Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014

Photography is a run and gun exploitation of the now. Shoot without thinking, capture the moment no matter what it is, be first on your block to post and reap the benefits of more followers.  This throw yourself at others and at the world is narcissistic.  We shoot to see if something sticks to the pop culture posting board and then you hope it will go viral and you will make a fortune and life will be good.

Photography should be purposeful, illuminating your subject in a way that expresses in visual content an inner landscape, that gives the viewer an insight into your inner being.  Photography is an expression that adds to the conversation concerning the lives we lead.  It does not degrade life by careless subject matter that exposes the raw sloth of the human condition for more clicks on a media site.  We all know that life is moving fast. To be distracted by these redundant copycat images (that are so profuse now in the market place) it is hard to sift through the clutter to find an original expression, a unique vision of someone's true life.

Not everything can make a good photograph.  The substance of an image is character.  An image gives us a glimpse of what is first unknown, but now revealed.  Someone's inner world brought forth to connect with the viewer on a deeper level.

Real life is growing and maturing and delving deeper into your experiences. Finding some harmony between your inner and outer world. We seem to live in a shallow life of distractions without purpose. Posting the minutia of your daily routines and hoping for approval. Nowadays, if you were to give life a purpose, it is to try and capitalize on your seconds of trite expressions to others. Never seeking a deeper meaning that is waiting to be discovered.  Never wanting to seek a different expression that has substance.  Now the shallow expression is king.

We might think we are expressing an image with substance, but really what is the purpose and the effect of this image being posted on a social media sight?  Is it to express your deep connection to the subject and your wish that others share your underlying feelings? Sometimes, yes.  But more often we are hoping for a few likes or maybe a comment or two that expresses empathy for your photo record.  And if you don't get any responses, are you then sad that your image was discarded and never fully appreciated? Do you feel lonely and sad that no one understands you or likes your life?

Social media is advertising pure and simple. You become shrills for those moments in your life you were never meant to share and you react to the response like ad agents doing the sales history books.  "This worked so let me post more of the same...  And if I get more looks and likes then I can show ads on my site and make pennies on the dollar"...doing the same old tired thing. Your happiness depends on the reaction to your post and not the intent of the post.  Or maybe the reaction to your image post whether good or bad is your intent.  In order feel alive we need a response any response to our existence.  If you post something sad you might get a reaction of empathy.  If you post a happy image you will get a happy response. We think this is a connection but it is just a click on someone elses web site without background information to fully understand the purpose of the image. We connect now on a shallow playing field, where redundant automated responses are welcome to verify our lives as useful and meaningful.

But this doesn't get to who you are and what is your drive and goals in life. We all want to be seen and heard, that is life's necessity.  Without others, we would go mad with the sounds of our own inner mosaic, as Minor White expressed it, "The sound of one hand clapping."

As we lose our status through economic loss, we are tempted through needy desires to be visible to this physical world in some capacity.  Social Media is waiting to accept your information greedily, and exploit your images and words for its own profit.  We give ourselves away and then wonder why we continually feel, in some hidden corner of our brain, that we are being used.

This ordinary life we try and lead now, was a revolution from the abstract concepts of good and bad dictated to us through religion and men of power in the earlier centuries (1600's to the 1800's).
A transition from top down management to the people becoming aware of their purpose and their dignity internally. While braking away from the remote ideals of authority that give us glimpses of a perfection that we can never fully grasp or understand, therefore, we could never really live up to.  We now know that we have a dignity and a responsibility to live a life, and create a better world for all in the here and now.  Through marriage, raising children, morals and ethics we find purpose in our lives and work hard to find our calling.

But now a new master has risen and it is working overtime to exploit the resources and energy of the masses for profit....

Erick Kahler, the philosopher said "This thoroughly collectivized capitalism is not likely to rescue our world from peril of becoming a total collective; it is, on the contrary, training the people for it.  Capitalism has ceased to help us to human ends.  No longer does the adventure of personal success carry a general, pioneer meaning.  It has become a purely singular, private striving for material advantages, money, objects, status and influence.  The degeneration of the American drama is pathetically pictured in Scott Fitzgerald's, Great Gatsby and in Arthur Miller's, Death of a Salesman."

What we see on social media sights is this sanctity of life reduced to images of absurdity, which were never meant to be exposed to the world. When we see them we react to the craziness and laugh at the absurdity of this world.  We disconnect from our own purpose in life and are diverted from our own personal expressions that are waiting to be unearthed. We have been lead astray from the creation of our own life's powerful message.

This flippant disregard for the sanctity of the ordinary life is continually undermined by the overexposure of content that is nonsensical, and as we see more and more of this absurdity in everyday life broadcasted on the web, life itself loses its value.

