Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adventures in Photography, Continued

in the Basin & Range, central Nevada

If my photography has been influenced by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston—and who as a photographer dare deny their influence?—then it has been equally influenced by Georgia O'Keeffe, and various graphic designers. I look at shapes and composition at least as much as topic. I look at forms, contrasts, lighting, shapes.

There are photojournalist photographers for whom subject is paramount, for whom composition and lighting and other "artistic" factors are of secondary importance. This is reportage, and it's occasionally led to great photos.

"Drive Owly," Paso Robles, CA

In many ways, while I rely on serendipity for subject matter, and while some of my favorite photos have been spontaneous "accidents" or moments of "luck"—as the saying goes, Luck favors the prepared—I don't think about subject matter much. I focus on the moment, and paying attention. When something appears that catches my interest, my discipline is to be ready to capture it; so I always have a camera to hand. (On the other hand, those rare times I don't have a camera to hand are also liberating, in that one is just looking, with no agenda. That can be very relaxing.)

Let the subject generate its own photographs. Become a camera. —Minor White

Become a camera. That's the method in a nutshell: see what is there, rather than what your filters make you think is there. It's the essence of spiritual practice: to see what is really there.

Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. —Minor White

The Western Lands: somewhere in Nevada

Becoming the camera means staying still. It means waiting, always calmly looking at the world, until the world looks back at you. This has happened to me lots of times: I stare at the night sky, taking in the stars, till it feels like the stars are looking back. This is a common experience, actually. It's nothing special. It's the root of the so-called religious experience. It's the time when the universe becomes embodied with sentience: something we can relate to.

No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen. —Minor White

Paso Robles, CA

There are reasons to revert to older technology, from time to time: to remember one's roots and history; to (re-)explore older technologies to see what can be done with them that's new; to work with limits as a way of freeing oneself from the terror of the blank page, the horror vacui of infinite possibility, infinite choice. Older technologies in the arts can be rediscovered, and used to learn how to open one's viewpoint in new directions; or old directions, but perhaps new to you, or new this cycle of art-making.

That's in part why I am exploring B&W versions of my photos right now. It's a way of going back to explore the past, to explore my influences, but also to see the world in new ways. It can open up new possibilities, shake you loose if you're stuck, and also, perhaps, provide a new direction for your work. It's a good exercise to undertake.

There is a spiritual aspect to photography, though, which interests me more than the literalness of reportage.

Often while traveling with a camera we arrive just as the sun slips over the horizon of a moment, too late to expose film, only time enough to expose our hearts. —Minor White

on the Utah-Nevada border, Hwy. 50

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Sorry, I come from Scotland - cows really do nothing for me, nor sheep actually. Loved 'Drive Owly' even if it is in colour.

4:15 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, but it's more than just cows. ennit. Perhaps it should be The Zen of Cows. And as for me, I live in America's Dairy State, WI. I can see cows any time. So it's not about the cows. Although these cows do look happy, despite the ongoing California drought.

12:34 AM  

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