I wrote a letter to my photographer friends a few minutes ago. It is a bit garrulous and over the top, but it
is what I feel, believe and want to do.
Hi K….. – My previous comments to the group were intended as a gentle exploration into the deeper issues we might be researching. We could be finding some images more personal to us than simply pictures taken at the Old Mill. Something that may be a common item to others, but viewed in such a unique new way by us as to have people say, “I’ve looked at that thing everyday but never noticed how xx (insert revelation) xx it was.” This new revelation should be more than just a beautiful picture of some mountains — we now have plenty of those — but more like “I never knew a mountain could look like that!” The picture Tom posted yesterday of trees with the ski trails ascending into the heavens behind them has that quality. Todd’s picture of a single tree in the field of lava has that mysterious quality too. Both of those scenes were “just mountains” until those guys revealed them to us as very, very special places we should view with more respect, even reverence.
Most of us have moments of the ability to do these things; all it requires is a shift of perception and a clarity of goal and a willingness to risk being thought weird to be pursuing such a strange thing. I called it a philosophy we should develop; it can be called vision, and after we discuss this for a while and see some pictures which illustrate a direction we should explore, a new world view and a new word will undoubtedly arise that is more specific — as with the Fauves, f-64, or Surrealists. If we take aim, as a group, targets will appear and after we shoot these targets for a while, a name vastly more specific than the word “philosophy” will appear too. Also, a focus of intent will be helped by a written goal. The goal might be very general to include everyone and be very specific simultaneously, which will give a unique tonality to our works.
Bend is already such an amazingly art-filled town that it reminds me of classic Florence, but Bendite artists’ attitudes can change from nice and pretty, which won’t go anywhere, to exciting and profound and searching into the current need for a new world myth, which might go everywhere. Bend can be the Silicon Valley of Western art, and artists of the world a few years from now would be saying, “I wish I was in Bend, because that is where things are really happening.” Our personal goal should be to ignite Bend’s artists to see the world with unique new perceptions and greater clarity and to demonstrate those perceptions in such a way that everyone can see what we intend. To make the world a better place to live.
Okay, the letter is preachy and demanding, and I suppose a lot of the people who read it will resent my challenge, but I have grown tired of the people of the world expecting the government or the generalized other-people to take up the responsibilities of making our world into a better place, and so I have become more demanding of people to take up the task themselves, in whatever way they can. I hope to be a path marker as well as a people prodder, and in this case it is the art of photography which I am prodding.
Bend is a remarkably art-oriented town, which is strange because it is remote from big cities where most artistic activities are supposed to be taking place. We are about as far from New York, America’s artiest city, as it is possible to be and still be in the lower 48. Probably the art here is itself a tourist attraction and the cleanliness of this city is a direct result of it being a tourist town and a retirement town. Both of those activities are attracted to clean, safe and law abiding locations. There is a lot of beautifully done commercial art to be found in the many boutiques here, and a lot, perhaps most, of that art is locally created by local artists.
I do want people to be happy, but I also want them to seek beyond trivial prettiness and become more engaged with the realities of our wonderful world. The visual arts are an easy way for the public to maintain a constant life-affirming contact with reality. The public media streams images at us constantly, but their primary purpose is to lure us into spending money on their commercial product. The art people choose to hang in their private residences should be things which bring them back to a more personal reality, and away from media hype. This is the motivation for encouraging my photographer friends to seek new ways of exploring reality, visual reality in their case.
This is an active part of my new world view, which has been explored in these blog posts quite often for the last four years. Its basic idea is — Do for others what they should do for you. And, what they should do for you is to help you live your life more fully. That means observing what others are interested in and capable of and then helping them achieve their fullest potential in fulfilling that interest. One of the things I have observed is that everyone wants to help in making the world a better place. Usually, most people believe that comes down to making it better for themselves only; that is only partially true, but even that is okay because by making it better for themselves they also make it better for others. It becomes a question of how best to use your personal energy to make the world a better place. For me, at this time, it means helping others achieve their potential for the great deeds they know they are capable of, but for various reasons usually get blocked. I hope to remove those blocks as much as I can.
The only things you have are time and attention, so use them wisely.