I'm less than halfway through Adams's Beauty in Photography and I am so thankful to be reading this book right now. It seems to be addressing all of the aspects of photography with which I am concerned or have been concerned. Published in 1996, it is still current on the issues that he addresses, which tells me that they are timeless issues that will persevere and that every photographer must face them at some point. They aren't solvable, only reconcilable, or issues that will hold me in tension in my practice.
The question of beauty matters. What is it? I am learning about it, but if I had to explain its nature in photography, I do not think that I could. For me, it is far more complex than an aesthetic. In some ways, beauty has nothing to do with aesthetic, although for some it is a kind of measure of an aesthetic. There is so much that I don't know / understand about the art of photography which makes it hard to put thoughts into words, I think right now, the words don't connect properly with my thoughts, in which I am trying to reconcile many ideas into a practice. The best that I can do is work it out, and through shooting, see what my actions, through creative process and final photographs, reveal about what I understand about beauty.
It is important to work it out, shoot it out. Words are a different kind of knowledge, an awareness-knowledge that isn't enough to affect a creative process. It is akin to understanding the mechanics of riding a bicycle - pedal with legs, steer with arms, lean, etc - compared to actually being able to ride a bicycle. Two very different kinds of knowledge and I aspire to the latter, and I am just as prone as anyone else to confuse the two, thinking I know, when I might be able to talk about it, but not actually practice it.
I feel strongly that I need to continue to cultivate a free line of communication from my subconscious to my creative practice. I don't even know how that works, but I do know that it can be trained and practiced, just like getting fast in a car (see last journal entry on what I mean by that).
Back to beauty. There is terror. There is awe. There is catastrophic. There is anguish, pain. There is loss. These can be beautiful if handled carefully, compassionately, dare I say, with love.
I can't know the machinations to produce beautiful work, as I believe it originates subconsciously, just as the deep response from a viewer who is moved comes from the subconscious. There is a connection that has to be made, and likely not possible if the photographer's practice wasn't at least influenced by their own subconscious. I don't think this can be faked. Emotions and life experiences are like a river that cannot be tamed, we have to let them fill their own space freely, and connect that volume of incoherent emotion with practice.
I'm not sure this makes sense, not even to me. I think I am moving and writing in the right direction, but I can't be sure. All I can do is continue to address my thoughts and try to herd them into words.