The commissary, doldrums, time off, and redemption through salt

Commissary Store, former Naval base -- by Joe Reifer

Commissary Store, former Naval base — by Joe Reifer

My methodology with presenting a short list of links in a few things is to set aside interesting stuff, and write a blog entry when I have enough links and a photo to post. Lately I’ve been rather bored with all of the content recycling that happens with photo blogs. One person writes something that they probably cribbed from a book, and then other photo blogs react to the post with a post on their own blog. This phenomenon isn’t really any different than how we used to do it on message boards, except the content is in individual silos linked by comments and trackbacks instead of all on one message board.

And I’m just as guilty as the next guy sometimes. Perhaps having your own silo makes you feel important, and may even earn you a few bucks in ad revenue if you’re lucky controversial savvy. As a side note, I’m donating 100% of my Google ad revenue to charity this year.

Anyhow, I didn’t put ramblings in the title of this blog for nothing, but let me get to the point — I’m burnt on most sources of photography talk. That goes for blogs, message boards, photo sharing sites, magazines — all of it. I thought taking a break might help. I’ve been taking one day per week off from being on a computer at all. Going hiking. Watching badass French gangster films. Drinking Belgian beer. But after taking time off from message boards and photo sharing sites for awhile, and then going back to take a look — I realize even more that I’m not missing anything that’s useful for me.

For some years I studied Ashtanga yoga. A famous quote attributed to the founder Pattabhi Jois is “99% practice, 1% theory.” In other words, keep doing the practice and don’t intellectualize it too much. Sometimes I think photography is the exact opposite for some of us.

All that being said, I’m going to lay best 1% of recycled content I’ve seen in awhile on you, starting with a quote:

Currently i think salt looks really sexy . 2 years ago it was wet dirt. I’m also working on a project of football (soccer) goal posts that I’m shooting in all the same countries as salt.

- Clint McLean, in an interview with Tony Fouhse

Now that’s some out on a creative limb inspiring talk that I can get behind. And Clint goes on to say he’s getting feedback and advice from Lynne Cohen. Clint, you are A-OK in my book. And your interview helped snap me out of my doldrums a bit. If you ever find yourself shooting salt in the San Francisco Bay Area, I know where there are some good soccer fields.

9 thoughts on “The commissary, doldrums, time off, and redemption through salt”

  1. All art is 99% practice 1% theory.

    Art is the opposite of intellectualization. Art is ruined by intellectualization. You either get it or you don’t. If you have to explain a joke, that ruins it. Art is the same.

    Talking about art is a dead end. It’s all about the process. That’s the part that feeds the soul.

    Wanna be inspired? Go see the Friedlander show at the MOMA.

  2. With many art forms, the process is the fulfillment. For some people that’s enough. The reality of being a successful fine art photographer is that intellectualization is necessary. You need great work, but even more importantly you need to be great at talking about your work. Even more importantly, you need influential supporters who can speak eloquently about your work. Whether it’s art school intellectualization or pure marketing hype, all of this stuff may leave a bad taste in your mouth — but it’s a necessary evil.

    I am going to see the Friedlander show this weekend, and promise to just enjoy it without intellectualization. I’ll let you know how that goes.

    – JR

  3. I was talking about the artist that creates the piece there, as that is how I interpreted your self-professed state of unmotivated doldrums. My point is that over-thinking a piece while you work on it is the kiss of death.

    That intellectualization of your finished work is a separate entity entirely. It’s not that I can’t, or won’t speak eloquently about my work, it’s that my work speaks for itself. It’s like the joke analogy I used earlier, I shouldn’t have to explain the point of my work. It should be obvious enough by simply looking at it. People that don’t get it don’t HAVE TO get it.

    So let the reviewers and gallery owners intellectualize it (because they will whether you want them to or not). They’ll do all the talking for you, making you, the artist, seem all the more mysterious and inscrutable, which is what you want anyway.

    I loved the playfulness in the Friedlander show. It’s loaded with visual puns and a sense of “Idon’tgiveafuckitude.” The show does not have to be intellectualized to be enjoyed, it’s just several rooms full of fascinating photographs.

  4. My doldrums aren’t with the creative process, but with all the intellectualization (and I use that term very loosely). The forums, photo sharing sites, and heaven forbid….blogs are what’s not inspiring.

    Nobody is forcing me to look at this stuff, I’ve drastically reduced how much time I’m online, and every time I go back to see what I’m missing, there’s not much there.

  5. NPy for me has ALWAYS been about process. You know, at times when I’m getting so full of my own self-mythologizing – at risk of believing my own press releases, I’m reminded of my second “rock-n-roll re-emergence” – and a tee-shirt I saw on a fellow student at the Academy of Art (this was in the early 1980s when I had blue spiked hair – at least I think I did). On the t-shirt was clearly stated: “Fuck the Art, Let’s Dance.”

  6. Definitely a good reminder that the process is the fulfillment, and everything else is extra. Insert “Internet” into your quote in the place of “Art”, and that pretty much sums up my sentiments lately.

  7. Hey Joe

    Re: One person writes something that they probably cribbed from a book, and then other photo blogs react to the post with a post on their own blog. This phenomenon isn’t really any different than how we used to do it on message boards, except the content is in individual silos linked by comments and trackbacks instead of all on one message board.

    IMO, this phenomenon isn’t any different from how a group of friends with a shared interest in something talk to each other face-to-face. Just substitute, ‘read in a book / magazine’, ‘heard on the radio’, ‘seen on tv’, etc. for ‘recycling blog content’.

    What I think is different is that there is no “face-to-face”, just an emotionally cold monitor.

    There no disputing that much of the conversation in the blog-o-shpere, on photo forums, message boards, etc. is insipid at best. That’s why I gave up on most of it (but not all) quite awhile ago – just a reminder though, up here in the Adirondack north county I don’t have any coffee house culture at all. If it weren’t for the web, I’d have nothing at all.

    All of that said, your post has given me pause for thought regarding my blog.

    thanks for that and be certain not to count yourself among the insipid..

  8. Hi Mark,

    Online conversation sources can mirror those of the flesh and blood world, except the interaction is slower, we’re all standing on our virtual soapboxes, and nobody buys me a beer.

    I’m lucky to have a few good friends to spiel with in real life about photography, books and movies. The online world is second best, and I’m questioning how necessary it is for me to be adding my 2 cents to teh internets. If I lived somewhere more remote I’d have to make the best of it. For what it’s worth, your blog is one of the few that I read that goes out on limbs and pushes boundaries. We need more of that.



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