On the grounds of Kumamoto Castle you can find a wide variety of people milling around. Folks on a lunch break. Folks on a date. Folks looking for a place to put their feet up. Even tourists.
It’s minus seventeen degrees and the land is covered with about ten centimetres of snow as I write this. I thought I would post up a picture of Southern Kyushu in December but the green leaves and people happily walking about in light jackets depressed me.
The picture above was one I kept going back and forth over. There’s nothing in it that’s a real audience draw. No pretty Japanese ladies. Nothing that looks like a Miyazaki movie. No one looking “weird”. No candid exposes of what the audience assumes is the subjects inner self. None of that stuff we expect from “street”. And they’re not even craggy old men like you expect! Just two middle-aged guys sitting and chatting. Something you can see anywhere on the planet at any time. Nothing sexy or artsy about it at all.
Just a document of a time and place.
I’ve always viewed myself as a documentarian in my photography. But I am always aware of what the audience is interested in. Creative mediums always require an audience of some sort and it’s hard to balance keeping people interested with presenting what you feel is important.
I had the same struggle with making comics. Trying to appeal to people while trying to satisfy my own creative impulses. Not being able to balance those two forces is one of the things that drove me away from that medium. And it paralyses me whenever I get a story idea or ideas on how to continue abandoned series like Yes You Can! and The Halifax Explosion.
This photo has been cropped a dozen ways from Sunday. It hasn’t been cleaned up. I think you can agree that the dust adds to the image. But so many crops.
One crop, A4 dimensions, hung in a few galleries around Miyazaki one year. I’d be proud of myself if the show wasn’t part of a government effort to show how much their foreigners love living in Miyazaki. To not get in the show, I would have to simply not apply. Which I did the remaining years I was in Japan because I couldn’t be arsed to come up with images that fit their stated themes. I suppose that I could have bullshitted. Bullshit is the biggest tool in an artist’s box after all.
I’m really bad at that sort of thing. Blowing smoke up someone’s ass. On resumes I need to be as neutral about what I did in my previous jobs as possible. I reach forward to put the cherry on top of the shit sundae, but I always wind up flipping the table instead. A few months ago applied for a part time job at a local home items business. The application form was four pages long and was basically the job interview in text form. The question came up each time, “Why did you leave this job?” Seriously, it’s like they’re trying to see how well you can remember the lies you told when you applied.
It’s not like they’ll accept “The owner was a bullying, evil, little bridge troll and as a result the work environment was a toxic stew of pettiness and betrayal.”
But getting back to the “Foreigners Heart Miyazaki” art show: A friend of mine picked up on the promotional nature of the event and submitted photos that showed how cool and awesome Miyazaki folk are. He won first prize.
I read a couple of photoblog articles recently. They were singing the praises of a street photographer who I won’t name because, like all semi-famous folk, he has sycophants. Having dealt with that type of human before, I’d like to avoid having them threaten my family.
His approach to his subject is to stick a flash and lens in a person’s face and photograph the Fight or Flight response. Art knobs call this “humanistic” because they don’t spend much time apart from other art knobs. Which I guess is true. So is photographing someone grunting away on the toilet. But this guy hangs in galleries, gets thousands of dollars for his stuff, and has people writing blog posts justifying his treating his subjects without respect because the results are, as mentioned, “humanistic”. I don’t have any of that, so you can take or leave what I write here as you see fit. I can’t use an argument from authority to convince you.
But it does bring up something that I think is important to remember. If you seek to turn your creative urges into something akin to employment, you have two choices;
1. Do as you please. Have confidence that other people like it and will give you money.
2. Find out what people like and will give you money for. Change what you do to give it to them.
While there are a number of people who succeed at the first, they are far outnumbered by the second. The second route is a time-tested, much more successful path than the first. You want to make money off of your creative urge, that’s the way for you to do it. That small sting you feel is just pride fucking with you.
Okay, there is an alternative. Don’t bother chasing money. Do what you want simply to satisfy yourself. I think this is what you’re more likely to see in hobbyists than anything. For me, I do photography and draw comics when I feel like it for whatever reason strikes me at the time. I’m much more satisfied with what I produce as a result because I’m not killing myself chasing an illusion.
Whatever you decide to do, just don’t go around popping off flashes in people’s face. That’s assholish.
Despite what your religious leaders and peers have told you about atheists, we do have the ability to appreciate beauty regardless of the inspiration for it. We can even listen to an entire hour and a half of Bach without exploding into flame.
That’s why I’m fond of visiting religious structures when I come across them. They show the benefits of being devoted to supporting and promoting a wealthy power structure such as a religion: You get the financing to bring fantasies to life, and beautiful buildings and art tend to result.
Science and secularism, for all it’s superiority in explaining reality, is lacking in the more physical manifestations of beauty. Of course you’d have to be dead in the heart to look at this photo of Saturn and not be awed by it. But Saturn is a billion kilometers away and there’s no way you can pass an afternoon sitting on a nearby bench and looking up in appreciation of it. It was also forged by forces beyond easy human comprehension. Saturn seems inevitable given the power of the cosmos. Exceptional, but not exceptional given the context.
But the Pieta? You marvel that a small, short-lived, cosmically insignificant ape made that. It seems almost inconceivable this came from an ugly, vicious human brain. Most of us can’t even handle Pictionary, yet one of us did that?! Wow, right? It still doesn’t mean that religious beliefs have any basis in reality. But I’m secure enough to admit that, when it comes to making beauty, religions have us heathens beat.
That’s why we’re claiming rock and roll and hip hop! They may not be beautiful most of the time, but do make you shake your butt.
Like every photo for the next few days, this was shot in the city of Nagasaki with a Mamiya C220f.