DECEMBER 31, 2015

Once More Around The Sun

We have done it again! Another trip around the solar system on this wondrous planet of ours. And it was a year – speaking for myself, or course – full of momentary wonders, large and small, cheerful and sad, sunlit and shadowed, and basically filled with every kind of contrasting possibility, which is what life seems to offer us every single day.

I spent the morning here reviewing every photograph in the blog and was surprised at both the range and diversity of the images, and I could also see how many themes and sub themes there were, and how regularly they came into play. The truth is I have my limits, and even though I am trying to reach beyond what I know how to see, I still can’t get away from myself completely, not that I thought I could, or would even want to be completely other, but this year-long experiment was meant to shake the joints of this old mindset loose through the ordinary practice of daily seeing and responding.

To that end I feel gratified that even though I was stretching things thin a bit by working that way there are still enough high points along the line that I can go back in now and see what stands out for me. If I were to find say, 50 to 75 images out of 365, that held together, or pointed me in a new way, that would be worth the effort. Although the effort itself was what was truly worth the effort.

And then there is the patience and support that all of you so generously offered me. Your feedback, and your willingness to climb aboard and play this out with me is an unforgettable part of this year’s journey. It was somewhat like having a virtual crew on board our spaceship as we journeyed around the sun together. Your company made it special.

My hope is that by sharing this adventure in seeing with you, and trying to write about it, that something of the special nature of photographic language will have been opened up for all to use as each of you can. Not that I have anything so special to add to the discourse, but because I believe that images offer up speculation after the fact, and that speculative stimulus sends us deeper into the mysteries of the medium, and once we are inside we can begin to find our own way forward. I like that; the invitation into the mystery. Because isn’t that what life is?

This is the last post of 2015. I will not be making daily posts from this point on, there is just too much I want to do, and the time seems to be getting shorter in these later years, and so I want to make the most of what I have, especially now that I have some freedom thanks to the sale of my archive. But I will continue to post my thoughts and/or questions whenever something comes up that seems worthy of sharing with you, or mulling over in public. So, stay tuned.

I will miss the dialogue that I have had with some of you, but the blog remains ‘live,’ and it’s there for whoever wants to make something out of it, or reconsider some of the issues touched upon in the course of our journey. use it as you wish.

I salute you all and wish you the spaciousness of another year.

Joel

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DECEMBER 30, 2015

Bare Bones

When it comes right down to it we can only work with what we connect with on any given day. It depends on where we were, what our appetite for seeing was, what the coincidences of the day threw across our path, or finally, what we were alive to at any one moment.

I drove to the local health food store to get a few things for the upcoming New Year’s Eve dinner we were making to celebrate the end of 2013. I had spent a good part of the day inside preparing and doing other year end tasks, and so went to the bio, as they call it in France, late in the day, and as I pulled into the parking slot I saw this gnarly, furry, wild haired, winter naked bush, brittle in the last tincture of rosy light, sitting on a brutal pile of rocks behind a scrabbly chicken wire fence. All in all a tough image, one that might seldom hold my attention, and yet…

As I sat there for a moment thoughts of Dubuffet and Art Brut came to mind, and Philip Guston too, one of my favorite painters who never flinched at hard, ugly realities, and found ways to address them in his paintings, ways that challenged the values of the art world at that time. And so the longer I stayed in that moment’s reverie with this scrawny, bristling and blighted image, the more I realized that it was the most exciting thing I had see all day, and in fact was beautiful in its own demanding and difficult way.

I welcomed it.

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DECEMBER 29, 2015

Amazing Grace

It has always amazed me to see how ruthlessly orchard growers purge their fields once the trees have stopped producing as they had in previous years. Even when the trees seem fairly young as these do. But this kind of husbandry is wise and farsighted. They know what the land can do, and what changes it needs to continue to be fruitful.

In their practice I can see my own pruning methods as I have edited my work over the years. I used to call it the ‘sticky finger’ approach. That is; whenever I paged through stacks of prints (back in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s I printed like crazy – thus my 50,000 prints that I recently went to New York to sign for the sale of the archive) and so while reviewing prints, whenever I came across a photograph which, for whatever reason, refused to go quietly into the ‘Out’ pile, although sometimes it did so on a first cut, but then, somehow, it worked its way back into the mix of the ‘In’ pile, because each time I saw it, it ‘stuck to my fingers,’ as if it was telling me, wait a minute, you don’t get me yet, there is something here beyond your understanding at this time. 

So I held on to those quirky images until either I caught up to what they were saying, or, by pinning them to the wall over my desk so as to catch my roving eye while speaking on the phone, or while daydreaming, I finally got their message.

Whatever the case, hard cutting is necessary for future growth, be it an orchard or a body of work.

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DECEMBER 26, 2015

Trick of the Light

The quiet that exists in European towns the day after Christmas is both eerie and peaceful, alternating between them both in ways that made us feel as if everyone had disappeared from the planet, and then grateful to be experiencing the town as the solitary travelers.

In the somewhat grim, darkened streets, the cold and damp was even more penetratingly chill and then, suddenly, a beam of light slipped out from under the cloud bank and struck home, and then was gone in barely the blink of an eye.

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