The Pleasure of Photographs
“The pleasures of good photographs are the pleasures of good photographs, whatever the particulars of their makeup.” - Lee Friedlander
If looking at photographs is a pleasurable activity - it is pleasurable in a complex, transformative, frequently unsettling sense. It is not pleasure unalloyed, for no profound pleasure is pure and photography is certainly no exception. Like many truly enriching pleasures photography has its dark, troubling even dangerous aspects.
Firstly, photography is fundamentally a deeply melancholic medium. The photograph, while evoking life, also inevitably invokes death. By the time you photograph a moment, that recorded moment is history. This does not mean that photography cannot he used to talk about contemporary life. Paradoxically, the best subject of photography is modern life, but that quickly passes into history.
Secondly, any photographer of ambition, trying to say something significant with the medium, comes up against a fundamental question of perception. To make a photograph, you point a camera at the world in front of you, press the shutter, and it's done. What you have contained in the photographic print is simulacrum of a fragment of the world, and that is precisely how many people view it, as a mirror of the world and not as an image, an intelligent representation of it. A photographer, in short, is his or her subject matter. An interesting photographer is one who can find interesting subject matter.
Photography’s relationship with reality, so simple, so profound, yet so damnably slippery, is unique. The pleasures of good photographs derive principally from an encompassing of that relationship within the image. Photography, more than any other art, is the "art of the real.” The first great pleasure of photography, therefore, is a quality I would term "thereness." Thereness is a sense of the subject's reality, a heightened sense of its physicality, etched sharply into the image. It is a sense that we are looking at the world directly, without mediation, or rather that something other than a mere photographer is mediating. The camera alone perhaps, windowing the world without art or artifice, or that mysterious power itself – reality – gives form and shape by the magical conjunction of chemical surface and light. Such a feeling, such artlessness, when present in the photograph, can of course conceal the greatest photographic art. Thereness is seen at the opposite ends of the photographic spectra, in the humblest holiday drugstore print as much as the most serious "art" photograph; in the snapshot-inspired, dynamic, small-camera candid as much as the calm, meditative, large-camera view.
But there is another element besides place that makes for thereness in photography, and that is time. Photography takes you there, not just in a geographical but also in a temporal sense. Photography is a time machine, especially in relation to people. The vicarious attractions of photography might be measured largely by the medium's faculty to project us directly into visual contact with the physiognomy of someone at the farthest ends of the earth, or a human being who now exists only in history. That is powerful stuff indeed.
The Pleasures of Good Photographs
Creativity and Time
“When I turned two I was really anxious, because I'd doubled my age in a year. I thought, if this keeps up, by the time I'm six I'll be ninety.” - Stephen Wright
The Nature of Creativity. Questions and (maybe) Answers.
Is creativity related to age?
Most, but perhaps not all, creative children grow up to become creative adults. And most creative adults were once creative children (but not all; creativity may be dormant until life awakens it). It does seem that most creative people are creative all through their lives. Follow-up studies of architects and of graduate students at the University of California at Berkely have shown that creativity continues to flourish into old age in many people. Indeed, many a person puts aside a creative interest for a period of years when she or he is involved in the bread-and-butter tasks of setting up a home, having a family, or perhaps pursuing a mundane career; then, with retirement, the nest emptied, the work taken over by someone else, and suddenly increased leisure, it becomes possible to return to that early interest arid to find a fuller self-realization.
Also, many creators recognize that diligent exercise of their talents prepares them to take full advantage of inspiration. Children are creative in a spontaneous way, usually without thought of discipline or style. That doesn't mean the style isn't there, or the discipline either. But often a considerable amount of self-sought discipline and hard training is necessary for creative work, as in musical composition, problem-solving in mathematics or physics, ballet dancing, painting, architecture, amid many other endeavors. Such work is generally directed toward an audience capable of understanding or appreciating it, while children's inventiveness usually is not. Thus a certain amount of maturation of the talent, and discipline in its exercise must precede its full expression. Since this also takes time, the complex, highly creative act can be expected to occur only rarely in childhood or before maturation has taken place. Still, creativity does show itself through a very wide age range, and it is not age itself that is important, but rather the time necessary for the full development of a talent.
Creators on Creating
Awakening and Cultivating the Imaginative Mind
Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori, Anthea Barron