Thoughts & Theory

A Beautiful Anarchy

Self Portrait, iPhone.

There are rules for engineering bridges, and flying airplanes. There are laws about how you drive a car and file your taxes. There are no rules or laws in art. Art is a beautiful anarchy, a place wherein we express – or try to – the inexpressible, to “eff the ineffable” as author Nick Hornby once wrote.  Art is a place where we play and do and create, and share, according to our will, our whim, and our stubborn determination. It is the one place in which we can ask the question “What if?” with near total abandon, and (mostly) free from consequence. There are no art police, and no authorities, and those who would be should be eyed with suspicion or torn from their high places.

Your art, the thing that stirs from your heart, mind, and soul, the thing that moves you, and I hope, moves others, is a free agent, and the moment you begin to ask “What should I do? or “How should I do this?” you allow you art to teeter, to lean towards conformity and away from authentic expression. Unless it’s the muse herself to whom you direct the question. The same is true of your path in the creative arts if you make your living there; why do we do this at all if not for the freedom to beat that path into whatever direction that suits our fancy, or to paint the cobblestones any damn colour we please? To do what we should in art is bondage. To tell others, with our art, what they should think or feel or do, is propaganda. And to tell other artists how they should do their art is presumptuous, and unkind, and tells the muse we’ve learned nothing at all under her influence.

We need more anarchists in photography, more people willing to abandon the stupidity of megapixels and brands and red stripes on their lenses and get back to making beauty for the sake of its joy. We need more people that make photographs that surprise us, not mimic others, and more people creating simply to create, and to share their work as a gift, not a request for praise. We need a resurgence in pinholes, film, wet plates, and any damn technique that makes you happy and in which you find your muse. We need to scrap the word “professional” because it implies authority, and simply allow everyone to be an artist, their work judged by its own merits not the camera used to create it or the clients that paid for it. We need people who understand how composition and light makes us feel, not which third of the frame to use, or which light is “bad light.”

Photography is still young. As an art it is still in its awkward, beautiful, childhood, but we stunt its growth, and our own, when we seek and follow the so-called rules, instead of just getting on with it and doing our work: making and sharing photographs that please our eyes and our hearts, that say – even imperfectly – the things we can’t find words for.

I’m about to get on a flight to Milan, via Frankfurt. 3 days of private lectures in Switzerland, a week with an old friend and my camera in Stockholm, then to Italy for 2 weeks of Within The Frame Adventures. If I’m quiet, that’s why. Maybe just sign out of Facebook, close the browser, embrace your inner anarchist, and go make some photographs…  See you soon!

 

Mar 21st

2012

Comments Comments 21
CategoryPosted in: Craft & Vision, e-books, Thoughts & Theory

Portraits: Some Questions Answered.

Old Havana, Cuba, 2009 I got some questions after we released the latest eBook, Forget Mugshots, 10 Steps to Better Portraits, that I thought I’d answer here. Some of this stuff was answered in Within The Frame, The Journey of Photographic Vision, but I don’t expect everyone to have read that, so here’s some additional […]

Don’t Stop.

Agra Fort. Agra, India. 2008. I rediscovered this sequence of photographs while putting together Photographically Speaking. In the book I discuss one of these images and explore the elements and decisions that make the photograph what it is. But looking at the 3 together I think there’s a lesson along the lines of the stuff […]