A Journal of Life Pursued

Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Loaded and Cocked.

In Books, Creativity, Photography, The Examined Life on March 26, 2013 at 6:00 am
Pride Parade, Portland, 2011, © Doug Bruns

Pride Parade, Portland, 2011, © Doug Bruns

I have loaded my camera–yes, “loaded my camera” means film, pilgrim–and am giving myself, again, to the streets. Beware, should you decide to stroll about in your bikini, I intend to find you.

* * *

It is always revision and editing–everything changing, always subject to more, to less. I wrote a week or so ago about art and discovery and Jackson Pollock. the piece was called The Practice of Discovery and I included this quote:

“Could Pollock’s late paintings result from his lifelong effort to excavate an image buried in all our brains?”

Picasso wrote an essay, Art as Individual Idea, published in 1923. He said, among other things, the following:

“I also often hear the word evolution. Repeatedly I am asked to explain how my painting evolved. To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was. Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change and with them their mode of expression. When I hear people speak of the evolution of an artist, it seems to me that they are considering him standing between two mirrors that face each other and reproduce his image an infinite number of times, and that they contemplate the successive images of one mirror as his past, and the images of the other mirror as his future, while his real image is taken as his present. They do not consider that they all are the same images in different planes.”

I am arriving at the place of art’s ascension–the notion that art, like perhaps meditation, or nature, or drugs even, might render a revelatory state of consciousness. But what is art?

(BTW: The essay noted above is from The Modern Tradition by Richard Ellmann (the great biographer) and Charles Feidelson, Jr. If there is one book, albeit thick and with small print, that captures the thinking of the modern and the post-modern era, this is the book. I strongly recommend it if this period of great creativity interests you.)

* * *

Epiphany upon going to bed:

I’ve pursued the wrong question, it’s not How to Live? It’s How to Think?

How did I not realize this earlier?

* * *

ref=as_li_ss_tilA friend wrote to ask what I’m reading. I’m reading Where the Heart Beats, John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, by Kay Larson. The book came to my attention thanks to Brain Pickings and the omniscient Maria Popova.

I’m also about to start, The Inward Morning, A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form, by Henry Bugbee. Thanks to “…house…” member Geetha for this recommendation. I have not  yet cracked the cover. Here is a note from the back cover:

“The Inward Morning is a boldly original and lyrical philosophy of wilderness. Touching variously on poetry, fly fishing, Thoreau, and contemporary philosophers, this work is erudite and intimate. Henry Bugbee blends East and West, nature and culture, the personal and the universal. This reissue of an underground classic…will inform and inspire both contemporary philosophers and readers interested in an everyday philosophy of nature.”

–sounds like the book I was supposed to write…

Photo Saturday: Greece, 1978

In Photography, Travel on March 16, 2013 at 6:00 am

In praise of Kodachrome! Photos from deep in the archive of my first trip abroad.

Men walk past barrels on Greek Isle

Men walk past barrels on Greek Isle

A concert in ancient arena, Greece

A concert in ancient arena, Greece

View of remote Greek harbor from ruins

View of remote Greek harbor from ruins

Corner shot of the Parthenon, Athens

Corner shot of the Parthenon, Athens

The Parthenon in Athens

The Parthenon in Athens

The Agean--Man fishes, while sun sets.

The Agean–Man fishes, while sun sets.

Photo Saturday: Faces

In Photography, Travel on March 9, 2013 at 6:00 am

I started a project a few years ago of photographing the faces of working folks around the world. The project never came to anything, and, in a manner of speaking, remains open-ended. That is, I’ve not finished it, stated it complete–nor I have I pursued it. Perhaps I will, perhaps I’ll get back on the road, camera in hand. Stay tuned.

One portrait is digital, the others film. I mentioned which is which at the bottom.

Farmer, Tuti, Peru

Farmer, Tuti, Peru

School Girl, Guatamala

School Girl, Guatemala

Merchant, India

Merchant, India

Monk, Bangkok

Monk, Bangkok

Barber, India

Barber, India

The girl from Guatemala is a digital photograph, shot with a Nikon D100. Everything else is film., shot with a medium format camera, the Mamiya R7.

