I would like to take my practice further than just making or taking an image for the sake of it. Being a farmer or a hunter of photography is very important to understand.
Cassavetes, J. IMDb. (2019). Shadows (1958) – IMDb. [online] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053270/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_16 [Accessed 14 Feb. 2019].
BARTHES, R. (1981). Camera lucida: reflections on photography. New York, Hill and Wang.
Stacey, W. (2018). Photographs Not Taken. Artron China, Daylight Community Arts Foundation.
Photographs not taken: The book arrived. I was interested to read how some photographers handle the missed shot. For my project “Fences” I missed a shot of a kid sitting on this fence. I thought how apt. As I was on the fence between representation and abstract photography. I did not get the shot, I had no film left. I did not take my I-phone with me, and I did not have my digital camera either. I felt bummed about it, but thought about recreating it, also from then on, I always have my digital camera with me, even if I am shooting film. I keep the last two shots in the camera, I don’t shoot the roll empty, unless I have a spare, so I did learn something from the mishap. Also, I learned this module, that restating the image is okay also, that image construction is not a bad thing. I also believe that the shot will turn up again, it has happened for me before. I don’t know when, but I will be ready the second time around.
I read: Young Timothy Archibald’s story about leaving his film at home on a film shoot. His dad dropped him off, he had no money, the stores was closed. He decided to fake the shoot. He was afraid of people, but on this occasion it did not matter somehow, as he pretended to photograph. People were nice, friendly and welcoming. He learned from his missed shots: there is nothing to be afraid of.
I think it’s important to keep this in mind in every aspect of making images. Fear creeps in, in various ways. Also, an opportunity lost is an opportunity gained.
Thoughts on Ansel: For the longest time, I have put the works of Ansel Adams to bed. He was a landscape photographer, very good at what he did, but for me I needed something a little more “Creative” Lately however, I am so glad I learned the “Zone” system, and how to develop and print an image. I can expose very well and develop a fine looking negative. How valuable this information is to me. I am technically very competent both in film and digital, and I can use these forms help me express my ideas and concepts. I do not worry about the technical side anymore, and this has given me a tremendous feeling of freedom.
If I see any image in film or digital, I do to concern myself how the image was made from a technical aspect, I just look at how it was conceived creatively, so half the battle is won, I only need to do half the work. This is all thanks to Ansel. He gave me a lot in that regard. Once in a while, I will pull out ‘The Negative” or “The Print” (I have one signed by him which I treasure very much) which I got from him when I need him up in Carmel, back in 1984. I still do some technical referencing, but not very often. His knowledge has remained at my finger tips, and is used in one way or another, daily.
What attracts in the image? It has always made me wonder, why I love a certain photograph, or painting over another, what pierces my heart for that minute I spend the extra time gazing at an image.
While studying my B.F.A. at Cal Arts, I finally had the opportunity to meet Ansel Adams. I was working at Panavision part-time while a student, and a fellow camera technician mentioned that Adams was having a retrospective up in Carmel and if I would like to go?
We drove up to Carmel by the sea, to the Weston Gallery, where the retrospective was being held. This was back in 1984. It was here that I had my first opportunity to see an Ansel “MURAL” print, the biggest print he made.
The title is: ‘Clearing Winter Storm. ‘ Back then I was all into technique, who had the best to offer, and still does. No-one has ever surpassed the Zone system. And, if used correctly, can compress or expand a wide dynamic range into VIII Zones of detail, with Zone 0 and Zone X being pure black and pure White. [A small caveat, there is no ‘0’ in Roman numerals, and wonder if Ansel knew that, I guess, nothings perfect.”] I was enamored by the detail, sharpness, contrast, tonal-range, shapes, edge burn, a dust/spec free image, the list goes on. I remember standing 4 inches away from the print trying to find the smallest speck of dust or air bubble. I searched for any type of flaw. However, I could not a single imperfection. I had excellent vision back then, I could read newspaper fine print standing up, so, if there was the tiniest imperfection, I would have found it. There was none! The Mural was technical love at it’s finest, I have never seen a better hand made print since. Then, I finally had the opportunity to meet Ansel, sit in his ZONE V Cadillac Sedan De-ville and have a book signed. It was a great experience, a moment I will always treasure. As a young film/photography student back then, there was no finer moment. I had met the Maestro. One always leaves with something when these events occur, even if it’s being able to re-count the experience decades later, with fond memories. When I look at prints to-day, I still use the same technique. I go up close and scrutinize the print quality in fine detail (technique+form) then I step back to take in the image as a whole (content)
This stepping back and looking at the whole ‘field,’ is what Roland Barthes calls the Stadium, one of two attributes, that calls one’s attention to the photograph. The other being the punctum.
