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Author Topic: Artistic License  (Read 18659 times)

LesPalenik

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #60 on: March 30, 2012, 02:10:20 PM »

Quote
Even as serious, empirical, secular photographers (most of you), don't you think there is a difference between a painting of the crucifixion and a photograph?
Yes. But there would be also a difference for an oil painting of the first man arriving to Moon and a photograph.

John Camp

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #61 on: March 30, 2012, 03:19:56 PM »

Yes. But there would be also a difference for an oil painting of the first man arriving to Moon and a photograph.

Absolutely. And you know why? Because paintings are considered to fall short of the photographic representation of the actual event. There *are* paintings of it; but they're considered hokey. Go to Google Images and enter "moon-landing paintings." You'll see what I mean. For some things, photography is considered much more authentic than painting. An authentic painting is more about the artist and his representation of reality -- the key word being artist. When paintings try to duplicate what photographs do, they usually fall short. There are some photo-realist paintings that may not fall short, but as Uncle Ho said about the French Revolution, it's too soon to tell.


I think you need to provide some examples of which paintings of the crucifixion draw reverence and which photographs of the crucifixion draw ridicule.

No, I don't. I'm not teaching a course in art history. But there are several of each.

Perhaps it would suit your purpose just as well to ask where are the photographs of "The Death of Caesar."

That entirely misses the point...or duplicates it. 
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David Sutton

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #62 on: March 30, 2012, 04:05:27 PM »

I probably shouldn't do this, but having dragged Ansel Adams into the discussion, I will take the next logical step and drag in Jesus Christ. And I do this simply as a thought problem for those interested in photography.

Jesus is a big deal; even as the world grows more secular, his image still has a lot of power. This has been expressed for some two thousand years in paintings, right up to the modern era (see Salvador Dali.) Everybody knows that those paintings do not represent an effort to reproduce the actual image of Jesus as a person, yet they were produced for centuries, and often with great feeling and artistic integrity.

There have been few attempts to portray Jesus' crucifixion in photography (although there have been a few.) Most of those attempts have drawn nothing but ridicule. (We don't count motion picture photography here, for reasons that would be tiresome to get into, and somewhat beside the point.)

But why do paintings of the crucifixion often draw reverence, while photographs draw ridicule? Again, I think we have to consider what the overwhelming majority of people consider the central tenet of the photograph: that it is a representation of reality. And taking a photograph of an actor or a model in an effort to elicit reverence or some other reaction just seems foolish. (Piss Christ doesn't count as an image of the crucifixion; it's a photo of an object that depicts the crucifixion, which is a different matter.)

Even as serious, empirical, secular photographers (most of you), don't you think there is a difference between a painting of the crucifixion and a photograph? Of course you do. The intriguing question is, why do you think that?

Painting has many advantages over photography in that it may often be more “realistic” in terms of being closer to the way we see (how we focus and perceive light and shade for example). This is not surprising given the image in a painting comes direct from the brain and not through the medium of an apparatus. I think your thought experiment is not a good example as it is not comparing apples with apples. Paintings with religious themes have a respected history, even if they were often created for political reasons. And as far as I am aware, there is no such pedigree to draw on for photography. Furthermore, while I am not personally in favour of religious symbols (I think they encourage us to stop at the surface) most Christians I know only hold the empty cross as meaningful.
What may work however is to compare the difference between a photograph and a painting of a religious leader. So for example, do you think there is a difference between a photograph of a pope and a painting of him? Do devout Roman Catholics react differently to the two ways of depicting him? How much artistic licence has the photographer taken?  There is probably a Ph.D  here for someone. I'd be interested to know the answers.
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Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #63 on: March 30, 2012, 05:08:23 PM »

No, I don't. I'm not teaching a course in art history. But there are several of each.
You say there are examples and leave us to guess which examples (in your opinion) support your argument. That really isn't persuasive.


Realistic photographs of re-enactments would have to be understood as just that - images of re-enactments.
As one critic noted in 1900 "In looking at a photograph, you cannot forget that it is a representation of something that existed when it was taken."

Untitled (Crucifix with Roman Soldiers)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 06:23:49 PM by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #64 on: March 30, 2012, 05:26:39 PM »

What may work however is to compare the difference between a photograph and a painting of a religious leader.

Guerrillero Heroico
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John Camp

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #65 on: March 30, 2012, 05:46:45 PM »

I'd be interested to know the answers.

So would I, if there are any.

About the Pope and paintings... I think the situation there is different -- nobody really thinks the Pope is divine. He's just a big shot, and there are some popes that even devout Catholics didn't much like. The reason I picked the crucifixion is that it's so rife with symbolism, and means so many different things to so many different people, and interpretations change so radically over the ages. The Isenheim Altarpiece was once hung in a hospital to help bring relief from suffering for dying people...now, we look on it with horror, if anything, for its graphic gruesomeness. I think the fact that people take vastly different things from paintings in different times is one criterion for a serious work of [painting] art. But that doesn't really work with photographs, because while (I believe) photography is a serious art form, it is essentially different from painting. As long as people are human and use native vision, I think the meanings of photographs will remain relatively fixed -- when you think of great photographs (choose one) how will the interpretation of that work change in 100 or 200 years?

