|Autumn, Zion National Park|
Some of you may remember this post from August. Since then I’ve been reading and thinking more about beauty and landscape.
In early November, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from Guy Tal at the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Annual Symposium. He’s a rather philosophical guy and talked about, among many other things, beauty. He characterized beauty as a shortcut in the artistic process; as one that is not worth taking. I’ve chewed on this thought for several weeks now, and couldn’t digest it without help. Guy was kind enough to respond and explained it (in part) in this way;
I'm actually a big believer in beauty and in the immense power it has to elevate lives and inspire more meaningful living. What I meant by my comment is that beauty can also be an undesirable shortcut if it does not also convey a deeper personal meaning. When beauty is used as a means to an end - as an ingredient carefully and creatively mixed with other expressive ingredients, skill and imagination, the results are much more than just beautiful, they can also be inspiring and motivating.
So, copycat beauty is not so good. Some call it “earth porn,” striking images which garner lots of attention but ultimately fall flat because we’ve seen them many times before and because, I submit, they have no soul.
|Pumpkin Spring, Colorado River Mile 213|
In my quest to think more deeply about beauty, I’ve been drawn to read more from John O’Donohue.
It all started with that NPR serendipity in August, when I heard an interview with Father John on the topic. I’m working through his book, “The Invisible Embrace; Beauty,” gradually and with a highlighter. His prose is like poetry. What a joy it is to think deeply on the subject.
Beauty, he says, is “the soul of the real.”
He writes about reverence in our approach to a place; about our connection, “What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach.”
We photographers can nurture a deep connection with a place that deepens our work. With ten (or one hundred) visits we become ever more profoundly connected. With gentle hyperbole, Father John writes, “Is it not possible that a place could have huge affection for those who dwell there?”
The genuine and moving artistic portrayal of beauty is a reflection of the artist’s deep personal connection with the subject.
I’m still reading and thinking about this. Stay tuned, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.