Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ten "Epiphanous" Photographs: #1

In Lenswork Issue #63 (March-April, 2006), editor Brooks Jensen has a wonderful essay that begins with the question: "If you were going to demonstrate to a non-photographer the nature of fine art photography and why you are so passionate about it, which ten photographs would you show them?"

What a provocative (and deceptively difficult) question! Naturally, it prompted me to reflect on what my own choices might be at this time and stage of creative life. Of course, I realize that what my 45 year self currently believes are the "epiphanous" photographs that have helped form and shape my photographic I/eye's evolution are likely representative of neither what my I/eye most deeply cherished ten or twenty years ago (though the overlap is large) nor what I may cite as my first inspirational visual stepping stones 20 or 30 years from now.

Having done away with this obvious, but important, caveat, I offer the first of ten photographs that were - each in their own way - epiphanous to me, as an ever-evolving photographer, and my best "explanation" (as per Brooks Jensen's question) to others why I am passionate about fine art photography...

Epiphanous Photograph #1: Minor White's, Capitol Reef, Utah (1962):

Minor White (1908-76), who taught at MIT from 1965 until his death and was one of the founders of Aperture Magazine (in 1952), was arguably one of the most gifted "spiritual" photographers of the 20th century. By that I mean that White's lifelong approach to photography was predicated on the notion that a photograph - in particular, a fine art photograph - must transcend its merely physically manifest form and capture something of the timeless inner presence that defines the soul "taking" it.

White's Capitol Reef (the exact date of my first viewing of which I cannot recall) is the very first photograph I remember seeing that absolutely stunned me, rendering me virtually speechless; all I kept saying for days afterward was "Wow!".

The reason for my reaction was (and still is) how subtly it enfolds objective and subjective realities. What at first site appears to be nothing more than a "mere" beautiful pattern of stone, quietly, almost imperceptively, shifts into an unrecognizable, and - almost paradoxically, even more beautiful - subjective pattern of shapes, textures and tones. Reality, in short, has simply dissapeared, and has been replaced - by what? - anything the viewer's eye/I happens to see at the moment of viewing.

Outer objective reality blended, and enfolded, into subjective, inner truth and vision; and a "mere" representational photograph transformed into a glimpse of a transcendent dynamic reality. It is also the photograph that made me fall in love with fine art photography.


Anonymous said...

Hello Andy Ilachinsky, I found your wonderful blog by chance, while looking for stuff related, "tao", "photography", "spiritual photography", "pareidolia" (the perception phenomenon which consists in seeing 'faces' and 'figures' in rocks, clouds, ect). Well, I must tell you that your blog is amazing. Not only for your interesting texts and reflections about spiritual and trascendent nature of photography, but for your excellent photos, of course. Your photos are really fine (I specially enjoyed Mystic Flame and Abstract Glyph portfolios). I have the feeling that I found some sort of twin brother in you, I tell you. Well, I felt particularly impressed (very impressed indeed) for Capitol Reef by Minor White, the photo with which you illustrate your brilliant ten issues essay about "epiphanous photographs". Really, it amazed me. And I found very precise and elegant your thoughts about that image. Thank you so much for your blog and for sharing all your wonderful photos and texts. (and sorry for my bad english). Please accept my best wishes for you and for your loved ones. Un saludo desde las Islas Canarias (a salute from Canary Islans, Spain). PS: maybe you feel like having a look to my portfolio "pareidolium", its made from the pages of a book about 'pareidolic images' that I am now editing to publish it soon at (where, by the way, I saw you publish aswell).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. i am 13 and am finding it really helpful in my photography GCSE.