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Author Topic: The privileged condition  (Read 52166 times)

Isaac

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The privileged condition
« on: July 15, 2015, 01:43:09 pm »

The Photographs of Frederick Sommer


Quote
"Suppose you were going out with your camera and somebody asks you what you are going to photograph. There's a pretty fair chance that you have something on your mind, and you'll name something. But the more you can name it, the more you're going to face the great enemy, and that is the privileged condition. The privileged condition is a beautiful woman. The beautiful woman sits in the middle of a space and none of these shades that are so beguiling seem to go anywhere, it's just parked in the middle…"

In distinguishing his work from Weston's, Sommer sets the parked or privileged subject, which is readily named and, like an island untouched by the sea, has too little exchange with what surrounds it, against the distributive concern, a spatial configuration that draws together many relationships, allows fields to interact, and muddles the naming of things.

"Photography and the Art of Chance" p221
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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2015, 05:03:11 pm »

Too interesting. I had to order the book (Google Books truncates the Sommer quote).
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2015, 05:30:14 pm »

Quote
... Sommer sets the parked or privileged subject, which is readily named and, like an island untouched by the sea, has too little exchange with what surrounds it, against the distributive concern, a spatial configuration that draws together many relationships, allows fields to interact, and muddles the naming of things.

Say what!?

amolitor

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2015, 06:22:46 pm »

Sounds like a philosopher.

They specialize in muddling the naming of things. A basic approach to writing a philosophy essay or book is to consider:

1. A thing
2. Things which reference the thing (names and so on)
3. The idea of the thing
4. The social constructs surrounding the thing

Now muddle up two or more of them. You can just use the same word for several of these items and hope nobody notices, or you can airily state "you really cannot separate the apple from the social construct of the apple" or "what is a mountain, really, except the idea of 'mountain'?"

The last step is, essentially, to spring back in surprise and say loudly "Wow, what a mess I have made!" except that you don't say it like that. Instead you explore the consequences of what conflating the taste of an apple with an actual apple is, and from that conclude something incomprehensible. The text you fill this part up with is more or less boilerplate and can probably be computer-generated, if necessary, for as many yards or furlongs as is necessary to fulfill the contract.
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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2015, 06:44:57 pm »

Sounds like a philosopher.

They specialize in muddling the naming of things.


Yes, but the interesting thing is the claim that Sommer is doing the same thing with his photography - exploring networks rather than isolated subjects (Weston).
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BradSmith

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 09:19:48 pm »

Say what!?



It sounds like a lot of the posts here at this end of the forum.
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amolitor

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2015, 09:30:11 pm »

I don't see that the photos really do that, with the possible exception of the double exposures which do it sorry of trivially. But, horses for courses, and all that.

The quote from the book appears to be pseudo intellectual gibberish. I believe the author is some sort of Art Academic, and I suppose that therefore he tends to fall in to a dialect of International Art English when he runs out of things to say.

IAE is useful when, as in an artist's statement, you wish to convey flavor without meaning, to convey perhaps the vague shape of an idea without the details. I'm not sure it's such a hot idea for a book.
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Isaac

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 03:07:49 am »

Say what!?

The words that Frederick Sommer used when contrasting Weston's photographs with his own photographs: figure isolated against background versus gradual interchange, figure isolated versus inter-relationships, etc etc

« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 03:25:06 am by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2015, 03:18:22 am »

Too interesting. I had to order the book (Google Books truncates the Sommer quote).

Remember, only one chapter on Sommer :-)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 03:21:21 am by Isaac »
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spidermike

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2015, 06:27:14 am »

figure isolated against background versus gradual interchange,



Ah, the pseud's tactic - explain gibberish by either repeating the same gibberish as some faux understanding or using more gibberish.

Isn't 'gradual interchange' in a picture like being 'a little bit pregnant'?
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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2015, 07:08:35 am »

Ah, the pseud's tactic - explain gibberish by either repeating the same gibberish as some faux understanding or using more gibberish.


For those who are struggling to understand Kelsey's language (he's not Heidegger, you know), here are some pictures to help you (Weston's rabbit vs Sommer's rabbit):

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VRU7soM0fb4C&lpg=PA193&ots=frMbSBETlj&dq=%22things%20that%20we%20can%20name%20too%20easily%2C%20like%20a%20flower%22&pg=PA195#v=onepage&q&f=false

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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2015, 07:12:36 am »


Isn't 'gradual interchange' in a picture like being 'a little bit pregnant'?

Hmm, I don't think so. Sommer photographs the dead rabbit gradually merging with its environment - 'gradual interchange' describes that well enough.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 07:25:48 am by elliot_n »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2015, 10:21:28 am »

Oh, dear Lord! A post-conceptualization orgy?

amolitor

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2015, 10:32:18 am »

Oh, I'm not struggling to understand Kelsey's language. I recognize it for what it is, which is a lot of words to say not a lot, descending fairly regularly into gibberish. He's shoving in phrase after phrase that repeat the same general ideas, and occasionally one of them falls flat, or means nothing. "an island untouched by the sea" is simply an error, he wants something about an island and isolation, and winds up with this bizarre and meaningless phrase. Is the island supposed to be floating over the sea? Surrounded by a wall, perhaps? Is he referring to the parts of the island that don't touch the water? What he''s trying to say is obvious, but the metaphor falls flat because it doesn't mean anything. It's sloppy writing, in a style intended to sound smart without actually being smart.

These are appropriate methods to use (albeit with better editing) when you're trying to say something that is difficult or impossible to get at literally. You are left with poetry and metaphor.

When what you're trying to say is "this guy's subjects are metaphorically isolated from the background and this other guy's are not" then you're not in the territory of words being unable to express the ideas, so you can just use words rather than a pile of metaphors, clumsy or otherwise.

The "pile of metaphors and other phrases" writing style is used to give the impression that you're talking about the ineffable, the impossible to say with words, the turtle with no name, even when you are not.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 10:49:14 am by amolitor »
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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2015, 01:15:05 pm »

Isaac, I'm having trouble finding the second paragraph quoted in your original post. Is it in the Google Books link?
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Alan Klein

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2015, 01:30:56 pm »

Gobbledygook.

Otto Phocus

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2015, 01:36:33 pm »

Not sure I understand the original quote.  There have been many many times when I have gone out with the intention of shooting something specific only to come home with pictures of something entirely different.  That is one of the many advantages of being a hobbyist photographer.
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I shoot with a Camera Obscura with an optical device attached that refracts and transmits light.

amolitor

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2015, 01:50:46 pm »

It just means that Sommer takes the subject,
        which is obvious and which we understand (or thing he understand)
and shoves it into a frame with some other stuff
        that makes our understanding of the subject more complex and less clear.

I see this with the portrait of Haas, but not with anything else. I think Kelsey is reaching. Sommer seems to have been a minor figure, anyways.
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Isaac

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2015, 03:04:08 pm »

Isaac, I'm having trouble finding the second paragraph quoted in your original post. Is it in the Google Books link?

No, the Google Books preview stops a couple of lines before. (The page layout shown on Google Books preview is not the same page layout as the book.)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 03:09:36 pm by Isaac »
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elliot_n

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Re: The privileged condition
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2015, 03:23:40 pm »

It just means that Sommer takes the subject,
        which is obvious and which we understand (or thing he understand)
and shoves it into a frame with some other stuff
        that makes our understanding of the subject more complex and less clear.


If this is the alternative to poetry and metaphor, I'll stick with Kelsey and Sommer.
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