photography in reverse: day twelve


Today was, thankfully, mostly just a work day (for all of us) but of course we started out with our Weekly 100 pictures. Actually, the first thing up was a short film on Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson is, of course, one of those photographers we learn about early on in our student years, and is a giant enough to be overlooked in one’s later years. (After a long enough time and years of overexposure, so to speak, there are just some artists you can’t look at anymore…) However this short film, in which Cartier-Bresson speaks in his own words about his images and his working philosophy, was inspiring in every way. The old famous images seemed more spontaneous, fresh, and exciting than I remember; his ideas were more humanist and optimistic than I ever knew. I just wanted to grab a 35mm camera and go out and see the world anew.

My general thesis for this week – being as we are in the mid-Twentieth-Century, shooting black-and-white film, looking at the changing world – was composition: arranging the world within the camera. We are still in Sontag territory here, of course, but I was less concerned with theory this week than the marriage of syntax and content. We talked about the size and speed of a 35mm camera versus the steady, imprisoning frame of a 120mm square. We discussed a seemingly objective view masking the personal viewpoint of the photographer. I contrasted Cartier-Bresson’s tightly composed humanism to the beautiful but bleak looseness of Robert Frank’s The Americans. We looked at Helen Levitt, Gilles Peress, and one of my all-time favorites, Roy DeCarava.

Looking at the use of photography with performance art, we talked about the authenticity of a grainy B&W image and how it compares to the 4×6 color snapshots. That got us into Nan Goldin, and Larry Clark’s recent offering of his small snapshots for $100 each. I showed them these amazing recreations of famous images. We talked a little bit about creating fantastic worlds, with Robert and Shana Parke-Harrison, and Ruth Thorne-Thomsen. Somehow, we found our way to talking about Stanhopes, I think in reference to some ideas we had about making eggs for Easter… No matter what, I think everyone (myself included) walked away from this morning’s discussion feeling pretty inspired. I’m looking forward to the weekend, and some time to relax and enjoy this gorgeous mountain Spring.

photography in reverse: day eleven

a life in plastic

I love giving presents, and today I was directly mimicking my first Photography Professor, Christopher James, by giving each of my students a brand-new Holga and a roll of Tri-X. The weather wasn’t wonderful – in fact it was cold and rainy and sleepy – but I wanted to send them off with a roll of 120 film to shoot and then come back and develop it. I opened up an old expired roll of color 120 to show them how the roll is assembled so they can process it without surprises, answered a few questions – everyone looked pretty confident, I’m happy to report – and pushed them out into the rain. I feel a little bad that I didn’t buy my assistant a camera, but I know she already has a Holga, so I loaned her my old original Diana and urged her to shoot a roll of the old Infrared film she brought with her. After our good discussion yesterday, it’s clear she needs to go play and find something surprising in her own work. I have total faith in her, of course…

I figured most of the rest of the day would be answering questions as they arose, switching lenses for those who get to printing their larger-format film, finding solutions to their new ideas… I did have to carve out some time in the afternoon to re-do the printing demo for one poor student who was awfully ill the other day, but it was a good opportunity to do a re-hash for the students within earshot. There were a lot of ideas being tossed around today, and the creative energy is high. I’m glad they’ll have a whole day for this tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the rest of my day had to be spent sitting on the computer, putting together the 100 images I wanted to show them tomorrow. It’s my own fault, of course, since I was the one who decided to show them pictures every Friday, but I know they’ll be inspired and we’ll have more to talk about each week. The problem is that I’m starting to feel that all this time sitting at a computer or other connected device is ruining some of the magic I usually feel on this mountain. Certainly something is keeping me from connecting to the deep inspiration I always count on finding here. I wondered at first if it was just from being here so often for short visits in the last couple of years, or just the psychic residue of the last six months or so, a chaotic time to say the least. No, I’m gonna blame the Machines. I need more peace, more freedom to be untethered, more time to think.

photography in reverse: day ten

getting personal

Wednesday is our day to critique work and to discuss ideas, or just to sit around and talk, if we like, and today we moved from the studio to what will now be our weekly meeting place: my house. I always request the same housing at Penland, if I can get it, mostly for the large living room on the main floor (though the porch is pretty great, too!) My assistant and I removed a large bookcase from one wall, then rearranged the couches so we could sit around and look at work. I made coffee, set out some snacks, and we were set.

