Flannery O'Connor

On hope

Past experience (the self) and the current moment (the world outside the self) come together in a creative moment that only exists because of our hope, because we realize the possibility of bridging self and not-self and making it communicable to others in the future.

The spirit of the case

Judy Fiskin says that Walker Evans succeeded where his FSA boss Roy Stryker failed "because Evans settled for art. Stryker succumbed to the false promise of photography, strove to represent literally the world’s profusion, and inevitably produced a body of work whose scope seems puny compared to its model." Evans worked in a "more condensed, allusive, and circular manner."

Flannery O'Connor calls it "distortion," and TS Eliot says that it's "pressure" that distinguishes art from experience, and creates a new thing in the world. And in fact, it's this artifice that, according to Michael Chabon, "makes explicit... the yearning... to analogize the world, and at the same time frankly emphasizes the limitations, the confines, of [our] ability to do so.”


A round and about

"You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story . . . I myself prefer to say that a story is a dramatic event that involves a person because he is a person, and a particular person – that is, because he shares in the general human condition and in some specific human situation."

So saith Flannery O'Connor, and so it is. Some thoughts on resistance to "aboutness" in photography.


Mu Ch’i, The Six Persimmons (crop)

On cultivation

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who, after we’ve known each other for a while, have put it to me delicately that they don’t “understand” photography as an art form. Most of them actually looked at and enjoyed serious photographs, but they were hung up on the mechanical ease of the medium, particularly when it was viewed in a museum or gallery full of very difficult-to-make paintings and sculptures. One time, after walking around for a couple of hours when I was making some pictures, a guy who is close enough to not worry about offending me said, “You just take pictures of everything, and there’s bound to be something good.” I’m guessing that something similar has happened to almost anyone interested in photographing. 

At first, I had a whole bunch of (slightly defensive) answers about the moment of exposure being just the beginning of a process – that one makes numerous important choices in developing film, work printing and editing, and final printing &etc. These are good answers.

But there are better answers, or I guess one better answer, and it has to do with what happens before, rather than after, the shutter is released or the print is fixed.