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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Old 08-04-2014   #41
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People no longer draw pleasure from looking at photographs, since their visual senses have been overused in daily life, computers, phones, video and TV, at least for those who still watch TV.


So, why are we still producing one photo after another for a visually exhausted world?
We...? Who is we and while "we" are at it, who are "People"?

"People" are so excited to see my work, they pay nicely for it. Sorry it is not happening for you.....
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Old 08-04-2014   #42
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Uh... Speak for yourself. I have fun looking for consistently good photographers (of my taste). I'm always asking questions, looking for answers. Seeing what new direction I can take my own photography. There's different types of photos you know.
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Old 08-04-2014   #43
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Contrary to popular belief, the phrase "survival of the fittest" doesn't come from Darwin and it's arguably a poor representation of his theory of natural selection.
It's silly to say that human evolution has 'stopped' (it will have stopped when humans have all died out) but it's also silly to bring evolution into an argument about changes in our media culture that happened in the course of a few decades.
As far as I see, nobody pretended to quote Mr. Darwin. The phrase "survival of the fittest", although not exact, is indeed a pretty good synthesis of the E. theory. That phrase, in this context, really means reproducing in greater quantities (surviving) than other (less fit) members of the same ecosystem. It does not imply the death of any individual.

You are wrong about the central point of the E. Theory, evolution is not an inner force of living beings, evolution needs some form of external selection to occur (if not natural, we call it breeding). You are confused with "variation" (or mutation if you like), that's inherent to life and is the fuel for evolution. But variation without selection does not produce evolution. What I'm saying is that there is no selection anymore, ergo, no evolution.

Today, few selection forces are acting upon humans, natural resistance to child diseases may be one of them. Have in mind that after your reproductive age, Evolution doesn't care about what happens to you.

A rough example. Thousands of years ago, short-sighted people died early because they couldn't see the lion stalking or they performed poorly in hunting and didn't get wives. In both cases, they didn't had a chance to reproduce. Today, clever people get rich and beautiful people get more sex but, do they have more children than other people? I don't think so. Evolution, at least in the biological sense, has stopped for us.

P.S. An advise, don't call "silly" the words of other person unless you really intend to offend him.
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Old 08-05-2014   #44
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people have been looking with their eyes for their entire lives for hundreds of thousands of years.

...though that's sort of a different definition of "visually exhausted," lol.

one of the great things about photography is that it allows us to see in a way that's different from the way we see naturally, be that in black & white (for the vast majority of us), super-shallow depth-of-field, nighttime/long exposure/HDR, wide-angle/telephoto........

all are different ways of "seeing," where the eyes in question aren't limited by organic restrictions.
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Old 08-05-2014   #45
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"There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was." ― Robert Frank

Is Frank correct?
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Old 08-05-2014   #46
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Hi,

Back to the subject; to me "Visually exhausted" suggest plain, old fashioned bored to tears...

Regards, David
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Old 08-05-2014   #47
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I'm visually exhausted with the news. In my mind, all they are looking for are eye balls to watch which must affect the advertising rates.
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Old 08-05-2014   #48
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HSG,

I totally sympathize with you - it does sound as if you're a bit visually overloaded/overwhlemed. Consider trying to get out to a good art exhibit this week or weekend. Surely there must be something good on in the big TO. Take some time and really soak in some crafted, well made images - doesn't have to be photography. For me a good art exhibit does wonders to excite my senses. And you won't be doing this so you can make images like the ones you see - it's to regain faith in the power of pictures again. There's a couple John Singer Sargent paintings here in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie that do it for me. Find a picture that speaks to you and make use of one of those gallery seats and really look for a while. This is night and day different from the bombardment of low resolution images on the internet, the experiential bottleneck being the screen...
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Old 08-05-2014   #49
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HSG,

I totally sympathize with you - it does sound as if you're a bit visually overloaded/overwhlemed. Consider trying to get out to a good art exhibit this week or weekend. Surely there must be something good on in the big TO. Take some time and really soak in some crafted, well made images - doesn't have to be photography. For me a good art exhibit does wonders to excite my senses. And you won't be doing this so you can make images like the ones you see - it's to regain faith in the power of pictures again. There's a couple John Singer Sargent paintings here in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie that do it for me. Find a picture that speaks to you and make use of one of those gallery seats and really look for a while. This is night and day different from the bombardment of low resolution images on the internet, the experiential bottleneck being the screen...
Thanks. It is possible to recharge and so on, but we simply cannot escape from the facts of 'screen life', which is basically what life has become for almost everyone, even in poor countries. The phone screen is a window where people see the world, and that phone is a camera as well when needed, so this whole photography thing is now kept alive by people like us who have become too attached to let go.


