Friday, December 29, 2017

Pedro Meyer & Sonsacar

Pedro Meyer - Maestro

sonsacar  De son- y sacar.

1. tr. Sacar arteramente algo por debajo del sitio en que está.

2. tr. Procurar con maña que alguien diga o descubra lo que sabe y reserva.

3. tr. Solicitar secreta y cautelosamente a alguien para que deje el servicio u ocupación que tiene en alguna parte y pase a otra a ejercer el mismo o diferente empleo.

Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (RAE)

Until a couple of days ago I had never seen this word, sonsacar. I had no idea what it meant so I had to look it up.

I found the word in a Facebook post (December 25, 2017) by the very eminent Mexican art photographer Pedro Meyer who early on pioneered the internet photo website ZoneZero. In a coup he was linked to the Washington Post!

I contributed to ZoneZero a couple of times. Here is one of them.

Some years ago before the real era of digital photography a few of my photography friends and I went to see an exhibition of his work at the University of Western Washington. We were most impressed and inspired. Meyer was a pioneer in digital manipulation.

Some years ago when I had just joined Facebook I remember criticizing Meyer for something. I was out of line not knowing really the protocols of social media.

This 2017 Christmas posting by Meyer featuring a photograph of bacon cooking in a frying pan and with the copy (in Spanish underneath) hit home for me. The verb sonsacar meens to elicit. His use of the term is relating the phone calls from younger photographers wanting to get photo secrets or methods of his.He relates that tragically those calls do not happen anymore.

I can corroborate this. Years ago in my prime of magazine photography all sorts of photographers would call me to ask me how this was done or that. My Rosemary always warned me not to give them the info. For me giving them what they wanted was never an issue. The mechanics of photography, of photography lighting or processing tricks can be learned. But you cannot teach any of those photographers what happens when a person faces your camera and then you have to figure what to do. This is personal and I believe almost unteachable.That creative elment of photography is internal.

In the past artists of a certain age (or maestros as Meyer calls them and his friends call him) would have assistants  and understudies who would learn by practice and example. We know of da Vinci paintings in which the maestro was helped by an understudy. This was common then.

I was an understudy for this man, Arno Brehme.

At some point in a recent past there were those who criticized such photographers as Annie Leibovitz or Richard Avedon for having a huge retenue of studio helpers. Few gave these photographers all the credit they deserved. I would have argued and still argue that the moment a photographer presses that shutter in that studio it is his or her photograph.

We learn to reach our own personal style (I believe the Holy Grail of photography) by frank imitation until we begin to modify (wander off, perhaps) and finally find that which is truly ours.

I am sad for Meyer (with all that info in his head) as well as for myself. Perhaps I can visit him in Mexico City in some future date and I can “sonsacar” him!