Saturday, August 6, 2011

Meatball Photography

Valuable self-awareness, or a boatload of philosophical crap: An examination of why I actually like a few of my pictures...

I like this picture. I selected it from thousands of others I have that range from very ordinary to downright bad (with the occasional exception). I used to shoot these pictures during brief stops on motorcycle rides within a 150 mile radius of home. The geographical limit was not imposed by an ankle monitor and  parole officer, although my 99 year old grandmother was a parole officer for the State of California until her retirement in about 1975. It was and is a self-regulatory boundary that makes no sense to most observers.

In "M*A*S*H" (the Robert Altman film, not the TV series, which was okay for the first few seasons but went downhill fast when Trapper John left, Henry was killed en-route back to the States, and Hawkeye devolved into a sanctimonious caricature of Phil Donahue phony liberalism), they referred to their brand of intervention as "meatball surgery," a term that's been stuck in my head for decades. They operated on soldiers with horrific injuries under primitive conditions and did the best they could and then sent the survivors to a rear area for better treatment. I have used this as a metaphor for all kinds of completely unrelated processes throughout my life, mainly because once something gets into my head I can never, ever get it out of there. I call my style of picture-taking "meatball photography" because I do it with very basic gear under extreme time constraints. Once in a while, this method produces something that seems to be enhanced, rather than compromised, by my peculiar procedure. The gritty, contrasty qualities of the above photo were influenced by this method. It's a state of mind, I think. I want to really go off the deep end and make some connection to Steinbeck's peepholes and the perspective they provide on "...whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches," in other words, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men." I'll avoid that particular exercise in grandiosity right now, though, and simply say that once in a while my fractious mental processes work to my benefit. I count myself lucky if that happens for maybe one shot in every thousand. That's why I like this particular picture - its imperfections mirror my own.

© Pseudocognitive


  1. Meatball photography... in which the art is in finding the artistic among a torrent of snapshots. That'l work.

    K, so I don't see the Older Posts link below. Is this the first? Was there another venue elsewhere I should be aware of? Enjoying a random perusal of your posts here.

  2. Gary, I so seldom (a) check my Gmail or (b) visit my old self-described blog that I am just now seeing this. "Meatball Photography" is the first one--there aren't any posts older than this one. I may have reposted it at one time, so it may appear twice. I am not sure.