Thursday, June 4, 2009


My lens arrived today. It looks remarkably like a piece of scientific equipment: the objective of a microscope, or a part of an apparatus used to look at thin transparent slices of crystal. With a bit of luck the camera body will arrive early next week.

In the meantime... I assume that everyone reading this knows about Leica, but in case you don't (or in case you haven't read it) go read this article from the New Yorker.

All done? Crazy, yes?

I'm not a camera collector, and I've argued at various times and in various places that the whole notion of the "decisive moment" (and of course the Leica mythology is all wrapped up in that) is the equivalent of the lyric epiphany in poetry, and, to my mind, just as suspect. (Not everyone shares this suspicion.)

So what the hell am I doing committing to taking pictures with a Leica for a year, if I don't buy this mystique? I don't feel that I need to learn how to see, either. (Oh, arrogance. Who knows how to see? Who sees?) (Maybe I've seen, once or twice. Maybe you have, too.) (HCB saw almost all the time.)

It's about constraints. It's about the liberating effect of constraints, like saying, for a year I will write nothing but sonnets, or, this novel will not use the letter "e", or, I will paint only in shades of blue, or ... I'm looking for a musical example, help me here (hear).

I'm also thinking about something Jörg Colberg wrote a while ago, about wanting to see black and white photographs that didn't look like they were taken in 1975 (or was it, that looked like they were taken in 2009?) (Colberg's tone often annoys me, but his blog is just as often a source of wonders.) Also a while ago, I started tagging images on flickr "another look at black and white" (deliberately echoing Philip Glass' amazing early work, Another Look at Harmony)

Another look. That's what this is about.

1 comment:

focalintent said...

Same here. I've been fascinated by the idea of artificially imposed constraints for a while. Sometimes overall (e.g. a period I spent doing music work only for piano), other times in small focused bursts (which i'll do with this project, i'm not going to stop shooting with all my other gear - but when I shoot 35mm film, it will be with just this rig - and this rig will get first choice when going out).

Matthew Barney takes this to an extreme in his Drawing Restraint series - where he goes so far as to put physical constraints on him when painting (straps pulling him back, etc...)

Also - another musical example, I went through a year where everything I wrote was in F# minor. It's just a key, right? What could I possibly gain by working in just F#m? More than I thought I could. Now, when I sit down at a piano, my hands instinctively know where everything is for f# minor, and without even thinking about it, I can spin and dance and play around the piano in f#m for hours. I wonder if I would have that same level of comfort if I continually jumped around what keys I was writing in.