Hello George. Your article has come at a very interesting time and and unfortunately I have been thinking about it all night so if my comments are mere fragments you will know why and hold yourself responsible. Firstly some background. I started learning a musical instrument at around 30 and have been teaching now for some 20 years. It has been a privilege to have students from 5 years old to 70, from those stunningly talented to those struggling a bit with life after being brain damaged. I started this morning at a place for children expelled from school and who now have nowhere else to go, and finished at a private school for some of the wealthiest in my city. But the issues for learning remain the same. Sure, sometimes there are limits imposed by a physical injury that can't be worked through. So maybe we can step around them. Sometimes a child is buzzing so much in the head they have no attention span. Often making them laugh stops that for a few minutes and we can make eye contact and while that is happening I can teach. But in learning an instrument the biggest hurdle 95% of the time is attitudes and beliefs.
So I have been wondering how to integrate my experience with music into my photography to help it along.
A common response when I'm teaching is for a child to say “this is really difficult”. I think about it for a moment and reply “yes, it is”. Then we get on with the lesson.
A common failing in students is the lack of practice. No music teacher I work with practised for less than four hours a day in their training. So if someone can't manage 20-30 minutes a day I have no sympathy.
I've always used as my models and inspiration (and to measure my progress) the top people in my field, some of whom I've been fortunate enough to meet, but whom I cannot hope to ever equal. I am realistic about this. But to my surprise one day I woke up and found I could do a couple of small things better than anyone else around me locally. Giving me a unique voice in some situations. Maybe another few small things may turn up in the future. Quite exciting really.
Now after having a home darkroom some 35 years ago I've picked up a camera again. My heart's desire has always been to print, but in preparation for buying a 17 inch printer I have going over the 6,000-odd images from the last 2 years, and I find I have a hit rate of about one in two hundred for images that interest me enough to work with. Really depressing. I'm looking at where to go with my photography and thinking “this is really difficult”. Uh, well I guess I know the answer to that one.
( ...and round me too the night
in ever-nearing circle weaves her shade.
I see her veil draw soft across the day,
And long the way appears, which seemed so short,
And high the mountain-tops in cloudy air
The mountain-tops, where is the throne of Truth.)
So here's my starting list of things to do.
My models? Well, I feel appalling ignorant here, but they would include Turner, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vincent Ward, Ingmar Bergman and Gunnar Fischer, Abel Gance, Antoni Gaudi.
Looking at the images I want to work on I see most are those where I've had a crystal clear idea of what I wanted to produce. Often those taken within 45 minutes cycling of my front door. Often when heading out to do one thing but I've noticed something else on the way, maybe from my “to do” list.
I'm slowly compiling a “to do” list of ideas, so that when the opportunity presents itself I'm ready. Looking for inspiration here in the cracks in the fabric of reality. Dreams, the quiet moments when an idea comes when you are looking the other way, logical contradictions. And mining my cultural heritage. I love Rembrandt's use of light and shade in the background of his portraits. How can I get this into my portraits of standing stones? Where do I find my van dyke brown and burnt sienna to brush into the canvas?
Here is a painting (in words...an image is an image is an image):
Here will I sit and wait/ While to my ear from uplands far away/ The bleating of the folded flocks is borne/ With distant cries of reapers in the corn- All the live murmer of a summer's day./ Screen'd is this nook o'er the high, half reap'd field/ And here til sun-down, shepherd will I be./ Through the thick corn the scarlet poppies peep/ And round green roots and yellowing stalks I see pale pink convolvulus in tendrils creep/ And air-swept lindens yield their scent and rustle down their perfumed showers of bloom in the bent grass where I am laid/ And bower me from the August sun with shade. How can I take an image like this and translate it into 6 or so inks on a piece of paper?
At a recent talk given by a newspaper photographer he spoke of how he always looks for a framing or a perspective others would not normally see or use. He calls the space from the waist to the eyes the “zone of death”. Got it. I understand.
Why am I shooting this? This is easier. When I play a piece of music for others it is for my own pleasure as well. I am saying that here is a piece I like and perhaps you may too. Maybe you haven't heard it quite like this or perhaps not contrasted with this next piece. So at least one person will be happy with the results.
The art versus craft discussion confuses me. I need a certain level of technical ability to make real what I have to say musically. I have likely hit my limit here and so what I'm looking to do is to work to the best of my ability with what I have now. On the photo side my technical ability with software and camera is lacking but there are a lot of resources out there. Including this web site. So I just ask myself if an image I've produced pleases me. Perhaps someone else my like it too. I am not a professional so I have this luxury.
Your article comes at a timely moment. Thanks for the push along. Regards, David
So have I heard the cuckoo's parting cry
From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze:
“The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I !”
Too quick despairer, Wherefore wilt thou go?
Soon will the high Midsommer pomps come on.
Soon will the musk carnations break and swell,
Soon shall we have the gold-dusted snapdragons
Sweet-Willlam with his homely cottage-smell,
And stocks in fragrant blow; roses that down the alleys shine afar,
And open, jasmine-muffled lattices
And groups under the dreaming garden trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening-star