Friday, December 19, 2008


TA calling me out on this blog:

"Just reminds me how totally lame it is that you abandoned that potentially rich project just because someone frowned at it at Review Santa Fe.

This was your opportunity to do something great.

What's going on with "Closer To Where We Want To Be?" Are you going to revisit this way of seeing?"

I think Review Santa Fe was an incredibly intense and productive experience for me. I came out with the understanding that the series did not hold together as a coherent body of work and that I needed to start over.

When I tried to explain to the reviewers that I was trying to divorce the imagery from content and make pictures that dealt more indirectly with feelings of alienation and loneliness regardless of what the camera was pointed at -I was met with almost universal confusion.

In addition , after spending many hours looking at the work of my fellow attendees it became clear how far my work had to go before I could even call it a project. It lacked a clear cohesive structure.

I learned a lot while working on CTWWWTB. I learned how I wanted to deal with space within the frame, what kind of light and color I am interested in and the emotion I want to communicate. Now all that is left to decide is what to shoot.

I have been sidetracked by the Florida pictures, making a living, raising a family , the office project and most recently by Sunday Morning. But I have not forgotten about what I learned at Review Santa Fe. Soon I will take out the big camera and sit and wait for that sliver of light and time and will once again try and make something out of nothing.


bird. said...

Pull it together, man. Without criticism we'd never grow as photographers... we'd have nothing to strive for. Don't listen to RSF. If everyone listened to the majority, people would be scared to break out, and be a minority. Minorities, btw, are not a bad thing.

Maybe I'm just a bird, but I think that your project worked in conveying a feeling (which is what "art" is, isn't it?). The fact that you'd listen to people at some snobby photo convention... gimme a break. Maybe they didn't get "it." Y'know what? Their loss. I'm no Einstein, but I got it. I think a lot of us did... after awhile, at least.

People didn't understand Picasso when he was first trying to convey movement in his paintings. While I'm not saying you're Picasso (sorry), I am saying that he didn't just throw in the towel.

I agree with TA. Get your fucking camera, and get out there. Buying into B.S. is for the birds.


Sirfenn said...

TB - There is no shortage of opinions out there. And given your track record of beautiful work, I would allow yours to exist up there at the top, empowering your vision! Everything else is white noise.

Anonymous said...

I confess to agreeing with the reviewers. I never understood what your photos intended to do, and after hearing your take on them would conclude that the work displayed no connection to these thoughts. I guess your alienation was shared. Nevertheless, I like photographers who challenge me and ask for my patience. Each of us has a choice; consider the larger audience as your intended target and be relentlessly obvious, or be content with an audience of one. Justifying your work before a panel of the lowest common denominators is merely asking for them to certify what haven't struggled to know.

Timothy Archibald said...

Anonymous above-
Great note there...very well stated. Who are you?


Joe Reifer said...

I'm not a bird. Or a fancy reviewer. But I want to see the photos now. Lemme see.

allan ayres said...

Hmmmm... I'm of (at least) two minds about this.

I mostly love the series -- or I guess I should say I love the series, there are just a couple of images that miss it for me (but when is that ever not the case?).

But what I love about the series is the formal structure of the pictures, and the light. This is a case where the artist's statement actually subtracts from the work. I don't really need some tortuous theoretical treatise about alienation to enjoy the pictures, and those kinds of words don't really explain much about the work to me.

(This is relatively common for me, quite honestly. And it works both ways: I'm equally annoyed by crummy pictures whose only reason for existing is that they illustrate some sort of elaborate theory that the photographer goes on at great length about in the artist's statement.)

So in some sense I guess I agree with your Review Santa Fe commenters. But it's because they're fantastic pictures that don't need to be propped up by theory, not because it's a bad idea that you should abandon.

However... I guess you need elaborate theories to get anywhere in the art world. Perhaps that's the practical lesson of your Review Santa Fe experience.

Anonymous said...

TA...It isn't important who I am. You've probably never heard of me, and anyway I've been deceased for some time now. I've only recently learned to communicate in English. When I was anonymously welding my bulky camera around Paris shooting shop fronts and whatnot, no one had any high-minded theories about what it all meant. That bum Szarkowski changed all that and now everyone has to both come up with the tune AND write the music. I'm off to the next cloud to have it out with with the Z-man.

Anonymous said...

Hey Thomas: it's been a long time since I've looked at your blog and at your pictures, and reading this entry about what you learned at SSF was great, interesting, refreshing. It reminded me that I too need to start taking pictures again, but at the same time, I need to figure out what and why. I guess to truly know you just have to get going-walk, run, stumble, fall, get up, keep going.

Hope all is well with you, Mercedes and the fam.

If you're ever in Chi-town, look me up.

Jen Small-Wojtowicz