Perception and reality

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by Lightmancer, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    There's a really interesting story here about six photographers shooting the same guy who told each of them a different story. The resultant images vary widely, as their portrayal of him was influenced by what they were told.

    I have written before about my friend Nick. We have a project going whereby I shoot him once a year. Each time he gives me absolute control - location, clothes, pose, etc as well as which shots I pick. I tend to shoot 200-400 shots then whittle them down to 8-12 "keepers" each year. Nick never sees my rejects, so what he ends up with is a snapshot of my vision of him at a moment in time.

    Here are five shots:
    2011:
    18937113.abeb8e2f.1600.
    NG19
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity
    2012:
    27368977.06f83081.1600.
    Nick 10
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity
    2013:
    21692319.c16c11f1.1600.
    Moody
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity
    2014:
    33502083.1ead2983.1600.
    Nick X-E1 Abiguity Mono
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity
    2015:
    40378520.65748f25.1600.
    Nick September 2015 8
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity

    (For the technically minded, it's Leica M7, Leica MP, Fuji X-E1, Fuji X-E1, Fuji X-Pro1)

    So, what's interesting is that what you are actually seeing here is my selection of one shot, in most cases long after the event, to illustrate this thread. In the past lustrum, I'm sure Nick won't mind me saying that he has divorced, changed jobs and moved from central London to the coast. For my part over the same period I have remarried and changed jobs too (not moved yet!). My point is that both the subject and the photographer have altered over the years and to further complicate matters in editing and selecting photos today my view of the past is by defintion influenced by my life in the present.

    Where is all this going? It's made me realise again that the image you take and then subsequently choose to edit and present to the world truly says as much about you as it does about your subject. I have long been interested in something called "Photo Therapy" (not to be confused with "phototherapy"); this is the use of photographs and photography in psychotherapy to help understand and help the subject. I first became interested when I divorced a few years ago. I used photography as a point of focus (no pun intended) to help me keep myself busy and to relax. It was my most fertile period for street photography - I had no qualms about sticking my camera up the nose of a passer by to get my shot. I deliberately used a basic camera - at first a Leica IIIc then later a Leica IID from the 1920s because it was as much about the process as the pastime or the picture.

    Months later, a friend of mine was browsing through a portfolio of my shots from that period in my life. He made the observation that there was a "detachment" in many of the images, and often doors or portals, with a woman passing through or present. I am no psychologist, but it struck me then, once that had been pointed out, that the photos I took then spoke to my mental state better than I was able to express it by other means or in other media, thus:
    15935221.df653f69.1024.
    IIIc Guildford 6
    par Lightmancer, on ipernity

    So be careful when you press that shutter - you may be revealing more of yourself than you think...
     
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  2. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Best thread I've seen in months. So much to ponder here.
     
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  3. Fascinating
     
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  4. taqtaq

    taqtaq SC Regular

    136
    May 31, 2015
    Espoo, Finland
    Tuukka
    Interesting story Bill, I love subconscious stuff like this. It makes me want to go through my own photos and see if I could learn something about myself...
     
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  5. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Thanks chaps. Have to say I hoped to stimulate a bit more debate on the subject...
     
  6. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    So far it's generated a lot of introspection. :)
     
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  7. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 SC Top Veteran

    541
    Feb 6, 2015
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    "So be careful when you press that shutter - you may be revealing more of yourself than you think..."

    I hope so. I'm not someone that likes to show their emotion, so this thing we do always helps me express myself without the feelings of vulnerability you get by sharing them in person.
     
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  8. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    A wonderful post, Bill. And a lot to digest.

    A lot can be said about "attention". Mood, expectations, recent experience and other factors contribute to what we pay attention to (I won't bore you with brain structures/networks that are involved ;-) ). We overlook things (see Gorilla experiment by Chabris) or suddenly see things constantly (eg white cars all over when we've just bought one).

    So inevitably your mood and things that bothered are reflected in your photography and what you say in your photos of Nick. Apparently 95-99% of our behavior is driven by the subconscious and only 1-4% by the conscious.
     
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  9. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
  10. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
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  11. bluzcity

    bluzcity SC Veteran

    313
    Jul 30, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Brent
    That's why we need others, at times, to look at and comment on our photos. Not just the technical stuff, but the emotional stuff, heart and soul. No one can know him/herself without another.
     
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  12. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    My shots very rarely have strangers in them, at least not up close, only as "part of the landscape", or if a stranger comes up to me him/herself. My photos sometimes feel clinical, or at least, they're usually about places, not people, and that bugs me. I have trouble initiating contact sometimes, unless i can really formulate a reason / excuse for doing so - that bugs me too ;-) .

    Once I have established contact, I am usually pretty good at keeping / developing it. I have wonderful photos of people I know.

    In short, my photos are definitely a product of my personality, although I suppose the effect is more visible in what I don't shoot than in what I do. As to my personal situation or thoughts at the time of shooting... I don't know if that's reflected. I'll try to have a look at my overall portfolio when I have some time, but off the top of my head, I'm not recognizing it that much. Maybe I should ask my girlfriend to take a look...
     
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