Semiotics in Art
"To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer's craft. His central problem is a simple one: what shall he include, what shall he reject? The line of decision between in and out is the picture's edge. While the draughtsman starts with the middle of the street, the photographer starts with the frame. The photograph's edge defines content. It isolates unexpected juxtapositions. By surrounding two facts, it creates a relationship. The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms, and shows the unfamiliar fragment. It creates the shapes that surround objects. The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame. This frame is the beginning of this picture's geometry. It is to the photograph as the cushion is to the billiard table." - John Szarkowski - from The Photographer's Eye by John Szarkowski, former director of the photography division of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Photography is all about how things bounce off the edges and interact, similar to the game of billiards, as Szarkowski has pointed out. A photographer uses the frame of the photograph to create an image that conveys how the artist sees the world around him. Most photographers will find that a single image format is ample enough "canvas" to get his ideas and visions out into the world. However, some artist feel that this way of working is limited and prohibits us from making more complex associations and connections with the world around us. Painters have long been using diptychs, triptychs, and other multi-image formats to create narrative stories such as in altar pieces. Scientist use groupings of similar things to create patterns that can be studied for similarities and differences. As photographers we have the unique ability to quickly capture moments of life with ease and repetition. This allows us to lend our own view into the world of semiotics (the study of meaning-making) by grouping photographs in order to speak of our subjects more broadly and with increasing complexity over an artist who has to work with one image or one art piece at a time. This of course brings it's own set of challenges. The possibilities are greatly increased when we start approaching image making outside of the single frame and thus creating a strong and cohesive piece becomes much more difficult. Questions you will surely face when you set out to make work in this style include: How many images are needed to make the statement that I want to make? When have I gone overboard and included too much information? What composition should be used, diptych, triptych, large grid, etc.? What images help add to the overall piece, and what images are distracting from the end result? Why is this a valid form of image making, should I be challenging myself by restricting myself to a single image? We will take a look at several artists who have effectively used multi-image techniques and hopefully by seeing what was successful in the past we will have a better understanding of what will be successful in the future and where we as contemporary artists can take this format to create new frontiers for art."I am interested not in individual readings, but in constructing networks of images and meanings capable of reflecting the complexity of the subject." -
Anna & Bernhard Blume
Eadweard J Muybridge
I had the priviledge and pleasure to have a brief conversation with an artist here on DA who is very knowledgeable on this discussion. We will be talking some about kaleidoscope images, or k-scopes, if you are unfamiliar with what these are you can read up on them in this journal fav.me/d6whi5zjustanothersomeone
Do you feel there are times when a single photograph cannot by itself represent the concept or reality that the artist is trying to portray? Or is this just an inability by the artist to convey a message in the bounds of one image?davespertine
I can't answer your questions in terms of 'the photograph', but only in terms of 'the image'. And in terms of an image only in terms of subjects or icons, the elements that make up the image.
The very idea of your question conjours up the possibility to take a photograph of two photographs. What is the difference between photographing two photographs or scanning them side by side, or arranging them side by side on a computer, or placing them side by side in frames.
It all becomes like the infinity mirror and the reflection of reflections. Where does the photograph end and reality begin?
For me a single photograph has never been enough. But this is true of the moving picture. Things move, things change. A single image can capture magic, but is that magic enough? NO.
Images are like people. They are individuals but they have relationships with other individuals. There is a relationship between any group of images.
Context changes an image. How many times do we look at an image that we know well and notice something that we have never seen before?
Images are like music, is one note enough, is one instrument enough? NO. But sometimes YES.
If music is about tension and resolution, then lets look at any two images and see if together they are in harmony or if they clash with each other.
Images are like people, society does not recognise their potential and does not use them imaginatively.
Now would be a good time for those with imagination to show what can be done both with images and with people. Maybe we can move away from the same old clichés, where people become bound by their jobs and images by their frames. None of us fit in the square or rectangular box. It is just a restriction formed by lack of imagination. There are no limits and the worst thing is to have limits set by people who lack imagination.
The K-scopes have become very popular here on deviantArt but it is still relatively unexplored and unknown in broader society. Why do you believe this is a valid way to create images? And where/when do you see this format emerging in the fine art world and greater global consciousness?davespertine
K-scopes are really about sharing and deviantART works very well for arranging images and sharing them.
No form of art needs to be justified, it is valid, it is validated by the fact that someone decided to create it.
Fine art is so far behind what art really is that it takes a long time to catch up. Art is a form of communication that although can be refined through learning skills, needs no skill what-so-ever. It is built purely on the desire of the person to communicate.
Fine art simply judges it and decides whether it is worth some kind of elite status. However the core motivation of the person is communication not status.
I find it hard to use the word artist rather than person because we are all artists. People need to conform in order to be recognised as artists. They need to demonstrate certain skills. They must lose their pure identity and be recognisably predictable.
Surely we have words and language to clearly explain things to each other. Art can express pure individuality and doesn't need to be refined so that those who don't understand it can cope with it.
Do you have any suggestions for artist who are starting to experiment with multi-image photographs such as diptychs, triptychs, and k-scopes?davespertine
I would say to anyone that they were born artists. It is so easy. Take two images, place them side by side, if they look interesting together, show other people and see what they think. It doesn't matter if they don't get it. Start again, build up a portfolio of images that you think go together. After a while, people start to see what you are doing. All we are doing is showing our choices and expressing to others what we like. If we find someone who likes them too then we find a kindred spirit. We don't need to change ourselves, to become someone else in order to find kindred spirits. If we show ourselves for what we truly are then we might find true happiness.
Selection from DA artists: