Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When art becomes a cooperative effort

As usual, I took my camera everywhere with me while I was on Shaw, and made special excursions to familiar spots to shoot subjects that have always given me pleasure.

But the weather was cold and gray for most of the trip, and with the exception of a couple of Skagit Valley barns and one good sunset, I was disappointed with the old familiar images and discarded most of them.

I was fresh from that manhole cover image, though -- the one I shot in Chicago (see my August 3 post) -- and was attuned to beauty at a different, less obvious level, so I found myself wandering the ferries and shooting their floors, walls and ceilings. And I LOVED the shots I was getting: this is one of my favorites, from the floor of the Elwha.

What intrigues me about this process is that I was (again) not MAKING photographs, just TAKING them, responding to what called to me. But I was clearly operating out of a current mindset -- as opposed to the Shaw and Skagit mindset, which was more in a "this used to work for me, let's shoot it again" vein. These ferry images (I'll share a few more with you over the next day or two) actually feel like they sing to me.

The song has to do with the economy, oddly enough; with all the people who are out of work, who are making do, compromising, letting go of old lifestyles, paring down, discovering what is important and what is not, learning to prioritize, what to keep, what to let go... It has a strong feel (to me) of the Great Depression of the 30's, but there are new undertones of acceptance and joy that I don't remember observing in the art of the 30's. Perhaps that's because we've not fallen quite so far this time, or maybe it's because the things that are being restored to us -- time with family, community, cooperation, service -- clearly have more value than the material goods we've lost?

Whatever the reason, these images seem to me to celebrate the value of solidity, of patching and re-using; of core basics, and the ordinary stuff of everyday life, the bits that keep going, the heart and engines that keep pumping even as all the extraneous stuff is stripped away. Which is not so different, of course, from what I believe, or even have been thinking about. But I didn't consciously set out to express those things: the value in these images, for me, is that there's a cooperative effort here between the thinking self, the listening self, the camera, and the subject. And what emerges from that cooperation has a reassuring and hopeful quality that I find both endearing and encouraging.

Is it art? I'm not certain.

But I'm liking it!


karengberger said...

Trying to get caught up on reading here...loving your images! XO

C. Robin Janning said...

Is it art?

My eyes and my heart say YES!

And yes, yes, they do indeed sing!

Katherine Walker said...

It is TOTALLY art. I would not have guessed it were the cardeck until you told me so XD

drw@bainbridge.net said...



Who could deny that your distinctive eye captures great images - the photo today is no exception. I look forward to seeing more of "these."