Blowing off a few cobwebs

September 15th, 2011

OK, so it’s been almost a year since I last posted anything here. When was the last time you commented on a posting? Huh? I thought so.

Summer is typically a slow time here. I hope that’s because everybody is out shooting pictures or painting up a storm and by September everybody will return with lots of stuff to be printed. Right?

Work has come in intense flurries the last few weeks and the rest of the time I sit here, working on my own stuff, catching up on the latest Photoshop tips (I wasn’t born with my vast store of Photoshop knowledge, you know) and looking at whatever work is currently on the gallery walls. I’ve often thought, despite frustrations of self-employment and the vagaries of paychecks, that I’ve got it pretty lucky. I mean, I get to hang out in an art gallery all day! There is a beautiful courtyard right out my front door and a popular cafe. People stop in and if I’m not busy, we can chat as long as we want.

A lot of ruminating gets done. I’m reading a fascinating book, “The Information” by James Gleick. It’s about, well, information. What it is, how we’ve developed a need for it, how we have many times in history, been forced to develop a new concept to deal with new events. Did you know that when the first English dictionary was published in the 1600s it was not obvious that it should be in alphabetical order? Turns out that even the educated classes, who could read and write, didn’t necessarily know the order of the alphabet because, why would they need to? There weren’t any dictionaries yet!

Go back a little further in our short human history. Once we got beyond grunts (most of us) we starting speaking in words. When the first scribe got the idea to write something down, it was a pictogram, like a Chinese character or an Egyptian hieroglyph. Who first thought to break a sound down into component parts and assign them a squiggle? Too much information! Now we have to learn the alphabet! But it worked.

And to paraphrase a sentence I read in the book today, from a museum guide talking about a famous painting of George Washington, “This may not be what he looked like then, but it’s what he looks like now.”

You know it when you see it

Back to the subject of looking at pictures here on the gallery walls. Photography or painting, that quote from “The Information” certainly sums up a truth about what we do as artists. Nothing I photograph every looks like the subject I saw in front of me. It always lacks the depth, captures a pale simulacrum of the hues, compresses the dynamic range of light and doesn’t even smell like that rose (or that camel.) In my mind’s eye, when I think of a scene I’ve photographed, am I thinking of how I saw it, or how I photographed it, touched it up in Photoshop and printed it on the paper of my choice? If our art influences those who view it, where does our responsibility lie if we take a part in informing their understanding of the world? Does a highly detailed picture I slaved over on a hot computer for an hour to make printable in as accurate a fashion as I’m capable of do more to convey information than an interpretive shot in Hipstamatic on my iPhone that perhaps strikes a chord in someone else and stays with them longer and makes them think more?

I have no idea, other than to think questions like these probably don’t have answers. It’s just what I think about in between printing jobs.

One Response to “Blowing off a few cobwebs”

  1. Peter

    Thanks, Rob, that was thought provoking (I’m better with questions than answers, too). I guess the question of fidelity to the actual experience – more or less fidelity – will always be central to photography, from the moments before lifting the camera to eye to the final print settings. Or even to the viewer’s response, even subliminally. I guess. (But I wish I’d had that second cup of coffee before typing this.)

Leave a Reply

Random iPhone Hipstamatic Self-Portrait

"Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

December 2021
Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © LightRumors. All rights reserved.