Post photography

Topic 5 : reflection on Plato – theory of forms


In this week of our class, we started a theory of semiotic language in photography. Bazin proposes an iconic relationship between the image and it’s objectivity that photography is corporeal and impassive.

“The real world is outside the one that we living, and this real world is unchanging and eternal. This is the world of ideas not senses, with their perfect forms of the things that we know on earth.”        —-Plato

The definition of ‘the real’, based on the empiricist of our physical vision is that something “out there” is independent from human intervention. But Plato’s metaphysics idea claims that our physical world is relying on our senses, which is imperfect, thus the mental world is eternal with ideas or forms. These two realms consist the reality of the visible world we live in, and the intelligible world is more ‘real’ because the visible world is mere a reflection of it. We can recognize the form, no matter what their appearance is.

When it comes to photography, what we see could not need to be ‘out there’, rather it can be ‘ in there’. The real is impossible because we can only experience or perceive, which means it only exist in our mind. So that is to say, what we called ‘naive realism’ is not true from the philosophical aspect.

According to Plato, I’d say that the essence of something is the form in our mind which forms their objective existence, no matter what kind of shape or pattern they are perceived through our senses. Hence, it seems that we can’t take a picture of form, which exists in our mind, but only can have the objects in the visible world through our apparatus, camera. That is to say, photography is not naive realism because it can’t capture the real FROM, the spiritual part in a directly way. We did some tests in our class as reviewing homework, that, when we were wanting to represent the spiritual realm by picture, it was hard for the audiences to understand 100% directly about the creator’s mind. Because the shame is that no one can show a photo which is the thing, the form, the idea in their mind, thus different people could have different interpretations on their pictures which consist of other elements, but still trying to use these objects to represent the invisible form.

But I believe, there is still a way to investigate, to do not only pay attention to catch the real FORM, while, it is worthy to express us better.

Here are the tasks:

  • Consider an example of FORM.
  • How can we take a picture represent that form? 

From my point of view, since we can’t take a picture of the ‘form’, but we are living with their representations everywhere. The photographer’s job is to visualize the experience of perceiving something in your mind, and find a way to use the visible world to express the idea that you want to tell. If we were been given to a noun(as FROM) to make that as works, within these conclusion, I divided the answers into TWO kinds. One is, an abstract word with its nonreprensentational or representational elements; another is, an concrete word with its representational or nonreprensentational elements.

For example, the way to show ‘Sadness’, as an abstract concept, is to find the way to make the audience been aroused by their empathy that could make their thinking being related more on the same feeling that indicate to sad, no matter the components are abstract or not, even both. Only for the aim of giving out a symbolistic made. (See figure 1) As to make a concrete word, for instance, tree, is to take an object within any type that we could directly see in our world, or just a symbol of it. ( See figure 2)

Figure 1:


Figure 2:

As a  photographer, many elements we could control in our image-making, that we lead our audience to understand better about our photo. That is also what we learned ‘naive realism’ of, what we have shot, is already ‘out there’, even not the same thing we want to present ‘in there’, but we still have a chance to make it closer to the FORM itself, that our thoughts can be passed to others effectively. In relation to the final work, journey, I have to find out what the FORM, the mainly thoughts about my theme is, and try to use a way to visualize it clearly.

At last, by thinking of the invisible, I found an interesting stuff about capturing the invisible into picture, but is that ‘thoughts in our mind the same thing we called it “mind?”‘ I think it could be, or not, or both. From what Ritchin has said in his book,  scientists in Hopkins University had visualized a thought process in a monkey’s brain, which means they used a technique that lets a mental process be seen as a physical one. Just like what he said :

‘Undoubtedly hyper-photography will feature a variety of approaches to representation, benefiting as well from the computer’s ability to make possible a multiplicity of forms of presentation. … may be helpful in representing thoughts or dreams, which may require the simultaneous presence of a variety of different modes of depiction. …’

Fred Ritchin

The feeling of form:


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