Response to Szarkowski’s essay, Eudora Welty, William Eggleston and The Democratic Forest

Szarkowski believes that photographs always have more meaning than one.  He believes if someone takes a picture, even accidentally, that it has subject matter which can have deep meaning.  Szarkowski believes, no matter what, all pictures are about photography.  I can agree with this from an artist standpoint in knowing that photography is a form.  I disagree from a non-artist point of view.  Someone that is not an artist, does not always look at a photograph and see the photograph for its own being.  Non-artist may look at this image and see inside of the image itself and no form of the photograph or meaning of photography in its presence.  The photograph itself does not exist mentally, but only in the image that is contained inside.  Photographs can be a lie, using viewpoints, and distance, size of subjects can be changed to manipulate a story.  Reality in a photograph is lost with this method.  That does not mean the photograph does not have a story which can tell a reality of a meaning outside of the visual content contained.

A photographer is an artist, both see different configurations for their ideas, layouts and colors.  They choose which way would be more pleasing to the eye, or displeasing dependent on the content which they want to relay.  A painter however will be able to take away or add to their image.  A photographer can only pick and choose from what is their reality around them.  A photographer must mold light to their advantage, either by view point, time, or manipulation through man-made light.  A painter can make a painting of a morning sunrise in the middle of the night.

The personal experiences and private life of an artist can determine the knowledge of past artist techniques used in their own work if they have been trained.  Not everyone has been classically trained in drawing, or painting, some known as outsiders.  Those who dive into their work with their own visions on how to create. I believe such ideas contain more creativity by building from an idea instead of following a method already created and overly used.  For some, social issues, music concerts, and family are used in their art because they are subjects valued by them.  My own personal experiences with my art making rely on uncertainty, fear, and lack of confidence.  My motivation is pushed by the fear of being shamed for failure.  My art was made from basic teaching in high school and now through methods taught in college.  My art lacks the self, everything has been predetermined by someone or something else.  Either a professor or the subject.  If I draw a wall socket, I did not choose to draw that socket, the person who installed the socket, the engineer who planned the building chose.  My future was determined based on the ideas and planning of others.  As is with photography, the subject matter around us, chooses us and decides the outcome of our art.

Szarkowski believes that some pictures show exactly what they mean.  He believes that you cannot describe a photograph the same way between two people or it changes the subject just through their own words.  Szarkowski thinks that the photograph cannot be more interesting than the person who created it. Because of this, he obviously does not believe in accidents which could result in a deeper content of a photograph or work of art than the creator intended.  He believes that a picture cannot be used as hard evidence, data, or science because it is fiction.  I think Szarkowski believes we should analyze the art and say nothing, for saying anything will change the content.  To expect that each piece means something about the photographer; that the photograph is not necessarily of the subject matter contained but of the person behind the camera.

Szarkowski’s essay really angered me.  Szarkowski telling William Eggleston what his own photos are about, seems wrong.  He contradicts himself by saying people would be a fool to interpret someone’s photograph in words and then does this very thing to Eggleston.  I did find one thing interesting when Szarkowski mentioned photographers finding it difficult to see the blue and the sky separately.  Through use of color there is different meaning, without blue, there is still sky in black and white, with blue there is sky but there is also now weather.

Reading 2: Forward and Afterward to The Democratic Forest

A photograph of an author is not necessary for an autobiography.  An autobiography can be told from their perspective, not of their perspective. In other words, from their self, not of their self. In some cases, a photograph of the author may be the best way to show a lifelong runway model throughout their career, if their career is their whole life.  Saying self-reflective narrative can be implied would suggest that every person on earth that saw his book would understand what each photograph meant in relation to Eggleston.  Which I find hard to believe.  If you believe Szarkowski’s saying, that each picture shows something about the photographer, then you would believe self-reflective narrative can be implied.  If I viewed a photograph by Eggleston of a landscape, I would not think of the photographer, only of the land, the composition, and possibly a meaning; but I would not go so far as to believe the composition tells me the photographers demeanor.

Eggleston uses all subject matter that seemed to cross him.  Landscapes, street photography, still-lives, people and people-less.  His result of such photographs brings questions to the viewers.  To some, questions like what, and why, while others search for a meaning.  Some stretch the truth for a deeper meaning never intended.  For instance, a picture of a table cloth with a repetitive pattern could be based on the colors and repetitiveness that relates to a person’s mood and repetitiveness of returning to eat at that table daily.  That same photograph to someone that is not an artist, could be of a table with a colorful pattern that caught his eye and seemed visually pleasing.  In the end, I suppose the result of his subject matter is his autobiography in how he thinks and see’s.  An artist and non-artist can both see what is right in front of them and name the objects in a photograph.  The artist tends to take it a few steps farther.  Artists look at composure, light, weight, meaning, and purpose.  The artist is responsible for pointing out these subjects to a viewer who may be blinded to these subjects.  By doing so, allowing the viewer to see a deeper meaning and start to question other works of art that surround them and ultimately the world they view and live in every day.

I believe when Eggleston democratically took his photographs; he did it in a direct way, looking at subjects for what they are while freely interpreting its meaning to his own understanding of the subject matter and its surroundings.

In the reading, a viewer’s way of analyzing a photograph is based on the idea that they are happy with a circle in the middle of a picture if they are familiar with the subject and the subject remains undisturbed.  Essentially saying that people without any artistic background are ignorant because they have no knowledge or understanding of art.

Eggleston says that he is at war with the obvious.  To me, this means his intentions are to take the obvious and create a bigger picture.  He want’s people to look harder and think more about the places and objects we see and pass every day.

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