What’s Become of Us?
When I was 15 I was lucky enough to meet a photography friend and mentor. Stephen was only a year older than I was but he was very knowledgeable and had tremendous confidence. Together we went to photography exhibits in museums and art galleries and I became acquainted with photography’s history and present.
I remember watching how Stephen looked at photographs. He’d position himself in front of an image and just stand there and take it in. Then he’d move on to the next photograph. He gave each image its due.
How many of us when browsing photographs on the web give each image its due before moving to the next one?
I doubt very few of us, because it seems more and more photographers are resorting to wider and wider lenses and more and more saturation to get our attention. Art on the web has become like a political sound byte. If it can’t make its point in a few seconds, it’s passed on.
Digital cameras haven’t helped either. Rather than waiting for our film to get back and examining each image on a light box, we see everything, or at least we think we see everything immediately.
I for one can’t. Even when I shot film, it would be days or weeks before I could determine if I thought an image was good. My own emotions and expectations and my desire for them to be good clouded my vision and I couldn’t look at them objectively. Only after some time had passed and I moved on to having high hopes for another image could I look at the older ones and see them with an objective eye. I had to spend time with them, and get to know them.
For me, the purpose of art is to get our attention and absorb us so fully that for a moment at least we are removed from our everyday life. The artist has made an effort to provide that experience for us. We as patrons owe them the effort to stop and let the art do its work.
The photo above is one of my favorites. I shot it in the spring of 2011, but it didn’t make my 10 best for that year. I didn’t even remember it existing when I compiled my 10 best for 2011. I came upon it a couple of months ago and it immediately grabbed my eye. I guess I had to wait a over a year until I could really see it.