Housekeeping! I have a website now! It will serve as my more formal portfolio whereas this is for my endless words and thoughtz. If ya looking for just my finest photographs, nickseitz.com is the place for you.
Above is a piece I never thought I’d make when I came into school. Photographs! Photographs must look like photographs! I must have said. Little did I know that the photographs that look like photographs are usually the boring ones.
With this blog and art in general I feel in the weird position of saying I really don’t know much while also hyping my own accomplishments in art. Like this!
I’m quite proud of that image, and I’m quite proud of the series it comes out of. Now, I don’t think it’s a complete series and I don’t think it’s done and I don’t think it’s outstanding artwork, but man am I proud of the work I’ve done that went into it.
I used to spend a lot of time thinking and less time doing. I think this only gave me the benefit of avoiding making way more bad work, but not necessarily improving the work I was making. Mostly it just frustrated me. But the jist of artwork, even in an art world where the primary strength of artwork is conceptual, is doing so so so much work.
And I’m not even entirely convinced at this point that as you grow and mature as an artist your success rate becomes higher. So far my experience sort of seems to be that I may make just as much unsuccessful artwork, but the successes are only getting better and better.
I think besides a passion for your own artwork, the best thing you can walk away from art school with is the voices and nuances of every single professor and every single classmate you ever had. My digital imaging I professor, whose final project the color photos were made for, will basically only ask two questions of photographs for however long we’re critiquing before giving his thoughts: “What are we looking at?” and then, ad infinitum, “what else?” My darkroom professor (whose final the black and white images were for) would say a lot of things about artwork, but the question was always “Why?” Again, ad infinitum.
I think these questions drive at the very root of “do first, ask the questions later” art making: I think work springs intuitively and then we basically have to react to what’s come from our hands in order to make more, and in doing so, creative vision is understood and refined. I think pure intuition is this sort of central wellspring that will just endlessly spit out ideas and in being able to sort of self critique and self curate, we eventually narrow decisions from the limitless possibilities of things that we know how to/can be done, into some small set of decisions that are clear representations of who we are, what we’re interested in expressing, and with any small stroke of luck, what people are interested in looking at.
So I’ve always been interested in the formal landscape, yes. But it was pretty early into last year that I realized that it was primarily the experience of being out in the landscape and making art that I was interested. That narrows it down a bit, but I only got that piece of information from doing a lot of work that ultimately wasn’t that interesting. I more or less dropped digital image making for primarily photographic work this year, for a variety of reasons, but I figured that out after making thousands and thousands of image I didn’t feel that great about.
Is film an integral part of my art making process? It could be, but I’ll probably need to make a lot more film images to know exactly why or why not. And if it is, I could see a lot more images like the one above that fully own the materials of film, because that’s part of it.
Materials, concepts, experience, everything starts to get slowly rolled into the mix more and more as first as intuition but then, through self critique, through going by what “feels right” ends up being a fully thought through and very explainable phenomenon.
I used to read artists’ books and attend their lectures and see that their work was so clearly explained and was a neat/complete package that was well defined and contemplated and thought that if I could do the same thing for my own artwork, if I could write and think enough about it to the point that it sounded interesting, that then I would be good, that my artwork would be more interesting and engaging. But what I’m slowly sort of coming to realize is that no active artist really reaches a culmination where all their work and the things they want to express makes total sense, it’s just that any artist presentation is basically just a quick overview of wherever they are and what they’re thinking about (generally). And maybe that’s mind blowing to me, ten, twenty, thirty years behind whatever artist I’m watching speak or reading, but it’s all the same road.
The concept of work work work work work and intuitive sensibilities applies to all visual art of course, but it’s applicable in a very strange and unique way to photography just because of how, on a certain level, easy it is to do. Based on what kind of camera and process you’re using, of course it’s going to be harder or easier, but at the end of the day, it’s not that hard to take a photograph. Even a 4×5 view camera and be picked up and learned without too much trouble in a week or two with some determination.
But the crucial element of photography which almost can’t be supported by anything but the intuition of the artist or the person critiquing the work is “how many photos were taken before this one?” For the black and white images posted in this blog and on my website, seven images, I shot 28 sheets of film, lost one sheet, developed 27, did test prints of around 12, printed 10 at 16×20, dropped one for space constraints, and then dropped two after my darkroom crit and only have 7 posted, and I consider 7 images from 27 a pretty remarkable haul. I plan on shooting more, though, and if I shoot a hundred more sheets all these may be scrapped. So it goes.
But the spirit and the things I learned from all the prior photos will be rolled into every new image made, because every subsequent photo is a reaction to the photos prior. It can’t be said in a critique “I can tell you didn’t do all the following things… Because…” because every photographer approaches things differently, but at a certain point, and after seeing a lot of good work and a lot of bad work, it begins to become evident when people are shooting far far far more than they’re putting up, and when they’re putting up far more than they really captured.
My darkroom teacher describes good photography as not a method of seeing something, but seeing with something. This concept is of course applicable to all visual arts, but with photography it’s especially difficult and fun because everyone, even art photographers, have a relationship with photos that is primarily “I am showing you a picture of this because I want you to see the same thing that’s in front of me” that is to say, not pointing past the thing-ness of the subject, simply because the bulk of photos made do only that. The job of the visual artist, of the fine art photographer, is to make artwork that points not at a thing, but at a feeling, at an abstract concept, at a notion and a belief.
Similar concepts drove the color and the black and white work I’ve chosen to accompany this blog post. The thoughts and feelings that inspired this work are helplessly nebulous and I won’t attempt to transcribe them for fear of muddying either the written concept or the visual work with the other, should they not mutually compliment one another.
Life never really seems to stop turning everything over and over in nonstop freefall and I don’t think we ever really get a firm platform to stand upon to make full sense of things, but rather there are rare and beautiful glimpses of whatever we choose to believe is True or Beautiful or what have you. Maybe one can only make work referencing those moments, or maybe one may be blessed to have a brush on the canvas at that moment. I think artistic skill is an appreciation for the significance of these moments, and an increasingly acute technical ability to recognize them.
But the crux is work. Artwork. It’s been in the second half of the word all along!