I like the way he named these two attributes of an image, which ranges in looking from the general to the specific, the field to the spot, the square to the point. That lightning bolt, or cupids arrow, that shoots out at you from the image that paralyses you for that moment, as if venomed from a snake bite. I like the way he talks about the punctum striking outwards.
In Adam’s ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ I was sucked in, pulled inwards, drawn into the bright white light of the clouds in the valley, suspended between Half Dome and Bride Veil Falls. I have been up to that vantage point and never seen it look like it does in that Adam’s print. He did some alchemy in the darkroom up there in the Carmel Highlands.
So, I tried an experiment. I looked at the print as if it were a 3-D image, and started to concentrate, and allow my eyes to draw slowly for the foreground to the background, rolling the focus slowly backwards. The foreground started to blur and the background began to thrust forward as if the clouds started bellowing towards me. The whole area between Half-Dome and Bride Veil stands out in the most amazing way. The angles of the rock faces get exaggerated, the snow covered peaks become more visible, the cloud climbs upward into the sky like a whisp of smoke, and finally as the eyes begin to focus and the image becomes clear, I am drawn forward to the blackness of the two pine trees in the foreground.
I will still have to do some more study of the punctum, I am just at the beginning of physically understanding it, however intuitively and emotionally, it is very clear. For me Barthes has given me a way to understand how to feel an image as opposed to just seeing an image.
Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida. Hill and Wang. New York.
Stacey, W. (2018). Photographs Not Taken. Daylight Community Arts Foundation, Arron, China.
THE INDEX AND THE ICON.
Key ideas raised by Snyder, Allen and the presentations: Both critics and laypeople, have had their opinions about the photographic image and whether there are differences between it and other visual arts. Many questions are raised about the domain. Is it superior or inferior, subjective or objective, do photographers create?
It is not Snyder nor Allen’s aim or intent to show that answers presented by different groups, as being correct or incorrect; or there is nothing to capitalize from by the differentiation of the photographic and other forms of visual art, but to put forth an appreciation of what modern critics and laypeople believe about the medium in comparison to critics of the past. Snyder and Allen will do this by going back in time, to delve into a different era to see what the domain was appreciated or criticized for, back then.
Peter Henry Emerson  believed that pictures served to inform, which he called ‘scientific division’ and to provide aesthetic pleasure he called the ‘art division’ Emerson believed in naturalism. To give the photograph the same cognitive impression as a viewer would experience at the position the camera was placed to make the image. One of the principle differences, is that photography approached objectivity in a way painters could not. A machine produced the image for photography; the hand and the brush produced the image for painting. Photographs were not regarded as representations, but realizations or objectifications of the actual.
It is possible, individuals of the day, believed what they saw produced by the camera, because in the early days, line and form were machine made. No human hand interfered in the making of the image. This is of course different in today’s practice. The hand, has once again touched or interfered with the image making process, with programs like Lightroom, Photoshop. Some in collusion with tablets like Wacom, using the stylus as the interstellar-age paintbrush. In essence going back, once again, into subjectivity of painting, which was overcome by Niepce and Daguerre, at the beginning of the photographic revolution.
If I may say, I am not against these advances, in fact, quite the opposite, I am an advocate. (just not in my practice) However, I am for it in other domains. As we approach, this fringe of time, where the brain is no longer capable of processing fast enough (the computing power of the human mind is lagging) This advance by machine other, is the indication of this fact, because the mind is putting forth, and projecting realizations, through the hand and external machines, which it, of itself, is not capable of actualizing as yet, under it’s own cognitive power, but can predict it. However this lagging, will not be for long, once liquid memory/or spongiform memory is perfected and integrated into us. These kinds of advances will be second nature, and creativity on this level, be available, by mere thought alone.
See image below: by a PhotoShop artist I know. J. Withers. Ad for Volvo Before/After
See image below: by a Photo-Shop artist I know. J. Withers. Ad for Volvo Before/After
Task: Vision and Representation: The battle between photography and other forms of representation continues to rage in Photography,Vision and Representation.
