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
Entries from April 1, 2009 - April 30, 2009
Over time we have kicked around some ideas regarding the medium of photography and its possibilities relative to truth and the real with the net result being that the conversation most often results in some drawing-a-line-in-the-sand polarizations.
In simplest terms, it usually reads something like; truth - there's no such thing (everything is relative) / oh yes there is (there are absolutes), and, the real - it's all in your head / no it isn't. Most often it all comes down to a battle between pragmatists and theorists; I know it (truth / the real) when I see it VS you can't possibly know anything because _________ (insert the most dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin philosophical theory of your choice).
At times both positions can get rather trying and ridiculous.
Most recently, as I have been re-reading - actually, re-sampling - assorted essays from the photography reader which is touted as "a comprehensive collection of 20th century writings on photography". There are, in fact, 40+ essays in the book most of which get a little heavy on the arcane academic side of things and some of which, IMO, get really ... well ... strange.
One essay in particular, Re-reading Edward Weston ~ Feminism, photography and psychoanalysis by Roberta McGrath - got me to thinking about the old adage / accusation that men are often thought to be "thinking with the wrong head". If that is often true (and, speaking as a man, I think it is), then the other side of that coin has to be that woman are often "speaking with the wrong lips".
McGrath is Associate Lecturer in Photographic Theory and Criticism at Napier University, Edinburgh. In her essay, she makes her prejudices - along with her principle thesis - known right up front (kudos for that) when she writes:
As the dominant ideological ruse of 20th century art-criticism, modernism has functioned not only to suppress any concern for the wider social matrix of which all cultural production is part, but also has hidden issues of class and race - crucially - those of gender .... [I]t is therefore no accident that in the title of this essay I place feminism before photography and psychoanalysis.
I am totally on board with McGrath re: modernism's disconnect from the "wider social matrix" - that idea informs part of my bias towards the work of Sir Ansel. To wit, his pictorial aggrandizement of the natural world totally ignored the reality of what was actually happening in that world at that time re: humankind and its heavy-handed impact upon the natural world, aka - pollution.
And, it should be noted, relative to her positioning of feminism in the title, I have no big issue whatsoever with the feminist movement in its saner guises. It is a much needed idea that addresses very legitimate issues (in its saner guises).
That said, it all gets a bit weird when the message about re-reading Weston and his pictures gets turned into -
To take a photograph is to exercise an illusory control, a mastery which is a characteristic of voyeurism. But the sexual connotations of the verb are also obvious: the slang for carnal knowledge. It implies a physical penetration of the other while the photograph is a penetration of the space of the other ... Weston often referred to his camera as his "love", reminiscent of the traditional ascription of femininity to photography, as female as a 'hand-maiden", a box with an aperture that passively receives the imprint of an image - but only in negative ... (the word "negative") suggests woman as less than, more incomplete; possessing, perhaps, only a negative capacity?
Carnal knowledge, penetration, box, passively receives, women as less, negative capacity ... Ummm, OK. Sure. Why not?
But McGrath doesn't stop there in her carnal knowledge tour de force:
... Stieglitz wrote to Weston: 'For the first time in 55 years I am without a camera.' Weston replied: 'to be with out a camera must be like losing a leg or better an eye.' Not worse, better. Castration - and by anology - death, are clearly in the air. It indicates Weston's desire ... to usurp Stieglitz the Father of Modern Photography.
McGrath goes on to tell us - her "lips" to our ears - that Weston liked to print on glossy paper because "the gloss of the paper ... the shine also connotes a moistness which is associated with sex...", and, (I really love - in the platonic sense - this one) Weston liked contact printing because "the negative bonds with the paper, the hard surface of the glass plate with the soft surface of the paper form this union to issue a print." (italic emphasis, mine) - I don't think that Weston used glass plates all that much, if at all, but McGrath still rather firmly drives her point home.
And so it goes. On and on. Freud, Oedipus, the description of Weston's Graflex camera as a "giant eye on three legs", and, lastly, the idea of the "edifice of patriarchal (photographic) discourse" all make an appearance. Nevertheless, if the whole enterprise weren't so damn entertaining, I might not have finished reading the essay.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll take a cold shower.
And, oh yeh, lest I forget, I'm really happy that I have such a long (and hard) lens - for my Olympus, that is.
