Quinton Gordon: The Authorship of a Photograph



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21 comments

  • Nothing goes better with photography than a nice big helping of existentialism. I love it when I read an article I should have written but didn’t — it saves me a significant amount of time and trouble! But then, when we met last summer, it was rather obvious our schticks were schtuck in the same muck. And I must say, I could look at your laundry room photo all day trying to decide if the light is emanating from the trash can or being absorbed by it… I’m leaning toward the latter.

    An excellent article. Thank you. And congratulations on the handmade limited edition book. Once again, you’ve beaten me to the punch (pun not intended), as I’ve just finished reading a book on bookbinding and stitching techniques…

  • Brilliant. Succinct and thought provoking article….and yet…I can’t help but feel that somehow you have been inside my mind and stolen it from me 😀

    Thank you.

  • Egor,

    Thank you, I look forward to our paths crossing again soon, and to seeing what you do with your developing book binding skills.

    Cheers,
    Quinton

  • Toby,

    Thank you, I think there are many that are of like mind, and I aim only to add to our dialogue. Thanks for contributing as well.

    Regards,
    Quinton

  • “… essential to making good work; time, effort, and craftsmanship.”
    Amen to that.
    A deftly written and timely article that I think touches the heart of the issue many of us wrestle with for a variety of reasons: age, technology, a question of purpose and re-evaluation…
    Lovely read, thank-you.

  • Eric,

    Good question. I was using “allusion” in reference to the idea of myth, but it is entirely possible that “illusion” is as, or more appropriate. Either way, the point is not lost but welcome the comment of those with more literary prowess then I.

    Thanks for commenting.
    Quinton

  • Aaron,

    Thank you. I fully agree, I meet many photographers in my workshops who are struggling with these issues, but I’m fortunate to work with people and open up the dialogue along with a strong sense of direction in their work as they move forward.

    Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Quinton

  • Quinton,

    Great to see your work featured here! Wonderful stuff as always. And the workshop experience has really helped to give me that “strong sense of direction”. I am now thinking in new terms about what I photograph. Much appreciated.

    Tom

  • A very interesting article with lots of truths in it.

    I’m looking at tons of pictures every day and I do often see photos that are similar to the ones exhibited here. In fact, in times I take pictures that could be perfectly in line with the ones presented here.

    Yet, common taste rarely shows appreciation for this kind of still life photography. Pictures that are in some ways spectacular (artistic, colorful, showing extreme situations, whatever) are much more popular even among the broad majority of photographers. And I don’t talk about quality here. I feel that if you’re occupied with photography, especially artistic photography, you can much more understand other photographer’s minds and feelings as non-photographers. As a consequence photographers are more inclined to “understand” your kind of pictures than an ordinary consumer who is not obsessed with photography.

    On the other hand, there are photographers like you that do get and audience – and rightfully so – with this kind of material.

    My conclusion is that it’s completely arbitrary how a photography looks. It’s more of a matching game. If a product finds an audience appreciating the product it becomes popular. Targeting people who are interested in Leica cameras, especially the classic ones – M6 being a lighthouse among others like the M Monochrom or the M9 – works especially well with photography like yours. I doubt that the typical Nikon/Canon photographer is interested in producing an outcome like this.

    So, talking about authorship in my opinion is being able to teach people to bring your own personality as an artist in line with your artistic outcome. It’s the package that defines the product, not the photography alone.

  • Tom,

    Thank you for your comments.

    It was a real pleasure having you in the workshop and Im excited to see the work you are producing.

    Quinton

  • Terrific piece, Quinton, and echoes a lot of my own thoughts about how technology and particularly social media has distorted the creative process. Sure, it has its benefits, but it also can shackle the Inner Critic that Auden spoke of, before that Inner Critic has had a chance to mature.

    Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  • Tried to post it in the morning, but it somehow didn’t go through…

    A very interesting article with lots of truths in it.

    I’m looking at tons of pictures every day and I do often see photos that are similar to the ones exhibited here. In fact, in times I take pictures that could be perfectly in line with the ones presented here.

    Yet, common taste rarely shows appreciation for this kind of still life photography. Pictures that are in some ways spectacular (artistic, colorful, showing extreme situations, whatever) are much more popular even among the broad majority of photographers. And I don’t talk about quality here. I feel that if you’re occupied with photography, especially artistic photography, you can much more understand other photographer’s minds and feelings as non-photographers. As a consequence photographers are more inclined to “understand” your kind of pictures than an ordinary consumer who is not obsessed with photography.

    On the other hand, there are photographers like you that do get and audience – and rightfully so – with this kind of material.

    My conclusion is that it’s completely arbitrary how a photography looks. It’s more of a matching game. If a product finds an audience appreciating the product it becomes popular. Targeting people who are interested in Leica cameras, especially the classic ones – M6 being a lighthouse among others like the M Monochrom or the M9 – works especially well with photography like yours. I doubt that the typical Nikon/Canon photographer is interested in producing an outcome like this.

