Moment, Chaos and a Personal Perspective
By Shaul Naschitz
Hi Brandon and Steve,
I have been featured on your site more than once before, but hopefully you allow me to contribute a few thoughts once more.
I consider myself a savvy amateur photographer. I started with this means of self-expression about thirty years ago and kept doing it with more or less involvement ever since. Naturally, the digital revolution inspired a significant boost to my photographic endeavors; not least by the ever evolving technologies of creating photographs and “publishing” them. Between 2010 and 2012 I dedicated a lot of my spare time to writing about photography. The resulting blog, with its 900+ posts, never got much attention (maybe because it’s written in Hebrew…). One day, perhaps when I retire, I might try to make a nice and thick book of it.
Anyway, in the past year or so my interest in photography has been progressively waning. I don’t carry a camera on a daily basis anymore and when I do use one I tend to do so more purposefully than before, so I shoot much less. It is not the cost that deters me like in the olden days; it is the tedious task of browsing through a mountain of rubbish to pick the few gems worth keeping. The paintwork on the Delete buttons on the backs of my cameras is always worn out.
Another recent development is I don’t care anymore what others think of my work. Especially peers on web-based communities. I have long ago forsaken the aspirations of making a living of my hobby and finally accept the notion that I am not “better” than others. If anything, my sense for business is way below average, just like the pleasure I get from fulfilling the expectations of complete strangers. So why bother? I am old enough to serve as my own judge.
I know that all of this sounds like old cynical bickering, but I assure you I have never felt happier, more light-hearted and liberated about my photography. After so long I feel free to explore this fascinating medium and create art, my own art. The charm in photography to me has everything to do with its inherent limitations and “flaws”. It is a great tool for observation, much less so for expression. In fact, any other art form is superior to photography in terms of sheer creation. Photography is so tightly embedded in the physical world it can’t really escape. So creating art using this medium must involve dismantling rather than construction, authorship rather than creation. Photography dissects the flow of time into distinct moments and allows us to concentrate on those fragments. That property is unique to this medium and gives it its strength.
Cartier-Bresson coined the obscure and much debated “moment decisif” as an ideal of thematic and geometric order in a chaotic situation. But I am interested in the opposite: chaos itself. A bit of chaos makes things messed up, tense, interesting. Instead of fighting the ever-present, crude randomality I now work with it.
The symbiosis of moment and disorder is what makes photography so fascinating to me. An extreme example of that are group dance performances, where despite the meticulous planning a lot of individual character comes through. You can’t usually observe slight synchronization errors or fleeting facial expressions when watching a live dance show, but a camera can reveal a lot. The same principles are obviously relevant to more reactive genres, such as street photography and photojournalism. It is just a matter of giving up control and letting chance play its role. And I didn’t even mention the fun in doing so.