Bull Moose and reflection photo, Denali National Park, Alaska.

Bull Moose and reflection, Denali National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

It’s WAY too late for me here in Anchorage – I just walked in a little while ago from this little blues bar, called Blue Central. They have an open mic night every sunday, and I was fortunate to get to play this evening for an hour or more – nice finish to my week.It was tons of fun, and the folks I played with did a bunch of different styles of music, so it was interesting. There’s nothing quite like sitting in with people you’ve never met before, and making music together. It’s all the more fun when they start playing tunes you have no idea what they are, how they go, what key they’re in, or anything else. You just have to listen closely.

It struck me how different the art of making music is from photography. Photography in no way is such an experience – the process is slower, and less about creating, in my opinion, than playing music is. Taking a photograph of something, of anything, is simply a different process – it’s still really cool, and I know some amazing and creative photographers, but it’s a whole different gig. And I don’t think I’ve ever been able to share an experience with another photographer that can come close to playing music together with other people. I’ve certainly had a blast shooting together with good friends of mine – I have some fantastic memories of that, and I treasure the experiences – but it’s more akin to hanging out and having a good time with friends than playing music together is. It’s difficult to articulate, but there’s a mystique and an energy that comes out of making music together that simply doesn’t happen when I’m photographing, whether shooting with people, or working together on an image – it certainly doesn’t lend itself to a collective process, and when it does, that experience is invairbaly more cognitive than emotive, more cerebral than experiential.

On the other hand, often when I’m playing or writing music by myself, I get lost in the process, and this I do tend to experience something similar when I’m working on photography. But still something is missing – I think because it inherently relies on a subject, some ‘other’ some external “thing” to photograph. Music, I can simply make when I brush a string, or when I sing – though I’m probably the world’s second worst singer (after my older brother), so I don’t do that too much. I don’t need some subject in front of me to photograph. I think these are a few of the reasons why so many folks in the “art world” look upon photography as some kind of step-sister of “real art” . painting, writing, music, dance, etc.

All of this is somewhat moot – I still love shooting images, and I enjoy looking them over when I get them back. I even, sometimes, enjoy working on them on my computer. But it’ll never be the same as picking up my guitar and wondering what’s about to come out. I’m already looking forward to next sunday, I think I’ll head back over and play some more. Long live the blues.

Oh, regarding the image ..just something I picked out to continue my little memory lane jaunt from Denali. This is the same moose that I posted a photo of the other day.



PS – More Denali National Park Photos.

More Moose Photos.

2 thoughts on “Bull Moose and reflection photo, Denali National Park, Alaska.

  1. Mark

    Wow, that must be a lot of fun Carl (ie. the blues gig). I hope that someday I will be able to do that. Working my way through a Blues instructional DVD now and have already learned a bit more than my old instructor was able to show me.

    I can see how the experience is very different from creating images. Photography can be such a solitary effort. I wonder what it would be like to have one HUGE viewfinder that saw 3 or 4 people could look through. They could all then make adjustments to composition, react to each others’ adjustments, etc. I suppose only in that way could it be like the experience of playing music with others.

    We will jam together someday somewhere up there in Alaska! Just not anytime soon.. 😉

  2. Carl Donohue

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the post man.

    Yeah, it was tons of fun. I haven’t gone out to jam sessions in forever, I’ve been playing gigs where I don’t quite have the freedom to play as I want – typical of most working musicians, I guess. So it’s really nice to be in a situation where those kinds of things aren’t there, and ya just play .. kind of like shooting what you want versus doing a wedding shoot, I presume.

    That’s cool you’re working through the DVD – I have seen a few of those, when I was teaching full-time, and some are really well done.

    I think even the large viewfinder thing wouldn’t be the same – because the composition is sporadic – in music its simultaneous (except for classical, for example, where a group of players performs, note-for-note, the original score. In improvised music, it happens simultaneously, and it you don’t make suggestions to the other person with what to play – well, not verbally, anyway. What I play might influence what another musician is about to play, but tyipcally he or she just reacts, they don’t ask “oh cool, should I do this?” or “how about if I do this?”.

    Really, I think the difference is the performance. Composing music can be like creating and composing an image. But in music there’s this “thing” which is the performance. In photography, that is entirely not there. We push a button (My Georgia friends would say ‘mash a button’). With music, we ‘play’ – a word central to all art, I think. Audience members enjoy the the playing, nt just a recorded performance. In photography, and say, painting, or writing, audience members can only enjoy the end product, not the moment of the creation. I think that’s really different.

    On a side note, when I teach, I almost NEVER use the word ‘practice’ for students .. I suggest to them to go home and ‘play their guitar’. I find it has a huge difference on the way they spend their time with the instrument.

    I wouldn’t hurry up here right now – it’s cold. Folks tell me it’s gunna get even colder, but I don’t know whether to believe them or not. 🙂 Come on up in the summer, we’ll play some tunes, make some photos, and look for wolves. 🙂



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