"I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, 'Hey, the sign says you're open 24 hours.' He said, 'Yes, but not in a row.'" - Steven Wright
Logic. It's a wily beast. It can play it straight (science), mischievous (comedians), contradictory (religion), or just plain nasty (politicians). It plays a role in art too. Art critics and museums seem to gravitate toward explanations while artists themselves are happiest propelling deeper into the mystic. Down the road, if one's art is fortunate (and good) enough to gain acceptance, a logical explanation is constructed for others to imitate. The explanation may have little or nothing to do with the artist's original state of mind, but it sells copy, so they roll with it.
This week notched the 50th anniversary of Blonde on Blonde, of which many volumes of sagacious opinion have been written. And according to Bob, all of it wrong, all mailed in from the critics on Desolation Row.
ROW ROW ROW is one way to break the chains of convention, shoot the lock off the doors of perception, pull the loose thread of logic until it unravels into art and poetic raving. ROW ROW ROW grabs the oars with both hands and pulls with all the strength one possesses to the edge of what is, peers over, then with one last heave, fully commits. ROW ROW ROW leaves rules, statutes, fiats, and ordinances behind and enters Wonderland, Oz, Camelot, Lilliput, Middle Earth, Narnia, Fantasia, Westeros, and Idaho where the usual suspects need not apply.
ROW ROW ROW is work ethic, drive, obsession, the focus necessary to break out of the eggshell and fly off to where the wild things grow. ROW ROW ROW is verb and noun, rowdy as a crow, thrown like an arrow, brown as marrow. Digital photography can instill laziness; ROW ROW ROW will break the auto barrier. If ROW ROW ROW has a rule, it's rhythm, repeated and persistent, moving ever forward within holy stillness.
SAMPLE IDEAS for shooting ROW ROW ROW:
- Start slowly; look for repeating patterns, then for breaks in the pattern, then for breaks in the breaks of the pattern. When you think you're at the end, go one more step and start over.
- Shoot a series, starting with something familiar. With each successive image ask a curious question and try to answer it. Keep going until you have no more answers, only questions. Compare your first photograph to your last. Is there a thread?
- Try a technique you haven't tackled before. Then do another, and another until you have rowed a long road of new techniques. Mistakes are not only expected but welcome. The discovery of almost every new art form started from some sort of mistake.
- Settle on one idea, one subject. Come up with three new ideas based on the one, and three more for each of the three. And so on, like branches of a tree. Once you're way out on a limb and into the tiny leaves, saw off the branch and take the shot in front of you. Figuratively speaking.
- Select a word at random from a dictionary or online random word generator. Repeat twice. Take the three words and make a photograph of it. For example: perfect, loyalty, and soap.
- Play a lot in post processing. Push sliders and presets to extremes. Experiment with layers and masks and composites. Sweat, get uncomfortable.
- Try to avoid your photo archive, except to pull up a photo to rework into something new. Focus on NEW ideas, NEW vision, NEW work - get out there and row hard.
- Don't overthink. Let your mind wander; it will take you to interesting places. Be insatiably curious.
"I went to a restaurant that serves 'breakfast at any time.' So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance." - Steven Wright
ROW ROW ROW will run for two weeks, from May 18 through May 31.
Please consider joining us in our private Photo Assignment group on Facebook where you'll find many more like-minded photographers sharing their ideas and work. Follow this link to join.