I’m sorry to disappoint you. There will be no visuals.
It seems that the photography as an art form is in the middle of a deep stagnation. A crisis of sorts, because unlike sculpture, or the finesse of applying oil or pastels to canvas, the art of photography has become uncontrollably fast, inexpensive, and a disposable after thought. It seems that all it takes anymore, is one magical box. A cheap one, or an expensive one. It doesn’t matter, as long as it comes with that shutter thingy, and a few free Photoshop pre-sets. Congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a fine arts photographer.
I am melancholy, because photography today lacks tenacity. It’s sad, because as an artistic community, we don’t create enough purposeful and meaningful art. We often fail to share it, or maybe we don’t and it just gets lost somewhere; somewhere deep inside the noise and static. In either case, there isn’t enough beauty in our world. Not enough that breaks through to make an impact, anyhow.
Analog is out.
Digital is in.
I don’t think many of us appreciate how relatively young the art of photography truly is. It is somewhat strange therefor to reflect and realize that we are only a century or so removed from the first camera, the first print, the first act of beauty in a 35mm canvas of space.
At the beginning, in its infancy, photography was a beautifully rare gift. It was rare because it took special effort to become its master. Millions of people were enamoured with this new medium and open to the possibilities it promised. One of its many expressions were the cabinet cards.
There are not many around anymore, or perhaps they are getting musty in a box somewhere.
The cabinet cards were special. They contained a 4x6 photograph, that was hand glued, and beautifully illustrated. They were proudly displayed in every cabinet that could hold them. They were the center of conversation and an oracle of people’s memories. They were marveled at by visitors and strangers alike. They connected us. They enthralled us. They were a work of art.
At the turn of this century, we diverged on a different path. We have already taken an incalculable number of photographs and it’s not surprising since every living human has their own camera in thier pocket. Some of the ravenous gluttons among us even have two.
We are overwhelmed. We don’t know what to do with ourselves or how to stop. We take pictures of everything and anything but for what purpose?
We keep everything in some sort of virtually mobile and un-inventoried heap of crapulous storage. We’ll find a purpose later, we tell ourselves, and if not, our grandchildren will know what to do with our bathroom selfie, or long forgotten steak sandwich.
Since we pollute everywhere else, it seems fitting that we share our images habitually, without much thought or purpose. We jam them into our social media feeds with tremendous haste and they serve us well enough. All these photos seem a poor substitute for words and thoughts. We seem to be living the Orwellian tragedy. We are too complacent and refuse to spend any valuable time in selecting our words, and express ourselves through vague sentiments and meaningless chatter. No one listens anyway.
I am saddened but disobediently hopeful. I am hopeful because in the end Art will triumph.
I continue to be inspired by so many great writers and talented photographers that today I renew my wish to join the movement. I desire to lead a tribe of my own.
I want art to return.
I want beauty to triumph.
I don’t want porn do itch and burn deep within our soul.
I have no way to verify this, and I have forgotten who made this observation, but it seems that pornography has saved or at least was instrumental in the expansion and explosion of the internet.
Pornography built the steel rails, we ride upon it. I should have said journey. It would have been less cheeky.
Porn is a very prickly subject, and for some time now, a very uncomfortable one for many. Nonetheless, I for one am foolish enough to believe that it is. If we don’t, one day we’ll lose all our ability to tell the difference between art, and the titillating, seductive vehicle of self-pleasure.
I think the art of nude photography is subtle. It is very intelligent. I believe it is best grasped through three distinct dimensions.
First - Rarity.
Beautiful and thought provoking photographs of the human form are perceptibly rare. You won’t find them too easily in a google search, you’ll probably run into a few of the others. They are not easily catalogued or contained in any single book or volume of books at the library or on Amazon. It is not that easy to discover the talented pool of names that served as studies or the artists who took a leap, walked outside societal norms, and mirrored something we are all very scared to behold.
Are we not afraid?
Just see what happens when a nipple makes an appearance at a major television event. Observe the chaos. Take note of the incessant internet chatter, as though human nipples were capable and responsible for bringing down entire civilizations.
Artistic nudes are rare.
They are buried underneath an avalanche of crotch shots, boobbie thrusts, and immaterial humping orgies. The titles on the other hand are brimming with literary genius.
I propose that the most meaningful nude photographs will never be seen. They are not meant for our eyes. Like the rare cabinet cards of old, the human body, on occasion, is captured freely and given as a offering to the lover. The chosen photographer not only play the important role as architect but also the role of a gate keeper. What passes between lovers is best left silent.
Art doesn’t need a large audience to impact the world. It is content to be held by just one mind.
Second - Dignity.
There is a certain quiet dignity in all artistic nudes. Their beauty is not held captive by empty eroticism. Their beauty is a divine reflection of a higher form.
Nude photographs are erotic by nature, there is no denying that, but through art, the eroticism doesn’t devour and consume itself. It transcends itself and shares something universal about the human condition.
The artistic poses can be empowering, vulnerable, seductive, inviting, soulful, and unifying.
They do not humiliate, abuse, manipulate, exploit, or monetize.
The early photography magazines were full of nudes.
The 20’s and 30’s openly embraced and celebrated the naked body. We were back again in the garden of Eden, as though nothing ever changed. Then it did.
Totalitarianism. Social Nationalism. Puritanism. Religious Zealotry. Something. Something changed.
The day was lost. Art was bound and gagged by commerce.
We have not swung back yet but it would be a shame if we didn’t try. If we don’t, our insatiable dignity as artists this generation will be forgotten, and undiscovered. All effort will be submerged beneath the ashes of the Roman Empire, and other artistic epochs.
Third – Experience.
The mindset and experience of the beholder seems to be the most important dimension.
We seem very divided and are pulled apart by two opposing forces.
We either feel that we are free, unconditionally, and without limit. And we heap the word art on anything that suits our purpose, or we are frozen in fear, struck by some false moral obligation. An empty compulsion to wrestle the world into submission. To fit the ocean, into our own little rusty jar, simply because we are afraid to be consumed by its vastness.
It’s your mindset.
It’s your experience and ignorance.
You see dirty things because you want to see dirty things. You see the joy of curves and shadows wrap themselves around the body of a beautiful woman, because you want to see them.
All words have no meaning. They are bricks of concrete. They are not a home.
Words are empty vessels that are made up of letters that signify nothing. Nothing, until someone comes along and decides to empower them with meaning. It is our experience that guides our perception. Our lives dictate what we see and don’t see. Our past failures incite us to be blind.
In the final analysis, none of what I have written here today really matters. As I reread this, I have a compelling urge just to erase it all and write something about the coming of spring. This is full of grammatical errors, erroneous philosophical suppositions, and after all, who writes a reflection about porn?
I will share my thoughts anyway. I will live with the fear and trembling. I’ll let you decide what sense, if any to make of this.
My intent was simple. I desired to start a conversation.
I love art and the vulnerable curves, immersed in shadows.
I believe in the healing beauty of the human body.
I think it’s time to swing the pendulum back.