During my time spent in Art 110, I have learned a lot about what art means. Not just a broad definition, but what it means to individual people. I think the biggest lesson I have learned is that art can mean many different things to different people. Art is a form of self expression, a way for people to cope with mental illness, creative ways to address problems, or even ways to get people to think differently. There were examples of each of these throughout the galleries we had the privilege of visiting over the semester.
Not only were we taught about what art can mean to so many individuals, but we also learned how to use art for ourselves and were given the opportunity to outlet our creativity in new forms of expression, whether it be through sketching, painting, or plaster casting. I think the most important thing we can learn about art is being able to find something, a medium that allows us to express our ideas, our feelings, our hopes, and our dreams.
I have been lucky to have been able to discover a creative outlet that allows me to express ideas and capture moments without necessarily needing to be a talented illustrator or painter, people who are usually labeled the artists. Some people argue whether mediums such as photography art actually considered art. Individuals could argue that it’s too easy to be considered art. All you have to do is click the shutter button and you already have a completed image. While this may the case, often times it requires much more than simply clicking a button to come out with a good image.
For me, photography forces my brain to think differently. It forces my eyes to see differently and it forces me to observe the world differently. Often times I find myself thinking of the world as shadows and lines instead of what I would normally say might be a tree or a mountain or a face. When I’m taking pictures I have to look at the world through a rectangular frame instead of how we may perceive it normally having an almost 180 degree field of view.
This past weekend I drove out to Joshua Tree the day after it had been raining so I could take some photos of the night sky. After driving around the unlit roads of the park for an hour looking for a spot to set up my tripod and escape from the clouds that were lingering after the rain, I found a stretch of dirt where I could be free from almost all man made light. I stepped out into the wind which made it feel much colder than the 40 degrees that my car’s thermometer was reading. I put my camera on a tripod and framed a shot . I used my headlamp to focus on a lone Joshua tree and then I turned off all my lights. My freezing finger pressed the shutter and for 27 seconds I was in darkness. My only light source, the distant stars. I could barely see my own hands in front of me and all I could do was listen to the world around me which was nearly perfectly silent. There is a sense of suspense and excitement when taking long exposure photographs that is very intriguing. Not only is it difficult to focus on a subject or get correct exposure settings, but it takes a while to make adjustments to fix mistakes you may have made in focusing or composition. So while I sat in the cold for a half an hour before I had to retreat back to the car before my toes fell off, I captured only 18 pictures. At least half of which were underexposed, blurry, or out of focus.
When I came home to look at the pictures I only saw one that I actually liked the rest were just trials to get to that point. The picture above is the last picture I took before I left. This was my favorite picture. All of the pictures prior to this were trials that led to this photographs. 17 edits to the composition, exposure, and focus had to be made before I ended up with one single picture that I enjoy. It took 30 minutes of freezing cold, minor adjustments, minutes of waiting to end up with one final shot. I think this is a part of art that people tend to ignore. A lot of people only get to see the final product of someone’s work and the struggle and the work that went into creating something is hidden from view to create the illusion that the task of taking a the photograph you are seeing is effortless. To me this is art. Not necessarily the finished product alone, but also the effort put into it and the constant changes and adjustments that are made before you present what you have made. While I may not pursue photography as a career, it has the ability to teach me how to tell stories through a single frame and force me to see the world differently, even if I’m only seeing it that way for as little as a few seconds.
Below are a few of the test shots that led up to the final image: