Monday, September 6, 2010

Daily Practice 249/365

Title: "Discordant Discourse"
(click image to view larger)
I had one of those distinctly bizarre flickr moments today. A few days ago I had left a comment on someone's lovely seascape image, which had a strong dark band of storm cloud across the top that seemed to be pressing down upon the horizon. It was a strong element in the composition, and I left a comment "The lowering sky...", a somewhat pithy and succinct indication that I found that element particularly compelling and a narrative element foretelling the coming of a storm.
I was checking back to see what other comments had been left on various images, and right below mine on this seascape was a comment that did not directly refer to the image, but the author instead took it upon himself to critique the previous 6 or 7 comments that had been left. The comments "excellent, beautiful, phenomenal, lovely" all got a thumbs up with "awesome" clearly being this person's favourite of the comments. A comment "stunning" was deemed to be heartfelt but used the wrong adjective; the person who left the comment "Silence..." was deemed to be slightly confused, and the critic deemed that my comment indicated I was completely confused. Ah, good times.
I was curious about this person who felt they had the right to critique comments left by others, and he turns out to be a professor (I have my doubts) slash educator in the fields of communications and public relations. Who thinks "awesome" is the pinnacle of commentary on a good image (well, it is so communicative!) and who thinks that coming in upon a discussion uninvited to play god with who "gets it" and who "doesn't" is good public relations practice.

Incidents like this are relatively rare, but this one came at a time when I'm given serious thought to curtailing how much time I spend on the internet. I am waiting to get a book from the library entitled "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr. Carr apparently makes the case that everything we've learned from recent research into neuroplasticity means that while we may think we are shaping the internet, the truth is that the internet is shaping us. When book reading became prevalent, it encouraged us to focus and give careful consideration and deep thought about what we were reading, and these behaviours/talents/abilities were codified into our neural networks. The internet is changing that to shallow breadth and emphasis on speed. Whether that's what we want or not. Well...I know that I do not want that, I feel there's some evidence it's happening to me as an individual, I intend to take steps to stem the flood. I will certainly keep up with a couple of things on the internet (such as this blog), but many things are going to be dropped and much time devoted to forming habits and behaviours that re-establish strong focus and deep thinking.


ER said...

AWESOME! ;) Just kidding, Paul, i completely agree with you here. Perhaps i'm unique in this, but i just want to inspire the viewer 'to feel.' For me, photography ... well, art in general ... is about emotion. When did we start intellectualising this? As a viewer, i'm not really interested in your equipment, your settings, your aesthetic perfection ... unless they inspired you in some way (like when you veer away from the norm). I'm interested in what you felt when you shot that photo, what it meant to you. And i want to share in that feeling, because of the image it's inspired. For the longest time, i did not title my work, i didn't want to influence the viewer. I'm still of two minds about it. I've learned a lot about my work through what others feel from it. When the reaction has been unexpected, it's made me revisit my work. That's a good thing. Photography is art and everything that word implies. When we look at a van Gogh or Picasso, are we thinking whether or not they followed the Rule of Thirds? Are we interested in what type of brush they used? or size canvas? Give me the adventurous artists any day. The ones who put their souls more than their minds into their work. That's why i enjoy coming here. So, if you do nothing else on the internet, please keep posting. :) Lizzy

Paul said...


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I understand that ambivalence you feel about titling work - for a long time I didn't title work either, but there is something about the marriage of photographs and words that is quite compelling to me now. I certainly don't want to direct viewers to a particular interpretation of the work, but at the same time I've come to a point where the work for me isn't complete without the title.

I've had the same thoughts about the whole "gear head" approach that seems common to photography, but which would be completely foreign to painting, drawing etc - thank you for expressing them so eloquently. And thank you for the kind support about the work and my approach to it - I feel very much the same about you and your work. And there's the rub about the internet thing - I want to hate it, despise its effects on my mind, but I also have to appreciate the opportunities it provides to "meet" people like yourself.

No fear - I will still post here!


J. M. Golding said...

Paul, I'm sorry that that happened to you ... and glad that you're going to continue posting here! I want you to do what's right for you, and yet I selfishly look forward to your blog (even when I don't keep up as well as I'd like). There's something so special about the profound expressiveness of your work!

Paul said...


Thank you so much! The insights you share about your responses to my work mean a great deal to me. I learn so much from them, and from looking at your work as well.