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Author Topic: Art 'n Science 'n Photography  (Read 45524 times)
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #60 on: December 21, 2005, 10:38:00 AM »
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Jonathan, re your last post, the same goes for post-capture processing. That is one of the reasons why I suggested quite some posts ago that the dichotomies being proposed between art and science (craft, technique, etc) and photography and painting are not useful.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #61 on: December 21, 2005, 12:45:24 PM »
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Every technically competent photographer uses the principles of the scientific method whenever he or she picks up a camera. Claiming that technically competent photographers don't use "science" is ridiculous.
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I don't agree. I certainly don't use the principles of the scientific method (of course, you may then make the obvious deduction). But anyway, what about grab shots ?  And, even if it is as you say, using the principles of the scientific method does not necessarily equate to doing science.

I think that perhaps you equate "using science" with "doing science". Who knows. Arguably we use science every time we switch on a light. But anyway, as far as I'm concerned, photography is at the very best heuristic. I certainly don't go through whatever little theory I know whenever I look through a viewfinder.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #62 on: December 21, 2005, 01:56:08 PM »
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That is because if you take many photographs and you do it conscientiously, alot of your decision-making becomes instinctive, or second-nature, but it is still based on photographic principles that have both artistic and scientific foundations. Hence, your work is the combined result of art and science. And if you were painting pictures it would be the same in principle, but with a different set of creative constraints and possibilities influenced by the medium. I find all of this so obvious that the discussion is kind of pointless - unless I'm missing something?
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #63 on: December 21, 2005, 02:22:38 PM »
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That is because if you take many photographs and you do it conscientiously, alot of your decision-making becomes instinctive, or second-nature, but it is still based on photographic principles that have both artistic and scientific foundations. Hence, your work is the combined result of art and science. And if you were painting pictures it would be the same in principle, but with a different set of creative constraints and possibilities influenced by the medium. I find all of this so obvious that the discussion is kind of pointless - unless I'm missing something?
Yes, you and Jonathan are both missing something, and it's something really obvious.

Applying HDM is not science. It's not even the same as using science, doing science or imitating science.

This is something we learn during our first year at a university, guys.

Yet it's completely irrelevant to the points Alain Briot appears to make, or to anything but the meta-discussion of "what does this particular word mean".
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« Reply #64 on: December 21, 2005, 02:27:34 PM »
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That is because if you take many photographs and you do it conscientiously, alot of your decision-making becomes instinctive, or second-nature, but it is still based on photographic principles that have both artistic and scientific foundations. Hence, your work is the combined result of art and science. And if you were painting pictures it would be the same in principle, but with a different set of creative constraints and possibilities influenced by the medium. I find all of this so obvious that the discussion is kind of pointless - unless I'm missing something?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=54072\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You may be missing something. People who think that a creative form like photography or painting involves science (and some famous artists, like Seurat, actually thought that) tend to be unable to either see past the structure of the technology they're using, OR they make fruitless attempts to achieve art by doing what scientists to, which is to reduce a problem to its most basic elements, and then rebuild from there. Art doesn't seem to work like that.

I'm now going to make a generalization which will annoy some people, and to which I am sure there are exceptions -- and that is, people who take scientific and engineering approaches to art generally fail. Engineers in particular seem to be drawn to photography, perhaps because of the aparatus involves a lot of technically interesting aspects (optics, materials, timers, chemistry, etc.) and yet may produce art. Still generalizing, I find that there are a lot of engineers who make photographs of extreme competence, but of little interest, because they tend to focus on the reductive -- the most perfect exposure, the best edge sharpness, the greatest dynamic range. This leads to preoccupation with subjects like aspen trees, water leaping over rocks, slot canyons, and so on, which really demonstrate the technology, but when you look at it...well, who really gives a sh*t? You've already seen 10,000 photogaphs like that in your life, why do you want to look at another one?

The application of technology doesn't lead to art, it leads to repeatability. Good art tends to be unique, each and every time, and is unrepeatable. If you sent Ansel Adams back to Herndanez New Mexico to shoot moonrises a hundred different times, chances are he'd never exceed the results he got the first time.

What you're missing here is that ART doesn't involve science except in the most useless sense; so if you want to make art, approaching it from a scientific point of view is essentially useless. The Briot essays would be better off discussing methods for achieving a personal vision...

Jonathon tends to throw around words like ridiculous, which no longer bothers me, because I've been a forum member for a while, and value his other insights, but frankly, saying that photography involves science is about like saying riding a bicycle involves science. Bike riding may illustrate a lot of scientific principles, and make use of a lot of technology, but getting up the mountain first ain't science.

