Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Art of the Mechanical Eye

Since its inception photography has been both cursed and blessed by the technical aspects of the medium. The "mechanical eye" of the camera has been criticized by many as cheating- as a way of creating imagery seemingly without skill. In some ways this is true- for example those of us who can not draw a straight line, as the saying goes, can at least photograph one. However, the ability to capture an artistic image is a skill and a supremely creative endeavor. Anyone can take a picture of something, but skill is involved when it comes to creating an artistic image. At first blush the difference appears to be in name only, one implies the taking of something that is already complete while the other speaks to making something out of nothing, but the difference is bigger than that- it is enormous. It is what sets an artistic photographic work apart from a snapshot. The difference is that one speaks for the artist, explaining what he has to say using a visual language that we can all understand while the other is simply a visual record of a time and place.

The unblinking eye of the camera creates powerful images in the hands of the artist because it is an extension of that artist's mind. The camera recreates an exact replica of what it finds in front of itself, true, but it is the artist that determines what it is pointed at. The mind of the artist is determining what is captured within the frame of that camera. Fifty photographers could all go out to photograph the same outcrop of rocks on a hillside and the viewer would see fifty different styles of imagery. This is because the photographs are of the artist's state of mind, not simply of the rocks.

We sometimes forget what photography is. Photography is a magical world where artists can translate thoughts and ideas into photographic images that we can all see and easily relate to in some way. Fantastic.

Speak your mind, make a picture.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hello photo peeps!

Long time, no blog. I know.

I spent the past week with my family, which was both wonderful and chaotic. All of us share in the dichotomy of experiences that come from spending a week with your clan. The beautiful times and also the uncomfortable ones.

What interests me though is how we relate to these events in the past tense. How we reflect on the occurrences when they are over, after the fact. One thing that will alter your memory beyond measure will be the photographs that you make at the event itself. These seemingly benign images will stick in your brain and become the pivotal moments of the event- at least according to your memory. A week of life lived will be abbreviated into the one snapshot of you wearing your cousin's dress holding a bundt cake to your mouth pretending to eat the whole thing in one go. No matter that you had a wonderful heart to heart conversation with your aunt, or that your brother came out to your marine corps dad, or whatever. No, that will be the week that you dressed in drag to eat a whole cake. That is the hierarchy of memory. Memory pushed by imagery that is.

Sometimes I do not take any photographs of a place, for fear of ruining it (Badlands, South Dakota). Sometimes I make images of a place that come out way more interesting than it really is (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). I also have a complete memory of visiting a small island in the Northeastern United States that is just fantastic! Unfortunately, I found out recently, I have never been there. Someone else had though- they told me about it in great detail and they had a really nice picture.

No matter what though, images alter our recollections of time and place- regardless of your intent. I find that amazing and more than a little disturbing...

Talk to you soon,

P.S. I made a lot of photographs of my family with an infrared camera, I wonder what future generations will make of my time in Myrtle Beach. -g