In, Around and Afterthoughts (On The Photographic Impulse)

My feeling, in essence, is that it makes sense to me that I should be here in Fryslan doing what Im doing at this point in my life (photographic life that is). And in a way re-assess my journey here. I was prompted to do so recently in a Dutch (again) online magazine interview ahead of my trip here. It went something like this:

"I started my relationship with photography about ten years ago. The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh once said that he ‘dabbled’ in verse and it became his life. I am similar to this: I ‘dabbled’ in photography and it became central to my life. It has become the means of getting to know the world in a new way. I feel that photography has given me a new way to comprehend life; a way of recognizing and grasping the intangible meaning in the world. There is a moment when photographing, from time to time, when there is an overriding feeling of revelation - finding a zen-like harmony with the elements of nature, the ambiguities of human life and the labors of society to organize and articulate a meaningful world. It is a difficult feeling to explain. The visible surface of the earth comes alive with ethereal sensations – full of meaning, history and contradiction. The 'act' of photographing attempts to make these sensations tangible. It (the act) encourages and permits a quiet comprehensive musing over the most seemingly banal and ordinary of things. It offers an invitation to scrutinize, to ponder, to connect with whatever piece of life it privileges."

This was a short reflection on the 'act' of photographing - the impulse to do it and the purpose of the whole enterprise. It is something I feel I really would like to express in words. Though trying to fix that experience with our primary language is impossible and maybe, to a degree, pointless. Maybe photography offers a kind of ‘inter-subjectivity’ that transcends words and other ways of knowing.

I have seldom found photographers who tackle this idea of the 'act', or the 'impulse' or the 'ritual' (to quote earlier blog posts) in a real way. There are not many significant writings which express the feeling of an artist struggling to understand and comprehend their own impulse to photograph. Perhaps my tutor in Dun Laoghaire David Farrell has, from memory, in his lectures, or in his recent blogsite writings, offered an insight. I know Jeff Wall does to a degree. I once read an interesting and insightful interview with Wolfgang Tillmanns which explored the photographic act. Similarly by the artist Phil Collins. Simililarly by Ryan McGinley. Similarly by Joel Meyorwitz. All of which have written accounts of the psychological processes of photography and all of which have produced work which has hit a tone with me. But, recently I found this affecting quote. It is by the incredible Walker Evans (the photographers photographer). Speaking in 1971, he is reflecting back to his 'American Photographs' of 1938 - which resulted from his 'subsidized freedom' (as he saw it) from the auspicies of the Farm Security Administrarion and its ideological mission and working constraints. Whats amazing about it is that towards the end of a life dedicated to photography, even Evans seems to accept that he cannot find an answer, or cannot rationalize the complexities of the photographic impulse:

"I now feel almost mystical about it. I think something was guiding me, was working through me. I really do. And, without being able to explain, I know it absolutely, that it happens sometimes, and I know by the way I feel in the action that it goes like magic - this is it.! Its as though there is a certain secret in a certain place and I can capture it. Only I can do it at this moment, only this moment and only me. You become a kind of a medium.. Some things are sort of done through you somehow. Thats a hell of a thing to believe, I believe it or I wouldnt act it!".