Friday, November 17, 2006

ku # 438 and a book review (of sorts)


So I'm watching a program segment on the tube last night. It was a mini feature about a photographer acquaintance - Mark Bowie - who is fast becoming the new "dean" of Adirondack photography. This is primarily due to the fact that his work is featured regularly in Adirondack Life Magazine.

The segment revolved mainly around his new book, Adirondack Waters - Spirit of the Mountains. Now understand that I use some of Mark's photography in various Adirondack tourism pieces I produce so I do respect the man's ability with a camera...

BUT...

The thought that entered my head about half way throught the segment was how utterly differently he and I "see" the Adirondacks. So much so, that even though I recognized most of the places in his book, it was as if I didn't recognize them at all. He had, through the magic of assiduously applied sentimental photographic technique, reduced the place to a series of ubiqutous picture postcards (an aside - if memory serves correctly, Mark's grandfather was one of the Adirondack's first and very prolific producers of Adirondack postcards).

I can't completely express the foreign-ness, the disassociation, the very estrangement I felt viewing his photographs. I think in large part this feeling came from the fact that, in addition to the aforementioned sentimentality quotient, most of the photographs were not created on a "human" scale - the scale that you can reach out and touch, smell and embrace. They seemed to command too much of the standoffish reverential - nature on a pedestal - that is so prevalent in mainstream nature/landscape photography.

He illustrated, with the fastidious craftmanship, the look of the place, but, IMconsideredO, and contrary to the book's subtitle, he illuminated none of the spirit of the place. Or, at best, he captured only the narrow-ist slice of that spirit - that found in sweeping golden light iconistic landscapes (FYI, the photography that I use to draw the tourists in). Pleasant enough as far as it goes - it just doesn't go nearly far enough.

As I mentioned, I know Mark. He's a serious-minded, well-educated kind of guy. His love of and enthusiasm for the Adirondacks is readily apparent to anyone who spends more than a few minutes around him. His technical command of the photographic medium is of the highest order, but I am left wondering why he seems to continue to, as Brooks Jensen states, create "what he has been told is a good photograph" and why he doesn't "photograph what he sees."

Perhaps Mark is too caught up in the lure of what sells and garners the most attention, although I am certain that he photographs the Adirondacks in a manner that genuinely comes from his heart.

At least that's how I see it.

2 Comments:

Anonymous aaron said...

"Perhaps Mark is too caught up in the lure of what sells and garners the most attention"

exactly. and sell it does. any given day on Main St., tourist from NJ would shell out $15-$20 for a calendar of those "majestic vistas" so that others back in their cubicles at work would be amazed at the exotic locale of their vacation.

11/17/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Michelle Parent said...

Mark,
There certainly is a huge contrast between his and yours, but I feel that yours give me more a sense of the place than his (at least that brief view of the ones on the link you gave). When you posted photos of Bog River, where I've been, I recognized it immediately. I looked at his Bog River photo and it didn't even look like what I remember at all, but looked foreign to me. It could have been anywhere in the NE as far as I'm concerned if he hadn't actually titled it. There is nothing wrong with his photos, but they do seem aimed for marketing. Not that that it bad either, a person has to make a living and lucky for him to be able to make money doing something he seems to love. I wish I could do so, but I am sure that the photos that I feel the most strongly about wouldn't sell and I'd end up making "pretty" pictures too and being caught up in it until I was lost. I'd be afraid that I would only go out to take photos for "work" and begin to lose the passion and joy and not "see" properly anymore.

11/17/2006 04:28:00 PM  

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