“Finding Soul …Writing & Photography…”


When the Sunday NYT arrived last weekend, the book review of David Leonard‘s latest book by Olen Steinhauuer caught my attention for what it said about writing that I thought applied to my photography – sometimes. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Applied to photography:  “If it looks like a photograph, I re-do it?” How about this one “…if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

Now, obviously not everyone would agree with that, and that is fine with me. One photographer I tremendously admire is Rodney Smith and he said in a recent blog post that “…You see photography as I know it is not illustration, painting, printing, compositing, collage, or anything else, although it has rapidly become this. Photography is a joyful affirmation of the world as it is given to us at the given moment….” I can totally agree with that, and turn right around and agree with Deborah Turbeville who in her recent book Deborah Turbeville The Fashion Pictures says about her work that “Perhaps the most interesting thing about my photographs is….they are done for the wrong medium….I’m doing them in mediums they they should not really be in.”

I hope this is not getting too confusing, convoluted and contradictory, but I do think photography is just that, and especially today. What I would really like to emphasize is that ones photography, ones work has to have soul. And here I think Rodney Smith has summed up it extremely well in his most recent blog post, from which I borrowed part of my title, when he says: “

It’s not that our culture, our lives, our aspirations has lost its soul, it’s simply misplaced them. We have exchanged moral and emotional character for cerebral acumen, success and creativity. For the last 25 years I am afraid to say, our culture has been running on empty.

Photography, with all it’s myriad of critics, curators, pundits, have simply followed the leader. Everyone is chasing each others tail, desperate for anything that strikes them as different.

Instead of leading us to a better place, we are left with work that is soulless, and proclaimed by those who know, as insightful, brilliant, and all other manner of other affirmations. The problem is, that in these photographs, life is befit of joy and God forbid, emotion. Photography and much of modern art is without a real sense of self. It feels incomplete, empty, and very, very lonely.

So I have spent the last couple of day again trying to ‘wrap my head’ around photography, and especially my own photography, and where I am going with it, and agreeing with Rodney Smith that I do not want to make soulless photography. I probably should, among other things, take Deborah Turbeville’s advice and “Never describe or define your work!” All of this because I wanted to post the above Cyanotype print done with my 35mm SLR with its pinhole body cap on it. I scanned the negative and then made a digital negative with which the above portrait was contact printed.

Here is a photo of my camera with its pinhole bodycap which I made by drilling a hole into the bodycap and then backing that with a pinhole punched into a piece of black aluminum foil with a thin sowing needle.

About christian harkness

Photographer and printmaker; living and working in north Florida.
This entry was posted in art, cedar key, digital, film photography, fl 32625, Florida, photography, pinhole, portrait, Southern Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Finding Soul …Writing & Photography…”

  1. andybeel says:

    Hi I love the pinhole portrait and cyanotype – thanks.

    “…if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go…” Lots of my snaps are based on denying the viewer the fine inherant detail of a photograph. Normal lenses are too sharp that’s why I use a Lensbaby.

    You might be interested in some of the Pics on my blog at htttp://andybeelfrps.wordpress.com

  2. Hey Andy – many thanks for your good words and thanks for reminding me to look at your blog. I went ahead and subscribed to it via my Google Reader. That is the only way I can keep track of things.
    I totally share your enthusiasm for lith printing and the concept that ‘…Normal lenses are too sharp…’ I think I reached that understanding when I had to seriously wear glasses. One realizes that the world is not all tack sharp, no matter what, and of course, we don’t see the world in a rectangle either. Also, when I took my first digital photo a few years ago, I realized that now ‘any idiot’ could get a sharp, well exposed photo just by pressing the button. That’s when I started wandering into the unsharp fuzzy world of lith printing and Holgas, and pinholes, and that kind of thing. Of course I also do take ‘sharp’ photos, but I have quit worshiping at that altar.
    Best wishes -c-

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