PICTURE ONLY GALLERY LINKS
The life without the APA pictures are here
The The Forks ~ there's no place like home gallery is here
The ART ~ conveys / transports / reflects gallery is here
The Decay & Disgust work/book is here
The single women selects/book gallery is here
The picture windows selects/book gallery is here
The kitchen life selects gallery is here
A 10 picture look at Tangles, Thickets, and Twigs ~ fields of visual energy is here
Nobody ever discovered ugliness through photographs. But many, through photographs, have discovered beauty ... what motivates people to take photographs is finding something beautiful ... Nobody exclaims, "Isn't that ugly.! I must take a photograph of it." Even if someone did say that, all it would mean is: "I find that ugly thing ... beautiful." ~ Susan Sontag from her essay, The Heroism of Vision
In her essay, The Heroism of Vision - one of her better essays, re: photography - Susan Sontag got a lot right (IMO) about the medium of photography and its apparatus*:
There is a particular heroism abroad in the world since the invention of cameras: the heroism of vision. Photography opened up a new model of freelance activity - allowing each person to display a certain unique, avid sensibility. Photographers departed on their cultural and class and scientific safaris, searching for striking images. They would entrap the world, whatever the cost in patience and discomfort, by this active, acquisitive, evaluating, gratuitous modality of vision. Alfred Stieglitz proudly reports that he had stood three hours during a blizzard on February 22, 1893, "awaiting the proper moment" to take his celebrated picture, Fifth Avenue, Winter. The proper moment is when one can see things (especially what everyone has already seen) in a fresh way.
While I don't necessarily agree with every point Sontag makes in this particular essay, there is much to agree with (like the preceding excerpts). And even with those ideas and notions which seem a bit over the top / a bit of a stretch, there is, at the very least, considerable food for thought.
*apparatus = conventions, vernacular, and traditions - not gear)
Last week on a rainy day, while in the Rideau Lakes Region, the wife and I took Hugo (his 2nd visit) and his friend to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. If ever there was a place for 2 nine year olds to be on a rainy day, the CNWM is it.
I was quite impressed by the few war paintings on exhibit in the museum. Little did I know, until I reached the museum gift shop, that the handful of paintings I viewed were barely a drop in the bucket from the 13,000+ war paintings in the museum's collection. It was in the gift shop that I came across (and purchased) a book, Canvas of War, an overview of the museum's collection, albeit a 110 painting drop in the bucket. And, the artwork depicted therein, is, in a word, amazing - a diverse range of painting styles / genres and mediums.
That written, what surprised, amazed, and somewhat befuddled me was the fact that the genesis of the collection stems from two Canadian enterprises - in WWI, the Canadian War Memorial Fund and, in WWII, the Canadian War Records program - which commissioned (CWMF) and hired (CWR) artists to record Canada's wartime contribution on land, at sea, in the air, and on the homefront in paintings. Artists who were sent to the battle front / theaters of war in order to create from firsthand personal experience, as opposed to from combatant's memories and recounting, images of war.
Now, for all I know, those enterprises may have also commissioned / hired photographers to accomplish the same ends, But I think not, given that the aim of the enterprises was stated as to create what "the camera cannot interpret."
It would be easy for me to go all postal, verbal wise, over the camera cannot interpret thing but, in fact, that notion was part and parcel of the then prevailing wisdom of the art world - the camera records, the brush interprets / painters are artists, photographers are cameramen. So, it would be foolish to go off halfcocked over a previous art generation's failure to understand and appreciate the camera's ability to interpret.
In any event, I questioned whether the medium of photography had the means, hardware wise, to produce "quality" pictures in and of a wartime environment, WWI specifically. So, I did a little research and come to learn, my misgivings were totally misplaced. Not only are there thousands of high quality photographs from that war, but included amongst them are hundreds of color photographs as well.
Holy Autochrome Lumiere, Batman. Who would have thought?
All of the preceding written, I am left with the thoughts of paintings v. photographs. Thoughts somewhat along the lines of that expressed by the fictional character of the young photographer, Holgrave, in Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. To wit, his remark about a daguerreotype picture:
... while we give it credit only for depicting the merest surface, it actually brings out the secret character with a truth that no painter would ever venture upon, even could he detect it.
