Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vemodalen And Us

Giant Rubber Duck, Pittsburgh, September 2013

The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows defines Vemodalen thusly: n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.  Yes, I cannot tell you the creeping futility I sometimes experience while photographing something that is uncommon, rare, beautiful, decayed and collapsing in on its own weight, or even just delightfully whimsical - all with the realization that it's been captured by camera before, and will again.
Case in point:  Two years ago when Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's duck colossus was launched on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, people flocked to the Point (where the fountain is), and to Mount Washington overlooking the city (where I was here) to get a good shot of the Duck.  I took a lot of photos because digital costs nothing and bad shots can be deleted.  Not having to rely on film and all of the expense incurred with film photography has made photography extremely accessible, but at the same time ubiquitous and devalued.
I ended up with some really wonderful images of the city and the duck colossus and spoke to the owner of the gallery that carries my work to see how many prints I should bring in...None, as it turned out.  The duck colossus was everywhere, had saturated the market, and no matter how great my work was, it was still of the Duck.
If you are in need of a prompt for an existential crisis, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has a youtube channel, and this is their entry on the subject of Vemodalen.
I won't stop photographing things, nor will I fall into too deep a pit of despair about the futility of it all, but it still gives me pause.  What am I doing and what does it mean?

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