Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Snap Judging Snapshots

My Shadow 19??

A short while ago Mike Johnston (The Online Photographer) wrote a blog post entitled "Eschew cliché" that brought to mind the above old photo that I made some 20 odd years ago. It could be longer ago than that. I was a lousy record keeper in film days. One of the blessings of digital is that the camera handles that for me. It was part of a series that I printed for a traveling solo show entitled "Scenes That Only Hikers See", photographs taken in the Adirondacks along trails or from mountaintops. I was reminded of it because of a photo by Lee Friedlander, "Canyon de Shelly" from 1983 which is about half way down in "Eschew cliché" post.

In the guest book that accompanied my traveling show, "My Shadow" received only one comment from a person who didn't say anything at all about the other 20+ photos. The comment was that this photo was cliché. That kind of stung at the time because when I made it I wasn't thinking of any photos I'd seen, certainly not Lee Friedlander's. I hadn't even heard of him at the time, much less seen "Canyon de Shelly". At the same time I had no illusion that I was being 'original' or doing something that had never been done before. What I was doing was reacting to the moment. I was at the summit of Cascade Mountain and was attracted to the small catchment of water and the pattern of rocks. As I tried different viewpoints I liked the way my shadow interacted with the small pool, looking like a continuation of the dark area where the overflow ran off or alternately with the pool looking like the 'speech balloons' that cartoonists put around the words that their characters say. Looking at Lee's "Canyon de Shelly" I suspect he was amused by the way the weeds appear to be hair on the head of his shadow.

So is mine cliché because Lee (and almost assuredly others) did a shadow self portrait before me? Is his a cliché because he wasn't the absolute first to do it? One comment on TOP called Lee's photo "amazing" perhaps tongue in cheek given the early paragraphs of Mike's post. Or perhaps not. His photo is on Artnet and in major galleries. Some people clearly think it's amazing.

I still like my photo. It is a silver print made 'back in the day', double matted and framed. It's not great but I'm still happy with it. I also kind of like Lee's photo for its humor, more than I care for most of his images, which don't feel humorous to me. I will continue as a photographer, to react to the moment without regard for what others may have done and as audience (which we all are some of the time) I will try to react to the image itself without judging it against other photos I may have seen.

Link to "Eschew cliché".

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