[lit-ideas] Re: Whether to run or fly

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 17:51:05 -0800

My studies of dog breeds and the theoretical choosing of various breeds for
various situations came up against reality:  I never in the world would have
chosen a Schnoodle for anything, but Susan got one and he smashed all my
theories -- including the one that imagined I might want to give up
photography because Duffy was so unphotogenic.  
He weighs 15 pounds and resembles a dust mop more than a Rhodesian
Ridgeback, but he acts a lot like the girls down at the river -- and he does
it with enormously more energy.
And somehow something of his personality shows up in these photos --
something that is just as good as being photogenic.
(And thanks to John McCreery for his comment the other day.)
I was struck by something I read earlier in A. J. P. Taylor's The Habsburg
Monarchy, 1809-1918:  
Referring to the alliance of the Habsburgs and the "Counter-Revolution,"
Taylor writes, "The alliance of the dynasty and the Jesuits saved the
Habsburgs and defeated Protestantism in central Europe; it also gave to
'Austrian' culture the peculiar stamp which it preserved to the end.
Austrian Baroque civilisation, like the buildings which it created, was
grandiose, full of superficial life, yet sterile within: it was theatre, not
reality.  It lacked integrity and individual character; at its heart was a
despairing frivolity.  'Hopeless, but not serious' was the guiding principle
which the age of Baroque stamped upon the Habsburg world.  Deep feeling
found an outlet only in music, the least political of the arts; even here
the creative spirit strove to break its bonds, and the air of Vienna was
more congenial to Johann Strauss than to Mozart or to Beethoven.  The
Habsburgs learnt from the Jesuits patience, subtlety, and showmanship; they
could not learn from them sincerity and creativeness."
My interest here is Taylor's comment that Music is "the least political of
the arts."  That's probably true.  I can bring to mind some of
Shostakovich's music that was supposed to be political, Beethoven's Eroica
in praise of Napoleon and his victories, and Rickard Strauss' Thus Spake
Zarathustra, that was in praise of Nietzsche's work, but none of these
intentions, nor I imagine, any others, come through.  The only way we would
know of them is to be told, as the narrator does in the "Young People's
Guide to the Orchestra."    
Painting needn't be any more political than music.  Perhaps most of it
isn't, but it can be.  
Moving on to photography, it can be even more political than painting.
Some horrific photos of the carnage of war, for example, have had political
But I am merely trying to catch little bits of beauty here and there and I
feel a bit sheepish in associating it with "art" -- although some
photographers have been considered artists, Ansel Adams, for example.  But I
have reservations about Adams and all the other artist-photographers.  
Perhaps I have an engineer's facility with mechanical things such as
computers and cameras, and perhaps I also have an eye for beauty, but if I
happen to capture some of this in photos, does it become art?   I don't
think so.
But many paintings would probably not have been painted had photography
existed at an earlier date -- that is, those paintings which strove to
capture a face or a bowl of flowers realistically.  
What if a photographer could capture all the light and shadows of a girl
with a broom, even more realistically than Rembrandt did, would it be art?
Again, I don't think so, but if not, what does that say about Rembrandt?
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of Robert Paul
Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 3:00 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Whether to run or fly

I'm enjoying your series of photographs immensely. I hope you'll keep
sending them. The lowering clouds were striking, but my favorite is
the first image in the 'Duffy's pride' set, in which Duffy is bounding
toward the camera with all four paws off the ground. My title for it
would be Exuberance!

I take it that the latest pictures are with the new camera; I'm awed by
its (and your) ability to stop motion as in the Duffy picture. I've
what kind of camera you have now, but it seems to fire very quickly
after you've pressed the button, as opposed to most of the smaller
digital cameras, which take forever.

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