Photo blog 1

I’m going to start a new feature here this week:  I’m going to start posting photos.

When we were stranded in Amsterdam last during the Iceland volcano fiasco, we decided to ease the tension of being trapped (I called it “maintenance,” as in, maintaining a healthy stress level) by visiting a few of the museums on our Museumkaart.  One day we dropped into the FOAM, a gallery of contemporary photography, and as we browsed some of the exhibits, Jennifer leaned over and whispered to me, “You know, if you wanted to, you could do this.  Your pictures are as good as these.”  I think my wife is being sweet–I’m just a hack, and some of the exhibits were astoundingly good–but one of the exhibits did feel at first a bit pedestrian, and I have always loved photography enough that I think if I had decent equipment and could afford to devote more time to it, I might not be half bad.  As it is, we did buy a better camera for this trip and I’d been experimenting with some of it’s more advanced features, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship with narrative and visual art.  This was especially true on this day: that exhibit that seemed at first pedestrian was actually driven by an interest in photographic narrative.  The artist cited Chekhov as an influence, in fact, saying he hoped to capture the kind of honesty and mundane beauty in his pictures that Chekhov captured in his fictional characters.  One of his techniques was to take sequences of photos and then arrange them sequentially to tell a story, almost like a graphic short story.  Given my recent interest in visual narrative and sequential art, I was drawn to the work in a way that I might not otherwise have been, and I started thinking about my own photos in a different way.

So I decided to start posting photos, one each Wednesday, that I think are visually interesting.  If I can progress to the point I’d like to, I want to also start posting photos that I think are narratively interesting–I want to try and tell stories in pictures.

We’ll see how this plays out over time, but here’s the first one, a shot from the Katten Kabinet, a museum in Amsterdam devoted entirely to cats and cat-related art.

Bell the cats
"Bell the cats." At the Katten Kabinet, Amsterdam, 7 April 2010

(PS:  Today will be a double post:  Look for my travel journal, Day 5, later today.)

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

4 thoughts on “Photo blog 1

  1. I think all forms of art coexist in some way or another. Artists have a special eye that can cross over into other mediums. Being a tattoo artist taught me different ways to look at the human body, shadow, light, which eventually bled into my writing and helped me to describe scenes in ways one might not look at them. I think the same would translate well for photography and writing.

    1. I’d love to know more about your views on tattoo art. I’m glad body art has finally gained a degree of mainstream acceptance, but it still feels like the art community views it as fringe. I’m probably wrong, but that’s how it feels. How fascinating, though, to be able to paint not on skin but in skin! I’ve been reading a lot about MC Escher’s views on background and the use of negative space, and I recently watched a DVD discussing, among other things, Van Gogh’s use of natural canvas as part of the painting (a technique he picked up from friends like Toulouse-Lautrec), and now that you’ve brought up tattoo art, I’m curious what your thoughts are on skin as a background medium, and how skin pigment affects the “painting” choices you make.

  2. Tattooing will probably always be on the fringe (which I kinda like). It’s personal and not something that can be wrangled,slapped with a price tag and hung in a museum. It’s very difficult and takes years of practice. It’s basically like painting but instead of a brush, you’re holding a machine that continually vibrates, and has needles instead of hair, on a canvas that bleeds, sweats and moves. It’s not a forgiving medium, that’s for sure. Most people don’t understand the talent it takes to transfer a piece of art onto skin. Of all the mediums I’ve dabbled in, which have been everything except photography, it has been the most rewarding.

    1. That’s what I’ve heard. I’ve always been fascinated by it as a medium, particularly because, unlike most arts, there’s so little room for drafting or revision and so little opportunity for practice other than just diving in and doing it. Takes guts, I think.

      I also love that the medium is so collaborative–when it’s done right (in my opinion), it’s a visual conversation between artist and recipient. It’s rare that a piece of any art can say so much about the owner as well as the artist. I love my tattoo, but I also loved the experience of getting it, the collaboration that went on just to arrive at the design and color choices. I want to get another, but I’m not one of those people that runs off to the tattoo parlor just because it’s a Saturday night and I’m feeling daring–I view the art as a permanent expression of personality and an intimate conversation between me and the artist, so it has to be the right art in the right place at the right time. So far, that hasn’t happened, and I’m in no hurry.

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