In a recent post I mentioned the ‘hallowed camp’, a collection of photographs that I return to on occasion. In the words of the Eagles, these photographs ‘can check out any time … but (can) never leave’. I thought I would slowly reveal my hallowed camp. Some readers will be meeting these pictures for the first time. Others will be encountering them afresh. Either way, I hope something new comes from them.
Just a few thoughts first. There seems to be no common denominator that helps me to understand which pictures enter the camp and which do not. It has partly to do with how the composition holds the content.
Frege, the logician and philosopher who initiated the modern era of analytical philosophy, studied the relationship between words and the sentences they compose. Sentences have meanings because their words have meanings. Words have meanings because of the sentences they inhabit. This interaction gives a sentence unity, distinguishing it from a mere list of words. Something like this seems to happen in a successful picture. The ‘whole’ is other than the sum of its parts in the following sense: a mere description of all the parts of a picture will not provide a complete description of the emerging whole. I will leave the metaphysics there. 1
Here is the first photograph by Gertrude Käsebier, without comment:
- One is left to wonder whether there is a state between ‘partdom’ and ‘wholedom’, akin to what our physics friends talk about when mentioning the uncertainty principle. This relationship of part to whole and whole to part seems to point to a basic condition: emergence of forms. Stolnitz was wrong when he said ‘artistic truths are, preponderantly, distinctly banal. Compared to science, above all, but also to history, religion, and garden variety knowing, artistic truth is a sport, stunted, hardly to be compared.’ [2. Stolnitz, J. (1992). On the Cognitive Triviality of Art. British Journal of Aesthetics, 32(3):191–200. ↩