Questions, not Answers

Abstract scene

Photography, being by its nature realistic, tends to present facts or answer questions. But I believe fine art photography and some other genres have a different point of view. I try to raise questions rather than answer them for my viewers. By participating in the creation process I believe the viewer is more engaged.

Much traditional photography is based on presenting a realistic and recognizable subject to the viewer. This includes landscape photography, nature photography, product photography, fashion and portraiture, food photography, photojournalism and others. That is not to say these are of less value, but they tend to avoid ambiguity and represent the subject clearly and relatively unobstructed. Doing this is a skill, and if done well great images can be produced. I cannot resist taking pictures of great landscape and nature scenes when I find them. I love doing it and value the images.

But I concentrate mostly on “fine art”. I quote it because there are few good definitions of the genre. One I like is: an image taken as art. That still leaves a lot of ambiguity. On a practical level I take it to mean the image should raise questions; it should usually be abstract rather than projecting a clear “meaning.” A fine art image does not have expectations of realism, accurate colors, traditional focus, frozen in time subjects, or even recognizability.

I don’t try to force different media into compartments. If you look at one of my images and say “that looks like a modernist or abstract painting” that does not bother me. Chances are that is exactly the idea I was pursuing. If you look at one of my prints and have to ask how it was created I will probably be delighted. When you ask “what does it mean”, I will probably not answer directly. Look at it, ponder it some; it means whatever you take it to mean. Your interpretation may well be different from mine and it is equally valid. I am elated to hear some of the meanings viewers come up with. They may be far different from what I had in mind, but that’s OK. I am thrilled when an image can evoke very different responses.

So when you look at one of my more abstract or surreal images, like the one at the top of this article, go ahead and ask yourself “what is it” and get it over with. Then go on the the more important questions, such as how was it done, what is the context, what does it mean to you. I. hope you, as the viewer, will care enough to ask the questions and to participate in the art.