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Art Theory: Idea workshop. Warning, not the truth here, just a venture. Examining what makes an image worthy of saving and what it does for us.

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  #1  
Old March 18th, 2011, 04:06 AM
Ben Rubinstein Ben Rubinstein is offline
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Default Composition

Alain Briot's new article on LuLa:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...n_top_15.shtml

Discuss!
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Old March 18th, 2011, 05:00 AM
Ben Rubinstein Ben Rubinstein is offline
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My first thoughts are that heavily represented in the controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking. Not that I don't agree wholeheartedly, it is the above which seperates the photographer (alone) from the photographic artist.
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  #3  
Old March 19th, 2011, 03:42 AM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
My first thoughts are that heavily represented in the controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking. Not that I don't agree wholeheartedly, it is the above which seperates the photographer (alone) from the photographic artist.
Ben,

composition is not defined in that article - the article should re titled thoughts on photography.

what is composition / what is it not?
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Old March 19th, 2011, 10:10 AM
Ben Rubinstein Ben Rubinstein is offline
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I'd love Alain to answer that one, I don't want to put words into his mouth..
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  #5  
Old March 19th, 2011, 01:47 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Thank you for linking to this. There is much there worth pondering.
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  #6  
Old March 19th, 2011, 02:45 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
I'd love Alain to answer that one, I don't want to put words into his mouth..
My list is my answer :-) I have other answers in my books and other essays on composition for those who prefer ad lib writing to lists.
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  #7  
Old March 19th, 2011, 03:54 PM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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My list is my answer :-) I have other answers in my books and other essays on composition for those who prefer ad lib writing to lists.
Alan,

"Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk."

who said this?

to take from and re-contextualize to fit your modus is simple...

what is an uncomposed photograph?

what is composition?

what is ab lib writing? what is an essay and what is a list ?

The list is mubo jumbo, with conflicting terms and statements.

To many photographers try to write when they should be making work. It seems to me that what they write ends up either badly written or written with a type of mystical approach that a high priest of some strange cult would use.

cheers
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  #8  
Old March 19th, 2011, 11:03 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Ben,

I'm having problems following these complex statements. I really don't know where to pause or houw to pars this set of thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
My first thoughts are that heavily represented in the controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking. Not that I don't agree wholeheartedly, it is the above which seperates the photographer (alone) from the photographic artist.
"My first thoughts are that heavily represented" ....in XYZ.. should continue "that PQRST"

where PQRST would be your concluding opinion.

where XYZ ="in the controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking."

I'm lost! Is there some word or phrase missing?

Asher
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  #9  
Old March 19th, 2011, 11:14 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Alan,

"Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk."

who said this?
That's been attributed to Edward Weston, but I cannot vouch that he was the origin. In any case, one does indeed need to consult the laws of gravity before going for a walk in places where gravity is different from where you are used to walking, as in space or on the moon!

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Originally Posted by Mark Hampton View Post
To[o] [sic] many photographers try to write when they should be making work. It seems to me that what they write ends up either badly written or written with a type of mystical approach that a high priest of some strange cult would use.

cheers
Mark,

Who are you referring to? Can you give examples? Perhaps I'm reading too much into what's being said and am not following the logic properly.

Asher
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  #10  
Old March 20th, 2011, 04:07 AM
Mark Hampton Mark Hampton is offline
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Mark,

Who are you referring to? Can you give examples? Perhaps I'm reading too much into what's being said and am not following the logic properly.

Asher
Asher - the real dig of that statement is the cult of Ansel Adams or the Weston family (mix them both together and you get the Adams Family). Its just badly written - I need to take my own advice and make some pictures instead of writing about them.
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  #11  
Old March 20th, 2011, 10:32 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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'..written with a type of mystical approach that a high priest of some strange cult would use.'

So as to try and distance themselves from the ordinary folk with their mumbo jumbo.

Nothing for me in this article. I, too, shall go and take photographs.

Maybe shall take too many. Who knows, one of them might turn out to be acceptable.

The magic of digital. The opportunity for the masses. The bane of the high priests.

Now these hordes have the software too!! Ye gods!! Whither shall we seek sanctuary.. Yes,in our writings.

And our marketing.
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  #12  
Old March 20th, 2011, 10:40 AM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
'..written with a type of mystical approach that a high priest of some strange cult would use.'

