Photography & reality

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  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    ------> suite.


    I was not familiar with the semiotic square, but as far as I understand it, it can be rather interesting of articulating the signification of a structure in terms of binary oppositions and alternatives. What seems valuable to me is that these oppositions give rise to meaning, which is not the same thing as a simple set of contradictions . It seems as a form of dialectical logic in the way Hegel has approached it, particularly suited to analysing oppositions embedded within a synchronic view of culture.

    As I’ve written in another thread, I don’t particularly think that photography is “useful” , in itself, to the photographer in any way. But I do believe it is necessary in the way it translates our posture towards the subject of our logical or sensitive interpretation. And it definitely can carry multiple forms in its expression, which can be categorized, eventually, with the tool you suggest.
  • Clarification...
    I was observing that describing is stepping away from the creative moment when photographer and camera meet the world. Description is in fact a "cookie for the mind." Science is replete with descriptions that occasionally are formulated into hypotheses that are mistakenly viewed as facts until the next set of hypotheses come down the pike. You're familiar no doubt with Thomas Kuhn's book on the subject of paradigm shifts. Nothing in this exercise actually represents reality. As my quote which has received no attention states, "the mind creates the abyss the heart crosses."

    I'm a student of western intellectual history and have studied both science and the humanities over the years. I understand that great energy is applied to the search for knowledge about things large and small. Newtonian physics works really well when we look at large objects, but once we begin looking more closely as quantum physicists have, the consensual world begins to do strange things. The topic of this thread is photography and reality. My responses in this thread have been directed at the question raised by Gal. My contention is that descriptive tools that explain the possible motivations for the photographer doing what the photographer does, will never answer questions about reality and its relationship with the creative act of taking a photo. Is it fun to have conversations about such things? I say yes, in the same way idly playing a Gameboy can be fun when there is nothing better to do. But such conversations will never arrive at "truth."

    Perhaps I shouldn't interject such "profound" observations to this thread, but I couldn't resist. I respect everyone who is posting here, most of whom, including you, have a much richer and accomplished history with the camera. I'm a neophyte, finding my way. Yet I have decades of history that have illumined some of the pitfalls of this human adventure we all share. One of the biggest is to believe our minds will answer any question of consequence. Yes, it will help create ever more astounding widgets, but I don't believe photography as art will ever settle for that... ;-)
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    We've touched on some of this in earlier exchanges Gal, and it is probably safe to say that we won't come to agreement on the more fundamental premises. I also know the good will between us makes it possible for us to disagree without becoming disagreeable. I appreciate that greatly.

    I'll focus, as I did in my comment to Richard, on the efficacy of "asking questions about the world" as means of fathoming reality. You're aware no doubt of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that so shocked the scientific world when it was postulated. Up until that time, it was believed that with sufficient care, scientists would be able to determine the ultimate nature of reality. Then along comes Werner Heisenberg who discovered that the way the scientist designed the experiment determined the outcome he would obtain. If he looked for light as a particle, he got a particle. If he looked for a wave, he got a wave. To my mind, at least, this statement demonstrated the ultimate subjectivity of our view of the material world. I mentioned David Bohm's book <B>Wholeness and the Implicate Order</b> because he is a well known physicist who was among the vanguard of those who concluded that what we deem as reality may in fact be an extension of consciousness. I suggested that meditation may be a more suitable tool for understanding reality because it is the only vehicle available for us to explore this realm. And yes, practitioners from eastern spiritual traditions are much more expert in using this tool since they've been using it to explore the human psyche for much longer that we've been using the scientific method in our attempts to scratch the surface of reality.

    As I've observed elsewhere, "the mind creates the abyss the heart crosses." Poets have a much better chance of expressing the ineffable than scientists will ever be able to do. And photography is capable of touching the deepest chords of human experience as well. That is photography as art. But it becomes art not through discursive analysis of the photograph or descriptive analysis of the act of taking a photo, but from the heart to heart connection between photographer and viewer of the photograph. One might call it an interpersonal subjectivity, but those are just more words to describe. You may wish to "be aware of the way you may be touched by a Bach cantata" but I feel what is important is simply being touched. Awareness of the mechanism of how one is touched is a rather empty exercise in comparison, in my opinion. It would be like trying to understand your motivation for putting a coin under your child's pillow. Love needs no analysis... ;-)
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    Hello Curtis,

    Thank you for the time you’re taking to bring your point of view in this thread, although it’s utility doesn’t seem that obvious for you ;o)). It is in fact a pleasure to debate with you, and if at any time I seem to be harsh or disagreeable, please believe that is simply not intended, but a result of my level of English language which sometimes gets out of hand (I am actually conceptualising in Portuguese, putting into words in French and translating into English…so there’s probably an abyss between my original thought and what you’re reading, but I’m confident that your heart will manage to cross it ;o) ).

