I love my personal photographic projects for many reasons. First, they get me out of the house and have me feeling like I am doing something of value. And even if that value is only something which affects me, it’s worth doing. I take pride in the fact that my eye is sharp enough to line up what I can see in front of me as it moves, so as to produce an overall, pleasing image, where relationships are either complementary or jarring between eyes, limbs, tones. I take pride in the fact that my instincts are sufficient enough to tell me which lens to use, and at what focal length. It takes time to come to the understanding that zooming into a face too much may provide a window to the subject’s emotion, but by going too close, and by not producing context, the image will not work. I know when to pop in a little flash, enough so that my intentions are met, but so much that it becomes obvious or uncontrolled.I love that the people and places I choose to shoot allow me to gain a better understanding of the world, and that I can spread a little happiness by providing images with emotional depth of an event for family, friends and community.
But I don’t see any of this as having anything to do with art.
Art for me should be a visual response to the times being lived through a point which became particular true when the birth of photography allowed painting to be something other than exercises in technical excellence.It is the visual manifestation of ideas, hunches and, occasionally, complete wrong turns. Art should leave people troubled, unnerved, and questioning what they hold to be true. Art is the place where powerful statements can and should be made; The Dadaists proclaiming a world which had just devoured millions of young men in World War 1 to be madness through their performance pieces, for example. Or John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed ins. Or Beyonce using the usually bland platform of the Super Bowl halftime show to stage a performance of beautifully controlled aggression and power.
What art doesn’t have to always be is pleasing to look at.
Which was a point I found myself trying to make yesterday. If I am trying to produce a piece of work which strongly suggests social media companies are less concerned with the positive possibilities of connecting the world, and far more concerned with forging and strengthening connections with governments and the military, what point would there be in making my images technically correct and visually pleasing? Such criteria are those required for a craftsmen, and shouldn’t always be applied to art. I populated my fake social media company with flimsily disguised versions of me, not because I don’t know better, but because by doing so is to expose and undermine the true intentions behind the carefully woven constructs of friendship and benevolence which exist exclusively for the pursuit of profit and power.Manipulation and lack of transparency, is met by my tawdry images.
But hey ho. One of my failings has always been that what is clear to me, might be unfathomable for others. I rarely see that. Or I forget to remember it.