Attachment by Péter Korniss
No photographer is an island. It may be an exaggeration to say that everything has been photographed before, but it can't be too far off the truth to say that almost everything has been photographed before. When I first saw this photograph by Péter Korniss, it reminded me so much of another great image, one by Josef Sudek.
In both cases, the subject is as simple as can be — lunch. I envision both of these photographers having a similar reaction: in the midst of doing a decidedly non-photographic activity like eating lunch, they suddenly became aware of the potential photographic composition before their eyes. In both cases there is the wonderful textured light of the crumpled paper. In both cases there's a strong direction to the light. In both cases it is as if this common daily activity was suddenly interrupted by a moment of inspiration.
What these two images teach is such an incredibly profound lesson that I don't think it can be over emphasized: seeing never stops. When we have photography in our blood, there is a part of our consciousness that is — or can be — photographically aware even when we are engaged in an activity that has nothing to do with photography. For some, this comes naturally, as it did for Sudek. For others, it must be cultivated, practiced, learned.
And one of the best ways to do this, I believe, is to cultivate a deep photographic literacy. It's important that we know what other photographers have done. Sudek lived two generations and a half a globe away from me. He lived one generation and in the neighboring country to Péter Korniss. Isn't it interesting that Sudek's impact can reach both of us!
I specifically asked Korniss about this image during my interview with him for LensWork #92. He talked about his admiration of Sudek's work and readily acknowledged the visual inheritance. I've always been suspicious of photographers who claim and espouse the virtue of working in a vacuum. How pretentious to think that one can be sufficient for the creative process in isolated solitude! I much prefer Korniss' healthy attitude of acknowledging what we inherit from the past and using that knowledge to inspire our own work — not to copy those who have gone before us, but to learn from them and to use their pioneering work to take the next step in our own.
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