What Is This Thing Called…


Jeff Alu, “The Blur”, Galway Dry Lake, 2007



Photography is a means of recording current events and memorializing them for future generations.  Photography is a means by which the egos of individuals are surfaced and multiplied.  Photography is a long road to financial loss.  Photography is a form of intellectual expression.  Photography is a means by which the undeserving can find fame.  Photography is a form of tension-release responsible for lowering the crime rate.  Photography increases discouragement in individuals which increases tensions and raises the crime rate.  Photography is created by the poor and collected by the rich.  Photography is an outlet for those seeking to blabber on about elitist nonsense.  Photography is pretty.  Photography is gritty.  Photography crosses borders exciting unity between opposing forces.  Photography instills fear and causes death.  Photography is a summation of ideas and beliefs, communicated uniquely by each individual based on their existing ideas and beliefs.  Photography is a battlefield in which an individual fights for the right to speak as loudly as they like.  Photography is a path, a journey, hopefully without a clear destination.  Photography is just a huge lie.



I have no idea what photography is, ultimately.  However, I’ve been asked to write about it here and I’ll do so even at the risk of becoming overly cerebral.

When I’m out doing photography, I usually don’t think about it much.  I try not to let it worry me.  I try to “zen out”, not thinking about any one thing in particular, and let the shapes in front of me dictate my actions.  I try to relax.  The less I know about those shapes, the better off I am.  The more I know about a subject ahead of time, the less freely I interpret it.  I just like to let things flow.  That’s really all I can ask of myself.

If I’m lucky, the results will please me. If I’m luckier, the results will also please others, and they will not be thinking in their heads as they look at my work, “I could do that better”, or “I’ve seen that before”, or “That looks like so and so’s work”, or “This guy needs help”, or, “This guy is wasting his time”.  I guess I really don’t care what others think about my work.  OK, that’s not true.  Yes, it is true.  No, it isn’t.

I’m not big on equipment, so asking me technical questions about cameras is probably a waste of time.  To me, cameras are simply data gathering devices.  The light goes in and sticks itself to a chip somehow and it stays there until it is beamed to my computer and I can play with it.  That’s what I personally love the most about photography, playing with the light.

Light is amazing to me, as are shapes.  I tend to see everything in terms of abstract shapes, and to make matters even more complex, I tend to see almost everything symbolically.  When I look at something, it almost always appears to me to be a representation of something else.  This can cause me to zone out sometimes.  I’m all there, I’m just busy processing.  There’s so much out there that is worth processing, don’t you think?

I’m not big on “preconceived notions”.  In fact I really hate them.  Those bloody beliefs that we have to do things a certain way, or think about things within specific terms, or obey the intellectual laws and rules that are so often thrust upon us.  I’m not saying that these laws and rules aren’t correct, and I’d even call them handy at times.  I’m just saying that if we over-worship them like gold-plated zebra goddesses we’re likely to follow a path that eventually leads us to the largely populated berg of Boresville.

So, during this month of February, as I write about this thing called photography, don’t be surprised if I jump around from topic to topic, or if my emotions change from paragraph to paragraph, or if at times you think I’m a little nuts.  Because really, we’re all a little nuts, we just try so hard not to show it by being overly careful.  You know what I mean.

I doubt I’ll provide you with any answers here, because I don’t think I have any.  I’m just not the go-to guy for answers.  I prefer to ponder, zoning out as I do, and play with the musings going on in my head, and then somehow spit them out through my art.  Very rarely will you find me bringing any of this up in casual conversation, being overly careful as I am.

So as an ending to this beginning, I’ll leave you with an unknown maxim that occurred to me a little over a year ago.  I’m not saying it’s the truth or anything, but it occurred to me and I keep on reading it over, trying to prove it wrong but so far I haven’t had any success in doing so.  I’ll place it within quotes to make it sound a little more imposing, like a preconceived notion:

“There is no true originality, there is only a mixture of two sets of laws:  the laws in front of you, and the laws inside of you.

Your creativity is defined by the ways in which you mix these two sets together.”


I’m certainly looking forward to posting here 11 more times, three times a week, for the next four weeks, during this month of February, in the year 2015.  Hopefully we’ll have some fun.

Jeff out.

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