Indeed, what one might think of as the Construction Wars -- revolving around the once-revolutionary, but now routine academic claim that most human activity is social activity, and therefore "constructed" rather than authentic or "essential" -- were themselves the cause of not a few angry exchanges that occasionally turned ugly. The idea that the authenticity of your tribe or traditions might be a "construct" is still, to many, fighting talk.
A parallel flashpoint, I have observed, is the ongoing skirmish between enchantment and, for want of a better word, positivism. There is a large constituency of people who wish for the world to be a more magical place, one where things like faith-healing, thought-transference, spoon-bending and all manner of para-phenomena are not just conjuring tricks, but real, unexplored human potentialities. Richard Dawkins, with his unrelenting logic, makes these folk very angry indeed. As they do him.* He is perceived by them as a reductive disenchanter of the world; they are perceived by him as benighted peddlers of childish wish-fulfilment. Let's party like it's 1789!
I imagine you, like me, sit somewhere between those two extremes, depending on the time of day and the weather. Getting head and heart into alignment is a task which is never simple, and also never finished, I find.
Enchanted fish tank
Photography, too, has its camps and divisions -- any one of which can make someone angry -- including its own enchanters and positivists. For example, there are the pin-hole and toy-camera enthusiasts, who take in the world and re-express it in blurs, hints and suggestions. These are often the same people who are in love with "authentic" (i.e. difficult, obsolete, and toxic) processes like platinum printing from self-prepared wet-collodion plates; they want the reality of emotions, a gallery show, and a book-contract from Nazraeli.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Pin Sharp crew, with their view-cameras, tilts and shifts, densitometers, spectrometers, ICC profiles, and other aids to
In the end, Keith Carter's mojo is just that kind of feeling, the culmination of many moments of being in a representative instant, but an instant charged with the inexplicable animating energy of the particular. The poet Lorca tried to define his concept of duende -- the feeling that for him separated ordinary speech or stolid verse from serious poetry -- by quoting Goethe. "A mysterious power," he called it, "that all may feel and no philosophy can explain."
Rosellen Brown, foreword to Mojo
Does that kind of talk make you angry, or make you feel like getting out there and conjuring up the mojo with your camera?
* I remember reading his "Gerin Oil" essay in Prospect in 2005 and thinking, this man is as deranged as the objects of his scorn. If you don't know it, it's here. In case you don't get it, "gerin oil" is an anagram of "religion".