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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion: Aug 2017 - Composites: Art, Photo or Heresy? "Journey Into Night" by Jerry Uelsmann

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minniev
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Re: Monthly Masters' Discussion - Composites: Art, Photo or Heresy? "Journey Into Night" by Jerry Uelsmann

Post by minniev » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:29 pm

rmalarz wrote:It is interesting that you should post this at this particular time. I was just toying with the idea of working on some Jerry Uelsmann inspired photos. His method does not involve any digital work. He has numerous enlargers and each contains negatives which will eventually be exposed to the various areas of the print. He works out how to index the easel for each portion of the photograph and walks the easel down the row of enlargers, almost like an assembly line. He has incredible skill and imagination.

I think it's photography. A different kind, but still photography. He takes and processes numerous negatives and then, when inspiration strikes, assembles the various parts into a whole.
--Bob


Glad it hit a timely spot for you Bob. You have to promise to share your creations with us!

I was amazed at his description of what he does, it sounded impossible to me but my own darkroom skills were rather pedestrian when I did that kind of thing, and I'd not know where to begin now, the knowledge lay dormant too long.

I think it's photography too. I also think it's art. I know a lot of people disagree, but my own interpretation of photography is not a very purist version.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by St3v3M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:33 am

minniev wrote:One of the most enduring controversies in photography concerns the classification of photographic composites. Are they photography? Are they heinous abominations? Can they be seriously considered as art? ...

There are questions that will never be answered, more for our needs to classify things to make us comfortable with them, but I like to start at the beginning.

What is art?
Merriam-Webster
4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects the art of painting landscapes; also: works so produced a gallery for modern art
Dictionary.com
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
Oxford Dictionaries
1 The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Wikipedia
Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

And a shout out to a Mental Floss
27 Responses to the Question “What is Art?”

The bigger questions then may be is manual manipulation different compared to digital manipulation when it comes to defining art, and if there is a line, how much manipulation changes a photograph from a photograph to something else? Is ninety-percent photo ten-percent manipulation okay, but the opposite not? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by St3v3M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:10 am

minniev wrote:...
The support materials will give you far more to reflect on that will an image review. The interview with John Paul Caponigro starts with discussing the common assumption (right or wrong) that photography provides an objective view of reality. Uelsmann goes on to provide insights into his own journey, thinking, and process. He acknowledges that his work was better accepted by artists than by his fellow photographers, even though, as he said: “Wait! Everything I have came from the camera store!”
...

1. What do you think of “Journey Into Night”? Is it a photograph? An art work? Both? Neither? Why or why not?
If a photograph is a representation of time and art is a representation of the mind then everything Jerry does is art. Anyone can take a photo, artist create!

2. What is your feeling about combining photographic elements into new compositions? Is there anything ethically wrong with that? How important is disclosure?
What's interesting to me is the juxtaposition of the question versus the CGI we've all come to know. There's what you think is obvious and then there are those scenes you aren't quite sure but take for real. The world of what could be started for me with Star Wars but was solidified in Blade Runner and of course The Matrix, but a recent one that sticks with me is Ex Machina. It's not the scary movies with fantastical aliens that do it for me, but the scenes that could be, and so it's the same with Jerry's images. It's like looking into someone else's mind and feeling like you belong.

3. Is computer manipulation different from darkroom manipulation? We know it’s different technically but is it different from a point of classifying the result as art or photograph, as ethical or not?
The answer like so many things is yes and no. One is physical and one digital, but both come from the mind, the heart, and are a part of their soul.

4. Do you use compositing or montaging in your work? What are your feelings about your own work in that area? Have you ever been criticized for a lack of photographic “purity” or for dishonesty? Have you felt personally conflicted? Do you reveal what you did up front, in questioning, or not? What impacted your responses to such questions?
I don't know the steps to make a composite but have digitally removed things from my photos and wonder what the difference is of adding and removing?

5. If you have a photo composite you’ve created, or one you admire done by someone else, feel free to link/share it in the thread to advance any point of the discussion.
When I came back to photography I saw digital creations everywhere and was enamored with Erik Johansson and his work, but as time went on I found myself drawn to the more subtle, the more realistic images and still find myself fascinated with this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory world we live in.
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by LindaShorey » Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:05 am

Creating in the real or virtual darkroom makes no difference in my mind; both are creative outlets with the result being what I would term "art." A photograph is real (as well as being a form of art), but often edited to push a certain mood or emotion, and of course can be composed to tell less than, or more than, the scene.

