Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Photography, redux.

Last month I visited a very special bookshop in Melbourne called Metropolis. It was posited as "Melbourne's answer to Kinokunia (which it's not), but what it lacks in size and diversity it more than makes up for in totally fastidious depth on topics such as Architecture, Movies, Music, Politics, Philosophy, and well.. Photography; you know, all the good stuff.

Anyhow, it was there I found a book called The Photographers Playbook (which doesn't show on their search..) and while haven't even opened it yet(!) the reason I picked it up is what I want to talk about today. 

Why talk about a book I haven't read? Because right now it's still perfect in my mind. That idea of perfection is not yet soiled by a messy grounding in reality.  Or perhaps more importantly, it's value right now is in what it represents rather that what it actually is.  It is, as yet, a gateway device to unlock that which has become shrouded to me. WTF? Let me explain..

Like most people photography has been a constantly available medium since forever.  And while i phased through this camera or that, I've so far only taken it seriously twice.  Once when we lived in Japan and for awhile afterwards, and once again a few years later when I discovered film photography. 

During those serious phases (especially the latter), I gathered a horrendous amount of stuff.  No doubt stuff is required when operating a darkroom, but it was far more than just that.  I gathered an amount of detritus hoping that it might be useful, but ultimately it began to drag me down.  Much of this detritus was mental.

Let me now expose now why I stopped taking photography seriously.
  1. I'd read and spoke of and saw so much about photography as an art-form that took me further away from simply being with a camera.
  2. The advent of the internet and smartphones and whatnot meant I was overwhelmed with imagery and the art-form felt sullied.  I'd become puritanical and elitist.
  3. I'd become so focused on this purity that almost without exception, I couldn't find in the art of others that which I felt the need to see, somewhere.
  4. I'd somehow taken ownership of photography such that i felt denigration of the art-form was somehow reflecting on my own art. 
  5. Meanwhile while habitually looking in all the wrong places I still strove to achieve external validation as a photographer.
  6. And when I finally sold my first photograph I almost immediately stopped.
  7. And for all the thinking and talk of it, those photos I did love I rarely celebrated by displaying them in my home; they became .. relics.
  8. I'd become so bogged down in meta, equipment and decision fatigue that I came simply take no camera and no photos at all.
  9. And thusly through entropy and laziness I lost much of what I had learned of technique.
It occurs to me now that I still take photography seriously, but I'd just stopped taking serious photos.  Well here's what I've learned of myself since then:

  1. Photography meta is extremely important, but only the only meta i can afford to care about is my meta.
  2. Even well executed photography represents a pale imitation of reality.  A fragmentary glimpse not on the past, but on the mind of the photographer at that moment.  So In that sense I am a good photographer if I accurately represent my own intent.
  3. What is my state of mind?  Where is my heart at?  Does this image express that?  The worst of all things is to take a photograph without intent; it is emotionally void, a negative space, a cultural anathema.
  4. Thusly as we are to survive as emotional creatures, photography cannot exist purely on the new shiny nor the freakish happenstance; it must be rooted in an immediate emotional reality.  Even if that's not an easy place to show.  They must exude gravity, but that doesn't mean they're to be heavy.
  5. Therefore, photography to me needs an emotional maturity and for me that exists in two places only; in the faces of people, and in nature.
So then in closing, what I hope from this book:
  1. How to find constraint and to ensure that constraint drives creativity. 
  2. To eschew trickery and banal; each image carries an emotional weight. 
  3. To find a freedom and a lightness within, a brevity.
  4. And to ultimately express myself in the hope of bringing us all closer.
If for no other reason than to mark the passage of time, it's my intent to diarize my progress through this book.  I'll begin a new post with the assignment and my thoughts on it both before and afterwards.  There are 307 of them in the book, so let us both see how far i get .. ;)