“The birds are always marvelously dressed, progress is a word stripped of its meaning, and a cow that nourishes the world will always go two miles an hour.” – Joseph Fernand Henri Léger
attributed to Fernand Leger, it sticks with me. I read it in the context of “Making Art New” by Robert Adams – in his book collection of essays – “Beauty in Photography”…
Léger observed that “If pictorial expression has changed, it is because modern life has necessitated it,” adding that “the thing that is imagined is less fixed, the object exposes itself less than it did formerly. When one crosses a landscape by automobile or express train, it becomes fragmented; it loses its descriptive value but gains in synthetic value. The view through the door of the railroad car or the automobile windshield, in combination with the speed, has altered the habitual look of things. A modern man registers a hundred times more sensory impressions than an eighteenth-century artist.” – Jodi Hauptmann – catalogue essay –
Above as qouted from a review / comment a by Carter B. Horsley in “The City Review”.
Imagine what today might look like to someone like Leger in this hyper-world of ours. Add planes, cell phones, the Internet…. and soon you could imagine a jittery and brief encounter – pseudo real in global time – a position of being both local and global – personal and non-personal… take a breath.
Think about the habitual look of things. What things might we see in common anymore? A sunset ? A moonrise ? The cool breeze and a raindrop.
I wonder about all this in the context of “What’s New?”… in photography – perhaps nothing is able to really be “new” or “groundbreaking” in the sense that to me, it seems it is useless to measure the worth of a new photograph or a photographer’s work by the distance it may try to establish from what has been done already. To question of what might be “groundbreaking” is to miss the point in my opinion. To be searching for what is “fresh” is along the same lines. Life is fresh.
So “What’s New?” is today – what is right now. Good pictures of that content alone, I believe, can become what we care about seeing tomorrow or the next – and that is something that is impossible in a way to predict or construct. It just happens – and by chance becomes noticed.
Perhaps thought it is already all around us – beauty that is – and it’s up to us figure out how to tease that experience – or recognize it – or just feel it a little bit – in of our daily lives.