Re: the last supper. The meal could have literally been my LAST SUPPER had the heart procedure the following day gone horribly wrong. Fortunately, as it turned out, it was just my last supper before the procedure.
Excerpted from Szarkowski's quote, re: Vantage Point (as presented in yesterday's entry) ...
From his photographs, he learned that the appearance of the world was richer and less simple than his mind would have guessed.
As should be obvious to "serious" picture makers, there are many impressions / lessons to be gleaned from his/her pictures and, just as important, from pictures made by other picture makers. However, if one wishes to move beyond discerning the mere technical / technique properties to be noticed in a picture, one must develop and cultivate the capability to look beyond those properties and beyond whatever the picture depicts in order to see the print as an object in and of itself.
Garry Winogrand stated,"Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed." And, of course, the print is the evidence of how a "thing looks photographed".
The "thing" itself is experienced by the picture maker in a 3D world. In turn, the 3D "thing" itself is reduced to a 2D representation of that "thing" on the flat surface of a print. That 2D representation can then viewed as a collection of shapes, forms, lines, colors and tones-indepent of the depicted referent-which work/play together, within the frame imposed by the picture maker, to create what I refer to as a field of visual energy*.
iMo, it is the field of visual energy to be seen / experienced in a picture which stirs / stimulates the mind and soul / intellect and emotion of a viewer and it does so in a sensuous subconcsious / thoughtless manner ...
... Susan Sontage wrote that interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. That interpretation-an overabundance of importance placed upon the content or meaning of an artwork-interferes with (or even negates) a viewer's ability to be keenly alert to the sensuous aspects of a given work.
All of that written, in my experience I have found that most "serious" picture makers' first impression upon viewing a picture (their own and those made by others) are focused upon: 1.) the referent, and 2.) the technical qualities of the picture's presentation. For the most part, they have never learned how to see the sensorial beauty that lies beyond the depicted obvious.
More's the pity inasmuch as, if a picture maker is oblivous to the unthought known hidden beneath the surface of a picture, he/she will never be able to let go of the intellect employed in the making of their own pictures and learn how to "feel it" when making / viewing pictures. Consequently, they will make pictures using the "rules" of composition in mind rather than finding a vantage point from which they can "arrange"-more by "feel" than thought-the visual elements of their 3D referent into a 2D sensual field of visual energy.
To close, 2 ideas expressed by Garry Winogrand:
A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else. and The photograph should be more interesting or more beautiful than what was photographed.*that field of visual energy can induce in a viewer a sense of serenity or, conversely, discordance.
I am constantly amazed at how many picturing opportunities - resulting from serendipitous occurences over time - there are in my house. Makes me realize that I should create yet another "hidden"-in-my-picture-archive body of work comprised of pictures made within the confines of my house. A body of work which I suspect would most likely be my largest body of work and could aptly be titled Ode to André Kertész.
Moving on to another topic .... with the exception of my life without the APA work, I have almost always been an advocate for and the making of straight photography. I believe that the medium's unique-to-the-visual-arts intrinsic identity as a cohort of the real is photography's defining characteristic. I also believe that making pictures - which are visually interesting - of the everyday commonplace world is the most difficult to achieve use of a camera.
In addition to the preceding paragraph, it should be quite obvious to write that the camera is fully capable of capturing pictures which are very accurate representations of the real. That written, I believe that, in the digital picture making realm, the pursuit of "perfect" pictures - specifically, ultra high resolution and defiition - has had a deleterious effect on the notion of photography as an art. To wit ....
... in effect, this visual "perfection" has bent the medium and its apparatus more toward super documentation / analytical rather than to the poetic. Consider this writing by Lorenzo Papadia (regarding his Fade Point work):
I believe in the strong evanescence quality of things, beyond the appearance, where everything ceases to be «true.» In the digital age we are all obsessed by the high fidelity of the image, the so-called «quality». I believe photography should be lacking in the perfection of its materiality. I think instant photography today may turn away from this «surplus visibility», providing us a more poetic view as it envelopes the concept in a veil of mystery and secrecy...
While I have made thousands of Polaroid pictures (literally) and while I really like Papadia's Polaroids, iMo, Polaroid photography steps a little bit too far outside the line of straight photography. It is, again iMo, a bit too "poetic" and too enveloped "in a veil of mystery and secrecy". Those notions aside, the Polaroid is a fully capable means for the making of great pictures.
Re: my "straight" digital picture making - I have, from day one, deliberately avoided the pursuit of "perfect" pictures. My choice of cameras has always been dictated by the deliberate avoidance of ultra-perfection state-of-the-art sensors. In the making of my first prints made from digital files, I deliberately added soft vignetted corners to the pictures (and still do to this day) in order to introduce "traditional" photographic imperfections. And, I love the look of my 24"x24" prints made from my "mere" 16mp files.
My preference for the aforementioned "imperfect" manner in which I make pictures is dictated by a single consideration .... even though current state-of-the-art camera sensors "see" in ultra high definiton, the human eye does not. Consequently, I want my pictures to look and feel more like what the human eye sees rather than what a sensor sees.
