View Full Version : Originality...

03-14-2005, 04:41 PM
I was just thinking about originality in photos and was wondering whether it is a useful or important quality.
Does it exist? Can it exist?
Is it necessary, in some degree, for a quality image?
If so, how can we measure it?
Should we aim for it?
Does too much make an image unintelligible?
Is there any point thinking about such an obscure concept?

If anyone has any thoughts on these difficult questions, I am very interested.

03-14-2005, 05:55 PM
this is a very good topic david
i guess i have my views and they're very subjective
i think originality does exist, but even without originality a photograph can be great

when i say that originality does exist i'm not being very strict about the term "original" because nobody has any idea of all the photographs that are being taken all around the world. we normally get to see the works of only the well established photographers, and that too of just some of them. so while i might think that a person is original , because i've never seen anyone with a style of photography similar to his/her's there might be some more photographers with a similar style shooting elsewhere who i don't know about.

it is easy to say that in the earlier days of photography, you could get lots of original stuff, but now that lots of photographs are already there, it's difficult to think of anything original. it seems really difficult but maybe it's just that we are so accustomed to seeing what we already see that we can't look beyond it.
take a look at TE itself....

"can we measure originality???"

i don't think so.. you just know that something is original or atleast has some hint of originality, but i don't think we can measure how original it is.

"should we aim for it??"

ofcourse........ but not at the cost of just shooting aimlessly.
even a different perspective to the same thing can be original.
i don't know about the others, but personally, i get bored of shooting the same thing in the same way very easily and i need to experiment.
also as a viewer too i get bored quite easily.
at the moment steve mccurry bores me ( although he's one of my favorites) but i've had a little too much of his style now, and need something different. only then can i appreciate mccurry's photographs again later.
( no offence meant to the great photographer here)

"does too much make an image unintelligible"

difficult question to answer..
i'll be tempted to say "not at all" but maybe it just depends on how the viewer sees something. so in that sense this is very subjective. while i might find something original and intelligent, someone might just find it nonsense. so in that sense even originality becomes subjective doesn't it?
for example have a look at <a href="http://www.magnumphotos.com/c/htm/FramerT_MAG.aspx?Stat=Portfolio_DocThumb&V=CDocT&E=29YL53ZJBIEZ&DT=ALB">trent parke</a> or <a href="http://www.agencevu.com/fr/photographes/default.asp?Photographes=1">michael ackerman</a>

i don't know if to many people will appreciate their photographic styles. they're both new and they're style is quite different. i would say original. maybe originality needs time to be appreciated.

"is there any point thinking about such an obscure topic?"

ofcourse there is, if people didn't think about this, i don't think photography or anything else would have progressed.

just my own thoughts and they're quite biased :)
take care

03-17-2005, 01:30 AM
Hi Sohrab, and thanks for replying - it looks like we are the only 2 members who have any interest in this topic, so I may as well let you know what I think.

Broadly speaking I agree with everything you say - and yes our views are subjective, originality is a subjective concept.

A few things have occurred to me...
Photography differs from other disciplines as it is (essentially) representational. Obviously we can have art photos or works of art that include a photographic element, but these are different from what we mean by photography, which involves some element of representation of the world.
This affects the concept of progress - in painting you can have the development from representational to impresssionist to cubist etc, but this is not relevant to photography.
In photography progress seems to be associated more with the technical developments
(daguerreotype - black and white - colour - digital etc). Progress and originality are inseparable, equally difficult concepts.
There seems to be a movement exploring the boundaries of the representational image - (you mention Ackerman for example) - and this is interesting (philosophically if not visually). As these boundaries get pushed further then, once a limit has been reached, then the result will be unintelligible. This is, as you say, going to be a personal limit which will differ from one viewer to another.
This has worrying implications for originality, in that its a fine line between being sufficiently different from anything we have seen to be original, but not so different as to be unintelligible.
And then there is style.
Style is the antithesis of originality. What I mean is that if a photographer has a certain something that makes his/her photos recognizable, then this very same thing that prevents the next image from being original. This is difficult as a style may be original. Your mccurry example is a good one. Maybe he has an original style but you are bored of it because he sticks to it too much. That is to say that he is making unoriginal photos within an original style.
So is it the style or the image that should be original? There is no answer to this, but there must come a point where one is parody of oneself, and I guess that especially as a respected professional it must be even harder to try something new rather than stick with your usual winning formula, there is more to lose. (I am not thinking of mccury here by the way). The flip side is that maybe this stylistic something is exactly the thing we should strive for, not originality of each image.

