25 January 2011

Return from an Hiatus

“O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form; Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form…” 
from the Heart Sutra
After an 11 month hiatus it would be unreasonable to expect that anyone is still following this blog. Yet I persist.
In looking back at the last year’s calendar: from the trip to Paris for the 4th International Exposition of Pinhole Camera photography, the campaign for public office, the end of the job that I had for the last ten years, it is a wonder that I did any photography at all. Yet I persist.
And now, another show  - la cinquième exposition internationale de photographie au sténopé - is upcoming in Paris, at the Andre Malraux Cultural Center in LeBourget actually, and once again I am in it. Only one other ‘stenopist’ – that’s the French for pinhole camera photographer and it does sound a bit more elegant now, doesn’t it? – has been in all five of the exhibitions curated by Marie-Noëlle Leroy and mounted by her, Arnaud Levenes and Jean-Claude Beaumont in La Capsule, the exhibition space in the art center of the Mairie of LeBourget. 
It is a striking contrast that while our municipal governments, our national foundations and our regional cultural centers are cutting back, offering less, barely surviving in the times of budget constraints, European institutions can find the resources to mount these international exhibitions. As small and ‘peculiar’ as this practice of pin-hole camera work is, last years exhibition travelled from Paris to Barcelona at the Centro Civic Can Basté and then on to the  Musée Municipal in Orense in Galicia and another stop is in the planning stages. This year’s show is already booked again for Barcelona in October. There is a commitment there to developing and sustaining a civic cultural life that does not need to mouth the platitudes of ‘market forces’ to find its justification.  But I digress.
This year’s exhibition is on the theme “Alive” and what that means. As Marinoel wrote: “The previous exhibitions were attached to show the environment in which humans evolved. This time, human being becomes the subject of images! Portrait or representations in feet, legs or eyes, back or hands ... nude or with clothes, what visions our dear tiny holes can show us about this so complex human being ?” (http://foto-grafik.blogspot.com/2010/07/call-for-entry-alive.html )
How one approaches an answer to defining ‘Alive’ depends on one’s philosophical, ethical or religious background.  I chose to explore an answer that refers to the Buddhist conception of the ‘sentient being’ as composed of the five senses and the unifying activity of consciousness. Within Buddhist practice the self is seen as impermanent and not a fixed entity. The human person, this sentient being, is composed of the five senses and consciousness, feelings and volitions.
These skandas, or aggregates, are what I have attempted to photograph in a symbolic way: Touch, Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing and Consciousness. Each of the five physical phenomena had a tactile answer that needed to be worked out, but what of the intangible, the immaterial mind? How would a photographer answer that?
Recently I went to New York to see the exhibition at the Japan Society of the calligraphy and drawings of the 18th century Zen master Hakuin. (http://www.japansociety.org/event_detail?eid=46394dff ) It was there that a possible answer presented itself: the painting of the Enso, the circle formed in ink by a brushstroke in a rapid gesture. It is used in both Tendai and Zen practice as the embodiment of the unitary relationship of mind and body, of enlightenment, or of the universe or of the full moon. It is one of the most common calligraphic subjects and at the same time one of the most enigmatic.
But again, how would a photographer answer this? By following the example of the calligrapher: to make the photographic ‘mark’ unhesitatingly, without conceptualization, no burning, no dodging, no extensive manipulation, just the unimpeded effect of light on paper, the bare burned silver of the circle of light. This may be as close as a photographer may get to the uninflected act of the drawing arm and hand placing ink on paper. 
As usual, all of these images are for sale in a limited edition. If interested please do contact me as soon as possible if I am to make it over again for the opening in March. Yes, it has been too long a time away from this blog….but see, I yet persist!
For the list of exhibiting artists:  http://capsule93.blogspot.com/2011/01/vivant-alive.html


  1. Lovely series !

    This place seems to be a wonderful source of traditional photography...

  2. Don`t give up, never! Continue persisting...

    I am a follower of this blog. I study about pinhole photography and your blog is one of my researches sources.

    A friend of mine, Maira Gutierres, from Fortaleza (Brasil), will be one exhibiting artist for the 5th International Exposition of Pinhole Camera photography, and I am so happy about her.

    Success for you.

    Janotilia Koudela
    Associação Fotoativa
    Belém, Pará, Brazil