Friday, December 23, 2011

Hell's Gate

Taken yesterday in Attercliffe, Sheffield.

Here is another gateway, captured a short while after:

I am disturbed by these images. It's not what I set out to do — to disturb. What is this really about?

'Documentary philosophy.'

    • Documenting the landscape of the mind (a genre)
    • Proving that all seeing is seeing-as (MOTP)
    • Observing intellectual faculties 'at play' (Kant)
    • Seeing differently (mental callisthenics)
    • Discovering visual paradoxes/ conundrums
    • Forcing fractures in the fabric of (perceived) reality

There's something else, that doesn't belong on this list. We make images of things we love...

Judith at Cleethorpes 2011

There is no difference, in principle, between the family snapshot and what I am doing. Finding things worthy of love.

Plato understood the danger of this ('lovers of sights and sounds' in Republic) as did the anonymous writer of the Second Commandment ('Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth...').

Susan Sontag on Irving Penn: The photographer says, 'I find this row of grimy cigarette butts... beautiful.' You can take beautiful pictures of a gas chamber. Or you can make something quite innocent look like a gas chamber, and yet find beauty in it:

Kelham Island Sheffield

Little London Road Sheffield

Wittgenstein diagnosed 'a main cause of philosophical disease' as a 'one-sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example' (Philosophical Investigations para 593). Photographers seeking to understand photography get stuck on a particular kind of image, losing sight of the immense variety and resources of visual language.

'The decisive moment' (Cartier-Bresson) has become a hackneyed cliché. Freezing time is only one of many, many ways in which a photograph abstracts from/ transforms/ mirrors/ subverts/ obscures/ creates reality.

A useful motto: Never repeat a photograph. You can try out any idea, however outlandish or aburd — but only once. (Of course, as with every motto, there are exceptions, perhaps necessary exceptions.) — There are infinitely many visual ideas.

This is the opposite of what the 'serious artist' is supposed to do: that is to say, work at something, stay focused on a particular problem or subject matter (Edward Weston and his peppers). Maybe that's just one of the reasons why photography isn't 'art'. The photographer has to be endlessly flexible. Anything can be a suitable subject matter for a photograph. A photograph can have any point.

An artist has an identity, a photographer doesn't need to be recognizable in his or her work. Another indication that photography is closer to philosophy than to art.

The images exposed in my camera tell you nothing about me. (Which is not to say that they were exposed by accident — finding significant photographs is hard, MOTP.) I am not trying to 'express myself'. These are just the first, tentative steps on a journey of discovery.