So I wonder. Are the war painting too decorative? In a sense, too interpretive for their own good, re: the telling of the "true" story of the horrors of wars? Are the war photographs too realistic to ever serve as decoration? In a sense, too true for their own good, re: to difficult to bear in the interest of being considered as art? Do the paintings, with their resolute beauty as objects, "sugar-coat" the reality of war? Are the photographs mere "documents" which cooly record that same reality?
And, is the painting of the marching soldiers any more (or less) emotionally charged / convincing than is the photograph of the 3 soldiers taking a break on the battlefield? What about the painting of the relaxing airmen versus the photograph of the raucous soldiers? Is the notion of camaraderie stronger in one over the other? Is the detailed specificity of photography more or less emotionally powerful than the somewhat abstract universality of painting?
The only thing I am certain of, re: the preceding questions, is that I would dearly love to view an exhibit which feature the best of both worlds. Now that would both interesting and engaging - visually, emotionally, and intellectually.
BTW, opinions on / answers to the the previous questioned are encouraged.
After a two week hiatus, blogging wise, I'm back. One week was occupied by hockey camp transporting / observation and the other week to a birthday trip return to Chaffey's Lock (Rideau Lake Region in Ontario, CA) where one of my birthday gifts was a visit to the hospital in the lovely village of Perth to tend to a return of my AFib. The only casualty of my hospital visit was the time lost - the visit killed a day - which had been allocated to a picture making pursuit of the so-called chip wagons which are found throughout the lake region.
Chip wagons are made of resurrected conveyances / vehicles - most often delivery trucks, aka: wagons, of one kind or another - which have been converted into roadside food stands. The featured edible at chip wagons are french fries, aka: chips. Other menu items are also available, with a heavy emphasis on those food stuffs which can be deep fried in grease. As is evidenced by those depicted in the chip wagons triptych, the chip wagons have a great deal of character, if not healthy eating.
FYI, one common chip wagon menu item, which I sampled for the first time, is poutine*. Poutine is a common Canadian dish, originating in Quebec, made with french fries, topped with a brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. Not exactly what the doctor ordered but quite tasty nevertheless.
I hope to return to the area in a few weeks in order to make a sizable dent in my chip wagon picture making aspirations. My only reservation is that I might put on a few extra pounds of body fat.
I am spending most of this week as the hockey bus driver and hockey camp observer / evaluator (of Hugo's performance). Consequently, wordified blog entries will be scare - the wife has volunteered to be tomorrow's bus driver which may give me enough time to bloviate, re: art, Photography Division.
In the meantime, consider this:
I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100. ~ Woody Allen
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time that I am not enamored of/by the Academic Lunatic Fringe (ALF), Photography Division. IMO, they are an ipso facto testament to Susan Sontag's notion regarding the revenge of the intellect upon art inasmuch as the ALF has turned the notion of meaning into a fetish. So much so that meaning reigns supreme over both the depicted referent and visual qualities to be had in a picture.
And, as the ALF would have it, the more self-absorbed the picture maker the better. Or, as one critic wrote: many photographers are like .... characters whose adventures, much like that of Oz in this telling, track like therapeutic journeys (follow your dream of self-actualization) instead of transcendent excursions (just dream!). The "I" is exalted and all important.
I am not alone in my feelings and thoughts regarding the ALF. Consider this from John Rosenthal:
Unfortunately, art in America has become an elitist preserve. This is partly the fault of a critical establishment which abandoned the enduring search for a common language - the language of love and loss and sorrow and remembrance - and began to speak, almost exclusively, in a specialized and opaque language that few can understand... speak primarily to a small New York audience. Outside of this extroverted realm ... the quiet, free-standing work of art is given little respect ...
Around the age of thirty it struck me that a continuous self-focus was an act of gossip - about oneself, to oneself. Turning one's gaze within might be an effective antidote to the national faith in material redemption, but by itself this habit of inwardness would only encourage a chattering of selves.
