Darkness Cannot Surround Creativity

By: pbcmedia

Oct 13 2009

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: ART IS WHERE YOU FIND IT, Creativity


Focal Length:100mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D

Visit the  Lens Blog of the New York Times today which features a photographer, Brenda Ann Kenneally.  Her photos are called, ” Upstate Girls”.

It demonstrates the power of one’s own creativity when darkness creeps into our room and takes over.  In this artist, it is about demonstrating what human beings look like in a black hole from which no light escapes.  It reminds me, and perhaps other creative souls who visit this blog, that the impulse to create is not first about aesthetic beauty but, simply, putting a light on.

A single unshaded light bulb hanging from the ceiling with a chain is all we need find.

It’s about our hands trying to find that chain, our fingers waving in a line hoping to grasp it.  Creativity is the gift of knowing it is there even if we must struggle to find it.  But, finally, creativity is about finding and pulling that chain, (releasing that shutter, painting that single brush stroke, writing that one sentence) and telling the truth as only we know it.

It is a reminder I needed this rainy, gray morning for all sorts of reasons.

Perhaps, you may need this reminder, too?

©Pat Coakley 2009


9 comments on “Darkness Cannot Surround Creativity”

  1. I think if you’re a creative person, the creativity will find its own way out no matter what. I don’t think that all people are creative on the same level. For some, their ideas never leave their minds and manifest themselves in the material world, while others just pump stuff out like sausages. To be honest, I really don’t think “creativity” is something that can be turned on and off like a tap. Sure, you can whip it or goad it into action but the end product will show that it was forced.

    I have mixed feelings about Brenda Ann Kenneally’s photos. On one hand I think that it good to see the old “LIFE” magazine style of photo essay (one of my favourite styles) is still alive and I also feel that the underside of society needs to have some light shone on it so we all don’t feel so self satisfied.

    The trouble I have with Brenda’s photos is that they enable the voyeuristic to have a vicarious experience of society’s underclass without getting their hands dirty much like Diane Arbus’s work. Are such photographs social documents or a type of infotainment/porn along the lines of Law & Order SVU? A product that is consumed by grunge junkies.

    I also have to ask, do such photographs benefit their subjects. To have a photo taken of oneself in dire circumstances can label a person for the rest of their lives as either loser or victim.

    Does a photograph record such situations for the greater good or just reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate them?

  2. You know, Razz, you bring up so many interesting issues related to all of art and life, as well. I was not struck by this artist’s photographs in the same way as Arbus, although I see why you might. With Arbus, I was conscious of being directed to the grotesque quite deliberately and straight forwardly. With this photographer, I feel directed to the overwhelming and the overwhelmed and the truth of it. With that reaction within me, I can only feel its existence is for the greater good.

    But, what I love about the world of art is that one body of work, or piece of work, can provoke such discussions.

    This would be a lively one I think if were across the table from one another!!

  3. Such a difficult subject. I like the image of creativity shining a light into the darkness. Repressing our creative spirit is a way of turning away and refusing to take the time to see. So many have been trained to do just that, it sometimes take conscious energy to overcome that indoctrination. These photos shine a light into a dark corner and force us to look. Perhaps that is the socially redeeming value that makes the invasion of the subjects’privacy worthwhile. Beyond mere living circumstances, it is the deadness and lack of light in the eyes that strikes me as the tragedy the artist is revealing for us.

    • Oh, Don, indeed. The lack of light in the eyes struck me also. I also feel sure that the lighting was often from naked light bulb as well. I know what Razz means about creativity coming out one way or another but when creativity is primarily a survival skill and emerges from chaos, it often depends on chance of some sort, not at all inevitable, and can also be sparked by self destructive creativity as well.

  4. wow pat this brings to the forefront so much to ponder. perhaps art is finding civilization, or it finds itself through civilization. but to the artist i think it is as necessary as breathing. now sometimes one may be climbing a steep pass and so the breathing is labored, it happens, but there is not a moment in that process where awareness turns away from truth. we have our work cut out for us too, where lack of light as don said is a given. and there is the adage about the amazing amount of light just one candle in the dark can give. just one can illuminate and rerender any dark night of the soul too.

    • There is so much to consider here, Kathi. I just read many of the comments left on Lens Blog and it has sparked many comments of differing opinion. I like the the thought that there is not a moment in the process where awareness turns away from the truth but I think even with the artist (as well as the viewer) there is a resistance when there is so much pain involved with the truth.

  5. well yes there is a distance from the subject somehow implied by composition in some of the photos. perhaps a way of admitting the resistance while seeing. the images are unrelenting in a way and yet there is a kind of shyness surrounding the capture. that is sometimes seen in the stylization and color. in there somewhere is the pain of that vision maybe

  6. I have looked at this photo many times now. I have come back to it a couple of days to look. It is definitely not one of my favorites of yours. It feels over saturated to me.. and doesn’t have your normal “feel” to it. However, it is interesting and the concept behind it… too unique.

    • YOu are probably not alone in your feelings on the image, Amber. Not a mortal sin to not go it! Happens even to me! In this case, however, it is one of my favorites as it fit the post in ways I only knew about! PS. It is all natural light, no photoshop extra saturation or anything. Late afternoon October light in New England is powerful.

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