So as to try and distance themselves from the ordinary folk with their mumbo jumbo.

Nothing for me in this article. I, too, shall go and take photographs.

Maybe shall take too many. Who knows, one of them might turn out to be acceptable.

The magic of digital. The opportunity for the masses. The bane of the high priests.

Now these hordes have the software too!! Ye gods!! Whither shall we seek sanctuary.. Yes,in our writings.

And our marketing.

Ah, but the high priests will tell you how to use the software to achieve 'exhibition quality'
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  #13  
Old March 20th, 2011, 10:54 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Guys,

Here's how I see it. Whenever I have complete a photographic project and it's in print, I treat myself to some books on the "greats" and also have wild round of museum visits, photographing pictures I like and people watching them. That's my connection with the greats. I have entertainment for myself and pick up some ideas on where I might improve my own work.

My respect for the "greats" is for more than aura. It's the devotion to esthetics and technicality or to working against that. It's the whole era of their work that leads to our cameras and even photoshop.

Asher
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  #14  
Old March 20th, 2011, 10:56 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Shimwell View Post
Ah, but the high priests will tell you how to use the software to achieve 'exhibition quality'
Not necessary Mike. These uncultured hordes talk amongst themselves. They make mistakes, but you will be surprised what they can do.

Besides, I never did maintain that ' exhibitions' are necessarily a mark of quality, originality.
Marketing, business acumen, networking yes. Quality, not necessarily so.

Here is a rule of composition. If one puts a large object in front of a tiny object, depending on where one stands, the tiny object might not be seen.

That is a free piece of advice. I have many more gems like these.

Lord have mercy..these desert nomads too can use the software!! the gods of art are definitely unkind!
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  #15  
Old March 21st, 2011, 05:23 AM
Ben Rubinstein Ben Rubinstein is offline
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Sorry Asher this is what I meant:

My first thoughts are that heavily represented in this article is the perhaps controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking. Not that I don't agree wholeheartedly, it is the above which seperates the photographer (alone) from the photographic artist.

Sorry must have been half asleep as a result of having had a marathon day of wedding processing when I wrote that! ;-)
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  #16  
Old March 21st, 2011, 09:31 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
Sorry Asher this is what I meant:

My first thoughts are that heavily represented in this article is the perhaps controversial concept that composition is both subjective and transcends the actual moment of picture taking. Not that I don't agree wholeheartedly, it is the above which seperates the photographer (alone) from the photographic artist.

Sorry must have been half asleep as a result of having had a marathon day of wedding processing when I wrote that! ;-)
Composition is always subjective. We just have "subjectivity", or modes of composing that overlaps by common wiring of the brain, culture and education. That's the way composition can transcend from something personal to something that a community can appreciate.

Asher
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  #17  
Old March 21st, 2011, 10:10 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Ah, but the high priests will tell you how to use the software to achieve 'exhibition quality'
Mike,

It's easy to throw mud at large targets. The fact is that one can spend a lot of money and not necessarily buy the right printer or use it well. A "high priest" or experienced teacher might save even an experienced photographer a lot of wasted and expensive ink and paper! I went to a workshop some years ago with Alain Briot, Michael Reichman and Uwe Steinmuller and Michael Tapes in Arizona. Each presented material from their POV and the participants in the audience added their ideas and together it was a worthwhile event. Sure, the person standing in front of everyone is, for the moment a "priest", but then he sits down and someone else takes the role.

Then when one takes ones files to the available Epson printer and gets free prints and feedback, it's an extra valuable time for sharing advice. Now some folk cannot travel to such workshops. So there's a small industry of "experts" who sell teaching material in DVD's to newbies and enthusiasts. On the whole, these serve to transfer decades of a photographer's own learning in a succinct form.

Asher
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  #18  
Old March 21st, 2011, 10:36 AM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Composition is always subjective. We just have "subjectivity", or modes of composing that overlaps by common wiring of the brain, culture and education. That's the way composition can transcend from something personal to something that a community can appreciate.

Asher
There's some truth in your statement, Asher.