We seem to love distractions, especially in this hyper economic depression. We are overwhelmed by meaningless tidbits of knowledge that we share almost on remote control as conversations become redundant news clips and our lives get further and further away from us.

Social media discord misinforms us, makes our lives less real, more agitated without taking action to control our own lives. No longer do we hear our voices talking to each other with inflection and feeling.

All this useless counter productive information keeps us insulated from our real world.  We are the new gods witnessing the human misery and madness from above.  Looking down at our hand held device instead of looking at someones face and into their eyes.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 15, 2014

I recently took photos at a Vietnamese Temple.   The Temple was built in honor of the great Ksitigarbho Bodhisattva for his vows of compassion.  This was a perfect example of getting to a place and being overwhelmed with the subject.  Everywhere there was a bombardment of color, statues and incense burning. There was so much to see and be part of that I had to take a step back and decide how I wanted to approach my subjects. I knew immediately that I couldn't interfere with the people who were coming to worship at the shrines and pray for their loved ones.

First off, my tripod was put back in the car.  Then I put 3 lenses (24mm, 50mm and my 105 macro lens) into a smaller shoulder bag.  This way I was more light footed and could go with the flow as more and more worshippers arrived.

In these situations if you are sensitive to others and respect their space you still can get in close to your intended subjects without imposing a barrier between you and the people coming to show their devotion to the colorful shrines.  However, one time I did get caught up shooting one shrine and didn't hear the quiet voice behind me asking me to move.  I apologized and she smiled and moved toward the shrine to pray.

It is a good idea to look for natural barriers that you can stand by and shoot your subject from. This way you become part of the scene and you don't have to worry about people running into you while you compose and try and make a photo.  Also, because I was hand holding my camera, I set my ISO a little higher and used a shutter speed around 250-320 of a second.  This gave me good depth of field and I still could stop motion if necessary.

When you are shooting in crowds it is a delicate dance to capture the subject you have been hunting and not make your presence an annoyance to the other people who are there to enjoy themselves as much as you want to make pictures.  You must anticipate movement around your intended target and move quickly to get closer and take your photograph and then move away again.  Have your exposure and shutter speed set and the lens that works with your intended vision.  As you move away you can regroup and take another look at your intended subject and then decide if there might be another, better angle to shoot from.  Also, maybe changing the lens this time will work better with your subject and off you go again and again if necessary as you explore your subject, experimenting with composition, lens and perspective.

Over all it was a wonderful experience and next year I hope to get there when the Monks allow visitors into the temple at night.  I have heard it is even more spectacular than the daytime beauty when the colorful lights are on.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8, 2014

Erich Kahler wrote in his book, The Tower and the Abyss, of the fragmented knowledge we are gaining and without syntheses of this knowledge we are unable to make a meaningful whole of our purpose in life. He says, "we have lost all control over the state of our learning, all orientation in the vast wilderness of factuality and, since there exists no whole any longer in which to determine anybody's or anythings position and the role in this world, our hugely expanded knowledge ends up in suggesting that, apart from practical purposes, everything is meaningless".

No one studies photography anymore, now they just shoot pictures, millions of pictures, billions of pictures exposed on the worldwide web each week. Ever more burdening our minds with fragments of other peoples lives and useless information.  Some of these images are funny and positive and these milliseconds of info puts us in a good mood in a day of redundant work and dreary silence. But more and more human nature takes over and these images are cruel and embarrassing to the one being photographed.  We laugh openly at the stupidity of others and once again feel good about ourselves that we are superior to those fools.  We are dumbing down our sensibilities to others as we move further and further into a realm of instant reactions to stimulus without concern or thought for the people in the photos.  We are walling off ourselves from others and are treating the outer world as a play thing and for our entertainment to satisfy our need to be and feel better than another.

Photography is the perfect vehicle to identify the fragmentation of our lives.  A photograph captures a moment in time.  Yanks it from the time sequence and fatally creates a separation from the flow of visual continuity.  The picture now is a flat two dimensional surface that is removed from its timeline and now can be viewed as an abstraction from the real world we live in and thus has no purpose but to delight the senses and enslave the viewer for more and more gratification from the ever increasing visuals that are evolving humans into fragmented voracious voyeurs.

We must gain control of this ever widening gap between living a life and viewing a life.  When we create images we must have a deeper purpose and an intent to inform and enlighten each another to our inner universe.  Pictures of happy faces are an abstract concept under the guise of a meaningful purpose.  These are ads for ones life as you wish you could live it.  But if we were to delve deeper into the person in the photo then we would begin to see the complexity of their life and a more meaningful, deeper understanding of that smile.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014

I was driving along some back streets in Seattle and spotted this guy working on his red mustang.  The sun was rising and I had a choice to make, go to my intended subject I wanted to shoot or stay and make pictures of the mechanic.  I liked the feel of the image and what made up my mind was his orange work clothes.