My aim is not to be deadpan or banal, but to render the emotional charge I feel when I photograph a scene and process the image. There is no image if there is no charge. My aim is to evoke an emotional and psychological landscape, as if I were giving each scene its own preconscious nature.
Among the things that have stuck with me from my Photo Book Masterclass was Ying Ang’s assessment of my work, summed up with the statement, “you’re a romantic!”
I am not entirely sure how she meant it, but it felt a little pejorative. Looking up the definition of romantic didn’t help that feeling much:
a. Imaginative but impractical; visionary: romantic notions of turning downtown into a giant garden.
b. Not based on fact; idealized or fictitious: His memoirs were criticized as a romantic view of the past.
I don’t mind my work being described as visionary if I can construe it to mean I am taking photography to a new level of some kind. However, I personally don’t think my work does anything that could be accurately described as visionary.
“Not based on fact” does not seem to be accurate either. After all, what is a photograph based on if not some kind of fact in existence at the moment of making the image? The resulting photograph may be used or processed in a way that strays further and further from the fact(s) of the subject, but there is some order of fact(s) in the beginning. All of my photographic work starts with a physical subject and moves on, and when considering the possibilities for distortion and abstraction that are available, I don’t move that far from the initial fact(s).
“Idealized” seems to cut a little closer to the bone. I think it might be fair to “accuse” me of idealizing my subject material, of making it sharper, more colorful, more black and white, more intense than it actually is. I am not a deadpan photographer as seems to be a recent and present trend. Actually, my imagery strikes me more as nostalgic:
1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
I think there is more of the bittersweet longing in my work (given my age and life experience) than an idealization of nature or anything else.
But then I looked up the definition of romanticism:
1. often Romanticism, an artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 1700s and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.
An interest in nature is a definite thread in my work and through the natural, among other things that I would call random circumstance in the universe and therefore still contained within the natural, I am expressing and exploring an emotional reaction to my existence. I suppose you could see it as an evolution away from the matter-of-factness of the New Topographics, which, especially in the work of the Bechers, might be viewed as a kind of classicism in photography. Robert Adams and Stephen Shore in particular are on my admirable photographer short list.
My aim is not to be deadpan or banal, but to render the emotional charge I feel when I photograph a scene and process the image. There is no image if there is no charge. Rather, it is to evoke an emotional and psychological landscape, as if I were giving each scene its own preconscious nature.
I don’t claim that I am rebelling against established social rules and conventions, though my enlightenment humanist stance does seem to set me apart from a large part of the current American cultural milieu.
Alright then, I cop to being a present day romanticist on some level. Now lets hope it’s an actual movement and I am at the forefront, as opposed to being some kind of irrelevant and out of sync outlier.