Photography, why?

Day 046/100

Yesterdays post got me thinking, which at times is not the best thing for me to be doing. I could understand why I felt photography was more valid an art form than painting, but what I have never really sat down and considered is why photography at all. Considering I failed my first ever undergrad assignment in the subject. Over the following years I did do better, but as one professor stated “she’s happier when it all goes wrong”, which was true especially when trying to process color photographs. I suppose I found the photographic requirements for graphic design too controlling and did everything I could to push the limits. For you can only do the crazy stuff in university, once you leave you do have to conform to the world at some point. For me photography is a perfect balance between creativity and science, where without one the other becomes untenable. What fascinates me is that photographs are deemed the one medium where the subject matter should be self explanatory, as it is an accurate depiction of a specific moment in time. But in actuality it is anything but, for the more your read beyond the surface of the photograph the more becomes apparent. But to truly see beyond that single moment you need to view the contact sheet from which that specific photograph was taken, for when the second before and after is made visible, the meaning and truth of the photograph will again alter, proving or disproving the viewers interpretation. In addition to this interpretation of the photograph itself is what process as utilized to produce it, Walter Benjamin in his text The work of art in the age mechanical reproduction posits that photography is a mechanical art where man is in essence surplus to requirements. For the traditional lens based cameras this holds true, but when applied to the pin-hole camera, it becomes less applicable. This form of photography of which I love using the most, is probably the most free of all methods to create a photographic negative, because the photographer has absolutely no control over what the camera captures on the light sensitive medium being used. And to produce the negative and final positive photographic print, man is a necessary component. For me this is why I love photography, for it is its most basic form that brings to life what it must have been like for the first photographers witnessing the invisible being made visible. When photography still retained some notion of magic. For me that magic remains, for in order to create a photograph an alchemy is preformed between light, the camera, you and the darkroom.

Photographs over painting

Day 045/100

Was looking at a couple of other bloggers sites today, both were looking at art, one from the perspective of what was your favorite form of art and the second on who was the most influential artist between a specific selection. In answering one I suggested that photography is more powerful than any painting particularly in relation to documentary and news photography. To me such photographs examples from these two areas in particular have in their own ways changed or influenced the course of the times. Although there are numerous examples several key ones come to mind, the first Dorothea Lang’s The Migrant Mother, putting a face to the hardships of the depression era. A mother flanked by her two children a look of trepidation and fear apparent, the children dressed poorly and appearing under nourished. Kevin Carter’s award winning photograph showing a stricken child crawling towards a food camp, of all photographs this one instigated a deeper investigation of the effects of famine in the Sudan and Africa. A lone student standing up to governmental control was captured by Stuart Franklin’s photographic record before the blood bath that became Tiananmen Square. The photographers of Vietnam who showed the world what horrors were being encountered by both sides of the conflict. Lee Millar’s documentation of the concentration camps at the cessation of the war in 1945. The iconic photographs showing the destruction of the twin towers, whose repercussions are still being experienced today. Although there exists painted examples of the horrors perpetrated in war, acts of terrorism, pestilence and famine, to me because they are painted there somehow exists a greater physical distance between the subject and the viewer. And the notion that what is being viewed is not real, the use of artistic license. A distance that in-acts a removal of the true evocative nature of the event being immortalized, which is not present with a photographic account. Because the photograph is deemed to be a mechanical reproduction of the documented event, there is not as great an emotional distance between subject and viewer.

Insignificant meetings

Day 044/100

Ever have a conversation with a complete stranger only for them to understand you better than any one who knows you. And once the conversation has come to an end you feel as if some great weight has been lifted from you, yet you never realized it was there in the first place. The trick here is to really listen to what has been said and to reflect upon it, for there is something in the strangers words that illuminate the dark recesses of your mind and help to solve a puzzle you never knew needed solving. Although such instances should be disquieting, for me they help me to become Alice looking through the looking glass. To place me outside of my thoughts and fears, to be able to see them fro another distinct perspective, and in doing so be able to see the hidden pathways through them. These chance conversations if only a word or two, remind me of a quote “there are no insignificant meetings”, where it is from or who said it eludes me at present. But its essence rings true, weather we meet someone for a few seconds or for years there is a specific meaning and reason for it, even if we never fully understand it until years later. I think what I am trying to say is that do not discount a strangers words for it may be those few simply spoken utterances that clarify everything.

