Basically What?

Thines, France 2018

“Look at his photographs, look at them carefully, then look at yourselves – not critically, or with self depreciation, or any sense of inferiority. Read the material from his Daybooks and letters so carefully compiled, edited and associated with the photographs by Nancy Newhall. You might discover through Edward Weston’s work how basically good you are or might become. This is the way Edward would want it to be.” – Ansel Adams

What Ansel Adams wrote seven years after Edward Weston’s death in 1958, touched me in a special way. Here was something that I had felt and wanted all along, but could never put my finger on. Could never name it. “You might discover … how basically good you are or might become.” By looking at the photographs, reading the daybooks and letters. By getting to know the man and his work. I like that.

I like that not only as something I want to do myself (as I am looking at the photographs and reading his writing. For quite some time now). But I like it to be something to live and convey in my work as well. Not by copying Weston’s style of work and way of life. I have been talking about how unfulfilling copying somebody or their work would be, but being influenced by and sharing a basic principle with someone is legitimate.

What I have been thinking about for a while now was how whatever they call art seems to be something that needs to be provocative. How simply showing something beautiful does not seem to be good enough. Not important enough, whatever this means. I wouldn’t even care to deliver “important” work if that label is needed to be featured in galleries and museums. I think where great images should be is in people’s homes to enrich their everyday lives. And what else would someone hang in their living room or elsewhere in their home than something beautiful, something you would love to look at?

And by looking at those images and reflecting on why you like them, acknowledging the beauty and what this beauty does with you, you might realize that there is something inherently good in you and always has been.

I came back today from a few days in the Eifel nature reserve near the belgian border and was walking in the forest this morning before driving home. And as usual on New Year’s day, a lot of people are out in nature. Even those morons showing up in big-ass SUVs while everybody is dicussing climate change. But even those enjoy nature. We are eventually all coming home. And being aware that this nature is part of us, is where we came from and go back to, might make us realize there is something good in us. Even though we feel lost and detached from it. Even if we feel the need to drive an unnecessary big car.

Right now this whole concept is an intellectual exercise to me which I need to connect to my actual feelings. Up to the point where these aren’t just thoughts anymore, but feelings which will find their way into my photographic work. I am so looking forward to the moment when I realize how it actually works out. Or has worked out, because sometimes you are already doing something, you’re just not aware of it. As in all things, self-awareness is key. Or at least one of them.

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