Also maybe we need to think about distinction between originality of subject or originality of style, or originality of technique.

and yes, originality needs time to be appreciated, or to be got used to at least.

I am still not convinced that we can get anything out of thinking about this stuff, but it helps use up the hours...


03-17-2005, 02:09 AM
<i>Photography differs from other disciplines as it is (essentially) representational. Obviously we can have art photos or works of art that include a photographic element, but these are different from what we mean by photography, which involves some element of representation of the world.
This affects the concept of progress - in painting you can have the development from representational to impresssionist to cubist etc, but this is not relevant to photography.</i>

I will not agree with that definition, David. The essence of photography is not representational but mostly for me related to TIME, this is the great originality of photography over painting or sculpture which is representational in 2D or 3D but doesn't include any element of the 4th dimension and also over cinema/video which doesn't distort time as photo (but has movement as its essence). it's no secret why the decisive instant theory has had so much sucess : if you read HCB himself, he considers time as the most important factor in photography.
Yes, at first painters were concvinced photography would steal their business until pictorialism showed a new way to photography.

but where does it lead us? back to originality and "style". French philosopher Barthes analysed photography as a viewer and found to things in it :
- the studium or all information or artistic messages a that are common and received as such by readers. Very roughly, you could say that a still with no specific lighting or such a corny David Hamilton like lighting is entirely studium, nothing more than information ( (the objects of the still) and the déjà vu been there done/seen that art (David Hamilton). in a way Steve McCurry's photos might be qualified like mainly studium.
- The punctum : something that points to you, like a needle ripping into your heart. the originality of the image that speaks to you personnally, from your experience, your rememberings or your own likings.... and that's different from one image to another, no matter about the general studium.

Why do I explain that? I think Barthes shows that the true explanation of anyone's value in photography has nothing to do with something we would call style (as a recognizable artistic style, but more at individual level (also at a time level because Barthes has previsouly calimed that the essence of photography was that "this was once" and hence feelings had to cope with this piece of time coming back.)

Was I clear enough? No, never mind.. but it's late also, I'm going to sleep...


03-18-2005, 03:15 AM
Thanks for starting this thread david.

Luko: Can I be cruel to M. Barthes? He is elitist. He says (or you explain that he says) that the 'stadium' consists of commonly-held information. Death to Mr Hamilton and all those who take photos of sunsets. And he says that it's punctum, the needle, that will pierce through the armourplate of commonness. But...well, people (I mean real people, the world of boulot-metro-dodo) LIKE stadium. That's why Mr Hamilton is rich from the sale of his books, and why people hang calendars with sunsets on their bedroom walls (apart from a desire to know what day it is each morning they wake up, until the final morning when they don't).

Because the armourplate is a protection against a reality which is frequently far from pleasant. Boulot metro, the common lot of modern Western man.

When I'm in Cambodia and Burma I'm forever meeting people who long to have the life they believe I have in Australia - a TV and a motorcar and a holiday each year. When I'm in Oz I meet people who long to get away to a beach someplace and escape their humdrum lives. One man's studium is another man's punctum.

03-18-2005, 05:37 AM
difficult concepts to define since quite a long time to me...still very confusing...

At the time being I like when I am not recognized...this means having no style...I am still exploring, and I like it this way.

Why would I wish to have a style? To feel confident? To get comfortable about what I am shooting? To improve my skills?

What is right or wrong?
I guess there should be an effort to see things from a new perspective, from a different point of view than usual.

Information is important to human beings. Otherwise we would easily stand in front of a white wall and stare it for hours and hours...Normally we would not do it. So I guess that the "change" is important, this change brings out new information for you and your viewers...

The objects are the same, nothing is new under the sun, rocks, mountains, people...everything is exactly the same and revealed to everyone. It is the way the photographer grabs reality that counts.
This extracts new information from what is already there and nobody cares.

And also the synchronization of events, actions and places that can only be achieved in photography.

