I ended up sitting here reading the highlights of Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man and Eliot’s The Lovesong of J Afred Profrock. It is weird how one thing leads to another.
I have a lot of conversations with myself at night. I remember telling myself that the photograph that I had done of the drawing of the flower was no different and should be seen as no different from a photograph of a flower because a photograph of a flower is no more a flower than a photograph of a drawing of a flower is a drawing of a flower. The photograph is still a separate entity from either.
I determined some years ago—2002, I think—that the major problem with photography is that the vast majority of people that are involved in photography are incapable of actually seeing a photograph. They only see what is represented in the photograph—the subject matter. I think that was the first of my photographic principles that I wrote down---the photograph is not the subject. To be more precise I should have said ‘a photograph is not the subject matter.’
For a very long time I erroneously thought that I could actually teach people to see photographs which is what brought me to again reading An Essay on Man this morning. Pope pretty clearly stated back in the 1700’s that in all our presumed brilliance we are at best ignorant buffoons whether we think too little or think too much. Clearly applies in my case anyway. No matter how much things change, they remain the same.
Print competitions are never about photographs, they are about how well the photographer selected the subject matter; how well the selected subject matter represents the ‘ideal’ and how prettily the subject matter is presented; or how well the photographer has mimicked the ‘accepted presentation’ of the chosen subject matter as it has been previously presented often enough to have achieved the status of acceptable. They are never about photographs they are about the subject matter of photographs--when they are not about only technique.
I read Profrock because I realized that I never read all of An Essay on Man. I must have started Profrock a thousand times before I could get past the third line; “Let us go then you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky, Like a patient etherized upon a table…” It was like the sales pitch at the antique store—that line sounded so irrelevant and nonsensical that it turned me off from going farther. Okay, maybe it was only a dozen or so times, not really a thousand. Then one day I read the fourth line and Profrock has become one of my all-time favorite poems. Wonder if I could ever get through all the epistles of An Essay?
Think I will bring in the chair then I will go find a drawing of a flower that I can photograph to irritate my friends.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!