Cooking and me, yeah right

Day 043/100

As you may have guessed I am a great lover of food, considering all the coffee shops I know and love, and am intimately acquainted with every cookery program known to man. Then you would suspect that I can actually cook, well, cooking is akin to my driving skills, limited and dangerous. The trouble started from a very early age with a large bowl of gooseberries, (small green furry things you make jam with), I asked, no begged to be allowed to wash them, after my mother, aunt and grandmother had spent the best part of the afternoon topping and tailing them. Of course how much damage could a five year old do, I took the term wash them to a new level by including washing up liquid in the process, plenty of lovely bubbles and three pounds of inedible gooseberries later. Over the years things just went from crackpot to crazy, tried melting chocolate in a basin over hot water, only no one told me not to use a plastic bowl, one wrecked saucepan and melted mess later. Have on more than one occasion nearly blown up the microwave, the first instance it was only out of the box. I do have one special trait when cooking pastry that it is completely raw inside and cremated on the outside, don’t ask, still not sure how I do it. The kicker is that when my parents would go away even just for a day, my sister was left strict instructions not to leave me unsupervised in the kitchen, I was eighteen at the time, such trust. Mind you I have gotten better over the last few years but the damage has been done, family members keep the doctor on speed dial just in case of food poisoning and my mother still insists on standing guard when I am let loose in her kitchen, even if only making toast. What makes all this all the more funny is that my mom is a brilliant trained chef, and my sister and dad can cook very well, in my case, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, it was on a completely different one, on another continent. Mind you I can wire a plug and know which end of a power drill to use. Ya just can’t be good at everything.

No Second Troy

Day 042/100

Decided that today was going to be a poetry day, I hope you like the choice.

No Second Troy by William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her that she filled my days

With misery, or that she would of late

Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,

Or hurled the little streets upon the great,

Had they but courage equal to desire?

What could have made her peaceful with a mind

That nobleness made simple as a fire,

With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind

That is not natural in an age like this,

Being high and solitary and most stern?

Why, what could she have done, being as she is?

Was there another Troy for her to burn?


Car’s don’t think so!

Day 041/100

Spent half the day traveling on buses, and as you might have guessed from earlier posts I tend to spend a fair bit of time bouncing around the city on our beloved public transport. Today my travels were further afield and had need of the doggy bus, to appreciate this moniker you need to see the logo for Bus Eireann. There mascot is an Irish Red Setter and all the buses have the dog painted on the side, hence the name doggy bus. Well you may ask, why do I spend so much time using buses, when over one hundred years ago a think called a car was invented. And has been a very popular and effective mode of transport ever since. Well, the truth is, me and cars are not exactly a match made in heaven. God bless Dad, about seventeen years ago he decided that it would be a good thing for me to learn how to drive, how wrong can a person be. He was a trier I will give you that, me on the other hand tried to learn how to drive, emphasis on tried. Not before crashing the car into the ditch, backing the car into a brick wall, minor damage on this occasion, not being able to change gears without looking at the gear stick, thus eyes not on the road and tending to be on the wrong side of the road, attempting unsuccessfully to avoid the lone cyclist. Now my uncle in his wisdom decided he would take over the reins,  well that story ended so well. Two lessons in a he refused to ever sit in a car with me, let alone with me driving it. Unfortunately my uncle found out that I can come to a dead stop going from fifty miles an hour to zero in a split second, all in fifth gear and no breaks, don’t ask how I did it, not sure, but survived. Also I have no understanding of how to negotiate a bridge at less than sixty miles an hour, think Dukes of Hazzard for this one. Needless to say after such escapades it is safer for me and the rest of the world if I am not allowed behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle, and this includes and is not limited to cars, vans, ride on lawn mowers, etc. You get the idea.

I’m Late, I’m Late

Day 040/100

Sorry for my tardiness, I feel a little like the White Rabbit at the minute. Like all good intentions, meant to write yesterday evening but got so engrossed in a couple of crime who dun-it’s on television and well lost all sense of time. Me bad. Mind you it was nice to sit down for a change and just hang out and not worry about anything except trying to figure out who the murderer was. Believe me two hours of was it him, no its her, only to discover it was the most obvious answer after all. I think in future I will stick to yelling at the Food Network, very therapeutic. This is an ongoing joke with a god friend of mine, when ever I visit I watch the food programs and start giving out to chef’s that they are doing it wrong, now I am no expert. But when you are deemed general bottle washer and dogs-body in a kitchen, being over seen by your Mother, you learn to do things right, or else a wet tea-towel gets flung at your head. Very awakening you could say. The second crime drama was better but was so confused by the end had no idea what was going on, clear as mud you could say. Then low and behold five minutes from the end all was revealed and all I could say was huh, really it was her. Never saw that coming, mind you I was half asleep at this stage, it was well past midnight and like the White Rabbit very late, very late indeed. In my defense all I can say is sometimes its better to be late than never.