As I prepare my portfolio, I’ve been thinking about the influences to my art, and how they play a role in what I do with this project. Perhaps the first influential photographer, whose photographs just grab me and won’t let go, is Karl Blossfeldt, from the early 20th century. His grainy photos of plants, meant originally to be studied for their design, soon became works of art themselves, spawning books and shows. There is something just so simple about them, so innocent in their creation, that they seem “true” in a way wholly different than photography usually speaks of truth. We often think of “true” photographs as accurately depicting that which they’ve seen, or that they speak the truth of some event or idea. Blossfeldt’s prints do none of that, but rather lead me to truths about life that, had he tried, could never have attained.
Edward Weston, too, has had an impact on this work, perhaps more through his quotes than his photography.
“The camera should be used for a recording of life,for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself,
whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”
I used to hate this quote – to me, it meant that somehow photography could be a direct portrayal of truth, something it can never do. Maybe he meant it that way, but I have started to look at these words in a different light. Through photography, one can approach the truth, but the photograph is only the door – it does not contain the truth of the thing itself, rather it leads you to it. Every photograph works differently with each person, as we bring our unique experiences and prejudices to the viewing of the art.
As I create these images, something speaks to me about the object and myself – something reaches down inside me and tells me that this is what matters: the weathered look of the bone, the cracks in the skull. Why it matters is less clear, but what matters is that it matters. A koan of sorts.
(Photograph: Karl Blossfeldt, Plate # 41: Silphium laciniatum (magnified 5 times) Photogravure, printed in 1928.)