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Author Topic: "What Photography Isn't" A article on Luminous Landscape web page Tutorials  (Read 4894 times)
Vuurtoren
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« on: August 29, 2010, 03:31:59 PM »
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"The painter constructs, the photographer discloses."  Susan Sontag.

On the surface (excuse the pun) this is true, even to the point that I myself would not disagree with this as what seperates Painting from Photography.  Dig deeper though and this statement begins to show signs of weakness, it won't crumble, no, but it needs strengthening.  With what?  With the concept that the photographer does indeed construct from what is not there.  How?  By photographing the subjective perception of mood and/or emotional experience.

I did a social documentary work once, (not fit for human consumption) Though for this forum I might add a few photos if others were interested; it was entitled Trauma, Emotional Trauma, to be precise Post traumatic Stress Syndrome.  I photographed what was presented before me, but the subject and the objects within that image clearly demonstrated Not a disclosure of a factual documentary event, but of an emotional experience elicited by the whole ethos of the image.  In other words I believe that I constructed not disclosed. I added, and took nothing away, Ok so this is not adding objects per se, but rather the unseen was more visible than the scene itself.

I could go on, but that is it for a start-off.
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2010, 03:52:27 PM »
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Personally, I would disregard what people like that say; their objective is to weave pretty sound bites that say more about their own fluidity with language than about the subject they are gracing with their attention.

The so-called intellectual has a lot for which to answer. At the end of the day, anyone with the linguistic skills can write something about the endeavours of another, and because Sontag hung out with Leibo for a while doth not her an expert make. Neither does one famous essay on the matter signify any deep understanding.

Frankly, I think it's just more of the gallerist-speak of which we wrote in another context.

;-)

Rob C
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pcunite
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 04:24:56 PM »
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The work of Nick Vedros is just like painting to me. The brush he uses is very different. I guess if Einstein used a calculator he was not a real mathematician?
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Vuurtoren
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 04:40:33 PM »
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The Gallerist-speak, yes I heard so many quotes and sayings of the wise during my studies, I agree.  I think we all end up developing some kind of personal philosophy, at least in my case I have found myself discarding previous convictions so many times.  hence my comment on the Tone poet Gallery on my site about simplicity and no-conceptualizing etc.

Nick Vedros - certainly no shortage of originality there.  Its unlikeability makes me like it in a way I did not expect.

What photography is'nt?  It is in our nature to categorize the world around us, but in every section of biological category there are exceptions that don't fit.  same with photography - my feeling is that you can make photography be anything you want it to be.  A painter records his emotional interaction with the world around him, so does a poet, so does the photographer.  three different mediums employing different tools but ultimately doing exactly the same thing.


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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 03:17:24 AM »
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"What photography is'nt?  It is in our nature to categorize the world around us, but in every section of biological category there are exceptions that don't fit.  same with photography - my feeling is that you can make photography be anything you want it to be.  A painter records his emotional interaction with the world around him, so does a poet, so does the photographer.  three different mediums employing different tools but ultimately doing exactly the same thing."


This is all too glib; you are describing theory here, not reality.

The painter, like the photographer, does not record any such thing as his/her emotional interaction with the world around him or her: he tries to do that, always with limited success, if only because of the inability we all have to achieve exactly what we would like to achieve with our God-given but still limited skills. We do, if lucky, get close. But that isn't the same thing as 100% success in interpretation; chance and the random element always have their input.

In fact, it's a strong reason why I believe that the people doing studio still lifes get as close to it (realisation of their aim/interpretation) as most others can only wish.

But perhaps the lottery bit is ultimately what keeps us playing - on and off.

Rob C
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Vuurtoren
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 04:13:34 AM »
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quote:====This is all too glib; you are describing theory here, not reality.

The painter, like the photographer, does not record any such thing as his/her emotional interaction with the world around him or her: he tries to do that, always with limited success...====End quote (Rob C)

Hi Rob, how are things?  Mmm...my immediate subjective reaction was:  Whaaaaat !!  Oky doky Now for the objectivity.  Firstly, my comment above was based upon fact.  Allow me a moment here, Picasso (darn it, it was not Picasso - I really can not remember his name, he is so well known) Anyway one tiny example was the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes van Vermeer of Delft who painted his scenes/objects and imbued them very heavily with his emotional responses to his culture and experiences of life, they painted their feelings as well as the reflection of what was in front of them.  That is simply so and I am sure there are more painters that imbued their creations with emotional responses to the world around them, some painters did not.

I am so lost on names and examples, but my personal documentary work, was in part, inspired by a few of the old school photographers who imbued their image making with their own unique take on the world - this 'take' isnone other than either a disgust, or a pleasure, or a protest, or a hurt and thus qualifies as an emotional respones which finds expression in the way they compose and both choose their subjects/objects.

