Sunday, July 29

Character

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The father of fine art photography, Alfred Stieglitz, once wrote a letter of rejection to a woman hoping for a show in his famous Little Gallery, "(This gallery) is devoted to ideas. And I feel that your work, good as it is, is primarily picture making. That is not adding to the idea of photography, nor to the idea of expression. And for that reason it would be out of place in the Little Gallery." Stieglitz felt that his greatest work was "teaching the value of seeing. And teaching the meaning of seeing."

Ike Johnson is decent. Once, when the word had meaning, he'd have been called a gentleman. Now, instead of calling him any of those things... I wanted to distill them out in today's posting. But... but... but...

The problem with photography is that it is too easy. Cheap representationalism - is what critics have called it. As photographers first grow serious, they go off in search of the Holy Gear. They want a mystical machine which will spin their straw into gold. Following the gear-head stage, photographers bury themselves in the mechanics of composition, palette, and form. They master a litmus test which focuses on the picture to the almost total exclusion of its content.

It's the Stieglitz Stage which follows for those few who burst through to an understanding that nature has its rules, and so to does photography - and it's the photographic rules which image makers must impose upon nature. How they do it... and what they convey to viewers - how they manipulate meaning to communicate an idea - that's ultimately what differentiates photographic craft from art.

Problem is, the bulk of viewers want to stay at stage two. They're not sensitive to ideas as much as they are to form. I am seduced by the idea. But like everyone else, I'd like visitors to like me. So... how to combine form with idea? At least enough so that people may still murmur, "Wow!", even as they go, "Hmmm....".

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, Canon EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6), 1/8 at f/5.6, ISO:800, Exposure Bias Value -1, Focal length: 72mm, Time 7:28 pm, flash: off, Metering Mode: Average, Camera Raw.

7 comments:

John Roberts said...

Maybe your most interesting essay yet, Ted. Most of the time I feel I'm stuck at stage two looking longingly at stage three. I guess it's the challenge of it all that keeps me excited about photography.

pnfphotography said...

I always enjoy the chatter with each of your images. Always something to ponder for sure. I think the challenge for photography artist is to being to the table a scene they would not see and in as many forms as possible. I find as I grow into this art form if I am true to my own eye it is always a far better capture than if I try to follow rules or a view that is not true to my own vision. Your art always stirs an emotion as well as your words that describe things so vividly.

pnfphotography said...

Cripes I tried to catch that comment as I have a misspell.

I think the challenge for photography artist is to BRING to the table......

I need to proof read faster..lol...grins

Ted Byrne said...

(John) I'm not sure I agree. You do work that grasps a an intuitive sense of character, place, and lost moment. And you find those things in a color palette which I envy.

(pnf) You are becoming a very important (and I use that word with purpose) equestrian photographer. But... but... it is because you can somehow combine an epic sense with a tenderness. Those should not be compatible qualities. And yet, over and over you are doing it. I think it is because you know how to apply the rules in a way that allows you to intuit craft in a way that is letting you increasingly do effortless art.

Anonymous said...

I think you meant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Stieglitz
rather than
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Stiglitz

--Pat

Ted Byrne said...

(Pat) Yipes... I certainly did mean Alfred Stieglitz not Joseph and I shall correct it immediately. I was not until this moment aware of a Joseph Stieglitz, and shall rush off to find out who he was and why my mind shuffled his name into the master's. Thanks for the correction. I really should research these essays rather than depending upon memory... it dims. Sorry.

Hmmmm... just checked http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Stigl, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Stieglitz and the wiki gives up no information on either of them. Either he is reeeeeely obscure, or his fame awaits some new poster. …:)

Ted Byrne said...

Wait... wait... I see there is a Joseph E. Stiglitz. Hmmmm.... and yes... yes... I recall his work which lead to a Nobe Prize in information asymmetries. In fact it was Stiglitz, as opposed to Steiglitz whose work has provided both tools and encouragement for many contemporary economists to apply their craft well beyond the fields of finance, money, scarcity, and distribution. Perhaps that was my confusion. But the names are pronounced so differently that I doubt it.....

When stupidity alone is sufficient explanation.... why look farther, eh?

Ted