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How to add "meaning" to a photograph


redhed17 9 679 England
7 Sep 2013 9:05PM
Following on from the other thread, I happened to go and see the Sebastiao Salgado Genesis Exhibition today, and a lot of those pics had me thinking wow first, Wink but also what? where? who? It may not be 'meaning' bit it did give the picture something beyond the 'wow, that's an amazing scene' to give a bit more 'depth'. I don't know why he took pics of penguins, tribes in africa/central america, whales, stunning landscapes etc to be grouped together in one body of work.

According to some blurb about the Exhibition,
Quote:“In GENESIS, my camera allowed nature to speak to me. And it was my privilege to listen.” —Sebastião Salgado



Quote:What does one discover in GENESIS? The animal species and volcanoes of the Galápagos; penguins, sea lions, cormorants, and whales of the Antarctic and South Atlantic; Brazilian alligators and jaguars; African lions, leopards, and elephants; the isolated Zo’é tribe deep in the Amazon jungle; the Stone Age Korowai people of West Papua; nomadic Dinka cattle farmers in Sudan; Nenet nomads and their reindeer herds in the Arctic Circle; Mentawai jungle communities on islands west of Sumatra; the icebergs of the Antarctic; the volcanoes of Central Africa and the Kamchatka Peninsula; Saharan deserts; the Negro and Juruá rivers in the Amazon; the ravines of the Grand Canyon; the glaciers of Alaska... and beyond. Having dedicated so much time, energy, and passion to the making of this work, Salgado likens GENESIS to “my love letter to the planet.”


So on the surface, and without going more into it, he wanted to take pictures of the planet, and any other 'meaning' you assign to the pictures is what it means to you, and not what the photographer may intended, which is fine. But just because you don't get the 'meaning' of picture doesn't mean you haven't/can't appreciate a pic. And if you don't like a pic, it's not because you didn't 'get it', it may mean you just don't like the pic.

Like I said in the other thread, if I have to know/read the story to 'appreciate' the picture, then the picture hasn't worked. Imho. If the picture attracts you, and then also makes you think Who? What? Where? How?, then that is a successful image, again imho. Some would have you try and find the meaning about every poor pic because there 'may' be a story/meaning behind it, especially if it is coming from a 'pro', because they don't take poor pics do they? There must be a reason the photographer has made it 'look' so bad. Wink It could be just a poorly taken boring pic, pro or not.

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cameracat 11 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
7 Sep 2013 9:30PM
Answer = 52.

Tongue
joolsb 10 27.1k 38 Switzerland
7 Sep 2013 9:56PM

Quote:You are doing the very thing so many people do, you say it has meaning but don't say what meaning.


You know, I could have done. I could have said a lot about that picture but well, frankly, I couldn't be a*sed.

And you keep on ducking the question. Why are photographs meaningless and any attempt to ascribe meaning just artybollox in your view? I think quite a few photographers would take issue with this contention so you must have a good defence lined up...
redhed17 9 679 England
7 Sep 2013 10:02PM

Quote:Answer = 52.

Tongue



I think you'll find the answer is 42. Wink Grin
lobsterboy e2
11 14.2k 13 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 10:17PM

Quote:Answer = 52.
Tongue

I think you'll find the answer is 42. Wink Grin



I think you need to check your figures, you don't seem to have allowed for inflation.
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 10:17PM

Quote:

You know, I could have done. I could have said a lot about that picture but well, frankly, I couldn't be a*sed. And you keep on ducking the question. Why are photographs meaningless and any attempt to ascribe meaning just artybollox in your view?



You've very neatly underlined my own view. You say something has meaning because you can't be arsed (read bothered) to say what meaning.

If you feel a picture has impact for some reason, say why. To say it has 'meaning' is intellectually lazy. It is not that there is nothing to say about a picture, it is that some people are just too lazy to think what the meaning is and to put it into words.
SlowSong e2
6 4.8k 29 England
7 Sep 2013 10:37PM
But what is "meaning"? If someone can answer that question for me then I'll start thinking about things about more seriously.
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 10:57PM

Quote:But what is "meaning"? If someone can answer that question for me then I'll start thinking about things about more seriously.


That is what, in my own long winded way, I have been attempting to find out. I wish I'd summed it up as concisely.
derekhansen e2
6 200 24 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 11:42PM
I believe the need for meaning in photographs is to a large degree dependent on genre. It may be essential in photo journalism but in landscape mostly irrelevant. What is common to all genres is that good photography provokes an emotional response.
ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
8 Sep 2013 8:30AM
what is the "meaning" of that tree at Malham I keep getting paid to take people to?

Wink
brian1208 e2
11 10.6k 12 United Kingdom
8 Sep 2013 8:34AM

Quote:What is the "meaning" of that tree at Malham I keep getting paid to take people to? Wink


A few bob in you pocket, at the lowest level Wink
ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
8 Sep 2013 8:35AM
lowest?

without that I'd be homeless - pretty high on my agenda Wink
Graysta 9 1.1k England
8 Sep 2013 9:00AM
ade
I think this will run for quite a while. And now it's bugging me so I am going to try to find an answer.
I could be gone a while.
joolsb 10 27.1k 38 Switzerland
8 Sep 2013 9:19AM

Quote:You've very neatly underlined my own view. You say something has meaning because you can't be arsed (read bothered) to say what meaning.

If you feel a picture has impact for some reason, say why. To say it has 'meaning' is intellectually lazy. It is not that there is nothing to say about a picture, it is that some people are just too lazy to think what the meaning is and to put it into words.



I did exactly that in the other thread that Ade mentioned at the start of this one. For each one of ten separate images that I linked to. So I felt there was no need to labour the point by discussing a famous image in which scores of other people have found 'meaning' and have written about at length.
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
8 Sep 2013 9:35AM

Quote:without that I'd be homeless - pretty high on my agenda


To think that money enters your head at all in connection with photography is completely unacceptable. Personally, given a tree such meaning and indeed limestone with such meaning, I would burst into tears with the sheer weight of meaning. I would take my clients there for nothing simply to share the meaning with them. I would be happy to be homeless knowing that my clients were going home with meaning, the more the better.

In fact, I intend to set up in competition to ade_mcfade.

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