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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, March 28, 2014

To Shoot or Not To...

I've had several art-filled weekends lately with treks to the amazing Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL as well as to the Winter Park Art Festival in WP, FL.  Preparing for both excursions brought to mind an article by artist Benoit Philippe in which he discusses whether or not it is a good practice to take photos of the art (when allowed) in a museum.  His discussion involves the question of whether it is better to really see the art while there or to attempt to capture a photo to refer to later.  I went back and reread his article and opted, for this trip, to attempt to really see.  I also asked him for permission to reference his article (granted).

only a glimpse of the incredible design of the Dali Museum

Purposely I took no photos of the art hoping to intentionally, mindfully, better take in and remember what was before me.  I did allow myself to make notes (things like: "daddy long legs seen in evening=hope," and "surrealists were rebelling against religion, family, morality and culture.")  How did this work for me?  Fine.  I did not distract myself or anyone else angling for a photo.  But it did make me think a lot about our culture now of picture-taking and how much we might be missing out on by photographing everything as opposed to enjoying it.

Philippe references a study by Linda Henkle, psychological scientist, in which she reports that her study participants had a worse memory for objects and object details when they engaged in picture taking.  She found that people tended to rely on technology to remember things for them and thus did not engage their own memory while looking.  (She also noted that with the sheer volume of photos we now take, very few people had the inclination to organize them in any way that made referencing or reminiscing possible.)

This reminded me of the bus trip we took through Denali National Park.  The guide would announce that bears (or sheep or whatever) were spotted (literally) on the mountain to the left of the bus (we could not get out).  The bus would lean left as everyone rushed their cameras to the glass to snap a photo of 3 or 4 black dots on a brown mountain miles away.  For what?  To say they had a photo of X? Could we even see them?
Not my idea of a bus trip, never mind an animal sighting.  But cameras were a'buzzing.


Here is my camera concession...and kudos to the Museum, it was a fun photo-op set up for the traveling exhibit on Andy Warhol.  Museum goers got to pose with Andy before seeing the exhibit.  They also did a grand job of drawing parallels with Dali and what Warhol learned from him.  

But back to picture taking....I remember many Christmases being very disappointed in my photos after the event.  I finally concluded I could enjoy the fun or I could step outside of the hoopla and record was impossible for me to do both.  These days I choose to stay in the scene and hope my memory does it justice.

Using photos to paint from is also a tricky proposition and I have come to reject photos if I was not there, up close and personal.  Why?  First, the emotion of my feelings are an important part of translating the scene to canvas, second, the camera flattens the field of distance and somewhat distorts the real perspective, and third, I have learned the hard way that photographed shadows get hard and dark, not very realistic.  (All that said, not withstanding you professional photographers who know how to manipulate the settings of your equipment to capture amazing photos which are art in and of themselves...a huge exception to my generalities.)

At the art festival I took only one photo of art...with the artist's permission; it was the latest work done by an artist from whom my son owns a painting.  The artist was fine with the transmission.  Other artists, understandably, posted signs requesting no photos of their work be taken.  In today's world of copycats that is a common request.  No arguments from me.

So, is there a conclusion after my ponderings? Yes, I have come to believe that experiencing fully any event means being engaged with all the senses and mindfully, intentionally recording it all in our brain.  Some of us will better recall the smells, others the colors, others the sounds...but no point and shoot camera or smart-phone will be able to adequately substitute that which we train our brains to record.  At least, that is my current theory.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely yours,

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