« Quote o' the Day: Crabby Umbo | Main | Hand Me a Roll of Color Quick, Would You? Hurry »

Friday, 31 January 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Weston's "Daybooks." (Best if supplemented by other sources.)

OK, I'll buy that. Who/what are your "touchstones"?

But, at least in the visual arts, there is a counter-force to the "touchstone", let's call it the "anti-touchstone". Works or artists that you find repulsive, distasteful, conceptually vacant, technically inept, or just plain pretentious. Identifying these anti-touchstones for oneself is at least equally as informative and self-defining at any moment in one's life.

Fun fact: At one point many years ago Saul Leiter's work was an anti-touchstone for me. Ditto Bill Eggleston. My brain chemistry must have radically changed in the ensuing years.

In fact, I understand that some artistic traditions, in India for instance, have classical works that are _all_ touchstone. For a given era there will be one sculpture that is the _echt_ expression of the best aesthetic of that age. And then many, many copies of that one masterwork. But there is no known Indian Michelangelo -- that is, a personna whose work embodies the best of a classical era. So: a tradition that focuses exclusively on touchstones rather than "old masters" . . . just food for thought.

Why not illustrate this with the cover of the Tillman Crane book TOUCHSTONES ?

Interesting idea about the anti-touchstone. Mine would have to be Jake and Dinos Chapman - the very mention of their name gets me all riled up. I need to think on some more about why this might be and, so doing, perhaps, as you say Kenneth, come to a better understanding of myself and where I'm at.


[WARNING: Link not workplace / school friendly. --Ed.]

The Bach suites for unaccompanied cello. I have probably played the G Major prelude 1,000 times and have yet to get it right.

Hi Mike,

Good to see you back. BTW, that would be oeuvres and not ouvres


I keep coming back to Iowa singer songwriter Greg Brown, who pens song with lines like..."you drive me craaazy, with every thing you do and do not do.... I love you sooo much, I'm gonna drive you crazy too."
I drive my wife and daughter crazy by playing his albums too frequently.

Don't touchstones depend on the mood?
Sometimes it's Dali / Man Ray.
Or Ansel Adams
Or Constable.
Or Ansel Adams
Or Ansel Adams
Or Brasai
Or Ansel Adams
OK, You got me

John Camp says…"Moonrise is a kind of 'standard candle'…"

And Adams consistently changed the 'standard' in his prints over a 30+ year period, as this evolution from 1941 to 1973 shows…


The Americans by Robert Frank.

For me it is unquestionably the paintings of Jeffrey Smart, so much so that people are able to readily identify it in my photographs. Generally I find paintings more influential than photographs, even although I spend a lot more time looking at photographs.

I was thinking the other day about the music I like and I keep going back to the things I was listening to 25 to 35 years ago -looming largest is Led Zeppelin. Occasionally I'll hear something of the 'now', thanks to my kids, and I might really like it, maybe buy the song or an album. But, so far there's nothing much recent that has really grabbed me with the same resonance as my earlier 'touchstones'. However, visually, there is often something appearing on my radar that really does grab me, that I follow up and slot into my reference library of inspiration and admiration. I guess that my aural spectrum of appreciation is just more limited. Also, music is so pervasive these days that I hear it but don't listen.
Photographically and artistically, my touchstones are more like a small jar of pebbles that I dip in to and depending on how I feel some are picked from the top and some are fished out from the bottom.

Touchstones certainly ring true for me. When I was a kid I saw Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" at the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting represented, to me, the life my parents had led during the Depression. Hopper's expressions of mood, life possibilities never to be realized, and suppressed desire in his painting infuse the way I see the I see the World.

Also, when I was a kid my parents used to drive to El Paso, Texas in summer to see my uncle and grandfather. The memories of driving along route 66 and route 54 put me very much in sympathy with Stephen Shore's "Uncommon Places"when it was published.

Both of these influences consciously, and unconsciously, enter into my photography to this day.


"Gano grain elevator, Western Kansas, 1940" by Wright Morris
Revolver on headphones
They both put the zap on my head

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007