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"THE ARTIST ETHIC"
Photo by Genghis
"SHE'S THE ONE"
I compose, therefore I am.
Art exists for itself. I truly believe this. Art is created by the photographer as a compulsion, an act of obsession that drives all artists as their base motivation, no matter what the vehicle for the artistic expresssion may be. This creative compulsion is counterbalanced by a strong ego.
There is a strong correlation between what drives me as a photographer, and as a writer. The creative urge, which is the driving force behind artists through the ages, is what motivates me to photograph. It is the impetus for stringing words and sentences together in some coherent and hopefully stylish fashion,
to create something that provokes thought.
To create this expression of an idea with word or picture, to touch the world beyond the cognitive systems of the artist---this is the implicit goal.
This thought provoking aspect of street photography is why I value this photography genre above all others: street photography in its purest form---the photography of people in their everyday lives---strives to create the provoking of thought through composition, utilizing ordinary people as featured components of a larger whole. People, even photographers who are unfamilar with the street photography style confuse it with "photojournlism."
Street photos needn't feature celebrities, crimes scenes, war environments or what some deem socially significant events to be interesting. Social interest is found in the eye of the beholder, and street photographers find it by isolating everyday people living everyday lives, through their camera's viewpoints.
There is something entirely captivating about the mundane in our daily lives, because we relate. This is the x-factor for why people find street pictures fascinating, regardless of the photogeneity of the subjects.
Unlike the admiration that classic beauty inherent in a breathtaking landscape or posed portrait of a photogenic model engenders, street photography of people depends on the honesty of the depiction of ordinary people to generate interest. Unposed, spontaneous and at times supremely intimate, street pictures are in a unique category of their own.
When I say that art exists for itself, I'm making the point that it doesn't really matter if one person, a million people, or not even one other person besides the artist sees the art. The art in the mere act of existing, validates its own value. I mean aesthetic value, not monetary value. Art is priceless in the purest sense: one cannot assign monetary value to it, in the ideal world. It is worth everything, and nothing.
This is the intrinsic beauty of art: it doesn't require the approval of others to make its point or to give it its aesthetic worth. It just does, by the act of existing.
"Art" belongs to the world, even if nobody sees it. If a tree in an isolated forrest falls and nobody hears it, did it not fall? Art as a pure entity, belongs to the world. As such, the artist I believe, has an obligation to give his or her art to the world. Art is a contribution to the world, whether it is words to read or a picture to look at. Is it better if many people read my words, or look at my pictures? Am I more gratified if multitudes look at my pictures and discuss them? The answer is, yes. After all I am human, and one's ego does require to be well fed. However, that is not why I shoot pictures.
The "why" I take pictures, and the reason that I juggle and rearrange words, is because of what I call The Artist Ethic. An artist in accordance with this ethic, is obligated to create this art, and then to disseminate it---because art does belong to the world.
Art is a pure entity.
As a purity, art should be ideally divorced from commercial concerns. While it is true that I have been compensated more than adequately by photography professionally since 1969, not a penny has been pocketed from any of my artistic photography. It is also true that I was paid minimally as a magazine columnist in martial arts publications. However, the purist motivation behind these endeavors was the love and passion for these life activities. I learned and then taught a particularly purist and brutal form of the martial arts, in which reality-based training involved great pain, potential (and realized) injury, that yielded the desired result: the most effective combat techniques possible, meant to maim quickly. The profit motive was treated as an unwanted assailant, neutralized and dispatched post-haste!
Art takes many forms, but compromise corrupts their purity.
There is great art to controlled violence. No shopping mall karate studio was my school. My school was non-commercial, charging students only what paid the rent for the training space. In my art, I didn't make a penny profit. This is what motivated my writing for martial arts magazines. The few bucks I earned was a mere afterthought. The point is, I would have written about my combat arts philosophy for nothing, because it is a contribution to the betterment of the world.
An artist has an obligation to disseminate his or her art, and the internet has been a boon for this purpose. For my street photography, there are various venues for doing this on a daily basis---and I do this religiously every day, because I believe that it is my obligation as an artist. These internet venues where I disseminate my art every day, are merely a delivery system for getting these images to the world. Art's only purpose in the universe, is to exist, make you think, and be interesting beyond fleeting beauty.
The internet is a valuable resource for photographers to disseminate their art to the world. It should be treated respectfully by artists, who might be tempted to use the internet for lesser concerns such as social interaction with their photographs. This would be a terrible waste of this potential avenue for giving their art to the world in a serious manner, as it trivializes a photography forum. If photographers are serious about their art, and treat their art seriously, then they should refrain from the socializing use of their pictures.
Treat your pictures for the art that it truly may be, and not as a meaningless cog in a group-directed "post your" thread activity---in the end, these forays into socializing are aesthetically insignificant. Then your art will receive the respect that it deserves. Photography is about art, and it is a solitary endeavor. It is literally you and your camera alone, set out to capture artistic moments of the world. Turning photography into a communitycentric activity, dilutes your photography's artistic value. Photography will always be at its zenith, a thought process that involves one mind and the resulting image from the film plane or digital sensor.
Too many potentially great photography forums, have sadly devolved into gossip mills. This also trivializes the photographers who have lowered their standards to participate in social gossip.
A word about the accompanying street picture, "She's The One." I composed this from across the street in my mind's eye. From that distant vantage point, I preset focus to 12 feet because I estimated that from that distance, I could include both groups of pizza diners in a horizontal format. I preset exposure to 1/60th of a second at f/4 with my 20mm lens. With both focus and exposure set, I crossed the street, hit my "mark" 12 feet fro the subjects, framed the composition the way I envisioned it and made the exposure. I noticed that only one of the diners looked directly into the camera when I made the exposure. For this reason, I titled this "She's The One." Street photos that provoke thought, can bring momentary clarity to the world around us. When someone looks at "She's The One," one might feel that the woman who is looking into the camera's lens, is actually looking at us. A picture like this can be reflective of how we feel about ourselves, in unseen ways.
One thing that cannot be said about true artists, is that they don't practice false humility. This was a lesson that was drummed into me by my martial arts teacher when I was young, and that I subsequently drummed into my martial arts students: do not present a false humility front. For those who do exhibit false humility, it may be a sign of deep-seated inadequacy and a likely inferiority complex, if not duplicity. Strength in the martial arts, is 50% physical technique, and 50% mental strength. This is the microcosmic lesson that the martial arts teaches us about other aspects of life.
There are photographers for example, who feel that their photos are truly art, but cannot act like it is, and cannot declare themselves "artists." This inability to own one's photography as art, is a personality flaw that leads these people to follow, instead of lead in terms of being individualistic. Buying into collectivism instead of being individuals, places these photographers into their comfort zones of anonymity and "group-think." This type of behavior is peer-pressure driven.
This trend toward conformity leads to an inhibition of the aesthetic growth of these photographers.
Some are afraid to lose, and some are afraid to win.
This platitude is glib, but true and meaningful.
If you believe in yourself as a photographer, then don't succumb to the latter. This is a lesson that applies to anything one does in life. Try to be the best in whatever you do, and then present this to the world, as a gift. Art belongs to the world. Remember that water always seeks its own level. If you set your watermarks high, then you will be a true artist who treats your art with the serious respect that it deserves. You will have found your artist ethic. Later.