PICTURE ONLY GALLERY LINKS
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Entries in civilized ku, manmade landscape (1218)
triptych # 18 (civilized ku # 2712-13 + kitchen life # 51) / civilized ku # 2714 ~ variety is the spice of life / on being original
Amongst the rank and file of serious amateur picture makers - for purposes of this discourse let us agree that the desire to find one's own vision is one mark of a of a serious picture maker - the quest to be original and, most often, the frustrations of that pursuit are a commonly shared experience. On that topic, consider this:
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. ~ C. S. Lewis
I totally agree with the notion that "bothering" / festering about / being consumed by the desire to be original in one's picture making, aka: your own uniquely personal vision, is essentially one of the prime impediments to actually accomplishing that goal. To coin a hockey analogy (it is the Stanley Cup season), when a player is mired in a goal scoring slump, it is often said that in trying to break out of it they are holding the stick to tight. The solution, they are told, is to relax their grip, don't think about it, and just let it come naturally.
Of course, just relaxing and letting it flow is easier said than done. If it were as easy as falling off a log, we'd be living in a very different world.
That written, when it comes to picture making originality, there is, IMO, an easy fix ... once a picture maker accepts, truly accepts in the depths/core of his/her picture making being, that there is nothing in the world that is not acceptable as a picture making referent, that every thing is fair picture making fodder, then the game of finding one's vision can finally begin.
It never ceases to amaze and confound me that so many a serious amateur who has solved - at least to a much better than average degree of competence - the gear / technique issues, still point his/her camera at referents which are so utterly cliche. It seems to me that in doing so they are, quite simply, "playing it safe". Essentially rejecting 95% of what s/he sees and sticking with what s/he has already seen pictured. Better safe than sorry, seems to be operational dictum.
While it is true that everything that can be pictured has been pictured, the simple truth is that some of those things have been pictured over and over again while others not so much. And, even though it is often stated / written that no one sees the same thing in a exactly the same manner so therefore it is possible to bring one's own unique vision to a familiar referent, way too many picture makers who are trying to hang their hat on that tree end up making the equivalent of what Robert Adams called "the ten-thousandth camera-club imitation of a picture by Ansel Adams" - feel free to substitute the name of any well-known picture maker for that of Sir Ansel.
C. S. Lewis had it right when he wrote, "... if you simply try to tell the truth you will ... become original without ever having noticed it." Without attempting to discern what Lewis meant by "truth", it is my considered opinion that, in the realm of picture making, trying to tell the truth means trying to be true to what one sees and, in that seeing, seeing with eyes wide open. That is to write, wide open to the picturing possibilities which surround one's existence, minute by minute or, in the case of picture making, second by second.
Featured Comment: Frank (no link provided) wrote: "In that context I came across a quote from Francis Bacon that I noted down -
The contemplation of things as they are without substitution or imposture without error or confusion is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention
Or as I paraphrase in my mind - cut out all the elaborate and fancy post processing and just show it like it is.
my response: To be clear about "context" - when I wrote "trying to be true to what one sees" I was not, as has often been my wont, endorsing / recommending straight picture making. What I was trying to suggest was to see without the filter of exceptions / pre-conceptions / popular conventions between the world and your visual apparatus. In other words, find your own true way of seeing. Not picture making, but rather, seeing - looking at the world with an unfiltered gaze.
Just as the Lone Ranger was repeatedly asked in the recent Lone Ranger movie - "What's with the mask?" - I have often been asked - "What's with the black border?" Here are a few thoughts from others on the subject (borders) followed by my thoughts on the same:
Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame. ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer's craft .... The central act of photography, the art of choosing and eliminating forces a concentration on the picture's edge - the line that separates in from out - and on the shapes that are created by it .... The line of decision is the picture's edge .... The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame. The frame is the beginning of his picture's geometry. It is to the photographer as the cushion is to the billiard table. ~ John Szarkowski - THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EYE
I use a black border for a number of reasons:
1. back in the day of film picture making, it was not uncommon for picture makers to print with a negative holder which had been modified to allow a part of the unexposed edge of the film to be printed. One of the most oft cited reasons for this was to demonstrate that the picture maker in question didn't need no stinking easel blades to crop his/her pictures. No siree! "Cropping" was performed in-camera at the moment the picture was made. Post-picturing cropping during printing was only for amateurs and incompetent boobs. I am not a boob. Hence, black borders.
2. while any observer should know / recognize when viewing a picture, the edges of the picture are where the picture ends. They should should also know / recognize that the picture maker has consciously decided where to put an end to his/her picture information. However, some observers are boobs and I use a black border to make my picture ending decisions very unavoidably obvious. And, for the other picture viewing boobs who are much concerned with art about art / photography about photography, I hope the black border gives them some comfort and joy when viewing my pictures.
