Here, then, is the beginning of a vicious circle. Because “beautiful” poems make the poet beloved, a great quantity of poems come into the world that attempt nothing except to be beautiful, that pay no heed to the original primitive, holy, innocent function of poetry. These poems from the very start are made for others, for hearers, for readers. They are no longer dreams or dance steps or outcries of the soul, reactions to experience, stammered wish-images or magic formulas, gestures of a wise man or grimaces of a madman – they are simply planned productions, fabrications, pralines for the public. ~Hermann Hesse
One of the most well know proverbs attributed to Maimonides is: “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.”
It’s a simple fact of today’s society, the world is full of people handing out fish. They have no interest in teaching dreams or dance steps or outcries of the soul. Teaching, learning, understanding, after all takes time. The struggles are many, frustrating, and there is no guarantee of success. This is not the society of great patience. That fact plays out everyday, day after day.
It plays out in photography at an alarming rate. With the onset of highly capable digital cameras, easily accessed computer software, books, videos, and workshops presenting vast information of technique, all combined and presented on a stage of social media, we have nothing less than millions of people throwing fish as fast as they can. There seems to be an endless supply of fish, so I don’t believe the throwing will end anytime soon.
Today’s Popular Photos
People make photographs that others will ooh and aah over because of one reason, they can. There may be some level of enjoyment for the one capturing the image beside the self aggrandizing results of ooh’s and aah’s, but that is short lived. It is short lived because it is constantly repeated. The same thing, over and over. Proof there is no long term (if any) self satisfaction in the formulaic production of; sunbursts, starry skies, or images of the milky way in the night sky. Learn the techniques and you too can shoot the milky way, or sunrises and sunsets complete with an awesome sunburst. All completely repeatable resulting in nearly cookie cutter results. Then, set back and enjoy the ooh’s and aah’s.
Most will never ask more than, “where was that taken.” In which you can describe not only the place, but the struggles of making such an image. Your expert control of your tools and your preciseness of capture. They may again give you an ooh and an aah.
Less Than Popular
Describe the personal meaning of light as it washes across the land creating subtle shadows of sensual design, the nature of the back lit glow of little bluestem, or the intricate patterns of ancient limestone. Describe your attempt to understand why an image has more than what is seen with the eye and the image suddenly becomes a vehicle of deeper thoughts, contemplation of nature, or a purpose for ones life. Then notice the ooh’s and aah’s vanishing. But no need to worry, those images of the milky way need no such explanation or meaning, they simply look cool and for some that’s good enough.
Formula Approach To Art Making
Formulas work and are needed for repetitive tasks such as assembly line work. The making of devices, gadgets, and gizmo, of identical end results. Technical attributes become primary in such endeavors. Aesthetics become secondary at best. Formulas for capturing an image with a camera are simple. Set this dial to A and that dial to B and put this setting on 2 and push the button. Then set back and wait for the results. Sounds somewhat akin to making… a picture of the starry night sky, a pair of sneakers, or a muffler.
The formula to making art, by it’s very nature can not follow these predetermined rules. The difficulties for most in understanding this is that “taking a picture” can, and many times does require a stringent adherence to these formulas. Resulting in the desired picture completely void of personal creativity.
“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” –Henri Matisse
The patronizing prelude to capturing a photograph from patterns of formula has no place in the world of art. It never has. Paint by numbers may result in a pretty painting for those who predispositions of art is naive. Visual literacy will be shallow, understanding not necessary. This becomes a point of deliberation in and of itself. That of understanding visual art. Knowledge is never gained from a formulaic approach. Though results, at least in the world of photographs may vary, the core nature in which art is created can not.
State Of Creativity
This speaks to the sad state of creativity in modern society. This speaks directly to those artists who employ technique as priority in whole or part of their creation of art, or their attempts to create art. These ease of use approaches produce quicker results, can be repeated, generally resulting in spikes of appeal by others. But left unchecked can have devastating results in personal growth, a far richer experiences, or happiness.
This is not over stated, conjured up by ill meaning propagandists. What is at stake when we deviate from personal creativity in lieu of popularity? It is a question many do not want to answer. As artists we should not be willing to undermine the true nature of art. We should not undermine those who came before and laid foundations of artistic strengths. We must not be sub servants to those who are looking for immediate visual stimuli in exchange for our own superficial rewards.
“If photography were difficult in the true sense – that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.” –Ansel Adams
Lessons Learned From Limited Gear
Why Photography Matters – Essay Part 2