Friday, February 15, 2008

The journey continues...

The journey continues here:

Friday, December 07, 2007

That’s it… or is it?

[Das Zerrissene Ich/The Riven Me; Holga double exposure: me with Doris Salcedo’s cracks in Tate Modern]

We had our final degree show this week, have been awarded a master’s degree in photojournalism and documentary photography and had our final lecture yesterday… so the course has ended, the academic studies are over… After a Christmas break, we all will take a step into the real world… Time for some soul searching: What are the lessons from this year? What have I learned? Will I cut it as a photographer in the real world? Do I have what it takes to make a real difference as a photographer? Or will I just dabble along as an ‘also run’? Is it therefore worthwhile pursuing photography?

I am hanging up the blog (at least for a period of time) while I am looking for some personal answers to these questions…

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wenn dein Herz Gedanken nachhängt

Wenn dein Herz Gedanken nachhängt, 

Deren einer anderm nachdrängt, 

Wie es anders konnte gehn, 

Als es leider ist geschehn, 

Wie, was so ein Zufall wendet, 

Anders konnt' ein Zufall wenden; 

Werden nie die Zweifel enden, 

Wenn sie nicht dein Glauben endet: 

Nicht dem Zufall preisgegeben 

Ist des Menschen Lebensglück; 

Denn der Zufall selbst ist eben 

Von Nothwendigkeit ein Stück 

In den ewigen Geweben, 

Deren Netz die Welt umspannt, 

Deren Fäden unverwandt, 

Nach dem Plan dir unbekannt; 

All aus einer Mitte streben 

Und in eine gehn zurück.

(aus: Kindertodtenlieder von Friedrich Rückert)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Party time...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



tage des vergessens
tage der betäubnis
tage des wartens..

und dann doch: unvermutet,
ein zeichen, eine erinnerung von irgendwo,
überspielt; der versuch zu ignorieren..

und dann doch: schleichende gewissheit,
von dir nicht los zu kommen.

R. B. (2007)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Millais at Tate Britain

[Image: John Everett Millais:
‘The tower of strength which stood / Four-square to all the winds that blew’; 1878-9;
Oil on canvas]

A friend of mine recommended that I go to the Millais exhibition, which is currently on at the Tate Britain. I am kind of lukewarm on Pre-Raphaelites… but today, nevertheless, I went to the exhibition – after I had handed in my major project at 10:40 am this morning at college…

The exhibition is amazing and I am now a big fan of Millais, in particular of his portraits of women (which are very photographic, there is a lot one can learn from them in terms of the use of colour and composition) and his late landscapes. The late landscapes are just mind-blowing. The last room of the exhibition (room 7) is solely dedicated to a series of landscapes Millais painted in Scotland almost at the end of his life… They are nearly all autumnal or winter landscapes, probably reflecting Millais’ stage in life at the time of painting. The light he used in the paintings is just magical. The entire gallery room radiates from the paintings… I think I spent a lot of time just in the last room…

I particularly like the painting depicted here. He painted it after his second born son George died just at the age of 22 of Typhoid fever and Millais retreated to Scotland to get over the loss of his beloved son… Obviously it is full of symbolism… The brooding sky, the river, the boatman like the boatman ferrying the dead over the river Styx…

Unfortunately, the reproductions in the accompanying exhibition catalogue are nowhere near the originals… which means that the exhibition is definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On sheep, romanticism and playing…

Friedrich Schiller, an early adopter and proponent of romanticism, stipulated that man should be a generalist, at least in the pursuit of the arts. He wrote his thoughts on this against the backdrop of an ever specialising society at the end of the 18th century, in particular in business and the crafts.

Schiller - in his letters ‘Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen’ - suggested that only where man is a ‘homo ludens’, i.e. a playing man, man truly fulfils his potential. He stressed the importance of playing in order to tap the full potential of being a human individual against the prevalent specialisation and mechanisation of society. His famous quote in this context was “… der Mensch spielt nur, wo er in voller Bedeutung des Worts Mensch ist, und er ist nur da ganz Mensch, wo er spielt…“. [‘…we are only fully human when we are playing…’]. And with playing he particularly meant literature and the fine arts.

[Dear Reader, bear with me… this blog entry has a connection to photography, as you will see in a moment…]

Building on these thoughts, fellow romantics Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis suggested a kind of universalism in the arts, not wanting to limit themselves to merely one kind of ‘poetics’... They coined the term ‘Universalpoesie’ [universal poetic] for that (which was meant not just to include poetry in the narrower sense but all art forms and even science). “Alle heiligen Spiele der Kunst sind nur ferne Nachbildungen von dem unendlichen Spiele der Welt, dem ewig sich bildenden Kunstwerk” [All holy plays of the arts are merely distant imitations of the infinite plays of the world, of an eternally shaping work of art.]

They studied literature, history, cultural sciences, philosophy, etc. at the same time and attempted to become an expert – or at least to generate original thoughts or works of art - in all of these subjects.

Coming back to photography or rather linking these thoughts to photography: in a recent interview Alec Soth said that like most writers do not want to be associated with or defined by just one subject or style, he does not want to be defined by one kind of work or style either - as evidenced by his most recent book ‘Dog Days Bogota’ and his fashion work recently in Fashion Magazine. (However it needs to be said that ‘Dog Days Bogota’ was shot on medium format before he shot his more famous bodies of work ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ and ‘Niagara’ in 8 x 10 and that his work in the fashion magazines bears his signature 8 x 10 format style). But in any case… in other words, Soth wants his leeway to ‘play’ in the field of photography…

Contrast this with photographers such as Marcus Bleasdale who builds a very successful career as a photographer on being a specialist in a certain region and a certain subject cluster. And my sense is that in the ‘industry’ the trend is towards ‘specialisation’ and that photo editors are more likely to assign work to photographers who are specialists in a chosen area or subject than to ‘generalists’.

As I am starting to reflect on my post-college life, and in particular on my photographic life, such questions become increasingly pertinent. I have always liked the idea of being a generalist, dabbling in a variety of subjects, not only limited to photography… The question is: how soon do I have to specialise and find ‘my’ field in order to make an impact as a photographer? …I hope that – in sticking with Schiller- I can still ‘play’ a bit more next year…