Archive for October, 2010

Frank Gohlke at the SF Art Institute

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Last night, Frank Gohlke gave a lecture in San Francisco, and I quite nearly missed it, since it wasn’t mentioned in any of the local events lists I (barely) follow — fortunately, I saw it in a post on Mary Virginia Swanson’s blog the day before. I would have been seriously annoyed at myself if I’d missed it.

Most of the lecture actually consisted of readings from Thoughts On Landscape, so I won’t attempt to reproduce any of it here. (Especially since I’ve quoted it extensively here, on my tumblr, and on 1/125.) I’ll just say that if you are even slightly interested in photography, and you have read _Thoughts On Landscape_, you need to get on that, prompt-like.

Afterward, there was a question and answer period, and I did take some notes for that. I tried to be as accurate as possible, but I’m not much of a stenographer, so please forgive me if some of this is imperfectly recorded. I’m also not going to elaborate or provide much in the way of interpretation or response, since I just want to get this posted, for the moment:

On choosing where to go when making a trip, Gohlke said that he always avoids going to places that qualify as “destinations,” saying, “Too much is decided for you in destinations; what can you do but affirm it?”

Describing his feelings about photography after he first turned to it as an alternative to his graduate studies in English, Gohlke said, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I never want to do anything else. Why didn’t anyone tell me.”

Gohlke also talked about how one can explain what it is to photograph, especially with regard to relating the photographer’s work to the painter’s work, and whether or not one “just takes takes pictures”:

> You don’t just take photographs. You live, and you photograph. And the closer those things come to being the same, the better, and the better you’ll work.

He expanded on this by pointing out that much of the work of photography is done without a camera — that it is about everything else the photographer experiences, and digests, and can then bring to the practice of photography.

Maybe my favorite part of the evening was an exchange in which Gohlke said that he makes “literary photographs,” and someone in the audience asked, “Why literary,” to which Gohlke replied, “Because they require reading.”

Gohlke also talked about the importance — both in writing and in photography — of not caring about how people will perceive your work, and how this is something that tends to get easier with age. (Which is heartening.)