independent of the subject. Knowing precisely where to stand, where to focus, applying perfect technique and ideal natural or artificial light...

The 'conceit' of Ric Ergenbright's book The Art of God is that the natural world around us is God's art; we just enjoy it and catch it on film. Yet even Yosemite valley in dead light can seem a bit drab...well, okay, bad example. But you get my drift. The skill and persistence of the photographer in being at the right place at the right time, when weather and light are ideal for the artistic intent...surely there's some art there, beyond simply showing up.

Finally, I've had the experience of attending photography workshops where a bunch of us were at the same beautiful location, with access to precisely the same subject matter. Yet some of the participants took stunning photographs of an aspect of the site that I never even saw; like it was invisible to me. And I took some really nice shots that other folks overlooked completely. All of us may have access to the same subject; yet the individual hand and eye counts for a lot.
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RSL
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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2009, 08:35:00 PM »
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Rob, You're kidding, of course...?
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2009, 04:38:42 AM »
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Rob, You're kidding, of course...?





Russ, no; I am asking a question which came to me under stress, literally as in the original post, and which has been bothering me quite a lot ever since, even though the sink is working properly and the rats under the building that were partially responsible have been fed some poison that they apparently find most delightful, it being as invisible now as any dead rats.

In fact, the further I take this creative thing in my mind, the less certain I feel about much of anything that I did in the commercial world outwith some of  the calendar shoots, where I wasn't selling anything other than the idea of beauty. Some confuse that with selling sex, which is as distant from the intent (if it succeeded) as much of what seems to be beautiful outdoor photography might be from artistic creation though I would have no reluctance to thinking of it as great skill and even perception, though I can not now totally accept either as art within the current context.

This is as crushing a blow to self-esteem (mine) as it might be to anyone else reading this with pretensions to being a photographic artist.

If anything, I think that it makes the painter ever more secure in his claim to artistic respect than ever before. No, I'm not hedging my bets because I have started to dabble a little bit again - it just seems that starting off with a blank canvas is not equivalent to starting off with a fresh film or newly formatted card!

Perhaps we have built a sort of tottering tower for ourselves, here in the photogaphic world; perhaps we are carrying the curse of past generations where there might really have been some kind of battleground of the two mediums - something necessary because the one saw the other as a direct challenge. So much later, maybe the truth might be found by way of a fresh look at the two sides - if they are still two opposed factions - and it could be that the best interpretation, though it can never be definitive, being a matter of opion, is that both can be art but based on different inputs which do not depend only on the physical in the sense of canvas and film/sensors but more so on the intent and the execution and how well the fuse is carried out. However, shooting a box of crayons or a bowl of fruit seems not to fit this at all well, regardless of the expertise that might be brough to bear on the project.

Could it be that photographers are simply chasing the wrong goal when they strive for artistic merit in the sense of recognition? Is it not a possibility that they should forget the connotations of art and look for gratification and success in something else, in that excellence of execution to which I have just referred above? The entire idea and mystique of art, not to mention its financial opportunities, might well be nothing but an enormous distraction from what photography could really be and probably is?

Had photography arrived on the scene before painting and sulpture, would the latter two be fighting the war for artistic acceptance that photography seems hell-bent to wage?

Rob C
« Last Edit: October 05, 2009, 04:46:34 AM by Rob C » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2009, 12:51:27 PM »
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Rob,

Well, first of all, if you’re going to ask the question, “Is photography art?” or “Can photography be art?” or “Is this picture I just made art?”  you have to define art. We all know you can’t really do that, and on that failure, it seems to me, the whole question crashes down.

To me, art is something that gives me a transcendental experience: a sudden flash of knowledge I can’t put into words. That’s my own definition, and it’s certainly not universal. Was Duchamp’s “fountain” a work of art? A urinal, however beautifully designed and satisfyingly functional is not art as far as I’m concerned because a urinal doesn’t give me a transcendental experience, though it may give me relief.

