I was having kind of a nasty day, so driving back from work I decided to skip class and leave Richmond for the afternoon.
I used to have these moments in high school, listlessly looking out the window and wishing I could just drive off with my camera. I remember being able to finagle my way out of class a couple times, but it’s nice in college that I can more or less choose to skip class without suffering too much when that moment of “I need to go for a drive, now” strikes.
So, I wanted to do landscapes. I’ve been wanting to do landscapes. I’ve been thinking about landscapes and wishing I had both time and my familiar landscape to do them in. My “walking” project was great, I grew as a photographer and trying to make that many unique images was a great challenge and really helped, but it was frustrating because I didn’t really see any of them through the entire process. Many of them ended up feeling like snapshots, and although there were some photos that I genuinely liked, I almost feel hesitant to pull any of them out now and edit them because that’s not what they were supposed to be. They were part of this larger project, and not images that were entirely stand on their own.
So I wanted to get out into the landscape and make some images. I wanted to go out and see a final photograph and make the exposure and then work on it in photoshop until I felt like I made exactly what I saw and felt in the landscape. Basically, I just wanted to get out and practice landscape photography and practice making images because I’ve been cooped up in Richmond doing all this stuff that, while fun and edifying, isn’t landscape photography, which I just can’t get enough of.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about photography recently. From the bits I’ve been able to piece together by hanging around the photography department at VCU, making images for images’ sake is an artistically boring thing to do in this day and age. I’ve gotten a fair number of smirks for standing by Ansel as my favorite photographer. He may not always be my favorite. For now, though, the pursuit of creating images which stand only on their formal elements, are compelling and unique and technically brilliant, that is my pursuit.
There seems to be a nasty divide between the layperson and the art community, and I think this exists in other mediums, but I feel like photography suffers from it especially because it’s perceived as such an easy medium. The schism is between photography that the general population likes and the photography that art people like. It’s hard to play on both sides of the fence, and it’s something that Ansel did very well. He was a millionaire by the end of his life off of his photography, today he’s somewhat of a household name and inseparable with art photography, and yet in the 1930s when showing his photographs to the man who almost single-handedly invented photography as an art, Alfred Stieglitz, Stieglitz remarked “these are some of the finest photographs I’ve ever seen.”
I don’t know if it’s possible now to make both groups happy, the art folk and the common folk. It seems like someone either takes very pedestrian, exciting photos that people like looking at but art people look down their nose at as boring and un-engaging. Or you take photos that most people would say “well these seem pretty boring/straightforward”, but if one has their ‘art goggles’ on, one realizes that the photos may be a very skillful exploration of some interesting idea, some social construct, the nature of some place, or any other idea the photographer is working with.
I don’t know what kind of pictures I’ll take in the future. All I know right now is that there’s nothing that excites me more than the challenge of trying to appeal to both crowds. I don’t want to photograph over people’s heads, I don’t want to show in galleries if people will walk by my photographs thinking “I might like this if someone explained it to me.” I want to make arresting images. I want to make artistically compelling work, work that stands up to thought after first glance. I’ve got a lot of work to do, and these images represent what I think is some of my best practice along the way.