The only hope is that E-Inc screens might eventually get larger and better so one could look at images with reflected light, but that is something still in the future.

Still photography has to go through a profound change and that can only happen with technology, which is a double-edged sword.

Photography has become trivial, cheap and too easy to be desirable. When there is no desire and no pleasure in an activity and its end-result, it becomes a chore, and if a chore is not necessary, why do it.

I speak for myself, and I still continue with photography because I get pleasure from walking about, and taking photos. The photos themselves have become uninteresting... And I don't want to stir the pot bu the bland digital look is one major reason. Perhaps if some new sensor technology comes along that motivates one to see the world through it, like films of the old, perhaps photos might become pleasurable again.
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Old 08-05-2014   #50
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Hsg, I understand what you are saying, but people have made cognate points for a surprisingly long time, and in different contexts. For example, I was recently reading a series of essays written just after the First World War by the critic Camille Mauclair. In them, Mauclair launched a polemical and very conservative attack against post-impressionism, charging it with having become a degenerate form of art, and accusing it of "phobia of subject": contemporary art, to Mauclair, was no longer capable of expressing privileged aesthetic values (such as beauty), of conveying proper meaning; all had been lost in the clamour (he felt) for superficial pursuit of colour and of form.
Your complaint is in a different context, and in a different vein, but the reason I draw the parallel is simple. Just as you feel the aesthetic possibilities of photography (here I read aesthetics in a broader sense) have been compromised so that it is now uninteresting, a chore, trivial, people have been complaining about artistic endeavour having become trivialised and made less meaningful for a very long time. Their reasons for arguing this, and the precise terms of their arguments, may have been different in differing contexts, but still... (We could add to this the ironisation of privileged aesthetic qualities and values, of definitions of art etc, through the 'readymades', and people's responses to this etc etc etc...The point is this: some people have been concerned with the current state of art for an extremely long time, and questions about where it is going and what it has become are not new by any means...).
So I would say: just try to find enjoyment in what you are doing. Perhaps, if these are the concerns you are feeling, then they can feed your creative process and inform and inspire you in your photographic work. Perhaps the creative tension you feel about the direction of photography will inspire you and inform your work.
I don't agree with the conclusions that you draw, but I do respect that this is how you feel about photography. Perhaps you could explore the tension you feel through your photographic work, rather than allowing it to make you feel that photography has become uninteresting and chore-like.
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Old 08-05-2014   #51
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My left eye is defective. It just didn't develop in the same way, or to the same extent, as my right eye. My right eye has become completely dominant in this respect and even my right eye isn't great as I have a prescription of +7.25. Why do I mention this? Well, even with non-stereoscopic, impaired vision, I never grow tired (aesthetically) of looking at all manner of photographs. They act to inspire me and teach me. I don't like them all, of course, but I respect them all.

What "tires" my eyes (physically) is the effort of focusing my eyes sometimes over long periods, staring at a computer screen or a badly-lit exhibition. I also work in an office and spend 8+ hours a day using a PC.

We need inspiration and variety to "grow" as people and photographers (IMO) and I can say, in all honesty, that I never tire of looking at inspirational photos. If I ever do, I will sell my camera gear and take up something else that interests / inspires me more.
Since the OP keeps mentioning the medium that they are viewing photographs on, projected light, too small, too bright, too dim too etc. I thought as you, perhaps we're talking about some sort of 'fatigue'.
Much the same as listening to an audio system with a high THD content may result in 'listeners fatigue'.
But it seems that the 'sense data' is just fine, rather the processing is amiss. Distilling the content of all photographs into a few basic recognizable or familiar forms could put the kibosh on a more nuanced aesthetic appreciation.
It's as though the OP has done filled their head full-up to the brim with images..."you can't trade your head in for a new one".
What to do???
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Old 08-06-2014   #52
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Photography has become trivial, cheap and too easy to be desirable.
Not to me... and how is it easy? It is still hard to find compelling content and novel ways to frame it. Technical concerns are not the be all end all of photography.

