To be in conversation about any of the arts always prompts the artist within to show up. This blog is simply to be in conversation about the art of photography.
Welcome and join in at anytime!
ALPHA STATE AND CREATIVE ART
Currently, I am working with a wonderful group of photographers who are desiring to explore what it means to create a masterwork. Though there are many definitions of masterwork or masterpiece, we are trying to determine if one of those definitions can be applied to our own workflow in creating a photographic image. Two definitions I would like to use in this blog are:
There are times in which I experience an artist's block. Is my signature style still resonating with what I want to communicate? Do I listen too intently to what others say about my work? Am I truly creative in making a photograph, or, am I merely taking or capturing something that appeals to me at a particular moment in time?
As I was going through some earlier writings of mine, I came across this prose from 21 years ago! What interested me about this writing was the word veil. Veils tend to allow only a partial vision. We are not quite sure what is being felt, seen, heard, or touched.
When I am making a photograph I at times wonder the same thing. What am I actually seeing and how much remains hidden or unknown? How this veil or barrier can be lifted?
The following is one perspective about veils as they affect our creative work and in many cases certain aspects of our lives.
Can the veil between what is known and unknown be lifted to truly see the other?
After all, it is only a veil made by we who insist on being apart from the other side.
Perhaps it is the artist who has felt the veil's rending, if only for a moment's moment.
The artist continues the 'genesis' not through selfish design but by illustrating dreams unfolding.
There is no act more noble. It is a partnership with that of the highest order.
Feel, see, listen, dream, perform O' artist of creative passion, yours is the flower of all humanity.
Adapted from March 14, 1995
The more I use all of my senses, the better I feel about the captures I make. Listening is one of those senses that bring an additional perspective and way of seeing. It can lead to positive change within one's personhood as well.
Listen, listen closely.
Only the silence will bring forth
ribbons of aliveness the past affirms.
Our ears still hear the faintest
of cries for help.
Works of love and empathy
Survive yet another moment.
Look quickly now,
to the conforming shapes and lines
that blur in the now
of shadow and light.
Touch the harsh texture of
risk and feel the sinking flow
of anxiety that greets perseverance.
These are the hallways of transition
and the doorways to transformation.
Sense the rhythms of
community flowing through
over and around that which blocks
Let the music of civil living
guide the way.
Listen yet again, be very still and
hear the gentle and persistent hum
of energy not yet lost.
Experience the diversity of a people
and experience the common likeness!
It is the symphony of possibility,
an instrument of peace and hope.
Out of the test come
the authentic call, touching the world.
From the moments of loving empathy
come openness and acceptance, touching the heart.
One single melting
stolen moment of mid-pause
This is a contemplative pause entertaining a pathway known to me but not yet intentionally or fully explored. It is a pathway that I believe may well connect to my ‘artist within’. Or rather the essence of what I am to ‘be about’ in communicating via the photographic arts.
It is the rediscovering of haiku and haiga, early forms of Japanese poetry and art. I am finding that they are re-energizing my search for the what and how I want to communicate whatever wisdom I can share.
As I look back over my way of speaking and photographing, I see there is a pattern in both that tends to use limited words and images. Haiku and haiga use similar brevity patterns. In haiku every word is significant and integral; in haiga every line, texture and shape is integral. In addition, and as in these ancient forms, I have also tried to include the five senses of hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and seeing while keeping the essence of the subject authentic and simple to its basic form.
To test if there is a compatibility between these ancient Japanese art forms and my current way of seeing photographically, I chose several photographs and made a novice effort to write what I feel to be some form of haiku. In this effort, I found that at first blush the words came easily, perhaps too easily. Yes, they all had 17 syllables and using the common 5-7-5 formula. (I have come to find out that both of these ‘rules’ are not absolutely necessary.) Though haiku, especially when it first became a known form, was to be solely related to nature, my photographs and words were not based on nature. Again, not necessary in this modern day.
So what is the point?
I often speak about signature style and prompt other photographers to at least explore what that looks like for them. I do this knowing that their search may never reach a conclusion. Just read about other ‘master’ artists and become aware of all the ‘phases’ or styles through which they worked. The best way I know of determining if one is on track toward discovering a so-called signature style is by sensing a resonance with a perceived or experienced approach. This resonance, a tone or timbre within, feels like a very positive wake-up or aliveness that directly relates to something that has made itself present in one’s life. When I connected a few of my photographs with my own form of haiku poetry it did feel like a powerful resonance. The search for a signature style suddenly became connected to the what and how I want to communicate with the world at large rather than, what style of photography do I want to exhibit, sell and/or publish.
Perhaps the next step is to begin to de-clutter my photography files by reviewing their affinity with these ancient forms of haiku and haiga. This may be the best way to further test the ‘resonance’ I am feeling and the pathway it appears to announce.
Teaching and Creative Tension
Out of all of the careers I have experienced, life-long, the most rewarding is that of teaching. This is especially true about the time I taught, mentored, or coached the photographic arts.
I recently had the pleasure of working with a number of photographers one to one in addition to teaching two classes, one on black and white landscape and one on seeing in black and white. For those of you who have taught, you know that teaching is one of the best ways to learn and grow in one’s own work. Here are just a few of the insights gained from these experiences:
• Becoming aware that photographers are truly open, even somewhat vulnerable, to expanding their photographic voice.
• Being prompted to further explore aspects of one’s own photograph making that may have been left dormant for a while.
• Realizing how important it is to be aware of the difference between ‘taking’ and photograph and ‘making’ a photograph. There is also the felt distinction between the attitude of ‘shooting’ a subject and the ‘momentary capture’ of the subject’s essence.
• Being cognizant of cross-over learning moments that could be shared between the student and teacher. This realization is essential for mutual respect and openness in the learning environment.
This leads me to encourage us all, who have a certain measure of confidence in the photographic endeavor, to find ways of not only sharing learnings by presenting our work but experiencing formal/informal conversations with others.
One aspect of being in conversation about photography or any other art medium is the tendency to fall into critiquing whether it is desired by the other person or not. In order to keep the critiquing mutual and helpful is important to be clear about the type or level of critique needed by the photographer who is sharing their work. There is a fine line between being ‘fully’ honest and perhaps hurtful, and being honest in a more ‘limited’ way unless a more ‘detailed’ critique is requested. Teaching or mentoring when a critique is expected does require a finesse and awareness of what is supportive and helpful and what is hurtful when there is not a fully disclosed readiness on the part of the one being taught or mentored.
It is in the interplay of these teaching exchanges that makes a wonderful opportunity possible for a creative experience even when there are times in which the conversation becomes tension filled, creative tension so to speak. My encouragement is, for all who feel confident readiness, to share what you have learned with others. You are going to like it!
« Older Posts
© Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall