“Breathe!” by Bob James

This is another one of my many “found” pictures I take as I prowl the streets on foot or in my car. It’s a straight shot of a partial reflection from a store front, an abstract construction the main motif of which is that gold metallic ‘Breathe’ decal that compels the eye. I’m most happy when my pictures are made up of found random objects that arrange themselves into cohesive images and this one fits the bill nicely.

I can’t say anything else about my picture that might further illuminate it, so here’s a bit about me instead.

Bob learned photography just the other millennium. Determined not to be thought of as a lesser artist, he tries to make his pictures ugly and completely devoid of interest, but fears some will find them beautiful anyway.

Mr. James holds the largest collection of Jameses in the world. He has had a few shows (hasn’t everyone?), but would rather not talk about it. He passionately detests the art world and especially art criticism. If he were asked to state his artistic credo he would answer with one word, (Italian expletive deleted!).

He is not crazy, as his wife and his few friends insist, but merely eccentric and a bit child-like. For example, he took pictures for some years without ever developing his film because he hated darkroom work and, anyway, what’s the point? He called this half-lunacy Nihilistic Potentialism or simply Potentialism*, as it has come to be known, and proclaimed it a new Art Form. Bob does digital now, however, and gets to see his pictures right away on the little screen in the back of his camera.

*Potentialism: An Art Form first identified by photographer Robert James in 1998, after a long and intense period of shooting without ever developing his film. Potentialists labor hard and earnestly to bring their ideas to life but in the end, because of incomplete or missing steps in their execution, nothing ever materializes. The quality and expressive power of such asomatous works are of course very difficult to judge, and Potentialism’s vast popularity lies in its enabling any practitioner to proclaim himself a great artist. Mr. James does not profess to be the first potentialist and cites Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ as an early example.

The world hopes one day soon the government of nations is taken over by potentialists. Then will all wars come to an end, O Happy Day!

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

Color and composition.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

A bit more depth of field.

Bob James shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Bob James, Yukon, OK, USA


Equipment and Settings

Canon 6D, 50mm lens
1/100 sec at f/11

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Comments (3):

  1. Adrian hill

    November 3, 2020 at 13:24

    Good to see your work highlighted. Your words like your images are intriguing, witty and insightful.

  2. Elaine Taylor

    November 11, 2020 at 19:17

    Enjoyed the words as much as the photo. Fab feature!!

  3. John Martin

    November 16, 2020 at 22:29

    Your (hilarious) words inspired me to look at your website. “industrial yukon” is a wonderful evocative shot. How did you get the texture?


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