Measuring success: work that challenges, changes, transforms ?

Reading a nice article : “ping pong” chat over on Conscientious

Key  questions /issues:

  • How to engage work that challenges, changes and transforms?
  • What is a  measure of success?
  • Can photography effect change – really?
  • Can a photograph serve as a model for “what to do”  instead of “what not to do?”
  • What evidence of change are we seeking?

Perhaps there is collection of projects that celebrates the actions taken to postively change – perhaps creating a model by which the viewer / audience might actually believe that a change in simple behaviors might lead to a bigger change in a positive and meaningful way…. wouldn’t it be great to see more work celebrated in a way that begins to address the questions above?

It reminded me about something I’d written previously, a question really – wondering if Jordan’s work is going only  “half way”  into the problem (written back  Jan 2008)


Crushed cars #2, Tacoma 2004 – Chris Jordan

The images are there – a lot of them – some flirt with an aesthetic that is almost “beautiful” albeit ultimately destructive.  Most of the photographs, that I’m aware of (please, I’d like to become better informed), seem bleak in outlook, or so about destructive imagery that I for one, can’t imagine myself ”transfering” seeing into doing,  taking an action about the situation…  It’s novel to be able to view a million, billion sheets of paper and realize that we use up that much resource.. by the minute… or something along those lines… but it leaves me feeling dismayed and disconnected – I feel like ”throwing up my hands” with a helpless feeling overwhelming me – I can’t not use paper after all… maybe more wisely, but… source

Specifically,  the notion of promoting  what work strikes you as meaningful (which lets be honest –  is after all what these blogs are all about right ?) that potentially challenges, changes, and transforms the viewer audience – in some yet undefined /  immeasurable way…  is what matters.

Work that produces a measurable outcome – a positive change – takes time to evolve to achieve… to be recognized as such.

Photograph: Chris Jordan – Midway; Message from the Gyre

This is one aspect of what I might call a “new success” – by this I mean success which is gauged not by the amount of money earned by the author – (this is still extremely important and necessary), but instead, a success measured by the amount of change and kind of change that work provokes

Perhaps if over time these sorts of projects get more into the “mainstream”  the effect will be one of challenging us the viewer into seriously making a change in the way we live our lives.

For example – why not take a small step in our own consuming lifestyles for example – resolve to never again buy bottled water…

If there were only a way to objectively measure the change effect on a larger scale – actions for example do speak louder than words (or pictures) for that matter…

Michael Marten – Sea Change

Michael Marten_Grain_Kent

Grain, Kent – Michael Marten

Sea Change – by Michael Marten – on view at Blue Sky Gallery here in Portland –

I think because I grew up in the cornfields of the Midwest – the views offered by Marten of seaside edges at various tides – low and high in close comparison  – are for me quite interesting and somewhat foreign.   Of course I’ve visited various shorelines along the way, but there is something important about spending enough time in one place in order to see the influences of the natural environment (or manmade for that matter) on the shape of the landscape. Perhaps it is an issue of slowing down enough to internalize it in a way – to come back time and again is the key.  One can do this in any number of places of course at different time scales, but the regular contrast and steady rhythm of high/low tides is a wonderful opportunity to do so in a predictable way.

Michael Marten_ Bedruthan Steps_Cornwall

From Marten’s statement:

“… Natural processes have lit, watered and shaped the world since time immemorial. Paying attention to their rhythms and effects may help us to reconnect to the fundamentals of the planet, which we ignore at our peril…”

Indeed.  All it takes is to be reminded in a serious way – how quickly you can be come isolated – at the mercy of nature’s way.  Perhaps that is the element missing for me in these pictures which are striking on their own terms – but for me an element of risk would be an interesting additional dimension in the series…. I like the series though – it is a good start on any number of possible ways to look at our world around us.

More of Marten’s work here on his website.

The Arctic – Time Change – Gautier Deblonde

From the series Arctic by Gautier Deblonde

I came across the work of Gautier Deblonde by way of Granta 101 in a photographic essay: “The Arctic”.    (The series “Voyage to Spitsbergen” can be seen on the site – nbpictures – and it is worth checking out…)The photographs in the series (Arctic) are meant to “serve as a reminder to people that our climate is changing, and that without a doubt it will affect them personally and profoundly, wherever they live. “

From the series Artic by Gautier Deblonde

From the series Arctic by Gautier Deblonde

I appreciate the sense of time in the photographs above. Why would one live up above the Arctic Circle these days – except in search of something – Oil? Natural Gas? – Scientists studying the ice? What has happened to this train?  Why is it here – and abandoned in this way – this place called the Spitsbergen ?  Near to the summer solstice as we are right now… with our sunrise / sunsets so early and late – seemingly – I’m trying hard to imagine what it must feel like to be in perpetual daylight for some 2 months straight in “Midsummer” – or the opposite – darkness in “Midwinter”…

How attuned to the natural rhythms of the day are we anymore?