It’s still early days, of course, and people have just started printing their own B&W pics, so the morning was filled more with general discussion than actual critiquing. We did finally get our “One Hour” photos back last night (only 78 hours later!) so we had lots to look at and discuss. It really is fun passing around these glossy four-by-sixes, and we got to talking about the differences between the Personal experience of photography and the Art experience. If, as I believe, Art can be made about anything and, in fact, is especially suited for the emotional, irrational, and meaningful parts of what it means to be human, then can good work be made that even comes close to the experience of passing these little things around? The minute you take one of these images and blow it up (and there are many artists who seem to do just that) something is lost. Yes, I can be made to understand that the artist’s work is about the vernacular use of and personal relationship to family photos, say, but shouldn’t artwork be able to go deeper somehow, to make a complicated and powerful connection to that simple handheld reminder of our lives as they pass?

Almost every photo we looked at this morning was much less about what was held in the frame than as a spur to memory. “Oh yeah, that’s the wall of teacups at the store we were in. That guy was such a weirdo!” “That’s when you were telling us a story about your friend.” “Look how happy I was!” I took one disposable camera and decided to have fun, shooting touristy snapshots around the campus and the woods here, but making sure my thumb or finger was in every frame. Photography may indeed replace memory in the end, but it summons it too, at least for us here. We’re hoping to get our slides FedExed back to us in time for the afternoon. That will be a whole different experience indeed.

Snapshot of the Weaving Cabin, Penland, NC.

Snapshot of the Weaving Cabin, Penland, NC.

After lunch we took some time to talk about everyone’s first negatives and prints, and I’ve begun urging them toward a project idea – anything, really, just a place to start. I asked them to take a few days and see what struck them. We’re going to push our Large Format demo from Friday to Monday, so we can have a day this week just to work. I think they could use it…

The slides did arrive, and my assistant managed to track down one of the only slide projectors left on campus, so they spent some time loading up a few trays while I searched for extra blankets and things to keep out the late afternoon light, now looking right in on us. This would be better in a darker room, but it’s still a wonderfully old-fashioned experience to get the projector whirring, the carousel clacking. Everyone shot at least a few photos of the lovely landscape here, but there were goofy shots of all of us, nighttime experiments, documentation of some of the Mavica moments, explorations in the towns nearby. One of my students drove a couple of hours each way the other day, just to shoot some animals at a zoo. I’m actually surprised that everyone has a memory of their family doing this very thing, and I’m reminded suddenly of the back staircase from my room to the kitchen where my siblings and I would set up slideshows of our own – must have been an old servants’ passage, I guess. Was it at Bourneside Street, in the ’70s?

My brother, my sister, and I on Bourneside Street, ca. 1975

My brother, my sister, and I on Bourneside Street, ca. 1975

After dinner there were slides again, this time by the Resident Artists (minus the two who are teaching this session), who are all awesome. Kind of a shame they only had about 5 minutes each, but they’ll be doing an Open House thing on Friday, so we can see a lot of the work in person. Later a few of us gathered for Art Talk, where a bunch of the staff and residents meet weekly and talk about issues of theory, teaching, studio practice, etc. – whatever gets lost in the day-to-day work and maintenance here at the school. Most of these people are my friends now, and I’m so lucky to be welcomed by them into the fold.

photography in reverse: day nine


Today was our day for Printing 101, and the real beginning of what I consider the handcrafted side of Photography. I was surprised that four of my six students had never really printed much in a darkroom before, even the ones who’d had some experience with photography. Printing was always my favorite part when I first started, and I’ve collected a lot of good solid ways to explain it to students, so it was a pretty straightforward morning. (It helps to have students as quick and smart as these…) In fact, I’d had so much coffee that I sped through the whole demo – from chemistry to contact sheets to cropping to contrast – all in about an hour. Thankfully everyone seemed to get it, and were all soon printing remarkably well. It’s been so long since I actually printed in a darkroom, but I guess over so many years the knowledge and practice does add up. I kind of miss it, in fact…

I feel like we’ve finally hit the “craft” part of photography, here at the Craft School, and we’re moving away from the lovely balance of Playtime & Theory that we managed to strike last week, and on into the students’ own work, their own concerns. I do still want them to play (and to think!) but I’m going to start pushing them toward a project, and toward building a body of work. Heck, we have a show to do in just six weeks!