Difficult to define,

Interesting topic


03-18-2005, 05:50 PM
It is told there are 9 ways to misunderstand oneself through communication just help yourself. I don't know which one but it looks like we're wandering deep inside one of these paths.

There's no such appreciation such as commonness or originality in Barthes... his thoughts are about individual understanding and feelings on images. You must start the analysis at "signs" (semiotics) level not at "history of art level" (although I admit my explanation was not clear enough, on the other hand I have the excuse I was sleepy too ;-)...as for yourself go and get your cup of coffee, Philip...).

I'll do it once again. Barthes says there are two different things in photo, as well as in any image :

- First is the <i>st<b>U</b>dium</i> (with a U like in "studies", not a A like "people running in small shorts") consists in messages that will be understood by any person, these can be either shapes (<i>"Oh, it's oblong, fruity and yellowy green it looks like a pear... it should be a pear, yes it is a pear!"</i> it can appear very mundane but it needs education to understand that a 2D image is in fact a 3D thing : remember "This is not a pipe".), artistical/cultural references that are well known (Barthes wrote long before Hamilton was a pain in the neck, I selected the example to let you imagine : <i>"oh, there's a kind of light mist around that teenager girl.. it looks ethereal like dreams, yes, I got it! that guy meant to represent romantism... that's it, that's teenage romantism."</i> :( ... see why I was refereing to David Hamilton... his artistics effects are so commonly used and significant they become general knowledge rather than individual level), or categories/genres like landscapes, people photo, war photos, macro, etc.
You can use studium to describe a photo : for instance, it's a still of a hamiltonish teenage pear. Do I belittle something there? No...these are simple cultural facts but I can now figure the photo though I did not give it any artistic/emotional value, is it good, bad, do I appreciate it and why, we still don't have the clue...
That's why you can't say that people LIKE studium, they only understand it.. the liking part is about PUNCTUM.

- The <i>punctum</i> will add the personal or emotional relationship you have with this specific photo. <i>"I hate it because David Hamilton wore ridiculous shirts", "It reminds me the pear I ate after having sex for the first time, and both were good", "Because of that pear, I'm now the owner of 50000 hectares of peartree orchards and the first pear producer in the world", "the light on the pear looks like a hitchcockian move, I'm thrilled"</i>, etc. All these are punctums, you can notice it's a very individuel level, even though one can have these feelings altogether.

I believe the studium and punctum concepts are good tools one should have in mind to comment photographs... at least this is one I have when I criticize images in TrekEarth : where's my punctum, what can I say about the studium?

a link worth reading :
<a href="http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME07/Reading_photographs.html" target="_blank">reading a photograph</a> (and the importance of the story inside)


03-18-2005, 06:04 PM
"Photographs are never clear by themselves"

boy!! am i glad to know that i'm not the only one :)

luko this is a very interesting page. i've bookmarked it and will read it fully some time later, am studying at the moment.

since i read the recent posts here in a hurry, i'm not sure if i got everything. but just to clarify....

if i say that your affinity for photographs with backs and transportation is punctum
am i right when i say this??
this is just to see if i've got the essence of the 2 terms properly

03-18-2005, 06:30 PM
<i>if i say that your affinity for photographs with backs and transportation is punctum
am i right when i say this??"</i>

Mmmh... yes and no.

Because punctum is at individual level, reader and photo wise.

I mean, yes there's a chance it will be my punctum on a specific photo, I will think <i>"Hey, that's a shot that reminds me that island in the Philippines and the moment that guy I saw from behind was waving at a fishing boat coming back to the harbor"</i> or <i>I'm into that scene, like I am living it</i>...

Otherwise it could be no, because people back do not necessarily appeal to me... I could also say <i>"hey, that's a people-from-the-back image"</i> and that would be studium purely.

I know it can sound very theoretical, but one of the qualities of the tool is that it gives you some own discipline to organize your reading.

03-19-2005, 04:55 AM
This is very interesting stuff, Luko, about the Studium and Punctus, and any tool that we can use to interpret images has got to be useful, although I am not sure how far we can go with this one.
'Reading photographs is personal, and inevitably so. Such reading depends on one's upbringing, culture, interests, preferences as well as dislikes; it is also subjected to one's moods.' - this is obviously completely right, but it neglects the fact that we have shared emotional responses, to some degree at least, and these are really the important ones, because without this shared experience there really could be no communacation possible on an emotional level which is what photography is all about. It is certainly true that these feelings are experienced individually, but it is the fact of their commonality that is interesting and ignored by the Bathes approach. Understanding what is happening in the viewer is important, but its not even close to the whole story.
Also, if Bathes is trying to explaining what is happening in the viewer then he should have something to say about originality and style, as the recognition of originality and style are experiences perceived in the individual viewer.

