Toward art.

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Torus34, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    2,117
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Tottenville, Staten Island, NYC USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    In past posts I've noted the importance [to me] of a print's impact. It's this characteristic, this attribute, which sets a print above others of a similar subject. Impact can arise from the choice of specific subject, composition, lighting and/or image manipulation among other factors. Impact is that something which brings us to a halt and causes us to look at one particular print more closely. It's one of the prime factors, if not the prime factor, in making a print a good or great print when judged against others.

    A recent photo posted on this site under the topic 'Creativity or crap' [sic] got me thinking again about the old discussion of what makes art art. What triggered it was the relationship of the image posted under the topic to Andrew Wyeth's painting of curtains at a window. Wyeth's painting is generally considered to be art.

    And that brought me to another word: metaphor. Wyeth's painting not only provides an accurate image of curtains blowing at an open window but also engenders additional responses. We find ourselves thinking of the freedom of the open -- the freshness of the breeze -- spring and its sense of new beginnings. The world outside the window calls to us. The image -- the painting -- is a pathway to many concepts. It is a metaphor for them.

    Gentle Readers, such extensions beyond a simple likeness of the object(s) pictured in a print or painting is one of the things that makes art art. Art can tell a marvelously detailed story. Look carefully at Caravaggio's Bacchus. Note the ripples in the wine caused by the unsteady hand and the condition of the fruit. But art can transcend simple representation and can also evoke thoughts and feelings. It can be a metaphor of them. There is more in the painting than just the depiction of the god of the vine.

    In photography, consider the well-known print of US Marines erecting the flag at Iwo Jima. [It was a 'created' image, btw.] It certainly tells a story. It has eye-arresting impact [love that word!] based on composition and on the sense of effort and muscular strain so well captured. But it is also metaphor writ large. Victory is an all but inescapable concept, as is pride in country. Triumph over adversity is well-represented there.

    So, along with technical expertise, composition and impact, might you not gain something by considering how to arrange for your final prints to include metaphor? Might the concept not also be a part of your kit along with lenses, the 'rule of thirds', an awareness of the lighting of the subject and the rest of the 'stuff' of photography qua photography?
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2009
  2. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2003
    Messages:
    5,600
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Hermosa Beach, CA U.S.A
    Brilliant! I like your thought process here and what you have to say.

    Personally I feel that invoking a feeling or thought process in ones images is mandatory. Viewers need to be engaged if they are going to hang on for more then 1 second.

    Now; getting to that point is a whole other story. I can say that fully understanding exposure and composition is barely half the battle. Understanding what you are trying to portray is much more important. Fashion photography is a good example of that. Often we see blown highlights or tilted horizons. These technically poor images work because they are selling a feeling.

    Love & Bass
     
  3. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    2,117
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Tottenville, Staten Island, NYC USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Thank you. I've pursued that elusive rascal Art with lens and film and mind for many years. From time to time I've been rewarded with a glimpse of a dimly-lit figure in the misty distance. But no more than that. I've come to realize, finally, that Art is not a butterfly to be pinned to a board of words. But perhaps, just perhaps, mind you, we can produce a quick sketch of some facet of the whole.

    Photography is at bottom a means by which we can 'write' an image on a surface. It shares that characteristic with 'drawing' using pencil, pastel, watercolor, oil, crayon or whatever. There are many, many parallels between photography and the other graphic arts. What is modern image stabilization but a transposition of the Mahl stick?

    Photography's 'problem' has always been that it includes, by its very nature, a trap for the unwary. That trap is technical expertise. It can, for some, be a 'Roach Motel(r)' with an enticing entrance -- and no exit. You can see hints of it in many of the posts on this site. Technical knowledge can become an end in itself, absent any consideration of the fact that it is but a handmaiden to expression. It maps nicely, by the way, onto the story of the hi-fi addict leaving a concert hall muttering, 'Too much bass.'

    And that is what I have tried, from time to time, to point out. Photography can be more than a mechanical technique. It can be far more than mastering the latest technological trick [presently HDR]. The question, for me, has been whether it is possible to give substance, with words or prints, to that 'more'. Once in a while the mist seems to thin a bit -- a vague shape is seen. Sometimes it's a single word emerging like an image lit by safelight in the developer tray.

    I've been haunted for many years by a comment of a master painting instructor*. I'll paraphrase it as best I can.

    "Give me a student with some ability and in 10 years I can give him the technique of a master. But then once he has it, what will he do with it?"

    *Unfortunately, I do not remember its author. But he put his finger squarely on the pulse of the matter.

    PS: I've had fun working metaphors into the above. An old man's conceit.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Messages:
    38,255
    Likes Received:
    5,010
    Location:
    Iowa
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I think Pablo Picasso said it best in 1935 during one of the rare interviews he ever gave,

    "Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird. Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them. But in the case of a painting, people have to understand. If only they would realise above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree."
     
  5. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    2,117
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Tottenville, Staten Island, NYC USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    KmH:

    Hi! And thank you for taking time to reply, including the additional step of providing the quote.

    The Pablo Picasso known to us through his comments as well as through the books and anecdotes of those who knew him was, to say the least, a complex individual. Accordingly, what he said about art and about himself as an artist should warn us against simple readings both of what he said and also about his art*.

    Taken at simple face value, he says in the quote that art [and by extension the artist qua artist] cannot be understood. I would certainly agree with him if the word 'fully' was interposed between 'be' and 'understood'. [I've an inborn wariness about absolutes, you see.] It is here that my own mindset comes to the fore. To know something at all is to open the door at least a crack to knowing more. If we can say that we can [sometimes!] recognize art when we see it, we have established that there is something about it that is knowable - at the very least, we can say that it is a subset, no matter how fuzzily bounded, of all objects. We can then inquire into just what it is that makes this subset recognizable at all.

    This parsing of concepts is what led to my IP. It was the result of my mind's mumbling.

    To quote Vonnegut: 'And so it goes.'

    *Nb: On a far more humorous level, do check into some of the delicious comments of that most shameless of self-promoting artists, Salvatore Dali. Dada [or perhaps surrealism?] transported to the realm of words!
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  6. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2005
    Messages:
    14,394
    Likes Received:
    3,261
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Fortunately you have some of the more artistic souls on this forum responding to you, so you're in good shape.

    As someone learning? No... growing, perhaps? Yes, I suppose that works. As someone growing into an artist. Nope, that's not it. Evolving, perhaps. Oh I don't know what I'm doing.

    What I'm personally finding is that the artistic side of many of us is buried under endless piles of crap. :lol: People's opinions, all sorts of technical mumbo-jumbo, what lens we're supposed to use in situation X or Y, etc.

    Not that any of this crap is actually crap... it's just that the amount of importance placed upon it seems to far outweigh some other things that really matter, too. Like... emotion, impact, color, patterns, brightness and darkness, what our heart and soul sees instead of just the deepest technical recesses of the mind.

    I'm starting to think that art comes from when you come to grips with everything and start piecing it together in a way that is meaningful... to you... to others... to those dead and gone... to those not born yet.

    I dunno. I'm still piecing it together myself, so obviously I'm still analyzing it. It's my nature, anyway. The real interesting thing is I'm starting to think that my best art comes when I analyze it the least and just go "Oh my god, this will be so COOL!!"
     

Share This Page

Search tags for this page

picasso stated that, everyone wants to understand art. why not try to understand the song of a bird? what was he saying?