photographing mystery and mysticism

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by jnanian, Jul 18, 2017.

  1. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    every few months i go to a mystical island and i try to photograph it
    so someone might look at the prints or negatives or direct positive images
    and get a feeling of mystery, religion, mysticism &c but i tend to fall short.

    i know the feeling i get when i visit this sacred place, i know the sights i see, things i hear and
    i have a deeper understanding about what this space was and is reverting back to, and it is extremely
    hard to express this on film or in a print.

    aside from showing rays of light or brooding dark images and the types of imagery
    that is usually found on the covers of church bulletins or religious tracts are there
    any suggestions about how this could be done? i'd rather not resort to metaphors
    (showing a plant or stone or light beam or destroyed human touch ) but a way to show
    how a place is alive and filled with the living, almost like kirlian photography or thoughgrams

    i've thought of filming what i see either on .. film, or magnetic tape, but i'm not sure that
    will be any better than exposing still images. i've also toyed with the idea ( my most recent visit )
    of just not processing any of my latent images, and leaving it at that ...

    thnx
     
  2. ced

    ced Member

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    John Keep at it, you may have an apparition! :smile:
     
  3. peter k.

    peter k. Subscriber

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    I doubt this will help, but you have to realize what your trying to capture, can not be displayed!
    It has to be caught from the inside, by the observer, as has happened to you, by triggering something within them, that you have no control over.

    I've had the best success, by sitting quietly in the scene, becoming connected to it, then using a wide angle lens, as it gives familiarity, an overall, to the space and place. Trying to capture the delicate change in distinction, with very little highlighted contrast, striving for a subdued understatement. Not delivering an automatic focal point. It causes the viewer to look deeper. To question, to seek and to try and perceive what the image is showing. The viewer has to add their own vision, and hopefully do, to be captured as you where!
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I'd opt to use such an opportunity to feed the soul rather than seek photographs. The older I get the more that becomes the goal and the less I carry a camera. But that's just me...
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  5. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    I'd hesitate to offer suggestions to someone as creative as you John.

    But how about multiple exposures of exactly the same scene, same tripod holes, same focus plane, but separated by minutes (or hours maybe).

    Or similarly, static camera, multiple exposures but changing plane of focus.

    Or static camera, multiple exposure, same plane, different apertures.

    If plates or sheets or paper negs, ever tried very dilute developer, stand Dev in trays not tanks for couple hours? Combined with a flash mid Dev can produce some invigorating mackie lines and partial reversals.

    All strictly technical of course. Can't help with the spiritual.
     
  6. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    if you feel like you are failing to capture it then that's your starting point - its a blurred, indistinct, abstract, half seen vision
     
  7. Jerevan

    Jerevan Member

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    Further to what @peter k. says, I think the imperfect art leaves something for others to participate in - so that they may see something of what you see. I just came to of think of Jayne Hinds Bidaut - how her photographs told me something that I to this day still can't express in words but even now feel.

    Just a thought: something "alive" is in motion, however slowly.

    Continue, it'll come to you.
     
  8. tedr1

    tedr1 Member

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    This is one of the hardest challenges I think, how do we make an image that shows not how the place appears to the eye but how we feel about being there?
    One answer is that the eye can't do it, something different is needed, poetry, or a sound recording, for example.
    The passage of time is one element of this, the eye can be quickly satisfied by a sharply delineated descriptive image, and once satisfied seeks to move on. Whereas feelings exist in the experience of extended time, sometimes we can use photographic tricks that force the eye to linger, so that it is not satisfied in its exploration of the image in so short a time, and perhaps this might be sympathetic to the evocation of feeling?
     
  9. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I agree. What I've noticed is that when I make a slide show, when I add music, the effect is heightened. If I'm looking at people I love, and the music in the background is about love , I feel the love all over again, much more so than just looking at pictures alone. Even if the music is just related to the images, it heightens the effect of the pictures better than the pictures shown on their own. If I travel, I select music for the area and add that music to the slide show. It makes it more interesting and personal to everyone watching.

    This is not much different than the movies. Background music has enormous effect on our feelings about what we are watching. I believe it often makes the movie; that without the score, the show would be vacuous. Think of the movie Jaws with the da-ump, da-ump, da-ump as the shark approaches. Your heart is pounding before you even see it.
     
  10. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber

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    Perhaps very long exposures with a pinhole camera can capture the feeling.
     
  11. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Have you thought about writing about it instead of trying to capture it as a photographic image? Perhaps you have not yet found the right medium to do justice to your feelings.
     
  12. OptiKen

    OptiKen Member

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    How does one photograph the feeling from a kiss?
    I'd try infrared film with filters
     
  13. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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  14. OP
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    jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    thanks for your suggestions !
    my problem i think is i want to be literal rather than figurative ..
    almost like illustrations but it is nearly impossible to show
    these contradictions ( movement like gusts of wind, when no wind &c ) with images ..
    another example ...
    make water look like glass, even if it moves ..
    BUT it would be hard be hard to show the water look like it is not moving, but moving
    only at the coastline ... or show invisibility ...
    i'm thinking maybe i should go there and do "the pendulum" and ask some questions ... the doorway is already open.
     
  15. John Wolf

    John Wolf Member

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    Most important, I think, is to find a way to transcend the subject itself. The more literal the interpretation, the less likely mystery will be. What you are trying to elicit is and inner response, which is hard to trigger with an objective representation. I've always felt this is one of the limitations of photography as an expressive medium; it's too grounded in the real world. (Of course, that's it's beauty as well.)

    A few things come to mind in the photographs that have had this impact on me:
    • Simplicity and space. I'm thinking of Michael Kenna's work.
    • Water, especially still water.
    • Blur, bokeh and other softening techniques.
    • Abstracton. Minor White is an example.
    • Shadow, light and shadow, and a monochromatic palette can contribute to mystery.
    Of course, there's always words, if you enjoy that. Shomei Tomatsu was a master at blending words and photos into very evocative pairings. Words can take a viewer places the photo alone might never reach. I enjoy combining poetry and photography, using photos to trigger poems. Some examples on the blog.

    But I really think the most important thing is to find ways to transcend the subject itself, so subject becomes a door or window to something inside the viewer.

    John
     
  16. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    Take one at fast shutter and another at long exposure and combine them in print ?
     
  17. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Why are we so arrogant to think we make make the photo? Since everything is energy and we are dealing with electrons moving around; silver; light;chenistry;atomoshperic conditions....nothing will ever be the same in time and space..we are only the witness to the process
    ever finish developing a roll of film and saying to yourself..I never saw that?
     
  18. OP
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    jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi peter

    i've gone to this place to photograph often
    and every time i come back with film with things on it
    that i didn't recognize/see .. im thinking the next time
    of just exposing the film and leaving it as a memory
    and not processing it. this might work better than
    projecting what i want to see onto the film.
     
  19. Craig75

    Craig75 Member

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    An elegant solution.

    One could also print it but not fix it properly and let it slowly bronze and decay over the months and years as something to meditate on
     
  20. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    John you are still probe ting what YOU WANT TO SEE...IT DON'T WORK LIKE THAT..RELAX
    TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND IT WILL COME
     
  21. OP
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    jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    :smile: thanks peter !
     
  22. LAG

    LAG Member

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    Set fire to the film, put out the fire with water and earth, print
     
  23. Harry Stevens

    Harry Stevens Member

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    Patience,Weather,light,seasons a 10x8 camera and a smoke bomb tossed in for good luck, if that lot doesn't
    help convey your thoughts and feelings on film then move on with your photography and don't take the camera back anymore and just enjoy the place without trying to capture it on film.:smile:
     
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