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  • On Mediocrity and Projects

    http://www.fototazo.com/2016/04/on-mediocrity-and-projects.html?m=1

    When we look at photographs we see a lot of stuff that's there, on the surface, but we also "see" things that are not physically there. When we look at the surface and observe line, color, saturation, composition, tonality and the rest, we might feel excited by their specific qualities or not, feel drawn to look longer or feel nothing. In these terms, which are those considered by the original piece, there are not really any situations that I can think of that would suggest not pushing beyond mediocrity.

    I would add, however, that we don't stop looking with our eyes, we also see with our minds and emotions and we see through ideologies and within cultural moments. In the crosshairs of all those elements, we see things that aren't there on the photographs' surface...

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    If we understand, however, how their work is commenting on consumerism through repetition, landscape through its desolation, society through rigid geometry, suddenly these "mediocre" images are given aesthetic life and visual spark through our minds' appreciation of how they use aesthetics to create commentary. We love their appropriation of "mediocre" aesthetics in service of a specific cultural critique.

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    While there's no reason to strive for the mediocre, it's worth remembering that we make a judgment of aesthetic quality with more than our eyes. The ideas, knowledge and experiences we bring to looking at an image can excite us and make us passionate about work that seemed at first glance - or to an uninformed viewer - mediocre, and we very well might change our mind about its aesthetic value the more we learn and grow as appreciators of art, as we find more ways to engage with photography other than with just our eyes, giving us a more complex relationship to aesthetics than simply a momentary assessment of form.

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    Ultimately it's the "anyone can make a good photograph" argument. That's true, just as anyone can write a great line of poetry. My wife, who is a pianist, has taken some shots that enrage me with jealousy. Incredibly few, however, can put together photographs into a project that unites technique, form, subject, content and context in a way that's cohesive, fresh and that carves out its own place in the current photography conversation, just as none of us can turn our line of poetry into a book of Neruda-quality poems. It's just an infinitely more complex and interesting game.

  • Prince and David Bowie, showed there’s no one right way to be a man

    'Prince and Bowie were living arguments that there is no one way, and no correct way for a man to dress, to move, to decide what he values, to choose who he loves or where he stands in relation to that person.'

    'It’s true that in recent years, the Super Bowl halftime show has often been a showcase for women in the midst of a clash between men... Prince’s appearance on the Super Bowl stage in 2007 was an argument, at this particular worship service dedicated to traditional masculinity, for a vastly huger range of possible ways for a man to command the nation.'

    Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there’s no one right way to be a man

  • Innocence is, in a way, the ability to be found by the world. It’s not a state of naivety. It’s the ability to be found by the world you’re now inhabiting. And part of what we find is we’re just supposed to give ourselves away, actually. I often feel that one of the real signs of maturity is not only understanding that you’re a mortal human being and you are going to die, which usually happens in your mid 40s or 50s — “Oh, I am actually going to die. It’s not someone else I’m going to become.” But another step of maturity is actually realizing that the rest of creation might be a little relieved to let you go. [laughs] That you can stop repeating yourself, stop taking all this oxygen up, and make way for something else which you’ve actually beaten a trail for. And it could be your son, your daughter, could be people you’ve taught or mentored, it could be — the more generous you are, the more that circle extends into our society and those who go after us.

    - David Whyte. http://www.onbeing.org/program/david-whyte-the-conversational-nature-of-reality/transcript/8581#main_content
  • Since they [economists] are universally urban intellectuals who understand little of rural ways, they easily come to regard the land, and all that lives and grows upon it, as nothing more than another factor of production. Hence, it seems to them no loss, but indeed a gain, to turn all the world's farming into high-yield agri-industry, to depopulate the rural areas, and to crowd the cities to the point of chronic breakdown and crisis. Since they inherit their conception of work from the darkest days of early industrialization, the find it impossible to believe that labor might ever be a freely-chosen, nonexploitive, and creative value in its own right.

    Theodore Roszak in the introduction to E.F. Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful', 1973.
  • What if there stir, in all those expertly qualified millions of living souls beneath the statistical surface, aspirations for creativity, generosity, brotherly and sisterly cooperation, natural harmony, and self-transcendence which conventional economics, by virtue of a banal misanthropy it mistakes for "being realistic," only works to destroy?

    Theodore Roszak in the introduction to E.F. Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful', 1973.
  • 'The male ideal of chivalry had one cardinal stipulation: to defend the weak with courage and loyalty. The weakness of women was thus contained in a cultural system in which it was acknowledged and glorified because it transfigured male power and female frailty into lovable qualities… Women’s social inferiority could thus be traded for men’s absolute devotion in love, which in turn served as the very site of display and exercise of their masculinity, prowess, and honor. More: women’s dispossession of economic and political rights was accompanied (and presumably compensated) by the reassurance that in love they were not only protected by men but also superior to them. It is therefore unsurprising that love has been historically so powerfully seductive to women; it promised them the moral status and dignity they were otherwise denied in society and it glorified their social fate: taking care of and loving others, as mothers, wives, and lovers. Thus, historically, love was highly seductive precisely because it concealed as it beautified the deep inequalities at the heart of gender relationships.' https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/22/why-love-hurts-eva-illouz/

    Eva Illouz in 'Why Love Hurts'
  • Teaching and learning at its best is one of the most ancient and elemental of all human exchanges. It has been going on ever since our primordial progenitors tried to pass the good news about fire. Tips, tricks, and techniques are not the heart of education - fire is. I mean finding light in the darkness, staying warm in a cold world, avoiding being burned if you can, and knowing what brings healing if you cannot. That is the knowledge that our students really want, and that is the knowledge we owe them. Not merely the facts, not merely the theories, but a deep knowing of what it means to kindle the gift of life in ourselves, in others, and in the world.

    Parker Palmer in 'Radical Presence' by Mary Rose O'Reilley