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
As photographers describe it, picture-taking is both a limitless technique for appropriating the objective world and an unavoidably solipsistic expression of the singular self ... The two ideals are antithetical. Insofar as photography is (or should be) about the world, the photographer counts for little, but insofar as it is the instrument of intrepid, questing subjectivity, the photographer is all. ~ Susan Sontag / Photographic Evangels
With this notion, Sontag suggests that a photographer is nothing inasmuch as he/she is simply making visual records of the world. On the other hand, inasmuch as why (intent) and how the world is recorded and represented (vision), the photographer is everything (at least so to him/herself, if not anyone else). Since Sontag considers the two "ideals" to be antithetical - directly opposed / mutually incompatible - a photographer must be one or the other: something or nothing.
However, Sontag goes on to write:
Photography is the paradigm of an inherently equivocal connection between self and world - its version of the ideology of realism sometimes dictating an effacement of the self in relation to the world, sometimes authorizing an aggressive relation to the world which celebrates the self. One side or the other of the connection is always being rediscovered and championed.
In setting up the dichotomy of "counts for little" / "effacement of self" v. "is all" / "celebrates the self", and then writing that photography is (nevertheless) the paradigm of a connection - albeit ambiguous, uncertain or questionable in nature - between self and world, seems to be quite a verbal / linguistic exercise in prevaricating around the bush inasmuch as two mutually incompatible "ideals" cannot sometimes be connected and at other times not.
Of course, if "counts for little" and "is all" are akin to oil and water, they may not ever blend into one, but they can float around together in the same containment vessel. And that "ideal" is where I come down on the matter.
In my picture making activities, I, aka: a containment vessel, try to approach the world without any prejudicial visual preconceptions, a sort of effacement of seeing, if you will. Let's call it my oil. However, when a worldly referent strikes a nerve (optical), I respond using the other element floating around inside me (aka: the containment vessel); my vision (the manner in which I represent what I see), which is, most definitely, a celebration of self. Let's call that my water.
Indeed, my oil and my water are separate elements which, nevertheless, by dint of their swirling around together in close proximity in the same pot / containment vessel, work together - a connection of sorts - to create the synergy exhibited as what one views as my pictures.
All of that written, Sontag was, one the one hand, writing about photographers (a person), and, on the other hand, photography (an activity). If one looks at what she wrote from that perspective, some, if not all, of it makes more sense.
Nevertheless, I believe a photographer can be self-effacing and self-celebratory without fear of being self-contradictory. IMO, it's not an either / or proposition; it's more a matter of balance. And it is at the intersection of that balancing act that the connection between self and world, so employed in the activity of photography, bears the most fruit. That is to write, to instigate both the maker and the viewer of pictures to rediscover and champion both the self and one's connection to the world - a real balancing act, if ever there was one.
And writing of seriously proficient, The The Hawk Owls are a great jamming bluegrass old time country band. Seriously proficient.
Then there's not seriously proficient - my cover was blown when attempting to make a picture for my single women series. Guess there's a first time for everything.
... the need to photograph everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to use up - and, therefore the need to be replenished. As we make images and consume them, we need still more images: and still more ... the possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust. And like all credible forms of lust, it cannot be satisfied: first, because the possibilities of photography are infinite; and, second, because the project is finally self-devouring ... Our oppressive sense of the transience of everything is more acute since the camera gave us the means to "fix" the fleeting moment. we consume images at an ever faster rate and, as Balzac suspected cameras used up layers of the body, images consume reality. Cameras are the antidote and the disease, a means of appropriating reality and a means of making it obsolete. ~ Susan Sontag - The Image World
OK then. While I will buy into the idea that we live in image saturated world, the idea that we live in an image world, a world where reality has been appropriated and made obsolete - via the machine which makes them - by images / imagery, not so much.
Sure, innumerable humans spend significant time playing in a make believe world of images, aka: video games. However, I am not accquainted with anyone who has taken up permanent residence therein or, for that matter, believe that those image worlds are actually real (insane or mental ill excepted). Reality based, perhaps. Realistic, perhaps. Real, not so much.
