Asserting a Photograph.

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Maris
Posts: 641
Joined: 27 Jul 2012, 16:02
Location: Noosa

Asserting a Photograph.

Postby Maris » 28 Jan 2013, 12:18

Re: Lily Pond with Log.

Postby Andrew Nichols » 27 Jan 2013, 01:19
Signed titled and stamped verso

Why do you write that on every photo
It's irrelevant to the image?

Andrew Nichols' comment hints perceptively on the unstable identity of photography, how it actually is and how it is uncritically perceived. It's worth an earnest reply.

I reckon a guiding principle to understanding can be found in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951) who stunned his colleagues at the University of Cambridge with the observation that many difficult conundrums are not real. They are merely misuses of language. In a nutshell (forgive the simplification) the words available to you determine what you can say. What you say determines what you think. And what you think determines what you see.

First a picture. It's a screen-looker depicting a photograph:
Image
Forest Nude, Noosa.

Gelatin-silver photograph on Kodak Polymax Fine Art VC FB photographic paper, image size 19.3cm X 24.2cm, from a Kodak TXP 4x5 negative exposed in a Tachihara 45GF double extension field view camera fitted with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm f8 lens.
Titled and signed recto, stamped and dated verso.

The thing intended to be present here is not the screen-looker, an artifact of the internet, but the photograph behind it; a real thing. The word "image" for a photograph is dubious usage. An image is any representation of anything in any form. Even poets traffic in images via simile, metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, and so on. The hazard of muddling photographs and images is that eventually the image on a monitor screen will, in the minds of some people, become indistinguishable from a photograph. Don't tell me this does not already happen!

The catalogue descriptions under my pictures are intended to affirm their physical reality. This form of words is offered as a contradiction to the millions of people in possession of millions of electronic files who say they have photographs and eventually come to believe they have photographs. The bluntest description of a picture says what medium is on what substrate. My photographs are gelatin-silver emulsion on fibre base so that's what I say.

It seems to be be becoming odd that a photograph has size. No, not so many kilobytes or megabytes, that's a data file size, but actual centimetres of long measure. I put vertical dimension first and horizontal second. It's the international standard for art objects.

For those who think the surface of a picture is everything, "looks like" incorporates the sum of "all there is", art theory affords a long history of formal analysis. It's amazing how an inspection of line, form, tone, mass, composition, etc can entertain the eye just like an elaborate Rorschach ink-blot. I go the other way. By declaring the physicality of the photograph, the reality of the work flow that made it, and its connection to real-world subject matter I try to offer entertainment for the mind not just retinal massage for the eye. The work flow is all mine. No part of it is down to hired minions in some workshop, somewhere, labouring to flatter my skills so I will feel good about paying their fee.

Putting a title on a photograph is important. The title is not an explanation or an anodyne for ambiguity. A caption can do that if needed. Rather a title distinguishes one photograph from another and gives each work its individuality.

Signing a photograph is also signing-off on it. There may be an element of moral courage in affixing one's name to an art-work. Everyone will know who the perpetrator is and acclaim or opprobrium will fall squarely where it is deserved. Think of the opposite: students or dilettantes who bring folios of photographs for critique or benediction and start by apologising for them. A photograph announced with an apology does not deserve to be shown or signed. Signatures can be forged but I'm the only one with my unique stamp so it goes on the back of every photograph I'm prepared to answer for.

On a lighter note I take another fine quote from Andrew Nichols which goes in part:
Painting however expressive or abstract will always be more infinite in realism
Is because it is real
It is paint on canvas

I'm sure the original photograph underlying the above picture is real too; just as real as a painting. For the record the actual photograph weighs 15.75g and is 0.3mm thick but including that data in the description is maybe going too far; even for me.

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RoganJosh
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Joined: 29 Aug 2012, 11:26

Re: Asserting a Photograph.

Postby RoganJosh » 28 Jan 2013, 21:02

That was a good read Maris - and mostly agreeable.. except for this part.

Maris wrote:
The work flow is all mine. No part of it is down to hired minions in some workshop, somewhere, labouring to flatter my skills so I will feel good about paying their fee.


It's kind of hard to draw the line in this reguard, I mean you don't make your own chemicals, film and paper from scratch. These things are just tools to get to a finished product just as a scanner and an inkjet printer are. I can't see how you buying a certain film and paper to get a specific end result is any different to someone who goes to a certain inkjet print lab to get a specific result.

