Not totally photo related, not just a journal. A bit of both.

Monday, February 16, 2009

On liking something on the surface. Or not

© 2008, J. Wesley Brown

When you look at a photo, do you look at the visuals, the composition, the angles, lighting and contrast? What the subject is doing or not doing? Do you like it or dislike it at that point? Or do you read up on the artist and choose to like or not like it then?

I was reading a couple of blogs earlier and over at Lenscratch, there was a post about West Coast photographer J Wesley Brown including some really cool nighttime images shot in and around LA. - one of which I have included above.

A quote in that post - I assume from Brown - said:
"I once remarked about how unremarkable a show I had seen at the Reina Sofia was and the woman I was speaking to said she thought the same thing until she went with a group through the show with the artist, who explained his motivation and ideas behind the work. She said it completely changed her mind and that she loved it after that. This made me a bit sick to my stomach.

Why should visual arts require literary explanations? I think if visual work needs to be explained, it is not good visual work. Too bad the art world and virtually all submissions demand statements these days (not always the case, especially during the vast majority of art history)

When, outside of a solo show, do you walk by artwork in museums and see statements? You don’t. You shouldn't need to."
I fall perhaps between those two extremes. I know what I like, though occasionally I can't put it into words. But given my nature to research people and things, I might discover after the fact that an image which was appealing at first blush could be a commentary on a point of view that I might not share. A left wing subtext to a right. A war vs a peace. An environmental stance vs a progress-at-all- costs. And so on.

Remember this image I shot and posted in August? Is it a promotion shot for Terex earth movers or the company that uses them, or commentary on the growth of sub divisions ruining farm land? Hopefully the image is good either way you see it. But it could become more or less tasteful depending on your stance.

I dont think I have been convinced the other way around though. I have not seen an image I have disliked or been at best been nonplussed by, it and then been told it is a piece-de-resistance from so and so and that I should like it because - for example - it speaks to his or her upbringing in such-a-place. Knowing a bit more about the artist might reinforce why I like it, but I don't think it would change my mind from disliking to liking. I will admit I am open to that happening, but it hasn't occurred yet.

An picture should speak for itself. At least 1000 words worth at any rate. :)


Mike Wood Photography

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