Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Having Meaning Vs. Being Meaningful

G. Dan offered the following:

G Dan Mitchell has left a new comment on your post "Meaningful Images 3":

"Meaning" is an interesting notion relative to art. With my particular background I tend to think of it in the context of music where one simple way of dividing things up (too simple, perhaps) is to speak of "program" and "absolute" music.

"Program" music overtly "means something" because the composer intends it to be associated with non-musical things - perhaps to represent something specific, to tell a story, or evoke a particular feeling or experience.

On the other hand, "absolute" music is simply what it is. It is no less significant nor does it create a less significant effect on the listener - it just produces the effect purely by means of the sound resources that the composer uses, without specific reference to any particular "meaning."

I don't see why photography should be any different. Great photographs may come with "meaning" attached - either supplied by the photographer or obviously to be inferred through the subject. But great photographs can also simply be great photographs that are not "about" any specific thing at all.

It works for me.


I like Dan's idea that an image doesn't have to mean anything, it just is - you look at it, marvel at it's beauty, balance, tonality, composition and simply enjoy it's beauty. You leave enriched because looking at beauty is a moving experience, but you aren't changed, other than to think, gee, I liked looking at that beautiful image, just maybe I should look at more wonderful images.

With Pepper # 30, you can get into sexual implications, but really, it's just a pepper. It says nothing about farmers rights or immigrant workers. It has no intrinsic meaning other than to show beauty where one had ignored it previously.

I think Pepper # 30 is meaningful because it is so incredibly rich and sensuous and shows wonderfully what photography is about, but it doesn't have meaning in the sense of representing something.

But, did the peppers start to be meaningful for Edward as he became better at translating their curves and tones and highilghts into beautiful images. I think so, and just because he ate it, doesn't make it any the less meaningful experience for him to have worked on the series.

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