Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Things They Carried

Every so often I take the liberty of writing a blog post that has nothing to do with photography. This is one of those times. I recently finished reading a book by Tim O'Brien entitled The Things They Carried. It is ostensibly a book about the war in Vietnam. But it really isn't. It is a book about war in general, except it really isn't that either. It gets closer to say it is a book about what it is like emotionally to be a soldier in a war, but it really goes deeper than that as well. To me it is a book about dealing with the unfathomable, not only in war, but in life. And thus there are some personal, non-war related aspects of the author's life mixed in among the remembrances of war. But these blend perfectly and seamlessly into the narrative.

Take for example when his first 'girlfriend' died of a brain tumor when both he and she were the tender age of nine. O'Brien dealt with it by visiting her in his dreams. His mother was concerned when he consistently wanted to go to bed early. Of course, she couldn't know that he was going to bed to visit her in his dreams, where she was very much alive.

During one of the dreams he asks the girl what it is like to be dead and she thinks that this is a silly question.

She smiled and said "Do I look dead?"

I told her no, she looked terrific. I waited a moment, then asked again, and Linda made a soft little sigh. I could smell our wool mittens drying on the stove.

"Well, right now," she said "I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like.......I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading".

"A book?" I said.

"An old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading."

Lest you think the book is morbid, it's not. It is a book that has been highly acclaimed by an author who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. I was initially attracted to it because I am old enough to to have lived through the Vietnam war with memories of it nightly on the TV news, but young enough not to have had to go. But again, it really isn't about Vietnam. It is a very worthwhile read. In fact, I am now starting to look into O'Brien's other books. The Things They Carried......highly recommended!

The Brown Sisters

Photographer Nicholas Nixon has, starting in 1975 and for the last 36 years, photographed his wife and her three sisters posed in the same sequential order.  In 1999, marking the 25th anniversary of the project, he published "The Brown Sisters".  That book is long out of print, but recently the Museum of Modern Art has reprinted it and expanded the book to include the yearly photos taken up to and including 2008. Somehow, the portraits convey much more than just the progression of age.  The Museum of Modern Art apparently also has in its archives most of the actual photographs which can be seen here, though I am  unsure why they do not have them in chronological order on their website.

At the time I was initially writing this post, the Museum's second addition of the book, which contained the 33 images through 2008, was for sale and I was lucky enough to get one.  I believe it is now out of print again, so you will have to make due with the website images.

The book is excellent though, and if the project appeals to you I would recommend scooping one up if they print another edition.

Artwork Is A Personal Journey

Over the years that I have written this blog, I have frequently noted other photographers and other blogs that I have enjoyed.  Today, I would like to point out a blog post from a photographer whose work I have enjoyed (and purchased) and who I have had the opportunity to meet personally.  This particular post really made me think about the uniquely personal aspect of artwork.  I think you will enjoy this post by photographer Cole Thompson about comparing your artwork to the work of others. If Cole's writing touches a chord with you, then you will most assuredly enjoy reading Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  This book is really a must-read for all who take their art-making seriously.  In fact, I found the book so meaningful that I reviewed it in the past.  Click on the following link to check out my review of  David Bayles and Ted Orland's book Art and Fear from back in 2007.