Saturday, November 04, 2006

Getting Satisfaction


The following passage from Ted Orland's The View from the Studio Door really rang my chimes as I was re-reading that book after spending time viewing some new (to me) photoblogs this morning:

In another time and culture closer to our own, Johann Sebastian Bach composed new church music for each Sunday Mass - and he was just one composer among hundreds who held similar jobs. Think about that: there was a time (and not all that long ago) when artists were employed to make new art every week - art that addressed the deepest issues of life and death and spirituality. We have nothing like that today.


Those examples are not exceptions. Most historical artwork played a role in society or religion or both. There's pretty good evidence that Bach himself understood that to make work that mattered meant addressing art at every level - from the purely technical to the completely profound - simultaneously. He once composed a set of training pieces whose purpose, he said, was "to glorify God, to edify my neighbor, and to develop a cantabile style of playing in both hands."


Some version of Bach's three-tiered work order might be a worthwhile guide for artists working today.


I think this is what is bothering me about those photoblogs I wrote about yesterday - not so much that they're the photographic equivalent of fingering exercises, but that they're just fingering exercises and nothing more, and I don't see any evidence that the photographer's work extends beyond these exercises.

It seems to me that the discipline of a photo a day (or a painting a day, or a sonnet a day, etc.) is hard and long. I'm sure it builds your technical chops but my experience with photoblogging was that absent some compelling meaning to what I was doing it turned into a deadening slog.
I wonder, too, if this is why so many people who view photoblogs blitz thru the images in the way described by Gordon McGregor in the comments to a post below - endlessly cruising for the next 'Wow' image but never getting any satisfaction, just looking for more intensity of the viewing experience. Without some deeper meaning to make the work coherent as a whole, it's the most intense photo that wins.

Would it be nicer, perhaps, if the photoblog was intended to fit into Orland's three-part scheme - if the photography was intended to have spiritual significance, edify our viewers, and develop our style of playing, all at once? It sounds awfully hard to do but ultimately more rewarding for both the photographer and the viewer.

And I bet the photos would not end up all being the sort of high-impact wowser that photoblogs seem to lean toward so heavily.

1 Comments:

Blogger chantal stone said...

As a photoblogger, and one who visits many other photoblogs on a regular basis, I find your thoughts very interesting and totally true. The most popular photoblogs within the community are often the ones with many of the "wow" factor images---but once that intital punch of wow-ness hits, do the images stay with you?

What you wrote the other day, and Gordon's comment, inspired me to write this post on my blog, which in turn, inspired many interesting comments.

The internet in general seems to be catered to the ADD generation, and in many ways, we all fall victim to it.

As a photographer and photoblogger, I try to post meaningful images most days. I usually only shoot things that move me on a certain level anyway, so my photographs will often have deeper meaning, if only to me.

As a viewer of photoblogs, I try to take my time looking through other sites, allowing the more subtle images to permeate my psyche. We owe it ourselves to slow down a bit, in all areas of life...and we owe it to each other too.

8:21 PM  

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