Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on taking pictures, visual thinking and Errol Morris

I do not purport to be a photographer (and am made even more aware of that fact recently by my perusals of many a lovely food blog dotted with brilliantly arranged plates of luscious delight; my photos are SO anemic by comparison) but I do take a lot of pictures.

An accurate way to think of these images would be to compare them to my note-taking tendencies. Generally, in a moment of "not sure what to do now" studio flailing or "don't have more than a few moments in the studio before class starts" or "I've got to go pick up Alex, so quick, what's the fastest way I can access my studio mind and keep the thread going" I grab my teeny, aesthetically lovely camera (my criteria for camera-buying) and snap away. Usually I zero in.

To be honest I think the actual photos are secondary to what I see when I view the world through an LCD screen. In graduate school, in order to get a more "objective" view of a particularly cantankerous painting in progress, I would take polaroids. My stacks of old polaroids are not important any longer, save for the nice record of process they afford. As their initial purpose was to hand me a swift gasp of separateness--something I could get ONLY the very first moment they cleared--and I've long since lost that separateness, or rather no longer need it now that those paintings are either finished or abandoned, those images have become a bit sad in their irrelevance.

Now that polaroid film is nearly extinct and more and more pricey when I find it, I've moved to my little digital camera, and I'm still finding the actual photo a little irrelevant in the end. But the looking as mediated by the screen is not irrelevant, and for some reason I cannot dismiss the actual "taking the photograph" as irrelevant either. I am not sure right now why I think taking the photo is significant, though I am intrigued with why I would claim the action as necessary.

And too, all this musing on looking and photographs is swirling about after having read a number of Errol Morris's articles from the New York Times--they are worth a read through and are posted on his website.


garima said...

wouldn't the clicking of the camera be the actual decision--what you are choosing to note, perhaps as shorthand for the larger picture or maybe as an editing device? i like your pictures. they make things happier.

you are such a resource barbara. thanks for the link to errol morris's website! i started reading his 'grump' entries by pure chance (clicking blindly under the influence of an intimidating website)--grumpy but engaging. i've seen his 'fast, cheap, and out of control' which was great.

suzanne cabrera said...


I can't tell you how flattered I am to see that you are following my blog...thank you so much! I can really relate to what you write about taking photos. I feel the same way...though I can't deny that I wish I could achieve a quality photo comparable to any of those food blogs you mention.

I'm really enjoying reading about your work and hope that one day we can talk more in person about it. In the meantime, I'll be on the lookout in Gatewood.


Barbara CT said...

oh thank you Suzanne, I do enjoy your blog immensely, and Garima, the clicking of the camera--yes it does kind of physically embody the moment of decision doesn't it? I like that very much.