Friday, August 25, 2006

a picture is worth ...

"New York Times - Art Review
Walker Evans. Or Is It?

Published: August 25, 2006

A PHOTOGRAPHER snaps a picture. If it’s a camera with film, a negative is made; if it’s a digital camera, a file is produced. A printer, in a dark room using chemicals, or at a computer screen, can tinker with the image, crop it, enlarge it, make it lighter or darker, highlight one part or obscure another.

In other words, the image produced by the camera, whether it’s a negative or a digital file, is only the matrix for the work of art. It is not the work itself, although if the photographer is a journalist, any hanky-panky in the printing process comes at the potential cost of the picture’s integrity. Digital technology has not introduced manipulation into this universe; it has only multiplied the opportunities for mischief.


Is photography closer to music and theater, or to painting? A painting is what it is, and copies of it are not the same. Music and theater exist through their variety of interpretations."

did you know that i used to be a photographer? i shot sport and theatre, mainly because there was already an agreement that what was taking place was there to be watched (vs papparazzi-style doorstepping) ... and because i loved them. i stopped because i needed to curtail the development of my amoral side. it was not to do with the photographing - i still love to do that. things one had to do, however, to get assignments; and then the kinds of assignments themselves, involved a lot of lying and stomping on other people - and while i found out that i could be quite good at that, i did not want to look back on my life and see nothing but a few bits of yellow newspaper swirling in the mist. also, 15 years or so ago, i figured that technology would pretty soon make me obsolete. why pay to send me to an event, and a biker to pick up the film, and the film guy to develop it; when you could look on a computer screen at the televised version, freeze the moment you want, and photoshop it?

anyway, this piece from the ny times today caught my eye and i lifted a few sentences to share with you.

my simple response is look mate you cannot lump it all together like that. for a start just separate it out into intention - where the intention is to record an event in order to convey to the viewer what is occurring at the moment of the shot. of course this is already edited by the photographer's eye & instinct, even if this is not conscious. nevertheless, if i take a picture of qpr scoring a goal (a rare event she said sadly, especially as they lost tonight on national television. mind you they always lose on national television :-( ), i believe i am recording an historical moment (and such moments are so rare as to be truly historical etc etc ad nauseam). i believe this intention is different to one who uses the camera, and the darkroom, as media of expression of one's view of the world.

another reason that i quit photography was that i was so busy trying to figure out how to frame what i saw through my nikon, that i rarely got round to experiencing life face on. i was so busy trying to save it for the future, that i never lived it in the present. one of the reasons i do not like photos being taken during b'nei mitzvah and other lifecycle ceremonies in the sanctuary is that i believe that if you know there will be some kind of record of the event, you are less likely to focus on being there, on taking it all in. i think that if you know it will be a one-off, you are more likely to be fully present.

on the other hand, if the photo is only a matrix, what am i worrying about?! gut shabbes!

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