Quote:
When there is no desire and no pleasure in an activity and its end-result, it becomes a chore, and if a chore is not necessary, why do it.
This is when it is time to quit.
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Old 08-06-2014   #53
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The easy part technique has always been easy. Learning to see is infinitely difficult and learning to see is no easier today than it was 50 years ago.

I'd say go look at some prints. If you are in Chicago I think Koudelka is still at the Art Institute ( saw it a while back) and Steichen is there also.
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Old 08-06-2014   #54
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Evolution needs natural selection (or at least some form of selection) in order to the survival of the fittest. That is not happening anymore (lucky me) so, yes, human evolution has stopped.
Not quite. It has only changed direction. The adaptation to drinking milk, for example, is a very recent introduction to our gene-pool, that does not yet cover all of humanity.

'Survival of the fittest' is short and pithy, but "The least fit have a lower reproduction rate" is probably more exact. Human evolution is still going strong.

The fact that we die less and reproduce more successfully does not really matter. Evolution rests on the mixing of genes that happens in sexual reproduction : more of it only means evolution has more material to work with. And the 'weeding out' factor still goes on, even if the criteria for survival have changed : anybody who does not have children, or whose children do not survive to reproduce, has her/his genetical heritage excluded from the gene-pool . There you have it : Survival of the not too unfit.


Consider a society that has a job that requires sexual abstinence, Nuns and monks, for example. If that job attracts people with a certain trait, that is linked to their genetic make-up, it would disappear from the gene-pool.
I'm not saying this has happened, the point is that evolution is not just about surviving lions in the Serengeti, conditions for fitness can change, and they can be shaped by culture.
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Old 08-06-2014   #55
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Thanks. It is possible to recharge and so on, but we simply cannot escape from the facts of 'screen life', which is basically what life has become for almost everyone, even in poor countries. The phone screen is a window where people see the world, and that phone is a camera as well when needed, so this whole photography thing is now kept alive by people like us who have become too attached to let go.


The only hope is that E-Inc screens might eventually get larger and better so one could look at images with reflected light, but that is something still in the future.

Still photography has to go through a profound change and that can only happen with technology, which is a double-edged sword.

Photography has become trivial, cheap and too easy to be desirable. When there is no desire and no pleasure in an activity and its end-result, it becomes a chore, and if a chore is not necessary, why do it.

I speak for myself, and I still continue with photography because I get pleasure from walking about, and taking photos. The photos themselves have become uninteresting... And I don't want to stir the pot bu the bland digital look is one major reason. Perhaps if some new sensor technology comes along that motivates one to see the world through it, like films of the old, perhaps photos might become pleasurable again.
Only for those who choose that path.

The idea that "'screen life' . . . is basically what life has become for almost everyone, even in poor countries" is true only in rich countries for undiscriminating people.

Cheers,

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Old 08-06-2014   #56
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Originally Posted by Hsg View Post
People no longer draw pleasure from looking at photographs, since their visual senses have been overused in daily life, computers, phones, video and TV, at least for those who still watch TV.


So, why are we still producing one photo after another for a visually exhausted world?
I draw pleasure from looking at photographs that are interesting, but do not draw pleasure from the multitude of run-of-the-mill photographs that are pervasive on the inter webs.

The problem is not that we are still producing one photo after another. The problem is that "we" are sharing and showing every darn one of them!

So as I see it, the root cause of the problem boils down to failure to tightly edit ones own work and only show the best work.

I use both Flickr and Tumblr, but with different purposes. My Flickr account is where I dump all kinds of pictures, some just of "snapshot" quality. This is for sharing my immediate family's experiences with the rest of the family and friends who do not live near us. My Tumblr is reserved for only pictures that I think are interesting and go at least one step above snapshot quality.
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Old 08-06-2014   #57
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I speak for myself, and I still continue with photography because I get pleasure from walking about, and taking photos. The photos themselves have become uninteresting... And I don't want to stir the pot bu the bland digital look is one major reason. Perhaps if some new sensor technology comes along that motivates one to see the world through it, like films of the old, perhaps photos might become pleasurable again.
Maybe I'm missing the profoundly obvious here, but if one thing you don't like is the digital look, why not just use film?
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Old 08-09-2014   #58
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Evolution needs natural selection (or at least some form of selection) in order to the survival of the fittest. That is not happening anymore (lucky me) so, yes, human evolution has stopped.
That no longer appears to be true - that's the evolution I learned at school too. Although evidence is present there appears to be a other forces at work - epigenetics - which switches genes on and off within a generation and which is passed down more than a single generation.
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Old 08-10-2014   #59
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Look at most street photography now & all you mostly see are photos of people looking into their smartphones. They gotta be reading something. I think what I suffer from is location burnout. Lately I can't seem to find anything fresh to photograph. Even driving a truck all towns I go to look much the same.
I'm with you on location burnout. Were livng in a sanatized world where everyone and everything is beginning to look the same. Very little individuality now.

