Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Blacksmith's Heart

next slide talks:
Finding Brass Valley: A Place in Time that has almost Vanished

Mar. 20 @ 7 PM - Milford Public Library, Milford, CT (Come also to see the exhibition)
Mar 27 @ 6 PM - Cheshire Public Library, Cheshire, CT

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The Lenswork podcast below has gotten me thinking about the place of metaphor in art photography and the role of culture in determining the photographs we make. In the podcast Brooks Jensen points out, I think correctly, that what distinguishes documentary photography from art photography is that documentary photography is about the subject; art photography is always about something else - he says that's metaphor. He then talks a bit about how metaphor is culture-bound. I especially recommend this link to other photographers.

Because I strive to make “art photographs,"  in places that need to be documented, I must ask of every picture I choose to process: Why? And for whom? My publisher describes Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry as an ode, not a history, and I hope it is about something more than Brass Valley. What does “The Blacksmith’s Heart," mean outside the culture of smiths and smithing? 

Brooks Jensen’s discussion makes references to one of the great photographs of all time, Dorothea Lange’s, "Migrant Mother.” I hesitate to mention it on a screen with my own photograph in view. What is it that catapults that picture to being a metaphor of an era, over the other images Lange took that day?

I had always thought that music was at an opposite pole from metaphor; that, “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” And the “condition,” as Walter Pater termed it, was that music touches us directly through the raw force of silence and sound arranged in harmonic, rhythmic, and timbrel patterns, without the use of metaphor. But how is it that raw forces such as intensity, timbre, harmony, and rhythm combine to touch the deepest levels of our spirit making us laugh, grieve, yearn, or find solace and balm? What part of our reaction is metaphoric and culture-bound, though primal and species deep? Where do those harmonies and dissonances lie?

I think it’s correct to see these musical forces as analogous to the photographer’s ability to communicate directly through composition and tonality. What distinguishes “Migrant Mother” from other photos of the series is not simply the inscrutable expression of the migrant mother but the powerful chord struck by the tonalities of garments, bunting, ringlets, necks that swirl around an axis and upon a compositional scaffolding of crumbling stability? What part of this picture is culture-bound? How deep in the heart does metaphor lie?


Ginnie said...

THIS is when I would love to hear you and Mom talk-talk-talk, sharing your different/similar viewpoints, bouncing off of each other! She was a musician in the truest sense of the word. Another bridge to you and your own experience!

Emery Roth II said...

My mother and grandmother were pianists, but I was born to late to enjoy the four-hand and two-piano concerts my brother remembers from his childhood. I'm sure I would have enjoyed your mom.