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Author Topic: Photography and The Death of Reality  (Read 8400 times)
Misirlou
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« Reply #40 on: April 17, 2014, 04:09:50 PM »
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Maybe in the future, people will stop asking that question "Did you Photoshop it?" if we get to the point where photos are understood to not represent reality.  Until then, these arguments will go on.

I get really tired of that question, but it's not as bad as "You must have a really expensive camera." One of these days, I'm going to hand one of my cameras to a joker that says that, and tell them to go get similar results to mine with it.

It's fun to shoot with one of the Sigma Merrills. Passers-by assume it to be an inexpensive point and shoot, and dismiss it immediately. It's like the reactions I used to get from people when I shot landscapes with a Rolleiflex. "Oh, I used to have a box camera too - got it from my Grandfather," etc.
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amolitor
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« Reply #41 on: April 17, 2014, 07:19:39 PM »
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You have to be a little careful, well, really a lot careful, in these discussions. There are two quite different things in play here:

- does the photograph accurately reflect the reality of what it's pointed at, and to what extent, and in what ways
- does the photograph "look real" in the sense that when I see the picture, and I also see the thing it's a picture of, I say "that looks like that"

The first is a scientific thing, a measurable, quantifiable thing. That's what we're talking about when we're admitting photographs as evidence.

The second is a construct of our mind. We accept certain pictures as "looking like the thing" when in fact no picture looks like the thing. It's subjective, and it changes over time. There is at any given time a corresponding social construct of the form "most people would agree that this photograph looks like the thing it's a picture of, that it 'looks real'" which most definitely changes over time. Black and white photographs are no longer accepted by the populace as "looks real" in this sense. Increasingly, HDR and super-saturated colors ARE accepted as "looks real" in this sense.

This second thing is entirely about how our brains have been trained to interpret these two dimensional things called photographs.

The first thing and the second thing overlap occasionally, but mainly by accident
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R.M. Service
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« Reply #42 on: April 17, 2014, 09:21:15 PM »
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Well said!

Succinct, clear, and concise. 

Thanx!

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LesPalenik
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« Reply #43 on: April 17, 2014, 10:57:54 PM »
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Quote
Did you Photoshop it?
Yeah, but it was the original, perpetual version.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 11:05:23 PM by LesPalenik » Logged

ripgriffith
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« Reply #44 on: April 18, 2014, 04:37:06 AM »
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Well, as Picasso said, summing up art's complex relationship to reality,  it is "a lie that tells the truth".

Not to nitpick, but the actual quote from Picasso is, "We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand." From a conversation between Picasso and critic Marius de Zayas.  Perhaps your soundbite is like a photograph of the actual quote, conveying the necessary information, but somewhat short of reality.  All-in-all, though, a very good discussion of this subject.
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David Sutton
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« Reply #45 on: April 18, 2014, 05:24:53 AM »
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Not to nitpick, but the actual quote from Picasso is, "We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand." From a conversation between Picasso and critic Marius de Zayas.  Perhaps your soundbite is like a photograph of the actual quote, conveying the necessary information, but somewhat short of reality.  All-in-all, though, a very good discussion of this subject.
Nothing wrong with nitpicking. Yes, it was a shortened form. "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth " is more accurate but probably fails to grasp Picasso's thoughts about myth, art, truth and lies. I suspect he wasn't talking about superficial technique (which he probably loathed) but a sort of penetrating vision that reveals reality in all its terror. Do we have any experts on his time?
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Isaac
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« Reply #46 on: April 18, 2014, 11:02:07 AM »
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I suspect he wasn't talking about superficial technique (which he probably loathed) but a sort of penetrating vision that reveals reality in all its terror. Do we have any experts on his time?

If you want to say something about your understanding of "art's complex relationship to reality" we can probably get-by without the Picasso expert.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 11:20:43 AM by Isaac » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #47 on: April 18, 2014, 11:27:14 AM »
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Succinct, clear, and concise.

"Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."

H. L. Mencken "The Divine Afflatus" in New York Evening Mail (16 November 1917)
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Isaac
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« Reply #48 on: April 18, 2014, 11:43:42 AM »
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So, it's a real letdown when someone asks of your photo, "Did you Photoshop it?"

I get really tired of that question, but it's not as bad as "You must have a really expensive camera."

