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The Historian, the Photographer, and the Babushka

I've read quite a bit of Russian history the last couple years. In part, it is a rebellion against the 'Boris & Natasha' silliness in the news -- not that an attempted soft coup d'etat is silly. And there were other reasons.

By now it is reasonable to ask whether all this history-reading is time well spent. Although the odds were against it, Google helped me find some Russian photographs to complement my reading.

Take a look at this photograph from Beyond Sochi: Photos Of Russia By Russians


Would you agree that this is not a trivial postcard of the type you have seen on the internet a million times?

Doesn't it make you feel like you are right there, in the babushka's shoes?

Now think of Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?", wherein he argues against the common notion that Art is about beauty, and instead, claims that art is the transference of feelings to the observer, by means of pictures, sounds, and words.

The photograph is an excellent example of Art…

Clicking the Camera Versus Taking a Photograph

This is the wrong time of year to talk about this photograph, but I can't help it. It should be presented at the end of May or whenever tedious speeches are given all over the country at graduation ceremonies. You know how it goes. The speaker drops into a stentorian tone of voice, "...and furthermore, students and parents, let me remind you of one more thing: that this is a Beginning, not an Ending." Or something like that.

The idea is basically correct. We shouldn't be throwing tomatoes at the pompous speaker just because the phrasing is so hackneyed. 

Take this as an opportunity. Many of the most important truths in life lose their force with repetition. Rather than switching our attention to trivial novelties, the timeless and classic Ideas need to "reincarnated" in particular situations, with characters that we actually care about, so that the Truth matters once again. That should be the mission of novelists, screenwriters, painters, and photographers.

Mo…

Metaphorical Caption Contest

After an evening rain I awoke to fog and low clouds playing games with the mesas of central Utah. Actually it seemed more like a rapid military invasion and conquest.


I was quite sincere in my Photographic Manifesto that there is a worthwhile purpose to cluttering the internet with one more photograph. That purpose is the visual representation of an important idea, rather than trivial prettiness and entertainment. Visual representations of ideas have advantages over the tedious word-wrangling of authors.

The trick is to photograph things that suggest -- that lure -- the viewer into finishing the connection between different objects in the photograph. But it must not be too difficult to make the connection, or the viewer won't even try. They will just say, "This photograph really ain't that purdy." And then turn away from it.

It would please me to see readers offer metaphorical captions to the photograph above. For my part, it reminds me of the essay by William Graham Su…