I really don't want to get involved in yet another "composition" thread. But I do feel compelled to (again) point readers to the best reference book on this subject: Harald Mante's "The Photograph: Composition and Color Design". Mante has been a leading German art and photography educator for a long time. What makes his (recently translated) work the best, in my opinion, is that it treats the subject in a neutral, non-prescriptive, non-cultural manner. Nearly all of the dozens of current consumer books work toward helping the reader to make "pretty" or "pleasing" pictures. Mante teaches you to decompose and identify relationships. For example, anyone who studied Mante would immediately see that Alain's "Badlands" image (on his LuLa article) is nothing more than four triangles in some tension.

"Composition" as a subject in higher art education has largely long been abandoned. If you look, for example, at the list of courses on Yale University's School of Art site you'll find "composition" offered only as an aspect of painting. The reason is simple: the study of "composition" almost invariably leads to a level of dance-lesson formalism that's generally unhealthy for creativity. Instead, what you'll find is an emphasis on communication and design towards that goal. Objectively orienting oneself toward the goal of communicating, rather than composing, is far more productive than trying to slavishly obey "rules" of composition founded in the times of "classical" art.

So my suggestion to those photo enthusiasts genuinely interested in improving their skills is to immerse yourself in Mante's material for some months. Take each chapter as an exercise and use your own camera to work toward recreating and understanding what he's presenting. Seriously, confine most of your shooting toward the principles of the "current" chapter. One of the greatest disadvantages that hobbyists have is that, unlike art students and genuinely accomplished photographers and other visual artists, they are not immersed in the visual world. They have no good guidance or support for visual studies. They get no worthwhile or really incisive feedback. They are not exposed to any real breadth of visual thought. So they end up spend too much time on the Internet, an arguably weak place for learning and absorbing the visual skills. Instead of being exposed to symphonies of thought leadership they hear a single drumbeat of familiar "rightness".

When you feel that Mante's main concepts and lessons have been nicely tattooed in your mind's eye, devote your energies toward using your camera to communicate. To heck with golden triangles, rules of thirds, etc. Let the objective of communication drive your imagery and, yes, even your choice of camera. I realize that most readers here will ignore my suggestions and keep on searching for the "Grail of the Pretty Picture". That's fine. Have fun! Fun, after all, is what avocational photography is all about. But what I suggest here represents the fundamental essence of what you would have spent $100,000++ and years to learn if you had chosen to attend a top art school such as Yale, RIT, or SAIC. I think those who take a stab at following this will be rewarded in the self-satisfaction they receive from their work.

I have exceeded my typing quota for the week! Bye!
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  #19  
Old March 21st, 2011, 11:10 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
There's some truth in your statement, Asher.

I really don't want to get involved in yet another "composition" thread. But I do feel compelled to (again) point readers to the best reference book on this subject: Harald Mante's "The Photograph: Composition and Color Design". Mante has been a leading German art and photography educator for a long time. What makes his (recently translated) work the best, in my opinion, is that it treats the subject in a neutral, non-prescriptive, non-cultural manner. Nearly all of the dozens of current consumer books work toward helping the reader to make "pretty" or "pleasing" pictures. Mante teaches you to decompose and identify relationships. For example, anyone who studied Mante would immediately see that Alain's "Badlands" image (on his LuLa article) is nothing more than four triangles in some tension.

One last thought. "Composition" as a subject in higher art education has largely long been abandoned. If you look, for example, at the list of courses on Yale University's School of Art site you'll find "composition" offered only as an aspect of painting. The reason is simple: the study of "composition" almost invariably leads to a level of dance-lesson formalism that's generally unhealthy for creativity. Instead, what you'll find is an emphasis on communication and design towards that goal. Objectively orienting oneself toward the goal of communicating, rather than composing, is far more productive than trying to slavishly obey "rules" of composition founded in the times of "classical" art.

So my suggestion to those photo enthusiasts genuinely interested in improving their skills is to immerse yourself in Mante's material for some months. Take each chapter as an exercise and use your own camera to work toward recreating and understanding what he's presenting. Seriously, confine most of your shooting toward the principles of the "current" chapter. One of the greatest disadvantages that hobbyists have is that, unlike art students and genuinely accomplished photographers and other visual artists, they are not immersed in the visual world. They have no good guidance or support for visual studies. They get no worthwhile or really incisive feedback. They are not exposed to any real breadth of visual thought. So they end up spend too much time on the Internet, an arguably weak place for learning and absorbing the visual skills. Instead of being exposed to symphonies of thought leadership they hear a single drumbeat of familiar "rightness".