And, most certainly, in a vast social media world, one which is largely image based, numbers of people beyond measure view billions of pictures everyday - facebook alone admits to 6 billion uploaded / posted pictures a month = 2 billion a day. But to claim that people are consuming those pictures, as in burning them up (destroying), is bit of a stretch. The idea of consuming them, as in absorbing or being engrossed in, can fly with me. And so can the idea that those "consumers" want / have a desire for those images to replenished on a regular, if not hourly, schedule.
But again, that still begs the question, how many of those "consumers" consider those images to be their reality, one in which they reside? Representations of reality, certainly. Living vicariously for a moment or two, certainly. Permanent residence therein, not so much (previous exceptions noted) - but all the gods of heaven and earth help them if they do.
All of that noted, Sontag's point, re: camera possession inspires ... lust (I assume a lust for making pictures) .... if one defines lust as an overpowering desire or craving for making pictures, I find the notion less than credible (compulsive-obsessive disorder excepted). If one defines it as ardent enthusiasm / zest for making pictures, I believe, without reservation, that usage of the word would accurately describe most serious picture makers, myself included.
My ardent enthusiasm / zest for making pictures most likely floats / swims around in the deep end of the pool. Not many days pass during which I do not make a picture. On some days I make many pictures (today's diptych pictures as an example). That written, I do not have an overpowering desire / craving to make those pictures. Far from it - I do not climb out of bed in morning, my aged skeleton emitting creaking and cracking noises, craving to make a picture. The thought of making a picture only occurs to me when my eye and sensibilities see / encounter a picture making opportunity.
And, I can write, with absolute conviction and belief, that the results of those picture making activities in no way replace, diminish, or otherwise compete with my participation in and utter appreciation for living in the real world of actual experiences. That world has not been made "obsolete".
In fact, making pictures, makes me very aware of what's going on all around me, more attuned to the world than I might otherwise be. And, I never let the act of making a picture interfere with the participation in and enjoyment of the moment. I can also unreservedly write that my pictures of life being lived add considerably to my appreciation of life being lived. So, my picture making endeavors, instead of being "self-devouring", are actually quite self-reinforcing, re: a life well lived and well appreciated.
If that's lust, I say, "Bring it on."
Freed from the necessity of having to make narrow choices (as painters did) about what images were worth contemplating, because of the rapidity with which cameras recorded anything, photographers made seeing into a new kind of project: as if seeing itself, pursued with sufficient avidity and single-mindedness, could indeed reconcile the claims of truth and the need to find the world beautiful. Once an object of wonder because of its capacity to render faithfully as well as despised at first for its base accuracy, the camera has ended by effecting a tremendous promotion of the value of appearances. Appearances as the camera records them. ~ Susan Sontag - The Heroism of Vision
It would seem, to my mind and sensibilities, that Sontag's consecutive use of the word "appearances" is meant to imply both meanings of that word:
1. the way that someone or something looks.
2. an impression given by someone or something, although this may be misleading.
In essence, that dual-meaning usage succinctly and word-frugally entraps the modernist era debate (and beyond), re: the medium's claim to truth - does/can the medium's capability of rendering reality* realistically also convey truth (or, at the very least, a truth)?
I come at that debate from the school of thought that the medium's inherent / intrinsic characteristic as a cohort of/with the real is; a. what distinguishes it from other visual arts, and, b. what enables a practitioner thereof to make images which represent the appearance of the real which are quite true to that reality. And, in addition to a picture's visual true-ness to that which is illustrated (the referent), that same picture can also convey / illuminate (the implied) a truth (meaning) which transcends the pictures visual truth.
The fact that a picture can also lie / be untruthful / misleading through deceptive - sometimes called "creative" - visual techniques and tricks is somewhat beside the point. Spoken/written words can be truthful, spoken/written words can be untruthful. The existence of neither word-state negates the existence of the other.
In any event, in my picture making endeavors I am drawn to the appearance of things as they are and, in the making of my pictures, I attempt to create visual representations which speak to the truth of what is.
* please park your dance-on-the-head-of-pin notions of reality where the sun don't shine.
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.