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Friday, February 11, 2005

Being an artist in today's society.

Recently, I had a good discussion with my friend regarding the prospect of succeeding as an artist in this society. Our discussion was inspired by an article by Geoff Olson that I'd read in a local magazine called Common Ground. The article, "The artist as early warning system" was about artistic trends, the difficulties associated with being an artist today, and the difficulties experienced by the visionary artists of yesterday.

Here's a quote from the article that really grabbed my attention:

Any artist worth his or her salt hopes to make a mark, to rise above mere trends, even if that expectation is something of a tall order in a culture with the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth.

After reading that, I had a bit of an Epiphany. That statement hit the nail right on the head; it's so true! Today's society really does have a short attention span. Not only are People today impatient, but they want and want, yet they are insatiable. Everyone seems to want instant gratification, and so few are willing to sacrifice anything to get it. People of today's society take everything they want, absorb what they need from it, and toss it out like yesterdays trash when the next best thing arrives.

If you can understand any of that, then congratulations, because now you have some idea of what it's like to be an artist today, trying to establish themselves.

I'd wager the World Wide Web is partly (largely) to blame for this, as is corporate advertising and consumerism. Today, nearly everyone thinks they are a photographer. (--I think Nikon, Canon and all the other corporate giants would like you to believe that too, but that's a whole other story--) Almost everyone has a new digital camera, and millions upon millions of digital images are uploaded and shared on the internet every day. With so many photos on the net, and so many people browsing through those photos, it's no wonder people have become so jaded. I think after seeing a bazillion pictures of Aunt Lucy's cat' and 'Uncle Tom with his new lawn mower' probably all the pictures start to look the same. I think this has, to a certain degree, diluted the artistic and creative value of photography.

Let me explain this in a different way; Imagine a person buying really expensive paint brushes, paints, and canvas and then expecting to paint a Michelangelo. Not very likely, but it's basically the same as people who buy a great camera and expect that it will somehow transform them into a great photographer. So many people want this, but the reality is; like any other art form, photography takes practice. It requires much time studying, learning and practicing the basics.

Sure, some people will argue saying,
"Look, I took a really good photo! I must be a good photographer."
And sure, it can happen, but can that person explain how they shot the photo and the technical details like aperture settings, shutter speed, ISO? Could they shoot the same photo with the same results if they had to? Not likely, because the image was shot haphazardly and they got lucky. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with people going out and taking snapshots, after all, it's a lot of fun. Sometimes it's exciting to point and shoot and see what you get, but it isn't photography in the artistic sense, it's just taking pictures or snapshots, and that's the key distinction between the two.

This brings me back to my point about today's society wanting instant gratification. When the average person today sees a great photo, composed and shot by a skilled photographer, they'll probably be thrilled by it for a moment if at all, and then they're off again in search of something else. A very small percentage of people will stop at that photo and actually look at it for all it's worth, they will spend more than a few seconds exploring all the details, and they will try understand what the photographer is conveying in that image.


bingo and betty said...

Being and art > original > Preceding all others in time; first... to me this is key > Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual > an original mind > is this something your born with or can it be cultivated? > Being the source > where is it derived from > The point at which something comes into existence or from which it derives or is derived. > The fact or state of existing; being. > The fact or state of continued being; life: our brief existence on Earth. > The act of creating. > Creation The divine act by which, according to various religious and philosophical traditions, the world was brought into existence. > creation > "In the beginning" God created, i.e., called into being, all things out of
nothing. This creative act on the part of God was absolutely free, and for
infinitely wise reasons. The cause of all things exists only in the will of
God. The work of creation is attributed (1) to the Godhead > art > A nonscientific branch of learning > One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts. > imagination > To undergo the experience > To be aware of > To be emotionally affected > To be persuaded of (something) on the basis of intuition, emotion, or other indefinite grounds > To believe; think ... on it goes Mark

Mark said...

That's some excellent incite! Thanks!

Wendi said...

Very well said :)

The battleship on my blog, I believe, is the USS Massachusetts. You can read more about it at; it is located in lovely (NOT) Fall River Massachusetts. I've never actually been aboard it, although Courtney has and said it was fun. Enjoy your adventure today, look forward to seeing your photographs of the dragons :)

Jen said...
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Jen said...
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Jen said...

If it means anything at all, I look forward to absorbing your photos with each new post. The difference between people who take snapshots with their newest Minolta or Olympus digital quickshot and a true artist is not just how "sharp" or "interesting" the picture, but instead, how the picture is composed. Does this picture tell me a story? Did it capture the soul of the object in the picture?

You see, I am on the fence about my own photography. Five years ago, I picked up a very old Pentax ME-Super and started shooting. After a year, I started showing my pics to friends and family, and they all SAW what I saw in them. Even now, when I go somewhere with someone else, for example the zoo, and we both take shots, they are VERY different. Their picture is just a picture of an owl in a cage. But my picture is different. It is not a shot to stick in the family photo album under "Family Trips," but is instead a shot someone would mount on a wall.

I find it difficult to sometimes believe that my pictures are decent, and may actually be interesting to other people, but people seem to like my stuff. It is very unfortunate that I do not get to post my real photography on my website, since I still shoot with a 35MM Pentax. I hate the quality I get from scanning or having them burned to CD by the film developer. I am saving up to by a Nikon D70 or a Canon 20D. I have my fingers crossed for a Canon 20D!!