When you feel that Mante's main concepts and lessons have been nicely tattooed in your mind's eye, devote your energies toward using your camera to communicate. To heck with golden triangles, rules of thirds, etc. Let the objective of communication drive your imagery and, yes, even your choice of camera. I realize that most readers here will ignore my suggestions and keep on searching for the "Grail of the Pretty Picture". That's fine. Have fun! Fun, after all, is what avocational photography is all about. But what I suggest here represents the fundamental essence of what you would have spent $100,000++ and years to learn if you had chosen to attend a top art school such as Yale, RIT, or SAIC. I think those who take a stab at following this will be rewarded in the self-satisfaction they receive from their work.

I have exceeded my typing quota for the week! Bye!
Ken,

I will not parse one word of your excellent recommendations! Mante's book sits on my nightstand. I read chapters again and again, each time uncovering more. I still have't fully absorbed the rich information he presents!

This book and Light Science & Magic are without doubt, two of the most important, design and culturally neutral must-read books for photographers who want to master composition and light.

Thanks again for pointing us to a reference that extinguishes most other opinions by it's logic, great illustrations and neutrality.

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; March 21st, 2011 at 09:58 PM.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 11:31 AM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Yes indeed Asher, LS&M is also an indisputably essential exercise/reference work for learning to understand and to use the medium of light.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 11:45 AM
Georg R. Baumann Georg R. Baumann is offline
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...two of the most important, design and culturally neutral must-read books...
I would dispute that.

'Color Harry' is anything but design and culturally neutral, on the contrary.

Having said that, I agree that both books are good recommendations.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 01:54 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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I would dispute that.

'Color Harry' is anything but design and culturally neutral, on the contrary.

Having said that, I agree that both books are good recommendations.
Hmm! Well you know "Color Harry" better than I do. Still, I'd love to see a review that supports your POV.

Algebra can be said to be culturally neutral, but maybe, for the same reasons you have in mind, it really isn't. However, despite your reservations on my idea that his writing is culturally neutral, these two books together make a great part of a foundation in approaching photography beyond snapshots, prettiness and mementos and documentation.

Asher
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  #23  
Old March 21st, 2011, 02:56 PM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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Let me say state right away that I have not read any of Professor's Mante's books.

I have looked at some of his work. A lot of it of it appeals to me.

As does a lot of German design..in engineering, interior and building.

But too much emphasis on Western concepts in art and artistic design are not for me.

I find artisitc design concepts of other cultures resonate more with me.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 06:37 PM
Georg R. Baumann Georg R. Baumann is offline
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http://www.openphotographyforums.com...ead.php?t=5175

He studied with Vincent Weber, who himself studied with V. Kandsinsky, hence he is a second generation Bauhaus student, and from this point of view it seems rather logical to me that he is not design neutral.

Apart from that, culturally neutral? How in the Hell would that be possible, let aside desirable? Learning is a social phenomenon and it pervades culture. Culture not only affects how we behave and think but also how we learn. Design cannot and does not exist outside of a consideration of culture. We can however be culturally 'sensitive', and apply this in our work, if we desire to do so.

Design, in photography, architecture, music, sculpture, or any other expressive form is always a reflection of, in no particular order a) The person who created it and b) His/her cultural background and understanding c) A mirror of the social political time the creator lived in, amongst others.

Don't get me wrong, I do not mean to criticize your views, not at all, we just differ here in our opinion, as so often. -Grins-

To me the term 'design/culturally neutral' is like the term 'political correctness'.

To maintain cultural identity should be a goal, while at the same time expanding our understanding of other cultures and their values, and in that quest one might find that the differences are easily out weight by the things that we all have in common as human beings.

P.S.
Good luck in finding a review that supports my point of view. LOL
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Old March 21st, 2011, 06:54 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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To me the term 'design/culturally neutral' is like the term 'political correctness'.
Well that's a strange baton to hit my lovely term, "culturally neutral"!

Especially since you offer, (drums roll, trumpets announce each with even more dignity) these ideals:
  • To maintain cultural identity should be a goal,
  • while at the same time expanding our understanding of other cultures and their values,
  • and in that quest one might find that the differences are easily out weight by the things that we all have in common as human beings.
How could anything be more Politically Correct!!!

