Friday, December 07, 2007

A Ramble through my mind

Amidst working on my exhibition and trying to promote The Pond, I still have managed to go watch some movies. Things that have been provoking my mind.

The first thing was watching a Norwegian film, An Enemy of the People, based on a play by Ibsen. I do not want to spoil the story line for people, but it is about how normal people in society will take what is good in the short term, even doing something immoral, if it affects their livelihoods. It kinds of puts into perspective the materialistic world we live in, where idealists are not welcome.

The next thing I did was watch a documentary on American photographer, William Eggleston. He was the photographer that brought colour photography into the art world. His pictures are of the mundane, even the banal, but they show a singular vision, of how someone can give value to objects we walk by in the street daily by taking its photograph. There is a quote in the documentary that goes "Photography tends to show, to describe, much more than they can explain." And how true it is. Photographs can be so emotionally descriptive, but they carry very little explanation if any.

What also struck me about Eggleston is that he is a controversial figure. Ansel Adams was appalled by Eggleston's first exhibition in a museum. How is such work considered art? And there are moments in the documentary we can see the defiance and vulnerability of Eggleston. He says defiantly, "I do not care what people think". Only in a moment later to say, "yes I do". And to me, as a photographer, I understand this inner conflict. The value of a photographer is in his or her unique vision, and it is something that the photographer has to defend in defiance of what the public thinks or says. But there is the other human side of the artist, that wants people to appreciate the images, to praise the images. People who succeed with their own vision are motivated and opinionated.

This reinforces what I thought about Frank Gehry. The visionaries are controversial people. Some people will love them and others will hate them. And who does become appreciated is also dependent on how the general populace is thinking. Van Gogh died a pauper but is sold for millions today. There could have been others who are simply never appreciated. What I think is that being safe and giving people what they want, what they already know, is a good way to be forgotten in the long run. You will not be bringing anything new into this world. There is no chance of changing people's ideas or viewpoints.

So forget what other people tell you. Think for yourself, be yourself. Like Eggleston said, his audience is basically himself. Be your own audience. Be your own best fan, in the face of what people say. Martin Parr faced a lot of opposition joining Magnum. There were photographers who disliked his work. And Martin Parr has been critical of other photographer's portfolios. What can a person do? A person can simply continue his or her own search and believe in his or her own self. There is nothing else to do. Whether fame and fortune comes, it is beyond our control. All we can do is enjoy the journey.

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