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Thursday, 04 November 2010


Both hard won photograph and lucky snapshot can be art. The problem is that you cannot make a distinction in fact by process of creation, because fundamentally photography is constrained by its being commonly used for other purpose and in most case its elements are not totally controlled by the artist/photographer. It is "just" a click, being "there" and "F8".

The exception is for those who create the scene or in studio. But even that might not be art intended, as advertisement is communicating something else. The problem is as a communication means of artistic purpose, of a human being making a point of vision, message, light, shape, ... etc to another, photography can be hard. "Controlling" and taming that communication channel is hard, as there are too many distraction due to the very nature of photography, especially those who do real world photography and even worst street photography.

One can really make a joke out of the reader or himself/herself. Ultimately you really are not sure whether this is a man lying with his bread sleeping or a photography intentionally breaking the vision categorization. It is hard.

I would compare these with Chinese calligraphy vs Chinese painting. Chinese word is a picture and hence you can paint it as art. But because it is used everywhere (in China) and everyone can write (to a certain extent, especially now), can this writing of words communicate anything artist or it just a word writing quite nicely. It is tough as artist doing Chinese calligraphy. Chinese painting (at least black ink one) is using the same material but is so different. It does not have to constraint by the word itself, which has meaning and only certain way to write and everyone know to a certain extent. A painter as an artistic is totally accountable and hence free to communicate its intention without any distraction.

When you are constrained by the material which has its own meaning as well as a process that is commonly used for other purpose and commonly available, it is just hard.

That's a great essay, Mike. The one above it on the page is quite good as well.

Thank Paul C. for that...credit where credit us due.


It's all true!

Funny, I´ve been reading this essay a couple of times last week, it´s the sort of essay which I probably should of read after finishing college.
Look at this recipe Mike;
Paul Graham´s "Photography Is Easy, Photography is Difficult".
Your idea "1 Year with a Leica", or Pentax Mx with one lens.
Your essay "Shooting to a Theme".
Your "Message to a Younger Photographer".
Ctein´s "A Perfunctory Guide to Converting Photographic Film to Digital Prints, Part I,II and III.
Pete Turner´s essay on Voja Mitrovic.
And maybe a future essay on Tri-X by you to inspire a few doubtful film newbies and there is enough reading material and inspiration and information for any newcomer to get on in this marvelous world of photography.
Oh and perhaps the rangefinder rules just in case one case get´s stuck worrying about equipment!


Marvelous stuff. This paragraph distills the whole essay finely. It rings true, his equivocation, his embrace of both the random and the controlled, and his evident reluctance to settle for laziness or quick answers. A persuasive way to make art, to live.

Quite different from, say, Stravinsky who said that composing music required him to escape the "tyranny" of the blank page, by choosing a problem to solve musically.

Paul Graham seems to take more pleasure, looking out at the world, with no solutions, only a restless searching, camera in hand or in mind. (He permits himself at the end of the essay to anticipate a moment looking-back affectionately at a lifetime's work. But I wonder if he will ever do that, without at the same time acknowledging that he is at the end of a lifetime, and out of habit rejecting that answer too?)

Questions questions. Oh, and the essay reminded me, I need to read Thomas Pynchon.

As always, dear editor, thanks for the thought-provoking of the day.



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