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Modes of Expression

October 31, 2011

Cherry Blue Ice by Hannah Macpherson

We are just about finished with mid-terms in my two classes of Introduction to Digital Fine Art Photography.  There are stacks of beautiful pictures. The above image is from Hannah Macpherson’s series of multiple exposures. When we critiqued her project we talked about Lorie Novak who makes similar work. Hannah was unaware of her.

From the series-Thin Skinned, 2004-2006 by Lorie Novak

Back to student portfolios, Corrin Halford’s Trisha (below) indulges my love of people pictures.

Trisha by Corrin Halford

I encourage students to photograph indoors. From my perspective interior pictures can be more revealing of the photographer, as well as what or who is photographed. The incursion into the subject’s private space is part of getting personal about picture making.

by Cynthia Consentino

Cynthia Consentino is an accomplished sculptor. It is a pleasure to have her expressive and woozy work as part of the class.

by Michael Lafleur

Michael Lafleur is influenced by William Eggleston. I like that Mike acknowledges his influence without actually taking pictures like Eggleston. See Eggleston via Google for an incredible array of pictures that look as fresh today as they did 30 years ago.

by Gary Thibault

Gary Thibault photographs friends in their rooms and Gretchen Drane photographs friends in their cars.

by Gretchen Drane

The following three pictures illustrate the more theatrical side of expression.

by Leah Avalos

Photo by Christine McCarron

Glow by Patrick Harris

Just so you don’t think all my students make portraits, below is a striking non-portrait from Texas by Ashley Graziadei.

by Ashley Graziadei

What got me thinking about modes of expression is a quote from Denis Donoghue’s review of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume II: 1941-1956 that was in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

(Beckett) claimed to favor “the expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.”

The above quote makes a lot of sense coming from the author of Waiting for Godot. It also has a superficial kinship with Buddhism’s Heart Sutra:

“form does not differ from emptiness

emptiness does not differ from form

that which is form is emptiness, that which

is emptiness form, these same is true of

feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness…”

by Will Brock

I just wrote a long paragraph about Beckett’s “nothing” of expression and the unconditioned, choiceless awareness that is the heart of The Heart Sutra. Then I deleted it. As students of visual art our mode of expression is through pictures not words. Our obligation is to express. Our freedom is to embrace the known and the unknown. I told my students last week that when the shit hits the fan, see the beauty in the flying debris. As in the minimalist works of Samuel Beckett, the simplest pieces add up to an all encompassing whole.

Brussels Sprouts by Ahmad Taheri

I like Ahmad Taheri’s picture of Brussels sprouts. Our crop of sprouts failed this year so Ahmad’s photograph is a stand-in for what has been my favorite vegetable. It could be said that making art is like making food. Make what you enjoy and consume what you enjoy.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011 4:02 pm

    Frank, had to pull out a darkroom collage my brother and I made in the sixties of my girlfriend combined with mattress springs. here is the link:

    • November 1, 2011 6:25 pm

      Holy macaroni, I love that classic burlap combined with old school rusty wire. The Ashfield Group could get together with “early work” and just show pictures from the first years of our photography careers. That might be fun. I know that seeing my students figure out how to make pictures work is a great adventure.

      • November 10, 2011 1:21 pm

        Early work. Yes lets show more of it. In my case, hard to find but I will try.

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