I keep coming back to Archibald MacLeish’s Poetry and Experience, because, in that book, he gives the best explanation of the experience of art I’ve ever found. I’m going to quote his explanation at length. He’s dealing with poetry, but as far as I’m concerned, photography and poetry are very close to each other. MacLeish uses this short, very old, English poem to illustrate the point:

O westron wind when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

[blockquote]Here the two little scenes of wind and weather and love and bed are left side by side to mean if they can. And they do mean. The poem is not a poem about the one or the other. It is not a poem about weather. And neither is it a poem about making love. The emotion it holds is held between these two statements in the place where love and time cross each other. Here, as in those old Chinese poems, the emotion, somehow contained in the poem, is an emotion which words cannot come at directly — which no words as words can describe. How can you “describe” in words the poignancy of the recognition of the obstacle of time — its recognition not on the clock face or among the stars but on the nerves of the body and in the blood itself? But if you cannot “describe” it in words how then can words contain it? Well, how do they contain it here? By not speaking of it. By not speaking of it at all. By speaking of something else, something off at the one side and the other as the man at the helm of a ship looks off and above to starboard and larboard to see the channel marker before him in the dark. By speaking of two things which, like parentheses, can include between them what neither of them says. (emphasis added) By leaving a space between one sensed image and another where what cannot be said can be — this sensuous, this bodily knowledge of the defeat of love by time — this When? When? Ah when? — When will the wind go west and the spring rain come to bring her back to me and me to her?[/blockquote]

[blockquote]But... is it only emotion which the coupled images in a poem capture? ...There is the west wind, the spring wind, and its small rain. There is a bed and a girl. And there is emotion certainly there between them, and ache of longing. But is that all? Or is there also, and on beyond, a recognition of something known, something known before and now, in the space between the bed and the west wind, realized? Are the bed and the girl and the wind and the rain in some way caught up together, not in the mind, which cannot understand these irrelevancies, but in the emotion which can? ...Has this hollow between the wind and the rain on the one side and the bed and the girl on the other filled, not with emotion only, but with something emotion knows — something more immediate than knowledge, something tangible and felt, something as tangible as experience itself, felt as immediately as experience? Is it human experience itself, in its livingness as experience, these coupled images and the emotion they evoke, have captured? And was it this that Wordsworth meant when he spoke of truth "carried alive into the heart by passion"?[/blockquote]

Now, are there photographs that can do the same thing? Can a photograph convey meaning beyond what the mind can grasp? Of course it can. But I think that with both photography and poetry you have to be open to the transcendental experience available in the art, and that kind of openness rarely comes naturally. You pretty much have to submerge yourself in the medium to achieve it. Cartier-Bresson’s “Lock at Bougival” is one photograph that gives me the kind of experience I’m talking about, but I suspect it leaves many people as cold as might “O Westron Wind” leave someone who’s never delved seriously into poetry. I could give several examples of the same thing in painting, especially among the Impressionists, though I must admit I’ve never had a transcendental experience from a Campbell’s soup can, real or painted.

So, in the end, we’re right back where we started. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and if you create a photograph someone can accept as art, you’ve created art. Once you get into this roundabout there are no exits.

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button
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« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2009, 07:08:14 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Once you get into this roundabout there are no exits.

Elegant...  even after (perhaps more so?) after a few scotches.

John
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EduPerez
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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2009, 01:25:14 AM »
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I was writing a long post to reply, but then I read RSL's post again, and realized that just one word will do: "AMEN";
I cannot agree more, and I cannot say it better.
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2009, 04:15:44 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Rob,

 Once you get into this roundabout there are no exits.





Russ, forgive me for a moment of being flip, but I just had to quote you above for the sake of EduPerez who lives in Barcelona.  

Señor P, that line describes that first roundabout nightmare (of which I wrote earlier) as you come out of the ferry terminal in your city, your mind and energy intent on finding your way to the northern direction of the A7! You feel you'd like to stop right at the start and ask the frantic policeman directions, then you realise he hasn't the time and that his wish to stay alive is as strong as your own...

