The word photoshop used to mean to alter in a fictional way. To say something was photoshopped was to suggest there was something invented or fake about it. Things were removed or added that weren’t actually there. One response to this is to fully engage in composing fictions, as Gary Irving does in his work. While they are lifelike, realistic in representation, they are never meant to be seen as scenes that really happened, but are fantastical visions more along the lines of Dave LaChapelle. Other photographers have used photoshopping techniques in photojournalism to great effect, such as Pedro Meyer. There’s nothing about photoshop itself that has to be used for artifice and it wasn’t a necessary technology for doctoring images. The Russian propagandists under Stalin continually erased important figures from official photographs after they were purged by the State. I’m more interested with my work to investigate honesty rather than the questions of fictionality. I don’t consider myself a photojournalist. I use photography for a variety of different purposes, but the main one I’m interested in is as a way of expressing my feelings. Photography is a way of writing love letters. Ultimately, these love letters are to the divine, to the mysterious force of creation and being. They are little ways of expressing gratitude and wonder, of investigating the unknown. To photograph for this purpose is to use the world as a mirror. It is to engage in an extroverted form of self-reflection and introspection. In this way it is very similar to abstract expressionist painting. It is in this way that photography becomes an abstract art form.
This was from a year and a half ago, but it’s still relevant.
This morning, Monday morning the day after Valentine’s Day, I woke up at 4:45 as has become my habit. Lemon water drank, coffee brewed, I sat down at the laptop and woke it up. Immediately, in my Facebook Timeline, I saw a video that drew my attention. It was a clip from an episode of the television show Nature. This one was following a group of Innuit hunters through the process of building an igloo and going beneath the sea ice during the low portion of a King Tide to hunt for mussels. Watching these people attune themselves to the rhythm of natural cycles in a life and death dance with time inspired me. That’s the kind of thing I like to watch: different ways of living that I can imagine doing.
Then, I wanted something to listen to while I edited photos so I went to Timothy Ferris’ podcast and clicked on his interview with Seth Godin. Timothy Ferris is a self-help guru who is interesting as fuck. I always learn cool shit from his podcasts, so they are a go-to edifying source of background noise when I’m working. It’s definitely more than just entertainment, as he is constantly asking questions about actionable takeaways in an effort to provide value to his followers. Ferris does it right. He’s interested and so he’s interesting.
He had high praise for Seth Godin so I was stoked, but upon listening I grew more compelled by the minute. Funny and self aware, Godin is a fount of wisdom and useful advice. He’s the kind of guy you’d be lucky to have as a friend. Non-threatening, but entirely badass, he’s a ninja of thoughtfulness. Out of all of the cool things they discussed in this podcast, however, the one that stuck out the most was about parenting. Godin, in answering Ferris’ question about what advice he might have for parents, said: “Busy is a trap. Busy is a myth. If you spend two hours a day without an electronic device looking your kid in the eye, talking to them, and solving interesting problems, then you will raise a different kid than someone who doesn’t do that.” Such a simple idea, but so profoundly true.
Making art is a form of rebellion. It’s a way of expressing my dissatisfaction with the status quo. Whether it’s writing, painting, or making videos, it’s something I do because I am in pursuit of something better than what was given to me. I feel it in my marrow that there is a power in communication and expressivity. What exactly am I rebelling against? Making art is an expression of dissent against conformity and control. It is a form of freedom.
That’s why it’s so important to be mindful about the process. It’s easy to fall into all kinds of traps that will take away your freedom. The worst kind of unfreedom is the one that you impose on yourself. If you sit down to write or draw and you think about how it’s supposed to be and not how you want it to be then you are not free. That’s one of the great examples of Picasso.
The break from representation had to do with finding more room to be yourself, to create from a place of power and not in the service of making it look like some other cowardly fuck thinks it should look. Artists have visions and they find a way to make them real. Picasso is one of the greatest ever to do it because he succeeded in making the art world his bitch. Even Michaelangelo had a master. Sure, he painted him as a skin without muscle, bones or organs on his way to hell, but he still had to compromise his work for the god-damned Medicis.
One thing that Barney helped me to remember is that there’s nothing more valuable in art than freedom. In order to achieve space to make things that come from a free place you have to be brave enough to do bad things. I don’t mean morally corrupt actions, but making things that people won’t understand and probably won’t like. When you are comfortable making bad art, then and only then can you make art that is free, which is the only kind of art that matters.
Men have murder in their hearts; what are we supposed to do with it? Women have murder in their hearts; what are we supposed to do with it? We have murder in our hearts; what are we supposed to do with it? These questions came to me last night listening to some powerful live music, which was itself an answer. Transcendence through sublimation is key. Anywhere else we put that searing hot feeling will do harm, but when we transform our feelings into an expression of aggression (through the arts or sports) they are fulfilled without causing harm. That’s one reason I’ve appreciated punk music, hip-hop, metal, rock n roll, the Blues etc. It’s a truthful glimpse at part of the human spirit. It’s like Big Body Bes says of Action Bronson playing handball: “He’s expressing his aggression through athleticism.” In this way, athletes and artists are leading us to become humans better equipped to deal with the emotional truths of our existence.
If you want to feel kickass it helps to look badass. We all know that. When it comes to Californians and jeans, Levi’s have long been a go-to choice. California kids grow up wearing 501s and they still appeal to the kid in us no matter what decade we’re in at this time. That’s the power of classic style: Levi’s were cool before we were born and they are still the same jeans.
Tough enough for working in the mountains, stylish enough to wear at the beach, Levi’s are a great example of function and form working together in harmony.