Meaning Beyond Method

Is the title of a book a promise? It isn’t a contract; maybe only an expectation.

  • Photography Beyond Technique
  • The Mind’s Eye
  • Looking at Pictures


books from my shelf

is photography ever beyond technique 

Of course the work exceeds the method used to produce it.

Hope From The Title

The book that purports to be “Beyond Technique” spends more space on words than on pictures. Words about technique more so than about imagery. I bought the book hoping that it would be more than that. Just a hope. This book is the result of the burst power of the internet; able to propel small boats far out into the stream.

2009, Un-met Challenge

There is only one chapter worth a flip through, just as the 2009 conference was so controlled, and confining that the group that I attended with left before lunch. The venue was SF State, a college that once had one of the best photography programs. During the Silver Expansion, the Visual Dialogue Foundation held frequent meetings outside the buildings so that we wouldn’t disturb the ‘standards’ of instruction expected of a State School.

The “Alt Photographers” of the 21st Century would have been well suited to uphold those educational standards. “Beyond Technique” isn’t beyond technique. It doesn’t take itself further, and only one author seems aware of what taking themself beyond technique entails. The editor has the correct aphorisms, but doesn’t understand them, I think, because he can’t get himself beyond Technique — his world began with an F-Stop, and ended there.

reproduction isn’t understanding


The other two books are composed of short, finely tuned responses to the circumstance of artist and photographer. The Bresson book (The Mind’s Eye), offers mostly memories. With one stand-out that provides the opportunity for Bresson to enlarge his reflection on art; he does this using the Sarah Moon movie as prompt and plinth.

sarah moon
worth a dog ear

“The segregation of photography, the ghetto into which this world of specialists has placed it, really shocks me. Photographers, artists, sculptors…You either have a feel for the plastic, or else a conceptual thought.”– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Getting to Meaning

Looking At Pictures – Robert Walser

The third book satisfies enough, just enough, to be worth the disappointment of the “Beyond Technique” book. I am particularly drawn to the chapters translated by Lydia Davis. The key chapter is “A Painter” —

“Great art resides in great goings-astray.”

Writers write less, but mean more. The better responses encompass what is there, what the pictures contains and what contains the picture. They are merely looking at pictures.

How do we get to meaning; is it possible to work beyond technique in what most consider a technical art? We get there by working harder; by ignoring more; by directing our attention toward one thing — and away from the easy things .. music, not scales.

Steps along a path: no knowledge, knowledge that is misunderstood, knowledge that diminishes, then knowledge that expands, and finally that which frees us from our teachers