bob black – loomings upon an horizon

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Bob Black

Loomings Upon An Horizon

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Author’s Preface:

It has been more than a year and a half since I completed “Loomings Upon an Horizon” and I have not, until recently, looked at it since except to show it as part of an author’s talk and projection in January 2012.  

I have set it adrift and moved on to another and maybe fuller project. It has been a somewhat painful and embarrassing experience looking at it again: akin to recalling a former messier and awkward self. But one abides and in that humour, smiles at the ungainly self one often is.

The above story is an edited version of the final book. I should say that I’ve never been interested in individual photographs, per se, but what pictures do in combination with others, including all the repetitions and motifs you’ll find here and in the longer version, the good with the bad, the confident with the cow-licked and dog-eared.

In my own projects, I rarely experience individual photographs as “good” or “successful” but instead as notes or syllables in the story or emotion I am trying to convey. With the exception of the final tree, I’ve never really liked any of the individual photographs but am instead interested in the noise they make together, notes in a musical score or the texture of brush strokes in a painting.

The original includes drawings and a few poems as well as pictures not included in the BURN version. A longer form of the picture sequence (without the drawings or poems) can be found at the link provided below.

Much of “Loomings” is comprised of a hand-made book (tape and all) but because of the length, it seems not only self-indulgent but, remedially speaking, unfair to ask readers to wade across its full, bloated body here. In this age of already prolonged exposure to the dimming flicker of the LCD squawk, spending too much time glued to the computer screen just feels plain wrong.

Allow your eyes a well-deserved rest away from the buzz of the clicks and hisses. Have a peek and then go out into the world and drift and survey and listen. Also, as for the long author’s text below, I can’t separate the pictures from the words nor the syllables from the tri-x grain. A family. Read it or not, do with it as you will. Brevity has never been one of my graces.


I would like to thank the photographer/writer Ling Ang for her openness in allowing me to quote from her poem for the project. It means a great deal to me, the words and the friendship.

Most importantly, I wish to offer my deep appreciation to David Alan Harvey and the editors at BURN for their gracious patience and humour in wrangling me into shape. Lasso’d without the rope burns.



Related links

Bob Black


“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”—Herman Melville


“It passes, but it does not pass away.”–Laszlo Krasznahorkai


“And I

am the bodiless

The spectre

The comma nestled between the verbs”

–Ying Ang




Picture this: pollen of garlic light.


The horizon like a finger of wet chicory. The lift of language barrier’d and ballasted by the curve of the land along the sea’s long liquid neck. There, stretching go we.


Swift the sound of scattering wings that clip the space between a window in front  of you and the far-lost long-ago window through which you once pulley’d down the sky: a kite of birds and telephone line, eclipsing.


Stones gather beneath a fallow wall the way tab and tip and beer-caps drift as if dust into the knees of gutters and grassy corners. It is we not the place which is unkempt, is it not?


Bone and feather-less wing, knobby beak and elongated rib of our throat: all that is left of our singing when the song has gone wrong, all that is left when the singing has gone rung, wrong-by-wrong.




So there it is,

Life changes in the quick, a click of this and twitch of that until cut and tissued and forgotten like a careless nick. And all the spanning and the planning. Is it easier said than un-done?


And yet that spark, sparred in the instant, then and there, slipping forward-toward the something and then always (regardless) away.


The change in that unrecognizable mount the way breath fractures its step from the copper in-take of our concavity through the silent soft hum of an exhalation the way the curving land beneath our feet bumbles and joists and cantors without recognizable knowing the earth our death our thoughts the days  dotted by our forward moving and if but we are still enough at times or tumbleweed-headlong-over-heels enough in our racing that moment that cardiac infraction a blip can catch us just long enough in its stilled web for us to more than know it but to see and feel and quarter it like geometry as recipe as the sound of her voice tango’d to the shadow on the wall an intact-tact and of that we need only to touch the transformed carving moment once to know it makes up the days and ways that make up the who of the what we are sung from.




Stick these moments together and exhale. Scatter these photographs each-from-each and turn aside. Have you caught up?


Sung at last and un-lunged.




We create that which invents us and name it home.


Do we not?


And though the world rises before us, we are its constructor. We stitch together from a tapestry of twig and feather the nest from our surroundings, kingfishers tucking at the muck and stain, the light and ligature, tucking the world into our beaks and carrying it over land and time until we’ve perched and begun to shape it into a loamy hull. These hull our refuge.  And all the small crooks and knuckled branches, the memories and experiences, the quotidian and the quixotic churned and chewed into the clay that will shape the world we call home. Along with the detritus and deposits, an accumulated crew of observations gathered and held before us until it remains fast, the outline and scaffolding of “you.” The joinery a loom of trickled time shuttled back and fourth into an assembled shape, the finery a tapestry of earthy materials become a frock that we wear the days of our lives. We call this garment a village, city, nation, home, the turf from which we believe an understanding can emerge, our identity, our malleable, squeaky self. But we are more. We are inventors. Look around. Look around.


What then is this task, the task that we have each set for ourselves in our waking, that which has been described and spoken of as “identifying” and as “seeing”? The hum inside the organ of our being. And what is this thing called place and what is that which we imagine as knowing? Is it not a conjuring, an awakening to the alchemy of our own creation? How is it that we begin to make sense of our whereabouts, how to carve out a home, a patch of time and swatch of hobbled earth into which we can locate ourselves:  between the pitch and pull of the earth? And how does one begin to carve, from the ripened world, a small pocket of safety and calm that defines the place from which you have come and into which you return when left mossy and shorn?


How does one begin to know of which and of what they are.




“Loomings Upon an Horizon” is long and it is conflicted.


Just as I am, conflicted. It has been more than a year since I completed ‘Loomings’ and I am a very different person now than I was when I had first set out to navigate some dreamed-up voyage that I had once hoped would set me free of the intense inwardness and abstraction of most of my work, set me free of the joinery of all those faces and voices I was compelled to ruminate upon and ruin with my unseeing and unsaying camera. I had wanted, in a word, to escape. To escape my own work and my self and the deluded self and thinking that I seemed reluctant to shear away. To escape not my life, mind you, nor my family (at the time the anchor holding firm the meaning and manner of my life), but the alphabet of what I had always photographed: people’s faces, people’s eyes, specific places in such a cloistered and claustrophobic manner that the work rarely seemed capable to speak of anything but only of ‘me.’ All those faces were my face, my blindness and my struggle. Take to the land and to the sea.


It has been difficult to shape ‘Loomings” into something seemingly coherent or cohesive for it has  for the length of much of its creation meant more to me as a private rumination on the importance and solace of trees and land, meant more to me as a kind of self-examination (or rejection) of the kind of pictures I had already made, as a kind of catharsis or tackling than  as an actualized photographic story. In fact, even now, especially now as I look at it again more than a year after I had even last looked at the pictures, the sequence, I see only its failures and sloppiness. I had always viewed the pictures more as drawings, sketches that allowed me to continue with two larger bodies of work with which I had been obsessed than as something brought to fruition. I say this not out of false humility but because it’s the way I feel about it. To photograph land without a metaphysic but with a desire to break my own photographic tics against the size and strength of the land and the sea.


