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eye strain, lately

I was embarrassed in Grad School to admit that I didn’t really like looking at much photography, the area of concentration for my MFA.  Many of my peers and professors, though, had to know about everybody, see as much as they could, like in the early 70’s when one had to know the names and albums of even the most obscure bands to keep up, to be hip. I kept up with some photographers whose work I liked but I really just wanted to concentrate on making my own work.

When I started teaching photo, I did have to study trends, examine historical and contemporary work, and be able to speak cogently about it to students. The last few years were exhausting, because of the massive quantity of digital work online. There were times I found something I really liked, smart work or work with heart and genuine conviction. But most of the time I was indifferent to what I saw.

I feel the same now, of photography, fiction, and music. There are occasional pieces that stir me but not many. I am even more selective in what I care to look at, now that I have left teaching. The volume of mediocre images is mind boggling. Most of it is blah: emotionless, diffident, nonpartisan. Does it matter to me that some win critical acclaim despite their shallowness? No. Almost every day I receive emails from galleries and online magazines showing work that has no meaning for me at all. I look away, like I do from anything on television (besides the Weather Channel), because it bores me to death.

Am I a cultural snob? Maybe. If I read the first paragraph of a book and the words do not hit me like hail, I drop it on the hard wood floor, thumping it, allowing the pages to fold over awkwardly, punishing it for wasting my time. Music doesn’t get much better treatment, a few bars and off it goes. Photographic works gets less than one second. Say something or don’t bother me.

I am about to start a new project tomorrow and I am very nervous, feeling I need to screw up the courage to start. I have not shot in the US in a long time. How will I relate to my fellow Americans, when I am so isolated here, so unconnected to my own culture? We shall see. I cannot put it off any longer. I must get to work. It would be unhealthy to do otherwise.

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now i remember

As hubby and I settled in to watch Downton Abbey last night, I immediately remembered what I had intended to say. The opening scene in the credits is of a dog’s butt. Wagging tail but a definite butt. It seemed such an odd image to start such a visually opulent series. I said something to my husband and he dryly replied that it must be a nod to the American audience. If that is true, I don’t mind at all. I love every scene that Isis, the dog, trots through. And, as much as I am amused by hubby’s conjecture, I doubt that is it. There must be something more.

Could it be that the dog is a metaphor for the faithful and subservient relationship between poor employee and rich employer? In looking for a picture to attach, I find quite a few others on Google have asked the same question. Even Hugh Bonneville, the lead actor whose name appears with the dog butt, has spoken with dismay about the pairing.

 Isis

After all, using a servant to walk with the owner of the Abbey would hardly be believable or as funny. Yes, I believe I understand the reason now and it satisfies me. And, it relates to something I have felt.

As a teacher in America, I am always reminded that I am replaceable, disposable, menial. That is not the message from my students. They have made me feel valuable or, in some cases, loved. I still keep in touch with a group of students in South America when I first started sharing what I had learned with passion. That was 1979. The implication that teachers are minions comes from Admin. Upstairs, Downstairs. The curious part of it is that faculty are the most devoted members of the educational community. Admin and students come and go, but, at least where I teach, the faculty are the core, the vital nucleus of learning. In the classroom, bright minds on both sides of the desk collide and create brilliant sparks.

I apologize for not allowing comments on the blog itself. Posts by some readers on other blogs have convinced me that I would rather leave it as is. But WordPress has cleverly allowed readers to comment privately. That is always welcome.

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