PICTURE ONLY GALLERY LINKS
The life without the APA pictures are here
The The Forks ~ there's no place like home gallery is here
The ART ~ conveys / transports / reflects gallery is here
The Decay & Disgust work/book is here
The single women selects/book gallery is here
The picture windows selects/book gallery is here
The kitchen life selects gallery is here
A 10 picture look at Tangles, Thickets, and Twigs ~ fields of visual energy is here
So successful has been the camera's role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful. ~ Susan Sontag
OK. I didn't post while I was in Canada. Our internet wifi connection was sporadic at best and slow as hell when it was available. So, no go.
In any event, I'm back at it and would be armed with a boat load of Sontag quotes which I marked up in my copy of her on photography mini-tome - except for the fact that the book is still in the cottage at Chaffey's Lock. However, while I await its return, I do have some Sontag quotes on my hard drive.
So, I'll muddle along, as best I can, to give you all some food for picturing thought.
As always, comments appreciated.
Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know. ~ - Groucho Marx
The wife and I are off to rural Canada - the Rideau Lake area - tomorrow morning (Monday) for a week of R&R. During the week the wife will be hitting the big 50 so on the big day we'll visit Ottawa for a celebration. And since our cottage has an internet connection, I will be posting during the week.
Pursuant to yesterday's entry in which I presented a few excerpts from Susan Sontag's writings, re: the medium and its apparatus, here's another which, IMO, very accurately forecast what transpired in the decades following her writing:
In photography's early decades, photographs were expected to be idealized images. This is still the aim of most amateur photographers, for whom a beautiful photograph is a photograph of something beautiful, like a woman, a sunset. In 1915 Edward Steichen photographed a milk bottle on a tenement fire escape, an early example of of a quite different idea of the beautiful photograph. And since the 1920s, ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, have steadily drifted away from lyrical subjects, consciously exploring plain, tawdry, or even vapid material. In recent decades, photography has succeeded in somewhat revising, for everybody, the definition of what is beautiful and ugly ...
A few points: I don't if the preceding was written before or after the 1975 landmark exhibition, The New Topographics at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, but it was certainly presented at or very closely to that date. However, that exhibition was the beginning of a ground breaking shift in, as Sontag wrote, "revising .... the definition of what is beautiful and ugly."
I would however, take issue with the idea that it revised it "for everyone". Of course, if by "everyone" Sontag meant (as quoted yesterday) "ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, she was right on the money. I would also include in that everyone, institutional curators and gallery owners/directors. Without a doubt, the New Topographics aesthetic sensibility rules the Fine Art picture making world to this day.
Also without a doubt, my picture making truly follows in a direct line from those early practitioners of the New Topographics genre.
All of that written, what haunts me, re: my work, is the idea Sontag put forth in stating that ".... having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form ... Today everything exists to end in a photograph."
I picture things on almost daily basis. One might even state, as Sontag wrote, compulsively. Not that I believe there is anything amiss in that endeavor but .... I have to wonder, as I have for quite some time, am I substituting pictures for actual experience?
Certainly, I make pictures because I am stimulated to do so by an actual experience - in Sontag's words, a public event* - which has captured my eye and sensibilities. However, I must admit that after making a picture, I seldom stop in order to smell the roses of that which triggered my picture making activity.
In fact, what I do, more often than not, is savor the finished result of that picturing, the finished image/print, after the fact of its making. One could accurately state that I appreciate, primarily but not completely, the picture more than I did the actual encounter with the pictured referent. And, I do not think that I am alone in this MO.
So, I have a question for all of you out there. Am I alone or do any of you do the same, i.e., appreciate the picture more than the public event that you witnessed and recorded?
ANSWERS PLEASE. After all, this works better as a two-way street of give and take.
*Public event does not mean an event such as a parade, concert, sporting game, or other gathering with a specific activity with a gathering of people. In Sontag's context, a public event simply means anything that can be seen and pictured - trees, water, flowers, cats, dogs, clouds, buildings, et al. Anything that is available to be seen. Like, as an example, the fire escape pictured in this entry.
Susan Sontag had much to write/ state, amongst many other things, about photography. Her writings on the medium and its apparatus (aka: its conventions, language, and traditions) were provocative and in some quarters quite controversial. And, as with most of her writing, it was set against her critiques of modern society, culture, and politics. Nevertheless, IMO, the collection of her essays, Sontag's seminal work on photography - On Photography, explores a host of interesting topics and ground on the subject:
Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world - all of these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs. But other less liberating feelings are expressed as well. It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmé, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.
In writing the above, Sontag's "today" was circa 1973-77. One can only imagine what her idea of today's photography / image saturated world might be. In that same era, Sontag also wrote:
Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing - which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite .....
Holy twitter / flickr / tumblr / instagram / et all, Batman. I, for one would love to read/hear her thoughts on those "social rite(s)".
