Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

When the Wind Blows

Barbara on Slickrock (9308)

The vast majority of photographs that we produce do not merit the “Art” label (capital ‘A’).  Not for any of us.  Actually, that’s probably an understatement.  More likely, the percentage of images we capture that might qualify as “Art” (depending on the viewer’s definition of that 3-letter enigma) is almost certainly in the single digits – the low single digits.  As bloggers, we’d be hard-pressed to post more than once every couple of months or so if we decided we were only going to put up “photographic art”.  Heck, some folks might never post.  Just kidding…….

(By the way, I really don’t like that word.  “Blog”, I mean.  Or “blogger”.  It’s ugly.  Sounds like something dirty or smelly that just got pulled out of a landfill.  Something that you do because you aren’t good enough to be an actual “writer”.  Or a real photographer.  It’s like second-class citizenship.  A very small step up from Flickr.  An “artistic” outlet with no entrance fee.  Culture for the masses.  Etc., etc.)

No, we usually only succeed in getting Photographic Art when we had no intention of doing so.  In a word, we get lucky.

Most of what we shoot, I think, can be labeled as “memory aids”.  We create images of things we want to remember.  A lot of that “inner vision” that people like to talk about is simply a mind trick.  We see something, we like it, and we want to remember it.  So we photograph it.  Or more precisely, we photograph it the way we want to remember it.  I think that that’s part of the reason for the popularity of digital editing software.  We can easily make the image “match” our memory.

Like when I revisited this picture of my wife standing on some slickrock.  I remembered the day.  Or more correctly, I remembered the evening.  We were wandering around Balanced Rock in Arches NP, something we’ve always enjoyed doing when the sun’s going down.  It’s an interesting spot that draws a lot of people at the end of the day.  Most of them are setting up tripods, hoping for a “trophy” image of Balanced Rock at sunset (when it turns a beautiful orangey red).  This particular evening was no different.  Lots of people and lots of cameras.  It’s fun to watch (since I got my “trophy” on my first visit a few years ago).

There was, however, one small problem.  There were lots and lots of dark, threatening clouds.  Well, two problems actually.  The wind was blowing a gale.  Now I don’t know about you but I tend to avoid attempting “trophy shots” when I can barely stand up.  If I’m not stable, what makes me think my tripod mounted camera will be stable?  The odds, in other words, weren’t looking good for these folks.  Perhaps this was going to be their only chance at it; I don’t know.  But whatever their reason, most of them stuck it out.  Pretty much until the sun went down.  Then they packed it up and left.  Without their “trophy”.

Balanced Rock (9306)

The image of my wife is what I’ll remember, though.  I’ll remember her standing up there in that wind, trying not to get blown over (she’s not exactly a big person).  I’ll remember the clouds that looked like they were going to start dropping snow or rain any second, but never did.  And I’ll remember getting back into the car, out of the wind, and driving back to the hotel in Moab for a cup of hot coffee and a cookie.

All that from a photograph.

Balanced Rock made a nice silhouette, though.


4 Responses to “When the Wind Blows”

  1. Cedric Canard

    Paul, the shot of your wife is excellent. It holds a lot of symbolism for me (unfortunately none to do with hot coffee and cookies).
    I’m with you on your point regarding making Art with a capital “A”. I’ve argued this point with a lot of people in the past but these days I let people be. As you know, I don’t put much weight on opinions (especially my own) and in the end it matters not one iota to me if people think their snaps are Art or even ART. Good for them. The world needs more feel good moments even if they don’t solve anything.
    On a side note, that balanced rock is mind boggling.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. My ‘Art’ comments were about 99% tongue-in-cheek. Like you, I’ve been known to engage in fairly serious discussions about the nature of Art, but no more. It’s like talking about religion or the existence of God with “true believers” or discussing the meaning of the 2nd Amendment with an NRA member. Kind of a pointless exercise. Fun maybe, but pointless. But if it tweaks someone’s nose a little, then maybe it’s OK………More seriously, I agree with you – if people think that they’ve made ‘Art’, then good for them. And perhaps they have. Who among us can say that they haven’t?

      I think this particular balanced rock may be the Mother of all balanced rocks. And I’ve seen quite a few of those. Sadly, one of these days it will fall down. I just hope I’m not standing underneath it when it does!

  2. ken bello

    First, I agree with you that “blog” is an ugly word. Originally it stemmed from the term “web log” but that’s way to long for anyone to use these days.

    I am missing your point about Art with a capital “A”, though. I’m not sure what your meaning is regarding the “A” (or even a small “a”). Certainly there are levels of art, I admit. Beethoven’s 5th is probably at a higher level than “Twist and Shout”, but they are both art just the same. Artistic achievement has to count for something. I do think you’re correct that most photographers “art” photos are a very small percentage of the total output but that’s because photographers tend to be prolific. I sometimes shoot 500-600 photos on a weekend. I can shoot 5 frames a second. Plus, I usually shoot a range of three exposures per scene. Of course I’m going to have a low percentage of keepers and even a lower percentage of “art” photos. I know all this before I press the shutter button. Photographers have this advantage of producing huge amounts of work in a shot period of time, more so than any other art form I can think of, although, like I said, it’s not all good. But art knows no bounds. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or perfect. As a mater of fact, sometimes it’s ugly. Art makes the world a better place to live but it can be a very personal thing, as well. Perhaps your standards are too high or mine are too low but to my way of thinking, there is a lot more art in the world that you are giving credit. That’s art with a small or capital “A”.

    As far as the “memory aids” comments is concerned I’m thinking you are referring to those Kodak moments we all have from time to time. That may be true for many people but serious photographers don’t spend thousands of dollars on gear to do what a $200 camera (or even a cell phone) can do. The average photo blogger usually has higher aspirations rather that just capturing little Johnny’s first communion photos. At least the ones I follow. They spend that money so that they may better express themselves creatively. To me, that’s the essence of art. It’s what drives all creative people.

    Please don’t take these comments negatively. I’ve seen some art (Art?) on this site, too.

    • Paul Maxim

      “Art……. can be a very personal thing”. Absolutely true. You’ve said it perfectly. As I mentioned to Cedric, I wasn’t trying to engage in anything serious. I do have an opinion (like my opinion of the green Mini in one of your posts), but it’s just an opinion. The truth is, my problem with the idea of art is simply that I’ve always had a hard time defining it for myself. And I think that defining it in terms of photography is even harder (you’ve mentioned some of the reasons). But that’s just me. If someone else sees it more clearly, then great. It’s strictly personal.

      “Memory aids” may have been a poor choice of words. I certainly wasn’t thinking about “Kodak moments”. I don’t take photographs just to stuff them into some kind of digital scrapbook. When we had dinner with Mark Hobson and John Linn a while back I remember talking about this (arguing?) with Mark. I simply think (believe) that a photograph can be an extremely powerful memory enhancer (again, not exactly the right words). Photographs link us in a very emotional way to where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and what we did. Maybe they’re “art” or maybe they’re not. For me, it really doesn’t matter. They’re simply my connection to the world, a world that makes me intensely curious.


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