Wednesday, June 10, 2020

06/20 An Argument for "Slow" Photography

As photographers, especially those of us who have studied art or have even painted, we are insecure about our medium and we go running back to the idea of painting as the benchmark of art as children run to their mother's skirt. The argument that has been most often been posited for this is that painting enjoys a rich history that goes back centuries while photography is still comparatively in its infant stages and has not attained a sufficient maturity and authority to stand up against painting as an art. As I was once again, in a moment of weakness, about to set up an easel to find out what it was about painting that so muddled my thinking as a photographer, that so blocked my path like a religious admonition, I was interrupted by a phone call that sent me to my computer. As I spoke to my interlocutor I began browsing some images in a 2014 folder I had made on a trip to Toronto. I came across an image that reminded me of the images made by European photographers in the 20's and 30's as they broke away, much like painting,  from the domination of a content base approach to a more abstract way of composing images.

It struck me that the speed at which photography had evolved from the early experiments of Louis Daguerre, Nicephore Niecpe, and Henry Fox Talbot to the images made of Mars, to the constant stream of images generated by digital media had perhaps now levelled off these perceived timelines to an equal level of evolution.

In some way the painting of Lucien Freud seemed like a conscious slowing down in time to find meaning in painting. It struck me that perhaps what photographers now need to do is to just slow down in a similar way. It struck me that perhaps it was time to just put down my phone and to pick up my camera again, and most importantly, to just start thinking a little more slowly about the images I was making when I did. In a curious metaphor, to start painting again. And to start believing that this was my/the best way to show, with some authenticity, what I saw and understood of my time of this planet.