    So, talking about authorship in my opinion is being able to teach people to bring your own personality as an artist in line with your artistic outcome. It’s the package that defines the product, not the photography alone.

  • ‘Time’…(not many folks willing to invest in it)’Effort’…(not many willing to put it forth) ‘Craftsmanship’…(Lost in the homogenous nature of this period in time)…sorry to sound harsh, but as one who takes the time and effort in building my own cameras, it saddens me that the folks around me refuse (or have forgotten) how to slow down and look. And possibly re-learn how to see again. A great article/project. heartfelt and authentic.

  • I thought of this a few days back and I think this thought poses a good argument against a few things that are being exposed here:

    “Photography can fool photographers in two ways: It can make them believe they took a photograph of a subject rather than of their view and it can make them believe the photograph they took shows their view rather than the subject. To every photographer should be clear that taking a photograph is basically impossible because the reason behind a photograph (the photographer’s view) can never appear on the photograph itself (only the subject of the photographer’s view can). And this is what makes photography such a great and unique artistic medium.”

    I also think it’s quite missing the point if we believe that to make a “photograph” requires time, effort and skills. because we need to realise we “take a photo” with every look we make. by putting a camera in front of that look we only depict the object of that look not the look itself. there is no time, effort or skills (and equipment) that could depict a thought. the idea of a photograph is only present in our minds. both in the mind of the photographer or those who look at the photograph after it’s taken. it’s not the photograph that tells us something is us who read a photograph in a certain way. what we call a photograph is nothing but a meaning that we apply to an (otherwise meaningless) image. that’s why time, effort and skills can’t in the end make any more “meaningful” photographs than no time, no effort and no skills would. time, effort and skills are only there to apply meaning to a certain activity. it’s the same kind of delusion. we like to believe that if we take more time, if we put more effort and if we use more skills then something will be more meaningful. it wouldn’t be because it can’t be it’s just what we believe in and that’s why we do it. it’s simply more meaningful to us. that’s why in the end we take pictures as well. every picture that is consciously taken by a person is taken because considered meaningful. no picture is taken because the person who takes it thinks the picture is not worth being taken. that makes every picture that is taken consciously of course a meaningful one. we take a picture because something in our mind triggered it. that what gives it meaning.

    of course we then thought that when it comes to “art” this wasn’t enough. that something being meaningful is not enough to be artistically valid already. and what we basically did was to think of certain requirements that are necessary for something to be an art photograph rather than just a photograph. and of course different people thought of different requirements. but again by doing so we do nothing more than expressing what is meaningful to us not what is objectively meaningful because there is not such thing. meaning is always subjective. yet the image itself is not subjective and it’s not meaningful. despite the time, effort and skills you put in it. the meaning of a photograph is always applied to the photograph is something that exists outside the photograph.

    of course you might then say but why do certain people “recognize” the same meaning in a particular image if the meaning was not implied in the image itself? it’s very simple: because they applied the same meaning to it. the fact that often people can recognize something doesn’t mean the recognition itself is not subjective.

    therefore good photography is what one can recognize as good photography. for some people it might be the kind of photography you prefer for some others it might be something else.

    that’s why I believe that true value of photography is in the image not in the meaning of an image. the true value of photography is in the quality (quality in the sense of what it is actually made of) of the image we are able to produce using a photographic medium. painting also produces images that can be seen as meaningful but they don’t hold the same quality photographs do. and this quality is related to this connection (that is at the same time disconnection) between reality and a photographic image. what some people think is the biggest disadvantage of photography is at the same its biggest advantage – some people say photography can’t be art because the image is taken by the camera but at the same that that’s exactly the true artistic value of photography because no other medium can offer such kind of disconnection that at the same time offers a different way to connect with our thoughts and feelings etc. and I think a photographer should treasure that rather than discard it. it’s pointless when a photographer is trying to be yet another artist with a camera. a camera is not just a tool it’s the essence of photography as art. both the physical camera and a virtual one.

  • An Be,

    Thank you for your thought provoking and reflective response. You are making some very interesting points about the dynamic relationships between seeing, perception, and image, through the medium of photography.

    Ultimately my reason for making photographs is to investigate a line of thinking. For me, it is visual note taking, and it is the recording of an idea in a physical form that allows me to consider the thought from a new perspective, as well as providing a way to present these ideas to others. But the thought remains open to responses that I can not control, nor do I wish to.

    Thank you for contributing to the dialogue.

    Quinton

  • Tilman,

    It was only when I let go of any consideration for my audience that I was able to work with authenticity. I believe that photography is an investigation, away of exploring internal lines of thinking. By choosing the medium of photography we have photographs that are records of this investigation and where it takes us.

    The response of others is beyond our control. All we can do is follow the investigation with integrity. The audience will respond according to their own perceptions, tastes, and desires regardless of what we do, but if our photographs are authentic then we have achieved something of value.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Quinton

  • Thank you for this. It’s given me inspiration to push forward 🙂

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