Friday, 2 December 2011

A Kind of Wonder

In the last century the iconic image was more prolific due to the lower level of production of images generally. Now the tsunami of images and the fact that the nature of the iconic has been identified and therefore disempowered by both its own ubiquity and the ubiquity of the image in general, renders the newly iconic almost impossible to produce.
Cartier-Bressons ‘definitive moment’, that moment that identifies the essential image that characterises the moment that is available to the photographer had she or he the technique to capture it, and Conrad Hall’s confusingly titled ‘photographic moment’, given that he was a cinematographer, are available for all to achieve as technique has been quantised, digitaised and made ready for popular use via an availability through the 'professionalisation' of software. Naturally, when software developers could increase functionality in software, they did and this lead to the software outputting the semblance of the professional with the person addressing the software having very little professionalism - as professionalism is much more that 'the look of a thing'. Training in higher educational institutions took on the need to familiarise their student with 'the look of the qualitative' and utilised these software solutions so that an apparently ‘more professional’ trainee might be produced for the job market place. Equally trainees met this new level of training with enthusiasm and mass technique and mass aspiration to be the single producer of the iconic rose to meet the challenge. But as the Italians rightly say:  'Pochi sono chiamati, ancora rispondere a molte' - Meaning:

‘Few are called, yet many answer’.

Conrad Hall maintained that each still frame in a shot should have photographic quality (approaching Cartier's Definitive Moment in certain senses) but mainly in compositional quality, so that between the beginning frame of a shot and its end frame, all frames in between as the cameras eye roams across the scene should have the highest compositional quality, as well as the ‘correct’ play of light and subject activity. Hall was saying that even when the cameras eye roams across what could be called abstract compositions, because the subject cannot always be in frame, if the camera when behind a post for instance then the image produced should be like that of an abstract painter, perfect in all of its attributes.It should follow that the ubiquity and availability of high quality equipment and training to a high skill level makes available to all, this level of awareness of the construction of the image.

If the craft cannot be applied whilst in the act of capture - it’s ok as new functionalities of composition are available in programmes that fix reality. Take 'After Effects' for instance, there’s not much that cannot be rearranged in this programme when aligned and data exchanged with Photoshop, so that what was not achieved in the craft act can be genrated in ‘post’. Post meaning: the situation when one has time to think and dwell on construction of all the elements so that they appear to have been produced in the act of capture. This is of course both tautological and impossible.
But the world calls us to act when acts are necessary and craft acts need be realised when that moment calls. Post construction of the iconic is false as it is pre-conceived and post-conceived - realised from a position of understanding ubiquity and cliche, yet without the discriminative ability that stops its production. It speaks of what once was iconic and tries to duplicate what others have done before and in its replication in a  plastic medium and renders images non-iconic from lack of application of the taste that would be the very thing in the moment of capture that resisted cliche.
But post analysis is simply that and it is a form of dull and stultifying practice which renders its compositions also dull and that itself stultifies the production of the sense in us that is a response to the observation of the iconic. A kind of wonder.
The ready ability to respond to the world at the moment when the world produces the circumstances for the production of the iconic comes from continuous practice and a conscious awareness and the desire to stand on the verge of excitement at the possibility of its production. This excitement to visit this moment through the medium of realisation is what any craftsperson can utilise to elevate their practice to art.