Sunday, November 4


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There are a lot of explanations for every photograph. I could write a caption for this one taken in St. Peter's that has to do with smoky incense and ancient symbols. Or about the loneliness of seldom used spaces in busy places. Or the caption might be about the perseverance of faith... The robustness of life... The edge where belief trumps proof.

It doesn't matter really.

Photographs have the ability to skip their reins: to pull free of their explanations. No matter how concrete the image appears to be, its meaning is as much a belonging of the viewer as it is the artist's. This is so far less the case with painting, or play-writing, novels, or sculpting. I wonder if photographs don't have more in common with music than with the demonstrative arts? Or if what we do is common with anything except, what we do?

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/4/07, 10:52 am: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 33mm, Exp 1/13@f/11, ISO 400, Metering Mode: Pattern, Exposure bias 0, Camera RAW


NOTE: You may often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. Those comments begin here. To follow the thread chronologically start at October 7th.


advman said...


I disagree. I think this power to break free of the meaning prescribed by the artist is simply a quality of art. All art.

Some people are more visually oriented, some are not, and non-verbal arts are very likely more prone to it, but essentially it is in all arts. Or have I misunderstood your point completely?


pnfphotography said...

A pondering piece and one that would mean different things to different people at different phases of their life most likely.

Ted Byrne said...

(Andreas) Nope, you got my point and we seem to come to different conclusions about a part of it.

1. We seem to agree that defninitions through say cpations - are slippery and that the image can mean different things to different people.
2. I argue this is, if not uniquely a phenomenon of photography, much more strongly one. Yes, there are ambiguities in most art, particularly the visual ones. BUT, I feel that the bond between a caption and its image is much stronger in painting, poetry, and sculpture... certainly in novel and script writing, than it is in photography. Only in music does the title (which is a theme's caption) is there a similar loose bond between the explanation and an audience's appreciation.


mcmurma said...

What is in a title or caption but a glimpse of what the creator of the piece wants us to see?

The problem is it's just a glimpse. I see them as being sometimes akin to popping on a light for second in a darkened room, but more often like shining a flashlight, for just a moment, into a dusty corner. In other words, titles rarely contain the whole story, as there is almost always more depth to the piece than we can appreciate from the title alone.

I believe I see your point, Ted, when you say that photographs have the unique ability to transcend titles and mean to the viewer what they may mean to the viewer. Could this be because photographs are so often presented without titles, and are usually regarded as unaltered expressions of our world that can stand without them? (A picture of a rose, after all, is a picture of a rose... even if we title it "Eternity"). I think many ppl still see photographs in the most literal and scientific way, and rely on them to present the facts and nothing but the facts. Only other photographers know that our representations are rarely, if every, as truthful as the viewer would like to believe. Because we know things about the photographic process that the viewer may not.

No matter what the title (if one is even present) the photograph is just another biased glimpse of the photographers world. And often, no explanations are necessary.

advman said...


I don't get it. Why this sharp distinction between photography and painting? And why from you, who constantly work on joining the two?

I see a point that someone could make, namely that photography has more of perceived reality than any other art, but I still can't figure out why exactly you would make this point. "Hulp!", would my fried Ted say :)