When I was young my family had a sort of nickname for me, teasing me with my much used phrase "BUT WHY?" - I was very keen to learn and how could I learn if I did not question the world around me? And so, I did!
Today, when I study the work of others it assists me in reaching an understanding of my own output. I choose the word 'output' because - it will be open to interpretation as to whether or not what I produce is 'work'.
With my Celtic Reflections photo gallery site on Facebook, people can comment about the photos I share with them there. Taking photos for myself, for magaizines, clients etc - I have many additional photos which may be of interest to others so, I share these through my Page. Recently however, I was much amused when a person commented "nice photos but don't you do any work?" I had just finished a cover feature for a magazine, produced photos for a guide book and covered several events in that week - having worked far in excess of a 9-5, 5 day week, it felt to me that it was 'work'. Therefore, I asked the person if he did not consider photo-journalism to be work, he said he did not know I was doing this. Apparently, that knowledge changed the interpretation of my output in to work and what I had produced appeared to take on a new credibility. But why? - nothing had changed except his perception. And today, I find myself asking a question about my 'work' - is it art? When do photos become art? After attending an exhibition featuring black and white photography, I felt tempted to experiment with the above 'snap' of myself and reflect on art.
In black and white, does my 'snap-shot' become a meaningful insight in to who I am, a deep and movingly intrinsic study of my character? Or - does it need to be taken by someone else to be thought of as 'art'?
It seems to me that the interpretation of a photo can say much more about the viewer than the photographer or the 'visual artist'.
Does it matter? Whether a photo is art or not? Is it important to know the difference? Unfortunately, in the world of grant 'funding' it is VERY important. For two years I sat on a committee that funded the distribution of a £9m arts fund. To be in a position to make informed decisions a truly amazing amount of paperwork had to be read through and accessed before a committee show of hands to support or reject each application. Robust debate surrounded some of these decisions but personally, I was satisified with the end results made by the group. Nevertheless, I myself have been on the receiving end of rejected applications for project funding. For example, my touring 2009 People of the Sea exhibitions were rejected by several funds. Yet, believing my exhibitions had great value to the folk of the fishing community, I went ahead with them, paying to stage them myself. When over 10,000 people visited my free exhibitions that was personal reward enough for me. Nevertheless, winning international recognition for the People and Songs of the Sea CD - that arrived as yet further icing on the cake. However, personal experience makes me wonder and question "but why?" - Why do I see such institutional support in Scotland (and the UK) for contemporary 'art' which must challenge the viewer - in contrast to art celebrating heritage, educating and entertaining people (the art projects that the masses actually appear to want).
In my 'artistic work' - where I am seeking to challenge people is in their stored 'vision' of their own environment. I want to open people's eyes to the world around them.
Why? For one thing, I like to take photos! But, I also have another reason? I think than an appreciation of beautiful things awards improved health and well-being (social and economic arguments support this).
My photo shows "ART" or alternatively, it shows 13 gambling machines (with battery packs included in them to ensure the lights flashed). 13 machines (lucky for some?) placed on the sands at Portobello. My exhibition tour went to 14 venues, many photographs of Portobello were included but it was the only place where I did not exhibit as the Council owned venue cancelled my booking too late for me to hire another. The cost of JUST ONE of these machines would have paid many times over for all of my 14 exhibitions. I wonder, will 10,000 people come to this art exhibition entitled "Black Swan." After taking a quick 'arty' photo, I ran past the machines to capture the amazing colours in the sky, the 'art' in nature's canvas.