Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ludendorff and The Titles...

Here I am. Writing this before the arrival of Thursday as usual, but with one exception. As you are reading this (seriously) I'm supposedly waiting my turn in the clinic to do the ERG test. An annoying test for the eye, but a must to check the status of my retina. I'm typing these words as a slight fever is occupying my body slowly and I'm hoping that I can stop it in time before I fall completely ill. I had to use my first "casual" leave this morning (Monday) to skip work and remain in bed, after a long insomniac night, with headaches and shoulder pains.
Because of the rains (again) I couldn't do much at night except for some trial in the previous location of the week before, which didn't appeal completely to me, but I will share it with you here with some comments. I would like also to discuss and talk about the issue of the titles of the images (below).

Surreal Night

I've posted about last week when I've headed to some place where I did a panorama for (and this panorama is re-visited as well). This week too I've decided to visit the place again to change the perspective.

Das Licht der Dunkelheims (or Dunkelheits)

As I've mentioned in my previous post, in this shot, Das Licht der Dunkelheims, the lights at the back of the monument were annoying (specially at f/11 like this with fisheye lens). For this reason I planned to visit the place again and change the perspective. But unfortunately for me, things were not better, if not worse even, this time.

Der Traum

As you can see now in Der Traum the situation was much more drastic! Lights were ON in front of me! Beside some annoying people walking around (which didn't cause much harassment, thank God). The greatest mistake I've done in this shot is to concentrate on the movement of the line of the roof, in hope to make a guiding line, and totally forgetting about the brightest spots in the scene. I do not hold firmly to the law of thirds, but in this occasion like this one in Der Traum, it seems that this law would have served me better with this glowing lantern.
This shot is in fact a collection of long exposures, i.e. HDR. I tried hard to light the lantern and avoid the sparkles or the flare surrounding the lantern itself but that didn't work in any possible way at hand right now. The least I could do is reduce the presence, but not eliminate it completely. I got my lesson here, and I'm not sure if I will head back there another night, but if I'm to do this, probably I would have to head pretty late. I think those lanterns are automated to shut off at a specific time, hence in my first trial they were off, and then they were on (the time was earlier relatively in the second). I do have other night time schedule for another location but it's too early to talk about it.

The frequent visits to the previous location inspired me to produce another panorama (and good thing that I still have the HDR slides). Unlike the first trial with Planeta Columnae, my aim here was to do something crazy a bit; out of the ordinary and no symmetry (or let's say at least I tried to keep some symmetry but no use!).

Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit

Keeping some perspective symmetry in this one was hard if not impossible mainly because that the original panorama was taken a bit off the center. The dome of the monument and the pillars were competing for symmetry; fix one, then you screw the other.
The harsh noise was not a big problem with Ludendorffs Wirklihkeit; all I had to do is some Median trick and smooth out the rugged "surface." Probably, even in this small scale image in this post, you can see some cut lines after trials to fix some stitching errors. The original panorama did suffer from this as well.
In processing and adjusting the colors to produce a certain "dreamy" atmosphere, there was not much difficulty I would say, but the hardship in fact came from naming the new stitch. I had the word (hanging) and (suspended) and the likes of those in my mind, but suddenly for some reason, the name of Ludendorff kicked in. Just in case you don't know, Ludendorff was one of the major generals of the German imperial army during WWI, along with Hindenburg.
I'm not sure what came to my mind at the moment I've named this panorama the Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit (Ludendorff's Reality). In fact, I was indeed reading about him on Wikipedia, but what was serious about this panorama and Ludendorff? Is it the surreal look and Ludendorff's dreams or theory of the DolchstoƟ (the stab in the back)? Do they have something in common? More about titles to come.

Luna

I've stopped shooting the sun and moon for some time now. Mainly because of the rains and the clouds, and also because I believe that the critical stage for the sunspots had faded by now. On the other hand I got the chance to shoot the full moon (which is said to be a super moon) on January 16th. By comparing several shots for the moon, I've realized that some of the features had changed mainly because of the change in the light direction and level; a typical concept in shooting to show textures - always give light on the side.

3D Luna

The difference in the "facade" of the moon for January 14th and January 16th made me drool on some 3D action by making an anaglyph from the two images. Simply, with the slight rotation of the moon, the view in my eyes became like a right-eye and left-eye shots. I needed though to rotate the image around 90o to coincide some features. I've found out that with some staring but with the eyes relaxed, the eyes can overcome some of the ghosting and the moon pops out a bit like hovering on the page. However, the lower part of the image suffers the harshest ghosting and probably won't be easily merged into a single image in most of the viewing eyes. It all depends on the distance between the two eyes of the viewer.
Ghosting (anaglyph): The inability of merging the right (blue) and left (red) layers in anaglyph images into a single view, raising a distorted view of the subject.

