Monochrome Mondays

Smile For The Camera!

I have been reading an autobiography of Paul Auster, a favorite writer of both my wife and I. Actually in clever Auster fashion he has written two ‘autobiographies’. The first-Winter Journal which I have not read is described as a second person look at his physical self. Report From The Interior is the one I am currently reading and it is a recollection of the inner workings of his development from an early age. For fans of his work it is a revealing look at some of his earliest fascinations in life, interspersed with true stories about growing up. All I can say in describing it is that it is unlike any autobiography I have ever read. One of the reasons I like it is because at the end of the written part of the book is an ‘Album’ which tells the same exact story of his life through the eyes of cartoons,  vintage photographs, magazine advertisements, newspaper stories, and even motion picture stills. I found myself skipping back and forth to see the visual side of what he was writing about. Surely one reason for this device in the book is because at one stage he laments that as a result of moving a lot he lost a lot of mementos and photo documentation of his youth. Surprising because he mentions that in the postwar U.S. every family was gripped by ‘shutterbug’ fever.

It made me think about the times we are in now, when everyone is seemingly a photographer. From masters of the selfie to Instagram accounts with thousands of followers, everyone it seems is representing their life in a ‘visual’ way. The difference from what Auster described is that though cameras may have been readily available, the means of sharing them to people was not. I am old enough to remember the dreaded ‘slide shows’ your neighbor might invite you over for to see of their trip to the Grand Canyon. Other than that, photography was either commercial-family portraits, newspapers, magazines, etc or artistic. The lines did not really intersect with one another but they sure have now. This blog would not exist if they did not intersect after all. The question I wonder about is-does having so much visual representation  harm the more thought driven way we used to think? Instead of describing how awesome the pizza was at a restaurant to a friend, we show them a photo we snapped of it on our phone. Instead of describing a cool exhibit we saw at a museum, going over the high points we tend to rely on the visual.

By no means am I above this, but sometimes I like to take a step back. To ‘think’ about photography rather than doing it. When I saw these figures standing on a hill on Roosevelt Island with the Manhattan skyline behind the figure to the right above, I thought it would be interesting to take a photo of people engaged in the act of photography. Photographer and subject matter together. I could describe to you in detail what was behind that figure on the right. What buildings would be in view, what color the sky was, that sort of thing. And sometimes I think that is actually more interesting.

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

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16 thoughts on “Monochrome Mondays

  1. Great post! I think the mark of craftsmanship as a writer is in writing description. I used to hate reading descriptions and preferred reading the dialogue or necessary plot points instead. That’s why I preferred plays and comic books, because in novels people tended to luxuriate with descriptions without any sign of getting into the story. That changed when I read Hemingway. I think American authors in general do descriptions really well. It’s not flab, there really is a point to describing a tree or a railway station. How all this leads to photography is that, it’s my theory anyway, American writing tended to be more photographic, while British writing was more painterly. Both had detail, but American writing was more honest and direct. I would very much like to read Paul Auster soon (4321 has been on my mind all year) and I think I’ll start with New York trilogy!

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    1. Thank You! First, a bit of housekeeping. I know I have a lot of catching up to do with you and I must take a few moments to watch your video post. I think you are so right about that distinction. I suppose Americans do typically handle descriptions in a certain manner. Granted there are some writers that go a little too much in detail! But it really is an art. I actually love listening to baseball games on the radio. It is pure description. Baseball having a lot of ebb and flow and a lot of time where not much happens. Yet with a skilled broadcaster, you can see everything in your mind as if you were there or watching on TV. I can’t stand people who go to a museum and just start snapping photos-click click click. I appreciate that they like it but I’d rather look at the old steam engine first, think about it, appreciate the color, the design, and THEN take a photo. I don’t always follow that mind you, but I try to. Lastly I have yet to read 4321 yet but hope to soon. The NY Trilogy is the defacto place to start, but I can’t wait until you read ones like Travels In The Scriptorium, The Book Of Illusions, and others!

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      1. I will have to catch up on that! I’ve been a lousy blogger (and a lousy blogger friend), but work and life have been hectic! I will be away during the Christmas weekend as well, but I hope to catch up on your fantastic blogs soon!

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      2. I’m really not far behind you. There is something about this year that has left a fog over my head. Now that it is close to being over I am waiting for 2018 anxiously for a re-do. I’ve not been so great liking and commenting either. I still have to watch you video post. Enjoy your trip!

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      3. I hope to pick things up blogging wise too. I can definitely feel the clouds in my head recently as well! What a metaphor, eh? Fog and clouds, but strangely accurate as well. I wrote about my dark, murky heart and Christmas celebrations in my blog today. No pressure to read of course, but I go into more detail about the blackness in my heart! Have a cosy Christmas nevertheless!

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      4. I saw that! I will try to get to it. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Seems to me like every month more people drop out of blogging. But I’m not giving up, just feel like a short break is a good idea. Thank you and if you celebrate Christmas, enjoy, if not, enjoy the weekend regardless!

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      5. I did get into the story of my celebrating Christmas, but I thought it might be a sensitive subject on the internet, so I left that bit out. I stuck to pop culture instead, and tried to prove I’m not Ebenezer Scrooge.

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    1. I can see why you might think that but no he had his phone out to take shots of his friend. They were trying to position him right because like I said, behind the guy on the right was the Manhattan skyline so they were trying to get it right. Man they were taking their sweet ass time though! Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I know. That is interesting. Its like those tests they used to give you in school….which figure is closer in this photo type of thing. I actually saw them from a ways away and was figuring out how to frame the shot as I was getting closer to them.

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