Let me start off by saying by talking about creation and creative, because this word is used a lot, without being fully understood, and thrown about, like dice, and hoping each throw will be a 7. If the absolute definition of creating is adhered to, no-one is a creator, other than the Transcendental Divine Other, for at the absolute, the definition of creating is: The bringing into being or forming something out of nothing.” Therefore as creatures, are un-able to create, only transform, because, everything made, is made from something. Anything and everything a human or animal makes, is made from something already in existence. All, is made from Prima Materia except the Primal Material itself, which is created by the Transcendental Divine Other. The closest one can come to creating, is to approach it, by obtaining the ‘essence’ of the Primal Material.
Is there anything that sets photography apart from other modes of picture making methods? And, as such does photography need any special ways to evaluate what the image represented is?
One of the primary differences between photography and other representative art forms like painting and sculpture is: Sculpture and painted images are made in the light, and photographic images are made in the dark. From this standpoint alone, a photographer has to able to see in the dark. . . the inside, where the true essence resides. The camera is very much like the human head. It has an eye, a brain and is able to register images in its memory, whether analogue or digital, which can be stored and retrieved immediately or at a later date. Paintings and photographs are made in different ways. Both require an instrument. Paintings are created slowly over time whereas the photographic image is made almost instantaneously. The painting is built and the the photographic image is harnessed. In the end, both disciplines produce an image which is a representation of what is seen by the eyes, or by the mind. Both mediums realize internal and external cognitive experiences in the form of a tangible object, which can be touched, looked at and contemplated upon. Ideas and experiences, transformed into material. Alchemy at its best. The result of it’s actions are the same. A actualized image or object to gaze and contemplate upon. The methods of getting there, is the only difference.
When it comes to this question, “What is photography” Here is my answer: It is a mechanical medium for recording and reproducing images. Is it art? It can be. In the hands of an artist, out comes Rhein II. In the hands of a mechanic, out comes a passport photo, that has to be made again, because the first one was too dark. There! I have just answered two questions, that have been argued about since the inception of photography. I put those questions to bed at age 6, when I held my first camera, in a dusty mining town in Africa. Already I knew, with this machine, anything is possible, I also knew, long, long, would be the journey of discovery.
Here is the two most challenging questions: ‘What is art?” and ‘What is the purpose of art?’ (Photography, painting, music, sculpture, film, poetry, it does not matter, it applies to all.) I have searched for these answers for over 4 decades and traveled to some of the farthest, highest and most exotic places on earth. Every person that wants to be an artist must search for this essential Primal Material themselves. This, is what makes a Malevich, Kandinsky, Klee, Gursky, Bach, Blake, Siskind and the like. They found ‘their’ Stone. What serves me as an answer will not serve you, you have to find your own.
Tasks: Question of Authenticity:
Response to the statement of Barthes: ‘In the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation’. Camera Lucida (1980: 89)
My understanding is that Barthes regards a photograph as provenance of something’s existence. He may have been correct or at least understood back in 1980, but not to-day. Photography has changed. We all know photoshop can do anything, image manipulation is imperceptible. Barthe says: “Painting can feign reality without having seen it. Contrary to these imitations, I can never deny that the thing has been there.” In todays world an image can be created from digitally from 1’s and 0’s to look as real as any actual object or subject it represents. Dead actors are well on their way to being digitally revived.
Digital awareness has caused society not to accept a photograph as an authentication, without questioning it. By definition, authentication is proof; representation is portrayal. Therefore the former is in the realm of the actual and latter in the realm of the real. These signifiers are used interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing, when they do not.
As a practitioner, I am interested (at present) in constructing images that convey an idea or a concept. My project “Fences” is used as a metaphor about control. So, manipulation of the image comes into play on many levels. However this type of image construction, is understood by the viewer as a means of expression and the means is accepted.
Compare this to a product shot: A glass of Cola topped with ice. The ice you see, is not ice, but acrylic cubes made to look like ice. The Cola may be some other liquid made to look like Cola, but may be burnt transmission fluid or the like. This is what the average viewer/consumer is not aware of. This is one of the reasons I prefer creative over commercial photography. Not that it’s innocent, but done for different reasons.
Reading: This week I read an article by Grant Scott: “Why is narrative such a difficult concept for your photographers.” I don’t think this is limited to young photographers particularly, as I am finding it rather difficult to narrate my series on ‘Fences’