Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Inspiration, eternal moments
There’s so much good writing on the web that I scan through much too fast. I’m happy to have access to these riches, but regret the speed-reading to which the medium lends itself. Some writing, though, is just so good, so eminently itself, with its own tone and pace, that it won’t let you speed-read. Such are the infrequent, but wondrous blog-posts of Parmanu. Looking back over the past year or so, they’ve been about once a month. But they stand out in these times when every damn thing is evaluated quantitatively as pieces of writing that count but cannot be counted. It’s writing full of thought, care, presence. It leaves me sighing with satisfaction and teased long afterwards into further musings and reactions. It’s the kind of writing we need to welcome, value and disseminate on the web if online writing is not to conform to all the worst stereotypes perpetuated by those ‘real’ writers and critics who continue to dismiss it – and I don’t, I absolutely don’t, think it has to conform.
His latest piece, which inspired this outpouring, is an account of a visit one rainy Sunday afternoon in Lausanne, Switzerland, to an exhibition of paintings by Edward Hopper. It's a deceptively simple piece; in fact deep, layered and exceptionally engaging. His own photos from the afternoon in question both set the exhibition in a sense of place and are in tune with the paintings and the writer's thoughts about them. They made me think of a photo of my own, taken at the British Museum back in 2006, not so long after I started blogging and taking photos. After much rooting around, I found it and post it again here (re-cropped a little - I see I've learned a bit about composition in the meantime). It's a poor-quality image taken with a crappy little camera, not printable, but I think this was the first time I saw a moment, a light, and took it. I didn't know why it 'worked', though I could see it did. I know more now and can see in it the germs of those elements Parmanu admires in Hopper's paintings and hopes to embody in his own photographs (and often does) - the figure's stillness and isolation, the tones and shadows, the light and the inclusion of its source.
I don't know that I completely agree with the polarisation he draws between Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment' and what he describes as Hopper's 'eternal moment', endlessly suspended and repeated. Aren't all those photographic 'decisive moments' as eternal as they are fleeting, both in themselves and because the picture makes them so? What is certain is that my attention comes to rest here in the eternal moment of this short essay. It makes a space around the reader, both flooding your senses and setting off absorbing trains of thought - my idea of a perfect blog post.