I'm in the process of retiring and moving from east TN to an art colony in southern Arizona and this is one of the reasons.
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Old 08-10-2014   #60
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Here is what I have expressed in this thread, in terms of number, with one camera maker only:

NIKON SYSTEM CAMERA SALES FALL 31%
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Old 08-10-2014   #61
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I draw pleasure from looking at photographs that are interesting, but do not draw pleasure from the multitude of run-of-the-mill photographs that are pervasive on the inter webs.

The problem is not that we are still producing one photo after another. The problem is that "we" are sharing and showing every darn one of them!

So as I see it, the root cause of the problem boils down to failure to tightly edit ones own work and only show the best work.

I use both Flickr and Tumblr, but with different purposes. My Flickr account is where I dump all kinds of pictures, some just of "snapshot" quality. This is for sharing my immediate family's experiences with the rest of the family and friends who do not live near us. My Tumblr is reserved for only pictures that I think are interesting and go at least one step above snapshot quality.
The decline of editing is found in every medium- everyone can now be a published author, with no effective filters in place to block the noise.

There used to be derision for 'vanity presses', but in their attacks on conventional publishers, Amazon has elevated that model to be the new normal. It's true that important voices may be heard now that wouldn't have found a platform in the past, but speaking for myself, I no longer hear much of anything.

Randy
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Old 11-29-2014   #62
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Lots of people here have interesting responses. It seems to me that in the volume of images that we look at, we become quite used to not looking at images carefully and considerately. Knowing what questions to ask the photograph, and actually asking those questions, is when things, such as photographs, become interesting beyond the immediate aesthetic component. The problem seems to me that we become so accustomed to not asking those questions, even though we may know what types of questions to ask. We hurry over everything in order to see everything, when, in fact, we don't actually enjoy, well, much of anything. I think this enjoyment has something to do with deliberate and intentional interaction....which takes time. There is a reason why PhDs spend so much time working on one seemingly small thing....there are so many questions to ask!!!
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In the end, it's all about cycles...
Old 11-29-2014   #63
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In the end, it's all about cycles...

"The beauty is in the eye of the beholder" as they say.

Men are very moment- or emotion-based species, there are times we look something exceptionally carefully, be it a single photo, or very briefly skip through lots of them. In the digital age photography being the most common hobby on Earth - certainly there's an utterly overwhelming amount of photos in the World today, more than ever before since they don't just dissapear they keep growing while old ones stay, as time goes on it gets harder not to get tired of it all.

Obviously a very (or better: extremely-) selective vewing helps - i.e. in my case I've nearly fully given up digital these days, since I really did get so bored with digital photos despite I was a very pro-digital some years ago. This sounds ignorant to most, but I've taken "less is more" stance in life and this way I've filtered out easily over 99.99% of the amount of photos already to "borrow" that precious time and be able to focus more on single images. I do keep an open eye and occasionally sweep through various exceptionally gifted digital creators to broaden my own ideas when I seek new ideas I cannot find in the analogue domain.

Still there are times when I cannot take it anymore - motorcycles or music is my sanctuary then. There are times when I throw all my photo gear into shelf, put the film into deep freeze and just forget it all for months in row. Instead I go out riding, or in winters play my bass guitar or program new sonics on my analog polyphonic synthesizer, create soundscapes that I get lost into. If getting tired of creating music I switch on my tube amp and play a nice vinyl record - eraise every image or visual conception in my head and obtain new sonical inspirations or directions.

And when tired of the sonical world - I return to visual photography. Repeat. I guess life goes in cycles afterall
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