Tuesday, April 15, 2008

art is a verb

art is a verb

Paul Lester picked up on a comment I made over on AJesse's blog, in the comments on this blog post. Anita was mourning the loss of images, when she had suffered a double disk failure. I was reminded about an idea I'd had a few months ago, as an exercise in enjoying the process, rather than the end results. I had wondered if it would be interesting to go and shoot, to the best of your ability, to be fully engaged in the process, then just format the cards without looking at the results.
I originally had the idea after a morning shooting at Tybee Island. I talk about that shoot here. Somewhere in the back of my head was also the notion of art is a verb that Paul Butzi has written about. Paul himself doesn't suggest such an extreme position, but it might be a logical conclusion to draw. If the process can be just as important as the end product, do we always need the product ? Can you just let go and enjoy making the pictures ? Let go of the results ? Shooting at Tybee was liberating - I felt euphoric, running in and out of the ocean. My camera had connected me to that place and the experience was wonderful. I wouldn't have had the experience if I hadn't been fully engaged in making those pictures. But did I need to see the resulting images ? Would I be content with just the memories ? I think I would be. Just never quite had the nerve to try. I'm sure many of you think this is a crazy idea. Think that photography is all about creating the final image. But on occasions, I just get so caught up in enjoying making the pictures that I'm not sure I need to see the payoff at the end. Or experience the disappointment when they don't live up to what I thought they might be. Children can get a lot of mileage out of playing with an empty camera. I find play to be a big part of when I really enjoy photography. But, as adults, we are always so focused on the final image. Now, I'm not suggesting you should do this. I'm certainly not advocating doing it all the time. But maybe, occasionally, thinking about enjoying the journey might be as valuable as looking forward to the destination. If you try it let me know. If I ever get around to trying it, I'll let you know!


Paul said...

Gordon, thanks for posting your full thoughts. I am going to try it. I want to go to one of my favorite places, enjoy the time taking the pictures, then, right as I get into the car, ready to depart, I will format the card.

I believe that there might be a small bit of trepidation, but, in the end, the feeling will be the same. I will have enjoyed myself immensely, as I always do. Pictures or no pictures. Like you said, the camera helps to make a connection that might otherwise be there.

I'll let you know when I do it.

Wild Cayuse Creek said...

This post really resonated with me, as I spend too much time focused on the end result instead of submerging myself in the process. I plan to take this challenge and be centered in the moment. It can't hurt.

A Jesse said...

Gordon,I am not nearly brave enough to take this challenge. Still, it's clear to me that I often return from an outing with not one single photo that makes my heart skip; yet I am not dispirited in the least. Having enjoyed immensely the process, I knew that any nice shots would just be a bonus. The result of this mindset is that I almost always have a wondeful time on a photo outing because I see my surroundings in a different way and I learn something new every day. That "seeing" is the more significant satisfaction. On the other hand, when I manage to get a shot I like, I do become attached to the image and I don't want to lose it.

charla said...

Strange cause I was just reading that post from Paul Butzi. You made me rethink it, otherwise I think I would have forgotten. To force yourself to format your card is unfair. Maybe if you/I want to do this for the reasons you talk about why not take the photos in the lowest quality or shoot with no card (if your camera can). Then it will simply BE about the process and you won't have to feel like a traitor...I think I would feel like a traitor!

Now I might have to post about this topic :)

Anonymous said...

I, too, have thought about this in the past. My favorite part about photography is the shooting. I enjoy walking around, taking pictures, just soaking up the scenery and atmosphere. I actually have 1000s of photos sitting on my hard drive that I haven't even looked at, let alone processed and posted online somewhere. To me, taking pictures and processing them into a final image are 2 separate things. I enjoy they both, but I don't need the second step to enjoy the first.

But I could never delete all the photos. It's the "what if" part of my that wouldn't allow it - what if, sometime down the line, I look at these, and find the perfect image, one that speaks to me at that time better than anything else? So I keep them, and glance through them when I need to feel inspired, or feel like processing something (or when my sisters starts bugging me for photos from family events).

What you could do, if you really want to shoot, with no images left at the end of the day, is go out with an empty film camera. You get the satisfying swoosh and click of the shutter, the joy of focusing and framing, without film and photos at the end. I did something like this on accident once - I didn't realize my film had snapped right after loading, and "shot" about 30 frames before I realized something was up. I was disappointed, because I was out with friends, and was looking forward to coming shots from the day, but in the end, I lived. :)