Eye of the beholder

Fresh Freindly Local, Branford, Connecticut © Steven Willard

Fresh Friendly Local, Branford, Connecticut © Steven Willard

People see things differently. Pegasus certainly caught my eye as it did years ago when it was used as the brand logo for Mobil Oil. But that was back in the day when we learned Greek mythology in school not whatever it is they teach today. That’s not an indictment of what they do teach, times change and I guess what needs to be taught changes, too. My point is that what may have significance for me may mean nothing to you. I guess that’s one of the things the marketing people worry over.

Likewise, I’ll bet that most people who drove past this vacant building saw little of value; perhaps even thought it should be torn down to make way for another Starbucks® or Dunkin Donuts®, but somebody saw it and thought it had potential, perhaps the path to a dream.

As photographers/artists we run into this cunundrum often. What relevance does an image have to anyone else, and does it matter? Is it something we should worry about as we trip the shutter? Does the image we’re about to make spark any feeling, even to ourselves, or are we just looking to make another photograph?

I think a lot of us got interested in photography because we liked the gear. Like crows we were fascinated by shiny little things. Some never out grow that phase. I’ll admit to a weakness here that is squelched only by a lack of money. But some graduate to another level and actually want to learn how to make good images. They learn about the rule of thirds, and color balance and the best ways to increase dynamic range and sharpness, but the results are too often sharp images, perfectly color balanced with an abundance of dynamic range……and no soul, no reason to exist because the photographer had no clear idea what idea he/she was trying to convey. A lot of photographers get stuck at this level. They have invested time and often a lot of money to make photographs devoid of meaning even to themselves, but they have so much invested they feel compelled to make even more meaningless photographs. Someplace they hear that to be good you have to take 10,000 pictures, but fail to get that it’s necessary to put effort into those images, to be harshly self critical; it’s part of the reason the Internet is awash in boring yet technically proficient images. I think the hardest thing to learn about photography is the why. I’m 69 years old and have been at it for almost 60 years and it is still the thing I have to work hardest to understand, but I’ve come to the realization that if one doesn’t at least make a serious effort to understand the single most important part of art you are just a hack. There is nothing wrong with that, but only if you admit it to yourself.

I have no beef with people who just want to make snapshots of their pets or take pictures on their vacation as mementos. Just don’t try to convince yourself, or me, that it’s art. Like I said at the top, people see things differently. This is just how I see it.

Olympus OMD EM5 with kit zoom lens processed using Snapseed®.


One comment on “Eye of the beholder

  1. nikkorbacher says:

    The Mobil flying horse also sticks in my mind from childhood, right there alongside the Sinclair dinosaur.


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