Once, after several days of becoming a little worn down by a continual series of such questions and comments, when asked how I took such amaaaaaazing images, followed by the 'I really ought to get a good camera' remark…

What delicate flowers we are! :-)

Those questions have all the impertinence of an angler being asked if they've caught any fish. They show mild interest and demonstrate an understandable lack-of-knowledge.
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Isaac
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« Reply #49 on: April 18, 2014, 05:58:22 PM »
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The greatest power of photography has probably been to show us worlds invisible to our eyes: the world of the super fast, the super slow through time lapse, the microscopic and the macroscopic. And to show us places and events beyond our reach.

Drawing and painting showed us places and events beyond our reach.
The microscope and the telescope allowed the minutely small and immensely vast to be seen and drawn.
The super-slow changes so slowly that a series of drawings can be made.

Photography brought verisimilitude and speed, so:
- a proliferation of images
- an unchanging moment before our attention for hours (we can look for longer, so we see more).

Quote
"As Talbot observed in an essay in the first published book of photographs (The Pencil of Nature, 1844)…

Quote
'It frequently happens… -- and this is one of the charms of photography -- that the operator himself discovers on examination, perhaps long afterwards, that he has depicted many things he had no notion of at the time. Sometimes inscriptions and dates are found upon the buildings, or printed placards most irrelevant, are discovered upon their walls: sometimes a distant dial-plate is seen, and upon it -- unconsciously recorded -- the hour of the day at which the view was taken.'

A tiny detail which had escaped the artist's attention was there to be seen, included in his picture even though the artist had not seen it and had not allowed for it in his design." p5 Truth and Photography
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Isaac
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« Reply #50 on: April 18, 2014, 06:17:50 PM »
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Black and white photographs are no longer accepted by the populace as "looks real" in this sense.

Please show something to support that statement (it might be interesting).
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David Sutton
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« Reply #51 on: April 18, 2014, 06:33:17 PM »
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One of the issues raised in the past about the craft of photography and its value as art has been the question of where are photography's Rembrandts and Picassos.
I'd turn that question around and ask what contribution great painters have made to the wider community. How has their work filtered through to the "outside" world? Yes, they have extended the capabilities of their craft, but what else apart from national prestige and making dealers and art thieves wealthy? (runs for cover.....)
I've come up with a quick list for photography and its practitioners.
The 8 hour day and sick leave
Plastics
An important driver of women's emancipation in the late 19th Century
A way of seeing that can be quite unlike the way our eyes work and unlike the conventions of painters
Photography has made art available to anyone who can afford the cost of a print, be it a cheap reproduction of the Mona Lisa or an original work.
Culminating in the image of the earth hanging in space, photography has arguably generated a world wide shift in consciousness about the planet we live on.
From about 1880 the camera became available to anyone and the "snapshot" appeared. At this point photography really split in two and we still struggle with it today. On the one hand the "serious" image and on the other pictures of subjects never seen before made by ordinary people. Aunt Mary and her tennis racquet, couples at home on the couch. This led to some considerable social disruption (To quote a 1910 issue of The Amateur Photographer; “Our moral character dwindles as our instruments get smaller”) but also to a revolution in picture making. We have an amazing historical record of who we are and how we live.
Photographers can be proud of their heritage. The odd dust-up does no harm.
David
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Isaac
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« Reply #52 on: April 21, 2014, 11:15:06 AM »
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One of the issues raised in the past about the craft of photography and its value as art…

In the recent past -- "Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before".

However --

Quote
'...the art critic Rudolf Schmitz expressed his amazement: "Far from being filled with a sense of imitative repetition going down a well-trodden visual path, one is overcome with astonishment at the fertility of the photographic notion of the constructability of images and of the world." A hopeful view of the future, even if he does add the proviso that this collection does not show "photographers as impassioned artists, but artists as impassioned photographers."
« Last Edit: April 21, 2014, 11:18:12 AM by Isaac » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #53 on: April 21, 2014, 02:38:04 PM »
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One of the issues raised in the past about the craft of photography and its value as art has been the question of where are photography's Rembrandts and Picassos.
I'd turn that question around and ask what contribution great painters have made to the wider community. How has their work filtered through to the "outside" world? Yes, they have extended the capabilities of their craft, but what else apart from national prestige and making dealers and art thieves wealthy?

Ever seen the Sistine Chapel?

