‘The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.’ Susan Sontag, On Photography

It is hard to imagine a time when (most educated) people could draw well. It was a practice John Ruskin recommended. He drew every day before breakfast, not to improve skill levels but the better to see the world. On the other hand, writer and artist Henri Michaux wrote, ‘Could it be that I draw because I see so clearly this thing or that thing? Not at all. Quite the contrary. I do it to be perplexed again. And I am delighted that there are traps. I look for surprises.’[1] I think the same goes for photography even though the hand is reduced.[2]

I have been taking too many photographs this year, 2020, nearly all for my VIRUS 2020 project, bearing witness and pointing towards the beauty and wonders of the natural world. They are examples of natural aesthetics, interesting/beautiful in themselves and as photographs that point back to the real thing.

Ideally, I would only take a photograph, if that process resulted in an image special to the 2D art, not just a digital memory. I would like to take a shot because the resulting photograph will be a surprise and probably look different to what has hardly been noticed. That is when photography becomes art for me.[3]

But how to notice photographs, when 350 million are posted to Facebook alone everyday? And more than 50 billion photos have been uploaded to Instagram so far (Oct 2020).[4]

That wonderful photographer Sebastião Salgado says, ‘We must preserve what exists. We are living in a very special moment, when the effect of everything we are doing to our world is accelerating. If we do not pay attention now, we will be facing catastrophe. A big red light should be blinking in all our brains.’[5] I hope that some of my work in a small way illuminates what is wonderful and worth fighting to preserve.

Below are some of my themes and the locations where I have wielded a camera.

[1] Henri Michaux, Trans, John Ashbery, London: Robert Fraser Gallery, 1963.
[2] Walter Benjamin, ‘With photography for the first time the hand was freed of the most important artistic tasks which now fell to the eye alone.’ ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Benjamin, Illuminations, New York: Schocken Books, 1969.
[3] Rather than Michael Fried’s celebration of large scale photo-artworks that revel in theatrically and make photography at the cutting edge of contemporary art, in his opinion. Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, Yale UP, 2008.
[5] Sebastião Salgado, ‘In Love With My Planet’, int with Dominique Browning, NY Times, 20.4.2013. Talking about his book Genesis.

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