What began as a kind of sketchbook, a cahier of sorts, to balance or blanche the two longer projects, “Loomings” turned into a way to escape all those intense faces and rhymed-racking that I was struggling with, including my own face, my own blindness and my own disappointments. Its gestation first began several years ago when working on a small body of work, private reflections on the great writer Antonio Lobo Antunes and Portugal, and now ends with that first photograph. A tree at night and its timbre in the wind.




In this work,  I had hoped to describe just one simple thing: the small and intensive pockets of silence, the knocking of the wind’s cantor through a canopy of trees, the spray of the sea’s tumble, the notched scouring of the sky as the memory of my father’s face when he carried me as a child, the scent of green mountains verdant and tinctured by sea oil in Taiwan,  the curve of a hill penumbra’d by the sun, land and sea as a hermitage that tented the under-top and undertow of my life. I wished to make a series of photographs not about what the land looked like but what its power and nourishing and silence felt like. The size of its certainty large and small. I realized that pictures could not accomplish what I had felt by doing simply, nothing.




More than two years ago, I had promised Magnum photographer and BURN Curator/Publisher David Alan Harvey that I wanted to make an exclusive project for BURN Magazine. At the time, I thought it would be much more interesting for photographer, a photographer, to try to make something with the magazine itself in mind. Well, for good or ill, this is that promise. In the subsequent year after suggesting it to them, “Loomings” underwent many changes and variations, in both concept and picture. What I had hoped at first to be made up solely of pictures without any people or reference to people, I quickly realized seemed frustratingly impersonal. As in life, I tend to wear my emotions on my photographic sleeves and instead grew to need to photograph not the relic of the land but what it felt like to struggle and to find succor and awe in both the land and the people in my life who shared those places in my life.  No matter how we sheer and shore, no matter how we reconfigure the land and our lives to our own hungry need, the land observes and absorbs us and does not let go even in our forgetting. To work images from small abstract gestures, the stroke of black ink upon rice  paper as a means to sing out the world, to write the letters of the lives around in small, cow-licked strokes.


In truth, “Loomings” is a kind of calligraphy. In fact, more than photography, it was inspired more by painting and drawing (ink and charcoal) than by the tradition of photography. At its heart, within my own heart, is the compass of Chinese scroll paintings and calligraphy. My childhood among the wind-fed verdant cities and hills of Taiwan or at least the place that sits inside the hermitage of my memories.


Strokes of words comprised of the shift of shade and vocabulary of light.


And seemingly with less and less time, I snug up longer and longer against the tree of doing little more than thinking or reading or just listening. Eyes open and drawn to that which scatters through me. This too, the doing of nothing but sitting, sometimes feels like a failure. Though it is to that failure that I am increasingly drawn. The heat-tug of time played out along our making of things and digesting of them. For in the end, “Loomings” really isn’t about anything. I have no grand design nor want to convey any large or significant meaning. If anything, I hope that it conveys my deep love of the earth around especially how light and shadow work their dance in the magic of the land. If anything, I hope that it conveys my deep love for photography and its remarkable and endless flexibility; its extraordinary generosity in allowing for us to seize and stretch it into whatever tale or notion we wish to tell. Although much of it is visually dark, I hope that others see this not as some kind of angst-ringing suffocation but rather about trying to confine my own photographic practice to some basic tools: a brush and ink with black and white, not for nostalgia or romance but for dietary reasons. What is the color of a letter? Letters, though seen in black most often, convey the color of surfacing around and do not need a wide palette to suggest the multifarious forms that abound. Light in the suggestion, color in the scarping hill beneath the palm of sky and cloud. The alchemy of this waking world.


Toward that finger-stain’d horizon each of us go, sprocket-after-sprocket, click by click, f-stop breath, as all things tumble into and at a time.




An approximation of love even when in error.


And too many words and too many pictures and too little time.  Alas.


But even in the error, from the error really, comes a love more precise than its original approximation and that all I have learned from the leaving and the losing of things points toward something simple. Not photographs but the living underneath and entwined and enmeshed in the world makes for the singing, makes of the singing out to it, if even with these bewildering and imperfect gestures, essential for in that clinking and clanking I’ve learned to recognize the timbre and the clamor of my heart lit sloppy but undeniably a mess, but childishly hungry and bedazzled by unrest and ignition of our gravitational life.


Nothing more deep or artistic than that.


So be it.




All that surfeit of light and surrounding life giving and graving and snapping above and through the geography of life and its sound, inimical.


Though all things may vanish, they do not pass away.


–bob black


Author’s note:


I want to thank David Alan Harvey for his inimical generosity and patience for who but he and where but BURN could a photographer publish such a broken and long-winded series of pictures. Who but David would allow such looseness and such an ungainly and addled series. Too many pictures, too many words. For him and his sustaining belief, I am always grateful and filled by love. It goes without saying that the above text does not have to be read. It isn’t an explanation but instead a kind of sibling, the whiskey in the beer. Take it for what you wish.


And so, this series is dedicated to my father Robert A. Black, who taught me about the sea, my mother Margo Woodward, who taught me about the sway of a garden and to my dear friend Marc Davidson who taught about endurance and acceptance: with light upon the horizon and reckoning.



Bob is a writer and photographer currently based in Toronto.  He has exhibited and published his writing and photographic work in a variety of publications and venues (yada yada yada) though he’s a bit fatigued by the taxonomy of all of that now. Instead, he is more interested in a good bottle of wine and  long chat or slow walk than where those pictures and words have and will end up. Truthfully, he wishes he were handier around the house and still aspires to win a Father-of-the-Year award more than anything photographic or literary.  He is currently trying to finish a Children’s Book for his son and is at work on a project that will contain a ridiculous number of pictures he’s too embarrassed to even mention. But that’s another story. Most importantly, his home is always open to wayward and neighborhood cats. Just paw at the door and come in.


166 Responses to “bob black – loomings upon an horizon”

  • GORDON! :))

    Thank you so much for your loving and thoughtful response. I really appreciate that. As for that first image (woman on the beach with mother and child in the background), yes I completely understand. It is also one of my favorite photographs (i have actually 10 from the day i shot that pic that I like a lot) and has always seemed to be one of the photographs in my archive that people really enjoy. Same with me and yes, i think (for a long time) much of what I feel in life or wish to suggest in this series is contained in that photograph, for sure. It’s one of the reasons why I used it at the beginning. It is a deeply personal image for me but I also wanted to see if the other images, the later work, the more abstract work and less-obvious ‘strong’ work could work. In truth, that first picture is married to the final picture (the lone tree at night in portugal) in this series (before the final text frame) and they have a conversation with one another for me (besides both their emotional suggestion) and i felt that both are kind of 2 sides of me: one romantic and loving and hopeful and entralled of the power of mystery and acceptance and the other sad and lonely and hungering at what is lost. The woman at beach picture (to me) is a really optimistic and youthful photograph (an ode sort of to my favorite filmmakers) and the final picture (with the cypress tree at night) is a more matured and saddened person. And I totally understand if all the spaces in between are less powerful. Ironically, the photograph that I’ve sold the most copies of is the Tree At Night (last photographic image here), so its kind of interesting all that space and emotion traveled…

    and that’s it, for me at least, not the individual image but the relationship between images and narrative and i’m always interested in the music or the story or the emotions that become (almost foundational) writ up when images collide and aren’t so obviously connected or so obviously ‘equal’. Some of this belief and aesthetic comes from being a writer and realizing that it is always the internal stuff of sound and words that build the overall effect, including dissonance and contradiction. It also comes, i imagine, from mmy love of Japanese Photobook tradition, which is often defined by books that do not act as studied, easy narrative but the odd pointing of disparate images in union….

