"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

tall orders

Don’t you love it when you see pictures that make your heart skip a couple of beats or raise the tiny hairs on the back of your neck or make you feel weak in the knees?

Don’t you especially love it when you make one of these pictures yourself?

I remember working in the wet darkroom and on occasion seeing one of these pictures emerge in my tray of developer. By the time I got the thing down the line to the fixer, I could hardly look at it anymore. My heart would be beating so fast. I had to turn the print face down in the fix, and then flip it right side up every couple of minutes so I could peek at it and absorb it a little bit at a time.

(It is never that dramatic in the digital darkroom. At least, I haven’t figured out how to make it so just yet.)

Anyhow, I just sent a bunch of images off to a juried competition. I loved what the juror had to say about what she would be looking for once she’s inundated with entries. It found it inspiring:

“I want to see work that examines and informs today’s experience of this beautiful, turbulent planet to which we cling. Images that explore a sense of self and community interest me, because I believe that personal and pro-found change can occur through photography, and we exist in a time where change on many levels is needed.

In my early days at Aperture, we often invoked Minor White’s concept of transcendence in identifying works for publication and exhibition —‘images that after the seeing of which we are never the same.’ After ten years with the Foundation, I have been altered on a variety of levels through a wide range of work. Part of the power of photography is in the viewer’s ability to truly absorb an image and be transformed by an act of deliberate seeing.”

Michelle Dunn Marsh

Director, Aperture West

Taped to the wall in my office are the following tall orders. They come from two people I respect, enjoy and admire. Reading these quotes always gives me a good, swift kick in the backside, just in case I need a reminder as to why I love this medium so much and most important, just in case I need inspiration to try and make one of those pictures that makes my heart rate quicken.

“I like to see the work of photographers who have at least as many doubts as confidence. It is most important that pictures come out of real life questioning – and that they raise more questions than provide answers.

Grief might be better than beauty.”

Frish Brandt
Director, Fraenkel Gallery

“I demand opera in pictures. I want to be lifted up. I want to be elevated. I want to weep a little bit. I want to care. I want to clasp my hands. I want to be dropped down, and I want to walk away feeling like I had a human experience.

I demand that from art.”

Keith Carter

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