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Thread: Artistic Intent / beyond style

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    Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Can a picture be beautiful only because of composition?
    Can a picture be interesting only because of what is visible in it?
    or
    Does a picture need to be taken after the artist/photographer has been defying the artistic intent?

    What is the role of composition in images and what is the role of intent.
    Can we understand the intent from an image and if not how can we decide if the image is good or not?
    Let's discuss. All invited :-)
    Thanks
    G

    PS

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Well the short answer is this THERE ARE NO RULES here and it does come down to taste and what you like but I will add without a great composition to enhance or bring out whatever subject you are shooting than it will fail a very good percentage of time. If there is one main thing I teach on workshops its composition as most hobbyist it seems to be the biggest hurdle.

    Biggest keys to successful images
    One is light
    two is composition
    Three is subject .

    You lack in any one of them than its not a successful image. Those are the simple basics and obviously it will get more specific in other areas that contribute to a image. But those 3 are key.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    I'll put this into a quote. "Photography is simple, creating Art takes talent."
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com
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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Great extension of the other subject.

    Guy is right, evaluation of images is a matter of taste. However, I'll add that who is doing the looking is of paramount importance.

    All to often "I know what I like" actually means "I like what I know".

    How can we decide whether an images is good or not? Good question. IMO, if we understand what the artist is trying to do, we go beyond the confines of what we know, and embrace possible new ideas they are trying to visually depict.

    Artistic Intent is a fluid concept and usually the catalyst for many images over time as the artist explores their vision of the world around them. It can come about in a number of ways. Yet is seems to be a component of many of the most notable visual artists, including photographers. It is the thread that binds their vision into a body of work… or at least the work they became famous for.

    Alfred Stieglitz may have started out as a pictorial photographer, but it was ideas like his "Equivalents" that marked a chapter in modern photography. HCB solidified his works with a single intent that played to the nano second capture property of photography … "The Decisive Moment" … and it could be argued that use of a uniquely photographic property was a historic demarkation for that reason alone. Erwitt parlayed his wry sense of humor into a body of delightful work depicting the human condition … in every case, they set out with the intent to do exactly what they did. How they came to their own personal intent (if they even called it that) may have differed … some more intellectually, others more intuitively with the act of recognition as the catalyst to continue in that direction … but in no case was it a lifetime of happy accidents.

    Composition is a component of beauty … what aesthetically pleases the eye. Yet, while many compositional elements are universal, not all are … and can differ from culture to culture. Again, we tend to like what we know. As a kid I didn't like traditional Japanese art. Once I understood it, it became a favorite.

    Is a defined Intent necessary to make a successful image? Of course not. We see things that please our eye most every day.

    The question I ask is how many billions of these do we need to see that are not attached to some greater intent?

    When I look at the work of "Emerging Artists" on the Burn website, I'm drawn in by how photography is being used … some of it is quite beautiful but in a revealing and purposeful way … because it is not just composition or color or B&W tonal poems … it is done with … intent.

    - Marc

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Sorry ... but the last time I sat in an Art Appreciation course this kind of ambiguous, pretentious question was written on the board and the lecturer called for discussion. I nearly puked. I left the room and dropped the course. Never went back.

    Art is "works produced by human creative skill and imagination to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power" according to the dictionary. Analyzing art with ambiguously posed words disparages it.


    The above photograph is art. I created it: seeing the lines and textures of the bananas and the wood on the desk, the way the light modeled it, it affected me. I pulled out the camera to frame and capture the scene so I could share it with others. I processed it to match what my mind's eye saw when I was moved to pull out the camera. I look at it now and it affects me as the original scene did.

    That's worthy of discussion, IMO:
    What do you see?
    Does it affect you?
    How?

    carry on,
    G
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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    We'll, we can shoot any image we want. We can call it "art". Then people can agree or disagree … making it all very subjectively personal.

    Many people think the kitsch work of Thomas Kinkade, "Painter of Light", is skillful, beautiful, imaginative, and they are emotionally moved by it … so it must be "art".

