Picture Analysis – Zelt, Roman Signer

This one has been a challenge. I’ve looked through the work of Roman Signer, and that of Andy Goldsworthy, and there is so much to love about their art. Signer’s slow burning fuse is fascinating, and Goldsworthy’s land art is truly wonderful.

But.

I’m looking at records. These are photographs ‘of’ not ‘about’. Yes, the art they depict is ‘about’, but you have to be there to appreciate it fully. Whether it’s being in the same field for the split second of the explosion, hours with a fuse, or potentially turning up years later for a Goldsworthy piece – you have to be there. Goldsworthy’s cairns or sheepfold need to be touched and seen within their landscape context – the photographs are mere documents in comparison. This is/was here; this happened.

Looking at the body of work by Signer I see interesting photographs – interesting as photographs. “Wasserstiefel” is one that stands out. I do not seek to diminish the art, but the photographs of the exploding tent in themselves are not especially interesting to me.

I do feel that if I leave this analysis here it’s not really achieving anything, except maybe to document my own personal position regarding the perceived value of an image. Which makes me think about whether there is some sort of scale on which images could be placed: at one end is ‘OF’, and at the other, ‘ABOUT’. Something like this:

Capture

It’s crude, and simply features a pretty random selection of photographers I’m currently interested in – and I’m certain there are plenty more off the right hand side of the scale! I also suspect that many photographers would more properly appear as a range across this scale, not points.

Primarily, this exercise has added to my understanding of photography as a broad church. As a result of this understanding there are now individual images and genres I like more than I did, and interestingly some I like quite a lot less.

7 thoughts on “Picture Analysis – Zelt, Roman Signer

  1. This is an interesting topic that I am sure we will look at over and over again as we pursue our studies. I agree that fixed points on the scale are rarely the situation we find ourselves in, but a useful guide indeed. Thank you.

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    1. I think this scale idea is the analyst in me trying to remind me that it is what earns the daily crust! Perhaps the subjectivity of people’s reactions to images is just too diverse and dependent on too many factors to ever be analysed.

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  2. Interesting one. I’ve just read the book ‘The Brain’ which is about how the brain functions, and as a result, who we are. One of the premises of the book is that there is no such thing as the senses outside of our brain, e.g. nothing actually smells, all there is is how our brain interprets the physical/chemical signals that we absorb through our senses. Nothing makes a sound until it triggers the hairs in your ear etc.etc. On this basis your scale does work, but with an important qualification. ‘Of’ and ‘About’ are all relative to how we as individuals interpret the photograph through our brains. How we do that is hugely based upon our own individual experience. The reason I raise this is not to criticise your scale, but to recognise it in relation to how I interpret photographs. Photos I have taken that would be towards the left hand side of the scale for you (or your community), could well be over to the right for me simply because of the memories that a photo stirs. I have the background whereas your brain would struggle to create that context and fill in the gaps. It’s a bit like the previous discussions on adding captions, and how they can create context that the viewer might not automatically have seen. A few words can give the brain something to go on. Does that make sense? Perhaps I shouldn’t read so many books 🙂

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    1. It does make sense. I think this, just like the captioning, could be an endless source of debate – and one best conducted in a beer garden! If I was to develop this idea further I’d probably reconsider the scale to be more of a radar chart. There’s at least one other axis I can thing of (Art – Document) to go alongside Of – About. It would be interesting to design one and then survey people, rating 3 different images, to see how interpretations differed. For now thought I have to concentrate on coursework as I’m way, way behind where I want to be!

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  3. Mike, I think your comments and your scale and very interesting, I also thinks that smokinhaddock makes some very interesting and valid points.

    I have flicked through the course material several times and stopped at this sequence of photographs and don’t really know how to respond to it, I don’t really know what I think of it, it doesn’t generate a reaction within me which is usually how I rate, at least initially, a photograph.

    Regarding of and about, I don’t feel I really need to know initially what a photograph is of or indeed about. My first response is to what my brain thinks it is seeing, this is how I make my first judgement and then I consider other elements usually after more thought or information from other sources about the image.

    I still don’t know what to make of this sequence though and at the moment am not looking forward to performing this analysis.

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    1. It’s definitely a tough set of photographs to think about. I stared at them for ages before deciding to talk about whether they are photographs in a ‘hang-on-the-wall’ way or are more like documents.

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