You Say Krappy, I Say Crappy

From: Schuyler Grace ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 01/07/05-02:57:30 PM Z
Message-id: <>

Katharine's response to one of my earlier postings about what is art got me
to thinking (so blame her, not me) and looking at this question from a
musical perspective. I said earlier that, for me, art is about
communicating what's in the artist's head and the true measure of an artist
is how well s/he controls the medium and effectively communicates with the
viewer (or listener, or whatever). And despite some opinions to the
contrary, I still don't believe happy accidents make art, in and of
themselves, but those accidents are what many "artists" are generating with
"krappy kameras" and paint splatters and other such techniques.

Like Katharine and others on the list, I have experimented with pinholes and
zone plates and nasty old lenses, hoping they might help me to express the
feelings I had about a subject. So far, though, I haven't been able to
control their effects to my satisfaction, even though some of those happy
accidents have happened, encouraging me to experiment further. But in the
end, what I am striving for is to capture an image that's in my head, not
simply say, "that looks neat!" and call the results art.

Perhaps the reason I work/think this way is because that's how I approach
music. When I play or compose, I hear the music in my head, and I try to
make my hands and the instrument reproduce what I hear. Even with an
improvisation, I am hearing where the music is going before the notes
disturb the air, and I'm not consciously making my hands do what is required
to play. Also, some of my instruments have to be perfectly set up before
they will work for me, and others need to have nasty, old, barely tunable
strings to gain their voice. But the point is that I know the medium and I
have a vision of the image I want to create, so what is created expresses
that vision (unless some part of the process doesn't work). Of course,
things don't always work out that well, and I have had my share of
happy/unhappy accidents that lead to new discoveries, but they weren't part
of my vision for that work.

In the photography realm, I see the world the way my cameras and lenses and
film do. As new materials and/or techniques come along, I incorporate them
into my mental vocabulary, and I do the same with photographic happy
accidents. Sometimes, I even go out shooting looking and hoping for happy
accidents. But I can't ever recall a time I though one of those happy
accidents was a finished image. Rather, they become parts of other images
as I work to explain what's inside of me.

Finally, I understand an image that has great and specific meaning to me may
have no or a completely different meaning to someone else, and I expect
that. If I want someone to experience my images the way I do (or as closely
as they can), there has to be more explanation than just the photograph,
itself. Shelby Adams's work in Appalachia is a great example of how a
contemporary photographer and his images can be at once reviled and
applauded. When I first saw a collection of his images, I was astounded at
how well he had captured the spirit and soul of his subjects. I was just as
astounded to discover that a great many people look at his work as being
horribly misrepresentative of the people he photographs. But I grew up
around similar folks and understood what Adams was trying to convey, and
without that background or other support, I realized most people would be
horrified by his images. So, the image is not necessarily the be all and
end all in communicating your vision.

Hopefully, this diatribe has helped some of you on the list understand a
little better where I'm coming from, but that's not to say I'm correct, of
course. And I will most likely never consider myself an Artist in any
medium--a craftsman, maybe, but not an Artist--so take what I have said with
a giant grain of salt.

Received on Fri Jan 7 14:57:44 2005

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