Well Georg, all those fine sentiments, and that's what they are, do find welcome with me!

Still back to composition and design. I believe these capabilities are wired into our brains as essential elements by which we measure, rate and value things. The specifics strengths of their expression do have cultural fingerprints. From cultural experience, languages of motifs develop.

However the essential basics are part of being human. That is indeed culturally neutral! Not PC.

Asher

However, why do we want to "maintain cultural identity"? One could argue against that far more easily than defend it! Unless you are actually talking about us not swamping the culture of the Hope Native Americans off the cultural landscape or "discovering" aboriginal tribes in the Amazon, making them wear clothes, translating the Bible to their tongue and wiping out their stories and songs and health in a generation.
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  #26  
Old March 21st, 2011, 09:25 PM
Georg R. Baumann Georg R. Baumann is offline
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Please....not that again! Skinnerianism vs. evolutionary Psychology? The ballast of a medical profession concentric view I guess.

Ah well, I guess we should be lucky to have all these excellent people scanning the brain, breaking down the proteins, mapping the human genom and making ground breaking discoveries, for example that the brains of low income children function differently to high income kids, and of course, this research is financed with grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted in Berkley, California. - Pfff! -

I guess the prefrontal cortex development must be in direct proportion to Daddy's Gold reserves and accounts in the caymans. What is wired and what is not wired is totally unknown. LOL

We are all individual, and as such every brain is profoundly unique. The admittedly somewhat small , but hey it's mine, brain that I own has never existed before, and will never exist again, ever! Scientists are determined to create a universal map of the brain, a generic guide to its gene expression, but such an abstraction does not actually exist. How do you standardize the individual?

You don't!

There is no unified theory about the brain possible. The genetic mapping of 'the brain' is non sensical, Neuroscience is not like chemistry, I bet my bottom dollar on that!

But let's leave it for now.... I offer a friendly 'We agree to disagree'.

So long
Georg
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Old March 21st, 2011, 09:37 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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As much as your writing is entertaining, it misses the point. Skinnerism is not part of my belief systems! The brain is not invented anew for each of us, rather it is mostly the same. All the circuits are present. Your life and minor variants do indeed build up unique content in your brain, but, these influences aside, we are mostly the same. Our responses are, to a large extent determined by our biology then by culture, training experience and an overlay of personality.

Still, the core processes are held in common by all humans. It's the extent of expression and the flourishes that become motifs that we think are original but in reality, are in large part likely determined by our biological nature.

Asher
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  #28  
Old March 21st, 2011, 09:44 PM
Georg R. Baumann Georg R. Baumann is offline
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You know what they will find?

Quote:
With $55 million, a collection of frozen human brains and robots capable of processing 192 brain slices a day, the Allen Brain Institute is attempting to do the impossible: systematically map out the expression patterns of more than 20,000 genes that make our grey matter tick.

The science behind the techniques isn't new. Researchers have probed neurons with specific RNA bits in a revealing game of genetic hide-and-seek for 40 years. But the speed and scope with which they're tackling the problem with specially-constructed robots that automate most of the data-gathering and analysis is unprecedented. When the Atlas is finished in 2012, scientists will start untangling the whys and hows of our neural network.
http://www.alleninstitute.org/

....Nothing!
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  #29  
Old March 21st, 2011, 09:57 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Another fascinating link, really mind blowing, but off topic! Let's get back to composition!
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Old March 21st, 2011, 11:53 PM
Jerome Marot Jerome Marot is offline
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I find that composition is a rather elusive quest. Or, maybe, taking pictures is an elusive quest.

At my admittedly basic level, I find it relatively easy to follow simple rules of composition. The results are well balanced pictures, which have a certain quality of peacefulness and are relatively pleasing to look at. The results are boring pictures.

I had a quick look at Harald Mante's book. At a higher level, it suffers from the same problem: pretty, but empty. Of course, maybe it is just because they are examples chosen for teaching.

Something else: searching more Harald Mante's pictures, I found the results of one of his seminars here:

http://www.horizonte-zingst.de/works...gestalten.html

Am I the only one who can immediately say from the pictures presented whether the student was male or female?
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