Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I’m in one of those periods when my mind is shuffling information chaotically. It does this periodically when I’m studying something new. I just let it go, shuffle on, work on it, whatever it is. Even my nights seem filled with chaotic dreams.

What it’s working on, with some intentional input from my conscious mind, and some good hard study, is photography.

Yes, I’m studying technique (lighting, composition, white balance, etc.). But I’m also studying what’s happening in the “fine art” photography world. I’m no expert, I’ve just begun this pursuit. But it’s reminding me of what I studied and learned (and still am) about poetry:

~ Don’t use clichés.
~ That photo of a flower, so what?
~ What is beautiful?
~ What’s been done already?
~ What’s new about your perspective?
~ Is it honest, authentic?

Questions are raised about the whole nature of aesthetics, art and whether beauty is the point of photography? Is it MY point?

In the elite world of photography, even the winners of the photoblogs awards this year, the photographers are often, may I say usually, not in the category of “wow, that’s a beautiful photo,” but rather in the category of, wow, that is really interesting, that’s a new way of looking at that particular subject.

Here are some examples:
And check out the photobloggie winners.

So, as an artist, within the larger context of the world of the arts, I want to figure out, what is my authentic “voice”? Do I care what's considered by critics GOOD? In poetry writing, in photography. We all have influences, those who have gone before who leave their mark on our work. How do I choose them? How do I make what I love about their work my own?

And then, how do I find an audience who appreciates my expressions? Because after all, I’m not just doing this for myself.
This is the chaos in my brain. But writing it out here helps.


Ginnie said...

Oh Ruth. I love to see how your mind works. And I smile. I'm always inspired by you, you know. So often you are way ahead of me....

One thing I DO like about what's happening to both of us with our photography (not that I necessarily put myself in your league, mind you!) is that we are learning to see our photos as OUR art. If someone doesn't like it, that's perfectly okay!!! I probably won't post a photo on SC if I don't like it (tho' some shots I know are sub-par and are posted for other reasons). So it clearly does need to be authentic to US.

Won't it be quite amazing to see what that authenticity looks like as we continue. First of all, I need to know my camera better and how to adequately use the tool I have in my own hands. That'll help. But beyond that, thanks for the inspiration to continue this search for truth.

Ruth said...

Ginnie, I agree with you about seeing my photos as MY expression, and it doesn't matter what others think. One one hand. On the other, there is that other level of:

- what does the observer get from it, if anything?
- is someone who's a better artist (photographer, poet) than I able to help me?

I often second guess my choices. For example, the photo I posted at flying yesterday of the stone house. What interested me about that scene was the American flag. No one commented on that. So there's an example of the artist's "intention" not being "received" by the audience. But I was glad for the commentary that did arise. People said it was peculiar, etc., as a HOUSE. And I suppose it is.

I also agree that we have different intentions with different photos (or poems).

What I'm struggling with most is how I don't often KNOW within myself if I think a piece is good or ready. Remember that divorce poem (with the tiger)? I so didn't even think it was worth sharing. Then Sapphos and you really liked it and thought it was powerful. That's an example of me just not knowing how to trust my own intuition about these things.

I guess it comes with time. Not only are we learning about photography, poetry, etc. We're learning about ourselves.

Rauf said...

I can tell you about my attitude Ruth, I make absolutely no attempt to impress any one as I have posted many pictures which are bad, unpleasant or harsh (more coming, sorry) This technology can be used in many different ways as we choose to express. For me this is one way of communication. Life is not pleasant always Ruth.

I have never entered in any competetion so far. I would not let any one judge what I have to say or the way I want to communicate or the way I feel.

I always like to know what you find intersting Ruth, Your choice of subjects is always excellent

Ruth said...

Rauf, that is what is so wonderful. We each have our own goal. And I always trust that you are authentic in what you do. Your ability to communicate effectively never ceases to amaze me. And so many are touched by your messages. You have a clarity of thought, intention and expression that finds its mark.

I must confess I definitely want to impress with my photos. I want to receive compliments. I treasure whenever someone is touched by the beauty I try to express. I care very much what others think.

I think a certain amount of that feeling is natural in art, which is part of what I want to do (express artistically). And when I want to show beauty, I believe it can also be unpleasant at times. There is some beauty that is heartbreaking.

If no one is touched by one of my expressions, I feel that the human exchange has not taken place, and so, I have failed as an artist.

But there is a fine line between this and ego-building, wanting people to think I am a good photographer. This is part of my struggle.

Let me ask this, how would you feel if no one ever left a comment on your blog? In some way, perhaps it is not that you want to impress, but that you do want to impress a point, and carry forward the human exchange?

Rauf said...

Ruth, I am impressed, deeply impressed with your pictures, choice of subject, unique imagination, your composition and your writing. Just wish I could write like that. For me its like talking to the walls. Its ok if I don't get any response as I have no expectations. I will not feel bad. What you write has literary value in it. None in mine, I write like I talk to my friends as if some one is sitting right infront of me. Same language. I have no command over the language like you.
Reading your article is such a pleasure always always.

Ruth said...

Rauf, I was not proud of my confession of wanting to impress and wanting compliments. It was an admission. I wish I were like you, no expectations. That is freedom.

I wasn't asking for compliments from you. But thank you.

Rauf said...

I would always say the same Ruth, Actually I was not refering to your seeking compliments. It was a plain simple and true statement.
Your pictures and writing are not just impressive, they are inspiring as well.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Rauf. I know you would not say anything you did not mean. Your support and friendship means so much to me.

thehealingroom said...

I am not sure Ruth, if you are comparing yourself to Jeff Wall or not.
When I was in Art School he was a guest lecturer in our small college Art school. He had attended University with one of our profs.
He gave a slide presentation of his work "explaining" it. I found his approach pretentious and shallow....He constructed photos, hired actors and placed them in certain ways to convey something. Which I think is interesting...but telling us what to think from the photo didn't work for me.

Ruth said...

Hi Jennie, thanks for commenting.

I am not comparing myself to anyone. I don't even know what it is exactly I want to do myself. But I am very interested in watching and hearing what other people want to express.

I know very little about Jeff Wall and only recently discovered the "big deal" about him. I'm so glad you described your experience. The one photo I remember seeing recently was one (I think it was his!) he reconstructed a scene he had seen (of a young man giving the finger to a passerby). I thought this was interesting social commentary. But it's not what I'm "shooting" for.

I am an overly analytical person, and I try to accept that and not over-analyze it. :) But I am fascinated by the discussion.

I think it comes down to BEING authentic or TRYING TO BE authentic, and maybe it's just semantics, but it's important to me to think about these things.

I don't know if you checked out my 1 Thing Positive blog, but it was a strange experience in terms of authenticity. My niece called me out on it (Rachel) in the last post. And I'm still examining myself, my motives, intentions, etc.