Saturday, October 27

i think i'm willing to pay

David A. Glen is a man who desires what most see as the unattainable…that is…truth. He is the chief operations officer of an organization called PROGENY and a documentary photographer who has traveled all over the world. Recently he came to one of my classes at LCAD as a guest speaker. We were treated to a fascinating examination and discussion of the importance of truth and ethics in art, and why it is different for everyone…and why maybe it shouldn’t be different for everyone…after all, truth is truth, right?

Art documents the human condition. No one can deny that. Even art that seems to be meaningless and superficial still says something about the person who created it, that person being a human being, and thus exhibiting an expression of their humanity.
David made the point that most of the artists of the past were essentially documentarians recording our physical, emotional and spiritual history. I appreciated his drive to record not only fear, sadness, pain and suffering…but also joy, amusement and beauty. He shared that often the most difficult thing for him to do is to remain honest. His purpose is to witness and record history…to take pictures, not make them; and through it all to remain unbiased, casting aside all semantics and all ambiguity.

At one point Michael Moore was brought up. Concerning him, David said, to my amusement and relief: “Michael Moore is the most damaging thing that has ever happened to documentarians in the history of the art. Because he has an agenda. He is not interested in the truth.” This was something I had been thinking about as he spoke, and I could sense his bitterness towards the man who had stripped his life’s passion of so much credence and integrity. I feel the same way about what legalism and manmade religion has done to the beauty and light of Christianity.

Staying honest is an essential part of maintaining one’s humanity. David stressed that losing his humanity would be detrimental to his pictures, not to mention himself. He never wants to become numb to what is around him; great photographers, he said, are never desensitized. There is a large personal price to pay for allowing yourself to become so personally involved in the tragedy of people’s lives…but you have to care. If you lose that, the photos become mere sensationalism. Once you become calloused to tragedy or joy, once you lose your humanity, the work is no longer honest. It turns into superficial pandering, merely something terrible or strange or amazing that people scramble to see. And where is the truth in that?

Motives in any art are apparent in the final output. We were told that there is a fine line between expressing yourself and your beliefs…and distorting truth and reality. “Without truth you are nothing,” David said. The unvarnished truth is not meant to be comfortable. He expressed his opinion that true art can “get people back on track”…it is not “art for art’s sake”. I don’t know what every other person in the room thought of that, but I happen to agree with it. I also agree with what David said when he asked this question: “Is there such a thing as totally unbiased objectivity?” His answer was, of course, no. But that’s what it is to be human…each person different from another…no one creates or expresses themselves in exactly the same way. Whether or not your biases make it into the work, by grasping for the truth, you can be assured of the utmost purity in the outcome whether it be paintings of kittens or photographs of a cold-blooded massacre at a school.

As far as the ethical aspects were concerned, in this case, the issue was the question of right or wrong in the photography of dead and dying children. After seeing a slide show of the tragic, awful terrorism that took place in 2004 in a Russian elementary school we were asked, do pictures like this serve a purpose? Most of the class said yes…illumination, awareness, understanding. But the few opposing voices were just as strong, saying they were too disturbing, too gruesome, and that it was just plain insensitive to show them in a classroom.

I tend to side more with the former argument, that seeing things like this are indeed necessary, especially for Americans. I don’t want to be sheltered from this, to
Continue to believe that this fantasy world that I live in is what is normal. Some people, rather, most people wake up to see this kind of pain and heartbreak every day. My only connection to that is seeing footage like this…and I even have the freedom to choose whether or not I want to look at it! It is so far from what I consider reality…I am blessed beyond belief. And so very grateful.


Anyway, i found the class to be extremely fascinating...there is a link to the organization's website below.
What this has to do with my own aims and desires for what i hope to accomplish artistically is still vague to me...except that i am striving for truth...and how that is expressed in individual people (redundant?). Is that my goal in my love for portraiture...? Maybe not entirely...but i know it's part of it. The Lord will fill in the rest.



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