Photographing ‘Occlusion’

Photographing ‘Occlusion’

Photographing some black barked acacia trees for ‘Occlusion’, Lake Manyara, 8:48 AM, July 25, 2018, Lake Manyara, 8:48 AM, July 25, 2018.

A friend just mentioned an ‘alternative’ process photography foundation, bringing my thoughts to the relationship between process and art. I find so much of what is shown in museums and galleries to be boring. Or tragic. Since my earliest memories, I have hated, really hated, going to the circus. To put on display humans and other living creatures for my entertainment, while risking their lives, did/does not seem just or right. Surely Nature is spectacular enough, and hard to outdo. Certainly not by making a tiger balance on an inflatable ball. And now, museums have become the new circuses. There, they put on display the spectacular Contemporary Art, through and around which audiences (buying tickets weeks ahead to be processed, 37 seconds per several shuffles, past the displays) gasp and intellects meander. It is everywhere. (Well, at least it is a gentler sport, and gladiators don’t shed blood for our glee, some would say.) But it offends me because it stands and is made to stand for beauty and the beautiful. Beauty is not Spectacle. I am not saying that they are thus mutually exclusive. But….

…. so I wrote back to my friend:

The matter of imbuing beauty in anything, and everything, we do is not easy. It requires a lifelong commitment to craft, which can be so complicated and arduous a path that many just go sideways and settle into the pitstops, thinking they have arrived. There is no arriving. And it requires a lifelong commitment to paying attention, not just to the craft but to life. And then to pull these two together in such a simple way that it seems easy, and therefore beautiful, is even harder. Beauty, as many have wondered, may arise out of a recognition of something eternal and universal. We will never know. But the way in which beauty floats into existence is known, in all its different ways. I am uncomfortable, always have been, about equating just, and in this case an exotic, process with the beautiful.

Above, a photograph of the setup after having just taken the photograph, ‘Occlusion’, thinking about the bewilderment Margrethe must have felt, “the sprits took me to a forest”, when she became self aware. It is less a matter of whether or not there were spirits, or even a forest, than it is a matter of a person struggling with trying to make sense of sustaining traditions, personally painful in this case, perhaps against a contradictory instinct. And then succumbing to the status quo. “The spirits took me to a forest.” The forest, full of chaos, threats, and also the forest familiar, with promise, with openings, and even with protection from this humans who may do you harm. None of my thoughts were clear, but, I had a clear sense of what was true. And at that moment (Cartier-Bresson, not your kind of moment) my craft, and a recognition of something eternal, came together. A non-duality, as my friend David Williams has put it, found me.

Then, a few minutes later, almost a straight 180° around, a small stand of giraffe, in the black bark acacia.

Giraffes, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania, 2018, 9:33 AM, July 25, 2018.

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