Grounded

Let me mention coffee for the briefest of moments. The quiet morning hours on a free Saturday allow much in the way of drinking and thinking, and perhaps much pausing, reflecting, sitting, and staring out of windows at rain and such. The clutter of the day has yet to assemble itself and the experiences of the previous week are digesting in memory. A night spent restless or unsettled about yesterday's errors and expenditures is now distanced, held at arm's length and regarded as alien to this quiet new yonder of a freshly brewed cup and gentle, consistent precipitation.

It's a wonderful trick of perception, of holding a mug of coffee and existing nowhere but right at the limit of its stained rim, yet somehow being more attuned to the Longer View, time stretching out leisurely in both directions with a life's tribulations and victories considered between sips. I'll get a bowl of cereal rolling soon enough, and the loud crunch and the washing of dishes and the making of beds will alert the day to get started. But till then, I sip in peace and am thankful for the time I have.

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"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in"

At one point I thought it high time I acquire a Thoreau set containing some of his standards; A Week On the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Walden, The Maine Woods, and Civil Disobedience. Some years after this purchase, I'd just about had it with seeing them languish on the shelf and made a weekend or two of it, dutifully joining his sojourns and meanders as an American reader ought.

His is a bright, stimulating prose, striding about solidly but with its face seemingly always turned to the clouds. The germ of North American occupancy is settled in that prose, I think, and though I could barely tell you the difference between an Eastern White Pine and a Red-necked Grebe, one need not be an agricultural student to wallow in Thoreau's relishing depictions of nature. While chronicling the intimate moments of the Northeastern landscape, he often runs a parallel track of sustained passages picking away at a grand scale humanity's larger existence and struggles, dressed heavily in traditional and ancient verse. The man has a real insistence on poetry as the end all be all of literary experience. Quite beautiful writing. 

One of my favorite passages, from Concord/Merrimack

"You shall see rude and sturdy, experienced and wise men, keeping their castles, or teaming up their summer's wood, or chopping alone in the woods, men fuller of talk and rare adventure in the sun and wind and rain, than a chestnut is of meat; who were out not only in '75 and 1812, but have been out every day of their lives; greater men than Homer, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare, only they never got time to say so; they never took to the way of writing. Look at their fields, and imagine what they might write, if ever they should put pen to paper. Or what have they not written on the face of the earth already, clearing, and burning, and scratching, and harrowing, and plowing, and subsoiling, in and in, and out and out, and over and over, again and again, erasing what they had already written for want of parchment."

Naked Lunch

"Hey, how is doze Boiling Hippos?"

Reading through Naked Lunch has been a wild ride. Sure I'm game for this stream of consciousness, borderline open verse marathon run and I enjoy inventing half words and compound phrases (the impression, perhaps, of thoughts bursting), though in this case I feel Burroughs has perfected 'vomit of consciousness' at a sustained level. His pacing is constant and astoundingly so, the sly references spilling off the page and confounding all attempts at context.

I have to say the greatest impact for me was at the tail end of the work, reading the appendices. After wallowing in 170+ pages of noxious filth, much of it taking turns in revulsion and hilarity, I'm hit with incredible calm and structure by the editors and then Burroughs himself -- as they document the history of the writing of Naked Lunch in all its various edits, and the author's own straightforward letter on choice drugs and their effects, written for a medical periodical. This contrast in tone is striking and allows for a bit of decompression. What flips my noodle even more is how many re-writes and extensive process drafts and shuffling went on by Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, that they were able to maintain the feel of oblivion in the final text. Sober decisions with distinctly sobering material. 

And that reminds me... this post over at Illustration Art articulates a relevant point.

Images great and small

I have been positively, photographically energized by the mobile sphere of life since February. Picked me up a budget-level, super shoddy smartphone at that time complete with horrendous image quality and no real ability for re-printing... and promptly left much higher quality images and DSLR capability in the dust and rubble of clunky three, four, and five step processes and editing sessions.

