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:
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.