Ole Man Poole has just been put well and truly outside of his comfort zone – musically and photographically.
First, I attended a concert featuring an international jazz guitarist. Someone with 20 Grammy Awards from 35 nominations in 12 different categories to his name, and a career spanning in excess of 40 years. The first Grammy Award in 1982. I booked the tickets on the basis of my limited set of CDs featuring his earlier work, including contemporary covers from the likes of Lennon and McCartney and Paul Simon.
A couple days earlier I had viewed a photographic exhibition by two young Australian photographers, well known for their innovative, trendy and somewhat hip wedding coverage and interpretation.
Pat Metheny has just turned 60 and was touring with a talented group of young musicians who are rapidly approaching his level of skills with their chosen instruments. What confronted me with some force was the stylistic change in his music and the manner in which he interacted with his ensemble. I attended the concert with one expectation and came out with my mind raging with questions about what I had just seen and heard – a talented performer collaborating and bouncing off a group of young guys who were not only working with him, but were keeping him honest!
Conversely Todd Hunter-McGraw and Dan O’Day had hung their Phase Onesies Exhibition – the like of which I had not seen before. Large photographic prints that seemed casually executed to the point of carelessness, and hung with a seeming indifference using strips of black gaffer tape across the print corners to fasten them to the walls.
Where am I headed with this? I have just seen, felt, heard and understood, a mature artist wanting to keep producing work that is relevant and challenging; and two young tyros attempting to brand themselves in a competitive market.
Metheny has surrounded himself with talented performers, eschewing lesser musicians in favour of being challenged and forced to work harder himself. The net result is that the listener must also work harder in understanding the output. Not a bad thing if good jazz is to be better understood.
O’Day and McGraw have chosen to throw accepted gallery precepts out the window in an attempt to illustrate the photographic skills they have adopted as their own brand – whimsical, wry and barrier-breaking camera skills out of step with current trends. In fact setting trends in domestic photography. The result is that a spontaneous idea has translated into a photographic road trip, a test of a new camera, a series of challenging exposures/locations and a set of huge prints from the resultant files. The method of display is reminiscent of a teenager’s bedroom wall of favourite movie stars – probably not far from the authors’ thought process. As a photographic gallery director there might be an uncomfortable lesson here………
Is our own comfort zone where the problem lies? Should we be looking for the discomfort zone, where great ideas and innovative thought processes rule the roost, challenging the accepted norms?
Is disruption, at least partly, the answer?
This essay was published in issue #38 f11 :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS AND AFICIONADOS