I haven't thought this all the way through, but I'm tempted to say that the greater the painting, the less fixed is the message; the great the photograph, the more fixed is the message. It's almost impossible to resist the temptation to compare them, but it's possible (to paraphrase and rearrange a witticism by somebody else) that we're trying to compare architecture and dance which, though they both may be art forms, are somewhat, erm, difficult to compare.
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kencameron

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #66 on: March 30, 2012, 06:45:08 PM »

I think you need to provide some examples of which paintings of the crucifixion draw reverence and which photographs of the crucifixion draw ridicule.

Thinking about this, I put "photographs of the crucifixion" into Google Images. Most of what came up were paintings and I was reminded of the richness of that tradition and the quality of the artists who have worked within it. Reverence, certainly, but a range of other reactions - horror, pity, disgust. The photographs fell into a couple of categories. Some photographs of pre-existing images of the crucifixion or of other sights associated with the life of christ - sculptures, the via dolorosa etc - nice enough, some of them, but not exactly deeply moving. Some staged photographs of re-enactments - mostly pretty lame although I thought this has a certain demented interest, although more as a photograph overtly of a re-enactment, which is something different,  and this too, quite a powerful image IMHO . Some highly symbolic images, not too convincing. Overall, I thought the comparison said more about the relative skills of the painters and photographers who have tackled the subject than about intrinsic differences between the media. Can anyone think of a reputed photographer who has worked on the crucifixion? I suspect Robert Mapplethorpe (sp?) may allude to it, indirectly, here and there.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 06:49:23 PM by kencameron »
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Ken Cameron

Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #67 on: March 30, 2012, 08:29:11 PM »

Thinking about this, I put "photographs of the crucifixion" into Google Images.
You'd already pointed out the answer - "Realistic photographs of re-enactments would have to be understood as just that - images of re-enactments."
  • a photograph "is a representation of something that existed when it was taken."
  • a painting can be a representation of something that existed long before it was painted.
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Alan Smallbone

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #68 on: March 30, 2012, 11:42:21 PM »

Or possibly the artist could draw in a hyper-realistic format that only looked like a photograph....

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/realistic-drawings-look-like-photographs-1333124926-slideshow/

Funny that this was posted today....

Alan
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Alan Smallbone
Orange County, CA

aduke

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #69 on: March 31, 2012, 12:52:56 AM »

Or possibly the artist could draw in a hyper-realistic format that only looked like a photograph....

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/realistic-drawings-look-like-photographs-1333124926-slideshow/

Funny that this was posted today....

Alan

Why would someone do this work?

alan
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Alan Smallbone

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #70 on: March 31, 2012, 01:06:35 AM »

There is some more details on his website about his hyper realistic drawings..

http://paulcadden.com/

Alan
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Alan Smallbone
Orange County, CA

walterk

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #71 on: March 31, 2012, 11:18:28 AM »

I don't think it's naive to assume a photograph can provide evidence of certain important aspects of the external world. Just because it can be easily faked or misread, it doesn't mean the documentary potential has no value. A fossil of a feather preserves some characteristics of it size, shape and texture, if lacking in many other ways. Likewise with a black and white photograph of a feather with a ruler placed next to it. Photographs usually need a backstory to support the evidence presented. To a scientist, that may mean tentatively trusting the source of the photograph and how it was taken. In law, it may mean the photographer might have to be called in as a witness.

And I can think of few circumstances in art where the backstory is not important. In the field of painting in the age of photography, it suddenly became important to many to know if a painting was made from life or photographs; in landscape photography in the digital age, the question about manipulation is inevitable. It's not so much of a legal issue, it's simply a way for the viewing public to know something of the artist's intentions, which in turn helps them process what they're looking at. We're human. It's not always just the cold arrangement of things on a surface that's important, but the circumstances of how it was made. Especially when you're serious about buying "fine art".

By invoking "artistic license" and claiming there are no rules, Alain undermines one of the medium's most powerful attributes. He concedes that photography can be used as evidence, but ignores the potential that has for art. The problem is, he works in the vernacular of western landscape photography, right down to the use of  titles of the specific locales they were taken. This kind of work likely attracts a public who are suspect of invented realities. But because Alain has moved a few trees around, stretched the height of a mountain, used false color, and scrubbed tributaries from waterways, he's got the wrong backstory for that public. It also puts him in the position to have to explain that some of the miraculous features in his shots are as he found them, even if he rearranged some trees here and there.