But really these are side issues - although its good to think about meaning, I do not think its relevant to our understanding of originality and its relative, style, as these exist in a different area, unrelated to emotional meaning.

OK - so maybe I can reframe the question in a different way.
If I go into an art gallery and I see some pictures, if there is a Picasso there the chances are very good that I will recognize it, even if I have never seen it before. So what are the qualities that make that picture recognizable to me?
(or a HCB photo, or a piece of Bach, whatever - if its true for one it will be true for all).
Is the style definable? or not?
Both have serious implications, but first we have to work out what are the important characteristics which make the unseen picture recognizable.
Any thoughts anyone?

03-19-2005, 09:48 AM
<i>'Reading photographs is personal, and inevitably so. Such reading depends on one's upbringing, culture, interests, preferences as well as dislikes; it is also subjected to one's moods.' - this is obviously completely right, but it neglects the fact that we have shared emotional responses</i>

I’m afraid I interpret it differently. An “individual reading” may frequently be a common language between the creator and the viewer and it is therefore a bridge between two human beings, hence a share of emotional and subjective responses to the same subject. Individuality is not to be confound with an isolated and hermetic point of view, which should be rather called <i>singularity</i> .

I was wondering for a few weeks now, how to make my contribution to TE’s Monty Python fan club, and this thread serves me well. Remember the scene in <i>The Life of Brian</i> where crowds of people have come to worship their proclaimed Messiah. And he says to them, you don't need me, you can think for yourself, you are all individuals. The crowd chants back in unison, "yes, we are all individuals, we are all individuals." Far in the back, a tiny voice squeaks out -- "I'm not."

This brings us to your subject. Are you original because you’re different from something else, and hence have your own, unique, style? Nope. Originality and individuality cannot exist without their opposite, and the meaning of these words is commonly abused. When we <i>recognize</i> a Picasso, we only recognize a particular link between his different creations (or those which are most commonly known: I may assure you that lots of pencil draws made by Picasso are NOT <i>recognizable</i> at all ). This link may be one or several characteristics that don’t carry any originality in their essence. They become Picasso’s originality in the sense that he reproduces the same signs in more than one of his creations.

Those signs not carrying an intrinsic originality, that means they were probably borrowed. Along the centuries, there were “schools”, “movements”, “societies”, “clubs”, “groups”, “art academies”, etc. It is from the interaction ones have with others that an evolution, and hence an “original” voice can arise and be the source of greater innovation. Some artists pretend to escape any particular trend. I’d say we can say something old in a new voice, or something new in an old voice. Saying something new in a new voice is an exception. Besides I’m not even sure it is not simply a utopia. Individuality is a personal interpretation of what already exists. It doesn’t mean originality, because it is not at the source or the “beginning” of things in their essence.

I’ll leave you with a defying thought. Perhaps we’ve done all there is to do, and said all there is to say. And now we only reformulate, which obviously has nothing to do with original creation. This assumption might be terrifying for every artist. But genius minds are not moved by finding new ideas, but rather by the conviction to write the continuity to a story that seems unachieved to them.

Originality could hence be trying to tell, in our own way, what we have seen and assimilated from tradition. This doesn’t mean being a simple echo of the past, but to become an individual branch of the common tree trunk. The branch can be differentiated by its own <i>“style”</i> . and can be <i>recognized</i> ONLY because it is attached to a common reference.

…. My 0.2 (not very original) cents …

03-19-2005, 10:36 AM
Luko - my point was simply that a lot of people don't want or like originality - they prefer the familiar and comforting.

And, though I didn't say it in my first post, a lot of originality is extremely unoriginal - it simply conforms to a different set of rules. (Like Trent Parke - a brilliant photogrpaher yes, but well within the range of other image-makers in his genre).