    as for the text ;)))…yea, dont sweat it. I didnt write it as an ‘artist statement’ (though, i guess i do add some kind of explanation) but as a kind of monologue from the ‘voice/person’ whose story is this series…like a speech of the hidden voice and all that…as Michael Webster so astutely understood, a kind of Ishmael speech…some of which I hope is strong and beautiful and some of which is cacophonous and repetive and confused and obfuscating…maybe its me in that statement that is trying to use words as, not explanation, but as voice of this ‘book’….but, well, it doesnt matter…

    and thank you so so much for yout love and kindness Gordon…still hope to see BC someday and that cottage of yours :))

  • NATHAN :))

    thanks so much i really appreciate that. And I want to congratulate you again on having your wonderful essay published as well. I’ll tell you something my son (when he was very young) once asked me: “Dad, how long can you keep looking at your pics until you get sick of them. I mean, its the same pictures right?”…

    been chewing on that for 6 years since he said it….:))

    big big hugs :)))

  • Bob,

    You continue to be a great friend and a tremendous inspiration. It’s so refreshing to look at your work within the context of our digital world. It’s not about film, it’s about time. You’re doing something here that’s difficult, slow and visceral. Kudos to you for bringing the feeling across so effectively.


  • MIKE R

    the only way is to make at least work prints from your digi files….it is not difficult to make 12 color pigment 8×10″s from your digi “selects”….

  • BOB:

    I am not even going to try to read and digest the tomb of comments that have followed Loomings.

    But just wanted you to know that I am happy to see this work. As with Bones, the pains and pleasures of your voice sing out once again.


    Justin P

  • MW

    oh yes you are quite correct…very often comparisons of the old and the new are a really tedious waste of time/energy…still it is human nature to do so…all part of our collective never ending learning process which surely includes back and forth evaluation….for sure however i never give “advice”..not a word in my lexicon….suggestions for maybe how to think about something are simply suggestions….not advice.

    it is all about trade offs…switching cameras does make for different literally sees differently with an iPhone than with an 8×10….i think it is more about camera feel and size than digi or film….

    it seems to me by looking carefully at Bob’s work for example that he needs to be fluid one way or the other….Bob’s words match Bob’s pictures and both match Bob if you know him….this is the ONLY thing to think about…are the pictures Bob? or Michael? or whomever?

    the hardest thing in photography is of course the hardest thing about life in general , and that is to totally find oneself…so so easy to get lost in the expectations or the parameters of others….we do not live alone….interaction with others is part of the deal…however IF you can co-exist with others and use the bits and pieces you learn from others and still maintain your individuality, then you can ring the bar bell whether or not you are shooting with digi or film.

    all of us do everything in our power everyday to avoid facing ourselves…we get distracted…we want to get distracted…we come up with every reason in the book and beyond to focus on the trivial…to get lost in minutia is a “vacation” from facing up to our own reality or perception thereof…

    the reasons for pushing that shutter button at any given moment vary wildly…and why would it matter anyway with billions of pictures being taken at any minute of the day? why do we need to freeze a particular moment or create a composition and then show that result to others? the thunderous taking of pictures these days is a phenomena that i think even the “experts” in human anthropology are wrestling over…it is quite obviously a human “need” at this point that we did not even know we needed a few years ago…or should it even be a surprise? i think not….photo sharing is simply sharing…and sharing is what we do…how humankind operates…how we build bridges and rockets and how we create art….all the same process.

    why aren’t we burned out on the whole deal? haven’t we seen enough already? why would any of us need to see one more photograph? certainly not “necessary”…well we never never tire of looking at each other…no matter how many faces you have seen, you want to see more…we cannot get enough of each other…and by whatever hard wiring we all have that creates this insatiable desire, this thrill, to look with awe at a face, two eyes, a nose, a mouth , and ears which we have all seen a million times with wonder is the same damn hard wiring that makes us want to look at more pictures….we are looking for the really special face and we are looking for the special photograph in the same way…all of us with different interpretations of “special”….

    Bob has hit almost everyone here with his vision…his WAY of seeing the world around him….try to analyze it and you cannot…each image seems easy to “make” and yet we know for sure that there is a uniqueness that you cannot quite put your finger on…the image and the sequence of images….try to figure it out, and you absolutely will not….digi or film is a small side discussion, not the biggie…

    the best we can all do is to have a well balanced diet of viewing work and then working ourselves…getting it all to come together is no small feat…seems like it would be easy but is not….or it is actually easy but we make it hard which makes it not easy!!

    anyway, none of this is advice!! just some food for thought..and to share…that’s what we do.

    cheers, david

  • Bob,

    There’s not a single frame in your work that I find boring. What I’m referring to is the monotony, that’s what I perceive to be the problem….for me of course. THe way I see it.
    At the same time I understand that this is your vision and this is the way or one of the ways you are choosing to tell it.
    A new understanding is emerging in how I relate to essays and how I view them. Plenty of times I look at an essay and cannot for the life of me comprehend how one frame relates to the next. But when I watch a movie or documentary for instance from one scene to the next images appear that seem unrelated but it does not seem to matter that they do not. Is it that moving pictures are in constant movement that one cannot keep up with the information being presented? I don’t know….but somehow this does not seem to be the case with still photography and essays. At least with the more poetic and conceptual ones….
    I can understand your essay Bob if I view it like a movie not as stills.
    Do you know what I mean?
    I’m not one to believe that everything needs to be explained and that everything needs “captions”…not at all. Some things are best left un-answered….nothing wrong with that.


    I saw Mecano in 87 if I remember correctly….I was a teenager living in Venezuela. The concert was at a bullring….how fitting for a spanish group….thinking about it now this is how the romans must it felt in the colosseum without the carnage of course….just the entertainment ;-))))

  • Great message David! food for thought, YES…

  • IAN :))

    THANK YOU SO MUCH Ian. Yea, i think (or maybe its because I’m older) that too many folk (young and old) worry about rushing rushing work and life and love and respect and acknowledgement and all that. Maybe I used to be a bit like that too (but most of my life, I’ve never really worried too much about rushing stuff) but for sure over that last little while, I’ve really grown comfortable with time and with what happens or doesnt happen. Maybe, too often now, we’ve been programmed to both rush and to gobble up what we think we deserve: accolades, work, attention, completion etc. but what always matters is just the commitment to whatever polar star pulls at your gravitation rounding. for me, it seems like it takes me even longer to do things, but i’m ok with that…and thanks so much for lending your voice here. You know I proud I am of you and your own work and accomplishments and your beautiful patience in allowing your own life to sift and drift along its rivers. See you I hope next weekend…big hugs and love :))

    JUSTIN :))

    thanks so much Justin. I’m afraid I’ve burried the work with my own long comments ;)))…you know, that’s just me :))…Hopefully, in soem of the long things I’ve written here there is a nugget or two of honesty and love and openness and maybe even inspiration. I’ve always believed in being open about work and life and what I’ve always LOVED so much about David and BURN is the openness and the conversation. I mean, all we have in this world are stories and one another. I’ve always loved it best here when photographers were participating in the conversation of their work, fielding questions and comments and maybe offering insight into their own compositions and songs and life. I guess, for me especially, who loves to talk to people and loves to ask questions, it only makes sense. I hope my long ramblings have been a joy to others and not too tedious ;)))…sending you big big hugs :))

  • DAVID! :)))))))))))

    NOTHING more important in this entire thread than what you’ve just written. That is what all people, photographers or barbers or otherwise, should remember. That is an entire life worth of learning in that one post.

    thank you so much for saying that, singing it out into the world!

