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Friday, 1 February 2019

Cleansing the Photographic Palate

I spoke to Alec Soth yesterday on photographing without the burden of the project, without the weight of expectation of the grand narrative, on using photography to connect between photographer, person and place in a manner uncluttered by the idea of the epic.

"It was a cleansing of the palate," he said, "a cleaning of the system and getting back to this fundamental experience of being with another person, looking at them, wondering what’s going on inside them."

I love that idea of the photographer with no destination, wandering nebulously to create a visual map of what it is to photograph people, a template of visual being, of some kind of emotional truth. Because that is what photography is all about really. Except when it's not of course.

And it does beg the question of where else the photographic palate could be cleansed.

I'll post the full interview later but it's in connection with this book, I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating.

The title comes from this poem by Wallace Stevens, a poem that is all about distance and closeness, finding beauty in this gray room, finding consolation in the essential separateness of life. Which is what Soth's book is all about

The Gray Room

Although you sit in a room that is gray,
Except for the silver
Of the straw-paper,
And pick
At your pale white gown;
Or lift one of the green beads
Of your necklace,
To let it fall;
Or gaze at your green fan
Printed with the red branches of a red willow;
Or, with one finger,
Move the leaf in the bowl--
The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythia
Beside you...
What is all this?
I know how furiously your heart is beating.

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