Of Many Things

Let’s just get it out there: Kurt Vonnegut died. Chances are pretty good you already knew that, given that it’s been all over the news and blogs and everywhere else. Still, putting it out there in case you hadn’t (also, because the article at the NY Times is pretty well written and worth the read).

Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Tuesday — the day itself was pretty “meh,” a genuine non-day that I spent alone, but that in and of itself is an improvement from a lot of my recent past birthdays. So — thanks, it meant a lot to get the well wishes. I did pick up some shoes (my Keens are completely shredded, hardly a good impression during job interviews), so I swung by Wooly Mammoth in the University district and picked up some Clarks on sale. They’re pretty snazzy, though I must admit after spending the past month in sandals, it does feel weird to be back in a closed shoe. Still the toe room is good, they’re light, good insoles… they just feel light on the feet.

I’ve been sleeping in a lot lately, which isn’t really a good thing, but hardly unexpected. The anti-depressant medication helps me through the day, but the process of waking up is still a pain (even if I take the meds before bed). I don’t think I mentioned that I’m back on meds for it before, but yeah, since November or so. I was having a pretty bad depressive relapse due to fallout from my breakup and stress from finances and lack of work and just in general trying to figure out what I was doing with myself. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m “better,” but the meds do help me get a grip on things. Except the sleep part. Worry about money and work is mounting, and so my “defense” mechanism of sleeping too much is rearing its head. (It’s not that uncommon, the rationalization is that if you sleep through it, it’ll go away. That the world doesn’t really work like that is irrelevant.) I suspect some low grade dehydration might also have something to do with it (it’s never good when you can actually recollect all the liquid you’ve ingested in a day, and that most of it is caffeinated — and not even much of that).

Not trying to get mopey or anything, just sometimes you have a down day.

The most recent issue of LensWork (an excellent photographic magazine if you haven’t already checked it out) discussed a new podcast they’ve launched, that offers “commentary” rather than “critique” for a particular image from one of their current issues. The article that expanded on this topic went on to explain that whether you like or don’t like an image is relatively useless to anyone but yourself, and similarly, while exploring the technical merit of a print has value, describing how you would change it is also irrelevant — you are viewing the finished product, so unless you are planning to do a variant of the image, it doesn’t really matter what you would change. So they’ve opted to instead call their work a commentary on the image, similar to the work a docent might do in a gallery or museum.

While I applaud the decision to explore the content and context of an image rather than simply review it, personally I would have preferred that they had opted to make an effort to re-take the value and intent of “critique”. Literary or Art Criticism functions exactly as they are describing, and as I’ve mentioned before, what they are describing is the core function of critique. Just because in the photographic community the term has been co-opted for what largely amounts to a technical (or even subjective!) review doesn’t mean that the term is a lost cause. Don’t get me wrong, a technical review absolutely has merit, especially within the professional community for the purposes of furthering one’s craft, but it is only one element of a wider form of criticism that is largely being ignored — ignored to the point that a national magazine like LensWork felt it necessary to divorce themselves of the term!

That said, I still really enjoy the magazine. The photography in it is exquisite, and reading over the biographies of a number of the artists is really encouraging — many start out with “I went and did something else for 20 years, and only got back into photography quite recently,” which is encouraging in that it suggests that 1) technical excellence can be gained or regained quickly, and 2) that you don’t necessarily have to work at your craft for 50 years just be start to be recognized.

It’s kind of strange, in that I feel that I still have so much to learn in terms of craft in so many fields that I wish to pursue, but at the same time feel like it’s time in my life to start leaving a mark, to create and do. It’s a weird dichotomy, the urge to create and but the need to further craft in order to do so. I don’t think I’m really properly explaining it, but this will have to do for now.