Friday, October 7, 2011

Tidepool's Embrace Essay

After R.M. 1989

Tidepool Reps asked all of their photographers to introspect a bit and try to find something, from way back, that connected their early way of working to what they are up to now. The Tidepool blog has been featuring these over past month, starting with a great essay by photographer Bill Cash.  Mine is out today, and copied here as well. See it all on the Tidepool Blog HERE.


When I went to college, I somehow convinced my parents to allow me to be an art major. I never liked art classes in high school….I never really liked art at all. I had a long relationship with photography and my camera, but art was kind of a mystery. The art department at Penn State had no interest in commercial concerns…it was all about teaching the students expression, teaching the the history of art, the history of photography, and giving the students an awareness of the depth of their medium. No internships, nothing commercial was ever brought up. It was all about keeping expression pure, and learning how to tap into where that all came from.

At the same time I started working at the school newspaper. That group of people laughed at the art department…they couldn’t understand the esoteric concerns of that little subculture. They were all about communicating, the craft of photojournalism, and all the students had jobs at big papers lined up for their summer vacation. These folks were into the functional form of art…as functional as it ever really could be.

I was giving a talk to a bunch of students last month and they asked me about my education. I told them about the two sides of my backround, and confessed to them that I really didn’t think my formal education in photography amounted to much….I felt I learned more on the job than any where else. One of the students pointed out that the model I explained to them, this idea of having one foot in something esoteric and dada-ist, and the other foot in a world very funtional and logical, seemed to be a model I have followed throughout my career…even to this day! Looking at the patterns of my career, that observation really has held true: personal projects such as “Sex Machines” and “Echolilia” have been nurtured and blossomed with no commercial concerns whatsoever, while my efforts for hammering out a career with commercial photography were being nurtured with a similar amount of dedication and attention…all going on at the same time.

The happy news here is that the dynamic has shifted…the commercial clients don’t laugh at the art personal projects, they actually have started to embrace them.

Tethered, 2011


Anonymous said...

As someone who saw the journalism/art department divide in my college career it too puzzles me. But what puzzles me most is contemporary art photography which seems hellbent on emulating the news end of things. Time was when story telling was left to the journalists. Art photographers once were content to leave the viewer in a state of perplexity. Now everyone wants to get wordy and socially relevant. I appreciate using your tools to make a living, but please can't we spend our leasure time with soul satisfaction? So what is art photography? If you have to ask it ain't art.

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