Tuesday, November 29, 2011

does the picture have mystery?

boy, in the last ten years it's become almost impossible for me to read a whole book. partly cause most books relate one idea from many angles, whether it's fiction or not. if i can browse a five hundred page book in two hours, i'll do it gladly and walk away satisfied. that said, i did finish watteau by the art critic jed perl just yesterday, and found it delightful.

can anybody look at a watteau painting and not wonder, what the hell is really going on? they're charming, beautiful, yet we don't know what stage of romance (or not) they have in mind. perl weaves together dozens of short stories of actors, movies, everyday scenes, in a magical way. his take: you will never know what's going on, the characters in the scenes themselves ignorant of what will take place next. in other words, these pictures leave you hanging (ah, the pun surprised me.)

have you ever been disappointed by a film where the first half hour keeps you interested without revealing the basis of the story and then when you know the trick, it's all over, you might as well go home? wings of desire by wim wenders struck me this way the first time i saw it. keep me in the dark, please, as long as you can. as for the surrealists, i find them witty, but don't they try too hard? di cirico, for example, simply jumps at our love of the mysterious without a disguise. 

i realized that's what i'm often trying to do: not give things away. and the best way i've found is the right kind of improvisation where i can't control all the factors. taking pictures in cafes, for example.  i don't really like to sneak pictures, i'd rather take them in museums and at parades. however, to catch people in private moments, nothing works better than the coffee house. and what happens, if it works, is the individual in a context where he/she emits unknowability. and that's the truth of us as human beings. whether a person bores me, angers me, excites me, or leaves me cold, other than my reaction to this particular person, i cannot really know him/her. 

i hope in this series sometimes two or three photos in the same scene create the mystery i'm trying to describe:http://www.pbase.com/wwp/sam and sometimes one by itself.