I waited for a re-print Another Way of Telling the last few months, and when it came in last week I bought it, and read it enthusiastically. Jean Mohr’s photography is great, especially the last section of the book, taken mostly of peasants in the Haute-Savoie region of Eastern France. The photos reminded me that the best of what occurs in art, and in life, is like what Guido de Bres wrote, “For it is before our eyes as a most beautiful Book”.
There is a well-known story about the so-called “blue period” of paintings by Pablo Picasso. It goes that Picasso became friends with a Catalan youth that he met in Paris, named Carlos Casagemas, a thoroughly 19th century cliché bohemian obsessive type who ended up shooting himself over an unrequited love. The historian Anne Baldessari conjectured that a cyanotype in a Picasso trove is of Casagemas, and that Picasso is likely the photographer.
Some time ago, longer ago than I think, I was doing a stint working a sequence of industrial jobs. Rough carpentry, pipefitting, assisting oil and gas engineering, driving heavy machines, and roadwork; all of which might fall under the category of “the irritation of plot” inasmuch as during the same time I would take photographs, starting with a little Leica CL, that I bought from The Camera Store. I was living with a friend who worked in a steel foundry, all we did was work, eat, sleep, and do the hurtin’ Albertan sort of deal… But I started to shoot film, bit by bit. All of this came as a surprise to me. I wanted to work hard, and be in silence a lot, and to not think too much. Then, one day, during this period, during some time off, I was taking photographs on the street, and was approached by a young man who asked me if I “knew how to use that thing”… I still haven’t really found a way to answer the question, although I am not using that camera anymore. In fact, I don’t make pictures much at all. Nowadays I mostly just read and write about them…
C.S. Lewis once wrote something to the effect that God pours out ideas like a painter on a canvas. I’ll leave the first part of the proposition aside, despite an interest in apologetics, since my writing is on the meaningless subject of photography, but the second portion has made me ask if photography has the ability to express ideas, or pour themselves out, inasmuch as it has as an imperative the existence of the real (which is different, it seems, from painting). Photography expresses a given-ness that other art forms do not, or cannot do as well; Photography is just as much a recording procedure, as it is a creative art.