Monday, February 25, 2008

Watching the Death of a Film

Palm, Variation #2, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel

I spent the weekend in the studio, working on new images. I have exactly 32 fresh pieces of Polaroid film left. 32. From that I might get 10 new images to add to my body of work. Maybe.

I used up 15 pieces this weekend.

The film I use for hand-altered Polaroids, my medium of choice, is SX-70. They stopped making it in December 2005. Like lots of other artists, I started stock-piling. The price soared but I bought as much as I could afford.

Sure some is still available on EBay, but film is finicky. Treat it wrong and it turns on you. The good film I have has been handled right, kept in the fridge until needed. It'll last forever there. I have some other film that has heat damage. I might never be able to use it professionally. I don't trust EBay film at all.

I used to go throught 10-12 pieces to get an image I was happy with and with worth adding to the body of work. Like most artists, I'm very picky and harder on myself than any critic or juror. I see every flaw. I want it to be perfect. Let's shoot it again! It's easy to make a mistake when working in this technique. I'm working directly on the emulsion of the film -- that very thin, delicate, light sensitive layer that makes photography possible. Get distracted for a minute and your image is torn and ruined.

I don't mind when someone looks at the work and casually suggests that I just "smear" and "smoosch" the emulsion to get the look I want, like some kind of primitive finger painting. Many people seem to think that I just spread the emulsion around and see what I get. Instead I try to explain that I use different tools for different effects, and some effects have to be obtained at specific times of the developing process. The process is very controlled and deliberate. I know exactly what effect I will get.

It doesn't matter. Either you like the impact of the image or you don't.

I love it. Sure you can try to get this effect in PhotoShop, but you won't. The film is too organic and subtle. PhotoShop will not get these results.

Besides, the result is only as good as the process. In this case, the process for me is transformative.

Polaroid announced a couple of weeks ago that all of it's film will be discontinued. All the Polaroid alternate process art forms are going away.

I get asked what I will do next? Develop another body of work, of course. The tool might be going away but the vision is still there. Fortunately, that can't be discontinued just yet.

PS. The Palms, Variation #2 is in honor of dear friends Renata and Jerome. These are date palms, and I shot them outside their front door. I've been working on the image for a while now, and finally finished it this weekend. Instead of being in the studio, I was supposed to be at their house in Palm Springs, but ice and snow canceled all flights and made the trip impossible. I also missed seeing equally dear friends Hildy and Dimitri, who were driving up from Tucson just to see me. I miss them all. Next time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Your Artist Statement is WRONG!

Sand Castle, (c) 2007 by Jeane Vogel, Infrared Photograph
Excuse me?

He repeated it: Your artist statement is wrong!

Wrong? It's an artist statement! It's my interpretation of my own work. It's my opinion! The only way it could be wrong is if I were lying!

No, he said. I disagree with it.

How can you disagree with an artist's statement? But he did. He took issue with my premise: Photography does not capture a moment. Photography captures the essence of the moment.

I have to explain this a lot. Of COURSE it captures the moment, I'm told, with a look that continues: Are you an idiot? Perhaps. But I stick with my statement. A snapshot might capture a moment. A photograph captures far more -- more than we can see, sometimes more than we can feel.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Neil Young is Feeling Bad

Neil Young is in a funk. Last week he announced that music can't change the world and we were silly to think it could.

Here's what he said:

"I think that the time when music could change the world is past," he told reporters. "I think it would be very naive to think that in this day and age." Young added: "I think the world today is a different place, and that it's time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world and to try to save the planet." (from Huffington Post)

Neil, Neil, Neil.

You must be feeling so despondent lately, to abandon all hope of making a difference. OF COURSE music can change the world. It already has. Music is art. Art saves lives.

Where you do think inspiration for advances in science and physics and spirituality comes from? Artists, silly.

Art-- the ability to create -- is the one thing, the ONLY thing that truly separates humans from every other being on this planet. We use tools, other animals use tools. We communicate, other animals communicate. We rear families and build communities and homes, other animals do the same. Sadly, we murder in anger or punishment or fear. Animal behaviorists surprised us with evidence that other animals are just like us. Or we're like them.

Art is the difference between us and the rest of creation. Birds sing, but they can't compose. An elephant with a brush in her truck can smear paint on a canvas, but it's not a deliberate communication.

Art inspires change. Art encourages growth. Art offers a way of communicating when -- or because-- words cannot express our grief or joy or hope or despair.

Sure, the inspiration might be just one person at a time. It might take years. Music and art are not shields to protect us from the horrors of this world, but a way to celebrate the beauty and inspire action to fix what's wrong.

If we give up on the idea that that music or art will not repair what's wrong in this world, then we have lost our world.

It's not naive to think that art will change the world, Neil. It's naive to think we CAN'T.