Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Moss Landing

I've spent, in the last decade, a total of at least several weeks in Moss Landing, CA. My wife has an aunt there. It occupies a quite clear visual space in my mind. It's misty, rolling, farmland. Now, that's my concept of Moss Landing and, obviously, there is much more there. There's a fishing fleet, beaches, and so on.

But to me, it's mostly just one picture. There are a handful of (to me) iconic objects that definitely say "Moss Landing", a power plant and the general idea of a derelict boat.

Hawaii is too wide, contains too many distinctly Hawaiian facets, for me to express a coherent view of with photographs. Moss Landing is too narrow. One picture isn't going to work for communicating my idea, to you, to anyone, it's a single fairly boring picture. I could make 5 or 20 or 100 of these things, and you'd probably grasp the idea that Molitor sees Moss Landing as this specific thing, but I don't think you'd be able to feel anything of what I feel. It would just be a boring picture of light gray above, a curved horizon line, and a dark grey below. Ho hum. This could be anywhere.

I could throw in a bunch of breadth and show you boats and migrant workers and windswept beaches. You'd get a strong sense of California from the migrant workers in the fields, most likely. You'd see the beach, the fishing boats, the sailboats, you'd get Coastal. I could probably communicate Central California Coast pretty clearly by chucking in a few wind-gnarled trees clinging to rocks high above the surf. But that's not my vision of Moss Landing, particularly. That would be, perhaps, an interesting set of documentary pictures, but it would not be My Moss Landing. I took a bunch of frames and you'll probably see a few of them shortly.

Anyways, let's think about this a bit.

I can go someplace and duplicate iconic imagery from that place, the more or less universal pictures that most of the western world, or whatever our world is, treat as definitive. I can return with a photo essay that is instantly recognizable Paris or Antarctica and Iceland, and loads of people do exactly that. It seems to be a fun thing to do.

These are not personal, and without that personal input, they say nothing, they mean nothing, they are weightless. They say only that you have mastered some equipment, some tropes, and were perhaps shepherded about by someone who knows what the iconic shots are.

When you copy work in this fashion, you might be saying great and important things, but you're merely mouthing the words. Reciting Shakespeare does not make you a poet, although it's a bunch of fun. Reciting William McGonagall is probably even more fun, and moves you slightly further away from being a poet.

Once you step away from the icons, then you can start to shoot what you see. Weston and his strongest way of seeing and so on. All the important photographers who deigned to write anything down say pretty much the same thing. Once you start to see, you can branch out, if you like, in to imagining what might have been, or what ought to be, rather than what is. You needn't be literal, or even truthful.

But you've got to stop reciting poetry. You've got to clear your head and bide a while in the silence.

1 comment:

  1. I have an acquaintance here in Australia who leads what he terms 'workshops' but which are in fact no more that 'photo tours'.
    He is reasonably competent with how to use a camera.
    He is reasonably competent in how to kill an image with overuse of sliders in some program.
    He is very competent in selling the notion to others that attending such events will make them better photographers/artists/whatever.

    He has no original voice.

    His work is repetitive of other before him. His followers likewise and the next iteration of the same garish rubbish.

    They all come back from Iceland or Utah or New Zealand with the same images of the same beautiful locations and with the same mistaken thought that they have produced something worthwhile.

    They would be far better to say " hey, I'm going to the lovely location because I want to see it, to smell the air there, to eat the food there, to enjoy nature there, and if I record my visit with a camera, I'll be happy"

    Instead they quote, if I may use your descriptive idea, poetry from another writer.
    The sad thing is that they will never know the difference.