    However, to dismiss any other take on art as pretentious, or questions about what constitutes art, or different ways one may come to have a deeper understanding of visual thought, belittles a historically unbroken chain of art development, criticism, and evolution.

    Had Picasso not visually thought through the notion of Cubism, had the only criteria been a dictionary definition of art, it may never had existed … and modern visual thinking would be the worst for it.

    IMO, Art is the philosophical ground capturer that moves visual thinking forward. Initially it is rarely meets popular definitions of art, often requires an extraordinary eye to recognize (Like Gertrude Stein), and when successful influences other more applied arts, (i.e., Architecture and Graphic Design was massively influenced by Picasso's thinking regarding time and space). The "style" of Cubism was a direct result of the abstract thinking and ideas Braque and Picasso were exchanging.

    While I personally happen to agree that approaching photography in a reactionary and intuitive manner is highly valid, I also think pre-thinking some intent, and setting out to explore that notion is also highly valid … and in historical terms seems to have yielded many hallmark advancements in the art of seeing.

    Heck, even the Dadaist, including photographers, set out with the intent of "destroying popular beliefs regarding art".

    We don't have to adhere to any notion of art to make or to enjoy a fine image. Yet, in this day when "fine images" are legion … my question has become … is that all there is to it?

    I hope not.

    - Marc
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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    "Art" exists in the viewer, not the object. The human vision is a really sophisticated system. But it is not equal across the population. Everyone can look, but fewer see. An artist in a sense is the eyes of a particular group, creating works that that group finds significant.

    I don't think a intellectual or conceptional approach to an art form is particularly rewarding--either for the artist or the viewer. It can be fun or neat, but not much more than that. The problem with a more intuitive approach is that it requires mastery and the approach itself really cannot be communicated--Picasso and Chagall were very intuitive, the definitions were always later. The art labels are artifacts of convenience, useful for categorization, but not much else. They are rather nebulous.

    So, how does this work for the artist. First comes the mastery of technique. A lifelong pursuit, to be sure, but at some point the artist needs to be moving from the center of his or her own center. At that point, intuition and inspiration can take over.

    I define "intent" differently from Mark, so this is really not in regards to Mark's comments. I do not think a visual work, at least a good one, can have a definitive intent created by the artist. There maybe fairly universal recognition of the power of a work--everyone likes it--but it can also be that everyone likes it and each person has a different reason. And after being subjected to too many artist's statements, I don't even think the artists understand their own work.

    And that is the magic of art. It is not a technical problem and yet the technical qualities add to that. It it not an objective problem--Half Dome by Adam or a toilet by Weston work just as well. It is not stylist either. A recent study showed pairs of images of objects to a group of people in an MRI. One would be a snapshot of, say, sunflowers and another of sunflowers by van Gogh. When the viewer saw the van Gogh, areas of the brain which become active when looking at an image of a loved one lit up.

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    "Art" exists in the viewer, not the object. The human vision is a really sophisticated system. But it is not equal across the population. Everyone can look, but fewer see. An artist in a sense is the eyes of a particular group, creating works that that group finds significant.

    I don't think a intellectual or conceptional approach to an art form is particularly rewarding--either for the artist or the viewer. It can be fun or neat, but not much more than that. The problem with a more intuitive approach is that it requires mastery and the approach itself really cannot be communicated--Picasso and Chagall were very intuitive, the definitions were always later. The art labels are artifacts of convenience, useful for categorization, but not much else. They are rather nebulous.

    So, how does this work for the artist. First comes the mastery of technique. A lifelong pursuit, to be sure, but at some point the artist needs to be moving from the center of his or her own center. At that point, intuition and inspiration can take over.

    I define "intent" differently from Mark, so this is really not in regards to Mark's comments. I do not think a visual work, at least a good one, can have a definitive intent created by the artist. There maybe fairly universal recognition of the power of a work--everyone likes it--but it can also be that everyone likes it and each person has a different reason. And after being subjected to too many artist's statements, I don't even think the artists understand their own work.

