Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the dark

I commuted by bicycle to work today, and then I was busy with various things, including paying a lot of bills - now is the school photo shoot season and you get all those packages which contain bills. I didn't have time for taking photographs, except a couple of snapshots when going to the local shopping mall. (And those photographs remind me that I should was the car soon.)

By the way, do other countries have a similar system for school photographs, namely photography companies specializing in school photo shoots? Someone claimed that they are very very profitable, at least here in Finland.

These companies are getting more and more clever in marketing their photographs. Their basic package contains not only a group photograph of the class, but also individual photographs in various sizes and packages, photographs on magnets (for the fridge?), "best fried photographs", etc.

And speaking of photography, I was enjoying another thought-provoking - or maybe inspiring is the right word, although it is nowadays used so much that it inspires no more - posting by Mark Hobson, which discusses the book The Reenchantment of Art by Suzi Gablik, of whom I had never heard before.

This quote got me really interested in her writing: "In the modern world view, reality has been distorted by a thoroughly negative set of assumptions about the world ... a way of life based on manic production and consumption, maximum energy flow, mindless waste and greed, is now threatening the entire ecosystem in which we live."

And imagine my surprise when I noticed that the book The Reenchantment of Art is available in the local library. In fact, several of her works were in the library catalog. I immediately made a reservation on two of the books, and really look forward to reading them when they arrive.

And imagine then, that Mark also wrote a nice positive comment about my photographs. I sure want to quote it here: "Juha Haataja, who in a grievously erroneous bout of self critiquing thinks that I might think he is a pretty picture maker (I most emphatically do not) ..." - Well, I might have been showing some symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder when I wrote that particular posting where I was ranting about pretty pictures.

But anyway, what is best about photography is that there is always so much to learn. Never finished but always ready...


Cedric said...

Mark Hobson's comment about your photography is quite right. You are not in the "pretty picture" league as Mark defines it. Your pictures have me looking at them and the detail within them for a lot longer than I would spend looking at a "pretty picture".

As for Suzi Gablik I will be interested to hear your thoughts on her writings. The quote you mention is of a sentiment often felt these days (I've said similar things too) but if we are to agree with the sentiment it pays to remember that the "manic production and consumption, maximum energy flow, mindless waste and greed" has also given us the lifestyles we enjoy today. It is true however that the flip-side of this coin is threatening "the entire ecosystem in which we live" but I suspect that it also holds the very seed that will one day see us overcome the threats. Of course I tend to be an optimist so this view may be unrealistic but I don't think Gablik shares my view on this matter. Furthermore her view on art is equally interesting (or perhaps I should say, my interpretation of her view on art). She is as bleak about modern/contemporary art as she is about the world. Her solution is for art to be more community and environment focused but I just can't accept that. Art by definition must not, cannot, be tied to a specific purpose. To me art exists for its own sake and as a derivative of self-expression. Having said all that, she is well worth reading and touches on many subjects always presenting her arguments well. I am confident that you will enjoy reading her work and as I mentioned I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts. (sorry for the long winded comment)

Juha Haataja said...

@Cedric: The sentiment of "manic production and consumption" is rather problematic.

I feel there is a pressure to consume, consume, consume, generated by marketeers and their channels which are everywhere. This is one reason why we ended some years ago the subscription to a newspaper and have a "no ads" sign on the mailbox. Also, digital tv makes it possible to skip the commercials (and minimize the time spent in front of the tv).

I remember reading about 30 years ago the science fiction novel "The Space Merchants" by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth. Now we live (voluntarily) in a society dominated by a hyper-developed consumerism, just like in the book.

On the other hand, I do welcome all the benefits the scientific and technical progress brings, enabling us live better lives, make smarter choices, and perhaps even develop as human beings.

So, I'm rather ambivalent about this, feeling both pessimism and optimism.