Friday, December 01, 2006

ku # 442 and a commentary for your consideration


Judging by the number of times I have photographed this erratic, it might be said that I have raised it, in my eyes and imagination, to the status of a fetish object.

the commentary (its realtionship to the above photograph is optional) - In a response to my commentary, which stated in part, Many landscape/nature photographers seem to be very focused on a notion of "beauty" which very often becomes little more than another trite example of "pretty picture". Paul Butzi wrote,

"...The trap of falling into triteness lies waiting for us everywhere. Do you have some reason to think that 'pretty' is a bigger trap than 'ugly' or 'poverty' or 'social injustice'? Judging from the work I've seen lately, the bigger trap is that often people are AFRAID to make photographs which show beauty."

my answer - While every photo genre has its trite and cliche-ridden traps, I certainly believe that the landscape/nature genre is overwhelmingly prone to the easy and culturally popular lure of "pretty". If you have any doubt, visit any one of several online nature photography photo forums and witness the neverending parade of repetitious and hopelessly sentimental photographs. These serious-minded amateurs are drawn, like moths to a flame, to a narrow range of motifs and pictorial techniques that when visited and applied over and over again "...knocks the life out of any ideas to which it is applied..." (The Art Spirit - Robert Henri). I would addend this notion to read, sucks the beauty out of any ideas to which it is applied. Beauty, which is most often complex in nature, is trivialized and reduced to the simple and easily digested state of "pretty".

To be clear, let me explain that I believe there is a vast difference between "pretty-ness" and "beauty". To my eye and sensibility, "pretty" is the obvious which sits on the surface of things while "beauty" goes much deeper than the obvious and the surface. True beauty does not reside in the merely pretty.

To my eye and sensibility, beauty is a complex and rich mixture of the real, the hidden (or not so obvious), and the imagined. In the medium of photography with its formal characteristic of connection to the referent (the object of its gaze), I believe beauty is discovered and found, not "made". IMO, the best photography is that created by the keen observer and witness to the "real". Photographers who do not rely on technique but rather on a finely honed (practiced) sense of observation of a referent to which they are passionately and obssessively drawn.

It is these photographers who, no matter how their referent is culturally classified - ugly, mundane, beautiful, pretty, etc. - create photographs of great "beauty".

As far the notion of photographers who "are AFRAID to make photographs which show beauty", I would venture the opinion that perhaps they are really afraid of making photographs which might be judged to be merely "pretty" - a self-regulating temperance that I judge to be a worthy one in the cause of curbing the sentimental excesses of mainstream landscape/nature photography. However, it would be a shame if this "fear" inhibited the photographic exploration of things "beautiful".

FEATURED COMMENT: Ana wrote: "From what I've seen of art-school culture over the past few months, I think there absolutely is an almost superstitious fear of formal beauty. It's a very interesting experience (in a tear-my-hair-out sort of way) to have gone from the NPN-like culture where my photography is considered to be quite ugly to the art-school culture where I'm constantly being beaten up for my love of formal beauty. Both of these extremes seem somewhat pathological.

publisher's comment - d'accord...

4 Comments:

Blogger Ana said...

Interesting discussion that hits really close to home for me. From what I've seen of art-school culture over the past few months, I think there absolutely is an almost superstitious fear of formal beauty. It's a very interesting experience (in a tear-my-hear-out sort of way) to have gone from the NPN-like culture where my photography is considered to be quite ugly to the art-school culture where I'm constantly being beaten up for my love of formal beauty. Both of these extremes seem somewhat pathological.

12/01/2006 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

I'm having a bad spelling day.
hear --> hair

12/01/2006 09:14:00 PM  
Anonymous cory freeman said...

I'm glad you started this blog mark. It's nice to be able to talk about more than just composition and technique. Regarding critiques in general, I was talking to my brother-in-law who is getting his MFA right now, about critiques. He made the personal observation that fellow classmates newer to the program tended to critique technique and composition more so than more senior classmates. The senior students basing their critiques more so on emotion and/or how the piece in question made them feel, good or bad. I thought that was an interesting observation.

Regarding photographing beauty. I seem to be struggling lately with not wanting to take a picture of something that might be regarded as just a pretty picture. I would like to make an image that expresses more than that. What that is I have yet to figure out. However, having said that, I still like to take a picture of things that some might consider being just pretty. Can't I have it all? Pretty is what sells to the general audience right? Just some random thoughts.

Regarding your latest image here, it is very apropos to what's going on here in bishop. I have enjoyed watching the changing of the season here, the grasses have turned yellow and with the cold temps now, the streams and ponds have started to ice over. I like the subtle hint of change represented by the light icing(as aposed to solid thick sheet of ice).

12/03/2006 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Darwin Wiggett said...

Ah a solid mass in in a fluid landscape of water and changing vegetation. The intimate beauty, the quiet isolation of the scene, the contrast of textures and colours - it all works so well, I am there in the woods, ready to sit on that rock. Darwin

12/06/2006 09:09:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Photography Directory by PhotoLinks