03-25-2005, 03:25 AM
Hi Gal, and many thanks for your contribution (to my mad quest to gain some kind of meaningful insight into originality). I appreciate it very much, and it has given me food for thought. I agree with so much of what you say, but find it frustrating that the crucial area is exactly the bit that is so difficult to talk about. Like a mirage that as you walk towards it etc...

Some things spring to mind...
-in true monty python style you are actually agreeing with my point (at your beginning) exactly at the same time as professing your difference from it (we are both critisizing Bathes individualistic approach in the same way ... And I thought it was only us brits who understood the pythonesque humour).

We do not want to argue about the definiton of the word 'originality'. We should be exploring the possible definitions, and stretching them, and isolating the concepts contained. If we say that nothing is original since the first caveman picked up charcoal and drew on the wall, and everything now is just 'reformulation', then OK this may be literally true (according to a narrow definition), but it is the way that reformulation takes place that is new, and this has everything to do with creation (original or otherwise). Maybe 'originality' is the wrong word to describe this, there may even be a better word - it does not matter. I do not suggest that this reformulation of existing ideas occurs in a vacuum, outside historical political, financial, stylistic considerations, and ultimately it can neither be new or original , good or bad, or have any other quality except in a relative way depending upon point of view. One mans messiah is another's naughty boy after all.
And yes, signs have to be shared, as if a 'sign' were 'original', it would be completely useless as no-one would be able to understand it.
I like very much your analogy of an individual branch on the common tree trunk, this is very much the way I see it, and I believe it is a useful way of thinking about individuality and style. It emphasises the 'connectivity' between different disciplines, and demonstrates that nothing can exist in isolation.
This much we all agree on.

You state 'When we recognize a Picasso, we only recognize a particular link between his different creations' - Yes yes yes - this is exactly it, the very centre of the problem. It does not matter that we cannot recognize his style from his early sketches (before he developed his artistic style) nor from his shopping list, it only matters that we can (that it is even possible) from his later works, the ones he created once he had developed his mature personal vision (original or not). And it is really a miracle that we can quite easily recognise the qualities that make these paintings Picassos without being able to say anything meaningful about them. If the paintings share 'signs' then what are they? And this is where words become inadequate - like 'love', we might feel we know what we are talking about, but at the same time it defies description. This is even harder to talk about relative to photography, as it is that much harder to isolate the photographers personal vision.
So is there any way forward from this point? Come on you guys that can spot a HCB at 50 paces, what is it that you are recognizing?

I can at least assure you, Gal, that (imo) reformulations can go on for ever. The idea that all have been used up and that art is dead has been used many times, and each time it has been disproved when a new movement begins or new works are created. This will continue to be the case for ever.

03-25-2005, 10:30 AM
Recognizing means to stumble on something we knew before. That knowledge was acquired either by what we have seen, heard, done, smelled, tasted or touched before. Let’s start by an easy one. What is the common link between all the Beatles songs? Certainly not the way they compose their music, but rather McCartney, or Lennon’s voices.

It gets more complex as we enter the area of classical music, where the only distinction is in the association of notes, a score. How do we recognize Bach? How do we know we’re not listening to Beethoven, but to Bach? Well, IMO, the common music lover will recognize the composition he is listening at, only if he has heard it before OR if some signs lead him not to a particular composer, but to a particular period of history (Baroque, renaissance, aso) when there were precise and re-known admitted rules in the approach of music with the instruments that were available at that time (call it fashions, or academic movements, or tendencies if you like). We then recognize those rules. For instance I love architecture, and it certainly is one of the areas of interest for me when travelling. When entering inside a Cathedral, I first “recognize” the signs of a particular architectural movement in history (Roman, Gothic etc..). Then, and only then, can I take a guess of who’s behind the design work (and if I can take a guess, is just because it is a domain of interest for me personally and I know the names of several major architects western history from the early XIIth century up to today. It then becomes a rather easy guess to know who the composer we’re listening at is).

If I see a Picasso, and I recognize it, it is probably because I’ve seen it before in a book or wherever (it RECALLS me of something I already know). Otherwise I can only take a guess and say: “Mmmhh…it LOOKS like a Picasso”. But in reality it could be the work of someone following an academic movement. Or simply a copy, because signs and techniques can be copied to perfection. Any creation can be reproduced. Is there any difference between the original and the copy? Technically no, which leads us to the conclusion that the signs which differentiate an individual cannot be searched in the work he has produced, but rather in the conceptualized vision at the origin of his work, Hence styles, technically speaking, are group’s characteristics rather than individual’s private properties. But well, groups are themselves characterized by their own components. Who came first, the chicken or the egg?

