(This is a follow-up to my last post, Film, Huh, Good God, What is it Good For?)
The bricklayer takes bricks and cement and builds a wall. It’s an expression of function, and the result is useful as structure.
The artist who uses bricks as his medium (if perhaps there is one that does) takes the same building blocks as the bricklayer and creates something out of their imagination. It could be anything, a tree, a bed, a figure, a structure, but it’s not functional. It’s an expression of themselves.
The sculptor takes a solid rock and chips away at it and reveals a figure inside. Or an animal or a tree or anything he or she can dream of. It’s an expression of themselves.
The photographer takes a photo of a man on a street and presents it. It’s an expression of what he sees, what he puts value on, what he finds interesting. (Or perhaps what he’s seen done before, and he’s happy having made a good emulation.) But it’s not a vision–he didn’t create it, it was in front of him, it resonated with him and so he took the shot. Or it could be a landscape, or an old car. By photographing it, it does reveal something–we know what this person likes, what captures their eye and attention of their camera. But we don’t see a vision–a work of art created in the artist’s mind/heart and then realized with the tools of photography.
I use this same analogy with musicians playing open mic night. If you go up and play three cover songs, I may enjoy the tunes, but I won’t know anything about you. It’s almost a cheat–I didn’t get to hear something you created, where you put your words to your music. Yes, you entertained, but it was without anything new, your own art. You didn’t risk anything. You played safe.
The artist who uses photography to create art has but one goal–to speak to the viewer with the tools of the medium and create a piece of art that communicates something, that tells us a bit about the artist, not the scene. The fine art photographer doesn’t present that which is literal, but that which is their interpretation of their world using images.
This was photographed at dusk at a farm off a road near where I live, but this isn’t what it looked like. It’s what I saw when I pictured it in my mind–a view of just their white snouts poking out of the darkness at the onset of the impending, perhaps foreboding, night. So, I processed the photograph to reflect that vision. (It would have really been an art photo if I had brought those cows there, or somewhere else, perhaps the median of an interstate!) See how a choice like that changes photography from a finished medium to a starting medium? You want to photograph a female nude out in a field wearing nothing but a gas mask, that’s your art. (I’ve seen that photo–galleries and competitions love it. It’s an expression, you certainly didn’t stumble on that and take a snap.)
The reason I had to make this photo into an interpretation is because I’m not a nature guy. I’m much more comfortable in an urban environment, so to make this, it’s a bit of my way of saying I’m not about the pretty farm scene. This way, it has an almost dystopian feeling, something out of a David Lynch-ian world, which I much more connect with than the natural world. It feels somewhat dark and foreboding when you see them the way I do. There’s something possibly dangerous about them, you wouldn’t want to be standing near them.
That’s how I see nature and animals in natural settings. That’s my perception of my world, and this photograph perfectly depicts it, saying “Stay out!” And I do.
Having been a photojournalist for many years of my career, transitioning to telling a bit about myself in a photograph instead of presenting literal truth has been a challenge. But one that has me excited at the possibilities of what I can create.
My name is Kenneth Wajda. That’s my literal name. That’s how I sell myself as a commercial photographer. Hire me, here’s my work at KennethWajda.com.
My fine art site is K. Andrzej Wajda, which uses my middle name and pronounces my middle and last name in my native Polish: (Ahn’-dray Vy’-duh). That’s an abstraction right there. When I introduce myself, it’s a different perception. It’s my artist speaking. (I feel like Sting must have when he first introduced himself–a bit awkward at first.) And I listen as the person I’m introducing myself responds. There’s a different perception of me as an artist from the pronunciation of the name, it’s fascinating.
(I’m currently seeking gallery representation, which is why I’m introducing myself to gallery owners, so if you are someone or know someone who would find my work fitting in your/their gallery, please let’s be in contact.)
That’s the thing about art, you can be anyone and make anything you want. You just have to be willing to reveal a bit about yourself. When you do, you create something that speaks of you. You create art.
You reveal yourself. And once revealed, it’s something that can be judged. It’s a daring thing to do.
A person who tells you what they hate tells you nothing about themselves. “I hate this beer. I hate this city. I hate this weather.” So? But tell us what you like, reveal something about yourself, and now I have the ability to judge your taste. “You like this beer/city/weather, ha, you know nothing about good beer/cities/weather!”
What do we dare reveal about ourselves with our art? What speaks of us, not of the scene in front of our lens, but of us? What do we dare show of our perception?
This isn’t a photograph that I would normally take, but seeing this bird lying there, on the side of the road, seemingly asleep though I knew it wasn’t, there was something peaceful about it. It wasn’t run over by a car and damaged. It looked quite perfect, and that peacefulness is what I wanted to speak of, create, show. That’s what makes this quite beautiful in a world where most would say there is nothing attractive about death.
This says something about me, too. I am the optimist, yet I can make this photo. It’s like saying even at the worst of times, I can find something positive. I can give its last resting place a place of lasting honor.
I think the positiveness in this photograph is why I’ve included it in my gallery. (That and ‘weird’ sells the artist, doesn’t it? My work is a step away from the daily snapshooters.)
Art. The perception that art is something specific is a part of being an artist, and also a cloud–how much are we able to really create anything original versus making what we’ve seen or been taught to see as art? I know for me, I carry a camera all the time, but only make photographs when something connects to me, draws me, makes me want to photograph.
I think it comes down to truth. If it’s our truth, then it’s our art. And that’s the one thing that as artists we all strive to create and reveal. Not the one we want people to perceive of us, but our real truth.
If we dare.