  • CARLO :)))

    yes, i understand absolutely and agree, absolutely! Like I said, when I read a book or a sequence of poems or watch a movie, it is the internal logic and internal poetry that seems always to me to make sense of the bigger whole. that’s why I always re-watch films that I love or re-read books I love or look endlessly at photography books i love (David’s ‘based on a true story’, i’m sad to report is so dog-eared and bent at this point he’d probably kill me if he saw the state it is in , same is true with all the thinks i love best).

    Let me say a word about monotony. Actually, i think of things less about monotony than challenging it through repetition. Philip Glass, when asked about why his music is so repetitive to the point of monotony (same was asked of Michael Nyman), and he responsed that he uses repetition as a way to challenge and manifest and create ENDURANCE, to show ENDURANCE. THIS is absolutely true of why i do the same in all my work: long with repetition (including duplicates of same images in some of my projects) because the truth is that LIFE is always about negiotating repetition, routine, boredom. and also, this past autumn, I read David Foster Wallace’s novel Pale King which has as its goal the attempt to express boredom, repetition, routine as both an act of bravery and strength but moral probity. To NOT focus on what is always exciting but to focus on the prosaic, the continued the commonplace. This forced sense of monotany (where pictures look the same, where sequences resemble each other (this is much truer in the longer sequence of Loomings)) is part of the intent and gamble…my favorite filmmakers often do the same (what’s goddard if not repetitive, tarkovsky, bella tarr, haneke, fellini, etc) and yet each time it comes alive and aflight….

    and let me confess too :))…i think we each get bored with what we make and do. In fact, at this moment, i’ve been wrestling with a ridiculously long picture project (Wan Li) that I hope will have 1,000 pictures and you know with Loomings, one of the BEST things David Harvey did for me was to ask me to cut the long version down. this took about 3 days. I love the editing process (even though my work probably doesnt strike many as having been edited) and its in the editing process (which can produce a myriad of versions and meanings) that I start to figure out which version will work the best for me (thought there is never a perfect or right sequence and as with DAH’s b.o.a.t.s. the more variations the richer) at a given moment. When David asked me to cut down the longer version, it was thrilling and a great exercise and also educational (yes, we never stop learning) because part of i wanted to do was to see if I could cut it nearly in half would the meaning remain the same, would the music and repetition be intack, would it still make sense, still be long enough to ‘challenge’ the viewer without losing them…David was right…

    it provide a glorious exercise and one to which it made the experience not only more helpful but in the end, allowed me to fall in love again with not only Loomings but with the ideas and emotions and reasons why i made it in the first place…

    call that the cinema of life my friend :)))

    what elese do we need :))

    big hugs

  • Bob,

    Great examples, thanks for the insights!
    Agree with the boredom aspect of our lives…perhaps it’s also the fact that if things come easy we tend to discard them as trivial…unimportant….and what comes with hard work it’s to be treasured. But sometimes that is not the norm or lets say it does not always pan out that way. It’s not a rule. Sometimes things come easy and they are great..nothing wrong with that….and sometimes you put lots and lots of effort into something only to be rewarded with nothing…work wise that is….the lesson has been learned if you are wise and can see a lesson where no one will see anything…or worst…a waste of time.

    You speak about music…funny because often times when I see images I hear a soundtrack.
    In your work I hear many soundtracks colliding or actually in parts. SOme images have a more beautiful and serene track and some have a harsh sound to them.
    It reminds me of this:

    Lyrics below:

    You’re number eight. Your name is Jane, with black hair, braids, and black lines around your eyes… Shades to hide your habit. I don’t know your age, though you guessed mine… My sign. Your sign! The opening line is always just the same. The same intention, destination. You and me and rainbows.
    Loaded guns attract. We know the rules, we don’t react. We wait in hope, we don’t expect – You and me and rainbows.
    Down here everything is fine. We have a straw, we have a line. We have a bag, a rock, a mountain with a string of shepherds driving lions. Aiming skewers at the sheep… face down, asleep in onion fields. The frying fields. The worms… they peep through holes which once were eyes. They thrive… they bake although we painted out the sky and the sun. There’s only thunder, and you and me and rainbows.

    Let’s hide out in the lay-by, let the time fly by. Tonight’s disguise – a car crash with our wheels like shattered stars, our dashboard charred. Our windscreen… a graveyard for the flies (we’re fast!) The hungry flies are circling, mourning as the watchers squat with cameras, cakes and flasks. They’re spying, spitting as the blue light flashes, axes swing. We’re broken wings, but still we’ll fly and we’ll reach our destination – you and me and rainbows.

    And if we turn the lights down low and watch the sky cry through the window… Will I watch your fingers grow and stretch like butterflies? The shadows flexing, licking toes, and blinding as slowly sun sets on the same old hill. The same red glow. We’re quite alone – just you and me and rainbows.
    Everything I own is in the corner of your room. It’s covered with a sheet just like it died – but I will take a broom. I’ll sweep it new again, arrange it… Oh, I’ll grow a dozen hands. No I never will neglect my world again. I’m safe beneath my blanket. Call it home… For you. For me… and rainbows
    Loaded guns attract
    We know the rules, we don’t react
    We wait in hope
    We don’t expect
    Just you and me and rainbows
    Looking down

  • Just for the record…I’m not comparing your work to the references I have provided just now and in my previous posts….just that your work reminds me of certain things.
    Just to be clear.

  • David :)) Well, well said. When I think of photographers, I think of this kid. An open palm with an idea, or a photo, or a guinea pig sitting in it is, as Bob says, all we’ve got.

  • CARLOS :)))

    dont worry about comparing work or referencing the work to others or others mediums of expression. I do it all the time when looking at others work (be it photography or writing or music or theatre or film or anything, its are associative, sensoial selves, so I’m not at all bothered by that) as well as working on my own. I tend to be a referent kind of writer and photographer and in some sense most of my photographic and writen work is working off or in relationship to others whom I admire or were inspired by or even upset by (the original genesis, for example, of Loomings long ago was that I wanted to try to make a piece about landscape that was in opposition to the way most landscape photography, traditionally, has been done, though the transformation has taken it far afield of that original idea).

