…then Gospodarou (and Tjintjelaar) is the gospel!)
As Gospodarou and gospel share the same root,
I am quite certain that for all black and
white photographers at least, that this epic new
publication will rest comfortably alongside the
Bruce Barnbaum bible (‘Art of Photography’).
Barnbaum managed to straddle the old wet and
analogue process of photography, and the new, digital
age. He gave us an insight into the art of the process,
whether A or D, and his ideas are still relevant today.
Gospodarou and Tjintjelaar have finally given B&W
photography a massive – not to say transcending – push
into the digital age! And yes, Greek people do philosophy
like no other, and Julia Anna gives us her comprehensive
insight into her artistic philosophy in the pages of their book.
And it is a captivating insight, page 35 perhaps at its nadir
where you need to be at your sharpest to absorb and identify.
But she does include all aptitudes in her insight.
Gospodarou synthesises together the ages old activity of
vision and process. She implies that the photograph rises
above the status of artefact (of being a thing, or an object)
by the process of marrying artistic vision with creative process.
She argues that fine art photography – being on a higher,
plane of photography, is a function of a process she (rigidly)
names (en)Visioning; and that in today’s digital age, any
photographer making fine-art b&w photographs is involved
in a wholly new genre of photography she calls (en)Visionography.
This is because the digital age allows the photographer so much
more freedom to create, and is not limited by the dynamics of
the dark-room. This word succinctly blends together the acts of
sight (the physical eye), of artistic vision (the mind’s eye/
imagination/soul) and the process (and for many this includes
software, and not just the camera), leading to the finished result:
the Fine-Art B&W Photograph.
She puts into her own words the reflections on creativity that
many great writers before her have done; and she does it well.
Here we see the great discourse on mimesis and even hermeneutics
guiding her thoughts; Gadamer’s words on the processing of ‘idea’
or ‘impulse’ signify greatly in the background, Aristolean mimesis
too. And Minor White’s “Equivalences”. All good to know. Where she
did give this writer pause for thought may well prove to be a ‘nicety’
of language: she states that art is selfish – it is for no-one else
than its progenitor i.e. you yourself.
I hope I am not too picky, but the sense of selfish that comes across
here is self-interested. The sense conveyed here is of a self
hermetically sealed from the world of experience, & thus has no
consequences, no repercussions to her actions, creative as they are.
I feel that this notion of selfishness needs expansion to save it from
its pejorative sense: selfish here, I am sure, relates to the process of
selving. Creativity creates the creator anew in his or her work, is
involved in the extension and growth of the self, rather than
proscribing his or her world by selfishly cutting it off from view.
By definition, art is ‘for an other’. Art can not be art unless there is
a second a ‘significant other’: art is for show. If art is ultimately for
the selfish self, then it has no value, and can only remain
Gadamer put it quite succinctly: pre-conformation (spark, energy,
impulse, idea); conformation (making the spark intelligible to the
self); re-conformation – putting your new & created
understanding & vision into terms that others can relate to.
I feel that the ‘selfish’ self that
Julia Anna refers to is this conforming self, where she gets
‘on terms’ with her original idea, grows it and develops it,
makes fullest creative use. This is the truly personal element
in creation and creativity, where there is no outside person
or self involved. Here, the artistic vision is truly proscribed
by the self, as indeed this self is growing, growing towards
her new vision. It can be said that she is selving (in her
selfishness), creating herself anew. You cannot be selfish once
your art (the photograph) is published. As a great man once said,
and I paraphrase “The meaning is above the photograph!” The artistic
artefact – in our case, the photograph – is an occasion that gives rise
to a unique event: the interpretation. And for every viewer of our
work, that interpretation each time is unique. It precludes ownership
the paper, glass, and frame of the photograph. And I am no proponent
of any “ideal reader” theory where the original intent of the artistic
vision was to have cloned an idea or message ‘exactly’ into every
appreciator. This ‘inelucatable modality’ (an idea taken from James
Joyce) if you like, is the idea that you can reconstitute experience
exactly (whether contemporary or historical) as if by ‘simply adding
water!’ This Joycean ideal is too direct an analogy between art and
experience So as a slight criticism of Gospodarou’s ‘selfish’ artist,
my critical expansion is appropriate.
Mimesis is an ancient Greek term. It can mean ‘the act of making’ –
the putting of self into an artistic artefact in such a way as to convey
emotion, thought, or both. Writers often talk of their work as an
energy loaded into the page like a spring; the act of reading uleashes
this spring, and the jolt of energy contained therein passes somehow
into the reader’. S/he is somehow changed by this energy, this
response, experiences catharsis. And is not the response to a
photograph also like the energy its maker (the photographer)
has loaded into the page? Fine art deals with the higher senses,
as Gospodarou succinctly writes it ‘the soul’. Catharsis – some
kind of sloughing off of a layer of self, like a serpent’ skin releasing
us to grow, to create ourselves anew. This hopefully positive
catharsis occasioned by our encounter with a photographer’s
work, somehow extends us: with the best art (as fine art) such
extension of human experience is for the good. Fine art is
improving, improves us, and Gospodarou’s repeated reference
to the soul reminds us that she has a heightened and almost
spiritual sense guiding her work. Art is not quite the audacity of “being
God” (Prometheus, quieten down!!!), yet Gospodarou gently
nudges us along in a direction that suggests we share with
god/the gods, that transcendent capacity to create. So creation
is something heightened, not to say sacred. It sets us apart from
all other creatures, it is the height of endeavour. Along with
Joel Tjintjelaar, she has given us an amazing – not to say epic – book,
which not only is a great read – especially with all its practical advice –
but is a ‘good book’ as well: it will be read, and cherished,
for many years to come.
(As a balanced review of the whole, this review centres on the philosophy of creativity which to a greater or lesser extent is Gospodarou’s contribution. Tjintjelaar also quotes his vision, but it is less extensive. That is not to say the least important by any means!)