August 09, 2007

The Internet as an Introduction to Abstract Art, via Photography

I originally intended to write about Pommygranate, who runs a great blog, but his blog speaks so well for itself that I think I'll leave that post for later. Still, if you haven't visited his blog, please do. I do consider this post to be yet another one in the ongoing series of posts bringing people's archived work for reconsideration.

There are two things people have become very good at on the Internet: chess and photography.

The former has happened because it is so easy to get on something like Yahoo Games and look up all the openings and theory at Wikipedia. One can get opponents any time, and one has all the basic resources one needs to teach oneself the game (although those resources are nowhere near optimal. Just easier to access than they were before the Internet).

The Internet and photography are perhaps a more a involved story. That one can take unlimited pictures with a digital camera and never have to pay for film is probably the key thing that has made so many photographers stronger. The ability to make tons of mistakes also offers unlimited room for growth. But the ability to also have one's own online gallery, to use Photoshop and get tutorials in similar software, to see other people's work and find what one would like to imitate or achieve - all of that has made a lot of people very, very good photographers.

One thing that happened to me as I started looking at photography online is that my tastes started changing. Shannon's work especially was the catalyst; her photos are of things that are all around us: messy piles on the floor, decayed buildings, lights at night. Her work shows most emphatically that studies in form aren't devoid of content; they can open up questions through being arranged in a narrative sequence or through formal considerations making us connect photographs. Others who work in a similar vein that made me rethink include Jennifer, Courtney, and Kelly Burgess.

The importance of each photographer taking pictures of "stuff" and everyday happenings and then aiming for some refinement in that vein can not be overstated. For me, being able to appreciate what it was they were seeing - asking myself "why is this, even though it is a pile of clothes on the floor, strangely pleasing to the eye" - has enabled me to understand on a deeper level why abstraction might fail or succeed. It looks like an order which is aesthetically pleasing is not necessarily the sort of order we would associate with well-organized bookshelves or clean parquet floors. There's something more subtle going on when these photos work - as if life for the most part does fall into an order which is aesthetic (shades of Kierkegaard here), and when it falls into disorder, perhaps, that has less to do with our passivity and more to do with having forced something unnatural, for better or worse.


pommygranate said...


Many thanks for the kind plug. Looking forward to reading your post on me!

lady macleod said...

I think having a "good eye" is essential for the artistic shots. Those who have an artistic bent are greatly helped by the ease of technology now. It is indeed great fun to see what catches the eye of different bloggers, it says a great deal about them I think.

Gracchi said...

Ashok as ever great post. I think what you say about the disorder in order and the way that the artist can create order is interesting. I think you are absolutely right that in art its the fact that intelligence makes art in some sense- the intelligence to shape and discover meaning out of chaos