Friday, September 11, 2015

Things I Love: Photography

So far my "things I love" series has been limited to things I love about triathlon.  This post I'm branching out, photography is some I love alongside tri.  That said, I really, really love it when I mix the two pleasures.  

(which is why if you look at my race calendar I've planned races I wont compete in but that I will photograph)

I really enjoy, perhaps even love photography. Why? Ultimately I think there are a couple of reasons:

1.                  The Art.  I can be artistic despite having virtually no ability with my hands.  Now its dangerous, perhaps, to label ones self as ‘artistic’ but bear with me.  Art is defined as many things but I’ve found my favourite definition:

 Art is a revolt, a protest against extinction.

 Andr√© Malraux (1901–1976), 

Ultimately that is what my art – my photography – and I suspect this blog, is.  Sometimes I’m seeking to capture beauty, or ugliness, or my kid’s expression, my wife’s face, a mate doing something extraordinary, a place I've been or perhaps just an image of a car I like but in every case its that notion of ‘capture’ that’s key here.  My art is the practice of taking something, imprinting myself on it, preserving it and making it available for later.

Photography makes “my” art really well.

2.         The Gear.  I love stuff, particularly hard edged, mechanical and/or electronic – doesn’t matter, tangible stuff.  Its fun to read about stuff, touch stuff, makes lists about stuff.  Photography does two things:

a.                   gives me a whole new category of stuff to play with, and
b.                  gives me a whole new way to interact with other stuff like cars, planes etc.

Win, win I say.

3.         The Sharing.  Closely related to “The Art” is “The Sharing”.  If art is a protest against extinction, sharing that art is a protest against isolation.  Sharing photography – easier today that ever before - thank you Internet – creates links between people.  Take someone’s photo and they become part of your life, better still, show them that photo and your lives intersect.  Show it to the world and we all know each other a little more.

There are limits here and photographs must shared (and indeed taken) with care.  Susan Sontag wrote in 1977, in a pre digital, pre internet, pre selfie age:

“Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.” 

How much truer is that today that ever before?

Moreover, she also warned

“To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more - and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize.” 

While this quote refers to suffering, I suspect the deluge of images being taken and shared can both transfix and anesthetize many of our feelings.  My lesson here is that with a camera taking 12 frames per second, a 100+ gigabyte memory card and a decent fibre internet connection I could take and share tens of thousands of images, but I shouldn’t.  Images need to be taken and shared thoughtfully if they are to retain their power.

So anyway - I my photography.  I get to be a little arty, I get to play with my gear and I get to share it with people.  So, you'll be seeing more photo related stuff on this blog from now on.

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