(If Barnbaum was the bible of Black and White…

…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

meaningless.

 

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!)

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5 thoughts on “(If Barnbaum was the bible of Black and White…

  1. GioPi May 24, 2014 / 11:36 pm

    Nice writing indeed, Jack. Thanks for the article

  2. Julia Anna Gospodarou May 25, 2014 / 6:26 pm

    Many thanks, Jack, for a wonderful review and a delightful piece of writing. It honors us to read this words about the book from you. One of the best rewards we could get. Much appreciated!

  3. Nara K May 25, 2014 / 6:57 pm

    Beautifully written.I realized your words,as i started reading.

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