The Aesthetic Moment



In the nineteen eighties. I took a workshop from David Bales. Who along with Ted Orland is one of the authors of that really terrific called art and fear? We had a long weekend to work with. David doesn't ever so who were attending the workshop and he began the workshop with something. I've never forgotten. He asked us why we make art. And we went around the table and offered are somewhat stumbling excuses about what motivated us to WanNa make art. He then proposed that all of us were essentially the weird ones in society. He put it this way not not to insult but just to be more clear and more precise he said. Do you realize how many people there are in the world who have a camera who have no compulsion whatsoever to create artwork and so the obvious question is what makes us different. What makes us want to become artists with the camera? And since we're a relatively small group of people compared to all those who own cameras doesn't make sense that we're kind of the odd ones. Everybody else is normal. But we're the ones who feel compelled and he proposed that we needed to think carefully about why we wanted to make artwork. He didn't answer that question. He left it for each of us to stew on it and to come up with their own answers. And it's taken me many many years but I think I have a better understanding now of why it is that I wanna make art. Let me ask it in a slightly different way. What is it that we seek in the process of being an artist? Well some people seek fame or money or accolades. But I suspect that most of you listening to my podcasts are not interested in fame money or accolades unless they fell in your lap. I mean we'RE NOT GONNA TURN IT DOWN. But that's not the reason we pursue our art because if it was we'd probably be doing different kinds of things photographic -ly than we do so for most of us were seeking something else. What is it that we seek from our creative life? I'M GONNA go out on a little bit of a limb here and explain what I think. The answer is for me. It may or may not be an answer for you but nonetheless here it is for me in a nutshell. What I'm trying to accomplish with my art life is to have a certain kind of experience. I kind of got onto this idea with cardiac Brussels. The decisive moment in his thoughts about photography. I have different term. I call it the aesthetic moment. That's really why I'm photographic artist. I seek the aesthetic moment and I suppose in order to make that clear. I kind of need to explain what I mean by the aesthetic moment. The best example I can think of that isn't about photography is probably Haiku. So let me begin by talking a little bit about Haiku with a couple of examples. The great translator of Japanese Haiku of course is our H. Blythe. He did a wonderful series of books. There's a four volume set called Haiku. Each book is a different season and he also did a two volume set called the history of Haiku. I have loved these books now for forty years and I go back to them from time to time and RH Blythe says quote. The nature of Haiku cannot be rightly understood until it's realized that they imply a revolution in our everyday life in ways of thinking. Close quote that is to say the aesthetic moment. The aesthetic moment is the moment when we have a shift of consciousness. I I tend to think of it this way. It's a sudden and off an unexpected shift in awareness when the everyday act of seeing becomes a fleeting but meaningful glimpse at some sort of deeper understanding. That's a very coarse way of trying to explain an if you've had the experience you probably know what I'm getting at if you haven't had it maybe a couple of Haiku will help so here's a good example of the shift of consciousness in talking about in this Haiku a brushwood gate and for a lock It's nothing more than a moment of recognition. When all of a sudden something is seen little differently is seen unexpectedly when in this case the snail is not normally the lock. But we kind of see it that way because we're not gonNA go through the brushwood gate because we don't want to disturb the snail and so the snail becomes the lock. Here's another one in the old will. A fish leaps up at a net. The sound of the water is dark. That Haiku brings forth in me that aesthetic moment. I'm not thinking about the water. I'm not thinking about The dark but somehow the fish leaping brings us the darkness of the water to my attention and I have a moment when I'm sort of separated from normal consciousness and I have an aesthetic feeling for what is happening that I would not have had. If in this case the fish had not leapt up at nat so that experience sparked something in the person who wrote this Haiku. I think it was ISA but I'm not exactly sure. Remember that right. But it sparked an aesthetic moment and became the genesis of the Haiku. Here's another one. The Autumn Wind is blowing. We are alive and CONC- each other you and I I have this idea here of two people who've maybe spent the day together maybe they've been photographing together. And all of a sudden the autumn wind blows. And you realize the person that you're with is there. In the moment they become even more alive and even more real than they have prior to that that somehow there was that shift of consciousness that happened when the wind was blowing and the connection was made one last one the bright autumn moon on the Tatami Mat the shadow of the pine tree here again I visualized sitting in some old Japanese hut somewhere. And here's the bright autumn moon and with no other lights around all of a sudden because of this bright moon I see the shadow of the pine tree on the floor. And there's a connection now suddenly between the moon the pine tree the light and me and it's more alive than it would be if I wasn't paying attention so once again that sudden and often unexpected shift in awareness when the everyday act of seeing becomes a fleeting but meaningful glimpse of understanding of connectedness of really becoming aware in the moment. Lots of other photographers of talked about this. And it often comes up with a phrase. I've never quite sure I understand. And that is the Japanese term. Wabi Sabi I I don't I. I can't speak to that because I'm not really sure I understand what that really means but I do know the moment when looking at something ordinary I experienced that. Flip of wariness. Now I I'm not very verbal and I'm not a poet so I I don't do Haiku so for me. The attempt to express that aesthetic moment takes on the form of visual art hands on photographer. But one thing I do know is you can have that breakthrough to the aesthetic moment in all kinds of possible things in photography it can happen in the field

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