JC
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« Reply #65 on: December 21, 2005, 03:02:57 PM »
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[chomp]
What you're missing here is that ART doesn't involve science except in the most useless sense; so if you want to make art, approaching it from a scientific point of view is essentially useless. The Briot essays would be better off discussing methods for achieving a personal vision...

[chomp]
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=54075\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

So, what are the other essays about?
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« Reply #66 on: December 21, 2005, 03:49:49 PM »
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I'm now going to make a generalization which will annoy some people, and to which I am sure there are exceptions -- and that is, people who take scientific and engineering approaches to art generally fail. Engineers in particular seem to be drawn to photography, perhaps because of the aparatus involves a lot of technically interesting aspects (optics, materials, timers, chemistry, etc.) and yet may produce art. Still generalizing, I find that there are a lot of engineers who make photographs of extreme competence, but of little interest, because they tend to focus on the reductive -- the most perfect exposure, the best edge sharpness, the greatest dynamic range. This leads to preoccupation with subjects like aspen trees, water leaping over rocks, slot canyons, and so on, which really demonstrate the technology, but when you look at it...well, who really gives a sh*t? You've already seen 10,000 photogaphs like that in your life, why do you want to look at another one?

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=54075\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I would tend to agree with you - but (the inevitable but), I would take things in a slightly different direction.

IMHO, I believe that photography is a craft which is technical in its execution and, hopefully, repeatable over a number of varying situations. It involves a certain set of tools which, in a master craftmans hands, can produce any range of works. This is, as far as I see it, what you are describing above and dependent upon the design that the craftsman is working to will determine whether the output is functional or artistic. (At this point in time I have the image of a woodworker in my head, who is using various chisels, planes and hammers to produce output - this may be utilitarian or artistic depending upon the design that they are working to).

On the other side of this equation we have the Art Director (AD). The AD has a creative vision of what they would like to see on paper, but not necessarily the technical skills to take the picture. In such cases they will employ a photographer to execute their artistic vision.

So, within a polar view of the world we have photographers who provide technical execution (but little artistic vision) and ADs who provide artistic vision (but little technical execution). In the real world though we each have a little bit of both Photographer and AD, though being exceptionally skilled in both domains is rare. What I personally see in these discussion boards are a lot of Photographers (highly skilled in the technical domain) who have not at the same time developed as ADs. Therefore, as JC points out we see lots of photo's with technically perfect execution, but of limited artistic value. It is also why an AD with a point and shoot is able to provide compelling images even if the technical execution is not necessarily brilliant.

I believe that Michael has been succesful because he has not only grown as a technically competent photographer with a good working knowledge of how to get the best from the equipment, but also as a skillful AD who is able to marshall the resources of a scene to provide an arresting image. A good example of his skill, and what a real AD would work to achieve, is the fisherman pictures in China where the vision was in place of what he wanted to achieve.

This is primarily a photographic forum, but perhaps sometimes we need to put down the equipment and actually think things through from the ADs perspective.
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« Reply #67 on: December 21, 2005, 04:01:00 PM »
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Yes, which all boils down to say that in photography, as in painting, there is a combination of art, science, craft, technique - it is not either or in one or the other. I don't know what Alain has up his sleeve for the next essays, but I am one of those who think that more intellectual attention to the artistic and existential foundations of the photographic medium could make a more useful contribution to knowledge than the largely false and irrelevant dichotomies between art, science, photography and painting that the first essay and ensuing discussion has generated.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #68 on: December 21, 2005, 04:55:52 PM »
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Perhaps photography is more like dance than painting.  The "real time performance" aspect of shooting can be critical.

Peter
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #69 on: December 21, 2005, 05:05:03 PM »
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Jonathan, re your last post, the same goes for post-capture processing. That is one of the reasons why I suggested quite some posts ago that the dichotomies being proposed between art and science (craft, technique, etc) and photography and painting are not useful.
I agree with your first point re post-capture processing, but not your second. I see Art and Science (or at least the application of the scientific method to the technicalities of photography and post-processing) as symbiotic complements of each other, neither complete without the other, at least in the context of photography and painting. Art answers the question "Where do I want to go?" and Science answers the question "How do I get there?"

Realizing that a subtle, soft glow around a candle flame imparts a romatic mood to an image falls within the domain of Art. Science guides the techniques used to create that glow, whether through the applied mathematics of a partially transparent Gaussian blur in Photoshop, or determining the optimal formulation of the paint used to create the glow and the optimal pattern of brush strokes necessary to apply it with the desired result. It's not a dichotomy, but rather a partnership; two aspects of a process that must be united to achieve the best possible result.

