In General

Words are able to represent only the tiniest fraction of possible thought.  They can only provide waypoints in a continuous spectrum of meaning, and then only by convention.  We can all speak the word ‘joy’ but that single syllable can only begin to communicate one individual’s actual meaning or emotion to the mind of another.  And more to the point of photography, words have very limited power to explain or describe images.  Words come from the brain’s left hemisphere, images are ‘seen’ and recognized in the right.

And yet the ‘art world’ demands written statements.  Best I can do is this:

I find words, concepts, and statements are antipathetic to my work as a photographer.  I personally struggle to silence the verbal narrative that happens involuntarily in my mind as I look at the world.  My eye and right hemisphere will find some view or scene that resonates in a way I can’t verbally describe, so I willfully attempt not to try.  And to conceptualize an artistic goal in advance, or to rationalize the capture afterwards destroys that wordless experience.

The exercise I employ most in my work is photographing buildings, walls, telephone poles that aren’t pretty, aren’t ugly (to my mind, anyway) — just unremarkable.  Meaningless scenes that posses no intrinsic beauty or quality, represent no particular issue or subject.  Visual Rorschach Tests.  Koans.  The more I can strip away the distracting noise my verbal left hemisphere creates, the better my visual right hemisphere can operate.  And these commonplace scenes hold my eye for reasons that, say, a blue sky does not.  Not sure why, but I can’t focus my eye or my mind for more than a moment on a blank sky or even a cloudy one.  It might be that my brain needs something to process, something to consume and digest.

I may eventually add ‘subject’ as an element in my work (and have recently, see: Grain) — I can imagine a day when my mind is quiet enough to see an image that contains ‘meaning’ or even a ‘message’, but for the time being I will continue with these wordless meditations.


Remember, that a picture, before it is a picture of a battle horse, a nude woman, or some story, is essentially a flat surface covered in colours arranged in a certain order.
—Maurice Denis

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all images and text copyright Aaron Dougherty