Warum and Why?
(About Titles)

Now to the main issue that I wanted to talk about in this post specifically. The issue of images' and photos' titles and addresses. It came striking to me that lot of people, either artists or casual photographers, or simply those who document their lives, are simply using "phrases" to address their photos. Typically though, I noticed this phenomena abruptly among Arab photographers around me. The phrases, however, in many cases do become as a line from a poem.
In this position, I have to announce my rejection for such practices for entitling and addressing photos. Yes, there might be some sessions when a photographer takes thousands of images, e.g. sports photography, and of course naming them one by one is simply not applicable, if not impossible. My talk here though is not about documenting photographers, but more about artists, or photographers who aim at producing a work of art after all.
One might argue that a sports or a wild-life photographer is not documenting, simply because the images taken are not for covering up an event for example, but looking back at the nature of the shoot and session, it does not differ much from documenting. Let's put ourselves in this scenario for example: shooting a football (soccer or American doesn't matter) game. Principally, the photographer is not knowing what he or she is looking for, unlike, let's say, architectural photographer, who has somewhat of a vision for how things should look and what to be expressed (specially if this job is paid to be done for some business!). There are, of course, certain rules for the sports photographer, like following the events, or following where the ball is to catch the action and so on. However, after all, there is no meditative status before the operation itself and it all relies on sorting out the images later on after the event. Now, this type of behavior in photography might not be really documenting for an event, but it runs in a way of documenting because the artistic venue shows later when sorting out the images. The images themselves can be submitted, say, to magazines and newspapers for publishing and thus, no name is quite required to be given to those shots, but this is just the beginning.

Now, if the photographer is willing, one of these images can be represented as a work of art by itself despite the sportive nature let's say. At this point, let's imagine some photo of two players with a football in between them. What does that mean? What does this photo express or say? One can argue that it is enough to "see" the photo to contemplate or enjoy the scene. Of course, we can enjoy the scene represented because it is a joy for the eye; colors and shapes. Now, contemplate? On what basis? The fact is there is no single base to start the contemplation from, or if you like, not a single concept to imagine something specific further behind the photo presented. Notice I said "specific," which means you might be free to imagine whatever you like beyond this sportive scene, but there is no single direction to direct your imagination.
Sure, there are the titles that are identifying elements by themselves, like what was most commonly used in personal portraiture paints in the classical era or even right now in some portraiture photography, as well as in sports photography or wild-life. However, as it is stated already, these titles would be identifying elements. Yes, they can be enough for non-artistic approach, but when art is present I do believe that philosophy must be present too, and a title that reflects this philosophy or this specific imagination beyond the presented photo is something that one must hold on seriously.

I always give this analogy for how a title might really affect us as viewers, on both levels, consciously and unconsciously. The level of consciousness though might vary from one person to another of course but a title would sure help. Imagine now you took a photo of a flower that was blooming on an arid land. Now, you produce the same image 3 times and you are to hang it in 3 different places. However, under each one of them you are supposed to hang a title, thus you entitle the first one with [xxx xxx] which is supposedly the scientific name of the flower, and on the second one you hang the word [challenge], while the third one bears the title [flower]. Put yourself in the place of the viewers visiting your printed photo, what would their mental status be when they read a scientific name, a challenge, or a simple statement as "flower"? At least, I can assure from my perspective as a person who graduated from a scientific background, when a scientific title is issued for any image, people usually would look a scientifically-motivated examining eye to the matter at hand and not bear the artistic look or imagination that they are supposed to have (if the photographer hoped for it).

Think about it: there might be some poems, and other artworks that do not have a title, but how many they are compared to those who already have an issued title? Another example would be books. How often do you find a book without a title? Probably a book is not a piece of art (not necessarily) but the title plays a great role in attracting the viewer and identifying the book itself - a book without a title would be hard to be dealt with in, for example, references let's say. This is if such thing exists. In the world of Arabic literature, writers, specially of the middle and late eras, worked a bit around the titles of their books and often they were chosen in a rhythmic way, resulting in a a bit long titles, but with ringing harmony. Probably modern Arabic writers and translators do not tend to this habit. Anyway, the point is that they realized as it seems the importance of the title in attracting the reader in the first place - it is the appetizer before reading if we can call it so. If it applies to the covers of books, then it must apply to some extent to photos. Notice that in most Photo sharing websites, .e.g Flickr, there is a space for the Title and another one for the Description.