3. in a tip of the hat to John Szarkowski and his "as the cushion is to the billiard table" analogy, I must admit that I have always used black borders for just that analogical reason - most of my square pictures evidence a center-weighted form of design. However, I have always quite deliberately ignored the notion that a picture should have only one principal idea, topic, or center of interest to which the viewer's eyes are attracted. No siree, not for me! IMO, that idea is a good one only for simple-minded boobs who are not, re: the acts of picture making or picture viewing, very good at visual multi-tasking. So, since I am not a simple-minded boob, I tend to pack my pictures with a fair amount of visual information - aka: visual energy - which most often is floating / hovering around my central and centered primary visual referent. And it is here where my black border comes into play - as the viewer's eye is moving about the visual field, drawn by various shapes, colors, forms, collateral referents, etc. - aka: design strategies - the eye inevitably bangs into one of my billiard cushions and ricochets - visually speaking, a glancing (blovius 1 / jimmi nuffin 0) rebound - back toward the central referent. Black border mission accomplished.
3a. the glancing rebound effect is also a get your ass, visually wise, back where it belongs. That is to write, within the edges of my vision where the stuff I have selected that want you to see can be found. Sure, there's a whole world beyond the black border, but that's why I make a lot of pictures of other stuff. However, the time for viewing them is later. The time for viewing this picture is now. Pay attention.
4. when I first began making digital medium pictures, I was not very impressed with the idea that digital-based picture making was changing the medium and its apparatus (aka: conventions - not gear). How pictures were/are being made, gear and technique wise, has certainly changed but the bottom line is still the same - a good picture is a good picture no matter how it was/is made. Additionally, a good picture is a good picture inasmuch as the brains behind the operation are what matters most and that aspect of the medium and is apparatus has not changed a whit. Consequently, part of reason for using a black border in my digital-based picture making is to reference the history of the medium and its apparatus (see reason # 1) to make that point. Hence, the other question, black border related, I hear quite often (although never from the medium and its apparatus history deficient boobs)- "Are you still using film?" - which, to my way of thinking, confirms my belief, re: picture making, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
5. for a long time I have been in the habit of employing black borders and like all habits, good or bad, it has taken on a life of its own to the point where my pictures seem unfinished / naked without it. Consequently, all of the preceding reasons, rationalizations, and conceits aside, I just flat out like the way my pictures look with a black border.
My disappointment was the result of my years long enthusiasm for a return visit to the OSC. That desire/ yearning was based upon my last very enjoyable visit to the OSC. However, that last visit was approximately 35 years ago and, unfortunately, IMO, much has changed in the interim (duh). Again IMO, the changes are not for the better.
Hugo was not impressed in the slightest. His opinion of the OSC was, in a word, "boring". That assessment was damning indeed inasmuch as Hugo is a museum goer of the highest order. His judgment was most likely based upon the fact that the place - it's very big place - seemed to be aimed at entertaining very young kids. Fortunately for Hugo (and me), the visit was salvaged by an entertaining and informative IMAX movie.
That written, my primary salvation was had in picturing a wide variety of fire hose installations and a few mini light shows that were to be found outside of restrooms. Although, I must admit to feeling more than a bit weirdly conspicuous while I was hanging around pointing my camera at restroom entrance/exits.
Why does man create? Is it man’s purpose on earth to express himself, to bring form to thought, and to discover meaning in experience? Or is it just something to do when he’s bored? ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
A camera is a machine which is capable of ripping a moment and its attendant industry from the fabric of time, neatly packaging that time-stamped data into an ultra dense network packet comprised of other promiscuous and discursive evidentiary visual stimulus and presenting them in a convincingly real, ever-expanding, manufactured universe of interpretive meanings. Make of it what you will.
I have always liked, one might even write "loved", picturing urban environments. In fact, it would be quite accurate to write that my immersion into the world of moving beyond the pretty picture began with my first picture making, back in 1979-80, of an urban environment with my 8×10 view camera.
During my recent visits to NYC and Toronto, the call of picturing the urban environment has reemerged with remarkable insistence and clarity. However, there is a difference between the siren call which instigated my earlier work and that which is gnawing at me today; today's voice is drawing me to the often imposing and towering canyons of many modern urban settings and the play of light and shadow which regularly permeates those spaces.
In addition to their visual appeal, the canyons evoke in me contradictory feelings and thoughts of standoff-ish coolness and of an alluring warmth. Like their counterparts in the natural world, walking amongst them inspires a sense of wonder and awe, albeit in this case, at what man has wrought - a feeling which stands in contrast to but which also aligns in many ways with that which nature has wrought in the natural world.
In any event, I hope to explore urban canyons in a much more deliberate and concerted manner. Unfortunately, but by choice, I live in a place which is far removed from most urban canyons. Consequently, I will need to concentrate on urban canyon picturing opportunities when they present themselves to my eye and sensibilities.
And, I should mention that my long-unused 8×10 view camera is screaming at the top its bellowed lungs, "Take me! Take me! Take me!"
As long as you are continually in a f8-and-be-there picturing state of mind, when chance and circumstance presents a golden opportunity you'll able to make a picture or two of a well pictured referent which transcends, at least by a little bit, the typical tourist snapshot.