    Thank you so much for the music. Yes, I do understand the association, though I hope my voice, or timbre, is a bit gentler ;)). In fact, music is a big part of how i work with editing something, whether a poem or photographic piece. I write in silence, just as i photographic in silence (actually, when i’m shooting intensely, its impossile for me to talk during and for a long time after, and is why i almost never photograph with other photographers around or with groups). Once I’m in the photographing mode, it takes me along time (believe it or not) to actually use words adn others words (talking to me) becomes really painful and physically hurts. Same is true when i’m writing (poem or prose). Once i’m in that space, spoken language disappears and all i hear in my head are sounds and meaning and the internal language of prose or poetry. However, when i’m editing/revising, i’m always using music..and depending on the project or the intent of photographics, i’ll choose different kinds of music. Much of the way music works on me has an influence on both the sequence and the images i choose…then i’ll look in silence and see if the same physical sound of the sequence makes sense in my head….its never, the editing process, just about the good/bad pictures or good/bad sequence, etc….

    and yes, that thing about what makes something great has a strange relationship to time or effort. Some of the best things i’ve written came quick and easy and effortless and some of the best things i’ve done took a very long time and were difficult and frustrating and hard…and vice versa…its a strange alchemy and no real rule….all i try to be is open to what the possibility is…to be there when something comes fast and easy…but also patient enough when it dosnt work and needs time and thought and revision adn tossing away…jsut to be open to the muse or the effort…and now rules but to be open and aware and most willing…and most importantly enough, to be accepting of whatever process works at a given time and for a given work…there is no real book to that answer…that’s always a mystery…except to just be open, etc….

    as i wrote long ago, Fear is no match for acceptance…and i mean that in life as well as life…

    and i try to live that way now…jsut accept all and embrace what comes and what is lost and try to learn and love the totality of it all…

    thanks again, i’ve enjoyed our conversation…(but i must run now for the day )


  • YOUNG TOM :))))


  • Bob,

    Thanks for sharing all these “behind the scenes” sort of speaking and your working process….
    It’s the kind of stuff I find fascinating. Really…thank you for taking the time. I know you are always running and teaching and using a library computer. If that’s not dedication and love for what you do I don’t know what is!

    I have also deeply enjoyed our conversations here

  • DAVID! :)))))))))))

    “NOTHING more important in this entire thread than what you’ve just written.”


  • Bob, I’d love to have you visit my wonderful island.

  • BOB.

    If I were King of all the Alphabets I would launch pogroms against the adjectives and the adverbs.
    banish them to the isles of latinia and esperantonia.

    But I am not…..yet!!!

    Love the first picture.
    If you ever want to do a print trade I would love one of that.
    The essay is you. it has your signature all over it.
    No mistaking who created this piece.

    Saying that though,I do find most of it impenetrable, but then I am shallow and easily distracted.
    Happily so.
    Also ,unlike you, I am all about subjectively judging images. Dont care at all about what or who its about. It works or it doesn’t. its why i like the first image so much. I mean, the geometry is all wrong,its been burnt in with a blowtorch, the grain and contrast are right at the limit……..but its a great image.
    So Big Big congratulations, enjoy the moment and I will drink a large cognac in your honor.


  • CARLOS :))

    My pleasure. Just last night my friend Mark Davidson (to whom this series was also dedicated) and I had dinner and chatted. As I told him, part of what I love about BURN is the conversation and its just part of who I am to want to share (about work, about life) and if it can help another photographer (young or old) feel more compelled and hungry to sing the life of their own making, that it is worthwhile. I also am not terribly found of photographers who keep their work a secret (method, style, technique, thinking, etc) because we’re all in the same boat…so why not share. I never hoard or crave that kind of entitlement…so, like i said on Day 1, anyone interested in either the method or the way i work, can ask…and yea, i’m a bit stretched thin between running to teach and running to library computer, but it is all good…the ride has been terrific and i hope that i’ve been able to share not only my thinking and methods but a part of my life too….that’s all we have: abiding the sharing of things :)))

    GORDON :))

    Maybe next year. i plan on visiting BC ….make sure the fire is lit and wine is available :)))

    JOHN! :)))

    First of all, let me say that I hope you are well and that your health is strong again. I’ve thought of you often this year as I’ve dipped and climbed through my own stuff (life stuff) and just often think if you are ok. I do miss your firey and honest and wicked (lovely) voice and ideas….who is more frank then you….and thanks so much for the thoughtful and kind words. Yea, let’s talk later in the summer about a print swap :)…would be lovely, indeed!…and…i can nominate you king (as long as you dont too quickly execute your loyal servants and scribes…the old adj/adv madness, i plead guilty….something my high school teacher just to ruler-beat out of me…somehow that failed ;))…so, now i try sometimes to use adjectives as verbs (especially in poems)….who knows ;))….as for judging, that is totally cool :)))…we do that all, and just orient each of us differently…and, for good or ill, i guess i gave up long ago caring so much about individual pictures in hope that something else bubbles forth…some times it doees, sometimes it doesnt :)))….when i printed the 1st image in the darkroom a couple of years back, i printed like 10 versions using magenta filter and hand burning and all that shit…could never get it to look like i wanted, so i just let it come…the magenta filter was turned way up and some hand burns over the enlarger light (which you can see in the image, if you look close enough)…thumbprints too….ahhhh, the good old days…i’ll share some cognac with you this evening as well…sending you big hugs for your beautiful, subjective self :))



  • Tom Hyde,
    when I read your post, I knew the photograph before I clicked on the link: one of my favourites from William Albert Allard.

  • I wish I could bat this stuff out like Bob can. Most of the time I can’t get to the verb before thinking I should find a better noun.

  • First, a technical consideration: I’ve never seen the effect of souping Tri-X to the extent that the silver starts to droop and melt away. The lighter zones in many of these images have that scumbled look of Rembrandt and Titian’s white lead areas, lightly darkened with centuries old varnish. This is a new experience for me; it marries painting and photography directly which is highly exciting. The aesthetic joy of good brushwork in a photograph.

    Also, I notice the excessive souping “democratizes” and averages out the images Bob has taken in high light (which is a real bitch to do well), with lighting situations that are easier to manipulate in his other images. Already, just in the development of the negatives, Bob is introducing an editorial linearity into the essay. It was Bob who introduced me to the idea of “souping”, that is, leaving the negs in weak Rodinal for hours, maybe even overnight, in order to elevate the contrast. It’s an approach that requires patience, taking the discussion of digi vs. film to a different plane. Bob admitted sometimes he would just forget about the development…only to be remembered the next morning when he saw his cannisters in the bathroom, kitchen, or wherever he’d do his magic. Maybe it was one of those techniques accidentally stumbled upon, where the rules are forgotten about, the expectation of failure looms, and the discovery of a new way of seeing happens? It marries well Bob’s visual impairment, his letting-go of life’s vicissitudes, his patience and his genius for elliptical associations.

    If there is an obvious marriage of the photographer to his work, the photograph as mirror, as self, it is here in Loomings. We all pick and choose the masters of the past and present, from which we wish to emulate and imitate; Bob to me, travels the path of Van Gogh, Bacon, Moriyama and D’Agata. More of course (I’m self-editing…and forgetful); sufficient to say we all draw our own line of study and reverie. I think it has much to do with how those before us have dealt with the problems we face in our own work. Unlike the world of painting where at least until recently, there was a direct lineage of aesthetic problem-solving, photography seems to allow the individual the freedom to pick and choose past solutions tailored to their own problems contained within their character and personality. I like that in Loomings I can smell the trail Bob has travelled, the apples that he has plucked, the feast that he cooked. Yummy!