A few days ago on TOP, Mike Johnston wrote:
Here's one small way that smartphones are better cameras than other cameras, which no one seems to ever talk about. What if you see—recognize—pictures better on a screen than through a squinty eyepiece viewfinder? ... it's perilous to my ego to consider that I might "see" (compose) better with a flat screen than with a more lifelike and dimensional eyepiece view ... because they tend to "flatten" the scene, that is, make it look more two-dimensional rather than three-dimensional, which (I suspect) aids me in visualizing what the picture will look like as ink on paper.
Ever since I purchased my first Olympus (E-P1) digital camera, I have been using the LCD display as my sole picture making reference. Even with my purhchase of an Olympus OM-D series camera, I still use LCD displays as my primary picture making reference - although, I do use the EVF for fast moving sports (hockey) picturing. I use the LCD display for the very reason Johnston mentions, its flattening effect.
FYI, I should write that, in my commercial picture making life, I spent a lot of time under a focusing cloth, both for my 4x5 and my 8x10 view cameras. In addition, I also spent considerable time looking down onto the viewing / focusing screen of various medium format SLRS. In each case I experienced a heightened awareness - relative to OVF viewing - of a picture's structure (some might say,"composition").
Why is the flattening effect so important to my picture making? The simplest answer is that printed pictures - why make pictures if not for printing them? - are flat 2D objects. And, that intrinsic characteristic (together with my eye and sensibilities) dictates and directs my attention - both in picture making and picture viewing - to a picture's form, i.e. the manner of arranging and coordinating parts for a pleasing or effective result.
Consequently, I perfer the 2D experience, as viewed on an LCD display, in the making of my pictures.
RE: Johnston's statement, "...one small way that smartphones are better cameras than other cameras, which no one seems to ever talk about. iMo, the reason no one talks about the flattening effect of viewing a referent on a display / focusing screen is quite simple ... very few picture makers, even "serious" ones, think of or perceive printed pictures as 2D objects. For most, a picture is a window which allows a viewer to perceive, albeit faux, a 3d world.
All of the PHOTOGRAPHS IN CONVERSATION pictures are assembled and ready to print. Inks are on their way and Friday is the marathon printing session.
If a medium is representational by nature of the realistic image formed by a lens, I see no reason why we should stand on our heads to distort that function. On the contrary, we should take hold of that very quality, make use of it, and explore it to the fullest. - Berenice Abbott
Now consider this:
Writing as a picture maker who has been, for the most part, a committed practioner of straight picture making, I whole heartedly endorse the preceding quote. However, inasmuch as I have recently strayed from the straight (and narrow) I have had a few thoughts, re: straight picture making. FYI, rest assured that my commitment to straight picture making is as secure as ever. However ...
... the thought has occurred to me that one of the photo medium's problems in being considered as an art form is, in fact, the very idea that a photo is just a realistic image of real-world referents and nothing more. While the statement, That's a beautiful picture, is often heard, that statement is directed, more often than not, at the depicted referent as opposed to the picture as a thing in and of itself.
While a similar statement-change "picture" to "painting"-could be made, a painting, however, is almost always considered by a viewer thereof to be art (good, bad, or indifferent). Whereas a photo is most always considered to be just a picture of something. And, as we all know, anyone can take a photo but it takes a "real artist" to make a painting.
Since the beginning of time, picture making wise, many picture makers (Photo Division) have been devoted to making "art" by veering away from the straight (and narrow) and lathering up photos with a lot of art sauce, re: visual effects - especially effects which are part and parcel of the painting genre. The new world of digital picture making has only added to that proclivity. In most applications, the effects are intented to negate the relationship of the picture to realistic representation.
Other picture makers have come to the conclusion that they can make "art" by picturing only "spectacular" referents. And in doing so, they typically add as much art sauce as possible by making those pictures in the most dramtic manner possible ... warm directional light, wide angle / telephoto lenses, ND filters to make dramatic skies, and other dramatic picture making techniques.
All of that written, now consider this:
The coffee cup / reflected light picture in this entry. If it were a painting, most viewers would consider it to be art. Afterall, it is a painting, made by an artist. As a photo, most viewers would consider it to be a picture of a coffee cup and inquire, Why did you take a picture of that?
FYI, the above commentary should not be understood to be a complaint nor a rant. It is just an observation in the cause of creating some food for thought.
I will be publishing entries as I go.
I think I'm coming close inasmuch as the three pictuures in today's entry are; 1 made with my iPhone camera module and processed on that device, 1 made with my iPad camera module and sent to my desktop for PhotoShop simulation processing, and, 1 made with a "real" camera and sent to my desktop for processed PhotoShop simulation processing.
When it's all said and done, I believe that it's difficult to discern which is which. Anyone wish to venture a quess?
While I have no desire or intention of "cheating" in the making of my the new snapshot pictures, there will be times when the iPhone camera module will not be suitable for capturing a referent in the manner in which wish to present it.
FYI, when using my iPad, with its 10 inch screen, to make the picture in this entry, I felt like I was using a view camera relative to the iPhone screen. However, each device makes the same 12mp file. Interesting perception nevertheless.