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Wednesday, 27 October 2021


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RE "It's a form of lying, this selection." I don't think that's true. Every photo--without exception--is a kind of selection. No photo captures everything, not even a landscape photo. Or, maybe you meant the "picturesque" is the lie? But, why? When I'm out and about without a camera I regularly pick out 'picturesque' pieces of my visual environment--the way the light falls on a singular tree, or the colors and shapes of the fruit at the grocery store, or whatever. Or, maybe you mean limiting your photos to picturesque scenes is the lie? But, once more, doesn't every photographer at least some of the time have tendencies toward certain sorts of photos or compositions? Is that lying? Or just a particular visual or pictorial interest?

Here's an alternative proposal: Maybe the lie or the inauthenticity isn't in the particular selection itself (no matter how picturesque or overdone) but the degree to which the photographer isn't actually seeing the scene for what it is or its intrinsic artistic potential. But, rather the photographer may be seeing the scene as nothing but a kind of representation of what other pictures have done before, a representation that can be forced onto the scene--perhaps even successfully--but that nevertheless misses the scene itself. I'm thinking here of a lot of glowing sunset pictures. Many of them are indeed beautiful. But, it's sort of like the 'sunset glow' becomes the point of the photograph and not the richness of the scene itself, or the photographer sees the scene only as the excuse for the sunset glow, or something like that. I'm not sure that there's a moral problem with that, but perhaps it still a kind of artistic lie or inauthenticity insofar as it reduces the richness of the scene to a pre-made type.

[In connection with this issue I think of a certain display in a bookstore that exists no longer back in Wisconsin. It was the section for travel books. The books were typically slender enthusiast photo books, full of pretty, conventional pictures of places that would now be called "iconic"--the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumphe for Paris, etc. I had been to Ireland, so one day I picked up a picture book for Ireland, and was struck by how greatly it did NOT resemble the country I had experienced. From the book you would think Ireland was full of bucolic landscapes, picturesque ruins, grand old houses, and only occasionally a freckled red-haired lad or lass in traditional costume. That's what I mean by lying. To illustrate it to yourself, imagine one day you have been assigned to show your own local area at its very best, for the tourist board; then, the next day, go out with the intention of being a documentary photographer, showing the area just as a visitor would experience it, warts and all as it were, without flinching or prettifying it. You'd probably come up with two very different sets of pictures, wouldn't you? --Mike]

I heard/read about the advice of turning around and take pictures of the "backside" from a few places, including yours, and I have made it a habit to do 360 sweep whenever I stop to take a photo

The density looks just fine to me on my 6-year-old iMac 4K. In fact, both the inline and "embiggen'd" versions look great. The detail of the foliage looks just right for my eyes, too. I might have the same near-dark vision as you. In fact, I am fine to drive a car without glasses during the day but as soon as it starts getting dark, even before sunset on a grey day, I have to put glasses on. My vision starts to feel strained and uncertain if I don't.

“I do need to learn to be more scheduled to give the new format a fighting chance.”

Yes, well, we are talking a relationship here, right? And relationships are built on both give and take. But it has to be both. Can’t be just one or the other, or that relationship is going to go up in flames or whither on the vine.

I truly enjoy your blog, and your writing, as you know. But yeah it’s a good idea to hew to your word, once you freely give it. It’s the timeline you wanted.

[It just takes a little adjustment is all. A lot going on in my life right now. But I'll get there. --Mike]

The painted look is actually quite common in a range of situations with iPhone cameras if you look into the detail.

From the look behind photo, you were probably 5, maybe 10 minutes too late to get the moon properly exposed, but still get some light to the surroundings.

I wouldn't call the framing selection "lying", I'd probably prefer to call it the first abstraction in a s series of abstractions which end up as the eventual photograph. We start by selecting a part of what we see as "the scene" and then we continue by tinkering with whatever the camera actually captures in order to get it to look the way we think the scene actually looked or the way we think the scene should have looked, or "pretty" or "gritty" or something else.

What we don't end up with is what we actually saw but then what we remember is never what actually happened. Photographs are no more accurate than our memory, even when we're intent upon "telling the truth", and we don't go around saying that what we remember is a lie though we freely admit to its "subjectivity" and failings.

Interestingly there's always a large element of selection involved when we share one of our memories in some way, we never share every little aspect of our memory. We tell what we think is important in order to communicate what we wish to communicate. Our photographs are like that, we select what we want to show people in order to communicate whatever it is we wish to communicate by sharing the photograph.

The image has two centers of interest - the moon and the trunk of the tree. I keep oscillating between the two and cannot decide if this is interesting or just irritating - which may have been exactly your intention?

This very good iPhone 7 photo is an excellent example of why the camera business is suffering. All but the purists are going to print much above 4x6 (if they even bother to print), only a very small group will enlarge their photos 100% and pixel peep, fewer still will care about whether or not it has impressionistic looking brush strokes. I played with an iPhone 13 the other day and in a word it is brilliant. There is a dialogue from the Chronicles of Riddick that may apply: Riddick: You said it's all circling the drain - the whole universe. Right? Imam: That's right. Riddick: Had to end sometime.

Well I remember you jonesing for the Sony A6600. You mentioned the other day that you ordered a "new camera." Then I saw a quick slip-in of the new Sony. But you haven't confirmed what the purchase was right?

I like the natural framing of the moon by using the branches. It is catching the moonrise at a critical moment or standing in just right place with your camera.

" The moon is one of those things, like new-fallen snow, that for some unknown reason I think I have to photograph."
For me it is balloon flying over my cottage! When I see any of them above, I run to grab my camera, change lens to tele and make photos.

Jonathan Morse-
William James and his brother, the philosopher and pioneering psychologist Henry James, were deeply engaged with their contemporaries in the art world, particularly Pictorialist photographers and Tonalist painters. Both spent a lot of time pondering the complex interactions between visual perception, consciousness, and memory. So William James' reluctance to permit illustrations to compete with his 'word pictures' was well informed.

Thanks very much for your note about my Henry James comment, Geoff Wittig. Its specific interest for TOP is spelled out in the retrospective preface to The Golden Bowl in the collected ("New York") edition of James's novels. There, James tells us how he searched London with the Pictorialist photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn not for conventional illustrative material but for "images always confessing themselves mere optical symbols or echoes, expressions of no particular thing in the text, but only of the type or idea of this or that thing."

But yes, it was Henry who was the novelist and his brother William who was the psychologist.

This thing you do, taking a picture of whats in the opposite direction of what interested you in the first place, sounds like a great idea for a coffee book! (self published or otherwise) I keep pushing my friends to do a book, I think that way I will end up doing my own too.

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