On the Subject of Photography: More Meaningful Photographs

I read about art and other things often, as well as, discuss art making with friends. The reading and discussions are usually what inspires my artwork and it is a major influence in this blog. Reading pushes my thinking and processes in new directions. I enjoy thinking about what I read, in my mind there is always a dialog. I thought I would share that dialog with you here.

Reflection in glass of framed painting, Royal Palace Museum, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

One of my meaningful photographs.

To Make More pictures or to Leave Your Camera at Home, That is the Question.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook about photography. I immediately click on the link and watched the video. The video on The Art of Photography Youtube channel by Ted Forbes is titled ‘Nobody Cares About Your Photography’. The title got my attention, so I pushed play. (You can watch the video here.) Forbes says that a friend of his states that he had no desire to share his photographs because nobody would care about his work. Forbes takes this comment a step further by saying the world does not need more photographers, that the photography market is over saturated. However, he states that the world does need more work that matters, that means something or more meaningful photographs. At this point, you might think he is going to become somewhat negative, but he does not. Forbes goes on to say inspiring things. I am going to hit on and express my thoughts on some of the issues he brings up during the rest of the video and focusing my thoughts on art photography.

Forbes says, you need to make work of your time which also matters. The only way to know what it means to make work of your time is to know what is being made. At this point, the photographs being made around the globe range from formal abstractions to work focused on social justice issues. The work that dominates the art world is varied from country to country, so one needs to know what is happening in their country, but I would argue they should have an eye on what is going on globally. Knowing these things will bring you closer to knowing what type of work matters at this time. In the United States, this is tricky. The work that seems to currently dominate in the United States is conceptual in nature, it also deals with changes in technology. While the work in India for example, I would argue deals a lot with society which makes sense because the country is moving forward on many fronts and their middle class is growing. Thus society is changing.

Forbes also touch on the fact that it is useful to know what kind of work has come before you. I could not agree more. I obviously love the history of photography, but from an academic stand point it seems like many photography students are not as excited about it as I am. However, that could be a product of the fact that at many institutions there is not a history of photography class offered. I think we all need to have a more rounded knowledge of the history of photography beyond our own countries histories or more precisely is he broader than the history of photography in the West.

Knowing what you want to say is also an important component to making work that matters. If you do not know what you are saying, no one will care at all. You can not write a sentence without knowing what you are trying to say and a photograph is the same way. Thanks to the use of semiotics, we often think of photographs in the same way as constructing a sentence or a paragraph. If you know what you are trying to express, chances are you can find someone with similar interests who will care.

Forbes expresses that one of the key issues that revolves around photography is the medium that the photographer uses. This is rapidly changing. He says people like to mention what camera they use or if using film, what kind. However, they do not talk about jpg as a medium even though most of the photographs we see everyday are in the form of jpgs on a computer screen. How do these issues affect your work and what can these ideas add to the meaning of your work. Work being made with cutting edge technology often gets remember solely for that reason.

So, what does work that matters mean? It can mean many things. It could matter because of its exact medium or its subject matter. It is a good bet you can get a bigger audience for your work if you can explore something from a new perspective or if you find a new issue all together. Work can matter simply because it touches someone or because it is politically charge. In the end, you have to follow your own interests to find what matters to you. If you are making work that matters to you, then you are doing it right. I have never been a fan of making work for someone else and I have been decent at getting my work out their.

The only point of Forbes’ that I disagree with is that the world does not need any more photographers. From a specifically numbers perspective he is right. I think the world can always use a new photographer, as the new guy might be the one who changes the game completely. So, go forward, make photographs that are meaningful to you and have a group of photographers with whom you can show your work and discuss all aspects of photography with.

Check out more of The Art of Photography here. I think that Forbes has good things to say about photography as well as good tips.

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By |2018-10-10T13:03:09-05:00June 13th, 2017|On the Subject of Photography|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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