This Is Not a Sawtooth Hanger - Doug Johnson

This Is Not a Sawtooth Hanger

This Is Not a Sawtooth Hanger is a collection of essays, paired with photographs, on photography, art and the creative process – written for art enthusiasts and aspiring artists. For art enthusiasts, I hope the essays will be interesting and thought-provoking and the images aesthetically pleasing and worthy of your time and attention. If you learn something new or smile a little, then all the better! For aspiring artists, I hope this book will help you find your “voice.” What are you trying to say? Why? Did you fail or succeed? Does the work matter?

This book is a window into what I’ve tried to do as an artist and photographer. You, of course, are on a different path but sometimes hearing about another person’s processes, goals, successes and failures can lead to your own moments of clarity. Saying to yourself “That’s interesting but it’s not my thing” can open a door to self-discovery. I hope you find these essays and photographs interesting but more importantly, I hope they inspire you to think more critically about art and the creative process in general and your own work in particular.

The idea for this book first came from Ted Orland’s inspiring guidebook "The View From the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World." Among the many ways his book helped me find my way is his persuasive argument that everyone should able to write, draw and take pictures -- not professionally, not masterfully but, you know, capably. Although these three skills are valuable in and of themselves, the real benefit comes from the doing.

Writing helps you to figure out what you really want to say. As E.L. Doctorow noted, the hard part is thinking clearly -- the actual writing part is easy. Drawing helps you to look at things more closely -- not only lines, shapes, textures, colors and perspective but also the essence (the "ness") of things. Photography helps you to more thoughtfully observe the world around you. Hands become more than hands.

Orland’s advice inspired me to start thinking and writing about my photography. Why do I like some photographs and not others? Why do some photographs “grow” over time? What am I trying to say? Did I successfully say it? Does it matter? These are difficult questions to answer. At first, I thought I liked some images simply because they “caught my eye” but then months or years later a theme or emotion revealed itself that explained why THAT image had endured while hundreds of others were forgotten.

Trying to answer these questions motivated me to start writing a “Photo of the Week” blog. Sometimes I started with a photograph and wrote about its subject, meaning or intention. Sometimes I started with a talk or article and then selected a photograph to illustrate the theme. In all cases, my goal was to keep it short, clear and interesting. This book is a collection of my favorite photo-essay pairs. I hope you enjoy them.

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