LOOKING AT PEOPLE

Before we get to the Looking At People thing, a message from HYPO . . .

Posts on drool. will be sporadic, usually longer, image-intensive things. If that’s your bag, drop by from time to time or look for the new-post notices on my Fb, Ig and Tw feeds.

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LOOKING AT PEOPLE

Everybody looks at pictures of people, most of which are in our line-of-sight because some corporation wants you to consume their goods or services. These are standard, or cliché-edgy, representations whose purpose is to get you to aspire to something and then buy it. Because of that they are, in a certain way, quite telling.

If you are interested, though, in representations of people by artists, the images you seek and consume will be a completely different animal. There, generally, the most interesting images of people are, in my opinion, created by artists who are slightly bent, or at least very curious, their viewpoint, to some degree, abnormal. That’s what makes the work interesting and different from images (commercial and artistic) that support the status quo.

But in these extraordinarily reactionary times (the reactions coming from both the right and the left) the very idea of being bent, abnormal, or curious is abhorrent to many. And each group and faction will have their own idea/definition of what is abhorrent (views that don’t mesh with theirs) and what is acceptable (views that do mesh with theirs).

And I get it. After all, we all filter everything through the prism of our experience, what Jack Kerouac calls “the stress of out lives since birth”.

Now, I’m a non-censorship kind of guy. I believe the world is best understood by considering it through varied perspectives, assuming, of course, you are seeking understanding. Sure, some points of view presented by artists are problematic and discussion must ensue. But an art world without irritants quickly becomes innocuous and, then, redundant. I leave it to the critics to flesh all this out. Me? I’m just a photographer who believes artists should do what they do and let the chips fall where they may.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because I’ve been thinking about two small publications that look at people, or, in the case of Lindzine, a person. Both point to aspects of their creators’ bent and curiosity, their voyeurism and obsession. They are ways of looking at people.

Lonely Boy Mag No. A-1, by Alec Soth, would probably be considered highbrow, the other, Lindzine, by The Wormholes, the opposite. I like them both.

THE SYSTEM

This week’s post, The System, will begin after this important message . . .

HYPO

I’m shifting my attention from drool. to HYPO, a newsletter. (I’ll still be posting to drool, but the posts will be less frequent.)

HYPO is not, like a blog post, public. It will be delivered directly to your inbox. The only way to see/read it is by subscribing. You can do that using the handy form, there on the right. If you are on a mobile use this direct link or scroll to the very bottom for a subscribe button.

HYPO will be different from drool. I’m excited about getting out of the blog box, escaping the social media giants’s algorithms, shaking things up, experimenting. I want to see what my newsletter can be, what I can turn it into. Come along for the ride . . .

We now bring you The System . . .

THE SYSTEM

Recently I was asked to sit on a couple of arts juries, to decide on exhibition proposals and acquisitions. I gave it some thought, weighed the pros and the cons and, in the end, declined.

Well, you might be thinking . . . You, Tony, seem to have all sorts of complaints and/or thoughts about the arts system, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and use these invitations to, you know, change things from the inside?

Good question.

The answer is: I don’t believe the system can be meaningfully changed from the inside. The first rule of systems is to do whatever is necessary to perpetuate the system. If you put emphasis on being accepted, buying in, you get co-opted, no matter what.

In the case of an arts jury, sure, I might have enough persuasion power (or whatever you want to call it) to get something included that would not otherwise have been considered. But I still see this as, essentially, token.

Furthermore, it would feel to me, somehow, like collusion. I’d rather remain, as much as possible, outside the system. That way I can retain what I like to think of as my “observer” status. By remaining as independent as possible I have more room to move and critique.

You might also be thinking . . . Well, Tony, you participate in and reap some rewards from the system. Aren’t you being hypocritical here?

Another good question.

Yes, it’s true, I do participate in the system. I pay my taxes, stop at red lights, hold doors open for people, and so on. And, yes, I’m engaged with PhotoWorld™, after all, you’re reading these words, are you not? But one can be engaged, participate, from a position outside the system. What’s the alternative? Giving up? Becoming a hermit?

