Posted on June 1, 2015
The other night I was talking to Nancy about photographs. She had asked about my list of possible subjects for Mindport shows, and I had listed as many as I could think of. “What about portraits?” asked Nancy. Robin, at that point, says that doesn’t seem quite like a Mindporty thing. Then he hesitates and says well maybe it is.
I’ve been thinking about this. I myself have a feeling about what are Mindporty things and what aren’t, and when Robin initially said he thought portraits weren’t, my spontaneous reaction was agreement. But it interests me that I’ve made that internal division, and it interests me to try to define what is, why I’ve made it, and whether it’s valid.
My sleep was spotty last night. I did my usual 3 AM wakeup, and every time I got myself to the point of going back to sleep, some new exhibit idea would occur to me, and I’d have to write it down. Finally, I got up and went downstairs for a cup of Nighty-Night tea, which not only seems to encourage sleep, but which sometimes stimulates my dreaming. In this case I kept dreaming about a small cougar which attacked me three different times. I fended it off with a knee in the chest.
Intermingled with this action was a slow mull about Mindporty photographs and the question of why or why not portraits, and finally, what kind of portrait show would seem Mindporty to me.
I imagined a wall covered with black and white pictures of friends. For each friend is a group of five or so images taken from various angles and in various moods. Beneath each group is a button, which, when pressed, evokes the person’s voice speaking in a natural way about whatever s/he cares to speak about. Maybe also hanging about is a page of something the person has written in his/her own handwriting. Now that I think about it, perhaps everything is in a book so you encounter the writing first (maybe printed and THEN handwrit), then the pictures, one-by-one, then a voice sample. The instructions are to start at the beginning, and each time you look at a new piece of information about the person, notice how your impression of him/her changes. Particularly notice how that impression changes after you hear the voice.
What is the difference between this and a simple portrait show? Well, this is about how we build our impressions of people. It encourages the viewer to examine his own assumptions, to notice his own process, and maybe to be more careful in the future about how he builds judgements about the people around him, and particularly to pay attention to the impressions about people he gathers through exposure to the media.
This idea arises from my year of dating via the want ads. One of the most interesting parts of this process was watching how my impressions of the person I’d contacted changed as I progressed from seeing a printed ad in the paper, to getting a letter (and maybe a picture), to hearing a voice on the phone, to meeting in person. Most of the time we didn’t exchange pictures, so my impression had to be built from correspondence, then eventually a phone conversation. The latter could make or break everything in one or two sentences spoken. Voices convey a LOT.
Another instance where I’ve noticed how my impressions change is in reading books where the author’s picture appears on the book jacket. I have a tendency, when the author is an attractive female, to build up a bit of a fantasy about her. It interests me how drastically this fantasy can change in an instant if I see another photo of the author taken from a different angle, or in a different mood. It can shatter my whole love affair! In one case, seeing a new picture changed my opinion from Ho-hum to wow. It can work either way.
So that’s the extent of my thinking on portraits. My ambition, for myself only, at this particular moment, in the area of portraits, would be to get the viewer to think about what portraits mean, and what they portray, rather than merely putting up another show of portraits. What is human character and how does it show on the face? Let’s get conscious about it, is the point of the exhibit.
I don’t necessarily mean to DO this with portraits, mind you, but it’s an idea.
My upcoming series is about cracks. I’ve also compiled a list of other subjects which interest me, which seem like Mindporty things: Bare winter trees, water, sectioned veggies and fruit (cross-section), machinery details, unconventional flower pictures, rocks or geological forms, and more which I can’t lay my brain on right now. CLOUDS.
What’s Mindporty about these? I’ll take cracks, since I’ve done them already. The idea is to get people to see some commonplace thing in a more evocative way than their normal perspective allows. Cracks can lead you to another world, if you look at them right. They’re also extremely interesting as visible representations of the forms which stress takes. Do they have any connection to human stress? When our stress takes certain forms, to we crack in corresponding ways?
Treeforms interest me mostly because the tensions you see in trees DO parallel the tensions you see in people. Tree forms are like dance. You can find almost any expressive human posture you want in a bare tree. Brings up questions about how we ourselves are affected by gravity and the emotional winds which shake us.
I love photography as a medium in large part because of the way seeing other people’s photographs has expanded my own awareness. It has done this powerfully – so much of my pleasure in SEEING has come via sensitivity learned through viewing good photography. So anything like that, which dissolves stodge and lets in the light qualifies as a Mindporty thing, in my book.