What is nothing?

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In the vein of currently askes questions, I ask 'what is nothing'? In sitting around with some photo types I hear them say 'that ain't nothing', in referring to what others have done while alluding to their great talent & images, which we can't ever see.

So, what is nothing? Long, wordy and incomprehensible answers welcome.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 22, 2001


Its short for shit.. ie, they have nothing better to say so they talk shit! Very much like those photographers that wear those smart wide brimmed hats. Its a fashion statement that says 'look at me.. I'm a photographer..' If you look the part then you must be good I suppose. A similar item is the photographers vest that they love to load up with numerous items but then can't find them when they actually need them! I'd much sooner see the images they produce, rather than hearing them talk a load of shit!

Happy Holidays.

-- Nigel Turner (npturner@earthlink.net), December 22, 2001.

Find new friends 'cuz, they ain't nothing.

-- Todd Frederick (fredrick@hotcity.com), December 22, 2001.

Who's talking shit? My response was long, was it incomprehensible? Then kindly give me specifics on what didn't make sense.

I've never suggested I was great and don't wear a hat or a vest and if it ain't me you're roasting then disregard.

I agree with you about 'looking down your nose at anybody', that's wrong, I would disagree with anybody that would say that's what I was doing, but if that's what you think, just say so.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 22, 2001.

"that ain't nothing" refers to the comments by photographers who see an image in the gallery, and realize that they could have conceptualized the idea, handled the logistics involved, they could have placed camera into perspective, chosen film, chosen developer, crafted a print, made proposals, contacted galleries, made personal sacrifice, laid it on the line, faced criticism, faced rejection, listened to weekend photographers call the blood of their efforts 'nothing', and then do it all again because it is what they do. it is what life challenges them to do.

of course, they don't, and won't, and it is so much easier and cheaper to cruise the galleries filled with 'nothings' and know deep down that you could do better. if only they had the time.

-- daniel taylor (lightsmythe@agalis.net), December 22, 2001.

Thank you, Dan! (For succinctly pointing out the absurdity of some of the bizarre posts of late.) Sorry, I can't be any wordier than that. I HAVE a life.

-- Todd Caudle (todd@skylinepress.com), December 22, 2001.

You don't have a 'crystal ball' that tells you who has gone through that besides you, nobody does.

I got a life too, and my response was much more than one sentence, I just wasn't both 'butt ugly' and 'obnoxius' in ten words or less.

I dislike anybody bringing the 'dog' out in me, and its the holidays, but nobody's talking trash except you. If what's been said upsets you that much, specify what it was, rather than the suggestion that it was made by a 'weekend photographer' or someone that doesn't have a life.

Where did you see 'that ain't nothing' in these threads, was it in one of my threads? If I said something like that go ahead and roast me, but if I didn't, don't paint me with your bullshit brush like the 'weekend warrior' and 'don't have a life' moniker.

I'll say what I want to say, the way I want to say it, then, now, and later. If you don't like it, then tough.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 22, 2001.

... Nigel, you are so articulate. Happy holiday's to you too.

-- Jim (jimzpace@yahoo.com), December 22, 2001.

And insightful too...give me a break!

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 22, 2001.

Nothing is definatly something!

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), December 22, 2001.

"So, what is nothing?"

What I've been shooting way too much of lately (damn rain!).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 22, 2001.

One more thing to Dan Smith, Nigel Turner, Jim, and Nathan Taylor. My 'weekend warrior', 'wannabe', 'lookdownmynose', 'incomprehensible' diatribe was on painting and sculpture. NOT ON PHOTOGRAPHY. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Mr. Magoo could and should've seen that but you didn't. That speaks volumes on why I resent what you said.

Let's get that straight for anybody who cares to really read what I said.

I e-mailed two of you and told you I took great offense to what said, and what makes me angry is that you roast me for what I DIDN'T say as opposed to what I did say.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 22, 2001.

"Very much like those photographers that wear those smart wide brimmed hats. Its a fashion statement that says 'look at me.. I'm a photographer..'"

Man, I must be totally clueless. When I wear a hat at all (when it's really cold), it's one that makes me look like the Billy Bob Thorton character in "A Simple Plan". So I look like a dork, at least I look like a dork with warm ears!

Kerry - obviously NOT a slave to fashion

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 23, 2001.

OK, I'll take this on. An Ebony 5X7 with a 110XL in a fancy backpack along with 150XL, 210XL and whatever other gotta have dream lenses that are current, fancy spot meter, film holders, loupe, Gitzo carbon tripod, packed perfectly with much practice..........................never leaves the closet.

That "ain't nothin'"

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 23, 2001.

Folks that can't resist this "bait" and have to type a stupid answer like this one.

All the Ebony cameras in closets that never get used!

All the pictures hanging anywhere that someone walked up to and said "Hell I could've done that!"

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 23, 2001.

Kerry.....at least you have a head that will 'fit' underneath a hat. Maybe that's why the folks at the top of this post don't like 'em.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 23, 2001.

Firstly, I think the double-negative is actually intended as "That's nothin'."

Secondly, it seems to me that the words always left off, but none the less implied, when using this expression are,

" . . , when compared to"

I know that, if I think in terms of this expression, I'm not making a comparison to my own work, but to that of someone else's.

So, I see the use of this expression as somewhat of a generalization of the interpretation you offer.

In general, I dislike the expression, because it ridicules. I may see weaknesses in a print, or think that I might have executed it in a different way. But, I also try to see a work for it's own strengths, knowing that someone has offered it for the enjoyment of others.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), December 23, 2001.