The Burning Purity of Creativity.

In Creativity, Photography, Writers on March 4, 2013 at 6:00 am

I’ve been thinking about obscurity. This comes on the heels of my post last Friday, A Fashion of Discomfort, where I ponder this business of playing to an empty house, toiling for the sake of the effort without promise of recognition.

Do you recall the post I put up last summer, where, while exploring the North Woods, I happen across an art installation? Here is the photograph I took at the time:

Art in a land of wild giants.

Art in a land of wild giants.

I wrote:  “She–for there was something beautifully feminine about this exhibit–she, this goddess of creation, was beyond the work and the work was purer for that. It is possible to create for the purpose of creation only, not needing the prism of ‘the other.’ It was an exhibit of voided ego precisely executed.” The nature of this discovery was to understand that creativity is sometimes simply and purely an expression–without the need for reciprocity. That is the antithesis of obscurity and leads down the path to bliss. Yes, bliss–how else to express the satisfaction of creativity for the sake of creation alone?

Since writing the post last week I’ve been thinking of Emily Dickinson. Scholar and poet, Susan Howe, writing of Dickinson, says she was “one of the greatest poets we have, and I don’t mean ‘we’ merely in America. I mean she is one of the greatest of poets.” I do not know very much about Dickinson, but have no reason to doubt Howe’s assessment. Dickinson comes to mind because despite her obvious genius she published but one poem in her lifetime. (As Van Gogh sold but one painting.) Obscurity or genius operating beyond the prism of the other? I wish to think the latter.

Here is another, more contemporary, example: Vivian Maier (1926-2009). Maier worked as a nanny in Chicago, but we know her because she left behind a body of work–photographs–that she jealously shielded from eyes other than her own. In 2007 approximately one hundred thousand negatives were discovered in a garage sale. Eventually the cache was understood for what it truly was: a life-body of work, reflecting a singular genius, heretofore unknown. It was like the Dead Sea Scrolls of street photography.

There is much I find encouraging here and it has something to do with the soaring capacity of the human creative spirit. It uplifts me, as it should any human being, to glimpse the burning purity of creativity, no strings attached. I am reminded of a passage in Alan Watts’s The Way of Zen: “This is a first principle in the study of Zen and of any Far Eastern art: hurry, and all that it involves, is fatal. For there is no goal to be attained. The moment a goal is conceived it becomes impossible to practice the discipline of the art, to master the very rigor of its technique.” There is a white flame warmth about that.

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A three-minute CBS story on Vivian Maier:

Santa Fe

In Photography, Travel on March 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

A little closer to home this week, photos (of the artsy-fartsy type) from New Mexico.

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Lamp, Santa Fe

BrunsTuesday015 B&W

Prairie Farm

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Plastic Jesus, Blue Sky

Door, Taos

Door, Taos

Farm Panorama

Farm Panorama

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A Nod to Ansel

These were shot with a Leica M8 digital rangefinder with a fixed-focal length 35mm Lux lens. At one point, doing a lot of projects, I owned two M8s. I’ve sold them both. My Leica MP (film) remains in my bag.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tibet

In Photography, Travel on February 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

Last week we walked the streets of Prague. Let’s put on our hiking boots this Saturday and head up the Tibetan Plateau.

Two young monks at Barcor in Lhasa

Two young monks at Barcor in Lhasa

Yarlung Valley, Tibet

Yarlung Valley, Tibet

Sacred Mountain Lake

Sacred Mountain Lake

Yak Herder

Yak Herder

The Potala, home and palace of the Dalhi Lama.

The Potala, home and palace of the Dalhi Lama.

Monastery Tower

Monastery Tower

Monk with Cane

Monk with Cane

Goat Herder

Goat Herder

I was in Tibet in 2004 and returned in 2005. Though beautiful and with a degree of magic one would expect, I found the hardship of the people too much to bare. If you want to better understand what occurred to the native American Indian–the land-grabs, the disenfranchisement, the poverty, the world-loss of a beautiful people and their culture–then Tibet, now sixty-plus years since the Chinese invasion, is the place to study. Frankly, I found it too depressing to ever return.