Friday, November 16, 2007

Form is everything. Content is banal

I quote a friend here. I owe him some of my better conversations, he, like Vivek, knows where the digging is good or maybe even knows how to make any dig good. Questions and answers, a pair like form and content, one over-archingly more important than the other.

I remember watching 'The Thin Red Line', with it's paradisaical travel catalogue frames. Each one a design principle illustration, a telling of the magic of point, line, colour, light, space: filled and otherwise. It was a story told in stills; if nothing had moved I imagined it would still be perfect. (Sontag calls film a series of under-edited images.) I cried and I didn't know why. Reading 'If on a winter's night', shuttling between books that maybe, that may become and readers that maybe and are in books themselves, back and forth between reading and writing and being. When I think of the books I love, and the movies. They all have this simple commonality, a play with form.

I look at my images, the ones I love. They follow a pattern, a structure that is classifiable with little effort. There is a path that my eye follows through the images; not a rigid linear one, more like the meanders each of our lives take, with an internal logic. A path, the logic of the image will compel each one that sees it, to follow. A conversation between what came before and hence what must come next. Even the surprises are planned and the detours mapped. The breaks work because they break expectations. If I do it right, you will see what I want you to see, ignore what I will of you and maybe respond how I would wish. 'If I'm doing my job then it's your resolve that breaks / Because the hook brings you back.'

I care about content, don't get me wrong, I even argued with R. (Unsuccessfully I might add, as always.) I cannot escape narratives, no matter how banal. I have a greed, Byatt's mot juste narrative greed (from another favourite, Possession). It doesn't work without the structure though, It cannot be communicated. It does not stay. A story is in the telling.

An outline shadows each image, an outline of it's elements, the bits and pieces that make it up. The insect here, the warm green bokeh there, negative spaces here, active ones there. Some part of my over active, organising classifying brain is at it before the shutter trips. I work at it, I look, I look and I look. I analyse, I see each image broken down. To forget I must know, I must assimilate and then I can let it go.

Slowly it becomes second nature and I silence the voices. The rule of thirds is distant background hiss and the colour wheel is second nature. I don't think of symmetry or balance or repetition. When the moment comes together, and it does rarely, I've bettered my chances of knowing. Now all I wish for is a camera that snicks rather than crash-bangs.

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