Make a Chain, and Don’t Break It

TT Patton, here in downtown Barrington, has offered to provide postage for letters and postcards mailed from their store during February (I’m late to the table) as part of the Month of Letters Challenge: which takes place in the spirit of NaNoWriMo and the late lamented SoFoBoMo (look ’em up for yourself).

Jamie (she of BACT fame) proposed that she would shoot a certain number of negatives per week this semester–as a discipline, but also intuiting that it does a body good. Lenten discipline often prompts a negative stimulus (“I’m giving up… homework!”) but it works the same way. Jerry Seinfeld is known for “not breaking the chain”:

The point is to generate work on a more regular basis, not waiting for one’s Muse to strike.

Long ago, I aspired to emulate Ken Josephson’s pattern of attending to photography one way or another on a daily basis. Why would it be otherwise? Mr. Steiglitz referred to weekend shooters in a derogatory tone in the era when the hand camera was first trendy (along with bicycles). The key in many domains is to attend to one’s endeavors consistently: piano practice, creative camerawork, poetry, cycling, omelet-making, bonsai, meditation… whatever. It’s not easy.

Keep Going Back

About his series Zuma, John Divola wrote:

These photographs are not meant to be documents of painting, or sculpture, or even of environmental works… No element is of greatest importance. I am most satisfied when the line between evidence of my actions and what is already there is not distinct. These photographs are the product of my involvement with an evolving situation. The house evolving in a primarily linear way toward its ultimate disintegration, the ocean and light evolving and changing in a cyclical and regenerative manner. These photographs are not so much about this process as they are remnants from it. My participation was not so much one of intellectual consideration as one of visceral involvement.

Here are excerpts from a dialog with Dinah Portner:

Q. Do you think of photography as a concrete way of dealing with ideas?

A. No, it’s not that they are ideas, per se. I see art as a dialogue about experiences and the way you experience things. And primarily, what I am dealing with is visual experience.

Q. So the dialogue is between you and the environment?

A. No, the dialogue is between me and whoever sees my pictures.

Q. How much does chance play a part in what you’re doing?

A. Well, a great part. And, as a matter of fact, the more I can get in there that is un-preconceived by myself and still make it work, the better I like it. The greater degree to which reality exerts itself and lesser degree to which I exert myself, the better as far as I’m concerned.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no separation between art and photography. Photography is a sub-category of a broader category which is art. Sculpture has a long history, but just because somebody was using sheet metal for nothing but repairing automobiles, until one point when somebody started to use sheet metal to make sculptures, doesn’t make too much difference.

Q. But, in a sense, photography has a completely different vision, because it is not object oriented as much and it becomes a window for something else.

A. Well, that’s one thing it is. It is an object. It is an illusionistic depth. And, I guess the number one realm in which photography seems to function is that it has a claimed authenticity. The light bounces off the subject and passes through the lens and burns the negative. And the light passes through the negative and makes the print. So the print is linked to the event by a chain of physical causalities. It’s like a piece of reality, rather than purely a document.