By the time we were back in the studio after lunch, everyone was pretty clearly in a groove, listening to some Miles Davis (thanks to Robin Dreyer loaning us some key CDs… I really should have installed a turntable in here, for the right Mid-Twentieth-Century vibe!) My assistant and I were on the board to show our slides tonight after dinner, so we spent some time organizing things in Powerpoint and making sure they made sense. I wanted my lecture to be under 20 minutes, but also wanted to show enough of my work while making a clear argument about technology, the future, and the past.

In the end I think slides went well, though I’m embarrassed to admit how much I wanted to chat to people afterward – you know, to have someone say, “That was good.” I’m generally pretty confident giving a talk on my work, but every now and then, well, I need a little whiskey beforehand, and a pat on a back afterward. It’s really absurd being an artist sometimes…

photography in reverse: day eight


Our first weekend brought us the first party (in the glass studio), our first dressing up & dancing, our first solid hangovers… I had spent Saturday down in Asheville, running a few errands, seeing a few friends, and generally wandering around, but made it back up the mountain in time to join in the fun. Clearly everyone else had a pretty full-on time, if the morning after was anything to go by. Sunday was gloriously sunny, if a bit cold and windy, and completely quiet. I think an awful lot of people were hiding out, sleeping, and nursing themselves back to normalcy. Me, I had a wonderful wander of the woods, a little dancing around work in the studio, but not much. It was a true Day Off.

Monday we were all right back in it, now moved over to the main darkroom area, the only place I ever really knew of as the Photo Studio, from the first day I came to Penland in 1992… I’m so happy to be heading back into the Handmade, and away from relying on business and corporations (e.g. waiting for our film to be developed by someone else in some other city, then shipped back to us.) Today we did good ol’ Black & White 35mm film. I figure that puts us in the heyday of the 50s or so, and some jazz or Ella Fitzgerald’s Cole Porter Songbook were excellent on the soundtrack.

The students seemed pretty confident with their 35mm cameras, after spending the weekend using them to shoot chromes – even the ones who’d never shot film before. (I continue to be pleased at the organization of our days, although I often think that stems more from dumb luck than good planning on my part.) Today the plan was to shoot a roll of Black & White in the brilliant morning light, then develop it this afternoon. I handed them each some film and… we all just sat there a bit. Honestly, I think everyone just kinda wanted to hang out for a little bit more this morning. I have to say this group of students is so kind to each other, so funny with each other, so supportive and helpful. I already love them so much, it’s almost heartbreaking…

When we met up again after lunch, I gave them lots of time to practice rolling their film onto the developing reels, really the only thing difficult at all about processing one’s own film; the rest of it is just following the recipe. Of course, we did have to print out a better “recipe” to post on the wall, since the one that was here looked like it’d been written by a drunken toddler on his last crayon. I described the process to them once through, getting them to start thinking about what’s happening chemically to their film as it goes through each step (happy little halides!) Once they were ready with their own reels loaded, I had them follow along as my assistant developed her film, then had them dive on in. In the end there were only a few minor mishaps – a little film stuck together in places from wonky rolling – but everyone ended up with some well-exposed negatives to use for printing tomorrow. A solid, successful day… Onward and Backward!

