In the early 20th century, some of the boldest of modern artists chose to think ‘outside the box’, and started exhibiting works which could not be judged by the traditional conventions of classical art. Their desire to be original, to create something that hadn’t been seen before. Lead them to new forms of art. The school of Dada rejected reason and challenged logic, and was followed a few years later by the surrealistic movement. There was a certain element of mockery in their creations. And it was at that time that the first works of conceptual art began to appear. Many see the ‘Fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp as a pioneer work of conceptual art.
On the one hand, the artist often finds himself unable to compete with the masters of the past who reached a level of perfection in their representation of the world around us, and on the other hand there is the constant desire to say something original, to contribute a unique, subjective expression of the individual’s relationship to the world around him. Yet beyond these artistic challenges, there is also the desire to communicate with others, to offer them some aesthetic enjoyment or thoughtful stimulation.
For the photographer, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that many see photography as a glorified copying machine, in which the press of a button puts a picture seen in 3D in the real world on a piece of paper or on the computer screen. With the increased popularity of photography, and the emergence of the cell phone as an acceptable camera, in the hands of almost everyone, this problem has become still greater. Yet even a hundred years ago, there were artists who purposely jostled their cameras while taking a picture, or created warps and distortions in order to differentiate between their work and the ‘copying’ nature of photography. There were those who preferred to photograph banal objects, and to focus on a subjective beauty in the portrayal of those items rather than photograph subjects which were acknowledged by all as beautiful.
The great master, Ansel Adams, was often criticized by the photographers of his time because of his preference for shooting subjects of great beauty. What made these works of art so moving and inspiring, asked his fellow photographers, if not the beauty that was already there before he took the picture? And this philosophical question remains open to this day. But let’s not forget that a banal image that doesn’t offer inspiration, can’t be justified or reach the hearts and minds of viewers regardless of explanations. Ultimately, the art itself has to communicate something worthwhile and unique.