Ramblings about photography as art- (2014)
Ramblings about photography as art-
Art itself is about frozen time. The amount of time varies, but is frozen to some greater or lesser extent. A book always reads the same; a movie always plays the same; a concerto always uses the same notes; a sculpture is locked in form.
Yet each new reading, each new performance, gives the viewer a slightly modified meaning or sound.
Photography alone among these art forms captures a fraction of a second; a fleeting moment, from only one perspective, which is then forever past. Unlike the painter who creates a moment over an extended period of time, the photographer must be there to capture it. Unique among the arts, this single brief instant is one from the multitude of moments that constitute the course of our lives.
Its power and immediacy come not from its supposed “realism” but instead from the viewer’s intuitive recognition of that moment as a glance; one of the instants of their life… and from the power to review that instant in depth and at leisure – something which is impossible in normal daily life and “real” time.
And, like all moments, it is unique, but unlike other moments, this one can be taken back – observed at our leisure.
As with the other arts, photography offers a range of types – journalistic; abstract; commercial; wildlife; landscape; portrait; fine-art; as well as the profound differences between color and black & white images.
There are pictures which are raw, and those which are refined. There are candid moments and posed. There are those that feature composition and strong graphics, and those that hover at the edge of Taoist mist. Photos record family moments; fateful moments; happiness and sorrow. They capture the majesty of the planet; the glory of the heavens; the secrets of life. They can remind us of our angels and our demons; our cruelty and our compassion. They can transports us away, or cause us to reflect within.
In short, photography does all the things that all art forms can do. The difference is (like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, only in backwards and in heels) that the photographer does it in 1/250 of a second… and then spends hours refining that mechanical representation back into his personal interaction with that moment.
A fine-art photograph is distinct from others photos in that it can be savored over a long period of time; the taste is not recognized all at once. There “is something left” after the first, second and subsequent viewings. It reveals more (within the viewer) as time goes on.
There are paintings, books, music and sculpture that I simply do not understand. Equally, there are types of photography that are not a part of my nature. My own work strays away from the beautiful landscape and from the photo-journalistic (although I admire many examples of both.) I’m not a Cartier-Bresson genius, nor would I choose to be. The National Geographic look is stunning natural reportage, but neither is that my style.
Instead, I want my images to direct the viewer back into himself; to pause and reflect, not only on the contents, but on his internal response to it. My landscapes should be more than geography; they should be cold, or lonely, or happy or mysterious. With luck, they will call forth an old memory for re-examination.
Strong graphic form is important to me – balanced and dynamic. Form is the mystery of life: why is it there? Does it reveal anything deeper about the universe, or do we merely cling to it, an artifact in the chaos; an imprint of the mind?
The closer I can get to the formless “chi” – the order without order, the better I think I’m doing. While I have a long way to go, at least I have some sense of where I’m going.
I enjoy the journey as much as the goal. Moments come in infinite variety, and because of that vast range, I’ll never be the expert photographer of one subject; of mailboxes or philodendrons.
I prefer instead trying to find the universal in the common, and the etched memory in a glance.