    It is a fact that we’re not coming to an agreement as far as the way we can experiment Life while retaining a lesson from that relationship based on logical analysis which, may I remind you, differentiates our species from most others on this planet. Your denial of the value of the empirical apprenticeship coming from observation, which is obviously based on a descriptive and systematic analysis of physical phenomenon’s and interactions, denies at the same time a fundamental part of human’s “evolution” in its strict meaning (I’m not getting in the debate if we, XXIst century human beings, are less barbarians than the Cro-Magnon man 40000 years ago).

    I don’t intend to make an apology of the scientific systematic approach, but it seems to me rather incomplete to state that the descriptive questioning leads to “…hypotheses that are mistakenly viewed as facts until the next set of hypotheses come down the pike”. May I remind you that even today, these are the basic principles at the origin of the medical or pharmaceutical research, for instance, among several other branches in the scientific or simply humanist domain. I’m pretty much sure that in a way or another you also Curtis (because we all, humans, do) are benefiting from the results of research against Cancer… or AIDS… or Alzheimer… or whatever. Of course, different premises or different questionings, would lead to different results. We are living structures in permanent mutation, which means that nothing is actually permanent with the exception of mutation itself. Meanwhile I’m pretty much happy myself of knowing that there are people around the world, not only interacting with it in a sensitive way, but also questioning and trying to understand HOW we come to Love, and HOW we have needs that go far beyond the physiological premises that allow us to survive in an otherwise hostile environment. “Nothing in this exercise represents reality”, you say? I wouldn’t bet on it. That kind of exercise is allowing us to break knowledge frontiers in every single area connected to the perceptible world or, if you wish, the environment we commonly characterize as being real.

    ------> tbc
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    ----> suite

    In your answer to Richard, you state that “… descriptive tools that explain the possible motivations for the photographer doing what the photographer does, will never answer questions about reality and its relationship with the creative act of taking a photo.” I’m really not sure that was the purpose of the tools exposed. The answer at the origin of this thread doesn’t consist in determining WHY a photographer takes photographs (that is asked in another thread on this site). It is a much wider questioning on the mechanisms that make a bridge out of a photograph, between one’s consciousness and his perception on the philosophical means of reality (and I draw your attention to the plural form I’ve just employed). As I’ve said before, I don’t ask myself why I take photographs, or why I put a coin under my son’s pillow in the utilitarian meaning of the act itself. I actually don’t try to find a rational meaning to each single act of communion with those who surround me. But I definitely question myself permanently on the mechanisms at the origin of what I feel an HOW I feel it. That allows me to make a step further in the knowledge of myself and the knowledge of others, and in certain cases that even allows me to reproduce (yes Curtis, have no doubt!) what I otherwise would have thought to be an “unique” moment in existence. Awareness of the mechanism involved, engenders reproduction (and that doesn’t mean cloning…). Our capacity of adapting to the environment is unlimited, and adapting means becoming a part of that environment through a process of integration, which is only possible if we put to work all the tools at our disposal, sensorial as well as rational (and IMHO, they are strictly related and cannot be dissociated).

    -----> tbc
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    ----> suite

    “The way the scientist designs the experiment determines the outcome..”, of course. The object of study being submitted to a permanent process of change, it is rather fortunate that the experiment construction can be continuously adapted to this factor. And we all know that when departing from an almost identical point, it takes just 1mm to engender a huge distance between two subjects at the point of arrival. That doesn’t mean the outcome is hazardous. If it is not the outcome expected, we might as well start everything all over again. But, any of the results produced will still be a part of the extremely complex puzzle commonly named Life, ore reality, or whatever. Minimizing that, is taking the risk of putting aside some of the probabilities which can lead us further on the achievement of the game (no Curtis…not talking about Mario’s adventures for Gameboy). Well, we can always close our eyes on a theories of probabilities, but I doubt that will help us on the accomplishment of our Karma, as well as I doubt that meditation is better suited for “understanding” what is or is not real (although I think it is a powerful selective tool, sometimes very useful in an materialistic overwhelmed context).

    Look at this thread. You may see it as a rather sterile debate on an issue that finally isn’t that important , and even more, perhaps as useless as any other nihilistic questioning on subjects to which we have no answers.

    I prefer to see it in another way. Not only have we already covered several interesting topics, but also have come to exchange opinions, which are nothing more than probabilities to each one of us. Are you a better man after this? Will I be a better man? Perhaps not. But in the meantime I’ve come to interact my views with the ones of someone at the other side of the planet, in a polite and (let me pretend so) constructive way. And that, my dear friend, is as important to me as listening to Bach or looking at the sunset. And why do I say it is important? Because it makes me GROW into humanity.

    Cheers :o)
  • Re: that Why? question
    I have really enjoyed reading the lengthy and rather deep discussion you all have had here, and especially the polite way it seemed to be carried out, even among the myriad misunderstandings which did and could have occured. Going back to your first thoughts on reality and the slicings and dicings of truth via photography, (and the discussion in the general forum on the question "Why?"), I decided to look up that book that was mentioned there, which you all have probably already read: "been there - done that - bought the t-shirt". Here's a link to a brief excerpt of Susan Sontag "On Photography".

