Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

August 22, 2008

Subtlety assessment

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 8:04 pm

As I continued to chew on this whole subtlety question (and thanks to Paul Butzi to working the question a little deeper), and specifically to how I am developing my photographs for my current series, I tried a little test.

What if I attended my monthly print review, placed five of my new triptychs of this series in front of the group, but only my trial proofs on 13 x 19″ photo paper and provided no additional information, would they get it?? The group has been meeting monthly for over 15 years, half are exhibiting in galleries, so I think that this is sophisticated audience.

Well, some did see the “trend” when going from one triptych to another, but mostly they did not understand the specific story that I was attempting to tell with these five triptychs. It was interesting in that they did observe some sequencing aspects about which photograph I placed where in the triptych order. Which is giving me something else to chew on in terms of the triptych development.

When I added more context to my images, that of the series proposed title and a brief excerpt from my draft Introduction, a better discussion of the images occurred. Finally, there was a couple of requests to “read” one of the triptych to them, which I did, one that some seemed to think was more abstract in meaning to them, which of all things, was the triptych in yesterdays post. hmmmmm.

Bottom line, a number liked where I was going with this, did not want to have each one “explained” and they appreciated the opportunity to read the image and take their own journey and reach their own conclusions. But my takeaway was that perhaps, even for an engineer, this body of work does have a lot of sutblety to it.

And I am becoming more compfortable with allowing that aspect to develop. nice.

Best regards, Doug

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4 Comments »

  1. […] 22, 2008 I have a lot of thoughts all jumbled up together. Reading Doug Stockdale’s recent post both clarified some things and muddled up others. All in all, progress but of a particularly […]

    Pingback by Meaning, Subtlety, Repetition « Musings on Photography — August 22, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

  2. The problem with some of the more “cognitive” works of art, is that there is no explanation for those of us that would truly like to understand. Being an engineer, I am familiar with the concrete – the perceived real. Metaphor and simile are hard for me, personally, to grasp – always have been. You can find a “Dummy’s Guide” to nearly everything, but understanding subtlety, metaphor, and simile seems to be one of those things you either get, or don’t.

    Comment by Laurent — August 25, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  3. I am realizing that although I think a series (such as my Chinese landscape series) is self-explanatory and not very abstract, my recent print experiment illustrated to me, that even the “obvious to me” can be abstract to most others.

    And photograph is always abstract; a two dimensional representational static slice of a three dimensional world. Some photographs are just more “readable” than others. I think if given some clues, even subtley, metaphors and simile can be learned.

    It does take a little more thinking, speculating and pondering, as well as realizing that you and the photographer of the photograph may come to different conculusions.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — August 25, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  4. >> It does take a little more thinking, speculating and pondering, as well as realizing that you and the photographer of the photograph may come to different conculusions.

    This is true, after all, we each bring our own experiences to the table. I guess the difficulty I have sometimes is in understanding why a photographer made an image. I understand (sometimes, not always) why I click the shutter. But not why others do. Sometimes a few words on a body of work can help a viewer understand what it is that’s being conveyed. Scenes from Jeff Wall are an example that come to mind of meticulously constructed scenes, yet most of the time I have no idea what he is trying to imply.

    Tis a journey, I guess :-)

    Comment by Laurent — August 27, 2008 @ 9:58 pm


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