One thing that makes painting different than photography is that there is a generally accepted gap between what is "art" in painting and what is not. There is a whole range of activities that use exactly the same tools and techniques as "art" painting -- house painting and decorating, sign painting, advertising art, etc. Until about the 1930s, many of the most famous American artists had training in commercial art, and even some later than that (Andy Warhol, for example.) But the gap between people who practiced "art" and those who used identical tools for different purposes is widely and generally accepted, both by the general public and the critical literature. There are some instances of art-like activity that seem ambiguous. Was Norman Rockwell a fine artist, or a commercial artist? You can argue either way, but there is a substantial critical literature on the issue. What about "plein air" painters? Well, some of them make very pretty pictures, with excellent technique, but most of the critical literature would argue that these are people who are essentially applying a technique to a view, rather than attempting to extend a vision of whatever it is that they're painting. In other words, it more resembles a craft, than an art. Whatever it may be, you can find extensive commentary on it.
     
That's not the case in photography. Photography has been radically transgressive when it comes to definitions of art, and some of the most transgressive people (Sylvia Plachy, Robert Mapplethorpe, William Eggleston) have so confused the art issues that they've given cover to the people who would argue that art can be anything. There is no generally acknowledged gap between "art" photography and everything else. You will find arguments that the most casual snapshots are "art." That old B&W photos found in flea markets may be "art," even when the original intention (and even the maker) is unknown. Because photography does not have the long history of rigorous criticism and commentary that painting does, a lot of people simply say, "Okay,if you say it is, I guess it must be." It's possible with photography that what will eventually come to be accepted as the art of our time simply won't be distinguishable for fifty or a hundred years because there's too much of it, and the critical appreciation of it is not as rigorous as it is in other arts -- but that eventually, a body of work will emerge in some much later time that will be accepted as the "art" of our time. We just won't know what it is. But I would be willing to bet, even if I'm not around to collect on it, that strongly manipulated photos will not be in that body of work.
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amolitor
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« Reply #54 on: April 21, 2014, 03:45:59 PM »
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The expansion of what is and is not art is not restricted to photography, or even mainly photography. Conceptual art, performance art, readymades and so on are part of the mix.

The idea that art is mainly fine artisanal painting and sculpture produced in a studio by a highly trained artist is at least 100 years dead, if indeed it ever lived.
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Isaac
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« Reply #55 on: April 21, 2014, 05:24:00 PM »
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Those comments about painting can as-sensibly be applied to photography:

What about "plein air" [photographers]? Well, some of them make very pretty pictures, with excellent technique, but most of the critical literature would argue that these are people who are essentially applying a technique to a view, rather than attempting to extend a vision of whatever it is that they're [photographing]. In other words, it more resembles a craft, than an art.

     
You will find arguments that the most casual snapshots are "art."

"Pictorially speaking, the overall tone of this imagery is that of the family album; … Yet Galassi cautions his readers against thinking of these images as simple snapshots, and he's quite right; they are, instead, complicated snapshots. In them the pictorial strategies of Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston … are applied to the traditionally domestic subject matter of the snapshot. What results, as a rule, are self-consciously aestheticized glimpses of the incidental aspiring to the status of the eventful."

Self-consciously aestheticized glimpses of the incidental aspiring to the status of the eventful -- them art critics sure can turn a phrase!

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amolitor
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« Reply #56 on: April 21, 2014, 07:09:48 PM »
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There are people out there who wish to be fairly restrictive about what is and isn't Art. Generally they want to include Rembrandt, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and so on, and exclude all that pesky modern crap, for some definition of modern.

In order to do so, they generally use the following approach:

- to INCLUDE things, they talk about what Art DOES. It enlarges us, it evokes an emotional reaction, etc.
- to EXCLUDE things, they talk about how Art is MADE. It's very difficult, takes years of practice, etc etc.

Indeed, by carefully, selectively, applying these two completely orthogonal definitions of what constitutes Art, you can make Art be anything particular list of specific objects or Artists you like.

If you're honest, however, you settle on one definition, and then you live with the consequences, which generally include a lot of things you wish were not Art, and exclude some things you wish were.

In modern times, we mainly use the first one. And then you do get oddities like a collection of snapshots, presented in such and such a way, is by golly Art. It's photography based, but it's really a conceptual piece, most likely. Whatever it is, people experience it as Art. They are enlarged, their minds are expanded, they react emotionally and learn something, probably something not describable in words. So what if it's snapshot? Or poop? Or a pickled cat? If it acts like Art, it's Art.