That evening, as I sat around after dinner, the campus was treated to another tawdry sky. At first I was just amazed at the early evening light – a cool yellow, decidedly not Summery yet, but hinted at, like a boy who looks like his father… I loved how it came through the trees to my porch, all brilliant and blurred, like. But soon, as the sun fell, all through the valley was this wild color – orange clouds with pink bellies and blue haloes touching the hilltops, spreading in every direction. When you thought that was enough, the color would riot, the whole sky a smeared rainbow, pinks to reds, the blues deepening. Okay, Penland, I hear you; you’re beautiful, I know.

photography in reverse: day five

the carousel

One of the key points to our discussion of Color Photography, on this our last day before we move to Black & White, is that for the most part these technologies are out of the hands of the solitary maker, and purely the products of industry. It takes large machines carefully calibrated to make color films of all kinds. The processing, too, is complex and uncompromising. It’s just not something some guy is going to keep alive in his garage (or revive it when it’s gone). In my opinion, most color photography – at least on the shooting side –has been truly supplanted by digital imaging. I don’t know which is stronger, my DIY handmade heart or my old anti-capitalist punk-rock brain, but I’m happy to have the rest of this class move towards Things We Can Make Ourselves.

Before we got too far into all this, though, I gave them a quick slide show of all the artists who had come up in coversation this week, mostly from the discussion of the students’ own work on Wednesday: Lothar Osterburg, Leslie Dill, James Bishop, Gordon Matta-Clark, Helen Frankenthaler, Sadie Benning, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier, James Van Der Zee, August Sander, Edward Muybridge, Nadar, and Anna Atkins. I think we’ll do this every Friday, like a Random History of Art. (We did much the same the last time I taught a Concentration here…)

Since it’s raining and cool again today, I’ll let them have the (supposedly sunny) upcoming weekend to shoot the rest of their disposables, and the two rolls of slide film I gave them today. Giving them some 35mm chromes means it’s time to bust out the 35mm cameras, and there are at least a couple of students who need a refresher course on using an analog camera, and one student who’s never touched one in her life! This is all well-planned, if I do say so myself, since on Monday we move to 35mm Black-and-White film, which they’ll spend a couple of days shooting, developing, and printing themselves.

But I digress. It’s back to, say, the 60’s now…

photography in reverse: day four

family photos

Today I’m placing our Yesterday around 1976, an important year for color chemical photography. I chose the year for the controversial William Eggleston exhibition at MOMA – which almost instantly moved color photographs from the ghetto of the commonplace into the, well, ghetto of the artworld – but really we’re talking about family albums, one-hour photo places, and drugstore prints. My odd sleeping pattern worked weirdly in my favor last night, as I had been searching for a few quotes from Sontag’s On Photography that I knew would be useful, and just ended up staying awake until 2:30 re-reading the whole book. I’ve always said that this book has been one of the fundamentally most important texts to the way I’ve understood Photography. I was amazed to find how true this still is, and just how much she manages to pack into only 200 pages.

There are so many passages relevant to me, and to this course, but I chose this as one of the things to read to the class:

“Through photographs, each family constructs a portrait-chronicle of itself — a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness. It hardly matters what activities are photographed so long as photographs get taken and are cherished. Photography becomes a rite of family life just when, in the industrializing countries of Europe and America, the very institution of the family starts undergoing radical surgery. As that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family — and, often, is all that remains of it.”
-Susan Sontag, On Photography

I’ve been using the material history of Photography to talk about the technical syntax of each process, i.e. how it says what it says. When I think of the color print, the most obvious way it has existed in the world is as the classic 4×6 glossy print. You’d shoot a roll, bring it to the drugstore, and pick it up a little bit later. Almost every household, even today, has some of these (if not tons) kept in albums and shoeboxes, living rooms and attics. Since the second half of the Twentieth Century, it’s how we told the story of us. (If you want to get lost in this history, take a look at the Internet K-Hole blog. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) So, for class today, I gave everyone two disposable cameras.

We talked a lot about Sontag, regarding the special power that these small prints can hold:

“…we have in a photograph surrogate possession of a cherished person or thing, a possession which gives photographs some of the character of unique objects.”
“Few people in this society share the primitive dread of cameras that comes from thinking of the photograph as a material part of themselves. But some trace of the magic remains: for example, in our reluctance to tear up or throw away the photograph of a loved one, especially of someone dead or far away.”
- On Photography

From there it was a quick step to Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, the other pillar in the contemporary theory of Photography. If Sontag is the stern and brilliant mother of my thought, Barthes is the kind and critical father:

“What did I care about the rules of composition of the photographic landscape, or, at the other end, about the Photograph as family rite? Each time I would read something about Photography, I would think of some photograph I loved, and this made me furious. Myself, I saw only the referent, the desired object, the beloved body…”
- Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

It was an incredibly beautiful day out, sunny and 60’s. I handed them their cameras and sent them out into the sunshine…

As for me, I actually got out of the studio for a while. One of the odd local dogs that hang out at Penland picked me up at the School Store and walked me around the loop, through the woods. After lunch, I took a hike on Paulus’ Path up to the top of the knob, a mile and a half each way. The rest of the afternoon, however, was spent sitting at the computer, finding and organizing 99 images from various artists to show to the class tomorrow. Glad to have spent as much time as I did outdoors today.

