Saturday, January 25, 2014

Top of the Hill and Why Photography Matters

An 8x 10 1/2 pastel of abstracted view where Stratton and Blair meet at the top of the hill.

I just finished reading Why Photography Matters by Jerry L. Thompson.  It matters because photography or the camera will capture more of reality than the artist wants or expects, but accepting and using this chancy outcome as part of a dialectic for development, the artist will grow and have a deeper understanding of the world.  He opposes mathema to pathema, Greek terms, to illustrate the dialectic.  Mathema is concerned with preconceptions and models of understanding while pathema is more passive and open to the unexpected (like the camera!).  He quotes Henry Adams on the danger of mathema: great artworks are mirrors, and will only show what one brings to them.  Pathema, related to the word pathos, can enable transcendence beyond the accepted or expected. The book's cover shows a photograph by Walker Evans of the Burroughs home fireplace.  There may be a known story behind the photograph, but the photograph offers much more than Evans probably ever conceived when he first made the image in 1936.

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