I learned a new word today, one from linguistics: calque. One of my ideas for this month’s blog post was to be about photographic equivalents of an Ohrwurm – that’s German for a tune you cannot get out of your head. Turns out the English “earworm” is a direct translation and borrowing of the meaning of this German word. That is, “earworm” is known as a calque. Yet the levels of meta go even further as “calque” is itself a direct borrowing of the French word calque which means “to trace” or “copy exactly” (thanks Google Translate!). But… I was in the airport (YYJ to YYC) when this whole idea just got out of hand. It’s one thing to write as a way of learning what you think, and it’s quite another to cut one’s way through the word hoard with such a slim idea in your head to begin with.
Then again, imitation has been on my mind these past few months. We’re now in the midst of work for “Call and Response 2019.1” and this time around we have chosen to use each other directly for inspiration. At the start of the year each of us secreted into an envelope a half-dozen or so images we believe are typical of our own individual photographic style. (None of us have shown to the others what we’ve placed in that envelope.) So there is one envelope in each of our homes, and our task each round is to create a set of images based on the typical photographic style of another member. Indeed! After all three rounds we will trot out what we placed into our envelopes, and there will then be four sets of images for us all (16 sets in total). That will be a most interesting gathering!
I drew Francis for the first round, and for the life of me I cannot remember how everyone else is matched up. Oh boy… it is a good thing that I’ve had several months for this first round! His imagemaking is so inventive, the control of colour and contrast so precise, and his compositional eye so clear that I had to make the decision to avoid imitation or mimicry. Instead I’ve been walking around, looking at the world about me with Tri-X in an Olympus XA, and wondering “What would Francis see in that?”. The liberating thing is the fun of just looking, even stopping suddenly on the street after a double-take and having an excuse to walk back, making a few exposures using the energy of “What if?”. I’m now very, very curious about what will appear on the contact sheets after I develop the film (four rolls so far, maybe a fifth will be in the can).