Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tim Wu’s, and Lawrence’s “Slow-Photography”


In an interesting article, , Tim Wu has some insightful things to say about the way in which and why modern people take photographs.

In my own case “slow photography” has an entirely different meaning.  Oh I quite agree with what Wu has to say about seeing and composing a picture, but beyond that, in my case, I post a days worth of photographs as background on my computer.  I set the “desktop” to change photos every thirty minutes.  My photographs progress very slowly in the background whenever I have my computer on; which is almost always. 

In some cases a photograph, after looking at it off and on for 30 minutes, will seem to fall short of whatever it was I thought I saw; so I will delete it.  In other cases, photos that seemed nearly okay when I took them will grow on me.  I’ll see more in them than I realized was there.  For example, in the series, “Duffy and the Pit Bull” he did appear suddenly to us and while I didn’t snap the photo the first instant I saw him, the first photo I took seems to capture his “suddenness.”

Another photo that grew on me was the last one in the sequence “How to swim in sand.”  I was some distance away when I took these photos and probably had my lens set on 70mm.  It wasn’t until I saw this photo on my desktop that I could see the mischievous little look from Duffy as he lay there luxuriating in river sand. 

I wouldn’t say that what I do is “record” my daily events in the manner that Wu denigrates; nor am I exactly striving for an artistic effect.  (Wu describes the addictive nature of Photo shop; so his ambitions probably extend toward artistic beauty.)  I am striving for the more mundane desktop slide show that will keep on pleasing me.

But what of the slide show of Wu’s photos that he has posted at the end of his article?  Are they “art” or are they a record of some of the beautiful places and things he has seen?  Do his photos rise above those he denigrates?  I see a lot of photos like his posted on the Olympus discussion sites.  His photos don’t rise above those, but is it important that they do?  Does it really matter? 

In the end Wu is perhaps asking the same sort of thing I’ve asked, can photography – photographs – be art?  He seems to have settled for something short of that: seeing things in a slow way – striving to really really see them.  Maybe that’s all there is, but I think there is a huge step between intention and result.  Is the result nothing more than the chance Wu refers to, the accidental two photos out of a thousand that seem great?  Or can it be the result of an intention that comes out in the photograph that is something more than that?  And if it is more than that, what is it?

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