Click n' go, moment-by-moment captures with the ability to share in seconds is poignant when considered in the context of our connected age and the simple desire to include others and be included. There is a mountain of nastiness and annoyance out there, but regardless of the quality I couldn't be more happy with society's insistence on sharing their snapshots en masse, and some of it with an increasing tendency towards preserving and relishing the Beauty we come across in its many forms. There's some kind of edification in there, presenting a glistening morning from a mountain vista, or a great home-cooked meal attempt shared with a friend, or that wicked tattoo that hurt like the dickens and is still raw, or your cat, and your cat, or that cat, and your cat, and that other cat...

Say what you will about smartphone kiddies, Instagram, digital saturation, digital INUNDATION, but I see this age of the everyday Creator as a wonderful thing. I like seeing people explore their world, or look at it with a new eye, or sharing what they feel is slightly more important than the mundane, or just having fun even when they're bored. I also like seeing amateur and professional photographers finding powerful platforms to cast their work outward, or to more closely connect their moment-by-moment output and process with community.

That being said, I picked up the DSLR for the first time in nine months and took a whirlwind, all-day photo-tour of my town's local Grape & Fall Festival . Pristine quality images, focal ability, and the newly revisited effect of being *noticed* as someone who is photographing. The big, black chunk of a DSLR calls a perilous attention to itself in a world of phone cams, and people respond in new ways from what I remember. They open up to you, smile for you, shy away from you. You're largely ignored with a smartphone. I'll be posting some of those here soon enough, but it's had me thinking about the cross between dedicated photography and happenstance (or "immersion") photography, something I thought existed as a divide between REAL photographers and camera phone users, or even FILM photographers and everyone else. Snobbish bullshit, Jesse, snobbish bullshit. Art is something that transcends the tool, the aesthetic, and sometimes even the moment-to-moment. Don't put a damper on it, don't tell me Instagram is terrible or that medium format is the only way to fly, just get out there and practice it with whatever you have on hand. Moment by moment. It all boils down to experiencing and wanting to share. You can check out my ongoing 'lo-fi' stuff at http://jessehebert.tumblr.com/, and I plan to re-vitalize this site with increased DSLR and studio work down the road. Please, enjoy this world, folks, as much as you possibly can.

P.S. So what if four trillion people have already taken a black and white picture of a dandelion? Go take your black and white picture of a dandelion!

P.P.S. May it be your best black and white dandelion picture ever.

Like tears in rain

There have been times in the course of an average day where something struck my eye just enough to the point of stopping me in my tracks. I would flounder for a second or two, wondering if I should split from my day-to-day mode and rush to get the camera/notebook/blahblah in order to attempt to record or expand on what it was stole my attention. I'll stand there considering my two options and, occasionally, will realize I need to kick my lazy keister into gear, making a commitment outwards and towards at least *attempting* to record or expand the moment.

Once this kind of decision is made, I believe we can be compelled on a wave of very pure emotion and, more importantly, a realization of time available for us to act -- an awareness of how time is being destroyed millisecond to millisecond and how there is a potent, real struggle to find expression within that evaporating world. Let no movement be wasted or energy displaced! I write this as encouragement for myself, but also for you. 

A certain quote from Kurt Vonnegut: 

"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way to make life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” 

Whether or not something is 'original' should not be a factor. Say with photography, I'll have dabbled with some technique or approach only to find the technique or philosophy was espoused, developed, mastered, and ultimately discarded by great photographers a 100 years prior. 

Does this lack of 'embryonic' originality or uniqueness somehow devalue such work in my own attempts at living art, or yours? NO! It is the here and now in which we thrive and it is the here and now in which we must produce, an immediacy to which even the vibrant past can find no retort. That pristine moment of 'original discovery'? It is born anew with every decision we make to implement it -- a kind of *GASP*, an intake of air, of... of... obligated existence, untethered to any famous epoch or popular artist. 

I would say copy, imitate, transcribe, trace, receive, and do so earnestly. It is through the acts of drawing, splattering, cutting, developing, and editing, often in well-worn footsteps, that you find the potential for an individual voice. And even if that voice turns out to sound a little familiar to what has been shouted before, there is still the fact this voice is framed within the unique context of your present moment. The past and present may be inspiring this art, but it isn't creating this art. You are.