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Delivery Methods: Arguing With Myself & Asking You

Coffee is a caffeine delivery system. Cigarettes deliver nicotine. Some would say that photography is best suited to deliver color. After seeing a screening of some experimental films by Rose Lowder this week, I’d say color photography has a long way to go.

Check this out: Rose Lowder, who’s in her 70s and lives in France, makes films in which she exposes every third frame of film. Then she rewinds the camera, starts on frame #2, and exposes every third frame, and so on. When played at 18fps, the effect is shimmering, incantatory, and frankly, kinda makes me hallucinate. And it’s not necessarily the subject that’s the focus (flowers / water / landscapes) it’s how all are used to deliver color in literal “Bouquet”s (her term for these minute-long films, of which I saw two reels a few nights ago).

My retinas are still recovering, in a great way. Her work is the most memorable color work I’ve seen ever, perhaps, in any medium.

So many photographers take pictures of things “because it’s colorful” which is all well and good (or is it?) but I’ve always (always?) thought that a still camera’s strength is in delivering some kind of statement about time, rather than color. We made colorful compositions in kindergarten, remember? When color’s used to highlight the subject, you’re using color to your advantage, but must color be the end-all-be-all?

If you’re really interested in color, why not take-up an analog film camera like Ms. Lowder and make color your subject, completely? Why not BLOW AWAY your audience with a film, for which you’ve written a complete score, which illuminates your personal philosophy about concision and ecology, and take that film and run it through a projector on a Thursday night in an arts center with a cement floor and watch people’s mouths drop open?

When I was writing all the time, I admired painters more than poets. We both started with blank canvases (of a sort) but the best painters created something more magical and powerful than poetry, to me. Paintings could be fists to the temples. It takes less time for the audience to get the pow. I gots to read poems and readin’ takes time!

Most poets I know envy musicians (and quite a few make flying leaps at trying to rock) because musicians have the hook, chorus, and the riff to carry lyrics deep into their audience’s ears. Poets have to do it all, and there are so few great poets because that task (to be the music, the meaning, the hook, the caress, and the fist; all using nothing but words) is unbelievably difficult.

Here’s what I’m getting at: photographers may not have much going for them, but we’re able to express time in a way that’s singular. This is patently ridiculous to say, but none of the other arts can address time like photography can. (’Cept cinema, and …)

Would today’s photographic portraitists have been painters if they were born 200 years ago? Are they photographers because it’s easier to buy a camera & read the manual than learn how to draw?

My real question: have you chosen the right “delivery method” for your creative expression? Last week, during Alec Soth’s lecture, I realized that Soth’s mission, or creative drive, is remarkably similar to any number of poets I’ve heard speak about their work. It’s as if his trips (which seem to be the project almost more than the photographs that come out of the trips) were poems in themselves, and he’s working through the lines, discovering things, making associations, allowing images to echo off each other, trying to braid together a loose narrative that he may not even understand while it’s in process. It sounds a heck of a lot like writing to me. You have false starts, lines you cross out, and roads you shouldn’t have driven down but do anyway, and at the end of the road, you find a house with an open front door.

Where are you with your choice of delivery method and why are you there? Is great photography for you something tantilizingly close, something deliciously unattainable, or is photography a way-station on your path to something else? Are you just passing through photo-town on your way to interpretive dance? Why have you chosen photography as your creative delivery method — and does it really satisfy you in the way you want/hope/need it to?

Let us know below. Thanks.

Links:
Interview with Rose Lowder
Frequent Small Meals (Atlanta-based film series)
Two poorly digitized clips of Lowder’s Bouquets

Tag: Big Questions