Gary Denness, my blogger pal and photographer consultant over at Mexile Photoblog, shared some interesting thoughts with us yesterday.
He was sorting through the photographs he shot in 2013 to find the best one to display on Flickr. He showed us a dozen of very good photographs that were his runner-ups. Each was good. Because he is a very talented photographer.
As good as the photographs are, his description of why he did not choose any of the twelve was the most interesting part of his post.
The two ladies at the wedding? And someone else’s elbow. The photo of Mrs P was nice. But her face needed just a bit more light and clarity. The bird in the pond, just too little definition of its feathers for my liking. The Auschwitz photo came out nicely, but it is oh so cliche.And then the line that really struck me. "The castle shots would look great in a magazine. But would they suit a gallery? Methinks not."
"Would it suit a gallery?" That may be one of the elements I have been looking for recently in what places the line between what is merely decorative and what is a piece of art.
Granted, the line is an uneven one. But some art gets past the imperfect lighting, the lack of definition -- the cliché. After all, every cliché was once something original.
Take my photograph at the top of this post. It is last night's sunset. A delightfully colorful sunset -- in person. Not spectacular, but a good solid C+ for nature.
The photograph? About as cliché as a photograph could be. Clouds. Color. Ocean. All that was missing was a sailboat.
It is not true that if you have seen one sunset, you have seen them all. But if you have seen one photograph of a sunset, you have about seen them all.
On Sunday afternoon I went to an art show at Ed and Roxanne's home. Ed had hung some of his work around their garden and invited guests to an open house. To look at art. To talk about art.
Or, in the case of this particular painting, to talk about art and the art of bullfighting.
The intersection of the lives of the matador and the bull provides the artistic moment of this painting.
Just as the magical hurly-burly of the circus animates this piece.
I cannot imagine either work being used solely as a decorative piece over a couch or as an illustration in a book. Each piece speaks with the artist's perspective on life.
As does this piece.
When I first arrived, a portrait of Frida was hanging there. But Ed, Roxanne, and I decided, this abstract was better suited for the space.
And suited it was -- unintentionally. The shapes and colors of the bench and canvas chair echo the geometric forms in the painting. An art curator would have spent hours creating that effect. But there it was -- ready to be captured by my camera.
So, does that photograph rise above the level of representational art? I don't think so. It was merely one of those serendipitous moments. I did little more than report what was there.
But this shot comes close to being something a gallery might be interested in.
I would need a different location if I were serious about the subject. Someplace with a bit less distracting vegetation.
The camera does interesting things to reflected clouds. When captured on the surface of the water, they appear to have the same mass as their surroundings. No surprise there. Every element in a photograph has exactly the same mass. I am surprised that Magritte did not rely more on cameras.
After all, the photograph is only a photograph of clouds reflected on the water. It is not the clouds themselves. (Put that way, it is easy to see why the post-moderns are usually left only with the tools of irony and sarcasm to flesh out their works.)
So, there you are. Ed's works are art. My photographs of Ed's works are not.
Or, at least, that is how I am willing to leave this can of worms.