The Looking Glass Zoo

During my time in high school doodles were constantly being drawn on the side margins of the class notes. This wasn’t unusual; many people doodled on their notes. However, a teacher saw the doodles and felt disturbed enough by them to call in a meeting with my parents. The doodles eventually stopped.

They weren’t doodles of any teachers, but rather of myself. More often than not the images resembled Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Why it’s considered art on a canvas and a psychological concern on notepaper is beyond me, but there you have it.

A few years later, at the university, these drawings started popping up again. This time I would cut them out of my notes and paste them or tape them in my diaries, which I kept for nearly ten years, and labeled them “The Looking Glass Zoo”.

Ignore the words in those years of entries. There might be a tidbit of wisdom here and there, but most of the words in the diaries aren’t really worth repeating. That’s a part of my past better left buried, only to be exhumed after my death when people can then discover how much of a jerk I was before I matured.

Since I’ve been getting back into art and drawing, I’ve gained an interest in looking back through these drawings and sketches – particularly for some raw ideas that never developed back then. I hope to document these images over time and improve upon them. The journaling is more reserved and in this digital form (the blog), which helps to keep me from writing some of the more libel thoughts and gives me a chance to edit the few I do post. I miss the handwriting, though. That’s something lacking on the web – too much type and too little personal handwriting.

The creative photographer

Where there are thousands of fantastic photographers there are hundreds of thousands of amateurs who have taken fantastic photographs. I’ve had to think a bit lately about what separates the two. Some very well established photographers have posted work up on Flickr or on their personal site that I thought – ehhh, that’s okay. Likewise, some very average photographers have posted some striking photos on Flickr that draw my admiration.

What is it that gives a photo that “WOW” factor? I think it’s the ability to give notice to things and move us by visuals that nearly everyone else takes for granted. It is also the ability to tell a story in a unique way, such as Carl Iwasaki’s famous photo of teenagers going steady. Sometimes it’s an unexpected gamble that produces a photograph, like Phitar’s photo: salomé spinning. Sometimes it’s just seeing a detail in the environment that others overlook.

I could try to imitate, but that only takes me as far as being a good imitator. It seems that in photography, using a fresh approach is what gives any shot the potential. That frustrates me because I feel so stale – writer’s-block, inhibition, whatever you wish to call it.

Joseph O. Holmes’ gallery of photos of people staring at African veldt dioramas is an extraordinary example of a good artistic result. (These pictures somehow remind me of a related Ray Bradbury story.) It would be amazing to delve into his brain with a few questions: What made him think to do this series (AMNH)? Did he naturally envision the result and go for it, or did it strike him at the moment? Was he inspired to do this work, and if so, what inspired him? Is this an imitation of another piece of art that he’s seen? Whatever his answers might be to some of these questions, I think we can all agree that he well deserves the $650 a-piece that each of these photographs sell for.

Poughkeepsie Journal Article on Joseph O. Holmes