Local dog, Fred, takes me on a walk

Fred takes me on a walk.

photography in reverse: day three

who we were then

Today we were outside of time, I suppose, since it was our first Critique Day. We will do these every Wednesday for the rest of the session, not only to see what everyone has made, but to look at contemporary and historical theory, and to talk about how these techniques and ideas are useful to their own practice back in the future. With a small class like this, we can talk about each student’s work in depth. We have the luxury of time.

For just six students, we have a remarkable range of artists. One student, though young, has been painting consistently since she was 13; another has had a much later start to her career, and so seems younger to the rest of us; one has had a deep and varied career of study, and is eager and hungry; another grew up in the arts, in New York, but had to escape by hopping the rails for a while; one has traveled the world and has almost too many ideas; one has found herself in North Carolina, deep in transition from who she was to who she will be. I suppose I, too, am in some transition, as I’ve found to be the case for every student in these Concentration classes. You go to the mountain to seek something, always.

This first Crit is always planned as a sort of extended introduction, and I will use the things they have done to anchor our understanding of what they will do here. Even if it’s just experiment and play, it’s useful to have their other work as a marker and a guide. I was amazed at all the varied work the students have done, as well as their willingness to take on the small challenges and big ideas of the first two days here, moving back from 2015 to the early days of Digital.

Without a doubt the Mavica cameras were a great hit, and the romance of the small pixellated image really was the wonderful lead-in to the course that I hoped it would be. What amazes me the most, however, is how instantly the class bonded together: they have been making a low-res collaborative horror film with these cameras, running around with costumes and fake blood, their pockets stuffed with floppy disks. Honestly, to see this sort of excitement, brilliance, and play right away, is about the greatest joy any teacher could get. All I did was give a bunch of smart people some new toys…

photography in reverse: day two

from today film is dead

I distinctly remember the very real panic of the early ’90s (um, 1990’s, that is) when I was in Grad School and all anyone could talk about was the clearly imminent Death of Film. I was learning Photoshop 2.0 at the time, Postmodernism had led to Identity Politics, the “Y2K” was coming, and we were all doomed. I’m not saying that all that isn’t true, exactly, just not with the same clangor and wailing that seemed to come from all directions back then. We still have film, for now at least.

So here we are, today, back at the turn of the century. The time-traveling has begun, and this is my gift to the students, ca. 2002:


It was pretty exciting, actually, getting these beasts to work – 1.2 Megapixels! – scrolling through the sad built-in image effects, listening to the sounds of writing to a floppy disk. (It’s so satisfying a noise; why hasn’t that been co-opted for something, skeumorphically, as it were?) I had even brought an unopened box of floppies to use – and a USB floppy reader! I always say, Limits are good for Art. Let’s see what they can do with these.

The weather looks rainy all week, but just like yesterday, the morning gloom wore off (for the most part) after lunch, and everyone could go shoot. A few of the students got really excited about the cheap video included with the Mavicas, and spent some of the afternoon planning a quick horror-film shoot for tonight. (I overhead one say, “I want a bloody death.”) I may have been worried about the heady slowness of our beginning yesterday, but already the pace is picking up. Of course there are printer glitches, and Dropbox hangups, and small technological incompatibilities with these old cameras, but that’s digital technology for you – it just slows your whole life down.

