" I mean, photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops—for a split second. But that's not what it’s like to live in the world, or to convey the experience of living in the world." - David Hockney
Many years ago David Hockney came to look at working with us at Digital Productions, to satisfy a curiosity of his about perspective. It seemed to me that he was after the notion that every object -- perhaps even every varying surface of an object -- might have its own frame of perspective, it's own lens and vanishing point.
At the time the whole idea of applying computer graphics to explore this idea was prohibitively expensive and now, when it's easier, he's moved on in different ways (his large prints from iPad paintings were going for ~$98K a pop at Art Basel last week). But that idea has always stuck with me because I could see a truth in it: that "realism" was an "ism" and that there may be others -- even using tools designed to make realism automatic -- that are just as true.
At Art Basel with a stop at the Miami Street Photography Festival, shooting both my little Fuji and a Leica Monochrom. Will write it up in due course.
"A window covered with raindrops interests me more than a photograph of a famous person." - Saul Leiter
"No one moment is most important.... Any moment can be something." - Garry Winogrand
"The principal object in the picture must be fairly sharp, just as sharp as the eye sees it and no sharper, but everything else, and all other planes of the picture, must be subdued... slightly out of focus." - Peter Henry Emerson, 1886
"Whatever the noise and violence around them, photographs return objects to a state of stillness and silence. In the midst of urban hustle and bustle, they recreate the equivalent of the desert, a phenomenal isolation. They are the only ways of passing through cities in silence, of moving through the world in silence." - Jean Baudrillard
"I don’t believe in the psychologizing portrait photography that my colleagues do, trying to capture the character with a lot of light and shade. That’s absolutely suspect to me. I can only show the surface. Whatever goes beyond that is more or less chance." - Thomas Ruff
"In photography, you always have both the medium and the depicted subject at the same time." -- Thomas Ruff
In Ruff's work, the image is a very particular thing. I especially like his over-enlarged internet Jpegs. His more recent work has wandered into CG and crypto-photograms, a process that creates an image of imagery, where the "true" object, placed on photo paper, is itself replaced by an ephemeral concept, a mental image of an optical image. So meta.
The crisis of "thingness" in photography is at once at the root of many of its greatest strengths and weaknesses, as pointed out by painter Gerhard Richter:
Photography has almost no reality; it is almost a hundred percent picture. And painting always has reality...
...by which he appears to mean that a painting is an object to itself while a photo is an image separate from any specific object -- a mechanical recording of the real image, the collections of things and light that passed for some time in front of the lens. A painting is not like that. It is what it is.
Now, you can argue about representation. Stephen Pinker has opined that even the most abstract painting (say, applied in alternating squeegee strokes) is still a representation: of the artist's process, their thought process, or the artist themselves.
Which makes for a long page of quotes and speculations but very little specific opinion. I'm in a period of great activity right now -- both with the camera and without it. Maybe one requires the other. And a lot of thought about what it means, without a clear verbal answer but with enough internalized understanding to keep working obsessively every day.
Someone else can decide if it's any good but no one else is going to do it, so I set my alarm every morning and just get on.
The 50mm perspective always both troubles and seduces me. It has a distortion-ree feel -- neither too flat nor stretched out at the corners. And yet so constrained, as if the eye is snugly wedged into a box.
"Look, if you want to learn how to write, you study the alphabet and exercise every day. And in the end you have a very beautiful alphabet. But what are you expressing with the alphabet? Perfect technique but expressing nothing. This is what I call 'calligraphic photographs á l’americaine.'" -- André Kertész
"Representation of the world like the world itself is the work of men, they describe it from their point of view which they confuse with absolute truth." - Simone de Beauvoir
I'm sure all the proper people have been scandalized.
"I do not mistrust reality, of which I know next to nothing, but I am suspicious regarding the image of reality which our senses convey to us, and which is incomplete and limited. Our eyes have developed such as to survive. It is merely coincidence that we can see stars with them, as well." - Gerhard Richter
This post started as three different posts, each of which got bogged down in its own overwrought explication. I realized they all shared concerns about essentialism, of what makes a photo... a photo. I’ve decided to just stack them and cut straight down in straight lines across all three. Kick ‘em all.
Enjoy your Sunday.