Monday, December 18, 2006

Two more people and a green car

That Cartier-Bresson quote -- “Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.” -- feels so true to me now.

Like my experiences with meditation, the focused work of drawing enables me to become more aware of my swirling cloud of inner chatter ("No, her nose doesn't really do that"), creaky joints, and a pile of other distractions. For some reason, there's much less inner noise-making when I'm catching a photo.

And another self-made puzzle: why does it seem less intrusive for me to sketch people rather than take a photo of them? Do you have any thoughts on that?


Anonymous said...

I've thought about that as well. Your post and your sketches of people at cafés made me remember Hemingway in A Moveable Feast when he is writing in a café and sees a beautiful woman come in and he writes about he "making her his own" through writing, even though she will never notice. Like Baudelaire writing about the girl who passes in the crowd, and the lyrical voice is sitting, probably, from a café watching people go by. In the case of photography it may be the machine, the use of the camera itself, that makes both photographer and objective selfconscious about the whole process. In a way photography is like taking measurements (of light, shapes) with the aid of an artifact. Sketching is like taking notes, more obviously graphic than those made with caligraphy (taking notes on a notebook would be like sketching, and I think here of music as well, of Miles Davis, et cetera). So writing and sketching are noticeable activities but there remains a level of privacy to it all... and the camera is so obvious, so overt, so there. Of course I'm not taking into consideration here what happens when people get made portraits by illustrators on the street, for instance, in which the portraited person is very conscious about being drawn. What would happen in that case? Wouldn't the experience between being photographed and being drawn be similar?

raindog said...

i think sketching someone is much less intrusive because the action is hidden. when that guy downtown turns around at the wrong moment to my camera aimed in his general direction, do i really want to have to answer his questions of 'why are you taking my picture? whats this for? who said you could?' and so on, again. not really.

i'm really digging this new direction you've taken with your blog. its interesting to see your perspective captured in a new manner. by all means, keep it up.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

Nobody will be able to absolutely identify someone from one of these sketches. A photo..that is something you can enter into evidence in court.

Doodlestreet said...

I know when I want to feel less obvious in a crowd, I will put on my sunglasses...(oh hec, maybe that is just a big southern california thing!) But it would make sense that maybe you might feel you are being a little more 'sneaky' when taking a photo, thus, maybe it would be a little more intrusive. When you draw someone, they can see where your eyes are looking, thus possibly LESS intrusive because they have some amount of control in that situation.??? OR, maybe it is way too late for me to try and describe all that and I should return to the kitchen for more holiday cookies and keep my sugar high going! Munch!

Lori Witzel said...

I really like this thread, y'all -- the best of thoughtful diving in and cookie-fueled madness!

Since I'm a bit tired from leaving vacation and returning to the world of commerce, I'll try not to ramble too much.

Ernesto -- Thanks ever so much for your thoughtful, reflective reply. I think you're on to something about the use of a "capturing device" rather than "hand-formed capture" -- and it raises interesting other thoughts, such as "Why might I feel it's more intrusive if one uses a hidden camera?" Hhhmmm. Need to think more on this.

Raindog -- I was going to that same metaphoric place, but then I thought about the shudder I get about people using hidden cameras...maybe using a camera to photograph people is inherently a social activity, putting the photographer into a relationship with the person "captured," while drawing/sketching is on the surface more about the maker than the subject. Or not. Must think more...

Stewart -- Now there's an interesting thread. But I know photos are increasingly disallowed due to the ease of digital alteration; and we have the related phenomena of the courtroom sketch artist, showing us what's gone on without the intrusion of a camera. Now I'm more confused! But what a great thing to be!

Doodlestreet -- Well, it may be we all need more cookies...I think there's something we "agree on" without being quite aware of the agreement, that a photo is somehow "real" and a sketch is not (hence the power of documentary photos like those of Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine.) Goya's The Third of May (, while incredibly powerful, makes us think of Goya as much as what's happening in the painting. I wonder if photography makes it harder to "see" the artist as it makes it easier to "see" the subject.

Enough for now...but I'll return to this thread with y'all another time, as I find it a particularly resonant place to wander.

hfm said...

Love the quote and love the 2 sketches - familiar to me ;)

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that you make the drawn people more your own--and there are Ernesto and Ernest, coming up with the same thing!--to a greater degree than with a photograph. The laws of your freedom are more generous, I think, in a drawing.

Thomas Gada said...

What a great topic (and a great blog).

There isn't much to say that hasn't been said. The only thing that I can think of is to reverse the perspective.

If a stranger took my photo, I'd be mildly interested. But not overly. With camera phones, and whatnot, I could be having my picture taken 20 times while walking down the street.

But if I caught someone sketching me, I'd be intrigued. It's so intimate. So personal. It's how someone else SEES you. That means something.

PS--the drawings are fantastic. Loose and natural.

Anonymous said...

Lori, wonderful drawingg and photos :-)