Same name, different content; It’s time to start a new project here at TFA. With the end of the “Alley” series, the format is set: 20 pictures and one self-portrait in the style of the series to end it. The location shots don’t count.
The next series will focus on my dog, Pete. Pete was a shelter rescue, so we don’t know either his breed or his age exactly. We only know that he is 3-5 years old and displays chihuahua characteristics. When I started taking pictures of him, I quickly realized that, being black and white, he looked great in monochrome. I also ended up taking a lot of closeups. When I contemplated why I would continuously fill the frame with Pete’s face, the thought occurred to me that I wanted to present Pete the way I experience him. Being a true lap dog, most of the time I spend with him is very close and with constant contact. The Pete in these pictures is the Pete that my wife and I know.
Last week Tylerpedia reblogged a post from TFA (pronounced “t-fah” by the way) and commented that “putting it all in the same setting really makes it.” This really spoke to my own dilemma in beginning this project. I love Hipstamatic and am not afraid of being labeled a fanboy because of it. It, along with the vastly superior optics when compared to my last phone, was a big part of my move from Android to the iPhone. However, the app’s endeavor to recreate the experience of shooting with a film camera in the digital medium illustrates a loss that we have experienced as a photographic culture because of our move to digital: the consistency that shooting one roll of film with one camera brings. With Hipstamatic’s shake to randomize, unfocused users run the risk of being dazzled by individual results without taking into account the larger scale congruity from picture to picture. Shake to randomize is a useful tool for discovery, but, ideally, a certain combination of filters should unify similar pictures.
Said another way, creation can be considered a series of decisions, decisions to include certain things and exclude others. When I compose a piece of music, I choose certain notes that interact in certain ways, excluding all but a minute amount of possible pitch and rhythmic combinations. Otherwise there is no unity, no structure, nothing for the human mind to comprehend, and nothing for me to communicate. Meaningless noise. Hipstamatic pictures run the risk of becoming meaningless visual noise.
I should point out that the decision to create by excluding oneself from from the creative act does not necessarily result in an inferior product. The indeterminate works of John Cage and others like him are congruous within their idiom and are interesting to experience. They are meaningful noise. The act of entrusting the creative decisions to random occurrences does not ignore the decisions, it redirects them, re-contextualizes them, and seeks to ask new questions, resulting in yet more decisions to be made. Theoretically, shake to randomize can fit into this category of creativity. Mostly, it creates the illusion deliberate indeterminacy.
Things Found in Alleys is only the first of, I hope, many photography sets featured on TFA. After the initial run, don’t expect to see the same filters. Do expect to see consistency within sets.
If you think of Texas and alleys (and you’re not from around here), the image that might come to mind is four caricatures drinking beer between a fence and a nicely paved road. This is not the case for most of Lubbock. Alleys, at least in my neighborhood, poorly maintained dirt and gravel eyesores with giant dumpsters every 100 feet. I would love it if having an alley meant that the facade on my house was not interrupted by a two-car garage and my lawn by a double-wide driveway.
This photo project seeks to embrace the shortcomings of alleys like mine. Trash regularly ends up missing the dumpsters and every so often something truly unexpected surfaces. I’m seeking to present individual pieces of refuse in a new context, hopefully alien and thought provoking, but at the very least entertaining to me.