Nowhere Now Here

My step-father and I went to a lecture the other night given by Jack McConnell a successful annual report/advertising photographer. He was talking about his photographs in his A Walk Down Park Street project. Many of the photographs were just stunning. He spoke of his life as a photographer, capturing the now: not the moment before, or the moment after, but the very moment he took the shot. I might go further. I don’t think a successful photograph “captures” a moment in time. There is no such thing. Time does not stop. There are no individualized moments to be captured. What is captured, if it is any good, is something that strikes deep in the mind, heart, or gut. The nouns and verbs that describe the image are almost incidental and may not have anything to do with what matters in the piece the most. I read a book of essays by Julien Gracq this past summer, one of which compared paintings to literature. He spoke of the “slowness pills” that writing demands: a painting can be viewed in its entirety within seconds, but writing by virtue of it having to be read one word at a time, requires time, the writer has to lead you by the hand here, here and now here. We can move the decimal to the left again and say paintings require their own slowness pills compared to photography.
The art of photography, that immediacy or moment  that is “captured,” is in knowing when (and what) to shoot, (and then the printing of course, but this gets into the alchemy and science of the art, an added element; that and the mechanical aspects of the equipment must denote some particular bend in the person whom chooses this method of artistic expression). The material objects alone do not define that choice, the final piece transcends those primary qualities. That is what is wonderful about it.
McConnell explained to us that he never crops his photographs, which before the advent  of digital photography may have been an obvious thing, but the skill that that requires is worth noting, I think. Given that, my only quibble was that when he showed more of his prints in a power point-like slide show presentation, I wished that the images did not zoom in and out. He stated himself that he wants the entire photograph to be seen as he took it, and that is how I wanted to see it as well. It reminded me of watching a dance performance on the television. Invariably someone, a director or cinematographer -I don’t know who,  feels the need to insert themselves into the spectacle  by zooming in on the faces or feet of the dancers. It drives me crazy. I want to see the dance as envisioned by the choreographer. Let it be what it is.

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2 responses to “Nowhere Now Here

  1. Jessica I like your analysis of the creative process and the possibilities inherent in them. You write clearly and so well.

  2. Thanks Walter, that is kind of you.

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