Friday, February 1, 2008


Every time I back out of my driveway into my usually deserted street and find a slow moving car blocking my path or try to turn left across what had been an equally deserted street only to find an oncoming car blocking my turn, I begin to wonder if something funny is going on.
I mean it. I'm enough of a cynic to question circumstances that are supposed to be beyond my control. Like standing in a long line at the bank and after your turn finally comes discovering there is no one waiting behind you. When these things happen more than once and often enough to become a pattern it can make the sanest citizen wonder aloud....."is this part of some twisted PLAN?"
I've become something of a student of the phenomenon. Indeed. As a working photojournalist for the past twenty or so years I've behaved as something of a collaborator with this thing that I now know has a name....Synchronicity.
Photographers deal in bits and pieces of time. Ever thinner slices of reality that can, after a long career spanning several decades, only amount to a couple of seconds worth of moments preserved.
Anyway. After spending a considerable portion of my life making a living in photography I have come to the conclusion that there is indeed something funny going on...reality-wise that is.
Serious scientific explorations have studied random physical conjunctions and how they coexist with the rest of reality. One researcher, a turn-of-the-century biologist named Paul Kammerer decided that these juxtapositions could be explained as objective physical phenomena. At the same time he had come to believe that these so-called meaningful coincidences implied some kind of expanded vision of reality.
Really! A generation later Swiss psychologist Dr. Karl Gustav Jung gave this funny stuff a name....Synchronicity....which according to the dictionary means, "the fact or state of being synchronous; simultaneous occurrence."
Some years ago an obscure group of artists who called themselves Realists decided that there was a parallel universe that existed next to our own and that through the materials of their art they could uncover or tear through the veil that separated the two worlds. Indeed. At about the same time the surrealists art movement of the 1920's had decided that reality itself was a man-made fiction and existed independent of what they found in their art.
Which brings me back to backing out of my driveway and making pictures from fractions of a second. Both acts have often provided me with some interesting stuff to consider. My driving adventures have produced enough improbable situations to convince me that something with a cosmic sense of humor is diddling with my life. My photographs often contain more information than I had signed on for when I pressed the shutter. That is not to say that I don't always know exactly what I'm photographing when I photograph. Indeed, I don't always do....or don't know. But I do make the pictures. And if I am lucky, something wonderfully funny appears in my tray of dektol later on.
It's part magic and part poker playing. I ferret out things from places I reckon will produce interesting stuff. I figure the magic will follow if I'm lucky. A lot of the time I think I see what I'm seeing in the camera view finder. Which is to say I'm not too surprised if I don't.
The camera has a wonderful way of looking at the world and part of my education in it's use has been the slow understanding of how to allow the camera to do it's thing without my getting in the way. I prefer the 35mm camera. You have to hold it up to your face and this shortens the physical distance between your brain and the shutter. I believe in instinct and intuition and the short distance between brain and finger allow the two to operate. Often the stuff I am looking at is moving at near light-speed in front of me. I can't afford to let too much conscience thinking get in the way of interesting pictures. Pre-conceived notions are best left at home. Instead I prefer to look at things with the visual ignorance of a visitor to a strange land.
Of course with the camera film plane pressed against my forehead it is possible that the film is merely responding directly to my unconscious thought
Photographer Jerry Uelsmann thinks that dektol must be sensitive to thought. How else can you explain the difference between two prints from the same negative he has reasoned. Jerry sees a lot of Karma-like stuff surrounding his photographic journey. Photographer-critic Bill Jay reasoned in his book OCCAM'S RAZOR that underlying all this randomness in reality is a remarkable symmetry to the physical stuff we call if something was trying to tell us something.

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