This is largely because if you go the other way and insist on defining Art by how it's Made, you wind up mostly with craft and artisanship, and a whole lot of beautiful well made objects that were very hard to create which are not Art by any meaningful standard. Really beautifully glazed pots and so on.

Poop or Pots? You gotta pick one.
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ednazarko
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« Reply #57 on: April 21, 2014, 07:30:42 PM »
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One of the issues raised in the past about the craft of photography and its value as art has been the question of where are photography's Rembrandts and Picassos.

Picasso?  Uelsmann.  Everything in his image is authentic, real by every metric because it was shot on film without manipulation.  What Uelsmann does is add up realities until they become surrealities.  Read the quotes from Picasso in the thread (paraphrased or not) and Uelsmann kind of slides right in.

There are a ton of Rembrandts of photography, in my opinion.  Maybe plural - Tons of Rembrandts.  Lots of great photographers who understand that a dull subject with spectacular light trumps a spectacular subject with dull light.  

The ultimate Rembrandt of photography may be Jeffrey Crewdson, who controls light in his images as obsessively as a painter would.

But when it comes to cubism, surrealism, fever dreams... you can begin with Uelsmann, who creates fever dreams with the most mundane realistic images, alternate realities with the most mundane of realities.  Until the extreme illustrator capabilities of Photoshop became available, Uelsmann was the closest thing in photography to Picasso.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2014, 07:37:13 PM by ednazarko » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #58 on: April 21, 2014, 09:12:11 PM »
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So what if it's snapshot? Or poop? Or a pickled cat? If it acts like Art, it's Art.

So poop in the Art Gallery is Art; poop outside the Art Gallery is poop, because it is not contextualized as Art?
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David Sutton
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« Reply #59 on: April 22, 2014, 02:13:18 AM »
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Getting forgetful. I should have included national parks in my list.

Ever seen the Sistine Chapel?
No, I haven't. I wonder what my neighbours would say about it. I'd ask them if I could get them to turn down their "music".

One thing that makes painting different than photography is that there is a generally accepted gap between what is "art" in painting and what is not. There is a whole range of activities that use exactly the same tools and techniques as "art" painting -- house painting and decorating, sign painting, advertising art, etc. Until about the 1930s, many of the most famous American artists had training in commercial art, and even some later than that (Andy Warhol, for example.) But the gap between people who practiced "art" and those who used identical tools for different purposes is widely and generally accepted, both by the general public and the critical literature. There are some instances of art-like activity that seem ambiguous. Was Norman Rockwell a fine artist, or a commercial artist? You can argue either way, but there is a substantial critical literature on the issue. What about "plein air" painters? Well, some of them make very pretty pictures, with excellent technique, but most of the critical literature would argue that these are people who are essentially applying a technique to a view, rather than attempting to extend a vision of whatever it is that they're painting. In other words, it more resembles a craft, than an art. Whatever it may be, you can find extensive commentary on it.
     
That's not the case in photography. Photography has been radically transgressive when it comes to definitions of art, and some of the most transgressive people (Sylvia Plachy, Robert Mapplethorpe, William Eggleston) have so confused the art issues that they've given cover to the people who would argue that art can be anything. There is no generally acknowledged gap between "art" photography and everything else. You will find arguments that the most casual snapshots are "art." That old B&W photos found in flea markets may be "art," even when the original intention (and even the maker) is unknown. Because photography does not have the long history of rigorous criticism and commentary that painting does, a lot of people simply say, "Okay,if you say it is, I guess it must be." It's possible with photography that what will eventually come to be accepted as the art of our time simply won't be distinguishable for fifty or a hundred years because there's too much of it, and the critical appreciation of it is not as rigorous as it is in other arts -- but that eventually, a body of work will emerge in some much later time that will be accepted as the "art" of our time. We just won't know what it is. But I would be willing to bet, even if I'm not around to collect on it, that strongly manipulated photos will not be in that body of work.
I agree with most of what you say John, up to about maybe 1920. Do you think photography has been more radical when it comes to transgressive art than painting, sculpture and installations? My impression is that painting led the way, but I haven't really thought it over. Rigorous criticism seems to be lacking in all the arts, especially when there is money to be made.
As to whether manipulated photos will be accepted as "art", time will tell. My feeling is that those which use manipulation to get at the truth will make it, and the rest won't. At least that is how it has been to date.
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