    Bob right at the top says he has dropped Looming some time ago, has changed in his wisdom and world-view, has matured. The idea that past work is just a stepping-stone for the present. It is my starting-point for final thoughts; lately I’ve been reading all I can about Vasari, considered to be the founding father of art history. In describing what separates bad art from the good, and good art from the great, Vasari’s final judgement rests on the notion of the artists “facilita”, the appearance (not the reality) of ease and spontaneity in the work. (It’s better expressed here: )I think of this when viewing the final, grudgingly-abridged edit of Loomings. We all know the ease in which Bob can go on and on…and on. I also know of his difficulty in the paring down, first by his own hand, and then later by outside forces, of this essay. I’m thrilled that he has embraced the editing of the editing fully. There has resulted a fine essay which has Vasari’s hallmark of greatness: a seemingly easy voyage to the horizon for us to enjoy, with a certain obliviousness to the sweat and equity it cost.

  • AKAKY :))))))

    hahahahahahahahahaha…..ummm, its the verbs by which i get tongue-tied…..thus, deflecting to the adjectives…i learned that from AKAKY IRL ;))…

    and you know when i’m writing (especially a poem), I hear my HS Adv Placement English teacher all the time: ‘bob, focus on the verbs, not the filler stuff already!’…damn, did she ever have me pegged…

  • JEFF!!!! :))))

    First of all, let me just say once again THANK YOU so much for your thoughtful and generous comment. Especially happy that you shared a link to Vasari (talking about him would entire an entire new thread, which I’d love to jump in on, maybe later in the day!!). I’m also very happy you’ve shared our chats about souping. Maybe it’ll be helpful to give some more prosaic background about this too :))

    When I lived in Florida and was just starting to make photographs and learn about the entire process of what it meant to use learn the craft, I tried to talk with everyone I could and learn from whatever resource I had. At the time, I lived on a small island on the SW coast of Florida and most of the film processing outfits I found where just small labs that developed folks travel and family snaps. Eventually, I found a professional photographer who shot weddings and also had his own lab. I chatted with him about film and specifically how film is developed and how to accomplish what with film. This was coupled by reading reading. At the time, I was still trying to figure out the camera, and he was trying to figure out what I shot and how i shot. For example, he never understood why i often liked to shoot into direct sunlight (hahahahahah, he once said, ‘you know you are not supposed to do that you know’). This was more intense because the sunlight in SW florida was intense intense and actually, i think i learned the most about how to use and abuse light by being able to shoot in such dramatic and film-killing tropical light (during the height of the day)…later, when I came to Toronto, M and I met a russian phootographer who knew everything about the technical side of photography, including printing and negative development. We started to develop our own negatives (yep, with Rodinal) and tried at first to do it the ‘right’ way but than somethings intervened: life. Once I was letting some negs sit and i got distracted from the timer and actually forgot there was a canister sitting in the kitchen..(i was watching a film)…and um…yea, the rest was history…i then tried to see different times for pushing…and sometimes for just cooking the whole film, where the silver was just mush…i also had read what Akaki had done with his own negatives in the early 60’s and was fascinated…and, as with what i tried to do in camera, during the moment, i was interested in pushing the boundary of acceptability…not only to the viewer, but primarily to myself…what could i do, to destroy it, and still love it…or feel inspired by it…

    I should the russian photographer my negs and he was horrified. he said, if i wanted high contrast, i could do this in darkroom and with magenta filters but that the denser my negative, the more difficult it would be to make prints (he was right, of course) but i didnt care…i like the break down and the texture….and over time, i just learned how to use light and camera without thinking, knowing what would became an extension of my body…just as i know what push +3 +4 will do (when developing film) will do…more or less….it began as an accident, but an accident with an intent….i was willing to sacrifice good pictures, or good negatives to see what I could learn…maybe that is part of what I’ve always tried to tell others…be willing to lose in the service of learning and experiencing and opening new paths…

    as for influences…i was once asked about my ‘style’…something i hate. i’m not sure i have a style. yea, of course, the pics look like d’agata or ackerman or moriayama or giacomelli or peterson or whoever, but i never thought of that…i always thought more about franz kline paintings…and i was kind of doing this before i discovered them and actually for a long time i was depressed when i saw moriayma, ackerman, d’agata etc…i thought, fuck, they’re famous and now what do i do (like a silly guy, i had thought i had my own vision/technique, hhahahahahahahahahahah), but that lapsed…cause i thought my work was closer to drawing and to poems and to calligraphy (even more now, as people will see whenever i finish Wan Li)…style and outward appearance is like a language and we all share similar languages….no one owns ‘style’ or technique…only the story matters or rather the service of a technique in the aid and abetting of what they wish to say or express….

    in the end, all my work will be about something simple, i’m afraid: and that is how one guy spent his life trying to deal with blindness and how that served to reconcile himself to loss and love and all that seeing, and disappearance, and acceptance means….

    all i learned as a kid…and just acquired the tools by living and listening and trying…

    thanks so much for your wonderful descriptions…

    I’ll write more later today

    big hugs…hope to see you soon Jeff :)

  • JEFF:

    oh, and a word about the ‘democratization’ of the images. I’ve written about that extensively above (and you and I have spoken about that as well), but you are correct. Part of the notion that I’ve struggled with (and seems antithetical or heretical even) is the hierarchy of ‘good/quality’ when it comes to both assessing and organizing pictures. Yes, of course, there are some pictures that I feel a stronger affinity toward or love more or accomplish more of what I’d hope (same, of course, is true when i look at anyone else’s pictures) but when I put together a piece, I really want there to be an equality, or rather, a societal equality in terms of how pictures play and perform off one another. Can the ‘weak’ pictures contribute in the same way ‘stronger’ ones contribute.In a poem, this is often achieved (in least how i write) by positioning strong, lyrical or even large words (words with depth and breath and multiplicity of meaning) with simple or prosaic words. I’ve always love that dissonance and how big and small words play off each other in both sound and meaning (multisyllabic with monosyllabic for example) and how that contributes to the over-all power of a poem….

    the same is true with pictures and this can be accomplished in a number of ways (for example in Loomings there is a dance between White pictures and Black pictures (in feeling, in aesthetic in light, etc) as well as what well may be ‘strong’ pictures with lesser or more prosaic ones. This was intended…jsut as i like to have techniques work toward equating pics…as you so wonderfully articulated…

    anyway, must run to an important school meeting…more later…

  • In the words of lightstalking Bob Black “breathing…the aperature of breath: swelling, exhaling life….”

