Sunspot On Floor, Ranakpur Jain Derasar, Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India, November 12, 1995. Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose (Wyndstone vellum), from original 8×10 negative.
There is this matter of style. We think of style as a way of expressing that is innate (nature) and born of stuff far beyond our ken. Or we think of this as something that can be shaped (nurture) and subject to reason and formulae. Or, as with the nature/nurture dichotomy, the matter is just blended in varying amounts, depending on how lazy we feel. But, there may be ways of considering style that let us access meaning and substance rather than remain entangled with just materiality. I have heard others say (was it Sudek, or Minor White?) that even though we spew out thousands of photographs, mostly we are making the same kind of image.
The photographs at the Lal Kila (Red Fort) in Delhi, and here, the Sunspot in Ranakpur suggest this sameness. Graphically, certainly, they are similar – that spiraling motif, akin to projections (in-jections?) of the external world in rectangular prisms, both facets and coheres the photographs. And what these photographs are of is related: India, marble, light, architecture for instance. Posting other such images, as I may over the next few days, provides evidence of a stylistic pathway in my work, and brushing my palms, I could lean back and say, done, validated, self-pat on back, jolly good, and carry on. But carry on where, and what have I really uncovered?
I feel that Makers (artists, scientists, craftspeople, farmers, cooks, parents, teachers…) are very much like field archaeologists. They arrive at a moment of action with care. They glean pathways and find those edges of the unknown that are most likely to yield understanding and knowledge, or at the very least some reassurance that what is discovered relates to what came before. An archaeologist detects and discerns, and carefully separates the less significant from the more significant, all the while (ideally) trying to access signals that point to authenticity. Logos. I suspect that these photographs are similar not because of my stylistic leanings, but because I keep seeing the same image, and that this persistence is significant. So, having made several, and feeling the significance of the bridging points, I make more. It points to some kind of logos, or authenticity. The sameness of an image also points to a greater theoretical cohesion or rational. And yet the modes of logos and theory seem in conflict with each other.
There are bridges, such as the one rendered by Alexander von Humboldt (bringing us to Ecology and environmental systems), that connect nature and nurture, or such as those raved about by William Blake that connect logos and rationalism, that together point to a different way of thinking about style. And, by extension, about individuality: is my true face also your true face, what is being projected to where, is it uncovering or expressing, is there an edge or is it all about interstice?
I know, I am not really getting anywhere. But I am trying to go everywhere.