by Oren Grad
Thanks to all for the thoughtful comments on "What Message Does a Photograph Communicate?"
Fizzy asked, "If a photograph isn't supposed to convey some meaning or feeling to us (communicate), why do we bother looking?"
I do it because looking at good pictures is enjoyable and satisfying. It makes me happy. That's reason enough.
There's a tendency for photographers who fancy themselves artists, and viewers of photographs who want to think of photography as a fine art, to take the medium much too seriously and to project all sorts of romantic superstitions onto it.
But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It's very liberating to let yourself experience photographs in a direct and intuitive way, and not worry about whether you've figured out the secret code.
What about the photographer's intentions? Truth be told, at least when it comes to the experience of viewing pictures, I really don't care about the photographer's hangups. In making pictures, the photographer is scratching his own itches; in viewing them, I'm scratching mine. It's always possible that there is some similarity between the photographer's motivations and understandings and emotions and my own, but when that happens it's purely a coincidence. Such a concordance is neither necessary nor sufficient for a photograph to be successful from an esthetic point of view, or to be worth seeing.
But surely understanding the photographer's motivations and intentions and the historical context of the work is essential to appreciating the esthetic merit of a picture? Well, no. Those are different things, with no necessary relation.
That said, learning about the photographer's point of view and his place in the history of the medium can be a satisfying pursuit for its own sake. And you can discover delicious things, like the fact that it's possible for a photographer to be full of foolish ideas, yet still make wonderful pictures.
Posted by: OREN GRAD