About Re-Interpreting Art in Photography

You have a walk through an art exhibition. Let's say the big documenta14 exhibition in Athens. And graciously they allow you to take pictures. "No flash lights!" Of course.

And you take some pictures of work that you find interesting. You take pictures the way you think it represents this art the best way. You chose the POV (point of view), the angle, the exposure to complement the oeuvre.

 

 The Chess Society by Bili Bidjocka  documenta14, Athens School of Fine Arts

The Chess Society by Bili Bidjocka  documenta14, Athens School of Fine Arts

 

And whilst you are taking these pictures the piece of art is doing something with you. It makes you aware of its presence. It occupies your mind. You start thinking about the meaning of this piece of art. You start asking how the picture that you are taking interacts with this piece of art. You start interpreting this piece of art by taking a picture. You are getting involved into the process of creating a little piece of art yourself. You create art about art. With the help of photography. With the help of your mind and your camera. So it becomes a little piece of your own. Your own creation.

Does it? Is this picture your own? Do you become the creator of art? By just taking a picture of a piece of art? Can you call yourself an artist because you interpret somebody else's art? I am not sure.

I personally feel that I am changing the perception of this particular piece of art by taking a picture my way. I get into a dialogue with this piece of art. I try to find answers to its message. So from that perspective I regard myself as the creator of a new piece of art.

But am I really? I don't know. I will leave this to you to decide. And maybe you comment on it and tell me your opinion. 

About Darkness in Photography

Shooting light is not possible. Only darkness makes us see. And yet there is the question how much darkness there should be. Do we want light darkness or in other words light greys if we talk about black and white photography? Or do we want deep darkness or in other words strong contrast? Or do we even chose a darkness that leaves barely any light, a darkness that swallows nearly everything? 

What do we want to express? How is our mood? How dark or bright do we perceive our lives and ourselves? Is the use of darkness in photography an expression of how we see life, how we judge the quality of life? Light is life. But darkness is too.

Does darkness represent the demons in us, tamed when we approach them in photography? Or is light in deep darkness maybe the expression of the slightest subtleties of hope and so an expression of vitality and deep positive feelings?

I work with darkness in my photography. I am fascinated by it. I find tiny little bits of light in deep darkness highly attractive. My heart opens when I watch the minimal subtle light that makes us see not more than just the shapes of forms. It makes my phantasy rave, gives me the thrill of the unknown that I can fill with my own thoughts and feelings.

Yes, darkness also has a scary aspect. The darkness of the unknown can be terrorizing. Maybe something evil hides in the darkness that I cannot discern and that jeopardizes me and my life? Maybe the darkness in a picture represents the dark side within myself, in my soul? Maybe I can see the abyss but not gaze to its ground? Darkness can make me shudder. Darkness can be threatening. But by inflicting this threat on us, darkness also exudes a thrill.

It is a game. An experiment. An experiment with our own nature and personality when we take pictures. When we impose our own taste on the frame and what it expresses.

And that is the fascination of processing pictures. When taking the picture with my camera I have a real environment, a scene that allows a limited number of interpretations. Processing a picture gives me the opportunity of widening my options, of adding new meaning by interpreting what I find in my original image. 

Processing is interpretation. Is enhancement. Is adding meaning. And that is when I process a picture into dark. I imprint on this picture my interpretation of a meaning of darkness. And I give others the opportunity of reading me through my picture.

Yes, please read the darkness in my soul. But be aware of the gate keeper.

CURATING

I have been asked to become one of the curators of the online photographic gallery ****Contrasted Gallery on Flickr.  https://www.flickr.com/groups/contrasted_gallery/pool/

Contrasted Gallery is an exhibition project founded by Manuel Diumenjó in 2007. The gallery exhibits interesting artistic pictures by photographers that post their pictures on a Flickr stream. Currently three curators share the task of finding artists and asking them if they are interested in showing their pictures in this online gallery. The curators are free to decide who they invite and which criteria they apply with regard to their choice.

So all of a sudden I find myself in the situation that I need not only to find an artist every three months who wants to exhibit his work but I also (and that is the trickier part) need to define my own criteria of quality that make me approach a photographer and ask him or her.

It is similar to my question in my last blog. What are the criteria for taking or processing a picture? In this case it is the question how I define "artistry" and "well taken" and "interesting". And honestly - I don't know. I have likings and dislikes. I have moments when a picture or a picture gallery appeals to me, speaks to me and other moments when this doesn't happen. As a decision making criteria this doesn't seem very strong.

Yes, criteria like composition and use of light I take into account. Is it a picture that tells a story? Is the whole gallery able to captivate the viewer? Am I interested in watching the next picture and discover what t is all about? Does the photographer communicate with his subjects (and if it is even on a remote and virtual basis)? Does he or she communicate with his viewers?

What I don't apply are criteria of so called "modern photography". I made once in New Zealand an experience with a gallerist that I had approached with the question if he was interested in exhibiting some of my pictures. He declined my request with the reasoning that my pictures did not exude the feel of modern photography and that it was stuck in the 80s. I pondered about this for a long time and I could really, really not find out what exactly he meant. Sure, some photography deals with the latest social and political dvelopments. The photographers that are represented by the Magnum group work that way, and they do it brilliantly. But other photography is timeless, does not refer to certain new socio-geographical developments. I have come to the conclusion that this criterium is nonsense, at least for my own decision making.

So I approach artists whose pictures "speak to me". I apply my subjective criteria. I get into an dialogue with the artist and his work. And if I am able to maintain this dialogue for a while and if the overall work communicates a message that captivates me I invite them.

I am currently working with the Brazilian photographer Zé Lobarto. Zé creates beautiful street photography where each single picture tells a story of light, lines and drama. But I don't want to ramble. I want to attract your attention to this amazing artist and make you follow this link to his Flickr stream. Yes, exactly this one. Click!  https://www.flickr.com/photos/ze_lobato/

And on 10 June, when the exhibition opens I will add here the link to his work at ****Contrasted Gallery.

The first exhibition that I have curated was with pictures of the German photographer Stefan Speidel who has been living in Tokyo for the past 30 years. His strong black and white pictures of Japan and Japanese life and culture give an impression of how life shapes the view of expats who have to embrace their new environment. And external view from inside. I find it fascinating.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rifugio_bobo

I am captivated. By them. By their work. And by choosing artists and applying my own very subjective criteria. I love it!