My photographs, I used a lot, but I used them as a teaching tool, and they really worked wonderfully,in a sense. Let’s suppose you’re trying to get the students to understand what [Immanuel] Kant meant when he said that the aesthetic experience is not mediated by concepts. Okay, show them a photograph of a floor of an abandoned building—I used to go into all of these abandoned buildings—that’s been sitting abandoned for years, and there are all these pigeons flying around, and they’ve layered the floor with guano, pigeon shit. Huge warehouses, light coming in shining off this, and it’s gorgeous. So you take a picture, which looks like—you know how with aluminum foil, when you crumple it up and then smooth it out again you have all these little lines and it shines and stuff? That’s what it looks like. So you show them a slide. “Oh, boy,” they say. Then you say, “It’s pigeon shit.” Concept. Bing! And I used to take pictures of dog deposits and bird shit, especially during the season when there was lots of huckleberries, some berries that would stain it, and sometimes it would be quite nice, and I’d use things like this, so they’d see it right away, they’d understand that there are names for things, forbidden them to see, and to get them used to seeing, because they’ll never have an aesthetic experience until they can do that. So I used a lot of it, and some of it would have been okay to put in along with an essay as an illustration, but not as “Look at this as a photograph.”
William H. Gass, in a 2013 interview with Rain Taxi.
“How to Write a Novel” by Gordon Lish
First make sure you have enough time. It is crucial that you have enough time to make things up. Myself, I do not have time enough for anything like that.
But I’ll tell you what’s what. It will not be hard for you to follow me doing it.
I’m composing these instructions on an I.B.M. Selectric. I got it back in 1961. I did not buy it. I finessed it or I finagled it or I stole it.
The person who is the unexpressed direct object of one or the other of these verbs was rich. He said you can borrow this thing, use it for a while. Then he stuck his other thing in my wife’s thing. They still have their things and I have this thing and I’m not giving it up.
It’s given tip-top service. I really loved it when I first saw it, and I still love it just as much.
I never cover it over with anything. I don’t cover it over with anything like a cover or anything—because I like to look at it—the shape. I.B.M. is good at giving a thing a nice shape. I always look at the shape of things before I snap of the light in a room.
I think 1961 was the Selectric’s first year.
I talk to engineers whenever I get a chance. I don’t mean the kind that build bridges. I mean the fellows that service things. Those are the engineers I talk to.
You know what one of those fellows once told me once? Buy the first of whatever it is! He said buy the first one of whatever it is because the maker of it is never going to knock himself out like that again—making, you know, all of the others after that. That’s why this one’s still going fine after so many wonderful, wonderful years.
The same goes for the Polaroid camera I’ve got. I’ve got the oldest one there is. You know how old that is? Here’s how old it is. It’s called, they call it, the Polaroid Land Camera.
That’s how goddamn old it is!
No shit, it was a first one—it was the very first Polaroid the Polaroid people made!
You want to see pictures? Look at these pictures! Tell me when in your life you ever saw in your life pictures as sharp as these pictures!
Because they’e this big when I start out with them. You see how big? Next to nothing, right? But then what? But then I go get them all blown up as big as life! See them? Look at them all over the walls if you don’t know what I mean!
That’s resolution for you , isn’t it?
Well, that’s my second wife, okay?
They’re framed all over the place.
People come in here and then they look at them and then they smack their heads.
My God, they say, such pictures!
I say, original issue, a maker knows his game.