Often enough I receive emails by people asking me things like what to do to become a photographer and how to do it like I do.
Every time I scribble a few things banal things (take nice photographs!) and I have gotten away with it like that: as if its that easy to give out recipes via email!
Today though I would like to give you a recipe to do my job: read books. Right! I find that a human culture is based on whoever wants to do a job in which there is storytelling, and the stories are always better and richer if fuelled by other stories.
In truth, there is also a more practical reason: to write well is extremely important, and you get to write well only and exclusively if you have read a lot of books. I want to give you absolute certainty: when I receive emails that read “mister Benedusi I kno dat deep inside of me there is a gr8 passion that wants to xpress my emotions and I want 2 be a photographer. How do I do that?” I am inevitably led to think that the gentleman takes really shit pictures. Of course! And unfortunately I have to confess to you that I am not the only one to have that feeling, but also newspapers editors, art directors and related…
Do I also blunder? Unfortunately yes. Unfortunately I have not read enough, I could have done more and better. And dis is the consequence…
All this preamble to talk about two books that I liked lately. I talk about it on this blog because both of them, more or less directly, have to do with photography:
Meditation and Photography by Diego Mormorio. Edition Contrasto
I am going to tell the truth: to talk or read about photography is, in most of the cases, unbearable. They are either staggering banalities (black and white photography is so beautiful!) or things I read thirty years ago written by Susan Sontag. Therefore it is rare that I find original a write up about photography. Instead I have found this book very interesting. One of the most banal platitude for example is when you say that “I like to steal the portrait, to capture the naturalness of the subject!” what bullshit! And murmur explains well why this is bullshit:
“With the term “instant portrait” usually indicates a “portrait” in which the subject has been photographed accidentally, ie an image in which the latter is not posing, it is believed that this kind of “portrait” is more natural, because those who where photographed did not assume a particular attitude, a pose.
In fact, in this case, the will of the photographer may cancel that of the photograph, which remains at the mercy of those who believe make a creative act, while indeed often it accomplishes an overwhelming and narcissistic action, thinking of themselves as the real protagonist of the picture. In fact, in portraits, the protagonist is never who photographs, but what is being photographed.
In our age of rampant individualism, this may be unacceptable to many: limiting the creativity of the author. But, whatever they might think, above all creativity is the fact that the other, as Kant clearly stated, can never be reduced to a mean of arriving at some end by someone else’s.
The image is an integral part of a person. Nobody can make it look different from what it tries to appear. And the only real way that a person who is being photographed will feel to appear as themselves will be through the pose.
Faced with the knowledge of being in front of the camera -posing!- the photographed holds his breath, he turns serious or smiles. In that moment he tries to make visible with his face what he believes is his own being, his inner life.
The posing time is perceived by him as an extended time, symbolic, within which he searches for himself”
I don’t know if I can truthfully agree, but giving a viewpoint beyond the banality already seems very interesting. The whole book is very nice, I highly recommend it.
Glenn Gould by Katie Hafner. Einaudi
Glenn Gould was a great canadian pianist, for many the best of them all. This sort of biography is very interesting, with long passages which may include anyone involved in photography:
“If you were asking him how he knew that a FA was a FA, he’d reply: ”Well, it’s blue!” The DO was a yellowish green. The RE was the colour of sand, the MI was a rose yellow, the LA white, the SOL orange, and the SI is dark green”
“…although he was a seasoned, well gifted pianist, often made it clear to friends, technicians, interviewers and clerks of Steinway that he did care much for the piano as a tool in itself. For Gould, making music was more a mental matter than physical, it transcended the limits of any instrument – in his case the piano -, and was actually limited to mediate the conflict between the music played and the music that existed in the mind. “You know, the piano is not an instrument for which I nourished a great love”, he once told a reporter, “I played it all my life and it is the best medium I have to express my ideas”
“Gould never beat, he preferred to spend the minimum possible energy while playing. As he once said to Edquist (his tuner) Glenn Gould would have been happy if the piano was able to play by itself in his place”