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Author Topic: Creating Meaningful Photographs  (Read 4915 times)
darr
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« on: June 28, 2012, 06:45:56 AM »
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« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 02:04:27 PM by darr » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 10:09:20 AM »
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Alain Briot's article on the home page seems to have been repeated. Someone suggested the reason is because the responses to the original post were not particularly meaningful.

Rob C raised the interesting point in another thread:
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Why should pictures require to be 'meaningful'? I believe that as pictures, as distinct from propaganda, they just need to be beautiful. If anyone needs meaningful, they can buy a book. Or read here.

The current quote on the LL home page is:
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"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know".
Diane Arbus

So what's going on here? I would suggest that an enduring work of art hints at numerous levels of meaning which may be intriguing but never fully resolved.

As an example, I'm going to reproduce a rather outrageous image that I've posted before, with the purpose of providing a detailed analysis, hoping that Michael or Alain Briot do not object or find it in poor taste.

The first shot, Figure 1, is the actual scene as I shot it, the Himalayan mountains at dawn, from Poon Hill, Nepal.

Figure 2 is the scene with added foreground interest.

Figure 3 is a crop of what I consider to be the central point of interest.

Figure 4 is a crop of the right-most lady who mirrors the rising sun.

What I'd like to discuss is the meaning of this 'copy & paste' job. Does it have a meaning?

Well one colleague of mine, on seeing this photo, exclaimed that it was ridiculous, totally implausible and juvenile. As a result of his comment, I began to analyse the image.

The following analysis may be taken as 'tongue in cheek' if you like, or serious if you like.

I'll enumerate and question what I see as meaningful aspects of this composite image in a critical context.

(1)  The rising sun at a particular moment of 'dawn' is spectacular on the snow-bound mountain peaks. But that moment lasts for only a minute or two. I captured it.

(2) The foreground tends to lack interest, compared with the mouintains, yet the foreground does take up a large part of the composition.

(3) The introduction of other, perhaps more interesting elements, such as semi-nude ladies, would tend to redress this issue with the foreground.

(4) But how is it meaningful to have semi-nude ladies in the foreground, you might ask.

(5)  There is a symbolic significance here. By inserting the ladies in the foreground, I have created a sort of 'mirror' effect; Mountains in the background, and Mountains of a different type in the foreground. This is a subtle level of meaning.

(6)  There are other levels of meaning, such as: How did the photographer arrange this amazing shot? Is there an additional story of the taking of this shot? For example, I was treking with three beautiful ladies in Nepal, and I wanted to photograph them in a 'semi-nude' pose in the cold mountain air at dawn, at a height of 3200 metres. What sort of magical persuavive powers did I need?

(7) Another secret or imponderable, is the question of the true gender of these ladies. Are they true females. I won't tell you.

(Cool If you suspect they are not true females, but transexuals, then there is another level of meaning. We not only have Photoshop manipulation, but Medical manipulation, all in the one shot.

To summarize; magnificent mountains in both the background and the foreground, and two types of manipulation, photoshop maniplulation and medical manipulation.

A truly magnificent and unique image in my opinion.  Grin

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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2012, 12:14:50 PM »
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"Rob C raised the interesting point in another thread:
 
Quote
Why should pictures require to be 'meaningful'? I believe that as pictures, as distinct from propaganda, they just need to be beautiful. If anyone needs meaningful, they can buy a book. Or read here.

The current quote on the LL home page is:
Quote
"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know".
Diane Arbus " "




But there’s a problem, Ray: folks aren’t interested in anything Rob C might have to say but they are sort of interested in Diane’s words because she’s dead (and famously dead, at that) and her words can be construed, safely, to mean all things and anything to all men and all women.

The basic situation, in my view, is that nobody takes these forums seriously unless they are about to buy a new bit of equipment; then, they pore over everything and believe anything that seems to confirm and encourage their basic desire to buy whatever it is they want to buy. It’s about making one feel better about gratuitous spending.

Basically, if you separate the gear-heads from the images, it breaks down into two camps: those who want to be looked at and ‘critiqued’ and those who’d really rather not stick up anything on the public wall but do enjoy second-guessing the membership of the first camp. In the end, both deserve one another, but I think you can forget anything ‘meaningful’ to emerge as a consequence of the process.

Come to think of it, I suppose that this is perhaps the single greatest reason for the huge imbalance between posts from male and female members of LuLa: the ladies are more careful with their time and the use to which they choose to put it. They leave the school playground much earlier.

Rob C
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James Clark
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2012, 06:02:59 PM »
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Well this went off the rails quick...  Smiley
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LesPalenik
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2012, 09:33:14 PM »
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To summarize; magnificent mountains in both the background and the foreground, and two types of manipulation, photoshop maniplulation and medical manipulation.

A truly magnificent and unique image in my opinion.  Grin

Not to forget all those meanings. Sometimes, it's amazing what goes on inside the photographer's head.
You didn't mention the monetary aspect of those collages. I bet, that for many art lovers and true connoisseurs the value of those pieces just shot up. And that is very meaningful, too.

