AKA Abraham Bacoln

All I have left
July 31, 2007, 11:25 am
Filed under: photography

All I have left

I feel I’m finally approaching an understanding of the need to create. Some artists claim that they have to paint or draw or create every day, not out of a desire to maintain a skill or practice, but simply to release or satiate creative urges. Correction: I’m not approaching an understanding per se but beginning to accept that I feel this way myself. Often when I’m sitting around I’ll find myself itching to go take pictures. Other times while in the middle of something unrelated I end up having to put it down and pick up the camera. Most of the time when I feel this way the very act of photographing something is enough to satisfy me, to allow me to continue about my day. Most of the time I don’t even post the results – it’s the act of creation that is significant, not the results. On occasion, though, I can look at what I’ve made and feel good about it, good enough to share it with everyone. I’m coming to realize – and this all sound so simple from the other end but trust me, it’s truly just now becoming apparent to me – that what I’m showing people, what I see in my photos, is not what they see.

I was there for the creation of this photo. I had my thumbnail-sized piece of cracked and worn tile, I tried ten different setups with the notebook – open, closed, half-open, turned this way and that, I was there when I realized it’d be best propped open, I was there to make the decision that beach glass would work better, I chose the piece, I was the one who had to keep moving the notebook around to get it just far enough from the door, and so on and so on. I don’t tell you this to make you think it was a lot of work, because it wasn’t. I just want to give an example of what I see in this photo – because when I look at it I see all that experience.

My viewers can’t. Most of them have never been to my apartment, have no idea what my carpet looks like, they don’t know which part of what room I was in. When I look at this picture it’s almost like some cheap shot out of a movie – the film zooms out and I see my living room, the door, the lamp, the pitcher I use to water my plants, the coffee table, and so forth.

I can not dissociate myself with the creation of this photograph. I was there and I can not un-see everything I saw. The viewers can’t associate themselves with the production. They can only see exactly what I present.

That’s what I’m finally truly comprehending. When one of my photos gets far more attention than I understand, or more than I think it deserves, I’ve typically been left wondering. When I’m working on these in post-production I generally have to step away, come back later and try and view things with a fresh eye. Still, I’m only looking for colors, composition, and so forth. I don’t think it possible for me to look at it in terms of the spirit of the whole thing. I can shift levels and curves and hues in Photoshop but I can’t change how I felt while using the camera to capture a moment.

When I present an image, even one like this that I think of as nothing special, just the end result of a creative urge, I don’t understand or can’t know what the viewer will make of it. I know what colors they will see, what shapes and lines, and I sometimes hope that they will feel part of the emotions. But overall their reaction is unknown to me and can not be known by me in advance. This is both fascinating and a little bit frightening, and I still don’t know what to think about it.

I think the bottom line is that I’ve never understood painting or photography with an artist’s statement beside it such as “This piece represents the fragility of the human understanding and the importance of the familial structure with regards to the heartblood of the consumerist psyche” or somesuch. So here I find myself taking pictures that on occasion, when I get lucky, are making people feel things. How could I even make up a statement about what my picture ‘means’? This is wild and unknown and unnerving and I don’t know the right way to weld the viewer’s perceptions with mine, and I am lost in the though that I can’t even begin because I can never even know how what I’ve made will make someone feel.

5 Comments so far
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This makes me smile… i’m glad you are coming to terms with being artistic and creative…because you are…hahaha

Comment by Kyla

That’s not really what I’m getting at. I accepted being labeled artistic and creative a while ago. This is more a discussion of a difference of perception between what I intend and what gets received.

Comment by Kevin O'Mara

ahh… i see…

Comment by Kyla

Hmmm…also, each person brings a different experience and context to what they are viewing, and I believe the experience of taking in a piece of art is a combination of at least three things–what the artist intended, what is there to be perceived, and what the perceiver brings to the perception of the artist’s work.

This corresponds to literature as well—and can explain why the exact, same book can be read and experienced/understood differently at various stages in the same person’s life–the person’s context changes, thus changing how s/he relates to the work and how it affects him/her.

Er…maybe…wait, did you already say all that?

Or I could be way off base from what you’re describing here…my head hurts.

Comment by rebecca

Don’t worry, rbecca, that’s pretty much exactly what I was trying to say except far more succinct.

Comment by Kevin O'Mara

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