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« civilized ku # 2861 ~ narrative and concept, get over it | Main | civilized ku # 2860 ~ subdued sunset »

picture window # 64-67 ~ narrative and concept, pt. 2

dormer window ~ Rist Camp / Newcomb, NY • click to embiggen
hotel window ~ Rochester, NY • click to embiggen
hotel window ~ Lake Placid, NY • click to embiggen
porch window ~ Phoenicia, NY • click to embiggen
I concluded pt. 1 of yesterday's entry, the narrative and concept, with the idea that it seems obvious to me that the narrative to be found in a picture or a portfolio collection of pictures flows directly from a picture maker's picturing concept. To continue with that thought ...

... I believe that it is fair to write that every picture starts with a concept, from a simple snapshot - isn't my referent cute / pretty / funny / et al, it's time to take a picture - to the most convoluted self-referential MFA academic lunatic fringe pictures - I am engaged with the intersection of tomato soup and saltine crackers and the instagatory relevance of consumer driven imagery and its alienationatory effects and affects upon the transitory decision process of when to move my bowels, it's time to make some pictures*.

Somewhere in between those picture making polar opposites are those "serious" picture makers - to include amateurs and those involved in the Fine Art world - who make pictures without all the flapdoodle and green paint content in their Artist Statements and, IMO, every "serious" picture should have an Artist Statement. I believe that to be so, even if the intended use is for the picture maker's eyes only inasmuch as writing (get it out of your head and on paper) an Artist Statement is an opportunity to define / understand why you are doing what you are doing and exactly what it is that you are doing.

In any event, an Artist Statement is an opportunity for the picture maker to inform viewers of his work what it was that instigated a particular picture making endeavor, aka: the concept which drove the process. Outside of the academic-driven picture making world, where concept is King and interpretation of concept is the revenge of the intellectual on art, where many may find an Artist Statement interesting and even informative, most just care about the picture(s). IMO, no amount of flapdoodle and green paint, aka: artspeak, gloss is going to change their mind one way or another.

I will admit that it very pleasing when a viewer gets it, it = the concept. Especially so when he/she, to paraphrase Susan Sontag, has looked at the surface of a picture and then he/she "think - or rather feel, intuit - what is beyond it ...". IMO, that's best a picture maker hope to accomplish. That is, when a viewer gets it without having to read an Artist Statement which reads like an obtuse self-referential / analytical MFA term paper.

I believe that to be so because, first and foremost, the picture making medium, photography division, is a visual art. Hence, a picture, the 2D object in and of itself, must attract and hold the viewer long enough for a viewer to begin to think / intuit / feel about concept / meaning.

CAVEAT: The preceding paragraph should not be understood to mean that I am member-in-good-standing of the A Picture Which Needs Words Is A Failure club. That's because I believe that a concise well written Artist Statement has value which allows viewers to understand a picture maker's motivation(s) and I, for one, do not see the harm in that.

All of the above written, I must write that I believe, due to the pervasive influence and pressure, re: concept is King, emanating from the academic lunatic fringe many a fine picture maker has spent an undue amount of time and energy concerned with and, in fact, worried about whether his/her pictures pass the MFA lunatic fringe litmus test.

After spending some time myself thinking about that very thing, I have come to the conclusion that I make pictures simply because I like making pictures. And, yes, all of my separate bodies of work do have a concept which helps hold them together as a cohesive collection of pictures but .... truth be told most of those concepts came after the initial picture making had begun. That is, realizing after the picture making fact, that I had, in the act of making pictures because I like making pictures, created the beginnings of a body of work.

At the point of that realization, I worked on figuring out / understanding what the pictures meant to me. From that understanding I formulated a concept which would carry me through a continuing picture making process which would result in pictures for a given body of work. Pictures which conformed to a given concept. Now that may be an ass-backward / cart before the horse way of doing things but it works for me. Then again it has been suggested by many that, in order to find one's vision or at least a concept worth pursuing, one should just go out and start making pictures and see what happens.

A case in point is my picture window body of work (see a few latest additions in this entry). While began making those picture, in part because of the influence of John Pfahl's Picture Windows work, I came to realize that, for me (to my eye and sensibilities), the pictures had meaning for me beyond what I had originally thought. Meaning such as the comfort of one's immediate surroundings vs the vast unknown of the outside world; which can lead to thoughts of the one's personal world vs the impersonal uncertainty of that which we do not know; the life inside one's head vs the the life outside of one's comfort zone both mental and physical.

However, all of that is quite swell but ultimately it's up to the viewer to appreciate the pictures simply as pictures or perhaps to drift off to thoughts and feelings which are implied or inferred in the pictures. Concept and narrative are all well and good but if one concentrates on making fine pictures the rest will follow quite naturally.

IMO,it's up to the picture maker to identify emerging concepts in the picture making, fine tune the concept, make pictures according to the concept, edit and organize the results in a cogent and cohesive portfolio, and let the picturing chips fall where they may.

*Back in his 1952 review, for the NY Times, of Henri Cartier-Bresson's book, The Decisive Moment, Walker Evans wrote: "Cartier-Bresson's fourteen page preface essay has something quite unique about it, for writing of this kind: it is quite devoid of rubbish and ego."

Reader Comments (1)

Once again I find myself in agreement with your thoughts.

A good part of my thinking has been on the idea of concept emerging from the pictures. I also hypothesize that upon recognizing something has emerged we might push it along, expand or clarify it. You are I wager more likely to seek out and have a longer look at picture windows because it's something you're working on.

I would also expect that concept - at least important elements of it - would generally be apparent simply viewing the work. It's also true that many great works of art have many layers of meaning but can be appreciated without understanding all the layers.

For me there's a danger in thinking about it too much. I often end up in an cognitive cul-de-sac. I have to remind myself to just go take some pictures. I too enjoy photographing things just to see how they look when they are photographed. There is a great satisfaction in finding that particular point of view that projects our three dimensional world onto the two dimensional plane in an interesting way.

And thanks for working it through. I feel like a python who has ingested a goat and is trying to digest it. You've helped clarify some of my thinking. I keep trying to find 'bite sized' chunks to tear off and write about, but then get stuck as more and more elements get drawn int.

January 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fredine

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