And I do reap some rewards. Get the occasional show or mention, make a print sale from time to time, and stuff like that. But that’s not a complete definition of success. The fact that I don’t feel I must conform or suck up to prevailing attitudes and systems leaves me free to be critical. It also leaves me free to see the world in way that’s less mediated by the prevailing systems of thought, politics and group-think.

Not that my work is radical or anything. I believe that to be effective expression must remain recognizable. But trying to see and render the world in a way that’s independent from how the powers-that-be want (demand) it be seen usually results in a more dimensional understanding.

But sure, I live in this world so am, by definition, a hypocrite.

But, you might wonder . . . What’s the point of being a serious photographer, putting in all that time, money and emotion, if you don’t get adopted by the establishment, if your work doesn’t get seen?

Well, my work does get seen. Perhaps not as much as it would be if I spent more time (and money) promoting it to the blue-chip movers and shakers of PhotoWorld™. But every book I’ve published has sold out, my two most recent exhibitions have been in art (as opposed to commercial) galleries in Groningen (Holland) and NYC (USA). So there are ways to penetrate the system without falling for it.

Besides, I do photo projects for myself . . . to learn, to get out of the house. Any other “exposure” is only a side effect of that primary impulse.

As to getting a pat on the back from the establishment: Fuck that shit. I choose to spend my time and attention on the periphery because it’s more interesting there.

(I also spend some time monitoring popular culture, trying to decipher that. Without understanding the status quo it is impossible to critique it. I want to occupy a space where I’m close enough to the system to see what’s going on, but removed enough to have a longer perspective.)

And, yes, I understand that the system will absorb, render effete and/or monetize any irritant it can. I understand that, until we get closer to the end, the system is pretty much unassailable. The edge either gets pulled to the centre and used, or is ignored.

So I’m not sure where choosing to operate and remain on the periphery leaves me, vis-a-vis having/building a career in photography. But this is the choice I make. I’m happy to let the chips fall where they may because, in the end, not only do I have to live with the system, I also have to live with myself.

(All images above are out takes from Official Ottawa.)

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Couple of quick announcements. Don’t worry, these are followed by some actual content . . .

drool. is about to become a bi-weekly thing. That is: published every second Sunday.

But, wait!, you say, that’ll be too confusing. How am I supposed to keep track of “every second Sunday”?

No prob. Just subscribe using the handy subscribe form, there at the top, on the right. If you are on a mobile use this direct link or scroll to the very bottom for a subscribe button.

Fill it in. Get HYPO. delivered to your inbox. (And know that I’ll never share or sell your information.)

As well, I’ll be experimenting a bit with the format and content as drool. moves forward into the ’20’s. Maybe a bit more multi-faceted, maybe even funnier than it already is (as if that’s even possible, yuk, yuk, yuk).

So sign up and come along for the ride.

And since we’re on the subject . . . let me tell you why I do drool.:

I enjoy the process. The writing helps me know what I’m thinking (and, sometimes, feeling). And that, in turn, informs a whole bunch of other stuff that comprises certain (but not all) aspects of this project I call my life.

That’s the reason I do photo projects, too. Except with those I get to go out into the world and meet people and experience places. (Which, in my opinion, is a richer, more rewarding pursuit than writing.)

And the reason I make them public is ego and a desire to communicate.

Simple. Take it or leave it.

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OTTAWA NOTES

TALK/DAVE HEATH

Sunday, January 19th Studio Sixty Six will be hosting a conversation between Michael Schreier and yours truly. The public are invited.

The topic we’ll be discussing is something along the lines of “the interior muse”. This predicated by my previous blog post and the exhibition, at Studio Sixty Six, of Dave Heath’s late work.

Who knows what’ll happen.

Anyway, it begins at four Sunday afternoon and ends at six. There will be a bar for some drinkypoos afterwards, to facilitate general hobnobbing.

Plus, if you haven’t seen the show . . . well, that’s a good chance/excuse to have a look.

All the details here.

Plus! Some pictures from the exhibition to give you a taste . . .

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