There Comes a Time

All over my house I have beautiful photographs. there are dogs, collies and terriers mostly, people smiling who have grey hair, people smiling who have long hair, kids and friends. The people are wearing clothes long since out of fashion and the dogs on occasions are also dressed-up just for the fun of it. I was always aware that even when taking the happiness I was also preparing myself for the fact that one day, all these people would be ghosts and all I would have left was the photographs.

That day finally fell in 2016 when my mother died. Then even the oil painting of her became the painting of a ghost.

I cannot part with any of these images, I cannot bear to see them for long either. I think I am the only member of the family to even have a picture of my grandfather on display. It is easier when you didn’t actually know the people personally.

Most of all I miss voices. The doggie voices and the people I love. All the faces I will never see again but in these photographs.

The Highest Form Of Imitation

We are endlessly copying. From the hidden cave paintings to the attempts to perfect almost photographic images in oils human beings love to imitate what they see around them. The drive to copy infests science where study of plants and animals has given us new ways of dealing with the physics of living and new materials to help us do things we otherwise could never do. And when we cannot immediately copy the materials we derive something to aim for – such as the hair assemblies on spiders’ legs that enable them to climb vertically.

And when we invented photography, that greatest imitator of the world, we found our art veered away from the perfect image into the surreal and impressionist because what we had actually discovered was that imitating is an art form in all its guises. That this drive to realise the world in other ways is the individual’s expression of their understanding, their way of uncovering truths and communicating revelation to other people.

It’s a bold experiment to copy creation and it comes at a cost because as I sit here I see carved elephants on my bookcase and I worry that one day all we will have are the works of art and the imitations, and we will have destroyed the wonder and inspiration of the real.

More Is Less

I have a friend who knows a good deal about the history of photography who revealed to me that around 1910s the Kodak book of photographic papers had 120 listed papers but by the 1980s when photography had left the preserve of the few and become a mass market experience the number had gone down to 6. This degrading of choice is very interesting in a market where ‘choice’ is bandied about as one of its virtues, and there is a lot of choice, there just isn’t a great deal of value.

The reason I point this out is because I do not actually understand why there should be a decrease in the availability of lots of choices just because something goes mass market, except for the fact that the mass market includes many non-experts and non-enthusiasts and they don’t actually know they are being short changed. The reduction in anything mass produced is only viable in a mass market that is largely ignorant.  After all how many people would know the differences in grains and the variety of results that 120 papers can give over 6 when all they want is the family Christmas photographs.

This is why mass market appeal and art don’t mix, because art always knows the differences. In fact art know 120 papers is not enough.

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December 2018
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