Thursday, July 07, 2005

Our Pictures Online

Apparently, the world wants pretty. She wants calendar art. A perusal of any online gallery will show that she has no shortage of image generators willing to feed her insatiable desire, and no shortage of viewers to gush and offer hyperbole and praise. Some of the images are gorgeous, but I can't recall a single one. Yet, I can remember the first time (well over 25 years ago) I saw a Diane Arbus image, and the exact Winogrand image that made my jaw hit the floor. I can recall images of lesser known photographers, whose names I can't remember and whose images I've never seen again. These images and many others had something and they changed the world for me. They aren't pretty images, but they are beautiful. Their beauty lies not in their compositional perfection, but in the power of the reality they exhibit. Their beauty is undeniable and unforgettable.

What I Learned on a Fourth Grade Field Trip that Somehow Applies Here
I attended my daughter's field trip to the state capital earlier this year. Our docent droned on and on as she led the class around the state capital. She showed us through the corridors of power, pointing out little mysteries and unique little OBTW's.

At the end of tour, as we stood in the rotunda, this cavernous space beneath the dome, she directed our attention to the patterned inlaid stone (marble?) floor and stated that the floor was laid in place many years ago by local indians. She challenged the kids and chaperones to find the "mistake" on the floor.

One parent found it and after the crowd of kids had taken their photos, grown bored, and wandered off, I inched up and looked down to see one incorrectly laid triangular piece of black tile going against the grain of this great expansive pattern—breaking the pattern, if you will.

Our docent confessed that it wasn't really a mistake at all, but an intentional flaw set in place by the indians, because they believed that man was not capable of perfection, and that only God was capable of perfection. It was the most beautiful and impressive thing I saw that day, and it was a flaw.

What I Learned From Eric Rohmer That May Apply Here
Eric Rohmer is a film director known for his "moral tale" films. (You'll have to see them to understand.) One film, Pauline Sur la Plage (Pauline at the Beach), explores relationships, as do most Rohmer films. One of the leads in the film, a man, is being pursued by two women simultaneously, a beautiful blonde and another young lady. In the end, he ends up with the latter. Pauline, the young lead in the film, who is a close friend of the gorgeous blonde, and had been following the action throughout the film, is heartbroken to see her friend jilted and depressed over not being the chosen "one." Pauline confronts the man demanding to know why he chose the lesser woman (she was much less attractive, and much less refined). Pauline is flabbergasted that her friend, who was so beautiful and perfect, could have not been the one this man would have picked. The man's reply was that Pauline's friend is too perfect, without fault, and the other woman is flawed and that her flaws are what make her beautiful and much more attractive to him.

I saw that film once, when it came out, in 1983, and that's what I remember most about it. I guess I'm predisposed toward a different kind of beauty. I'm not special, gifted, or insightful. I just prefer this different viewpoint.

I can see the beauty in the calendar art photos that get posted at online galleries. It moves me for a little while—for about as long as I'm looking at it, and then it's gone and forgotten. If you like and prefer those types of images, then you probably won't like my images very much.

This is my first entry. I'll post my pictures and record some thoughts here.