The On-Going Conversation

“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

― Fran Lebowitz

Joshua Wolf Shenk has a new book out ‘The Powers of Two‘ that examines what he considers to be the myth of the lone genius and the power of creative partnerships. His interview with Jonathon Fields is a good overview of the themes in the book.

The role that partners play in the creation of work is something that I’ve been exploring more deeply in the last few weeks. Whether those partners are members of an artist’s group or part of an acknowledged partnership, such as the example of Lennon and McCartney that Schenk uses in his book, doesn’t seem to matter. What does matter is the presence of that dynamic. Where you are pushing and being pushed to test the limits and explore new ground. Shenk argues convincingly that even periods in your life where you have experienced this dynamic can profoundly impact you and your work. Indeed, it sounds as though even when Lennon and McCartney weren’t working with one another they were such a clear voice in the others head that it was if they were in the room.

In listening to the description of Lennon and McCartney I was struck by how the interaction was perhaps a little like the interaction that actors and comedians have when they are improvising. They try to leave the door open for others in the group to continue, avoiding ‘No’ or ‘Okay, but …’ in favor of ‘Yes, and …’, generally ending up somewhere that none of the group had imagined. I think that’s what we’re hoping for with our work to end up in a place that we hadn’t expected and wouldn’t have been able to get to alone.

That Lennon and McCartney continued to respond and react to each others creative works in public through production of new material should be no surprise. While the public interaction of Lennon and McCartney during this period leaves something to be desired I believe there is a place to respond to work that is out in the world.

We do not exist in isolation but belong to the larger world, as we put images out into that world it is useful to understand or at least recognise that we are joining in the conversation, adding to the mosaic that is already existing.

Engage in the game of ‘Yes, and…’ and see where that takes you.

Friday Inspiration: Wynn Bullock

831.624.2801 c. 1960

I’ve been working through how to give meaningful feedback to other photographers about their work and in the course of that I realize that our reaction to work tells us more about ourselves and less about the photographer. That was certainly the case with my initial intersection with Wynn Bullock. Bullock is generally regarded as one of the most significant photographers of the mid-twentieth century. He was a close friend of West Coast photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and a peer of Minor White, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer. I remember seeing his famous photograph Child in the Forest from the 1955 Family of Man exhibition curated by Edward Steichen and dismissed him as not doing something that I was interested in.

I was recently given a copy of ‘Wynn Bullock: Revelations‘, a comprehensive look at his entire body of work that was produced to support the exhibition now showing at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course there are a good number of nudes included in the book which was where he was as a photographer early in his career but then there are a large number of images such as the one above that reflect his interest in how to represent time in a still image. There are a large number of abstract color images that I also find very interesting.

In listening to the interviews with Bullock below much of what he has to say about his photographic explorations resonated with me. Well worth a look.

Conversations With The Masters, rare interview with Wynn Bullock. This interview was conducted by Steve James of the Eikon Gallery

This video highlights excerpts from the 1975 film by Thom Tyson, Wynn Bullock: Photographer.

Friday Inspiration: Carl Chiarenza

chiarenzaI’ve been looking at work by Aaron Siskind over the last few weeks and as part of that reading came across Carl Chiarenza who wrote ‘Aaron Siskind: Pleasures and Treasures’. Chiarenza is a splendid photographer in his own right in addition to being a great teacher. Check out the video below to get an introduction to Chiarenza. Check out the additional conversations between Chiarenza and Brooks Jensen that can be found here.

A Conversation with Carl Chiarenza from Rochester Contemporary (RoCo) on Vimeo.