Assuming Picasso said something of the sort above – it strikes me as one of the key ingredients in finding a way to let go of the filters created in our mind – the learned way that we have of seeing things – which then depending on our awareness – finds its way into the structure of photographs.
Straight and Synthetic is another dichotomy overlaid upon the way in which photographs are made – more about “process” – the mechanics of recording an image – and interestingly not about subject matter. (happen stance / staged). “Straight” is “as-is” from the machine – “Synthetic” is a photograph manipulated somewhere in the production of the image.
The analytical overlays along an axis of “Romantic / Realist” and “Straight / Synthetic” relationships might be useful in terms categorizing – to institutionalize a way of looking at photographs – but it does not go beyond describing characteristics.
The most interesting question posed by Szarkowski is that posed at the end: “in terms of the conception of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?”
In thinking about this question, I have to say that “Windows and Mirrors” is about establishing a set of rules that can be applied more or less towards analytical looking at a photograph… In my opinion this is less useful in finding your way towards making a photograph. To me, it is not an “or” proposition – you can’t escape the willfulness of making a photograph – photographs aren’t objective – they are always subjective views of the world. Some decisions are required – at some moment action is taken to press the button or some set of rules are put in motion – at the will of the artist. This is why I say there are no objective photographs – and who cares? In the result, the “window” is produced – it is rendered by the willful action of the artist – and if you choose to look at it – look closely at it – you might see something of the world – if it’s a good photograph, you might see the artist viewpoint of the world. But you’ll never have a truly objective view.
I find Minor White’s conception of four kinds of photographs – documentary, pictorial, informational, and the equivalent, – especially the equivalent – as accepting the willfulness inherent in picture making. I think it is the inability to explain in a prescriptive way the characteristics of the equivalent, yet to be able to describe the effects which is important. The equivalent, can’t be explained away – it is that thing about a photograph that captures your attention – for whatever reason and “for unstable reasons becomes decidedly significant to you”.