Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The Eloquent Eye
This week-end while trying to solve the mystery of the calf that disappeared (no, we have not figured it out), I watched two programs that really stirred my imagination in different and yet similar ways.
The first came from Netflix, Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye. Stieglitz, born in 1864, was a photographer, gallery owner, promoter of the arts, complex man, lover of Georgia O'Keeffe (and a few other women although the film skipped over that), and one of the first to see photography as part of what some call the fine arts.
The film originally was on PBS, American Masters series. It explored Stieglitz's beginnings, his drive, his contradictions, and the artists with whom he was contemporary and with whom he both supported, befriended, and sometimes ended the relationship.
I was sitting back on the sofa from where I generally watch television when I realized I had to get closer to the screen. I never do that, but I had to see more details of those photographs. I always admire the work of photographers but particularly back when Stieglitz was learning to make the media into what it became and when it took so much more skill to get a quality photograph.
Stieglitz said that only the photograph can capture the moment. That doesn't mean a painting cannot evoke the same feelings but the painter on location is working with a series of moments and in a studio using memories and drawings. The photograph is the one thing that instantly stops a moment in time and tries to capture it-- not that anything really can. We have a memory of what we experienced and it travels with us but do we cloud that memory with other ones, with what we brought with us?
After returning from the beach, Parapluie and I discussed the way we both were there, often photographing the same things even though not at the same time, but did we see the same things? Do any of us see what another does even when we look at a photograph or painting?
That knowledge always frustrates me when I post photos here because computers change proportions and colors from one to another. I don't even see them the same from my laptop to this computer. I cannot possibly know what anybody else will see.
A photo cannot bring back the smell of the sea, the feel of the wind against skin, the texture of the sand under feet or hands, the roughness of the rocks, the squishiness of the sponges, the coldness of the water in the tidal pools. It can trigger a memory of those things. Even for someone who was not beside me when I snapped these photos, it will remind them of their own similar time at the ocean or even what they imagine it would be like if they have never visited a beach.
I don't think this quote was in the film but I particularly like it from Alfred Stiegtlitz: In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.
These photos are the first from the trip last week to the Oregon Coast. These are the little vignettes, the tiny things that particularly draw me to tidal pools. I love how the pools and rocks change with each high and low tide, the movement of the starfish, the colors with how the light strikes them. Of all the things I enjoy at the coast, tidal pools have to be high on the list.
The ocean is huge. The feelings it inspires are of the infinite, but for me the tiniest little sea creatures are equally inspiring. It is all about life, death, existence, survival, innovation, and creation. The cove from which these photos came is a very healthy ecosystem and its energy was particularly high with the lowest tides of the year exposing places humans only rarely see.