Putting the Prolegomenon to Bed

Writer and photography / Peter J. Blackburn

Peter J. Blackburn draws the shade with a few closing remarks and extends a personal invitation to you.

Express Coffee, 2010. This diptych is a tricolor casein bichromate print. The coffee is always hot here. If you're ever my way, stop by and get some! Read the blog for a personal invitation to you.

Prolegomenon: prefatory remarks ; specif: a formal essay or critical discussion serving to introduce and interpret. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary

If you recall, when the prolegomenon series began six blogs ago I asked everyone to clear their work area by putting away the brushes, the pigments, and the chemicals. That was so everyone could give their undivided attention to a sampling of topics which, I believe, might contain some importance to us all, whether the butcher, the baker, or the pinhole image maker. Topics which, in my mind, are introductory in nature; hence, a prolegomenon, if you will.

So, we explored the question of why, the possibility of running short on vision and energy, the role of criticism in our workflow, the concepts of sincerity and originality, and tackled a practical aesthetic snafu (fringe) typical of those faced by the average alternative artist. To be sure, those topics are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I consider preliminary issues.

Although you might not have raised a toast to all of the answers I gave and the opinions expressed in some of those areas, perhaps we can at least agree the six issues placed on the table for dissection merit thoughtful consideration by all artists, especially artists who consider themselves emerged in a quest to grow and excel over the span of a long creative career. Wish that I had grappled with some of those same concerns more thoughtfully, more broadly years ago. It seems in our hurry to master the pounding of nails, we undercut the importance of pouring a durable foundation. One which permits a significant range of expansion and contraction, allows for heavy traffic, able to endure substantial wear and tear, and capable of supporting the ever-changing demands of a living, breathing artist.

Parting words to this series must include an expression of sincere thanks to Malin Fabbri and the hundreds artists who make this ever growing, all encompassing site possible. I would think many materials to build a sturdy foundation for any alternative photographer could be found here among the buried catacombs of process descriptions, technical articles, and of course, the artist galleries where fine examples of almost every technique abound. Also located here are avenues of discussion and interaction. If you’re new to art and alterative photography, you will soon discover with each process comes a variety of approaches almost as numerous and diverse as the artists who practice them. And with diversity comes the likelihood of a collision — a collision of ideas which inevitably leads to spirited debate characterized by hair-raising opinions and defended-to-the-bitter-end convictions. I find that to be normal, even healthy.

My aspiration is to remain your friend in spite of any disagreements expressed. There’s an Old Testament proverb, “Iron sharpens iron.” When friction between two pieces of tough, unyielding rods of metal strike each other with momentous force and persistence, as long as the ultimate goal is kept in view, the process can be beneficial to both objects and artists alike. And what is that goal, you ask? To provoke each other to think, to stretch, and to reach for higher and lasting achievement as the days, weeks and years pass by. Of course, being people endowed with emotions and dignity, our banter should always be submitted in a spirit of benevolence, in so much as possible. I trust that someday we can acknowledge some of the success and growth attained in our work can, in part, be attributed to our colleagues here on this site who took the time to converse, to challenge, and to cheer us on.

I wish to close by inviting all of my readers to contact me by way of email:

should you ever pass through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We can set up a time to rendezvous at one the several La Madeleine restaurants conveniently dotted throughout this area called the DFW metroplex. La Madeleine is wonderful a chain of casual French bistros. Good, all-you-can-drink French roast coffee, delicious pastries and food, and a quiet atmosphere (no TVs or bar) for interrupted discussion make this a great venue. Usually soft classical music is playing, too. Anyway, the invitation is always open—and your coffee is on me! Bring a portfolio of work and I’ll bring one, too. Just send an email and we’ll set it up!

Well, plenty more blogs are simmering in the pot. After doing gum and casein printing for quite some time, I’ve lots of savory broth to dish out around our little Algonquin-like roundtable of the web. So stick around and we’ll go at it again next time. Until then…


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