But at the same time I realise that an 8x10 contact print looks damn good, but does it any look better than an 8x10 peizography k7 print? I guarantee that 99.999999999999999% of the population could never tell the difference between the two and even fewer could tell the difference if the k7 print was made into a digital negative. The point i'm making is that the general public doesn't care about methods in photography (and art in general) unless these methods create a visual result that is exceptional and different. The result is always the most important part.

Do we care that Claude Monet used pre-mixed oil paints and pre-made canvases?

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Maris
Posts: 641
Joined: 27 Jul 2012, 16:02
Location: Noosa

Re: Asserting a Photograph.

Postby Maris » 19 Feb 2013, 12:09

I beg your indulgence re this ramble of philosophising. It's been raining for days and I can't get out to expose film. And RoganJosh's comments open minds and provoke thought.
RoganJosh wrote:That was a good read Maris - and mostly agreeable.. except for this part.

Maris wrote:The work flow is all mine. No part of it is down to hired minions in some workshop, somewhere, labouring to flatter my skills so I will feel good about paying their fee.
It's kind of hard to draw the line in this reguard, I mean you don't make your own chemicals, film and paper from scratch. These things are just tools to get to a finished product just as a scanner and an inkjet printer are. I can't see how you buying a certain film and paper to get a specific end result is any different to someone who goes to a certain inkjet print lab to get a specific result.
The "making things from scratch" argument comes up regularly from people who want to claim authorship of work they have had made for them by others. The implication is that if you do not make your work from scratch your authorship claim is no better than anybody else's. The fallacy here is obvious when one considers that nothing can be made from scratch. As Carl Sagan succinctly put it: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
Apple pies also highlight the tension between recipe and product. If you devise an apple pie recipe and send it off to the lab, I mean bakery, are you the author of the pie that comes back? What if you bake a pie according to a recipe written in a book. Who then is the author of the pie? The baker or the writer? Or is nobody the author because the apple wasn't made from scratch? I reckon the only fair system is to identify who did what; a list of credits like the ones rolled at the end of a movie.
But at the same time I realise that an 8x10 contact print looks damn good, but does it any look better than an 8x10 peizography k7 print? I guarantee that 99.999999999999999% of the population could never tell the difference between the two and even fewer could tell the difference if the k7 print was made into a digital negative. The point i'm making is that the general public doesn't care about methods in photography (and art in general) unless these methods create a visual result that is exceptional and different. The result is always the most important part.
This style of argument was identified by Aristotle in his catalogue of fallacies as set out in the Organon (circa 340BC). It is called the argumentum ad populum and supposes public opinion offers a guide to the truth of the matter in question. It may be a personal failing but I don't feel comfortable with art-work that achieves success through successful deception.
Do we care that Claude Monet used pre-mixed oil paints and pre-made canvases?
Yes, absolutely. The invention of paint in zinc tubes and the availability of pre-stretched canvasses near the beginning of Monet's career enabled the possibility of painting en plein air. Without these key inventions Impressionism may not have happened.

Andrew Nichols
Posts: 181
Joined: 11 Dec 2012, 17:19

Re: Asserting a Photograph.

Postby Andrew Nichols » 22 Feb 2013, 17:45

[/quote]
I'm sure the original photograph underlying the above picture is real too; just as real as a painting. For the record the actual photograph weighs 15.75g and is 0.3mm thick but including that data in the description is maybe going too far; even for me.[/quote]

Missed my point.
And I'm not trying to start an argument of photo v painting
But one of my above points was that besides being textural and especially in oil, paint offers the captured expression of the brush, which is a highly sensitive instrument capable of recording more information from the painter than I can talk about.
Sorry my point was that a photograph is a flat print of a painting.
And if you look deep into a print you always get a similar set of circumstAnces. Dots and blur etc. to be general.
A painting has layers and layers of glazes that catch the light
And when you look closely at a painting it never looses detail
As it is still part of fractal reality.
Look at blue poles. Or any painting with lots of paint involved.
And photographing a painting is always a second best operation.
A William Turner is always best live for eg.
However yes a photo of my hand typing this boring letter will always be of great detail.
Any way not saying ones better as each has strength
And I enjoy both. Though I enjoy painting a lot more as I've been doing it for years and photo stuff still humiliates me with failed attempts. Usually from stupidity!!

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