the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

INS AND OUTS

By MICHAEL PERKINS

WHEN IT COMES TO DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ART, THE WORD “ABSTRACT” IS PROBABLY THE MOST BATTED-ABOUT LINGUISTIC SHUTTLECOCK OF THE 20TH CENTURY, something we lob at each other across the conversational net as it suits our mood. Whenever we feel we should weigh in on a matter of artistic heft, especially something that doesn’t fit into a conveniently familiar cubbyhole, we drag “abstract” out of the desk drawer, dust it off, and cram it into place somewhere in the argument.

Frames within frames within frames: 1/125 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

Frames within frames within frames: 1/125 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

Any talk of architecture, and the photographer’s reaction to it, attracts a lot of stray “abstracts”, since attaching the word seems to settle… something. However, art can never be about settling anything. In fact, it’s about churning things up, starting, rather than resolving, arguments. As pieces of pure design, finished buildings do make a statement of sorts about the architect’s view, at least. But when trolling about town, I am more drawn to incomplete or skeletal frameworks for buildings yet to be. They are simply open to greater interpretation as visual subject matter, since we haven’t, if you like, seen all the architect’s cards yet. The emerging project can, for a time, be anything, depending literally on where you stand or how light shapes the competing angles and contours.

I feel that open or unfinished spaces are really ripe with an infinite number of framings, since a single uncompleted wall gives way so openly to all the other planes and surfaces in the design, a visual diagram that will soon be closed up, sealed off, sequestered from view. And as for the light, there is no place it cannot go, so you can chase the tracking of shadows all day long, as is possible with, say, the Grand Canyon, giving the same composition drastically different flavors in just the space of a few hours.

If the word “abstract” has any meaning at all at this late date, you could say that it speaks to a variation, a reworking of the dimensions of what we consider reality. Beyond that, I need hip waders. However, I believe that emerging buildings represent an opportunity for photographers to add their own vision to the architect’s, however briefly.

Whew. Now let’s all go out get a drink. 

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3 responses

  1. I stopped using the word abstract years ago for it implies something divorced from reality and nature, something only living in the intellect as idea. I agree with what you imply that the label of abstract is essentially meaningless but that over simplification and reductive gesture seems all too pervasive in our times. I began referring to my work as ‘odds’ for it retains something of it’s connection to reality and on some level acknowledges that the work is simply about a different perspective, a different way of looking at something. To get down to it, I don’t even believe that there is anything which could truly be considered abstract. It’s all out there and just waiting for someone’s attention, appreciation, and willingness to change their perspective or viewpoint.

    July 5, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    • Excellent summary! Yes, I believe that the word “abstract” has merely become a convenient crutch which translates to my ears as, “I don’t have any idea on the subject, so I’ll dismiss the entire discussion with the deft insertion of the “a” word. The only more meaningless verbal stint in use today is the word “modern”, which surrendered all cogency decades ago. I think it’s at least honest to say of someone’s work, “I never thought of it like that before”, but it requires humility to infer that you don’t already know everything there is to know, so most of us slide out from under the discomfort with a little verbal footwork. I really appreciate your keeping the dialogue going. Come back and see us anytime,and if you have a link to your work you can spare, I’d love to see some!

      July 5, 2014 at 8:46 PM

      • Right on – I’m totally with you on the use of the word modern – how insipidly meaningless – sometimes I’m astounded how non committal and amazingly inarticulate we can be – yes, I count myself in that ‘we’ but too many folks never make the effort to rise above saying that something’s cool.
        So, I too appreciate a meaningful and sustained dialogue even if it means added screen time. So, there’s a great deal of my photo work posted on my blog davidnikias.com but there are a few pages of paintings posted as well (under various). There’s also some links to my work with sound/color relationships and musical improvisation in the sidebar. Watch out it’s all pretty “modern and can be pretty abstract” (ha ha)
        Absolutely, I’ll be stopping by at some point but my crazy busy lifestyle (too many interests, too many projects…) keeps my online activity somewhat limited. I also am shifting my residence back to the US for awhile so I’ll be unplugged during the transition.
        No worries, I’m sure we will connect again!
        Blessings
        DN

        July 5, 2014 at 10:16 PM

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