There seems to be an attitude among some of the posters in this thread that if it doesn't involve people in white lab coats standing in front of a complex apparatus jotting notes with obscure chemical formulae or mathematical equations, it's not "science". This is is a wrong-headed and narrow-minded view of science. As pointed out in the definition posted earlier, science is the organized application of knowledge, whether that knowledge pertains to the explosive properties of chemical compounds, the mating habits of bats in Central American caves, or the proper aperture to use when shooting a head-and-shoulder portrait of a college coed. While it is certainly possible for untrained and inexperienced amateurs to get lucky and capture a memorable photo, the application of the scientific method to the technical side of photography will certainly increase the probability of achieving the desired result. Experience is nothing more than the practical application of the scientific method, regardless of whether the application is made consciously or unconsciously.
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« Reply #70 on: December 21, 2005, 05:24:21 PM »
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The application of technology doesn't lead to art, it leads to repeatability. Good art tends to be unique, each and every time, and is unrepeatable. If you sent Ansel Adams back to Herndanez New Mexico to shoot moonrises a hundred different times, chances are he'd never exceed the results he got the first time.

What you're missing here is that ART doesn't involve science except in the most useless sense; so if you want to make art, approaching it from a scientific point of view is essentially useless. The Briot essays would be better off discussing methods for achieving a personal vision...

Jonathon tends to throw around words like ridiculous, which no longer bothers me, because I've been a forum member for a while, and value his other insights, but frankly, saying that photography involves science is about like saying riding a bicycle involves science. Bike riding may illustrate a lot of scientific principles, and make use of a lot of technology, but getting up the mountain first ain't science.

JC
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John,

I understand your point, but I feel that you and Alain actually mostly agree.

Beyond the distinction between science and technology, you perceive as well the temptation to focus on that "mechanical" dimension instead of letting art take over.

IMHO, the mgt of these 2 dimensions is the essence of the message Alain is trying to put across.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #71 on: December 21, 2005, 05:38:21 PM »
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Jonathan - there is no disagreement between us on my second point - what I said negatively you said positively - i.e. when I say that drawing dichotomies is not useful, it is not useful because of the symbiosis you mention. We are on the same page about that!
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #72 on: December 21, 2005, 05:43:50 PM »
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Jonathan - there is no disagreement between us on my second point - what I said negatively you said positively - i.e. when I say that drawing dichotomies is not useful, it is not useful because of the symbiosis you mention. We are on the same page about that!
OK, that makes more sense then. To-MAY-to vs To-MAH-to!
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« Reply #73 on: December 21, 2005, 05:50:59 PM »
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"I'm now going to make a generalization which will annoy some people, and to which I am sure there are exceptions -- and that is, people who take scientific and engineering approaches to art generally fail. Engineers in particular seem to be drawn to photography, perhaps because of the aparatus involves a lot of technically interesting aspects (optics, materials, timers, chemistry, etc.) and yet may produce art. Still generalizing, I find that there are a lot of engineers who make photographs of extreme competence, but of little interest, because they tend to focus on the reductive -- the most perfect exposure, the best edge sharpness, the greatest dynamic range. This leads to preoccupation with subjects like aspen trees, water leaping over rocks, slot canyons, and so on, which really demonstrate the technology, but when you look at it...well, who really gives a sh*t? You've already seen 10,000 photogaphs like that in your life, why do you want to look at another one?"

I think you have done an excellent job of summarizing one of the main points of my essay and of providing possible examples to illustrate it.  

"The Briot essays would be better off discussing methods for achieving a personal vision..."  

Some of the next essays in this series will address that, and my previous series did include an entire essay on personal style.

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #74 on: December 21, 2005, 05:53:01 PM »
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Yes, which all boils down to say that in photography, as in painting, there is a combination of art, science, craft, technique - it is not either or in one or the other. I don't know what Alain has up his sleeve for the next essays, but I am one of those who think that more intellectual attention to the artistic and existential foundations of the photographic medium could make a more useful contribution to knowledge than the largely false and irrelevant dichotomies between art, science, photography and painting that the first essay and ensuing discussion has generated.
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Yes, but no, but yes, but no...

From my perspective there is a big difference between photography (as an execution) and producing a piece of art (having the vision). Whether the terms 'science' 'technology' 'craft' are used to explain the execution of photography is immaterial. I also stongly believe (because I see it on a regular basis) that the 'creative' and the 'execution' can be seperated into two different individuals working together. Yes, a successful photograph is the combination of art, science, craft, technique; but that doesn't mean that all those elements come together in one set of hands. Perhaps photographers are guilty of assuming that they are masters in all domains required to produce successful creative artpieces and that leveraging other resources in the conceptualisation of the final vision is not something that comes naturally.