    What do you all say to this, going further than what was discussed as an answer to "why we do it?" (photography) to "what does it/do we do to reality?" I know - a lot of this was pretty much answered already in this thread, going a slightly different direction and a lot more in depth than my little mind can, er, keep cookied, to coin a phrase. Just wondering...
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    During graduate school I studied psychopathology with a wonderful professor steeped in physiology and body based approaches to psychology. We did a bit of study of William Sheldon's work on body type and temperament. As an experiment one day we divided into the three primary categories Sheldon postulated, ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. We self selected and as a round man I knew I belonged in the endomorph group. We were given the question, "what is the meaning of life." The experience was quite magical for me since I'd never before sat with a group of men and women of the same body type. I recall vividly peering around the circle, meeting the smiling gaze of the others in the group. In the background I could hear the chatter of the ectomorphs and mesomorphs as they struggled with the question. Our group NEVER even began considering possibilities. We simply shared the joy of being together.

    I mention that not to suggest my way of being in the world is better than yours, simply to observe that what you take as a high order of accomplishment, to understand HOW you experience what you experience, seems to me a fruitless exercise. I'm quite content to simply experience it. I don't need to know what moves me in looking at a beautiful sunset. In fact, I would suggest that stepping out of any experience to analyze it is to destroy it. We will never know what it is about a beautiful piece of music that moves us.

    That being said, I have no argument with the attempts to use rational thought to make the world a better place. I would simply observe that our moral capacity for managing our great scientific apparatus remains very stunted, leading us to the world we inhabit where great suffering is ignored and great inventions are used to create even more suffering. Buddhists mount very few armies...

    In my humble opinion, we need more poets and fewer technocrats. Curing cancer while homeless people die on the streets of starvation is not a very glowing endorsement for human values. I respect a capacity for empathy far greater than the ability to solve a quadratic equation. And I don't believe we grow into our humanity, we can never be other than fully human. That suggestion comes from a deficiency model, that, incidentally, lies at the heart of western religions. It took a group of western psychologists almost half an hour to explain to the Dalai Lama the concept low self-esteem. In his culture, the thought of not valuing self is unheard of...
  • Re: A few semiotics, if you please... (II)
    I respect the way you seem to characterize the world Curtis. Unfortunately the Buddhist models of humanity, which you seem to share unconditionally, cannot (or shouldn’t) be used to stand as a contradictory view over any other philosophical or existentialist mind in the universe. They would fall otherwise in a paradox when related to their own principles.

    I suppose you know that mentioning medical research, among many other intellectual activities, as a premise to evolution, doesn’t mean that one is eluding problems such as starvation in the world, the permanent abyss between North and South, the miserable fate of the African continent, the silent tears of the forgotten ones, the pain of those who have to struggle with a disease, the absence of those others who are about to quit this world.

    I suppose you know Curtis, that relying on science, within its own limits and without making a religion of it, doesn’t mean being incapacitated to endorse for human values.

    I suppose you know also that some people like me, who have unfortunately not reached the status of spiritual development of the Dalaï Lama, are still capable of empathy towards those we feel could be in need for it.

    I of course think that we can take our distances towards humankind. And that is why, unlike you, I think we can grow into humanity or simply deny its presence in our lives. I am though conscious of the fact that I’m touching here my beliefs, where you seem to be touching your certainties. That is one of the differences between us: while not being sure about what I’m saying, I’m still thirsty of what others have to tell me and have, with no doubt, a margin to become.

    You seem to BE already, and that is definitely a rather different position. I regret not having reached your degree of communion with whom and what surrounds you, which apparently allows you to seize experiences without any further need of rationalization.

    But that has not been impeaching me of valuing what I believe is worth of in the essence of human beings. And that has not been impeaching me of trying continuously to reach the image of who I suppose would be a “better” individual. I thank the fact of having doubts for allowing me to make a step further each day. For if I had no doubts I would certainly have not been listening to what others have to say

    I don’t like technocrats Curtis, but although I love poetry I think it takes more than picturing the World into rhymes to make us all “look to the stars despite the fact we all lay in the gutter”.
  • To Luko: somehting out of the context
    hi luko
    just came across this thread
    have to tell you that the more you talk about HCB, the more i understand his work, infact when i said (in the nachtwey forum) that i dont remember HCB's photographs i was wrong. one of the photographs that's most prominent in my mind is the one in the link below. i wonder if it was the genius in you or the genius in HCB who made me notice the "bicycle wheels" in the photograph. wasn't this the photo which was taken through a hole in the wall, where HCB waited for someone to cross the puddle??

    the affair?
    this one is perhaps HCB's most talked about photograph in india ( i mean for us indians) more than the one which captures nehru announcing gandhi's death
    thanks and take care :)