I am re-reading On Photography primarily because I am becoming rather fixated on the idea of what is a photograph? and I appreciate the fact that the book is not an academic term paper - according to one source, "Sontag's work is literary and polemical rather than academic." I'll second that idea.
In any event, re: the question what is a photograph?, Sontag has much to say relative to my preoccupation with the question. a few excerpts:
A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refuting it .... Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks .... Any photograph has multiple meanings: indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: " There is the surface. Now think - or rather feel, intuit - what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way." Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.
I think I'm going to get much more out of this re-reading than I did the first time around. Highly recommended if you can stick with it.
idea 1 - I don't understand why people think everything has to have meaning. While painting the Mona Lisa did Leonardo Da Vinci intend for it to have greater meaning than a work of art that he made? ~ Devin J. Monroe
idea 2 Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art. ~ Susan Sontag
Each picture should have only one principal idea, topic, or center of interest to which the viewer's eyes are attracted. Subordinate elements within the picture must support and focus attention on the principal feature so it alone is emphasized ... A picture without a dominant center of interest or one with more than one dominant center of interest is puzzling to a viewer. Subsequently, the viewer becomes confused and wonders what the picture is all about. When the picture has one, and only one, dominant "point of interest," the viewer quickly understands the picture.
In my picture making life, I have made my fair share of panoramic pictures*, more so in my commercial picturing days, less so in my personal / art endeavors. Of those many pictures - certainly numbering the low 100s - 90% of them were interior panoramics which was the specialty niche I craved out for myself. And, if there's one identifiable hallmark of panoramic pictures - interior or exterior - it's that they contain a lot of visual information, most often multiple center of interest which are spread out over a fair amount of acreage, print wise.
Interior panoramics were most definitely my picturing thing. I was - and still am - captivated / fascinated by the amount of information, visual and otherwise, which can be crammed into an interior panoramic. In addition to a central visual interest, there can be multiple areas of other interests, all of which - in the best application - can combine to tell a very rich story. Even without an obvious central interest, the pictures still work to draw a viewer in.
And that is exactly what my clients liked because, unlike a quick read and move on picture, my interior panoramics held a viewer's attention much longer than a "conventional" view of only part of a similar scene. In the advertising game, it's all about getting a viewer's attention. Better yet, is getting that attention and holding it beyond the quick look. Interior panoramics accomplished that end quite well.
That written, despite all of the visual information / various centers of interest, no one has ever been dazed and confused when viewing one of my interior panoramics. Viewers never had to wonder what the picture(s) were about. In most cases, they readily dove into the pictures' "complexity" and had a rewarding times swimming about.
All of that written, I don't believe panoramic pictures are an exception to the "one center of interest" rule. Any picture, any format, can be visually dense, complex, involving and completely successful as a good/great picture. Sure, a host of boobs and simpletons will run screaming in terror from a picture which requires an effort to "get it". But so what? Is that really the viewership you want to make happy and/or have your pictures appeal to?
FYIThe two top pictures in this entry were made with multiple frames stitched together in Photoshop. The interior pano was made from 8 separate frames, the exterior pano was made from just 4 frames. The bottom two pictures were made with a Widelux 1500 medium format film camera - 2 of my many pictures from the A Day in a Life of an Urban Hospital book. One thing nice about using a panoramic camera for such a project is that my pictures ended up on a lot of two-page spreads.
*My primary workhorse cameras were Widelux cameras (140˚-150˚ fields of view)). I have since sold my Widelux 1500 (120 roll film) but I still have my Widelux F8 (35mm film). On occasion I rented a Roundshot 35mm film camera - they are all digital now - which was capable of making 360˚ pictures.
It was Renoir who stated, "You have to be cork, a cork in the current, You have to follow the current." It was his son, Jean Renoir, the renown film maker, who added, "Of course, the cork has to be a little intelligent, not completely stupid. It has to try to shift to the right or to the left so a to choose the moment when the current is best suited to it and to move a little in this direction, but the general direction is determined by events, by the current." Then, writing of currents, there is this:
The artist one day falls through a hole in the brambles, and from that moment he is following the dark rapids of an underground river which may sometimes flow so near to the surface that the laughing picnic parties are heard above. ~ Cyril Connolly
I bring up the notion of the cork, the current, and the dark rapids of an underground river as a follow up to the recent being original / finding your vision entry (triptych # 18 ... variety is the spice of life / on being original). IMO, being like a cork (with a little intelligence, not stupidity) and flowing in the current of what you see in the dark rapids of the underground river part of life - got to get through that bramble patch of filtered seeing first - is a fine way to find your vision.
Of course, that course of action depends upon the corks ability to "feel it", because unless you feel it you will never understand it ....
Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs. ~ Pablo Picasso
Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself. ~ Berenice Abbott