However much a man might love beautiful scenery, his love for it would be greatly enhanced if he looked at it with the eye of an artist, and knew why it was beautiful. A new world is open to him who has learnt to distinguish and feel the effect of the beautiful and subtle harmonies that nature presents in all her varied aspects. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes unless they are trained to use them in a special manner. ~ Henry Peach Robinson
Propel, propel, propel your craft,
Unforcefully down the liquid solution.
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is merely an illusion.
~ King Friday XIII's version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat
as shown on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
Relative to yesterday's concept of interior-exterior worlds / it's all inside your head, I must admit that I do, in fact and like all people, have a very active "life" inside my head. And, I do believe that, at best, it is very difficult to get inside the "life" that is inside the head of others (not to mention how difficult it is for many to avoid the ego-centric belief that the life inside their head is the only life that matters) ... but, I also believe that if we could all share more of those lives-inside-our-heads with one another we just might discover how much of what we think of as our own unique "private' thoughts are, in fact, shared ideas and thoughts.
And, I also believe that photography with its inherent characteristic of being a cohort with/of the real is an ideal medium for making fetish objects / signs, aka - pictures, objects in and of themselves, that are capable of directing one's attention to the external world so that one might temper the life inside his/her head with a more universally shared reality, aka - being grounded in reality, as they say.
On the other hand, maybe I'm just a dreamer and I need to get grounded in the reality that nothing is real.
The mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said kemo sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea
And if I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat ~ Lyle Lovett, from If I Had a Boat
I used to think that I lived in a somewhat unique target-rich environment, photography-wise. I mean, I live in park - the largest wilderness in the Eastern US. If you can't find picture possibilities just about everywhere you look, you must be blind. Like my recent tamarack picturing, when I managed 18-20 "keeper" pictures in just 30-45 minutes of picturing, I find that nearly every time I go a-picturing here about, I could fill a book in very short order.
However, and of late, I am discovering that no matter where I find myself, there are pictures-pictures everywhere. It makes me wonder - am I a freak-of-nature, seeing-wise, or, are others, who often get caught in a "creative rut", more "normal", seeing-wise.
I wonder about this because, once again this past weekend in the small environs of Pelham Bay / Glen Island and in just 2 short hours, I made enough keepers to fill a book. Everywhere I turned there where so many picture possibilities but, and this is an observation - not a criticism, my 2 companions (the wife and her brother) most likely did not see it that way. In fact, I feel rather confident in stating that they did not see nearly anything that I saw. At least, not in the way that I saw it.
I am very curious about this apparent difference. As a picture maker, do any of you ever think about how you might be different from the rest of the crowd with eyes that do not see?
It occurred to me last week when I was picturing in the tamarack bog that I would like to have the ability to picture the place (amongst quite a few other places) from a POV about 30'-40' above the ground. That desire was intensified this past weekend when I actually had the opportunity to picture something from that POV.
But, here's the rub - the "tripod" needed to accomplish this death-defying photographic daring-do costs in the neighborhood of $740US (plus mileage) a week. The only way I can make this happen (and keep the wife happy) is to convince a client that they need a picture of something from 40' ft in the air.
... the photograph has a dual function. It is (at once) a fetish object and a transformational object .... [T]he photograph is also the means by which the shadow of the object understood as the real falls on the subject. The moment in which the shadow of the object fall on the the subject may be understood as the aesthetic moment of photography, and the affect of this moment is of a transformation of the unthought known into thought.
It may be said that transformative experience of the self based upon an uncanny encounter with the real has been at the heart of our persistent (but irrational) faith in photography. It is a faith which precisely cuts across our more rational investments in, and our knowledge about, the truth status of photography - because it is placed in a real located ultimately in our own interior worlds rather than in an exterior one. Sarah Kember, from her essay, Photography and Realism
In other words, nothing is real - it's all in your head (according to Ms. Kember).
You know, like in this post's picture - everything in my interior world tells that the pictured person (person? what's a person?) in some unknowable exterior world is engaged in an activity that I assume to be "fishing" - a "concept" derived from an irrational faith based upon my rational investments in, and my knowledge about, the truth status of photography. However, he may actually be driving a Formula One car in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Who can tell?
Nevertheless, if he is actually "fishing", is he attempting to catch a "fish" or is he only "fishing" for an interior-ized idea of a concept of "fish"? Who can tell? And, can you actually pan fry the concept of a "fish"? Should you use "butter"?
I'm soooo confused.