"There's a dream that strings the road, with broken glass for us to hold, and I cut so far before I had to say…Please, please tell me now, is there something I should know?"
One of the first indications of my affection for symbolism and surrealism was the song referenced in my title by the new wave band Duran Duran. They do not exactly have a legacy for deep thought and artistic merit, at least according to the critics and the press, but their lyrics, to my fourteen year old ears, were rich in hidden content and symbolism. Their meaning was not evident; they were unusual and vague, and at least for me, warranted reflection. Regardless of whether the lyrics have any actual meaning is irrelevant now - the point is, they had me thinking.
The accompanying video for "Is There Something I Should Know" had a lot of symbolism in it too - and, unaware of Rene Magritte at the time, this was to be my first exposure to Magritte-inspired imagery. The bridge of the song (instrumental break) shows the classic bowler hat Englishmen Magritte used, doing all sorts of strange things, like measuring trees with a tailor's tape measure, etc. The effect, distilled as it was by the affectations of the 80s fashions and insipidity of the MTV generation, was nevertheless the same - inspiration can come from anywhere, and this video and lyric was certainly a strong inspiration for what would filter into my art later in life. I like allegory, imagery, symbolism, open-ended interpretation, surrealism. This video and song, therefore, was a no-brainer for me at fourteen.
Having said all that, this image is actually about searching for the idea, the concept, the meaning. It is literally, for me, about letting go of logic and rational thought, and using your "other senses" to guide you through the creative process. The ladders represent all the different ways an edit or concept can go, all the creative decisions and ideas that will serve to raise or lower the results of your effort that you must navigate. Here, the artist, or photographer as he is actually holding a camera, is letting his mind guide him, the strings emanating from the third eye, showing him where to go. It is, to use another pop culture reference, the same as Luke Skywalker "using the force."
Finally, I chose the title not just because of my affection and appreciation the song gave my budding artistic sensibilities all those years ago, but also because it seems appropriate a question to ask yourself as you stare at the vast expanse of nothing (your canvas) and start building an image in this way. You see symbols, like a ladder, a field, a camera, a string, and you ask, "What are you trying to say? Is there something I should know?"