“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.”
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.
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.
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.
This is really exciting for me because I have long enjoyed Jeff Curto’s work and podcasts! He is an incredible contributor to the world of photography and photographic education.
If you haven’t heard Camera Position, take a listen to his latest podcast HERE. Be sure to check out the other Camera Position episodes, too. From this link you can also access his photography site as well as his other podcast on Photo History.
For ease, I will include links to both of those below:
Jeff Curto Photography –> HERE
History of Photography –> HERE
If you enjoy creative photography and are interested in hearing thoughts about it from a great photographer and teacher, then you will certainly enjoy Camera Position!
Welcome back, Jeff.
The art and practice of story-telling has been one of mankind’s most prevailing practices. In an attempt to understand the world around us, to seek “an experience of being alive,” the human race has consistently invented stories. The many mythologies that have prevailed across time and geological boundaries are a testament to our need to tell stories in order to make sense of our world. But where we can look back at past cultures and find, essentially, the prevailing myths of specific peoples, in America, there does not seem to be a single, congruent story by which our society is unified. To quote Joseph Campbell, “life today is so complex, and it is changing so fast, that there is no time for anything to constellate itself before it’s thrown over again.” Continue reading
Have you ever looked at a photograph, after reading the artist’s statement, and cried “BULLSHIT”? I have. There often seems to be a real disconnect with what a photographer says their work is about, and what the photographs actually show.
But wait, there’s more…