I don’t know much about Art. Though as a photographer, some might consider me an artist or a creative of some sort. I have a passing knowledge of the big trends in Western Art. The move from primarily religious subjects to the non-religious. The trend from realistic to impressionistic to abstract. I know this is a gross oversimplification.
I’ve never been much of an art museum guy. I find them too static and detached from reality. When I visited Europe, decades ago, other than hitting the highlights like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, I stayed away. Architecture, product design, typography, graphic design and of course photography are what I prefer. Walking around the city to experience its pulse is what I really like.
Austin had its annual Museum Day last Sunday and I went to the Blanton on the University of Texas campus. The museum has a collection of mostly Western Art with a smattering of classic reproduction statues, Greek vases, through the Baroque period and all the way to abstract modern. Was I moved by the Art? Not really.
I was surprised by the apparent liberal photography policy — the docents didn’t say anything as people snapped away. Emboldened, I decided to shoot the patrons observing the artwork. That’s what I most enjoyed about the experience. That and the architecture of the place.
I did learn a couple of things however, especially when applied to photography.
1. It seems like anything can pass as art or a work of creative expression. That minimalist art that people make fun of, yup it was there. It seems like all you need is the creative intent and a good story behind what you are tying to do. Photographers are too conservative in what they consider valid photographs. Some complain about HDR, for example, which is tame compared to what I saw. Perhaps all you need is a good story and intent behind those highly saturated and textured images.
2. Many photographers seem to shy away from the overly colorful but the artworks I saw were often bold and saturated. That’s one of the challenges I have with digital, I often find the colors too muted. Film, I think, can have more richness and complexity. Ironically, I’m shooting a lot more black and white these days because, at times, I can get more boldness from monochrome.
Photography is about exclusion and simplification. Traditional Art, inclusion. Opposite and different. Yet, I think art can influence photography and it can open my mind. While my trip to the Blanton might have not been eye-opening it has left an impression. Perhaps Museum Day has served its purpose.
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