Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz, Two Towers -- New York, 1911, photogravure. (source)

Alfred Stieglitz, Icy Night, 1893. (source)

Stieglitz is most famous to me as Georgia O'Keeffe's husband- several of his photographs are of her- he especially loved her hands- which to me seems so romantic, and artistic. But actually he was one of the most accomplished photographers of his time, and He owned a gallery in which he helped to launch the careers of several artists, O'Keeffe included. His own photographs are magical though, and they make it difficult to believe that photography ever was (or still is) held in question as an art form.

I guess the thing is- photography takes place mostly in a machine- the way that the artist makes the art is by manipulating that machine or a manipulating a series of chemicals or timing during processing. I think we still have a bit of a notion of art making as a skill- a hands on one, in which the artist does some work with their hands, and it's not actually to do with mental knowledge, or training. And photography is all about knowledge, and observation.

The amazing things about Stieglitz' work is the way he captures a moment, and the way his images are composed - the way a branch juxtaposes against two buildings, the way a child's dark dress contrasts, her mother's white one.  The skill that is most often looked over in artists, the thing that makes them profoundly different from people who don't make art- is the way they observe things, moments, fleeting or drawn out- are analyzed in a different way when one becomes trained to observe the world closely. Observation and perception are the first things you are taught as an artist, and also the first things to slip your mind when life gets busy.

Art (or Life) are all about noticing the things that usually would pass you by.  I think that noticing makes life richer, and that's why we prize art- because it makes us aware of things that we usually wouldn't be. Stielglitz' images make me want to stop and stare at things, they make me aware when my own powers of observation are slipping, and they gently tap my head like a good teacher would- and whisper "Pay Attention!!"

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