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Have you noticed how you can use beauty up?
Remember the song that thrilled you? The lusty photo spread that made you, um, twitch? Do you recall the movie, book, sunrise, vista - even the thought or idea: the things that made you go, "Whoa!' when they first happened to you? Then as you returned, gradually wore off? Think of that glorious sunset over the mountains with the mists cutting the air and a bird lazily twirling against majestic clouds. Think of the explosive color palette, and the shapes and shadows at play against one another. And yes, you can recall that picture. In fact it looks so much like a picture, a photograph in your mind, that the difference between reality and pictures fade. And the pictures, so easily accessed from your memories are actually clichés. Almost... almost... corny.
See, we use beauty up. Like some sort of drug, we need novel new injections to keep going, "Whoa!" But even if the new injections are magnificent, they have to be increasingly novel,different. If not, we feel nothing, or less and less. I guess that's programmed into us to keep us striving, eh? Searching for the new? Of course the new needn't be better. Photography's been going through a dirty cigarette butt period in our great museums. Running out of sufficiently novel beauty, curators settled upon the ugly as an alternative way to coax out a "Whoa!"
It used to be that technique alone would lead to images that demonstrated such virtuosity that people would be continually impressed. But now technical perfection comes with the camera. If you can point them, you can create pictures sharp enough to cut leather - with more contrast than a day in the life of Britney Spears.
So increasingly, instead of the repeated spectacle,many photographers who are still searching for awe in beauty are hunting for the little shot. The nice, elegant moment to reflect the human condition. They're looking for warm patterns, satisfying shapes, and comforting compositions. Scenes that just maybe show two men who oddly mirror one another in a walk through a warm park on a fall day. Compositions which perhaps balance the fragility of life and light against the massiviness of history. They're replacing the "Whoa!" for an "Uh-Huh" of identification with a moment in the viewer's mind that's simultaneously identifiable and comfortable.
Given everything going on in the average life, comfortable... now that's a nice place to be, huh?