Sunday, September 17, 2023

Mereological Investigations

"Whole and part—
partly concrete parts and
partly abstract parts—are
at the bottom of everything.
They are most fundamental
in our conceptual system.
Whole and unity; thing or entity or being. Every whole is a unity and every unity that is divisible is a whole. For example, the primitive concepts, the monads, the empty set, and the unit sets are unities but not wholes. Every unity is something and not nothing. Any unity is a thing or an entity or a being. Objects and concepts are unities and beings.
In materialism all elements behave the same. It is mysterious to think of them as spread out and automatically united. For something to be a whole, it has to have an additional object, say, a soul or a mind. “Matter” refers to one way of perceiving things, and elementary particles are a lower form of mind. Mind is separate from matter."

Kurt Godel (1906 - 1978)

Expanding a bit on my past blog post (in which I describe the "Fox-like Hedgehogian" style of photography I tend to engage in - mostly unconsciously - whenever I am on "vacation," consider the image at the top of this post. This is a rare (possibly unique?) instance in which I lead into my commentary by sharing a completely unprocessed image; save that for my opening it up in Photoshop using Photoshop's default raw filter conversion settings. I do this not because I think this image merits a moment of attention - indeed, I should immediately emphasize that IMHO it does not (i.e., I am responsible for capturing this landscape, but do not think this is a good picture) - but because I wish to use it to illustrate one of the points I was struggling to make clear in my previous post.

The short version of my last entry is simply this: that when I am "on vacation" - typically, but not always, somewhere I have never been before - my photography inevitably steps through three partly overlapping stages: stage-1, the "spray paint" stage, denotes a short time during which I engage in the vain hope of capturing majestic "Wagnerian" landscapes in the vain hope of "showing it all"; stage-2 consists of my "slowing down" and engaging the landscape on its own terms (whether it is vast and majestic, or more intimate); and (my much preferred) stage-3, that appears only after I remember to view landscapes not as "objects" to be captured, but as ambient experiential backdrops to my own state-of-mind (wherein the compositions I make are less about conveying aesthetic impressions of specific things captured in a given place and time, and more about revealing aspects of how I experienced specific things in given places and times while I was taking pictures of them).

And so, in this context, consider the "raw" image that appears at the top of this blog post. Since it was taken within a few hours of gathering our luggage at Iceland's KeflavĂ­k airport and heading out on our first day of exploring the country, it is not surprising (at least to me) that its quality falls decidedly into the "stage 1" category. Why is this image not very good? The most egregious reason (among many others), is that it is unclear what the photographer (namely, me) wants the viewer to look at (or experience)! The mountains? Perhaps, but they are obscured in shadow and require an effort to see beyond the bright foreground and large cloud; the clouds? Maybe, but they only partly cover half of the sky, and the main "point of interest" (cloud-wise) is a dominant blob that draws in too much of the viewer's' attention; or is the viewer meant to look at the waterfall quietly nestled within a beautifully lit foreground? If so, the lighting hardly does justice to the waterfall, which seems as almost a hopeless afterthought buried in deep shadow. 

My point is not to self flagellate (though constructive self-criticism is something I always engage in; just not quite so openly as I'm doing now 😊; but rather to illustrate how I sometimes use otherwise forgettable "stage 1" images such as this to help steer/reorient my aesthetics and (better prepare for) future compositions. While "stage 2" photographs do not - cannot - appear until I've thoroughly gotten my "capture the majestic Wagnerian landscape" instincts out of the way, "stage 1" images also invariably contain vestiges (unconscious reminders?) of what my "eye" was really looking at, even as it was distracted by the "big-picture." I'd like to think that - had I had more time (or, more precisely, had I gotten over my "Wagnerian" instincts before I encountered the landscape in the "raw" image above), that I would have "seen" and composed these more intimate ("Stage 2") photographs from the spot I was standing:

Alas, my "eye" saw these (embedded, latent, additional?) compositional possibilities only after returning home from our vacation; and the post-processed crops you see here hardly do justice to how I ought to have captured them. I did the best I could, and leveraged the relatively high resolution that my Nikon z7 provides. But my heart and muse both know that what essentially amounts to no more than a bit of "melancholy play" with Photoshop may also have produced significantly more meaningful "stage 2" or "stage 3" images had I been in a more receptive "state of mind." The one small bit of solace I have is that while my "eye" was unabashedly and myopically focused on capturing a "Wagnerian landscape," it was my "I" that pointed to what "eye" saw; why else was I even looking?

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