Monday, February 20, 2012

Pondering the perceptions of others

It’s interesting sitting in a gallery, watching people come through; pausing to reflect on a piece, to comment on the art to a friend.
What’s even more thrilling, in a self torturous kind of way, is sitting in on your own exhibition anonymously.
Even though I announced last week via Facebook and Twitter that I would be minding my current exhibition “Mental Monsters” this past Sunday, many people still wandered in without knowing who I was. 
This kind of secrecy allowed me to eavesdrop legitimately on what people thought of my work; not something many others can claim to have done.

Similar descriptive words repeated themselves:






And yet, all this could not top off the best “questions” of the day.

One woman came in, who stated she enjoyed the intensity and theatrics of my work.  She asked me what medium of photography I worked with, to which of course I replied with digital.

“But you have to be really careful with that, don’t you?” she asked me, “As there’s a certain kind of superficiality to digital photography.”

Ironically, I was asked this question twice in one day. The first time was actually by someone i knew, and I understood she was just challenging me in a mentor-ish way, but the second time was someone who genuinely thought she had a point. Many people I could imagine, would get very upset by a comment like this, but this is an argument I have become used to. To me, this argument is akin to the debates over white bread verses grainy bread; both are good, both are relevant, both are bread, it’s simply a matter of preference.

I smiled. “I suppose that is true. But that is true of any art form, regardless. I could argue that I’m not manipulating the photo, I’m manipulating the mood.” The woman smiled and nodded at me. If I was convincing her, I’m not sure. “What people need to remember is that artists like me aren’t trying to convince you that this was how it was anymore. We are quite happy to tell you that we manipulated it to enhance a feeling, to show a way the light moved or to bring out something that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise; unlike darkroom photographers, who can quite rightly say they didn’t use Photoshop, but we all know they edited their image in a darkroom.”

Another man came in, and wondered if what I was doing was just twisting the truth.

“Because that’s not how it was, is it?” he asked pointing to one of the pieces. It’s very good how you’ve finished it, but doesn’t manipulating it in Photoshop just twist the truth?”
“Well that really depends,” I answered. Many hobby photographers (not all, but many) have a common belief that a true photo is one that captures EXACTLY what was there at that moment. But I have never agreed with that, based on the simple principle, no two photographers will photograph the same subject the same way. “These works are not about you. I invite you to find meaning, I want you to walk away with something, but these are how I reacted to something. These photographs show more than anything how I view the world. That makes them truer than any photo I could take with perfect lighting and perfect clarity.”

I hope that both these people walked away with a deeper understanding for digital works, if not a respect for a young artist, who knows what she’s talking about.

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