Monday, July 28, 2008

General Relativity & Art Appreciation Theory

Model: Brittany, Film: Fuji color 160

Albert Einstein, after a few corrections, on November of 1915, submitted a paper called "The field Equations of Gravitation" ...although it was not until he explained his paper in two articles on March of 1916 that his colleagues and others understood his original paper better.
The three major points of the General Relativity are as follows:

I. Space and time are not rigid. Their form and structure is influenced by matter and energy.

II. Matter and energy determine how space, and space-time, curve.

III. Space and its curvature determine how matter moves. (my personal favorite, for some reason, it reminds me of putting during a game of golf)

How is that relevant to art appreciation....I have no idea but would like to try to connect them some how.

Perhaps we need to mention the Einstein's two postulates of special relativity as well before my philosophical attempt to connect everything to each other:

1. The laws of physics are the same for any inertial reference frame.

2. In an inertial reference frame, the speed of light (c) is the same whether it's emitted by a source that's moving (uniform motion, not accelerating) or stationary.

OK so the understanding of an aesthetic (let's say in photography) and its value is subjective...everybody loves to use the cliche phrase of "in the eye of beholder" .

On the other hand, everybody more and more gets influenced by the media and globalization of standards. For example, have you noticed how much harder it is to create a shock value in TV series these days? 10-15 years ago they were not allowed to show a needle breaking into someones' skin and now you can easily catch a crime lab technician on TV in the act of sawing or chopping body parts, almost any night of the week...or perhaps a slow motion of brain matters falling on the ground, all filmed in saturated colors.

Values change, based on our personal experiences....what we call great today, could've been considered horrible yesterday and might be considered boring tomorrow.

The point is, society as a whole, usually is following the trends and being taught non stop by media and other resources, about today's' standards ...and what they should consider "good". From TV to Internet and from publications to music, cinema, fashion and politics.

Physics is can always assume existence of "inertial reference frame" and go on with your theory. Can we assume such frame in let's say writing a critique on a photograph for example? What would that even mean?

A good photo editor is usually good at his job because he is familiar with the current trends, he also remembers the older and more tired close past trends while he is open to take a calculated risk on controlled risky new trends of photographs.

For him, "inertial reference frame" means death of his job! If we could always judge and say what photograph is good at all time, there would've been few reference books around to tell us that and be done with it.

This is where General Relativity comes into the game.

Yes value of art and photography is subjective because it changes based on what society and personal experiences of the observer would consider valuable....but on the flip side, you can say, it's almost calculable. If we know enough about the observer(could be ourselves)/client, (without trying to stereo type anything) we can safely venture a guess on what image he/she would like better...and of course "function" and definition of "success" are other closely related terms to follow.

The simple example is this:

You want to sell an image to a publication, create similar images to what they are publishing right now and perhaps predict what they might be publishing 6 months down the road. That is the safer bet usually....however does that fall into the category of "good" imagery based on your own personal standards or not? If you are lucky enough to answer yes...then not only you are producing what you enjoy but also have a better chance to be accepted and make money doing it. On the other hand if you are savvy enough to be able to create what clients ask you perfectly without accepting it as "good" on your own, you are not going to last long usually or you are not going to be very happy.

I guess that is the key part here...the personal characterization of "success" in producing an image and how aligned it is (on its own and without forcing yourself) with the desired function or clients needs or even our own imagination.

Too many words and not many visual examples so let's try to change that.


The following two shots brought me many clients...even if they didn't want to do anything similar (sport publications, commercial photography, etc.) still they enjoyed the shots enough to comment on them. On the other hand, while I like the shots myself and gladly appreciate the kind words I received because of them, I didn't try to recreate them or build a body of work around them.

Models: Miss L. and Chrys, Films: Kodak B/W 400

On the other hand the following shots were my personal favorite works while almost never got a feedback about them from any art director, art buyer or publications.


The top photo of the following shots was very entertaining to me...the white cross on the darker back ground and dark heart on the lighter back ground, while both being placed between model's long legs to create a subtle yin/yang effect that I enjoyed plus I liked the fact that while the shot is from a shapely posterior of the model, the back ground is in the play as well as a dynamic composition ...such as unusual framing, while legs are heading diagonal and yet the upper body balances everything out (at least in my own eyes).

Model: Miss K., Film: Ilford B/W 100
I also enjoyed the following shot (again personally) for various reasons.
...subject was wearing such a dark and unusual outfit for such a mundane and ordinary location and comparing to the people in the back ground which it created a conceptual contrast very similar to the actual visual contrast in the image (her skin tone and the dark suit, shadow on the left and bright surface on the right etc.) plus from compositional point of view I liked the shape of pool mimicking her curves while the palm tress complimenting her stance...add the fact that the people were trying so hard to pretend nothing unusual was going me this photo was stimulating visually and conceptually on various levels...and yet almost I never received any feed backs about it. Of course I do understand the difficulty of finding a use for such shots which goes hand in hand with theory as well.

Model: Lillithe, Film: Kodak B/W 400

To bring home my longest blog post of this year:
1. No two complete unique observers would appreciate the very same art element, in the same manner and equal to each other, on all aspect of their experience.
2. Personal experiences, geographical location, media exposure, sociological and psychological effects, education, sexual tendencies among other things affects how an observer would appreciate an artistic element.
3. For a unique observer, the appreciation for the very same art element does not stay constant since his understanding and appreciation of such art could change based on new experiences, understanding, visual education and other matters pointed in part 2.

Thank you for your time and patience.



Las Vegas, LA, Phoenix, NYC


Lin said...

Wow, good post!
That's the first time I've seen general relativity used to explain subjectivity. I'd be interested to learn how it further links to marketing theory as well.

I agree physics is beautiful, as are your photographs. Different definitions of beauty perhaps.

(This post made my brain hurt BTW!)

Wolf189 Photography said...

Thank you for the kind words towards the photographs, Lin.

I can put something together, regarding the marketing, perhaps...mostly for the sake of entertainment of course.