Why and How Using the Language of Photography - Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Landscape photography requires great mastery to use photographic language (bisons in a meadow under a cloudy sky).
Landscape photography requires great mastery to use photographic language (bisons in a meadow under a cloudy sky).

Artistic Photography Has Two Dimensions

The photographs have two very distinct dimensions:

  • The vision: here, we focus on visual sociology. Works created in time, space or in a given environment can be placed. For example, when the photographs created in Dombes are identifiable by the medium because it is almost unique by the species and the environments. It is an approach that places more in ethnography because we identify the scenes.
  • - The look: here, we focus on the sociology of the gaze. We focus on the effects of perception, reception and production of content. The content itself is not analyzed. It is the effect produced on the viewer that is interesting.
    It is an approach that is more psychoanalytical because we are in the analysis.

By considering these two dimensions, one can easily set up a language to express oneself with a given writing.

But the photographic language has the distinction of being understood in a multitude of ways. Each viewer ca decrypt photos offered in different ways. I encounter this problem as soon as I create new artistic collections. I propose them to a circle of very close acquaintances. I trust their judgments. They know me. They know what I expect from them. But the impressions felt are all different. Then I propose the photos to the family circle which is smaller. The feeling is always more figurative. Often, people in the family circle take precautions before giving me their comments. They know my requirement and know that the words used are very important. But overall, it is always from a descriptive point of view that judgments are given. This does not bother me because some collectors who buy my photographic works do it only on descriptive criteria. They are more in the register of thought than in the emotional register.

During all these years, I learned that the photographic language is not universal but that it challenges each viewer in a different way. The important thing is the language used by the photographer. We must not forget that photography is also an artistic discipline. The author feels the need to express messages and emotions. He can use a given writing and his own language. Time will tell that this language has been decrypted correctly or not.

I think it is the viewers who make the photographs.

The photographic language is in no way scientific. It is not like a spoken or written language that has specific rules. The photographic language is on the one hand that of the photographer who creates the work and that of the viewer who contemplates the work. Finally, it is very complicated and very complex. But that's the beauty of artistic photography.

Universal Photographic Language Does Not Exist

Over time, I came to understand that universal photographic language did not exist. Even if we wanted, it would not be possible because it is not scientific because of its psychoanalytic dimension. The photographer author sets up symbolically in the photo his neuroses, his emotions or transmits messages. But these symbols can be interpreted differently by the viewers.

The construction of a photograph uses the experience of the photographer. Reading a photograph appeals to the viewer's experience.

Concretely, this means that the author photographer will be in phase with some viewers because the language used will be the same. But it will be rejected by others because the language and the interpretation are totally different.

Is it important? I do not think so. It is impossible to achieve unanimity in an artistic discipline. If an artist chooses to be unanimous in creating his works, he will no longer deliver messages because his artistic activity will be smoothed from below. Mediocrity will prevail. This is a general rule when one wants to address the masses. The messages are so different that's come to no longer really deliver. It is the reign of platitude, of general consumption. We are far from the art that wants to be different.

I think that there is not a universal photographic language but several languages. I will not go so far as to say that there is a language by photographer but almost. Real photographers have the gift of harmoniously organizing the signs of writing to pass true sentences without being spoken orally.

Creating your own language takes a very long time but you have to find the codes to put all the words in place. But once it's found, the rest is just practice.

But how to write in photography? What tools are available for photographic writing? How to set it up to develop a language. This is what I will explain in the next blog posts.


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