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“Whether a watercolor is inferior to an oil, or whether a drawing, an etching, or a photograph is not as important as either, it’s in consequent. To have to despise something in order to respect something else is a sign of impotence.”
When will the art world quit their biases and prejudices towards how art is created and simply live in the glow of the image? Wouldn’t it be interesting if, when you walked into a gallery or show, the medium or how the work was created was never discussed? What would people think about the work? How would they classify or qualify it? How would they react to it, since they would truly be reacting to the work and not any biases towards the medium or methods used to create it?
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Last week I went to Edmonton with a friend to drop off art work at our respective galleries, but also to visit the new Art Gallery of Alberta. The AGA currently has several world-class exhibitions taking place. Of particular interest to us was the Edgar Degas exhibit. Degas is perhaps most noted for his sculptures and paintings of women, and in particular dancers. I was most taken with his horse sculptures however, with many being in various stages of completion. While his paintings and sculptures of the dancers were well done, I just didn’t have that same kind of connection to them as with the horses. I did enjoy seeing some of the figurative paintings in which facial details were minimal or absent altogether. It makes me want to explore figurative painting again myself – my struggle has always been in facial details. I’m learning to let go of the realist style I’ve always aimed for in the past.
Shamrock Club lacrosse team, Champions of the World, composite, 1879, originally uploaded by Musée McCord Museum.
There are some people who treat digital photography, and especially the composite images I am creating, as hacking…..not worthy of being considered photography at all. Or they wonder what it is and how to define it. Is it photography? Is it a form of painting? Mixed media? Or something undefined?
When entering specific photography shows I usually include at least one non-composite image. Invariably it is this image chosen for the show. It is my belief this occurs because of a lack of knowledge about the history of photography. Especially of being unaware of how painting and photography have been linked since photography’s infancy. Society has been programmed to believe the sharp, detailed mirror images of what exists is what qualifies as a photograph. Everything else is seen as an experimental departure; as a breaking of rules. It has always been my intention to show that the camera is just a tool used in expressing a vision. As with a paintbrush, there are many ways of determining how the medium is used.
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I had a couple of conversations over the Thanksgiving weekend that really got me thinking. As photographers, do we look at the world differently than most? Do we have an eye that sees things nobody else can see? Do we pay attention to the tiniest details that escape other people?
It started with a conversation with my nephew about Saskatchewan. I don’t know how the conversation started, but I had said I loved Saskatchewan. My nephew laughed and said something about how boring and monotonous it was. I’ve had this same conversation with other people several times before. I’ve recounted all the things I love about this prairie province, but these people have refused to believe there’s anything beautiful or interesting there.
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As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of people let fear stop them from following their dreams of pursuing a career in the arts. I was once one of those people. When I was 20 I was accepted into the Alberta College of Art. I didn’t go. There was an issue with a parent not wanting to pay, but if I hadn’t been scared I would have found a way to go anyway. I should have found a way. But I didn’t. I was young. I didn’t really know where I wanted to go in life. I was afraid of being a failure.
Then I took a photography course and kind of bounced around. My heart was in nature photography but, at that time, the only way I knew to make a living at that type of photography was through the stock industry. I was shooting slide film and built up a sizable body of work. I had all the slides properly documented and labeled ready to send to a stock agency, but I never did.
I have had a lot of discussions with other artistic types about criticism and rejection. There are a great number of people in the world who will not take their art to the next level because of a fear of criticism and rejection, and how personally they take it. They fear the rejection that comes with trying to have a professional career in the arts would crush their creative spirit.
A friend recently shared this video with me of author, Elizabeth Gilbert, speaking about creative inspiration. It’s a subject which I have discussed a lot with others over the years, and which I feel is very important in anyone’s life, not just artists.
At one of my shows recently I had a conversation with a man about creative inspiration. He had asked if, when I go out taking pictures, I have a specific vision or goal in mind, or how exactly I approached my work.
Although I do go out shooting with specific goals sometimes, I often find that my intentions wander when I see what is available. Yesterday’s outing is a perfect example of that. I had gone out hoping to capture some landscape images in the fog, but the fog did not show up, so my intentions shifted. What resulted were some images that I hadn’t even considered, but which I am quite pleased with.