Are We Seeing the Same Thing?

Hello everyone! Today I want to write about photography interpretations. I read somewhere that photography is one of the few universal languages, everybody speaks photographs. I love photography because it can transport the viewer into another place in time, into another place in the world. But photography is ambiguous, it inherently lacks concrete expression, it can say something a little bit different to everyone. Lots of people will look at a beautiful landscape photograph and say it’s boring, a lot of people will look at a dark and depressing social documentary photography and say it’s interesting. What I find fascinating is that the history of photography is one of rich communication without the use of common definitions, only objects and symbols taken out of their place in reality and placed alongside each other in the form of a photograph.

Of course there are some interpretations that are more correct than others, but photographs intrinsically can’t “speak” they can only (re)present/distort the thing in front of the camera. If you consider art to be the transition of ideas from one person to another than every time someone looks at the thing on the wall then something a little bit different happens every time. We all have unique upbringings, someone that grew up in the countryside may feel a lot differently about a photograph taken of a field than someone who has never seen that particular place in their life. These two people may be seeing the same thing but their viewpoints on the world make them see it differently.

Every time I have an exhibition of my photographs I learn that the ones that other people love are rarely the ones that I love. Most often the ones that I think are “just good enough” are the photographs that other people find to be their favorite. Perhaps as artists we should relinquish control over which photographs the world gets to see because our bias as the artist means that we can rarely understand what other people are going to like. But at the same time I feel it’s the artist's job to forget about other people's opinions and create works of art that pleases themselves. I guess it’s just yin and yang, We need to constantly switch between the two ideals, realizing that too much of either is a bad thing. One of the great things about photography is that it speaks a little bit differently to everyone. This is what’s so interesting about photography or any visual art. Visual art has the power to communicate in a way that is unique, it speaks through shapes and form. I think part of the fun is figuring out just how much we as visual artists can stretch the limits of conversation, using such difficult means.