Sunday, October 2, 2011

Criteria that aren't Judgments


What if all the others are just as good?
I don't know how to justify the need to know why I feel it is wrong for me to just take a lot of images of some objects that take my fancy, though the objects aren't much in their own right.  Of course, no one by accident takes a lemon outdoors; I needed something like pebbly rind in a bright color, and rounded, in case I wanted to set off, for example, this hunk of gray quartz or a red autumn leaf.  And the reference photo was taken not only to mark where the series began but its materials (medium sizes, not to exceed possible depth of field).  Yet this is no attempt to emulate one gradually rotting green pepper in an aluminum washbowl, over the course of several days!  At the other extreme, however, photographing or drawing or painting just therapeutically is never, I suspect, either really therapeutic or in the slightest degree like art.  My grandfather and my father taught me to use cameras, which I loved, and I have lots of friends and former colleagues who either are photographers or, like my grandfather, take their cameras seriously, rather in the way that people approach good cooking or good gardening.  It has to be done as well as possible to rank among the higher pleasures.  Anyway, it is depressing to think, "Well, I have nothing to do, so I'll just take some pictures".
I was feeling a little dissatisfied with just clustering  things close together, partly because it always works to some extent and partly because I got it from lots of Cézanne drawings.  That's no reason not to play with it once again, but could I also fulfill the classic instructional challenge to make the same or similar things relate in some necessary-seeming way but well apart from one another?  Can one re-actualize with today's tiny cameras assignments one was given to execute in conté crayon or cut paper nearly a century ago?  By re-actualize I mean, without using in post-processing tools to make new advertising art that looks like work done in old, manual techniques.  It must entail that old requirement of seeing as the camera sees—which itself is different today from it was with my grandfather's Rolleiflex and a roll of 80 ISO Kodak film.  And it's not as if Canon/ Nikon color behaves aesthetically like pigments and dies, either.
If I were a great photographer, my using the shadow of a cubical piece of quartz to relate it to the tip of the red leaf and the lemon, and the leaf's black shadow of its distinctive shape to emphasize the lemon, would be too obvious, but yesterday afternoon I wasn't sure that the camera would make the contrast strong enough and sharp enough.  So, when it opened in Photoshop, and I saw that it did, I wrote in the Title/Caption, "It worked!" Images 30–46 (Day 4), punctuated by another cat picture at the end show the afternoon's efforts.
Supposing I had a big DSLR with its best zoom lens, one from ~25mm to ~400mm, not only would it cost a couple of thousand dollars but, at my age, it is too hard to handle, and a tripod for it would preclude taking pictures like these.  The little camera can be managed with one hand.  My one better lens is a 'micro' (close-up, for coins) which, closer than a meter or two has very little depth of field at speeds that permit hand held exposure.  See the ones I tried with it.  I don't think that perfect focus from my nose all the way to Erewhon is necessary, or even always desirable, though the micro lens does get the wonder of crystalline structure better than the small one can.  What is worse, the SLR has a mirror that has the kick of a rifle, and that, too, has to be managed.  For some, the Fine Arts alternative is essential, for others the Optics alternative.  Neither is better, except for each visual mentality that makes images with cameras.  So I'll close with another one.  You may like another.  I rather like them all in one way or another.