emotional like music


Mu Ge

Do photographers get together like bands and make photographs? I don’t mean collectives who display together or who make similar work. I can think of very few instances, but for the most part it feels a bit unnatural to think of a photo as anything but the work of one person. I enjoy the solitary-ness of looking through the viewfinder, but occasionally I get curious about what working with, not just shooting in the same place with other people would be like.

And could the photo industry be like the music industry in the sense of people buying photos to carry around and look at? We’ve found a way to make our music portable, but aside from tiny cellphone wallpapers, good photography is not available for purchase in the same way. (Does anyone have fine art photography on their portable digital devices?)

It’s too bad that there are at least a few hours of the day you can fill with music off a hard drive but only so much wall space for eye candy, and most people don’t seem to be in the habit of rotating their visual decor very often. I suppose it’s just a consequence of our being able to multi-task while listening to music but not so much while looking at something.

I saw this snippet of an interview with writer Jonathan Safran Foer on the Daily Routines blog:

I think music is probably the most directly impactful art form. I mean, it’s the one that, within three minutes, you can find yourself screaming at the top of your lungs and banging your fists. And a novel never does that.

I mean, certainly you can’t, like, turn up the volume on a poem. A poem is still always going to be a more active experience than listening to music. And there’s something about the passiveness of it that allows for whatever mood you’re in to really enter.

You could say the same thing about music and photography. There’s something more intimately emotional about music that most photography cannot trump. (Though these photos of a giant mechanical spider in Leeds comes close. via Conscientious.) I suppose an art form that’s pumped directly inside your head is bound to have more impact than one that’s perceived to be outside the body. Could it also be raw effect of the human voice (or face) on some deep evolutionary level? Both simulate the experience of being in the presence of a person. Being able to make out their features means they’re close, but hearing a voice… well, if they’re close enough to be clearly audible, they must be really close!

For the most part though, music is a terrible vehicle for knowledge. Text or spoken language is the only precise way to convey complex non-procedural factual knowledge, and so the invention of writing made large scale civilization possible, but because we evolved to hear and see before we learned to read and write, we still react more strongly to music and visuals.

A lot of photojournalism plays to the emotions – portraits, the aftermath of conflict, the consequences of disease – but can an image relay the historical context of problems, political angles or workable solutions with any real clarity, whether it’s a standalone image or an in-depth photo essay, without text, without being diagrammatic? I haven’t quite figured this out.

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~ by Jin on February 9, 2009.

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