I agree with you on everything else that it needs more emphasis on the creative (and assume/hope that is where Alain is going), but also wanted to posit that not everyone is going to have both creative and execution skills to produce top quality work.
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« Reply #75 on: December 21, 2005, 05:58:46 PM »
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OK, that makes more sense then. To-MAY-to vs To-MAH-to!
What about to-may-TOE?
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Jan
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« Reply #76 on: December 21, 2005, 07:03:27 PM »
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Only in Oslo  

David, the difference between photography and producing a piece of art happens when people use photography for purposes other than producing a piece of art. Photography is a medium for producing art, as well as a medium for forensic analysis, as well as a medium for historical documentation, as well as medium for medical research, or for commiting family events to memory, etc., etc., etc. IT DOESN'T MATTER, this is totally pointless dichotomy and a totally pointless debate, because within its technical parameters photography can be anything anyone wants it to be - including art. Let us get off this and move on.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #77 on: December 22, 2005, 12:21:56 AM »
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Still generalizing, I find that there are a lot of engineers who make photographs of extreme competence, but of little interest, because they tend to focus on the reductive -- the most perfect exposure, the best edge sharpness, the greatest dynamic range. This leads to preoccupation with subjects like aspen trees, water leaping over rocks, slot canyons, and so on, which really demonstrate the technology, but when you look at it...well, who really gives a sh*t? You've already seen 10,000 photogaphs like that in your life, why do you want to look at another one?"


Alain
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I'm not an engineer, so I have no idea what motivates engineers in photography...

But overall the above seems a very strange comment, especially coming from you, as you've just described about 80% of the images you have displayed in your galleries on your site...   Are you saying you don't give a sh*t about your own images?
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alainbriot
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« Reply #78 on: December 22, 2005, 01:20:14 AM »
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"Alain, I appreciate your effort and attempt at sharing your experiences in fine art photography.

this thread reminds me of many years ago (I was a top insurance sales person with an insurance company) I was invited to speak at a small group of newer insurance want to be's.
I gave my talk and tried as best I could to give practical tips on how to be successful in the business. I told them some specific things that certainly worked for me.

At the end of the speech an agent approached me (and I was thinking he was going to thank me for the great advice and tips, especially since he was really struggling trying to make ends meet). and told me that he kept track of my speech and counted # of ahs # of ohs and so on.
It appears there was no connection between my thoughts and his ability to hear what I was saying?

I appreciate any new approaches, ideas that can move move down the road to being a better artist, as I am sure most here are."

Larry,

I think this is a great story, and I agree that people don't always take the time to listen to (or read) what you have to say. Thank you.

Alain
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #79 on: December 22, 2005, 05:51:41 AM »
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I'm totally confused by this whole discussion.

When I'm taking a light metering, setting up studio strobes for a correct fill ratio and angling and diffusing them to suit, when I'm selecting a telephoto lens to compress the landscape/portrait or vice versa with a wide angle, when I'm taking a WB reading, when I'm choosing the correct support system for a long exposure, etc, etc

with all of these things I'm using my knowledge of the physics/technology of photography to enable me to carry our my artistic vision. Without those I would not have a photo however artistic my composition and vision.

This photo was pretty difficult to execute on a technical level. I needed an extremely stable tripod/head combination which together with a wide angle lens focused at the correct hyperfocal distance to provide front to back DOF at f11, shooting at 1/10 iso 1600 on the 10D for a beautiful print of 18X12". I've not even mentioned the post processing work.
All the above has been an explantion of the technical aspect of the photo. You've not seen it yet and therefore the technical aspect has no relevance to the idea I was trying to portray, by definition.

Now look at it: The Western Wall (might be bigger than your screen, resize till you can see the whole thing, sorry)

I went there with the express wish to convey the peace, serenity and scale of The Western Wall (Old City Jerusalem), the holiest of Jewish sites, at night when the tourists are gone leaving just a few men praying there. This photo taken at 3am, I believe, conveys the idea that I wanted, and in print you could almost be there, you can reach out and touch the wall. I sell this picture at a rate of about one a week.

Do the people who buy it care about how I took it? NO. Do I? not particularly, I had an idea and set out to make it real using the skills that I have. But without the technology of photography I would have been unable to take this photo, period.

You can't seperate the art and the science when without the science there would be no art?

No doubt I'm misunderstanding the whole thing again....
« Last Edit: December 22, 2005, 05:55:15 AM by pom » Logged

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