I want to talk about a picture. Not any picture but one of those special pictures. Every so often I come across one that catches my eye and gives me pleasure. It is not enough to glace at it. I want to stare at it, think about it, experience the feelings it evokes. I want it on my wall. Not every image has this effect. Considering how many images I see in a day, it is very few pictures that have this effect. And occasionally, it is one of my own.
An image that captured my interest once was a painting by an artist named Sheveresky. I wrote about seeing this image in an art gallery here in Vancouver and how it moved me. I went back a second time to look at it. Strange because there is nothing to the image. Lemons on a table. The painting is on the top of this post. They were so real I could not take my eyes off of them. It was a big painting, long and not too high, and the lemons stood out against the black background. I could not afford the picture or I would have bought it.
I got onto this train of thought when I worked up an image from our recent trip to Europe. It was a morning view of the Canale Rio Marin from the bridge on the Calle de la Bergama in Venice. The colors were lovely, there was mist in the distance, and shooting into the sun, which was out of sight around the corner, there was a wonderful dimensionality. I was struck by it and when I took the picture I could see it clearly on my wall. I had a mental image of it.
Well, if I had an image of a color photo on my wall, why did I render the image in black and white? I don’t know. Why did I crop it the way I did? I don’t know. Why did I shoot it the way I did? I don’t know. It all just felt right when I got down to working on it. I have read articles on composition and color balance and image processing and they seem to do nothing for me. What I feel when I work up an image comes from inside and I can’t explain it. I process my images on instinct and feeling. I have always approached my photography this way.
I frequently will print an image and look at it for a week or two before doing my final edits. But I am done when I can look at it with pleasure, not once, but every time I see it.
Now it is true that to create the images I want I have taken all kinds of courses and attended photo conventions. This is important because, to create what is inside, you have to have the tools. And as the tools become more sophisticated, the options available to create a feeling on paper grow. And as I learn my photography changes and I become better at it. At least, in my mind I become better.
I don’t think “real artists” spend time measuring angles and plotting golden ratios to layout an image or carve a statue. I think that they, too, just know what will please them. And if they have learned their craft well, if they have studied their techniques, if they put care and attention into their work, the result will be impressive.
And this is where it gets a bit tricky. If they turn out something that really pleases them have they produced art? Well, maybe not. You see, art is about communication. If the work of an artist does not please you, does not move you, if no one responds to it, as much as the artist likes it, it is not art because it does not communicate. No matter how right I feel my picture is, if it does not evoke emotion in the viewer, if they don’t want to stop and look at it every time they pass by it, then it is just a nice picture, a dull uninteresting nice picture.
So how do I find out if I have raised an image to the status of art? Based on what I have said, my own feelings about it are not terribly relevant. I have to show it and hear what people have to say about it. And that is a scary thought that just might contain a world of hurt. To put your image that you find so right before people who may not appreciate it can be dangerous. These people cannot be family and friends who may not want to hurt your feelings and so pull their punches. They are no use to you. A wider audience of people who will express honest reactions is what is required.
So where do you find this audience. Well, I have no idea because I have never done this. The furthest I have gone is this website and I get little feedback from it. My website is a vanity project. My problem is time and the judgement of others is of no concern to me. How is that for dodging the bullet? But for me, this is a hobby and I am content to please me. After all, that is what a hobby is for.
So, am I producing art? The jury is still out. Am I having fun? Yes I am.