“As a photographer, I seem to desire an awful lot. Or at least, I want to photograph an awful lot. I don’t desire the object of my intention but the very act of photographing. It’s been said that photographic depiction is a way of having a kind of proxy experience of reality, a way of hiding behind a safe, powerful and voyeuristic stance—making photographs in lieu of direct involvement in the real. But what if the act of photographing is the experience I’m after?
What am I really desiring in my photographic work? Do I really want to experience … to possess every rock in the desert I’m photographing? Every structure, vista, street theatre, woman or man, known or unknown to me? Maybe I want a little of that … maybe. But I certainly desire the photograph. Even more, I desire the act of photographing. The rush of the moment of split-second recognition, valuation and response embedded in an overarching awareness of thousands of photographs I and hundreds of others have made within the history of the medium; the differences between me and all those others who have made pictures before me and, all importantly, the tone of the image—that subtle and persuasive resonance with the instant, the light, framing, meaning and configuration. To sidestep the obvious, to see what others could not have prepared themselves to see, in that very particular way.”
Having read that, I think maybe I don’t have anything more ever to say about Why Take Pictures.
I called Michael up to ask if I could use an excerpt of the essay and an image or two and we had a great conversation. If you go to his website you will find perhaps the most minimalist and discreet presentation of a photographer’s work you have ever witnessed in this age of Lots of Stuff. Keep clicking, and more will appear, but at a small hand-sized scale. No bio, no artist statement, no client list, and who cares? The work calls you out to see more and more and you know you will trust his eye. “Sure in this digital age you can enlarge anything to any size, but with all that detail, you lose the picture, the sense of where you are and what you are seeing.” (Loosely paraphrased from our conversation, correct me Michael if it’s not quite right.)
Another artist who is a muse for my own seeing is Danish photographer Kim Holtermand. I first discovered him on Behance, which is an extraordinary interface for showing art and design. Kim’s work is moody and atmospheric, and yet completely stripped down, the zen of zen when it comes to capturing the built environment. Here is one of his images from the Arken series: “The recurrent narrative of the museum is the ship. Outside as well as inside, fragments of parts and elements of a ship create a maritime atmosphere. Like on a real ship all constructions are visible. Even the few recurring ornaments – the bolt and the nut – have been copied from maritime architecture.”
From the Prism project:
And his view of nature is sublime:
A rock, a wall. A window. The plainest things, each vision unique and transforming. Thank you Michael and Kim.
“I desire to show, with very little intervention, aspects of life that can be seen, and that’s its own reward. I don’t want to go home with my subject, but I do want to go home with a photographic experience, maybe even a photograph. You might say I’m addicted to depiction or, as the Jesuit definition of “vice” goes, to a sin that’s become a habit. Find yourself by losing yourself. Trust the process, hope for the blossom. “— Michael Burns