RECOGNITION NOT NECESSARY
Notoriety does not equate success. In fact, it might even hinder successful, meaningful work. Even though I say it, I have a hard time believing this because it is admittedly difficult to seek out inspiration from those photographers I admire who have achieved notoriety AND success and not divorce their success from their notoriety. To attempt to mimic how they have had a successful career and not concern myself with how they have gained recognition for doing so.
I do not know if I believe photography can make someone a better person. But I do know good photographers are observant, conscientious, and mindful people. And I know being observant, conscientious, and mindful can lead to being a better person.
Society, the art world, and too many other constructs tell us that the individual is important to meaningful work, that to understand the art, we must understand the artist. After 90’s grunge band Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s death and the subsequent biographies, published personal diaries, and the dissection of his life, we then thought we understood what Nirvana meant. As though the words he had written and the music he had composed meant nothing. Granted, context helps us to understand from where the expression comes but still, we are obsessed with the individual. I am sure in the coming months Amy Winehouse will receive the same treatment.
I am not sharing anything that hasn’t already been said or written: Roland Barthe’s The Death of the Author, Robert Adam’s essay on Edward Weston in Why People Photograph, or even this episode of Radiolab in which they discuss alcohol addiction treatments in Russia and how the problem is not within the individual, but within the substance.
I would like to reaffirm what I think to be a common sentiment throughout all these pieces… that meaning is not always derivative of the individual. And to take that further to say, that meaning comes from creating work that allows the audience to better understand themselves instead of better understanding the artist. For that, it takes a proletariate medium of sorts. And in my biased opinion, there is perhaps no better suited for this than photography.