Take your example: some people can spot an HCB at 50 paces. Is that because HCB’s work has a distinctive “genoma” that can be decoded and therefore recognized by anyone? Or is that because the ones who recognize HCB’s work at 50 paces simply know their subject to perfection, having seen his work extensively, having read everything there is to read about him, and therefore can somehow make a rational guess?

We first compile information, then find common elements between different groups, and finally build different categories. Being systematic helps us to understand quickly what surrounds us. There are plenty of tools in the strategic economics domain that can finally be applied to more philosophical precepts. Take Barthes studium and punctum: two categories, and a reasoning sustaining them. From that basis we can built a rational fortress.

Delacroix once wrote in his private journal : <i> Newness is in the mind of the artist who creates, and not in the object he portrays</i> . This is more or less the same as saying that <i>Beauty is in the eye of the beholder</i> . I personally don’t think that newness or beauty can be stylized. That is the part of the creative process which is unique and remains untouched: the concept BEFORE realization.

Now, I hope this thread doesn’t derive to the definition of what is Art or not, otherwise Adam will have to buy a new server.

Cheers to you David. Interesting topic.

03-26-2005, 04:44 AM
If I follow your analysis/decoding/identification process on classical music, Gal, how can I recognize JS Bach as the composer of a piece of music I've never heard before, but played on a piano instead of an harpsichord, for which the piece had been written for?

Different instrument, different sound, different rythm...

My "guess" didn't cover the whole Baroque period, from Allegri to Weiss, but narrowed itself to either Bach or some kind of copycat composer. Style and technique broken down into myriads of individual pieces of information, scrambled, sorted out, reordered and recomposed, so to say, to finetune some kind of artistic landscape.

Does it all come to feelings, transcending the form itself?

Besides, I'm not so sure that everything can be copied to perfection.
I remember hearing a perfume maker who worked on the reconstitution of a specific fragrance created for the ill-fated French queen Marie-Antoinette, based on a "recipe" he had spent a long time to research. He admitted he had to cheat to achieve something which smelt good.
Not because the chemical composition of the ingredients he had used had changed during the centuries (though this could be a partial answer to the problem he encountered), but because our own sense of smell had evolved and won't certainly ever be the same, since our everyday world is filled with carbon monoxide and soap instead of horse manure and sweat hidden by... perfume!
Or let's say than a copy may be technicaly feasible but not necessarily desirable?

I guess we come back to the very notion of rules, norms, acceptable and accepted ideas, etc. : many things which vary considerably through history and culture, thus engage specific perceptions of originality...
The hen and the egg, once more... ;-)
(excuse me, but I really think it's quite easy to find out what comes first between a chicken and an egg... unless none of my biology teachers during my school years knew a thing about reproduction!)

PS Should you be in Paris on May 30th, Gal, come with me to listen to Yasuaki Shimizu playing a transcription for saxophone of JS Bach's cello suites. I never heard him play before, but I'm quite curious of what might come out of such an undertaking. I should be able to book tickets for the members of your numerous family if you wish to drag them alongt an extensive tour of architectural landmarks in Paris at the same time. *o)

03-26-2005, 08:57 AM
Salut Dominique. As usual, you've understand quickly, and gone even beyond. You should participate more frequently to these forums, IMHO.

Yes, I was saying that the common of mortals, who listens to music only occasionally, would probably not recognize half of the composers if he suddenly listened to the pieces of music played with the original instruments, when he only has at home the full orchestrations of the Berlin Philarmonic conducted by Karajan... Only melomanes would recognize the score.

When I meant that copies could be made to perfection, I wanted to say that receipes can be technically reproduced to achieve the original result, even though through different paths sometimes. Elements do change in time, as well as our perception which is conditioned by our environment. In that I fully agree with you. But a copy of a fragrance originally cooked in the XVIIIth century, can be reproduced today PERHAPS with DIFFERENT elements from those used at its origin. There are probabilities, and hence it can be made to perfection.