I understand what you mean by Studio photography, but with one slight problem, because studio photography is thoroughly at odds with the instinctive gut reaction to a specific moment in time it can lack the authenticity of an emotional response to a given situation.  rather studio photography is planned and timed to the finest of all details.  Many of the Northern Ireland documentary photographers in the 70 and 80's created works that needed "reading" simply put: They were emotional responses creating emotional images - and that without people, blood or burned buildings.  I could go on but Iam not trying to say that you are wrong, simply that My Statement Is true - but not for all photography of course.

Chris
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 04:22:12 AM by Vuurtoren » Logged

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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2010, 05:54:11 AM »
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Sontag on photography - a candidate for Private Eye's 'Pseuds Corner'  - http://www.compulink.co.uk/~stevemann/pseuds.htm
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Vuurtoren
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 06:16:46 AM »
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Sontag on photography - a candidate for Private Eye's 'Pseuds Corner'  - http://www.compulink.co.uk/~stevemann/pseuds.htm

Ah mr chairman bill, thankgoodness you don't address yourself as "chairperson" I hate with a vengence that term.  Anyway, I agree, perhaps you could add John Berger's "ways of seeing" to that spot.  Although to be honest he made some very agreeable points, but not worth a long waffle really in a thick paperback..
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2010, 06:18:53 AM »
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No 'Mr' though. Just chairman.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2010, 06:39:02 AM »
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To quote Crash Davis "..... the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap." On Photography wasn't a novel but the thought still applies.

Can all of this high-minded, Sontagesque commentary be put into context with a link to the article noted in the title of this thread?  Or is that too pedestrian a question?
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Vuurtoren
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2010, 07:57:26 AM »
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To quote Crash Davis "..... the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap." On Photography wasn't a novel but the thought still applies.

Can all of this high-minded, Sontagesque commentary be put into context with a link to the article noted in the title of this thread?  Or is that too pedestrian a question?

Hi Bob.  Here is the link. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/what_photogr_isn%27t.shtml

At least I hope that is what you meant and not a link to the page number and ISBN of book.

regards

Chris
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2010, 10:05:27 AM »
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Thanks, Chris.

I'd have to say I both agree and disagree with Michael. 

I agree from the standpoint of what I'll call 'standard' nature or landscape photography.  By standard, I mean what has been thought of for years as nature/landscape photography - images of scenic vistas, intimate florals, combinations of the two, etc.

I disagree from the standpoint of what can be called 'impressionistic' photography.  Impressionistic photography is all about a vision in the mind of the photographer and not necessarily a representation of reality.  It's all about creating or, to use Sontag's terminology, constructing.

In that sense, Sontag is wrong in her assessment that the photographer only discloses and I believe Michael is incorrect in his assessment that the photographer mainly excludes.
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Vuurtoren
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2010, 12:29:27 PM »
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Thanks, Chris.

I'd have to say I both agree and disagree with Michael.  

I agree from the standpoint of what I'll call 'standard' nature or landscape photography.  By standard, I mean what has been thought of for years as nature/landscape photography - images of scenic vistas, intimate florals, combinations of the two, etc.

I disagree from the standpoint of what can be called 'impressionistic' photography.  Impressionistic photography is all about a vision in the mind of the photographer and not necessarily a representation of reality.  It's all about creating or, to use Sontag's terminology, constructing.

In that sense, Sontag is wrong in her assessment that the photographer only discloses and I believe Michael is incorrect in his assessment that the photographer mainly excludes.

Thanks, Chris.

I'd have to say I both agree and disagree with Michael.  

I agree from the standpoint of what I'll call 'standard' nature or landscape photography.  By standard, I mean what has been thought of for years as nature/landscape photography - images of scenic vistas, intimate florals, combinations of the two, etc.

I disagree from the standpoint of what can be called 'impressionistic' photography.  Impressionistic photography is all about a vision in the mind of the photographer and not necessarily a representation of reality.  It's all about creating or, to use Sontag's terminology, constructing.

In that sense, Sontag is wrong in her assessment that the photographer only discloses and I believe Michael is incorrect in his assessment that the photographer mainly excludes.

You're welcome.

Well that about sums this discussion up then,  At least no war here.  I think i will start a new topic in this forum, a bit more exciting. keep an eye out.

Kind regards
Chris.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 12:35:01 PM by Vuurtoren » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2010, 11:25:18 AM »
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Well that about sums this discussion up then,  At least no war here.  I think i will start a new topic in this forum, a bit more exciting. keep an eye out.

Kind regards
Chris.


I suppose that was the advice somebody once gave poor old Lord Nelson too.

Been a difficult day, today; too much monitor.

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2010, 09:11:36 AM »
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A photographer is basically a thief, a voyeur and a witness, all in a single pretentious* package.
So by extention photography is not the opposite of those concepts.

But the very thing I know for sure, is that photography is NOT science.


*the degree depending on the personal fame and/or how big are the gear
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