The Photography of

Neal White - II

All the photographs and texts are copyrighted



So, I have really nothing "in mind" per se when I make a photograph except an awakening awareness and a faith in the potential of such events which may, by their paradoxical nature, lend themselves to an educational experience not unlike the process of interpreting a hexagram or confounding the ordinary mind with a zen koan--being labyrinths or mazes to wander through by free association. This sort of paradox or hypothetical questioning makes the act of viewing art potentially into a even more of a creative act than making it--the creative analysis of a puzzle which actually has no specific solution, a question without an answer , where an educational experience of seeking is the object. Every viewer brings something personal, even unique, to such an imagination-activating image--a personally different genetic and personal history, education, experience, influences and a hopefully evolving point of view to the process (perhaps with just enough consensus to make some of my photographs seductive but accessible and productive to someone not cloning my own background). The idiosyncratic experience and personal priorities or quests of the viewer make the experience of open-ended and ambiguous imagery into highly personal (and perhaps relevant or even somehow catalytic) experiences for each viewer. Especially if the viewer is open to such an experience. My respect for this desirable disorientation (i.e., the educational value of the poignant ambiguities of oracles) may explain some of my professional practices which may seem contradictory to the documentary or visual anthropology feel of some of my images--e.g., I do not title, caption nor date, let alone explain, my photographs. I withhold (and actually, to be quite candid, I tend to forget) such documentation in the spirit of preserving the open-ends of the image (i.e., potential for each viewer to personalize the experience by freely participating in the image with their own imagination.) For me, the successful aesthetic experience is not one in which the audience accurately recapitulates ("gets) the intent of the artist, but one in which each sensitive and thoughtful viewer audience more or less improvises their own experience or meaning out of the image presented to them to sample. Meaning is created by the personal gestalts which idiosyncratically filter the imagery and create the opportunity to improvise incongruity into something personally meaningful; I believe that the particular meaning I myself might derive from my own pictures would not be of any particular value to anybody else, except for whatever might be implied or inferred by the selection of such an image (which is often part and parcel of the mystery I am pleased to repackage as a picture and sometimes share). Making mysteries out of the mundane--or perhaps making out the mysteries in the mundane (vs. reducing the mystery to the mundane) is for me a sort of mitzvah--i.e. a blessed compulsion. It is a way of insuring that miracles, although routine, are not taken for granted. Making and contemplating and sharing such works of art may enhance and accelerate our comprehension of our mysterious experience, which is a blessing because time is short.

Neal White.
Emeritus Professor of Art
San Francisco State University

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