Saturday Evening Post #82: The Encounter

It’s interesting how as photographers we keep striving to make improvements to our vision or style. Finding a better way to approach a subject, explore new lighting options, wrestle with buying that ‘new’ lens that will give us a ‘better’ pictures or that new piece of software that will ‘uncover the hidden photograph in your collection’.

Many lightyears ago, in the days of filum, I was a member of a group of working photographers that would get together on an ad-hoc basis every other month or so, and generally we’d meet in a cafe in Lygon Street Fitzroy for a late Friday lunch, well it was a lunch that went late. Sometimes we’d bring along prints or tear-sheets for discussion. The last few times I remember taking the old iPad with a few pictures of recent making.

One of the house rules was it was a discussion on all things photography, from technique, to style, to equipment, processes, other people’s work, and future opportunities. Sometimes it was a bit like a parliamentary debate, other times more like a inspirational speakers session. Just depended on how much ‘red-ned’ was consumed during the course of the afternoon.

But one question, we all had to have an answer to was “Whatchabeendoin” What new image, vision, exploration or direction we had each been travelling in.

One of the group was oft to quote a verse from St. Matthew 6  “Behold, the birds of the air…. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin”
Gotta love that 1611 King Jimmie English.  “Behold”.  Not just make a glancing look or a peek, but drum roll, Behold!

He’d almost always bring it up when someone was lamenting the slow down of business, the ungratefulness of clients, or the problems of marketing a new product. His point was always the same, well, at least as I remember.
Bird’s don’t go to another lecture, another seminar on how to find clients for their song, they just sing. No bird has ever had to attend a month long session with a personal trainer on the benefits of correct nest building. No bird looks at its current situation and laments not having this or that opportunity to expand its business. They just do bird things.

No flower sits worrying about should it move overseas for a better market, change its colour or its style to match the ‘current trend’, nor does a flower seek out a self-help guru to improve its image.  They just continue to make the world a brighter place to live.

It is as Mike Johnson over on TOPS says, “Viewing an expressive photograph has the potential to be an occasion”
Most people see art as a static event. You go to a gallery, the sculpture is the same week in week out, the painting remains inert, the basket-weaving or quilted piece in unchanging. Ready to be reviewed, but never “Beheld”.

Yet as Mike goes on to explain, “It can also be an encounter. The potential to be an event in the viewer’s life”
We are so bombarded these days with visuals, sometimes very graphic visuals, that it all becomes a bit old hat.
Yet for someone who works behind the camera, takes the time to work through post-processing and ponders over the variations on a theme from a photoshot, the occasion of showing a finished piece is a gifting and the viewer’s response is part of that. It is an Encounter.