Tomorrow we have our first Critique Day. We’ll look at the work from these first two days and each student’s previous work as a sort of introduction to what they want from these eight weeks. Let me end with a quote I gave them today, one I only recently saw online, and which may serve as our guiding principle for this whole class:

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit—all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

photography in reverse: day one

the digital multitudes

First proper night, first proper insomnia, whether from excitement or anxiety I don’t know… What I do know is that there’s a lot to get into today – photography in the present – and I’m up early to organize my thoughts. I’d like to get them just thinking and shooting this week, before we start getting overly technical. It’s a digital and point-and-shoot kind of week (at least until Friday), thinking about memory, color, digital vs. chemical, and the screen image vs. the print. I have stats and terms and timelines and ideas. I have slides…

We set ourselves up by the new iMacs and Epsons next door to the darkroom and I made sure everyone had their phones, with the exception of my one awesome  semi-Luddite student (hooray!) who has no cell phone (really!) but does shoot a lot of digital photographs for her mixed-media work (oh, okay.) Also, she confessed to having an iPad, as did another student who rocks a DumbPhone™. I tried to get that student to shoot with her little phone, but the iPad would have to do for now. This is Photography Today: everyone with a camera. It’s the rare exception who doesn’t.

I asked everyone about the most recent photographs they took; many had tried to capture the beauty of Penland, of course, as have I. One student had just shot a picture of her grandson to send to her husband. One had taken a picture of her license plate for the number to go on the school’s official info forms. I had to hit them with some of the usual frightening statistics about the sheer amount of photographs we take today, even though many of the numbers I found were from a couple of years ago, and the reported source has now vaporized into the blogosphere. One of my favorites:

“Every two minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s.”, as quoted by Gizmodo

How does this unimaginable quantity of photographs taken change how we experience the world? It has been said that the camera is not so much a tool to extend the eye as one that extends the memory, but since memory is a creative act, constantly re-made upon each remembering, the photographs we take in order to spark our memories may end up replacing them entirely. For proof, look at Linda A. Henkel’s studies on photography and memory (recently discussed on NPR), which show how taking pictures of everything actually impairs memory (but photographing with close focus and intent may increase it):

“Two studies examined whether photographing objects impacts what is remembered about them. Participants were led on a guided tour of an art museum and were directed to observe some objects and to photograph others. Results showed a photo-taking-impairment effect: If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them. However, when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on. This finding highlights key differences between people’s memory and the camera’s “memory” and suggests that the additional attentional and cognitive processes engaged by this focused activity can eliminate the photo-taking-impairment effect.”
- Linda A. Henkel, Point-and-Shoot Memories: The Influence of Taking Photos on Memory for a Museum Tour, Fairfield University

This just seems to confirm what we experience every day: you forget the name of that guy from that thing, and suddenly you’re deep in an RGS (Recreational Google Search) right in the middle of your dinner conversation… We are forgetting faster and faster.

Of course, this too is not new. Our Culture seems always to have been in the business of forgetting our Nature. Via the blog I discovered a perfectly related story as an ancient precursor to Henkel, wherein Socrates tells of two gods, Thamus, the king of all Egypt, and Theuth. Theuth was the inventor of things like arithmetic and geometry and astronomy (and also, oddly, dice.) But his best invention was writing, and he proudly showed off his work to Thamus:

Socrates: “…Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”
- Plato, from Phaedrus, 360 BCE

Anyway, this is a lot to think about, here on our first day on the mountain. And there was more, too, from memory to artifice and other differences between digital photography and real photography. As photos become more and more pixellated, reblogged, unattributed, shopped, and chopped, will there be a time soon when they no longer carry even the smallest spurious scrap of truth? My youngest student, at 19, may still believe in photos, but will her children? We’re on our way already… This last bit is from The New Aesthetic blog, a favorite of mine: it’s #HYPERREALCG, which collects amateur CG and 3D-rendered images of mundane subjects, done so well as to be virtually indistinguishable from reality.


Of course you realize, as you scroll through image after image of the most absurdly boring yet incredibly real-looking images – I can’t believe they made that! – that these are not CG-created at all. It’s just a bunch of lame, lost snapshots stolen from the web. We’re now more likely to belive in fake images online than we are in “real ones” (whatever that means…)

Time to search elsewhere for meaning. I’m bringing them back about 15-20 years tomorrow, and then beginning to look further. If today was Today, then tomorrow is our first Yesterday…