Archive for June 29th, 2010


Shared Assumptions

“Comedy is 90% shared experience, 5% imagination and 5% timing.” I was having a chat with a comedian friend of mine about his creative process. I thought this was an interesting and somewhat universal point. Without some necessary amount of common ground, any communication would be futile, or at least severely hampered.
Immediately I found myself trying to find the parallels, the truth of this statement, in photography. While it can at times express exceedingly complicated ideas and emotions, photography is a relatively simple form of communication. No complex set of characters, whose combination in different orders and amounts have assigned meanings. No rules of grammar. No phonmes, pitched or otherwise, to give an indication of the author’s intentions. Only the information contained within a frame, or a series of frames, to convey the creator’s vision.
Photography is a simple form of communication because it is based, primarily, on the shared experience of being human. Humans create photographs for other humans to experience. Be that as it may, it would seem, then, that communication in photographs it based largely on common themes and common assumptions, more than common experiences.
Take, for instance, this picture:
(lovers on the beach in PV)
The common theme, the common assumption, is that there is a romantic relationship between the two people. To be honest, I never met them; so I can neither confirm, nor deny.
(The Conversation – all 7)
In the above group of photos “The Conversation”, the story is more or less clear. One is left to guess the actual subject, but how the conversation played out seems pretty obvious. (Truth be told, this is actually from a series of about 20 photos, but displayed out of chronological order to create this “story”). Void of little more information than the shadows, we have made assumptions about the relationship between the two people, and assigned some kind of meaning to each of the gestures and postures in each image.
Taking it a step further, I suppose all communication is a form of assumption. But in the case of a photograph, often the author is not present to clarify its meaning. Maybe the question really is, if the viewer finds meaning in an image, does it matter it is the same as the author’s intention?

June 2010


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