    And that is the magic of art. It is not a technical problem and yet the technical qualities add to that. It it not an objective problem--Half Dome by Adam or a toilet by Weston work just as well. It is not stylist either. A recent study showed pairs of images of objects to a group of people in an MRI. One would be a snapshot of, say, sunflowers and another of sunflowers by van Gogh. When the viewer saw the van Gogh, areas of the brain which become active when looking at an image of a loved one lit up.
    AMEN

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    "Art" exists in the viewer, not the object. The human vision is a really sophisticated system. But it is not equal across the population. Everyone can look, but fewer see. An artist in a sense is the eyes of a particular group, creating works that that group finds significant.

    I don't think a intellectual or conceptional approach to an art form is particularly rewarding--either for the artist or the viewer. It can be fun or neat, but not much more than that. The problem with a more intuitive approach is that it requires mastery and the approach itself really cannot be communicated--Picasso and Chagall were very intuitive, the definitions were always later. The art labels are artifacts of convenience, useful for categorization, but not much else. They are rather nebulous.

    So, how does this work for the artist. First comes the mastery of technique. A lifelong pursuit, to be sure, but at some point the artist needs to be moving from the center of his or her own center. At that point, intuition and inspiration can take over.

    I define "intent" differently from Mark, so this is really not in regards to Mark's comments. I do not think a visual work, at least a good one, can have a definitive intent created by the artist. There maybe fairly universal recognition of the power of a work--everyone likes it--but it can also be that everyone likes it and each person has a different reason. And after being subjected to too many artist's statements, I don't even think the artists understand their own work.

    And that is the magic of art. It is not a technical problem and yet the technical qualities add to that. It it not an objective problem--Half Dome by Adam or a toilet by Weston work just as well. It is not stylist either. A recent study showed pairs of images of objects to a group of people in an MRI. One would be a snapshot of, say, sunflowers and another of sunflowers by van Gogh. When the viewer saw the van Gogh, areas of the brain which become active when looking at an image of a loved one lit up.
    I think the actualities of making art defies what you say, as intellectually well put as it is.

    When Picasso was touring a children's school, and they came across kids making art, he was asked what he thought of their efforts. His reply revealed a lot about what he was intentionally doing with his own art …

    "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, it has taken a lifetime to learn how to draw like them".

    - Marc

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I think the actualities of making art defies what you say, as intellectually well put as it is.
    In what way?

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    "In what way?"

    We'll, it is obvious that we disagree in a number of ways.

    At the risk of repeating myself, I've given numerous examples of successful artists who deliberately set out with an intent. When they synergistically interact with others exploring a similar intent, it is called a "movement".

    I find your definitions to be a convenience of argument rather than supported by any historical reference. "Picasso and Chagall were very intuitive with definitions coming later", intellectually sounds good, yet both artists had very definite ideas going in. Theories which were arrive at by many means, including revelations informed by exposure to other well formed ideas (no man is an island), then they went on to some form of organization of those new thoughts in order to put them into consistent action. Whether they were "labeled" yet is irrelevant to the initial formation of the idea to be explored.

    Again, as an example, Cubism was an Avant-Garde "invention" regarding notions of Time and Space, where objects were studied, disassembled and reorganized to depict the object in a greater context than had been visually thought of before. Oddly, it is thought that Picasso's deliberate efforts (intent) to depict the human body with greater solidity is what led to its' disassembly … and the subsequent mindful act of freeing himself of conventional rules of perspective and notions of dimensional space.

    The above is why I personally think "Intent" is a very appropriate word in the context of Art. Intent suggests wiggle room for discoveries (rational or intuitive, from the artist themselves, or from other artists, even those from other non-visual art disciplines) to redefine, refine, and evolve the initial intention of the artist. "I intended to do this, but in reality I discovered/realized/learned about this during the process, so now that is my intention." The word has an implied "fluidity".

