Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced. -Leo Tolstoy
The World is full of pictures, dare I say too many pictures? I don’t think that would be a stretch. Pictures, that is to say, the depiction of items, places, and people, are useful for making a statement. Visual information can tell you much about many things. When I say something such as the previous statement, that the World may have too many pictures I am referring to many (possibly most) that seem to say nothing, or if they attempt to, they don’t say it for long.
Think of the thousands of print publications that you glance through. Looking at the pictures, turning page after page just to see the next picture. Those images obviously have had no impact or you wouldn’t keep going. Signs, billboards, and on and on. Ment to caption attention for a moment, possibly. Then they are gone, only to be replaced with the next. All this without even mentioning the internet. Where does one even begin with the internet? Twenty years ago you would be lucky to see images of any kind on the internet. Now, you can not get away from them. We live in an image-driven world no doubt.
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. -Aristotle
Okay, now on to the meat of this post. Photography, per se, and specifically photography that is supposed to mean something and dare I say, be considered art.
I have written about my interpretation of art, specifically photographic art previously. And since this is a giant can of worms from the get-go I have no intention of dumping this can out again. Though I will open it and peek inside as I do on a regular basis. It is vital in my opinion to not lose sight of details, but to also not get caught up in details to the point where you lose sight of the big picture.
As with many of the post I write and share here I can only use myself, my work, and my approach, as a real-life example. So, I will do that once again.
What is Art? It is the response of man’s creative soul to the call of the Real. -Rabindranath Tagore
The last year or so there has been a noticeable change in the work I produce. This may be completely unnoticeable to anyone else. Nonetheless, it has taken place. I have gone through phases over the last 10 years or so on not only what I chose to produce as photographs, but how I chose to produce them. That is to say, my work is continually changing. Again, possibly completely unnoticeable by others.
The latest iteration of work has seen me producing less. I seem to be long past the point of taking pictures just for the sake of taking pictures. This is what the World does not need more of. The World does not need more pictures from me. I feel the World needs me to produce pictures that may, if I am fortunate, stand the test of time. This will obviously mean I will be producing more photographs in the future, but if done correctly, it should not seem like more. My hope is that it will seem like my work is simply better.
I have become very aware of certain things when viewing work by others. A couple of important things I have become aware of is the lack of impact many photographs have and the lack of understanding many photographs have. Let me attempt to explain these two things in more detail.
The lack of impact of a photograph
When I talk about impact I am not just talking about the so-called “wow” factor. That is so overdone these days. To the point where it is nothing more than a cliché. Done by the photographer to enlist nothing more than, wow. Most of the time lacking in anything substantial after about 5 seconds of viewing. A billboard to put it mildly. An example of this is the near/far composition. To get very close to something, a flower, rock, unique something in the landscape, fill much of the frame and juxtapose this against the distant background of mountains, oceans, skies, etc. Many have the wow factor, and then… well, what then?
Yes, I am exerting my personal opinion here, it is kind of the reason for a blog I believe. But honestly, this near/far thing is getting old. If you have seen one… I’m sure you know the rest.
Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is. -Jackson Pollock
So where does that leave us, or specifically leave me? Kind of hard to say, but probably between a rock and hard spot. A place I am somewhat used to. It is not about bucking a trend, but more about not having a trend. Trends to me, by their very nature, are repetitive, uncreative, and lose their appeal as quickly as the gained them.
When I view photographs or a photograph, and I immediately have the “wow” reaction, the game is over. I get it. It just served it’s purpose and is now time to move on.
Counter this with an image that may start somewhat gentle, like a slow stroll. Then begins to pull you along as it moves through time and space. There is no way I would glance at it and simply move on. There obviously is more, more to see, more to experience. Is it trying to tell me something? Am I getting what this image is about? What is it about? And the story begins to unfold in your mind as you continue to view it.
Can you see the difference in these two scenarios? If you are like me, one is like a blast of fireworks, and one is like a catchy melody. I accept they both can serve a purpose, but one’s purpose seems much more conducive to long-term enjoyment over short-term excitement.
So what will it be? The choice is always up to you.
Art is too serious to be taken seriously. -Ad Reinhardt