I started this project and knew that every day wouldn’t be horizon-expanding photographic revelations, and it’s not like the past few days were, but I was walking around today and was makin’ some plain ol’ alley pics and not really “feelin it” as a moody artist might say.
It had to do more with the fact that I was trying to be good company moreso than being a good photographer. So we walked and we talked and occasionally I stopped to shoot something that caught my eye, but I really wasn’t trying to dig too deeply into the meaning or essence of what I was shooting. Which, honestly, was nice. It was just a nice walk and I made some nice photographs of nice things.
I’ll also call this photo out because I am so stoked to have taken it. This will definitely be in a book I make at some point.
So for lack of anything deeply pondered while I was again taking a scenic “garden tour” of Richmond’s back alleys, I guess I’ll riff for a second on the nature of superlative and mundane experiences.
This came up last night, as me and a couple friends went to see a movie. I won’t even mention its name as I don’t want to encourage anyone to see it, but the best phrase I could come up with to describe it was “truly, and in the classical sense, grotesque”. And, the movie was so bad, so uninteresting and underdeveloped in its plotline and handling of symbol and metaphor that I couldn’t even draw some hackneyed justification for its ugliness- it was just a repulsive movie in every way I could cut it, unredeemed under the guise of art and instead falling into the realm of the pornagraphic and the vile.
I’m giving it a few sentences more than I would like to spend on it because when I left the movie I couldn’t find an adequate handful of words to convey what I was feeling, and I really think this phenomenon lies in the culture we find ourselves in of the glorification of everything, and the vilification of the mundane.
A quick sample of buzzfeed.com, one of my preferred cultural thermometers, and we see the “article” titled: “These Brexit Breakup Song Puns Will Make You LOL Then Cry”, which has conveniently told me how to feel. Paging through, we find another article titled “Holy Fucking Shit, Twitter Has Stickers Now (I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND)”
Yes, hypebole is an effective way to get people to pay attention to what you’re saying, and furthermore, is an established and useful rhetorical device. However, when the bulk of things that I see on my facebook feed are either hyperbolic or ironic, I have actually found that it’s eroded my ability to meaningfully wield the english language.
Now I’m almost positive that if I look far enough back in history with any effort there will be plenty of examples of rag magazines similarly using emphatic terms for trivial things in order to sell you something. This is conjecture without any real research, but most of my griping about the internet calmed down when I realized that the internet only really amplified and made more visible the problems we face, within and without, rather than create them.
I have, somewhat, the skills necessary to rigorously research this, but one of the cool things about being an artist is that I get to make a lot of conjecture and verify my claims based on a (sort of) peer review far less academic than my friends in the sciences have to go through! What’s even better is that to prove me wrong, to show that these are entirely new products of our internet age, would probably only strengthen my point.
And I can at the end of all this throw a disclaimer of the standpoint of my own subjectivity and limited observations, and that these thoughts are “only for one’s marginally interested consideration” or somesuch. Come to think, I don’t know if anyone ever reads these posts. I think the people that like these may be some kind of spam accounts, because my last post got more likes than views (and I hate that I check), but regardless, in the democratized form of a blog, I will keep writing, and keep photographing, and perhaps someone will read it*.
As Nineteen Eighty-Four posited a language wherein political dissent was impossible as citizens did not have the words to frame the thoughts, I feel we are entering a society in which we require (and expect) everything that may happen to be amazingly mind-blowingly the best thing you’ll see all day, and boredom is to be avoided at all costs. All costs. This is all framed by a language that attempts to raise everything to the experiential register of “awesomeness”. But of course, if everything is exciting then nothing is.
This seems innocent enough when applied to getting people to click on things, but how does it not affect our psyches to a fundamental level? How does it not exacerbate a collective vanity, a navel-gazing society that exists to cater to the amusement and validation of the individual above the individual’s ability to recognize the banality in their own life and the beautiful and amazing things happening around (and in spite of) them?
I may be overreaching, but I mentioned a few posts back that one interesting thing is that if you pick a random point in a city you’re likely to end up in a dump, an alley, a run down spot that has been neglected- the exception of the typology of the city is the clean building face (existing for only a sliver, the surface area), whereas the building itself may be comprised in volume of sad and cramped offices.
I will extend this by saying the interesting thing about nature, when picking a random point from, say, an entire state, is that you’re likely to end up in a forest or field. Which, while maybe not un-freaking-real or anything like that, are still quite beautiful. It’s when I’ve deliberately, intensely forced myself to slow down, maybe to stop in a random spot in the forest, that’s when I can see and feel something that is special in its own sense, and that is a notion of the sum beauty of Creation. It is only a notion, it is not the end in itself, and it points to something else, which I’ll get to later.
That random place in man’s creation, though? Often filthy, often unmaintained. And I would be lying if I said I’ve never concerned myself with the business of being fascinated by trash, but I think we’re being absolutely self-delusional if we try to force ourselves into the thought that trash is superlative, amazing, and ought to be celebrated.
I end with this photo because as we were walking by, the man on the right called down and said I had a nice camera. He asked if I would take a picture of him and send it to his email address. I did, said I would, took it down, and when I tried, it bounced off gmail as an invalid address. I think I may try to print this photo and bring it to him- but in the meantime, here’s to hoping it somehow ends up his way.
*these blogs are written in near stream of conscious and are basically just entirely the opinion and observations of the author. Reader discretion is advised (in this and all things).