The same can't be applied to a piece of music, I guess. Change some notes in a partition and you already have a different one. Because music exists in concept. It can be played in our minds long before we hear its translation by an instrument.

What's the usefulness of copies? Are they desirable? It depends, I think. Would it be a good idea to make several thousands of copies of the Mona Lisa, so that each one can hang it on the wall of one's living room? No. But apart from this silly example, we could say that copies (or even different interpretatins of the same piece of creation), be it serigraphies, paintings, music records, images, are necessary in the sense they are the door, for us the plebe, to access what we commonly call "culture", to share it, to understand it. The world would be very poor if the families of all those who once created something valuable (piece of art or whatever), would have kept for themselves the originals without allowing any reproduction. Imagine a great book printed only to to the pleasure of some few. Imagine yourself 200 hundred years ago, without the possibility of buying a music CD in the Virgin megastore around the corner. Who would have access to those expressions of beauty if copies weren't allowed? YOu're perhaps reading me at home. Look at the shelves around you, enjoy, and thank the world that the Bible has been translated from Latin ;o)

I thank you for your invitation, which I won't be able to honour because I'll be working during Easter. I have no doubt it would be a great pleasure to meet you whenever I'll go to Paris.

As for the Tour Eiffel.. I'll pass.

04-07-2005, 06:42 PM
i just clicked "flat view" and hit "print"
seeing just a few quick words and knowing the authors...

<i>no one knows how i have my secret lists established</i> lol =:-0

...i long for the time to read and re-read, think and re-think
the ideas, the philosophy, the thoughts that are in here
part of the reason i don't post anymore [not that it matters]
is that i use up my time reading


04-08-2005, 12:01 AM

Just a follow-up to my note earlier today. Thanks for starting the thread. It was a good subject and a good read, as I knew it would be. Too often, I come in late on forum topics, usually deciding not to add any more. But this time, as the subject line says, I'm posting anyway, for what it's worth. I've copied and pasted a few citations from you and others to consolidate my thoughts in one response.

<u>On <i>studium</i> and <i>punctum</i></u>

<i>...but it is the fact of their commonality that is interesting and ignored by the Bathes approach. Understanding what is happening in the viewer is important, but it's not even close to the whole story...
Also, if Bathes is trying to explaining what is happening in the viewer then he should have something to say about originality and style, as the recognition of originality and style are experiences perceived in the individual viewer.</i>

I'm just guessing here, but Barthes probably did say more. I think Luko just chose a useful place to start. At least I find the sort of micro vs. macro perspective useful. As he said to Sohrab, it is on the theoretical side of things, but I think a starting point for the underlying cause-and-effect and shared commonalities that you/we are exploring in this thread. I'll explain why below. But, thanks Luko, for introducing the concepts to us.

<u>On Time</u>

Sohrab said, <i>Maybe originality needs time to be appreciated.</i> Luko also refers to the value of time relative to photography. In leading up to my main point, I propose that they have identified one essential aspect of "originality." <u>It is</u> time-dependent, in more ways than one. I don’t think we wake up one day and become original. Certainly, not I...<b>ever</b>! I’m pretty good at perfecting my routine though. ;-) [BTW, I'm certainly not insinuating that you even suggested this. Just some humor intended.]

<u>On Style and Originality</u>

<i>Style is the antithesis of originality.
So is it the style or the image that should be original?
We should be exploring the possible definitions and stretching them.</i>

I agree that style and originality are not the same, but I wouldn’t use "antithesis." I understand when you say, <i>style may be original.</i> I wonder if maybe originality shouldn’t be ascribed to a single photo; or at least if someone says a photo is "original," let’s assume that it can at least be considered "creative." So here's my twist on another possible definition to stretch and throw darts at.

Could originality be described as the culmination over time of a photographer’s individuality, resulting in the surpassing of a certain established [here’s where I need help] benchmark, as recognized [notice I didn’t say "accepted"] by those knowledgeable in the practice [notice I didn’t say as measured by the consumer’s wallet].

individuality...inside...interpretation [photog-focused]
originality...outside...observation [time & audience-focused]


<u>Disclaimer</u>: Just because I’m writing here doesn’t mean I think I know anything about <u>photography</u>; quite the opposite, in fact. However, I am quite experienced at thinking. ;-)