Monday, August 23, 2010

passing time

Caleb and I were playing around with some 4X5 Polaroids the other day. The film itself is not produced anymore, and the stuff he had was a score - a partial payment for some barter work he did a while back. The film was expired, and it all came out with this creepy ethereal ghost-line through the middle.

Before digital cameras, Polaroids used to represent immediate documentation. The instant freezing of a fleeting moment in time. The fact that the film is not produced anymore and the eerie effect of the expired film got me to thinking about documentation and ephemera. Everything is so hyper-recorded right now, it's become the norm. Of course a country founded on Protestant Christianity is obsessed with the idea of eternity (specifically the eternal body and personality) but I can't help thinking the prevalence of documentation lulls us into a false sense of permanence, and that can lead to complacency, fear, and/or dullness.

In fact, more and more, I'm finding my friends and I consciously choose NOT to take pictures of really special events or moments, as if allowing the moment to exist in time and pass without being ravaged by Facebook and Tumblr was some sort of holy ritual. Even five years ago, it was the special moments that you were sure to snap pictures of.

The world of art and the artist is changing completely. When I began this blog, I had no idea most of the things I have done in the past three years were even possible. It's the Wild West in the working artist world right now, and we're all out there trying to navigate this wilderness while being true(ish) to our forms of expression.

My friend Jenee got back from tour a couple of weeks ago with nowhere to live. I offered her my bed and she seemed so shocked, but it was just the natural, right thing to do. So many people helped me while I was on the road, and all of us artists need to look out for one another.

It's never going to go back to the way it used to be. It's extremely hard, but it is possible now to make a living as an artist on your own. The difference is we artists need to support each other instead of cutting each other down. The old competitive, back-stabbing attitude just doesn't work anymore. There's enough room for everyone now.


Frank said...


this is a great blog entry! I very much agree with your comment about deciding not to photograph certain moments, but, rather, to experience them. Some moments are meant just to be lived rather than recorded; ofttimes I have found myself upon a vista or scene, with which I feel very connected in that moment. When that happens, I don't even feel a temptation to grab the camera, as it will never record what I am feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I consciously go in to capture an event or scene with my camera, I allow myself to experience the entirety of where I am and what is happening to then catch what is in that moment through the lens.

In either case, I feel it is important to stay within the moment to really experience it and not to break up the flow of the moment by changing intent as that would disrupt the experience.

Frank Jansen

Jade Sylvan said...

Do you find, as a photographer, that you are more or less aware of the prevalence of documentation. This really just happened. Even five years ago it was not like this at all. Do you think it's a fad that will die down in time, or will it become the norm?

cwp said...

I spent over 50 years of my life as a professional photographer. I often found myself using my camera as a shield to avoid immediate interaction. I'd "relive" the moment via the photos. I also used photography in an attempt to make the moment eternal, to "capture" and preserve people; frozen time.
I completely agree with Frank. Photos make for good memories but now I much prefer to live in the moment. What I tried to make real through photos wasn't. Real time experience is a lot more enjoyable.

Jade Sylvan said...

It's a similar thing with writing I think. Half the time I go into a situation making mental notes, drawing connections, and planning how I will use whatever's happening as "material." Is the work the real thing, or am I missing out on "real life" by trying to stylize it and preserve it?