Now, I started to ponder about some of my images. I find it fascinating, how many of those meanings can be traced directly or indirectly to females.

Ray, what you should have done, is to post all these pictures in the Landscape and Nature category and ask the readers to critique and analyze them. Even more importantly, to invite them to envision the artist's mood and disposition, and to attempt to peek deep into the artist's psyche and try to find out the hidden meaning. It's not inconceivable that someone might come up with yet another meaning that you overlooked.

« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 10:36:07 PM by LesPalenik » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2012, 02:40:18 AM »
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Well this went off the rails quick...  Smiley


This is a quick forum - gotta stay on your toes and carpe diem, as Horace would say, had he himself been quick enough to have sidestepped the grim reaper.

It's a bonus - enjoy.

Rob C
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KLaban
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2012, 03:25:52 AM »
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Why should pictures require to be 'meaningful'? I believe that as pictures, as distinct from propaganda, they just need to be beautiful.

Why beautiful?

Why not ugly, or for that matter any other adjective? I can understand why most glamour photographers would covet conventional beauty, but should everyone? Do photographs really only have to be decorative to succeed?

Why do so many photographers want to put constraints on their work? Is it any wonder there is continuing debate over photography as art when restrictive attitudes such as this are so prevalent?
« Last Edit: June 30, 2012, 04:02:42 AM by KLaban » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2012, 05:05:41 AM »
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Ray, what you should have done, is to post all these pictures in the Landscape and Nature category and ask the readers to critique and analyze them. Even more importantly, to invite them to envision the artist's mood and disposition, and to attempt to peek deep into the artist's psyche and try to find out the hidden meaning. It's not inconceivable that someone might come up with yet another meaning that you overlooked.

There are lots of additional meanings, Les, if one allows one's imagination free rein.

For example, the region depicted in the photo is rich in Hindu mythology. The mountain in the background of Figure 3 is Annapurna 1 at 8091 metres. I believe it is ranked as the 10th highest mountain on earth.

But what is perhaps more interesting is the meaning of Annapurna. It's a Sanskrit word which literally means "full of food", but in Hinduism means the "Goddess of Plenty". Now you'll notice that the lady in Figure 3 is tilting her head in the same direction as the cloud movement on the summit of Annapurna 1, suggesting perhaps that she is really the Goddess of Plenty and has swooped down from the mountain peak in order to be in my photo. Now we can't be certain about this, but I'm sure you'll agree that the lady certainly has plenty of somethingWink

If we consider Figure 4, we might wonder why this particular lady is there. What is the meaning of this and why is she in that precise location, looking so lovely?

Well, it so happens that the distant mountain behind her, to the left, is very dear to Lord Shiva. It's called Machapuchare. Now I admit I'm not entirely sure about His circumstances, but I think Machapuchare might be His holiday home because Mt Kailash in Tibet has the reputation of being His permanent abode. Perhaps some Hindu readers can clarify this point.

Let's assume it's His holiday home. Shiva's wife, Parvati, on seeing Annapurna, Goddess of Plenty, already posing for my photo, gets a bit envious and immediately swoops down from her mountain peak so she can also be in the photo. Directly behind her right shoulder in Figure 4 is a long stalk of grass pointing straight towards Mt Machapuchare. What more evidence do you need?  Grin

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lenelg
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2012, 06:00:13 AM »
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Well this went off the rails quick...  Smiley
Research has shown that any internet discussion will lose track of the original subject after an average of three responses..
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2012, 06:06:38 AM »
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Research has shown that any internet discussion will lose track of the original subject after an average of three responses..

Well this thread is clearly above average because the 7th post, which was mine, is definitely on track and directly related to the topic, Creating Meaningful Photographs.
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2012, 08:25:33 AM »
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Why beautiful?

Why not ugly, or for that matter any other adjective? I can understand why most glamour photographers would covet conventional beauty, but should everyone? Do photographs really only have to be decorative to succeed?

Why do so many photographers want to put constraints on their work? Is it any wonder there is continuing debate over photography as art when restrictive attitudes such as this are so prevalent?




Simply because I can't imagine why I'd wish to put anything ugly up on the wall - I already have a large mirror there, leading me to believe that anything more turns into overstatement...

Glam photographers might have a penchant for conventional beauty, as you say, but certainly not fashion snappers, where the most unlikely people now grace magazine pages. Not so much adverts, though, leading me to think that ads are designed to please large corporations whose ideas are probably slightly more traditional in order to remain in step with their imagined public.

But I think, unless you are just indulging in a little bit of devil's advocacy at the moment, you are tending to treat photographic ideas of what is or is not attractive in similar manner to those in painting, which I think is a mistake. In painting, anything does go, as recently successful (if dead) British painters have proved. Some pretty gross depictions of equally gross ladies have sold for zillions... I wouldn't expect even a couple of similar photographs would find a home in a charity sale. But you never can tell.

