“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
I agree with this quote. In my experience, I think that I often photograph things that everybody sees – things that everybody sees all the time. I often photograph things that are so common, so banal, so boring that even though we see them all the time, we never notice them. My trick is to add focus and direction to how I photograph these subjects, so that people can see them anew.
“Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.”
I suppose it makes sense to plant a quote from The Lizard King (or Mr. Mojo) at the top of today’s post. It’s not the most profound quote, but it does remind me of the active decisions that artists have to make – to include this and exclude that. Composition – whether visual, musical, or literary – is about making very specific decisions. It’s all an abstract problem-solving exercise.
I made a lot of decisions – invisible to you – about this image, regarding the color saturation, cropping, and texture. A lot of folks think that photographic art is something that requires a snap of the shutter and that’s it. I’ve spent half of my adult life in a darkroom, and learned how to use a number of tools in the digital darkroom. I make all kinds of subtle edits, trying to sculpt a good final product. A lot more time goes into images like this than you might realize.
“Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.”
~E. M. Forster
I believe in ‘art for art’s sake’ too. I think that obscure and abstract art objects embody this ideal. There may not seem to be a lot of thought or sense in it, but that isn’t really the truth. There’s action and intention, and there are reasons why people make things. And it isn’t necessary for all of us to know exactly why – sometimes the idea is to wonder why.
I really dig being a part of this.
“The essential function of art is moral. But a passionate, implicit morality, not didactic. A morality which changes the blood, rather than the mind.”
~D. H. Lawrence
The intention of abstract art, especially, isn’t the intention of civilizing or moralizing. It’s ambiguous, and speaks to each person differently. Sometimes the themes and the tone are obvious, but not always. Sometimes, it’s color and texture and light, on a print or canvas, and we have to be active participants, making up our own minds about how it makes us feel, what it reminds us of, and what – if any – significance it carries.
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
This is a photograph of a storefront near the University of Arizona. Cheap Chinese noodles, walking distance from the photography department on the corner of Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard. And yes, I agree with today’s quote quite a bit. My vision is that anything, any and all visible things, are interesting – and if viewed the right way, from the right perspective, with the right temperament, any and all visible things are exquisite and beautiful.
That’s why I’m in the business of making pictures.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
This is a scan of a solar plate I produced in a printmaking class about ten years ago. The object itself, I find, holds my interest and wonder more than the prints that I drew from the plate. After being inked and pressed to make a series of prints, the stained metal plate had all of these lovely textures that just didn’t translate onto the paper prints.
The base image? Pretty boring. The aluminum louvers of window blinds, a photograph taken of a shop window while in Bisbee, Arizona during a New Year’s trip with my girlfriend at the time. This is precisely why I love photography – a casual image can be twisted, turned, processed, manipulated into something entirely different. Experimenting with printmaking and photography – both film and digital – and looking at the world through the camera lens, I have learned a whole new way of looking at the world and appreciating it.
“Not all doors open in the same direction and with the same effort.”
~Jasleen Kaur Gumber
One of my long-time fascinations – innocuous tin boxes, fuses, electrical meters, and other devices that track our consumption, gather data, and influence each and every one of our lives. These boxes are attached to every single structure with an outlet, and I find that both interesting (in an abstract sense) and prescient.
Like the ‘Red, White, And Blue’ compositions (see yesterday’s post), I think there’s something here. It’s been a tough nut to crack, but I think there’s something here that I’ll be expanding on.
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
I like that abstract art asks questions and provides little (if any) answers. It guarantees a unique experience from each individual pair of eyes that look at it. It’s mystifying to some; I’m not so foolish to think that there aren’t people who just do not enjoy abstract artwork. But I would challenge anybody to visit the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. This was the artist that did it for me.
Looking at photomechanical reproductions in text books, I would go so far as to say that I utterly loathed the prominence and popularity of artists like Mondrian or Rothko. Standing directly in front of one of the canvases, though, is a completely different experience. I was transfixed. Seeing a painting or a photograph on a wall – seeing the actual thing – is different than seeing it in a book and trying to puzzle-out why it’s so damn special. Most Americans will never set eyes on the actual Mona Lisa – it’s referenced in pop culture, in films, and reproduced in coffee-table books and art tomes. And we all have an idea of what it is. Seeing the actual art object, to look at the texture of the canvas that was actually touched by the artist’s hand…that’s a whole other game.
“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”
I know that many young photographers – and many of the masters – are known for their portraits.
Street portraits, especially.
I have quite the collection of faces, to be sure, but I really enjoy documented the forgotten and ignored spaces, the things we tend to intentionally disregard. Man-made environments that man tends to rarely, if ever, wander. There’s a quality to these spaces that interests me.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”