About Mattering

“I’ve often wondered about mattering. It’s an odd verb. It doesn’t conjugate at all regularly. It translates awkwardly. Yet that fugitive meaning it conveys is absolutely key to a certain conception of art. Fiddle about, play at your art, and you miss the point. But make art in the conviction that it matters, and everything else follows.”

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Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye

Wish I could say that I’ve had more time to write and think about writing, but I have not. Nevertheless, I have not lost my desire to share. So for your viewing pleasure, here is a great documentary I recently showed my class.


Despair Not!

This is not really a post about photography as much as it is a post to let you know that I have not abandoned the writing process. If you remember my post from March 4, at the end I announced the birth of my first child, Jocelyn Lane. She is wonderful. But, I’ve also not had much time to sit down and write since then.

I’ve also begun teaching at MCC in Elkhorn, Nebraska. Which has added to my whirlwind schedule, but also, I hope, will give me new insights into photography and the experience of photo-education. I’m very excited about this and everything else going on. I do, however, miss sitting down with an exciting topic and writing about it in order to share with others.

Like I said, though, despair not! For I hope to soon be back at the computer, writing once again.


Living a Better Story

In light of my recent posts featuring an essay (PART I and PART II) that talks about the power of Photography combined with Storytelling, I wanted to share a blog post by one of the authors I cite in the essay, Donald Miller. It is not a lengthy post, but it is profound. He shares the four primary elements of a good story. The point being that by understanding the elements of Story you can apply them to living a better story.

As I have found his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Yearsso inspiring, I wanted to share these thoughts with those of you who have not, or will not, read this book (though I do highly recommend it). Here are the four main elements of Story that he talks about:

1)  A Character or Characters (seems obvious enough)

2)  The Character(s) wants something

3)  Every Character must face conflict

4)  The Story resolves (in life there may be many resolutions of various mini-stories)

This is obviously a very simplistic synopsis. Miller’s book goes into far more depth about the idea of great stories being templates by which better lives may be lived. But if you don’t read it, you should at least check out his blog post.

So, enjoy these thoughts from Donald Miller:  CLICK HERE!


The Photograph as Modern Mythology – Part II

One of the virtues of Myth is its ability to “bring us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual.” Myths can help put our minds “in touch with this experience of being alive” while also revealing “what human beings have in common.” These are just a few more thoughts shared by Joseph Campbell in his book The Power of Myth, and they could be equally applied to Photography. It is precisely this common experience of being human that allows us as viewers to recognize and relate to the emotion expressed in an image like the one shown below:

Photography is unique in its ability as an art form to communicate this idea of shared experience. We generally accept that what is in the photograph actually existed somewhere and that the camera was witness to a real event. In seeing a real event like the one above, and seeing it as something relatable half a world away, the photographer is able to mythologize that moment and present it as a representation of human experience.

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Joel Meyerowitz, 1981

Street photography has fascinated me for some time. As a practice, it is at once nerve-wracking and exciting (at least for me). Even watching someone else doing it gets my nerves on edge. But it’s always worth it! To be able to capture moments of people living out in the world, just being human and doing what people do, is really rewarding. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you look at a freshly developed roll of film and see the “decisive moments” you’ve successfully captured, even the ones you don’t remember.

This is a fascinating video of Joel Meyerowitz from 1981! The quality of the production is what you’d probably expect from 30 years ago, but the content is really interesting. It follows him as he talks about working on the street, often interrupting the conversation to take shots. It also discusses some of his other work in context of the street photography.

I highly recommend you make some time to watch this!
(about 60 minutes)


The Subjectivity of Photographic Criticism

This morning I read an interview with photographers Alex and Rebecca Webb (you can read it HERE). The first question the interviewer asked was what Alex and his wife look for in a photographer’s portfolio. The answer is fairly pat:

“Both Rebecca and I look for something unique, something that suggests that the photographer is discovering something different than that which we have seen many times.  It can be a different way of perceiving the world, it can be a different subject. In a world in which we are all assaulted by all kinds of images, we like to see photographs that are unique and different, that express that which is unique about that photographer.”

If you’ve ever heard someone who reviews work talk about what they look for, it probably sounded something like this. But the reason I took the time to write about this quote is that I think there is some insight here for photographers who have had, or are hoping to have, their work viewed and criticized by someone.

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