Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Putting Art up in the New House

For a while after college, I was obsessed with pictorialism.

The original pictorialists were photographers around the start of the 21st century. When the art world criticized photography for its scientific exactness, its mechanical creation, its ease of replication, pictorialists responded by creating dreamy, painterly, images.  They used techniques that emphasized the human hand and emotional engagement with the subject. Pictorialism went out of fashion in the twenties, and by the time I took a history of photography course, the movement was taught as a necessary but embarrassing part of photography's evolution. Pictorialism was the teenage rebellion of the camera. Which, I suppose, made it perfect for me.

My photos were full of glowing landscapes, soft and indistinct. People with shining hair and featureless faces. All of it rendered lovingly in shades of gold, pale peach, warm browns and creams.

At the time, of course, everything was real and tangible and right in front of me. These were people whose small details and mannerisms were intimately familiar.

But that was more than ten years ago. I look at these photos now, and I am amazed at how well they capture, not what was there at the time, but how little I remember. Two girls, posing by a tree, faceless except for my fading memory.

I didn't know it then, but I was photographing the future.  I was photographing, not that moment in Central Park, but another moment, miles and years away, when I would open an old box of photos under my bed and try to remember their faces.

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