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Teaching and Lecturing
« I'm changing the location of this blog. | Main | Creativity and the Photographer, the book. »
Monday
Jan132014

A few words from Francis Bacon (and a few workshops.) 

Sometimes pictures take us…the good ones seem to, anyway.

In spite of that, people often approach the picture-taking process as a matter of bringing the elements–our cameras, our subjects and light, our workflow–under control. We increase our skills and hope our vision will naturally follow.
But what if that is knocking on the wrong door?  Francis Bacon–he of the Screaming Pope, one of the most disruptive and influential artists of the last century_struggled to twist out of the grip of his own control in order to let his real work pour forth. And pour it did, rather like hot lava.
In an interview, Bacon talked about how he would try to slip past whatever his intentions for a painting were, knowing that beneath his conscious impulse there was a much more powerful and sprawling thing that could manifest, something that was “very much better than I could make it.
“When I was trying in despair the other day to paint that head of a specific person, I used a very big brush and a great deal of paint and I put it on very, very freely, and I simply didn't know in the end what I was doing, and suddenly this thing clicked, and became exactly like this image (in my mind) that I was trying to record. But it didn't come out of any conscious will, nor was it anything to do with illustrational painting.
"Is that an accident? Perhaps one could say it's not an accident, because it becomes a selective process (deciding) which part of this accident one chooses to preserve.
“What has never yet been analyzed is why this particular way of painting is more poignant than illustration. I suppose because it has a life completely of its own. It lives on its own, like the image one's trying to trap; it lives on its own, and therefore transfers the essence of the image more poignantly.
“So that the artist may be able to open up or rather, should I say, unlock the valves of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life more violently.”

Return the onlooker to life.  What a great aspiration for us all.
Bacon's reference to illustration as against  capital-a Art set me to thinking about the difference, and a definition that I found was that illustration refers a viewer's mind primarily to a story that lies outside the work, while in Art, even though it may have outside referents, the work is the story. And it made me think that in those wonderful photographs we do from time to time that make up our "best work," the power is really in the work itself.
 
In the past I spent lots of time getting the photographic process under control. I even got compliments on my printing from Ansel Adams, no less.
But during this time I was also becoming aware of how much of the real work, the artistic work, begins before we do anything at all about taking and presenting the photograph.
This is not to say that the stuff of making of a photograph is unimportant. It is perhaps like taking vigorous and poetic imagery and setting it down clearly, grammatically (as needs be) on a sheet of paper that has no coffee rings or food stains on it. This making is important for clarity, but it’s not where things begin.
And I started looking for actual exercises to get myself and others to venture into the state of awareness that is Creativity where they can begin-or resume-working on creative photography.
It works! And it keeps on working, on me for one. I'm more stimulated by teaching than ever, and each workshop takes me somewhere new. Participants too.
 
And this is the obvious place to say that here’s my workshop schedule going into the Fall:
 
 
Santa Fe Workshops, Creativity and the Photographer, March 17-21, 2014,  Santa Fe, NM. I'm looking forward to being back in Santa Fe, and to being with the wonderful lively students who come there.
 
Pacific Northwest Art School, Creativity and the Photographer, June 21-25, Whidbey Island, WA. This is a new venue for me, but I've talked with a few of the participants already, and if the students make the class (which they do) this is going to be a good exploration.
 
Maine Media Workshop, The Portrait Doorway to Creativity, July 27-August 2, 2014, Rockport, ME. I've wanted to work with a class in the places that the portrait takes us to for a while now. And here we go!
 
Maine Media Workshop, Creativity and the Photographer, August 3-9 2014 Maine is the place I keep going back to, both for what I get to do there for others and for what it does for me. That's a great exchange!
 
Calcutta/Bhutan, Photographic Exploring, September 25-Octpber 11, 2014. This unusual trip combines the peace of Bhutan and the energy of Calcutta. More about it as it gets closer.

 

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