Thought Provoking, Not

I was at a juried photography exhibit recently and was struck by something the juror had written describing how he made his selections. He said that he looked for images that were thought provoking. I saw a similar point of view expressed in a photographer’s blog that’s been making the rounds. In it, the photographer says that he’s decided that he wants to move away from making pretty pictures and do images that are more thought provoking.

I like movies that are thought provoking ⎯ the same with literature. However, when I listen to music or look at visual art, I don’t want more thoughts. I want the music or art to take me out of my thoughts and pull me in.

Mankind is hard at work destroying this planet and in the process destroying himself. Unless you’re living in the wilderness, you can’t help being reminded of this constantly.

I don’t need art to tell me this.

There seems to be a strange view in the world that beautiful art is just escapist and doesn’t accomplish anything. Is it escapist to listen to Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins and be so totally absorbed in it that by the time it’s over, you’re in tears? It’s that’s escapism, I’m all for it.

I go out into nature because it gets me out of my mind. If I’m thinking too much, I don’t see anything. If I quiet down, I can appreciate the beauty. I try to capture that quiet beauty in my photographs.

Rather than thought provoking I would like to think of my work as thought relieving.

~ by danbaumbach on October 25, 2011.

8 Responses to “Thought Provoking, Not”

  1. This is a beautiful picture. And who says beauty isn’t provocative. It may not be “thought provoking” like conceptual art but it’s emotion provoking. You describe the Bach concerto bringing you to tears: what’s more provocative than that?

  2. Spot on, Dan. I catch myself regularly getting too caught up in what I am thinking. Why believe all that stuff anyway? I am reading a lot about what Minor White used to teach in photography where my father Philip Hyde went to school at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. On one hand there was a lot of analysis of images in the classroom, but as a student of many esoteric practices and meditation, Minor also taught the students to sink into a quiet, less busy state of mind for photographing. I have photographed with Stan Zrnich, who was a couple classes behind Dad, and it is very interesting to watch him work and to see how much more he sees than I or anyone else I have observed photographing.

  3. Thank you David. The quieter I am, the clearer I can see things in front of me, and therefore be more open to photographic possibilities or just more open to enjoying it all.

    I’ve read that Minor taught his students to do Zen meditation before photographing. I don’t do formal meditation but usually just being in nature is enough.

  4. Dan, I couldn’t agree more. Photography isn’t meant to be a test or a challenge to delve into the deeper senses of the mind alone. As you compared to music, it’s what the picture does for you that really counts. Did it bring memories? Did it make you wish you were there? Did it make you want to laugh or cry or just sit there staring in awe. Photography is a split second of time captured to film or digital. Through that medium, we are permitted to review that moment and to share it with others. Was it thought provoking? Probably not. But did it inspire or convey a place, subject or moment in as I’ve never seen it before. If so, then it was a capture well worth the efforts made to share it. Thanks Dan, for sharing such photography with us.

  5. Hi Dan,

    To my mind your photographs “are” thought provoking. Sometimes one may not be conciously trying to tell something through their art, but that doesn’t mean that a message doesn’t get delievered.

    Whenever I see your work I am reminded that natural beauty is universal, within easy reach and something that I can experience on my own. I marvel at the cleverness of your compositions, the subtle nuances of light and the overall sensitive treatment. The most wonderful part is that these feelings persist long after I have finished viewing the pictures.

    • Thank you very much Anil. Rather than thought provoking, I’d say they are emotion provoking. I’m very happy to hear of their effects on you. In that case I know I’ve been successful.

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