Remove representations of the human form from the argument, and pretty much anything already goes, whether anyone else likes it or not. I don't see personal likes or dislikes as any form of 'constraint' at all - if anything, they save the author a lot of time and effort chasing things he doesn't like; it's automatic editing.

Rob C
« Last Edit: June 30, 2012, 08:30:20 AM by Rob C » Logged

AFairley
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2012, 11:05:52 AM »
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But why would I want to return again and again (one mark of a true work of art IMO) to an image that though beautiful is utterly banal (flower and puppy pictures?).  It's that something extra that makes me want to return to the image that is the "meaningful" aspect of it.  Whatever that might be.....  Think of most flower shots on DPR vs the O'Keefe orchids, for example.  What do the paintings have that the flower pics lack?  Whatever it is is the "meaning" to my way of thinking.
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2012, 11:10:19 AM »
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If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then who has a monopoly on ugliness?
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Isaac
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« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2012, 11:16:53 AM »
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Apologies Darr Almeda -- your comment didn't provoke the facetious responses, it was just an available excuse.
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LesPalenik
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« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2012, 01:40:32 PM »
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But why would I want to return again and again (one mark of a true work of art IMO) to an image that though beautiful is utterly banal (flower and puppy pictures?).  It's that something extra that makes me want to return to the image that is the "meaningful" aspect of it.  Whatever that might be.....  Think of most flower shots on DPR vs the O'Keefe orchids, for example.  What do the paintings have that the flower pics lack?  Whatever it is is the "meaning" to my way of thinking.

Unless it's a large carnivorous plant. It really depends on the composition.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2012, 01:42:21 PM by LesPalenik » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2012, 03:15:56 PM »
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But why would I want to return again and again (one mark of a true work of art IMO) to an image that though beautiful is utterly banal (flower and puppy pictures?).  It's that something extra that makes me want to return to the image that is the "meaningful" aspect of it.  Whatever that might be.....  Think of most flower shots on DPR vs the O'Keefe orchids, for example.  What do the paintings have that the flower pics lack?  Whatever it is is the "meaning" to my way of thinking.



I fail to understand why beautiful should imply banal. I do not say that it doesn't often apply to people, though, but on second thoughts, how many beautiful people does one see on any given day? Precious few, in my experience, making the risk of encountering banality worth while...

Regarding flowers, they have no meaning of their own. They serve a variety of purposes but that’s distinct from any intrinsic meaning per se.

But, circumstances surrounding flowers can have a helluva a lot of meaning: consider a dozen red roses lying on a lady’s coffin; think of an evening field of already dead sunflowers as you race across a country to see a relative on his way out of this world. Hold the thought of a posy lying in the road outside a little country church after an aborted wedding. It’s all about flowers, but the flowers themselves mean nothing.

Whether paintings or photographs, I see flower pictures as studies in technique and precious little else. I'd agree with you and put pooches and cats in the same category of excitement.

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2012, 12:03:00 AM »
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Why beautiful?

Why not ugly, or for that matter any other adjective? I can understand why most glamour photographers would covet conventional beauty, but should everyone? Do photographs really only have to be decorative to succeed?

Why do so many photographers want to put constraints on their work? Is it any wonder there is continuing debate over photography as art when restrictive attitudes such as this are so prevalent?


I tend to agree with KLaban. I'm reminded in this context of that very famous poem by John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" which ends with the following stanza:

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When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know
.

Here, John Keats is making no distinction between beauty and truth. That which is not truthful is not beautiful. That which is truthful, however ugly it may appear at first glance, is in fact beautiful. That's the message here.

I can't resist showing you another couple of images taken in Nepal. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not there is any beauty in these shots.



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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2012, 03:48:13 AM »
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Ray, why do you place such value on the words of a guy who, like all writers, is but a wordsmith doing his bit to turn a buck or, at best, feel good about himself?

Coming from an earlier period than our own lends no more veracity to his clever writings than to those of Napoleon. He simply writes what he thinks others will perceive as clever and deeply insightful - probably much as with those of us here who take the trouble to put imaginary quill to parchment.

Could it be that you have allowed verbal beauty to dull your own sense?

;-)

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2012, 05:16:01 AM »
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Ray, why do you place such value on the words of a guy who, like all writers, is but a wordsmith doing his bit to turn a buck or, at best, feel good about himself?

Coming from an earlier period than our own lends no more veracity to his clever writings than to those of Napoleon. He simply writes what he thinks others will perceive as clever and deeply insightful - probably much as with those of us here who take the trouble to put imaginary quill to parchment.

Could it be that you have allowed verbal beauty to dull your own sense?

;-)

Rob C

No, Rob. I'm not dazzled by notoriety, PhDs, or fame. I'm simply moved by what rings true. Truth is beautiful, whatever its form.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2012, 10:51:05 AM »
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Truth is beautiful, whatever its form.

So I cannot create a beautiful lie? A police photograph of the remains of a head of someone shot throughout the forehead is beautiful?

Keats did not know what he was talking about. Nice sentiments, but rather meaningless.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2012, 10:53:10 AM by theguywitha645d » Logged
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