“Why did you take that picture?” I was startled. No one ever asked me before. Photographers usually know the answer and non-photographers don’t think to ask. It gave me pause to think about the arts and what they mean to us.
- I remember when I was teaching tech writing to graduate students and someone asked me “How do you know what to write?”
I was flummoxed. How did I know what to write?
I just knew. I never thought about it. I sometimes had to struggle for finding the right organization for a document, but I never failed to know what had to be there.
So I went home and asked Garry “How do you know what film to shoot or what script to write?” He looked at me like I had two heads, so I explained what had happened in class and how I realized I knew what to write because … I just knew. Apparently, it was the same for him. You see the story and you know what you need to do with it.
I realized if you needed to ask, you were probably in the wrong place.
To me, it’s obvious why a picture was taken: the photographer saw something: light, shadow, image, color. Something spoke to the photographer and said: “Shoot me.”
I don’t need a reason to take a picture, though I may have one. I don’t take pictures of churches for religious reasons. I like the architecture or how the light plays on the steeple or reflects in the windows.
If I think it will make an interesting composition, I’ll take pictures of my feet. I have taken pictures of my feet, with and without shoes.
You can’t explain art. You get it or not. It speaks to you or not. No amount of studying will make art comprehensible if you don’t have a fundamental sympathy for it.
I know I’m going against the current mantra that “If you try hard enough, you can learn anything.”
Maybe this is true for some stuff, but I don’t see how it can apply to the arts. Or sports. You need to be taught, but you also need some ability. I spent years trying to learn to ice skate and I got to the point where I didn’t look too bad … but I was never really good at any of it, not even the simplest things. I had years of training and it was a complete waste of time, effort, and money.
If you have no eye, no course will give you one. It would be like trying to cure color blindness. If you are tone-deaf, you won’t be a musician. No matter how many lessons you take or how many hours you practice. If you have no gift for putting words together, you will not be a writer.
Not everyone is equally talented, even within the arts … but anyone earning a living in the arts has some talent. Some natural gift.
It’s cruel to tell kids they can be whatever they want merely by working harder. It’s not true. We should try to find out what our kids are good at and encourage them to go in directions in which they have some chance of success. Not everyone has a talent for art … but everyone has a talent for something.
The challenge is determining what it is.