  • BOB…

    wonderful to see your work here (again) with it’s unmistakable slow dark syrupy presence…
    what i like most about your work is that slow question that fizzes and bubbles. anything but instant, these images make me think, trying to unravel the mysterious. Did i manage to decipher? Nope! does that matter? Nope : ) of course not, it’s the process and the journey, the engagement that i thoroughly enjoyed. Whenever pictures become poems i am hooked. So massive thanks Bob for doing it and putting it out there. Congrats! Well done! hope we get to meet sometime and share that bottle of red and some good times…
    cheers, Sam

  • slow dark syrupy presence… hmmmm… also light & bright… what i’m trying to say is not ‘dark’ i.e not negative – sure you know what i mean : )

  • i so wanted to say something smart and crisp, brilliant.
    so mr black can say something to me personally.
    but as i wade through possibly the longest burn essay DAH has allowed here
    i dont even struggle why i somehow understand what my eyes feel like they cannot
    i realized it’s 2 am and now i feel like i must go back to bed and dream.

  • Bob it is one of those things that …… but probably won’t so I will read about it

  • Bob…

    Do you think you would of been able to create this essay/story in colour? I don’t mean in a technical sense but how colour isn’t as abstract.

  • how colour isn’t as abstract

    I suspect Rothko, Pollack, and just about every other artist hanging in a modern art museum would beg to differ.

  • IMANTS :))))…

    thanks young man!!…you know, I’d trade my entire archive for that cottage of yours and a lightstalking peak at that Tasmanian sea ofyours…that’s breathing life :))))….big hugs

    SAM! :)))

    First of all, a big congratulations to you for the past year and for the great and deserved awards and accolades that your Family book has received! You know how much I love that book and series and yes, I cant wait to sit down with wine and a chat and hope to get my mitts on it in the flesh!…and thanks so much for your generous and kind words. Yes, syrup indeed…and yes i totally understand. I never think of this work (or any of my work) as ‘negative’ at all…yes, often dark but often light-filled…sad for sure at times, but i think in the end accepting…and you know often times its just impossible to penetrate anything (which used to frustrate me) about life, experiences, others, meaning of things, until i realized that what matter was the small details of life, of living of language of another person, of the life around and yea, even of art…and in the attend just the countenance and the accepting…not necessarily to explain or ever fully unveil but to shape and shift within the acceptance of all that…sometimes is just wonderful to wander around the house at night, sockless, without light and to feel the rooms and the earth and the world tilting below, without necessary penetrating why or explaining why it moves you so…and that’s mostly how i increasingly feel…..thanks so much Sam! :))

  • GRACiE! :)))))

    but my dear you have already said something “smart and crisp, brilliant” already here (and many many times before. let me just quote you: “i dont even struggle why i somehow understand what my eyes feel like they cannot”….maybe that is the way through the dark wood of life…or rather, that is how I have come to understand that…maybe that is what Dante meant all the time when he finally met Beatrice in Paradiso, isn’t it…and of course, above all else perhaps, the chance to dream….just having your voice is crisp enough…thank you so much Gracie…and btw, please, Bob…not Mr. Black…i’m not THAT old ;)))

    IMANTS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! :))))))…yup yup yup…love it…thanks mate!


    Interesting question. First, no I could NOT have made THIS essay (or any of my other Black & White work) in color. First of all, as I wrote in the long statement, I dont so much treat color as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography. I was once horrified when Martin Parr spoke of photographers who use b/w now as being, umm, disingenuous (and i LOVE PARR). Parr suggested that photographers (or he seemed to be suggesting) who work in B/W were trapped in a kind of nostalgia and he wanted to show the world (for the future) what the world looked like to those who were look back. Actually, I found this not only odd (photographic color is a lie just as b/w) but also just as disingenuous. All photography is interpretive and a bit dictatorial. It is an expression of the picture maker, above all else and in many ways it makes no difference (in terms of its ability to show or reflect or ruminate upon the world) whether pictures are in color or b&w. The 2 media serve different purposes and conjure different responses (including responses in the brain) and both acquire and reflect very different experiences, at least on a superficial level. As I wrote, I use b/w (for the most part) for dietary reasons and not at all because b/w is more ‘classical’ or more ‘iconic’ but because i wish to see HOW MUCH i can ring from the tools of just that spectrum. the use of b/w is also very much related to my love of ink and drawing and calligraphy. If you ever look at calligraphy done with red ink (at least for me) it looks odd and just feels odd and not as powerful as black ink. A bit of red or green ink can in fact evoke, especially in small amounts or strokes, but doesnt seem to have the same visceral and emotional experience. I have the same experiences when I’m looking at, say, Franz Kline’s paintings…or Zhang Huan’s ash paintings or sculptures. That extraordinary simplicity and muted focus just becomes and extraordinarily physical response….

    all that being said, I have always been overwhelmed by color in painting and those who rung color the most sublimely have always been my favorite painters and the ones to whom I return again and again and again to: Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Matisse (who i prefer to picasso), Schiele, Rothko, Diebenkorn etc etc etc…in fact, 2 years ago the MOMA had a towering show of Abstract Expressionism, which later came to Toronto, and once again, it was Rothko who tore out my heart. Pollack was like Kline (and not a colorist, though he used color, just as picasso wasnt a colorist) and I love some of his paintings (and of course above all his physical, earthy technique) but it was the early work of Rothko and his later towering colorfields that have always lit my head electric. The same is true with color photography….but…

    I still havent yet figure out how I want to use color. I dont SEE color at all in Toronto and most importantly I dont FEEL color here. The first time I felt color again was when I was in Nova Scotia, during the Wolf Hour…and of course in the south of Spain and South of France…and I’m still working through that in my head. When I used a digital camera for those 2 years in 98-99, i used only color (obviously) and i never converted the files to b/w (i actually hate when photographers do this, maybe that’s why i’ve stuck with film for so long) but i used color in those images more in a painterly way, as strokes and geometric form rather than as properties of light. I am actually interested very much in trying to become a color photographer as well. There are a few photographers (to me) who have made extraordinary work in one or the other but they’re rare. The choice of b/w or color, generally, seems to come from an orientation toward light or toward more abstract elements….I kind of feel how Roger Ballen feels about color, which is feels is a lie. Photographic color, generally, doesnt look anything like color and light in life and that is what interests me actually about it and exploring it…i just must figure out how…because with b/w, especially with trix, part of the point of the gesture is contained in how silver reacts to chemistry and what that grain does on the negative….color is less textual but more voluminous and i am interested in that…but i have far to go before i get there…

    LOOMINGS, or any of my older work, or even the new Wan Li, seems impossible in color because of what is doing of how it suggests. Although, i will say there will be color images in Wan Li (not many, but a couple) and those images at this point have less to do with photography, as a craft, then with suggestion about something else (my eye)….and so, if Loomings had been shot with color film, it wouldnt look the same (including the actually subjects/framing/light determinations) but most importantly, it wouldnt feel the same….it would be something else entirely….

    and most importantly, i dont know how to shoot the sea in color yet…unless it’s like a Rothkoesque muted color….and for that, i need specific light and specific color (greens, turgoise, vermillions) and there have been only a few bodies of water which i thought (i’d shoot this in color)…the sea for me is black or white or gray…looming…like a person’s body…a person’s body for me is always in black and white….their mind and heart in color….and that is what differentiates it…

    btw, color IS ABSTRACT….maybe even more abstract, to me, than black and white…and that intrigues me and haunts me too….

    we shall see how long

    Loomings is about PHYSICALITY…the physicality of land and sea and sky and the physicality of love and the physicality of loved ones and the physicality of loss…

    and since I feel physicality not in color, LOOMINGS could not be in color….

    now when i want to make a project about light (actual light) and about the future, that will be in color for sure…

  • All of this commenting on Bob’s out of focus pictures is all very well and good, but what I really want to know is who decided that this Punksareusanytakers Phil was the groundhog of all groundhogs, the one true meteorological rodent before whom we must all bow down? What was it about this particular woodchuck that made him and not, say, the woodchuck who is even now undermining the foundation of my garage, the go to rodent in weather forecasting? And how do we know that Phil is on the up and up? How do we know that powerful skiing interests and the sellers of snowmobiles have not entered into a secret cabal to extend winter in order to maximize their profits? How do we know that this oversized rat’s predictions of an early spring are just red herrings to allay the public’s suspicions, a way of hiding the fact that there are dark corporate forces at work behind the scenes here? What’s in weather forecasting for Phil? Inquiring minds want to know, dammit!