I think most people concerned about manipulation would come to understand that a photographer might amplify atmospheric effects with global moves, exaggerate the effects of light with contrast or "dodge and burn" methods, or that the color of the scene is not the same spectral value as it was the moment the picture was taken. But it's the cut and paste; the moving and/or distorting of major topological features that signals that the artist is not interested in preserving the original fingerprint of the optical projection. This destabilizes one of the chief advantage photography can claim over other arts, however tenuous its connection to reality. The slippery slope of all this leads to photographic confections like "Sugarloaf Rock", by Peter Eastway, the making of which is profiled on this site. It's fine to do this sort of photography, it's just that you have to think about it in a very different context. The growing popularity of this approach is probably why so many people are asking the question about manipulation. But as kencameron suggested at the top of page 3 of this debate, photographers should be careful about complaining. I would add that it's perfectly reasonable to want to know if that breaching whale leaping out of the Antartic ocean (also seen on this site) is connected to an actual event and not a cut and paste job, dropped in from a stock photo found on the internets.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 09:45:36 AM by walterk »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #72 on: March 31, 2012, 01:07:39 PM »

For anyone still amused by Isaac's relentless philosophical questioning of "what does it mean to be realistic in photography", my humble contribution to the debate: ;)

Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #73 on: April 01, 2012, 12:11:26 AM »

Slobodan, I think you nailed it! (Whatever "it" is.)   ;D
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my photo website. New images each season. Also visit my new website: http://ericneedsakidney.org

Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #74 on: April 02, 2012, 01:16:05 PM »

Overall, I thought the comparison said more about the relative skills of the painters and photographers who have tackled the subject than about intrinsic differences between the media. Can anyone think of a reputed photographer who has worked on the crucifixion?

reputed photographer ?

The Passion: photography from the movie The Passion of The Christ

(Excellent production values but still a re-enactment.)


« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 01:34:11 PM by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #75 on: April 02, 2012, 01:26:53 PM »

Why would someone do this work? [draw in a hyper-realistic format]

Why would someone make art?

By chance I noticed this book in the local library "Contemporary Drawing: Key Concepts and Techniques" -- it's kind-of interesting.
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Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #76 on: April 02, 2012, 01:52:17 PM »

I think that different art forms have inherent truths to them -- the inherent truth in painting or drawing is abstraction (in the broadest sense) ... The inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction...

"Computer manipulation means that it’s no longer possible to believe that a photograph represents a specific object in a specific place at a specific time -- to believe that the object is ‘true’."
David Hockney

Much more than that --

[20 years ago] "From the moment of its sesquicentennial in 1989 photography was dead -- or more precisely, radically and permanently displaced -- as was painting 150 years before."

The inherent truth in digital image making is mutability.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 05:52:35 PM by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #77 on: April 02, 2012, 04:48:09 PM »

... in landscape photography in the digital age, the question about manipulation is inevitable. ... it's simply a way for the viewing public to know something of the artist's intentions... Especially when you're serious about buying "fine art".

Perhaps that's just reading too much into such questions, here's a shrewd suggestion --

As for the viewer asking the question: does he really ask that? Maybe he’s just looking for something to say when confronted by the maker of the ‘artwork’. Better to ask an inane question than reveal, face to face, that there is absolutely nothing else to be said or even discussed about the ‘work’.



By invoking "artistic license" and claiming there are no rules, Alain undermines one of the medium's most powerful attributes. ... This destabilizes one of the chief advantage photography can claim over other arts, however tenuous its connection to reality.

Although the essay can be used as a jumping off point for all kinds of discussion - from the different opinions within pictorialism to Is Photography Over? - there's a much simpler way to read the essay and what the author is saying about his work compared to others' work --

In the case of the author, Alain, I can appreciate fully that everything he produces has to be, intentionally or not, part of the publicity machine that makes everything tick. I would do exactly the same, had I an axe to grind, a product to promote.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2012, 02:34:07 PM by Isaac »
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Ben Rubinstein

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #78 on: April 04, 2012, 08:52:46 AM »

Every photograph in every newspaper and every magazine and on every news website professes to depict reality. It isn't so strange that the general public view photography as depicting reality in an accurate way to the extent that although I agree with Alain's views of art, the sooner we disassociate our art from the word 'photography' the less annoying questions we will have to answer.

I'm teaching a photography class in a local art school. The photography is only a minor sideline to the main curriculum. I started off like this. 'Photography is the same as painting. We use a camera instead of a brush and light instead of paint.' That isn't however how photography is perceived by the general public.

Just stop using the term 'fine art photography'. It's fine art, period. Our tool of choice for the work is a camera but that's just a side point. On my website I don't mention the word 'photography' once. That is very much on purpose.

Ben Rubinstein

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Re: Artistic License
« Reply #79 on: April 05, 2012, 07:32:01 AM »

My fine art website does not mention photography. Not connected, I am teaching photography in a local art school. I've been a full time wedding photographer for a decade and now am heading a large studio shooting repro of ancient manuscripts and books for a museum.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 09:56:39 AM by Ben Rubinstein »
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