I was singing this little nugget in the shower the other day (but I substituted Ayala for Gilmore). And in some ways it relates a bit to this conversation.
Even if we are looking through the photographer's lens, we see the shot completely different than he/she does. We are looking at it from a different viewpoint. We all bring our viewpoints to the image and they are all different.
The only thing that my photos can say about me is what someone thinks that they can read into it. They can't really say anything definitive about me, because there is no way to know. I don't know what they say about me, and I'm quite sure that even a good shrink with a background in photography could say what they say about me.
I dig what Gary (and a few others) is/are saying, but that's really speaking a lot and not saying anything. Yes, anything I do (including taking photos) is something done by someone that is uniquely me. And while the things that I do cumulatively make me who I am, isolating those and ascribing any sort of individual meaning to them is an academic exercise that is best practiced solo while looking at charts of the brain ;)
Just read this thread from end to end; interesting reading. Perhaps I need to consider what my images say about me. I've always seen myself as more of a technician than an artist when it comes to photography. But the good spirited sharing of concepts, thoughts, philosophy and meanderings you have all posted has much to say about you. Just want to say how enjoyable it is to share the site with so many engaging personalities.
Hopefully this thread spurs some thought when you pick up a camera or press the shutter or create a print or post an image to the internet - that was my primary intent. My secondary intent was to spur discussion on the topic(s). I see a print or an image on the net as very much like a window. I believe you as the photographer are letting the viewer see a part of what you are whether you admit it or not. Of course your photography doesn't totally define you but it speaks volumes about not only your technical skill and craftsmanship but also by you looking out the window how you see the world in your field of view - hopefully beyond I was here I kinda liked cameras and I took this picture of... whatever. But for many maybe that is all it is - this endeavor called photography. Nothing wrong with that. No "put down" or "slam" is intended here as everybody is at a different skill and aspiration level.
Now Guy Tal is a "pro" who earns - and as I understand it - much of his living from photography - so to him saying...
The serious artist, however, knows that a far more important question is: “what does this image say about me?” Do your images say that you are creative? lazy? thoughtful? formulaic? sensitive? an imitator? an artist? unique? generic?
is very important. Many of his blog posts are fundamentally on the issue of whether or not photography really is a fine art and rightfully recognized as such. No fine artist - whatever his tool (weapon?) of choice is anything but a creative, thoughtful, unique artist - certainly not lazy, formulaic, generic or an imitator. There I think I used all the adjectives.
Now this quote from an earlier post is especially interesting...
Going back to Ed's quoted text, I wonder whether the author is putting on the rose-tinted glasses by intimating that an image needs to have a concept or contain a deeper meaning. A photograph doesn't have to be art. But then, maybe every image does have a concept. Is "at this place, at this time, through this lens, this is what I saw" an acceptable concept? That's usually all that I want them to say. I'm just the guy who presses the button.
Well first of all I think it safe to say Guy Tal thinks of photography as fine art so yes it probably should have a deeper meaning. But moving on beyond this does or should every image have an expressed concept? Is it OK to just be the guy who "presses the button"? Well I tend to agree with the idea that a picture should have a concept. The challenge is recognizing the concept you are trying to express and then expressing it to the best of your ability. Is I was "at this place, at this time, through this lens, this is what I saw" an acceptable concept? Excellent question and very aptly put. I think the answer to this question is up to each and every individual photographer. But if you don't relate the image you captured to your intent - how do you ever move forward?
Now as for me personally - I am in a sense trapped by this particular quote by Dorothea Lange more than any other...
As photographers, we turn our attention to the familiarities of which we are a part. So turning, we in our work can speak more than of our subject – we can speak with them; we can more than speak about our subjects – we can speak for them. They, given tongue, will be able to speak with and for us. And in this language will be proposed to the lens that with which, in the end, photography must be concerned – time, and place, and the works of man.
This to me speaks to every image I ever contemplate or take with a camera and sets the standard to strive for - to speak and speak truthfully, eloquently and well. To provide enough image context in a skilled way that the viewer will pause, think and fill in the "missing dimensions" that turn out not to be missing at all and hopefully be rewarded for his/her time.
So then the question becomes - for some portion - perhaps all - of my work - what do I want my photography to say - looking in or now looking out? Perhaps a question for another thread or perhaps answer it here. Instead of being "outside" and looking in through the "window" your images create to see what your photography says about you - now step "inside" and look out and ask what do you want the "window" created by your images from your photography to say to those outside?