  • typo when i wrote

    “I dont so much treat color as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography.”

    i meant

    I dont so much treat b/w as nostalgia or a classical framework/tradition in photography as i do a dietary exercise ….and what i was suggesting about Parr’s frustration (or so he seemed to be expressing) with contemporary photographers using b/w, what I was surprised that he hadnt realized that choice of b/w or color isnt only about versimilitude…or for documentation……actually, modern digital color looks and feels much less than life than kodachrome, for example, but i love how people use heightend keys with color for all manner of reason….

    the ONLY question is seems to me a photographer or viewer should ask is the most simple: does it work, does it feel/think right…does it adhere to its own nature….the other questions (b/w vs. color, film vs. digital, big cameras vs phones etc) seem just schoolbook grammar exercises….nothing more…interesting to think about (and i think about them alot actually) but in the end it is about what is organic in a project and in a photographers way of living and expressing what they wish to express with whatever tool or style or technique that seems to make sense….

    someday color, i hope i can make it sing in different ways as well…

    ok, must run…library is kicking me off…

  • AKAKY:

    how to we know it isnt all a right-wing conspiracy…i mean, we know how the right loves to obfuscate and distract ;))))))….

    btw, here in toronto it is frigid and gray, so a good day for your beloved PHil:

  • Bob – Thanks for the thoughts. I have taken your advice and have greatly been enjoying Hawaii. It is Saturday, my now normal day for dropping into Burn. I knew Loomings would still be dominating the discussion.

    John, I too hope you are doing well.

    See you all next Saturday when, instead of Hawaii, I will dropping in from the Arctic.

  • BOB

    Thank you! I think you just made me able to dream again, for a couple of breaths’ time.

  • Bob, I know it isn’t a right wing conspiracy because I am a dues-paying member of the vast right wing conspiracy and have been for years, and the lemon danish at the meetings of said vast right wing conspiracy is still the same old stale stuff you can get in bulk from Sam’s Club. You know something’s up when you get fresh danish at the meetings and there’s been no fresh danish for at least a year and a half now.

  • “ Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel certain that they mean something else. ”
    — Oscar Wilde

  • a civilian-mass audience

    aha…where are you KATIEEE and SPACECOWBOY and DAVIDB…and ALL MY BURNIANS…?
    our BOBBY delivered …” Loomings..”!!!

    I am bringing ouzo and olives and hell,yah…I am singing…

    What not to love
    what not to love

    running …hihiii
    like BOB BLACK!

  • Slow, dark syrupy presence, shit, I wish I’d said that. So right on.

  • Bob, your thoughts on black and white vs colour resonate deeply with me. Like you, I also draw, in black and white only. I love line, I love pure graphics, I think I understand.
    Colour is a whole other dimension. I do not draw or paint in colour. On facebook, most recently, I have posted two images of Martha, one in black and white, and a similar image in colour. I’m not sure which one is closer to “reality”, or to what I was trying to say. I like them both. I’m trying to puzzle out why.

    Of course it’s a pointless discussion I’m sure. One is not better than the other, but the syntax and the experience of viewing either one is different.

    Your view of the world Bob, as a one-eyed visually impaired person is surely different than most people’s . I assume I’m seeing that in your photographs. In your photos I see simple graphics, big forms, movement, a nuance not usually experience by us normally sighted people. Clearly this is your gift to us. To point out what is obvious, but is usually obscured by detail and complexity.

    Looking forward to hosting you here on Vancouver Island.


    this has been one of the most interesting discussions yet on Burn in terms of getting to the seed of “what makes Johnny run”…….i thank Bob for, not surprisingly, jumping in and really giving us all some insight into his thinking and reasoning process…never presenting himself to have empirical knowledge, yet simply telling it like he sees it…again, Bob IS the way he writes, the way he photographs, the way he lives…

    as Bob has so eloquently pointed out, it does not matter how you get there, as long as you get there…to strike a chord in the human experience that goes beyond the utilitarian use of our craft, our art…clearly Bob appreciates many styles/approaches/methods, yet only does his thing…we can really only do a few things, or maybe only one thing really well, yet all of us can surely do our one thing better if we soak up the blood , sweat, and tears of those who do other things…

    the human animal is limited basic survival terms one man is a better hunter, another is better at building a fire, and another is better at cooking the meat..once everyone is well fed, and a roof is over our heads, and we are warm and safe, then art comes in…art is the ultimate fulfillment beyond pure survival…the ultimate symbols for all societies once food, shelter, clothing and territory have been attained by gut instinct, and war, and all of the other positive and negative aspects of human nature, then it is time to build the opera house…

    does this make art a luxury? well sort of…it surely makes it the last thing in the chain of human experience after all else has been attained….however, even in military combat, during bombing runs etc., works of art are generally spared…not targeted…there must be a real need..a real appreciation beyond governments, beyond war, beyond politics….after all a brilliant stone sculpture is still only a piece of rock chiseled by a man into a specific form…to what purpose? to what end?

    we need i think more than anything to be fulfilled by what is not utilitarian….poetry, music, films, literature, painting, sculpture, and yes photography all serve to fulfill this “need”…for us to rise above the nitty gritty of pure survival….perhaps our ultimate purpose….after all, in the end, it is only art that survives….

    ok, sure, this is only one essay by one man…yet the exponential effect will reach many…no, not because of the number of times it will be seen, not by the circulation of the magazine, or number of books sold etc., but by the way that it will affect others to do their own thing…the passing of an idea, a thought, a philosophy, is i think the most important thing one can do with their life…to do something, and then tell others how you did it in its most basic incarnation…..again, simply sharing….

    Bob Black is one giving dude…with a small spark comes fire….and with a good fire going, we all gather…

    cheers, david

  • Well done, BB, and nicely said, DAH. (Minor minor minor) note, DAH, I think you meant art is the ultimate achievement? Penultimate meaning, I believe, next to last? In any case we get your drift. And while you and bob shoot and write, I will go back to the cave and “tidy up.”

  • Literature is news that stays news, which applies to all the arts, I think, and is true even if the coiner of the phrase, Ezra Pound, was a traitorous fascist looney tune who should have been hanged after the war.

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