Regarding degrees of reality (such as when we talk about the difference between adding a moon vs. just cloning out a piece of trash), in general I want a composite to be without doubt.

For example, long before I had the interest, skill or tools to create even the most rudimentary composite, I would carefully examine photos in emails my sister-in-law forwarded - the ones everyone was sending to everyone, so five years after created (often as spoofs), it'd come to your email inbox as fresh news.

She used to get rather upset when I'd point out a particular "tell" of fakes - perspective, shadows, etc.

1. "Journey into Night," like most of Uelsmann's I skimmed, does nothing for me in terms of interest and enjoyment. Probably because I mostly don't "get" them, just like I don't get much poetry and classical music. Different strokes. I define his work as art, rather than specifically the area of art known as photography, because of the degree of manipulation of reality.

2. Ethics - On another site not long ago, someone posted a distant lightning strike photo and didn't acknowledge it was a composite until many folks had ooh'd and ahh'd over his skill with exposure and focus, right/time right/place luck, and so forth. For me, there is no point to that kind of deception, particularly on photo-sharing sites.

In any of my modest composites, I would never want someone to think an added bird or other element was real, so I would definitely disclose that upfront.

In his interview with Caponigro, Uelsmann says re editing with computers, "That's the one factor that probably is going to change in the next century. People will begin to be a bit more suspicious." One could argue people are not nearly suspicious enough - lol - but then we'd end up talking about fake news and all that other tedious (political) stuff. Perhaps the solution is to just enjoy the emotional impact of an image that's presented as artistic expression - and while not being concerned how much of it is real, to keep in mind not all in life is what it seems :)
"What's important in a photograph and what isn't." http://photographylife.com/whats-import ... -what-isnt

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Post by minniev » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:09 pm

Thank you Steve for your thoughtful response and the links above about art.

We all have our own taste, which may stretch from the surreal to the ultra-real. What is intriguing is how value-laden the responses to photographic surrealism can become, while it seems that traditional art is less burdened with such responses.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by minniev » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:12 pm

LindaShorey wrote:Creating in the real or virtual darkroom makes no difference in my mind; both are creative outlets with the result being what I would term "art." A photograph is real (as well as being a form of art), but often edited to push a certain mood or emotion, and of course can be composed to tell less than, or more than, the scene.

....


Thank you Linda for this commentary about both the image and their "category". Disclosure is an interesting component of the responses to such creations: what we expect of ourselves, what we expect of others, and how to reconcile the differences.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by St3v3M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:34 pm

minniev wrote:... What is intriguing is how value-laden the responses to photographic surrealism can become, while it seems that traditional art is less burdened with such responses.

Traditional art, such as drawings, paintings, etc., seem to be a pictorial of history, a way to remember or to share a story, where photographs hinge on the real, the now, the what could be, so in terms of manipulating them there is the familiar but not which can fascinate and disorient us. Take for instance Jerry's image on the opening page, essentially we have a tree, a set of hands, a birds nest, and a crow, things familiar yet shown in an unfamiliar way.

Jerry's work is like looking at a dream, something that we know, something that can be but can't at the same time where it's both fascinating and disorienting. In defense of my statement above, there are artists that do the same, like Salvador Dalí and M.C. Escher but neither are so realistic that they feel like a photograph or even more important a reality we could be a part of. I've loved Escher since the day I found his work, but it's not something I can step into if you will, it's fascinating but not real. For me then, it's about the subtlety, the I know it's not real, but it could be that fascinates me the most.

Art is a big thing with variations for each of us and I love it so! S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by St3v3M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:38 pm

PietFrancke wrote:One man's heresy is another's religion.
...

We seem to live and die by this, at once beautiful but also deadly. I love this but it scares me all the same. S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by Ernst-Ulrich Schafer » Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:43 pm

I would love to spend the money on the 21st Century offering, but my pockets aren't that deep. ;-) I remember a photo of him on his knees at Point Lobos if I'm not mistaken and Ansel & Imogen were baptizing him into photography. ;-) I had the pleasure of a short meeting with him at my mentors home in Portland, OR. I should have bought prints back then.
Today is the Day, a New Day.

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Post by St3v3M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:49 pm

Ernst-Ulrich Schafer wrote:I would love to spend the money on the 21st Century offering, but my pockets aren't that deep. ;-) I remember a photo of him on his knees at Point Lobos if I'm not mistaken and Ansel & Imogen were baptizing him into photography. ;-) I had the pleasure of a short meeting with him at my mentors home in Portland, OR. I should have bought prints back then.
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