Posts: Thoughts On Things

Sharing my opinion about photography, art, and general topics…

Thoughts on Moving

Posted February 10, 2017 in ... Thoughts On Things

My wife and I recently relocated. And as I deal with all the minutiae that moving entails, I find myself reflecting on the meaning of what it means to move.

I realized that I have always been moving. Occasionally, the move is physical. But more often the move is emotional or mental.  Life moves on.

It reminds me of a story by the essayist Loren Eiseley that I re-discovered recently. He was on a train late one night and noticed a gaunt man sleeping in a nearby seat, holding a paper bag.  Thinking that the man was homeless, he watched with interest as the conductor entered the car yelling, “Tickets!” The man stirred and opened his eyes. Slowly he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money.

Perhaps surprised by the turn of events, Loren Eiseley then overheard the unlikely words spoken by the man:

“Give me,” he said then, … “give me a ticket to wherever it is.”

Whether the man knew or not, his words were profound. And although Mr. Eiseley’s point may have been a bit different than mine, each will find their own meaning in this (or any) story. And so I’d like to suggest the following:

We each find ourselves on a train that we call life. We don’t know the destination. We don’t even know if there is a destination, or when we might arrive.

It’s all a mystery — a mystery that we all experience. Our individual routes may diverge, or cross, or even run parallel. But try as we might to lay our own tracks, other forces will conspire and interfere to redirect our route.

Nonetheless we will each discover a unique set of rails being laid out in front of us, travelling through both wondrous and fearsome places.

Take your ticket — it’s time to move on.  We may not know the details of the future, but you — like me — are heading out to “wherever it is.” As for me, at this moment I am enjoying the view. Maybe I’ll see you at the next station.

Confessions and Caveats

Posted December 15, 2016 in ... Thoughts On Things

I have a confession to make. As I reread my most recent set of posts, I am a bit embarrassed. You see, my writing may appear to be that of an authority on such subjects as art and photography. But here is the confession: I am no authority. I am neither a widely published photographer or artist, and I am certainly not considered by my friends and relatives to be a great thinker.

My blog isn’t written from a position of authority at all; it is written to help me sort out my own feelings on art, photography, philosophy, and life. I consider myself to be a student, not a teacher. But good teachers in these subjects are hard to find, so I forge my own way through the dense thickets. I suspect that all who ponder art — and life — must make their own way. Perhaps there are no real authorities on these matters at all — we are all students born into a cosmos we all struggle to comprehend.

And so I end this short post with a caveat: Don’t listen to me. Well, I guess I’d like you to CONSIDER what I say — I definitely put a bit of thought into these posts. But the artistic life (like all life, I guess) is very personal. And should your own path take you in a different direction, my advice is to leave my words and ideas behind without reservation. I won’t take offense.

Perhaps someday I may find myself following this same bit of advice about these posts.

The Responsibility of Photography

Posted November 17, 2016 in ... Thoughts On Things

This is the fourth and final post of the series, “The Strange Art of Photography”.

Two photographers go out to make an image along the ocean shore.

The first is a professional who has mastered the techniques of the medium. His goal was simple — make a best selling image. He knew enough to come at sunrise so that the light would graze over his subject. With a sure hand, he quickly set up his equipment and framed his view. Confident that he had followed the necessary compositional rules, he then made a proper exposure, gathered his equipment, and left.

The second was a beginning photographer. Her goal was to express something deeply personal about the world and her place in it. She went out in late morning, found a subject that she believed could best express her feelings, and tentatively composed the image. She was not at all technically competent, but made a guess at the exposure settings. She lingered for a while, taking in the fullness of the experience, and then quietly walked away.

The professional photographer posted his image online. The response to his image was exactly as he had predicted, and went on to sell wildly.

The beginning photographer was disappointed by her finished product. It was underexposed and slightly out of focus. It was overly contrasty, and ineffectively composed. But most importantly, it didn’t express the feelings she wanted to express at all. Discouraged, she threw it into the trash, but resolved to try again the next day.

The question comes to mind though…Who was the better artist? I would make a strong argument for the beginning photographer. Even though her image wasn’t very successful.

Every enterprise needs a firm foundation. The foundation of Art is its message — a sincere and honest emotion, thought, or feeling from within the artist. Without that proper foundation, the rest of the process is meaningless.

Her ideas were built on that firm foundation, but she didn’t yet understand the proper use of the medium. Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough knowledge and experience to insure that her viewers would discover her message.

His image, on the other hand, was like a magnificent castle built on shifting sand. Sure, he understood the tools and techniques of photography. But he wasn’t trying to communicate a message; his interest was simply to garner more sales. Tomorrow, his photograph may seem trite to most viewers — there is little or no substance to insure its’ survival.

He understood the techniques of the art, but she understood something much more profound — the purpose of the art. She will eventually learn the techniques of the medium; those details can be mastered. But he may never realize that the purpose of the art — any art — isn’t learned, it is felt. And that is a far more difficult concept to grasp.

Any art must present an honest and authentic message before being considered good art. And only good art can be made great through technical mastery.

Photography is a popular activity. It is so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget that it can be a true art form. But when treated as an art it carries responsibilities. The first responsibility of Art is a true and authentic message. It’s the entire point.