Because the title of the image, as explained above, is to be a guidance to the imagination of the viewer to a specific category that we, the artists, want the viewer to be indulged within as we did, then it follows that the titles are greatly affected and are characteristic of the photographer's own unique style. If the title has to do anything with the feeling of the photographer then it must be unique to that photographer as well, in the sense that a photographer would develop or tend to develop his or her own sense of titles and what should be used, and what not.
If I want to talk about my experience, I mostly use English and German to give names to my photos. The problem probably is that, I don't really know why I'm using different languages but in some cases I'm aware of the effect. For example, taking pictures for holy places like a mosque (like the Grand Mosque of Kuwait) and the cathedrals and churches (old and new) in Ireland, I've used Latin to name a lot of these photos. This is mainly because in the western world (as most of my followers are non-Arabs) Latin is usually attached to classical literature, and to religious rites (specially in Catholicism). Thus, in order to approach the mentality of a viewer from that culture, the titles given were in large part, Latin. On the other hand, I've used Greek to name some photos that I've taken in Failaka island (in 2012) as it is an effort from my side to link the cultures; the local, and the Greek. Failaka island has a very well-known Hellenistic past. I seldom use Arabic (mainly because, as stated before, most of the followers are non-Arabs), and for some specific shots, Spanish  and Turkish were used as well. Probably it is part of me that acknowledge the feeling of the different languages and the way they are perceived. It could be that naming large number of my photos in German is a trial to add some strength, mainly because most people perceive this language as "hard," but the fact is, it is not a conscious process. It is the feeling that guides me to name some of these photos into German (and in fact I do have a number of soft or romantic-themed images named in German as well).

Harmonie (Harmony)
The sound of the title is not of big difference between German and English, but still I preferred to use the German spelling when this image was made.



However, this is just my own experience and style when it comes to giving the titles. The core of the matter is, titles, just like the style of photography under any field, they are characteristic and undergo the style of the photographer him- or herself.

Probably we can see the affect of the titles is pronounced more when it comes to abstract photography, where the viewer's mind would dwindle in between the ideas trying to figure out the purpose and the nature of the presented photo. Adding to that, entitling your own photos (with some good title, that is) would make it suitable to give a reference much more easily. Sure, with the advancement in EXIF technology it is relatively easy to record the data in the original file to be viewed digitally, but I don't think this is applicable for a printed material for, say, an exhibition of your work of art.

Then, how a title is supposedly given? What would make a good title? I believe it is hard to answer such a question because, as stated above, a title undergoes the woes of the style of the photographer and the ideas that a photographer wishes to accompany or to indulge the viewers with. However, probably there are some pinpoints that can be stated about the nature of the titles, and how they (most probably) should be - though I'm not trying to give rules:
  • Concise: The title should probably not be too long as to not scatter the thought and the general idea that a photographer wants to deliver with his image. This is the problem with lot of Arab photographers as I can see so far - lot of them simply put a line of a poem as a title for their images. This is more like a storyline, and not merely a title. Few words with direct impact on imagination to ignite the viewer in his or her own world and vision of the photo shown.
  • Imaginative: The title should work on indulging the imagination of the viewer. How this is done might be hard to precisely explain, but it is greatly connected to the audience. A photographer should have a hunch about his or her audience, if not know them well, to know what sparks their imagination. The imaginative title could have a physical meaning or a non-physical existence that connects to the mind (and heart) of the viewer. In any way, an imaginative title is, as I believe, highly dependent of the audience and its relation to the photographer. 
  • Connective: The core of the idea of giving titles for photos is to provide the viewer with some connection; one end of the rope of imagination, if you like to call it. Thus, the title must connect to some idea; specially an idea that is exchangeable between the audience and the photographer (i.e. of a known topic to both). But probably it is not necessarily to be like that all the time as the photographer can be an educator sometimes by educating the audience about the work of art itself, and here the title can work as an aid and as a gate to connect different ideas into the work of art (remember Ludendorff?).
  • Vocal: I do believe in the power of the sound itself to the hearing ear. And I guess that naming a photo in some language, native or not, does affect the sound, and in return how a viewer would perceive and receive the title and the photo combined. Probably I do use German most of the time because unconsciously I see it "out of the ordinary" or "unusual". In some occasions, I did use lengthened German words (e.g. Sonnenuntergangsstadt) to emphasize the vocal vibrancy as well as the "unusual" look; at least for the non-German speakers).
These are some of the points that, after some thinking, did ring a bell for me in the topic of giving titles. It is quite unfortunate to see that many exhibitions, here at least, run after displaying the images without their titles. This, in my humble opinion, is suppressing one of the dimensions for the control of the imaginative thinking for both, the viewer and the artist, and loses the effect of "tunneling" the general thoughts in a specific direction for the viewer.
It also seems to me that in serial photography, where a photographer represents a group of photos with some connection in between them, the role of the title could be shaky in this part, but I'd rather say it is essential specially if the connection is not easily apparent in between the shots. For a series of sportive shots, for example, probably a title won't matter because of the matter of the action involved, but if these shots are for different sports types in one series? How to explain the connection or give a hint for the connection that the photographer had supposedly achieved in the series? I think a title here would do the job perfectly. The only difference though, the title would rather be for the series, not for any single photograph within the series.

Thus, I beg you, please: give your images their worth of a good title.

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