When this forum disappears, nothing is what we'll have.

Until then nothing is what posers have to offer.

Until then nothing is what you get when you inadvertantly put fixer in your developer tray.

Until then nothing is what the overly critical among us have to offer the folks just starting out or trying to learn something everyday.

Until then nothing is what matters when you don't feel what you're photographing.

Until then nothing is what happens when you don't shoot or develop or print anything.

Until then nothing will remain in Zone I or Zone IX.

Nothing is infinite. For the philosopher/mathematicians among us, keep rereading that, for it is meant to be double (at least!) entendre.

Nothing is incomprehensible. More double entendre.

Nothing is not zero. Nothing is not something. Therefore nothing is not something else.

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), December 23, 2001.


Let me try to answer part of your question.

Nothing is something you do not value or care to know. Something is discovered from nothing.

When we make responses and judgements, we make them based on our backgrounds and experiences. Because of the vast diversity of our ever changing life and the way we grow to learn, answers have only relative meanings.

There is a world in a drop of water. Or you can say the eternity is in the moment. As fine art phtographers or artists in general, we are trying to discover or make something from NOTHINGNESS. Our attempts(futile?)to leave marks behind. Like our children building sand castles on the beach in summer. The difference is they do it for fun and we do ours with serious intentions. Tibetan monks will spend hundreds of hours to make beautiful artwork using sand, and then destroy them when finished to leave no marks behin. In doing so, Nothing becomes Something, and then Something ends in Nothing. For people involved in this activity, the second Nothingness is not the same first undiscovered Nothingness.

As human being, we also try to dicover THINGS around us and give names to them. When you say it is nothing, you do not really mean it is NOTHING, you mean to say it's something of low value to YOU at that moment.

In the end, nothing is something, and something is nothing. It is not what we say, but rather HOW we say it.

-- hugo Zhang (jinxu_zhang@ml.com), December 23, 2001.

"Is nothing sacred?"

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 23, 2001.

There are times when I enjoy nothing more than sitting in my home in my underwear sipping a can of cold beer... and I revel in my nothingness!!!

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), December 23, 2001.

"Nothing," is what those of us with time to read this thread have to do...

-- ernie gec (erniegec@stn.net), December 23, 2001.

I e-mailed Dan Smith and he mailed me back. He wasn't aiming at me, and I might have misunderstood him. I respect what he said and I hope he respects what I say. That is something.

Happy Holidays

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), December 23, 2001.

Actually, no one is really making a lot of sense here. I'm going out and take some pictures while you all peruse and contemplate... :)

-- Jim (jimzpace@yahoo.com), December 23, 2001.

Does nothing belong in photography? - Frank Zappa, misquoted out of context..... Happy holidays, folks. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (dhananjay-nayakankuppam@uiowa.edu), December 23, 2001.

"In baseball, you don't know nothing." - Yogi Berra

"Nothing is easy." - Ian Anderson

"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet." - Woody Allen

"Nothing is like it seems, but everything is exactly like it is." - Yogi Berra

"You can't think of nothing." - Eric Rohmer

"Happy Holidays" - Anonymous

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 24, 2001.

Grammar and Photographic knowledge will answer your question, Dan.


"That ain't nothing". A double negative. Clearly, this is a wise insider's reference to some mysterious process involving internegatives. Perhaps you should have put your negative in the fixer first, and made an internegative (11x14 minimum size). Then you would have a lot of nothing if you printed it.

So, these harmless fellows mean no disrespect after all!

Shoot for days, follow above instructions and go back to them with loads of nothing, and hear their applause as they learn that you too, who used to have something, have turned it all into nothing.

"This is nothing", you can proudly say...

-- Mani Sitaraman (bindumani@pacific.net.sg), December 25, 2001.

"Nothing is/

Everything"Peter Townsend

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), December 25, 2001.

all the philosophical b.s. swirling around this conversation...now thats something!!

-- mark lindsey (mark@mark-lindsey.com), December 25, 2001.

Hey! What about those new Readyloads!? Lumber "Let's Change This Stpid Thread" Jack

-- bigmac (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), December 25, 2001.

And all this time I thought that the "Philosophy of Photography" was the forum for contributors to talk past each other by the scrupulous avoidance of defining of terms. njb

-- Nacio Jan Brown (njb@limn.net), December 25, 2001.

When you see your total nothingness...and the nothingness of every thing around you...then something big happens!

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), December 26, 2001.

Argh! double html arrgh!

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), December 26, 2001.

html check!

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 26, 2001.

I remember walking through an exhibit of paintings at the art institute and coming to a canvas that was painted blank white, or maybe it was just primer? A middle-aged woman with a couple of kids walked up to it, stared for about three seconds, turned to her husband, and said, "I could have done that!" I turned to her and wanted to ask how many paintings she had made in her lifetime, but didn't, figuring the amount was zero. As a wife, a mother, she was something, but as painter she was most likely nothing. It is possible she could have painted that white canvas, and also some as good as Morris Graves or Wolf Khan, had she decided to dedicate her life to the craft of painting, but in her call of "I could have done that!", is a plea of desperation, of missed chances, of not having the intelligence to follow her heart. Seeing the white canvas was a humiliation, a knowing that some people were following the correct path, but she was not one of them.......

-- James Webb (jwebb66@yahoo.com), December 29, 2001.

I went to see Edward Weston's exhibition last Saturday. One of his early photo was subtitled "Something out of Nothing?".

-- hugo Zhang (jinxu_zhang@ml.com), December 31, 2001.

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