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Glimpses

Monday, 29. January 2018 2:41

Photographer Sally Mann in her memoir, Hold Still, describes her process in making the controversial pictures of her children that were published in her book Immediate Family. According to Hold Still, she would get a glimpse or even sense of a picture [read “publishable art photograph”] in perhaps a snapshot or in another image that she had produced with her constant companion, an 8×10 view camera, or even in multiple photographs. Then she would attempt to generate that picture with “dogged intent,” which sometimes resulted in shoot after shoot after shoot, occasionally with discomfort for both the model and the photographer. She goes on to talk about the feeling of exultation experienced when all the pieces come together. She likens it to “the one true sentence Hemingway writes about in A Moveable Feast.”

This post was originally intended to talk about Mann’s self-described process in creating those images—from the inspirational glimpse to the finished product, including all the attempts, the multiple failures, the almost-had-its with all the attendant discomforts and disappointments. And then I read more and thought more and decided that there was something more important to be had from this story—the glimpse.

We all have experienced it, I think, at one time or another. We’re reading a book or watching a movie or a play and suddenly there are these words or actions or a combination that resonate with us so strongly that we sometimes characterize it as “a moment of truth” in the work. It will often cause us to underline, or pause/rewind or stop the car and write down a phrase and maybe a time marker so we can go back to this truth we discovered and do something with it.

But we usually do very little with it besides appreciate it. But that, in turn, might cause us to read more by that author, see more films by that director, and I suppose that is doing “something.” If we appreciate, it becomes part of our psyche, which does influence our artistic output, and that certainly qualifies as “something.”

However, it occurs to me that we could do so much more. We could, like Mann, pursue it. We could take that little piece of truth or beauty or the suggestion of a significant image and build on it. Use it. Let it become a springboard toward the development of our own art—if we thought to do that. And there, I expect, is the problem. We seldom think to do it because we don’t see the possibilities. Mann says that she did not see the potential of her family as subject matter for a very long time because she had removed her “photography eyes,” her term for the sensibility that allows the artist “ecstatic vision,” the “intensely seeing eye” that allows the photographer or the painter or the sculptor or the director or the actor to see parts of the world as proper subject matter for art.

My takeaway from all this is twofold: (1) we need to keep our “intensely seeing eyes” open all the time lest we miss a significant opportunity. (2) When we do get a glimpse of truth or beauty we do something with it more than just jot down a note. We can use that glimpse in any number of ways to enhance and develop our own art, and if we do not, we miss the opportunity to make our work all that it could be.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Autor:

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