Russ, unfortunately for me, you beat me to it today because I was going to add a similar though more simple thought to my position, which was this: we have always had difficulty defining the condition of photography within the 'arts' and I have begun to wonder if this is not inevitable since, not only cannot we define art in photography, but neither can we in any other medium whose inclusion has, as far as I can see, been accepted on the basis of it not having ever been questioned.

There is the distinct possibility that painting, sculpture, music, all of those things never were art, that art is a false concept which has arisen from confusion and the difficulty of finding a common hook from which to hang the emotional responses such media create. Remember that a traffic accident also causes emotional response, so response from emotion is neither guarantee nor yardstick of something being or not being 'art' which, as I am starting to believe, simply does not have definition because it does not really exist.

That is not to be confused with design good or bad, with accomplishment and skill at whatever medium of choice which most certainly do exist.

Alternatively, could it be that all media constitute art and there is simply good art and bad art and that the kindergarten scribble is the same thing as La Gioconda, as valid but simply of a different order?

And think this: from this keyboard I now have to go and wash the remaining terrace persianas prior to varnishing the damn things in a couple of days time if they dry well and the weather holds. Is there no escape? Or is it really good therapy or, heaven forbid, is it art?

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2009, 09:14:07 AM »
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Quote from: button
Elegant...  even after (perhaps more so?) after a few scotches.

John

John, I've also found that Perfect Manhattans help.
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EduPerez
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« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2009, 04:07:29 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Russ, forgive me for a moment of being flip, but I just had to quote you above for the sake of EduPerez who lives in Barcelona.  

Señor P, that line describes that first roundabout nightmare (of which I wrote earlier) as you come out of the ferry terminal in your city, your mind and energy intent on finding your way to the northern direction of the A7! You feel you'd like to stop right at the start and ask the frantic policeman directions, then you realise he hasn't the time and that his wish to stay alive is as strong as your own...
[...]
I think I know which roundabout you are talking about. It has a small exit only known to the very initiated, which apparently heads south; but then, just when you think you are in a dead alley at the middle of nowhere, it sharply turns north, and from there, then road to your destination is fast and direct. I am sure there is a beautiful analogy between that fact and the subject of this thread, I tried to find it for a couple of hours,  but failed.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2009, 08:41:47 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
I think I know which roundabout you are talking about. It has a small exit only known to the very initiated, which apparently heads south; but then, just when you think you are in a dead alley at the middle of nowhere, it sharply turns north, and from there, then road to your destination is fast and direct. I am sure there is a beautiful analogy between that fact and the subject of this thread, I tried to find it for a couple of hours,  but failed.






¡Hola!

Yes, I think I know the one you mean: when you are almost out of the gates from inside the ferry terminal - or is it just outside them - (you see the problem?) there is a left-hand turn that you can easily miss because there is also a sign prohibiting the left-turning of trucks, and at a quick look - all you get - you can easily think that the sign is prohibiting cars, too. If you do take this little turning you come to another main set of roads and the challenge then is to go straight through and cross them and avoid traffic at the same time.

Once you do that, you are all alone and head on down to a U-turn which immediately offers you a choice: you can go up a ramp, the most left choice or take the other, parallel one which eventually takes you back into the port! I last took this road about six years ago - perhaps it has changed - but once you take that ramp you get onto the motorway system and it becomes a matter of following the signs for Gerona.

The way back is also difficult in those tunnels: you can very easily take the first port sign and end up in the puerto deportivo, the wrong port,  which I did once and then had to face the horror of finding my way back and making a totally illegal crossing of the major dual-carriageway (Ramblas?) at a slowing down of traffic, hoping my luck would hold until I got across. It did.

I think the major problem is speed. There is just so much traffic behind, in front and at both sides that you do not have the time to think - you either know where you are going or you are done for.


I think that an analogy is indeed lurking in all of this, perhaps why it came into my mind in the first place!

Ciao

Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: October 07, 2009, 10:02:58 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
In short, unless you can lay claim to both the idea intrinsic to the shot as well as its execution, then all claims are off and you created nothing, just copied what was there and open to being copied by anyone else standing in your footsteps - or tripod holes, should you prefer the usual photographic expression.

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
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"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

Chuck Kimmerle
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