    I find the statement that "Artists don't understand their own work", to be curious at best. I think Cindy Sherman understands exactly what she is doing and why … which is supported by a very consistent body of work. It is not necessarily the duty of the artist to make the viewer understand. Duchamp's fusion of Cubism and Futurism (Nude Descending a Staircase), requires some knowledge of Cubism and Futurism, and an intelligence on the part of the viewer regarding what he was doing by combining two notions … but he knew exactly what he was doing, and why. This is not to say there are not artists that don't understand their own work … but they are usually unsuccessful due to that very reason. My interest lies in learning from those who succeeded.

    Contrary to your assertion that conceptual work is "not particularly rewarding for the artist or the viewer", my experience has been the opposite. Amongst other more conceptual artistic approaches I'm interested in, I find Neo-Dada Fluxust Art to be a highly rewarding on many levels … but freely admit that it can be an acquired taste with a "Manifesto" (i.e., "Intent") that can take some time and effort to come to understand before you "get it". More well known partitioners include Joseph Beuys and Yoko Ono. Fluxus is attributed with redefining what art can be, and as a movement had, and continues to have, an impact on visual thinking regardless of whether anyone "likes" it in the traditionally narrow sense of the word.

    In fact, while there are a number of photographic images that I've reacted to on an initial gut level, some became more deeply moving to me once I more fully grasped what was in play (sort of peeling the opinion to reveal more and more layers) … where others simple were gut reactions that faded with minute familiarity … like cutting open a hollow peach … lusciously beautiful, yet empty.

    I vividly recall the onions, and swiftly forget the "hollow peaches".

    IMO, Photography as Art is simply a medium that has been disciplined to an artistic intent … not an art unto itself.

    I know this flies in the face of what you personally believe, and obviously that's where we will probably continue to disagree … but you asked, and I answered as best I could.

    - Marc

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Naturally, topics like this are pretty hard to sum up in a post. I was just wanting some clarification on your brief statement. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I appreciate it. I am not sure we are really disagreeing nor agreeing. I think we are talking about different yet parallel things.

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    Re: Artistic Intent / beyond style

    Thanks Shashin, you may be right in that we are walking side-by-side in parallel universes :-)

    Maybe it is time to turn to more practical matters.

    The OPs original question carries interest to me because I think the general state of photography has become highly democratic, incredibly universal, and unbelievably transient … to the point that we should be aware of what that all may mean to each of us.

    Yet that prolific outpouring of "here today, gone today" images is using attributes of photography in a dynamic way. Of the moment images are real time now, and have a profound social impact more than ever before. Tyrants tremble in the face of the cell phone.

    There is also a sincere genuineness to many images. Things like composition, style, and beauty have less role in determining an image's worth amongst a vast majority of potential viewers. Time and Content seems to rule the day now, and that has led to the devaluation of what we may consider essential to a successful image.

    I realize that many shoot for their own self-satisfaction and the process itself is its own reward. I sort of feel that way myself. But I am haunted by how narrow the potential audience has become to share such efforts with. It reminds me of Picasso's quip … "A painting held in the closet, might as well be held in the head"

    Here is a personal observation that may be to low brow for this conversation … but it's a practical change that sure has had an impact on me.

    I loved the whole decisive moment thing. I found I had a singular talent for it and became very good at consistently making images in that manner. Other "creative types" recognized it and begged me to photograph their wedding in the same manner. Reluctantly I tried it and succeeded. For a decade, people came to me for this. They recognized its value beyond mere snapshots, they saw a deeper observation that transended wedding photography to become more universal studies of the human condition with split second timing being the hallmark of my work. In short, they valued it.

    Then it all went to hell in a hand basket. Either no one gets it anymore, or they simply do not care. I shoot a wedding and before I get home that night, the client's Facebook page is flooded with guest snapshots garnering rave reviews. By the time I craft my stuff, even the client has lost a lot of interest, and only cares if I got all their family portraits.

    Fortunately, I am at an age where I had my day, and can walk off into the sunset to take pics just for myself and a few others who may appreciate it. However, were I at a different stage of my photo trek, I'd find this a little depressing. Of course, a little depression can be a good thing, since it often is a precursor to change.


    - Marc
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