A Journal of Life Pursued

Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Repost: “Elliott, God is my Lord.”

In Photography, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas on November 21, 2015 at 10:43 am

I’ve been combing through old postings, looking for a few themes, maybe something worthy of expansion. I came across this post from April, 2010. It grabbed me and I thought I’d share it.

* * *

I gave a talk this evening, a talk about photography, to a group of about seventy-five. The talk went well enough, with slides, travel, ideas and stories. The audience was attentive and the presentation seemed well received. Afterward, a man approached me. “Elliott,” he said, extending his hand. “It means, God is my Lord in Hebrew.” I shook his hand. “Doug, dweller by the dark river. Gaelic.” His eyes bugged out. “Man, that’s why you’re a photographer.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.

Elliott and I talked for quite a while. He was, what I would call, a natural seer. That is, as he said, he can walk around Back Bay where he lives, “five hundred times and always see something different.” He continued: “I needed a shim, a piece of wood for something I was working on in the house. I went down to the water and picked up a piece of wood, nicely worn down. I held it to the sun a certain way and I could see the ridges in it, all worn smooth.” He was animated. “I took it and scraped it across my face.” He got excited. “It was just a shim, just a piece of wood, but it wasn’t.” I told him that Picasso said that he spent his whole life trying to draw like a child. I continued: “You, Elliott, God is my Lord, have a child’s gift. You see the world as we all want to see it. Fresh.”

Elliott said that my talk made him think about how he viewed the world and that he was excited to put into practice some of the principles and ideas I had talked about. “No, Elliott,” I said to him. “Forget everything I said. Forget it. Don’t think about how you see. It will ruin everything.” He said he was afraid of that, but that he could do it without it being “artificial.” I admonished him. “You walk around the Back Bay five hundred times and every time is new. That is a gift. That is the universe in a grain of sand.” With this he got very excited. “The universe!” he said. “Yes. It’s all about bringing everything together and seeing it whole, as a universe.” I felt as if I was in the presence of a prophet, a seer, a Zen Master. In fact, he had been a teacher. Fifth grade. Retired. “I was a great teacher,” Elliott told me. “Yes,” I said. “I am certain you were.”

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.

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.

Bruns019

Lamp, Santa Fe

BrunsTuesday015 B&W

Prairie Farm

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Plastic Jesus, Blue Sky

Door, Taos

Door, Taos

Farm Panorama

Farm Panorama

OCT 2004119

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.

Prague

In Photography on February 16, 2013 at 6:00 am

Much of my travel has been an excuse to take pictures–or perhaps, I used photography as an excuse to travel. No matter. Prague is one of my favorite cities. I thought I’d break the verbal monotony a bit and share a few shots:

Old Town Bridge Tower, Charles Bridge

Old Town Bridge Tower, Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge Stature

Charles Bridge Stature

Charles Bridge, Night

Charles Bridge, Night

Gulls Above Prague

Gulls Above Prague

Building facade of man holding fish, Prague

Building facade of man holding fish, Prague

Swan in Prague

Swan in Prague

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For you technophiles out there. These shots were made with either a Leica MP or a Maymia 7, medium format camera. All images on Fuji Velvia.