And then consider this - combination of commentary on and artist statement about a body of work:
....(he) investigates the family photo album employed as the visual infrastructure for the flawed ideology of the American Dream. Frustrated by the lack of images that document the true and sometimes troubling nature of his own familial history, he set out to create a new archive ... [U]sing photographs made over the last decade, and altered amateur photographs ... [I]n my story, these characters exist at the intersection of domestic duress and spirituality ... [T]hese images are a tangible manifestation of fantasy, memories and experiences acquired during my journey to adulthood, and function as a supplement to the family album assembled by my parents.
My very first reaction to reading - even before viewing the pictures - the above commentary / statement was that I hoped the picture maker is seeing a therapist. If he is, it's possible that the therapist might have suggested the picture making project as part of the therapy. Or, perhaps there is no therapist and the picture maker is just following his dream of self-actualization or whatever.
In any event, the B&W pictures made for this project are nice enough but ... for the most part, they employ a hodgepodge of tried-and-true image-altering techniques and imaging making styles. Throughout the sampling of work I viewed, there were hints and nods to the work of Jerry Ulesmann, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Duane Michals, and Alec Soth to name a few. None of which is to write that the work in question is either trite or valueless, but ....
... to be honest, for me, the artspeak is so annoying as to be off putting when it comes to viewing the actual pictures. But, of course, as is the wont of the ALF and so many of the MFA 'educated' picture makers, they just have to artspeak it up to make (annoying) manifest, direct and control, and embellish their precious idea of meaning. And, it seems to me, the commentary / statement artspeak is also serves to distract viewers from the fact that the pictures in question are most often very derivative in technique and style. Which is to write that, visually, there is very little that is new or unique on offer.
All of that written, I must admit to not knowing why I am, at this particular moment, seemingly so obsessed with the ALF and their MFA offspring. Most likely it has something to do with John Rosenthal's conclusion that:
...quiet, free-standing work of art is given little respect, apostate visual artists find themselves longing for an absent American discourse.
Yesterday afternoon the wife and I attended a boating party of sorts at a private camp on Lake Placid. The party was 'of sorts' because while it was a boating partying - everyone arrived by boat because the location was on an island - it was actually a political fundraiser.
In any event, around the time I made the my boating party picture I was struck by the memory of Renoir's painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party - the original of which I had viewed quite recently at the Phillips Collection gallery in Washington, DC. At that same time, as I was making the picture, I was also reminded of two quotes:
It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary. ~ David Bailey
People who wouldn't think of taking a sieve to the well to draw water fail to see the folly in taking a camera to make a painting. ~ Edward Weston
My apologies to Renoir.
FYI, the gentleman with the camera in on the boat picture is Nathan Farb, the once reigning dean* of Adirondack picture making. Some would still consider Nathan to be the holder of that throne inasmuch as no one picture maker has risen up and actually unseated him. However, that written, there are a number of serious Adirondack picture makers who are venturing into untested waters, Adirondack referents wise, and it remains to be determined if any one of them will be able to lay claim to that throne.
*I use the word once because, to my knowledge, Nathan is not as active, picture making wise, as he once was. He seems to be resting on his well deserved laurels.
If photography is about anything it is the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world. By virtue of walking through the fields and streets of this planet, focusing on the small and the unexpected, conferring attention on the helter-skelter juxtapositions of time and space, the photographer reminds us that the actual world is full of surprise, which is precisely that most people, imprisoned in habit and devoted to the familiar, tend to forget. ~ John Rosenthal
IMO, 'most people' in our modern culture - especially so in the good ole USofA - have not forgotten about 'the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world'. In fact, most people are hard at work avoiding the ordinary world. The pursuit of consumerist diversions, in which they invest their meaning of life, is what they believe the world should be. For them, the next big thing is where it's at - next up, wearable computers.
This predilection also manifests itself in the picture making world. For most serious amateur picture makers the pursuit of the grand and glorious takes precedence over the 'merely' ordinary. And, even when encountering the grand and glorious, they tend to trick it up beyond all recognition, aka: the world as it actually is. In their heart of hearts they want everybody to feel good (not a bad thing, per se) - don't worry, be happy. Ain't life grand.
While, I would not try to deny those picture makers their picture making happiness, I do, nevertheless, believe they are sending the wrong signals. Sure enough, life can be grand for some, but, for me, the grand life - and good pictures - is found in other quarters.