The Challenges Of Expression

For feed­back, I showed Frédéric some of my ini­tial work for the next expo­si­tion, a cou­ple con­cept pho­tos that cap­ture the essence of my theme.

He told me I was being shy. That my work isn’t shock­ing or dis­turb­ing enough. Technically, it’s per­fect, but lack­ing the qual­i­ties that make it art. For my sub­ject, there’s a fine line between artistry and com­mer­cial­ism, and I haven’t yet crossed that line.

It made per­fect sense, what he said.

My sub­ject includes a lot of skin. But as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er who does­n’t have an estab­lished rep­u­ta­tion, I find it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to get peo­ple to take their clothes off, even for non-nude pho­tos. I’m try­ing to work on a lim­it­ed bud­get, with lim­it­ed mate­ri­als. I can’t afford to pay peo­ple to be my mod­els, so I rely on the favours of friends1.

There’s so much more I’d love to explore with eroti­cism, but I feel sti­fled by how uncom­fort­able peo­ple feel about being naked, along with a strong sense of pro­pri­ety.

Working with mod­els is a chal­lenge in itself. There’s an ele­ment of uncer­tain­ty and unre­li­a­bil­i­ty when deal­ing with peo­ple, and being a con­trol freak, this has proven to be extreme­ly frus­trat­ing. It would have been sim­pler to pho­to­graph objects instead of peo­ple, but human shapes are the source of my inter­est.

It’s also dif­fi­cult for me to pho­to­graph what is not con­sid­ered “con­ven­tion­al­ly” beau­ti­ful (to my tastes, at least). Bless the beau­ti­ful, I once wrote.

In addi­tion to all this, it’s hard for me to for­get the mean­ing I’ve always placed in what I cre­ate. For this exhib­it, I’m try­ing to cre­ate out of pure aes­theti­cism. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I have to let go of these old habits.

At this point, the suc­cess of the show is still uncer­tain. Hopefully I’ll be able to pull it off in time. January will be busy. I know if I can over­come these chal­lenges, I’ll be able to over­come so much more.

It’s become a test of myself more than any­thing else.

  1. Tiana was nice enough to put out an announce­ment on her blog for mod­el help, and care­ful­ly not­ed that I’m not creepy. []


  1. I’m not sure if my sis­ter would take all of her clothes off, but she hard­ly wears any any­way and you can always make it seem like she’s naked, lol. My sis­ter just likes get­ting her pic­ture tak­en and for pho­to­shoots she prefers that she is giv­en com­plete direc­tion. She’s real­ly easy to work with. She said she want­ed to get in touch, and when she’s back in Ottawa, if you still need mod­els, she’d be hap­py to vol­un­teer.

  2. I’ll cer­tain­ly take advan­tage of that offer, if not for this project than anoth­er one I have in mind. Thank you!

  3. Did you ever see that dumb flick The Truth about Cats and Dogs? It showed a pho­to­graph­ic com­par­i­son between the beau­ti­ful girl (Uma Thurman) and the sub­stan­tial-but-dorky aver­age girl (Janeane Garofalo), and how sim­i­lar they became under the pho­tog­ra­pher’s eye. Uma even looked a lit­tle bleak, while Janeane looked bet­ter than you’d ever seen her look. It was about how they were viewed after he knew them both well.

    I have always been amazed at how the one who loves me can take a beau­ti­ful pic­ture of me, in the most inter­est­ing way, while those who know me lit­tle take wretched ones.

    I think it’s what you find in your sub­ject, and maybe you’ve got to get past sur­faces some­what. Right now you do beau­ti­ful por­trai­ture, and it’s obvi­ous what you find love­ly, but you’re work­ing with peo­ple that are like gor­geous sun­sets. They’re always so. You can do so much more!

  4. But pure aes­theti­cism is also a form of art, it does­n’t have to be shock­ing or dis­turb­ing. But then shocks are effec­tive in attract­ing atten­tion.

    Shocks can be achieved through mean­ings though. Say, a woman with heavy sen­su­al make-up, but dressed in Maoist uni­form could be shock­ing as it would bring out the stark con­trast between cap­i­tal­ism and com­mu­nism.

    Or do you want to explore eroti­cism, sen­su­al­i­ty, or sim­ply the human form? Are there nuances. I’m just ask­ing ques­tions here, try­ing to under­stand.

  5. @xibee — I haven’t seen that movie, though I’ve seen it around in the video store. The idea of it has intrigued me; even though you say it’s a dumb movie, I’ll try to rent it when I can.

    I’ve always tried to bring out the best in some­one through a pho­to­graph, whether I know them or not. I sup­pose that there’s always a super­fi­cial side to some­one, or a first impres­sion that can influ­ence me.

    The gor­geous sun­set anal­o­gy is per­fect. All my mod­els are beau­ti­ful. But I’ve real­ized that I need to let go of this. I don’t think it’ll be very hard, because I know that if I can do this, I’ll have many more pos­si­bil­i­ties.

    @Uncle Joe — It’s true that art can be pure­ly aes­thet­ic, but I under­stand why Fr&eacutedéric, the own­er of the art gallery, told me what he did, because he explained a bit more when I saw him last.

    There’s def­i­nite­ly a com­mer­cial side to art. Artists depend on peo­ple buy­ing their work as a source of income. The rea­son why the next exhib­it is in February is because that’s an ide­al time for peo­ple to have mon­ey after the hol­i­days, thus being able to spend on art­work.

    Without being shock­ing or dis­turb­ing, which affects us emo­tion­al­ly, peo­ple may believe that they can cre­ate such “art” for them­selves. While it’s cer­tain­ly not true, as there is much plan­ning, much skill required in what appears to be sim­ple, many peo­ple don’t know this. Take the work of Jackson Pollack for exam­ple, whose abstract expres­sion­ist paint­ings were very intri­cate­ly cre­at­ed. People who don’t under­stand often say that their kids can cre­ate such art by throw­ing paint on a can­vas. When I showed Frédéric my port­fo­lio, which was a mix­ture of all the pic­tures I’ve tak­en, he told me to stick with one or two themes for the gallery. Otherwise, peo­ple would think that I’m a “pic­ture fac­to­ry”, who churns out as many pho­tos as pos­si­ble for prof­it, thus de-valu­ing my work.

    Unfortunately, the direc­tion of my cur­rent project isn’t shock­ing through mean­ing either, because it’s a rather sim­ple sub­ject. It’s more of an explo­ration of the human form, with a bit of sen­su­al­i­ty mixed in with it. No one is will­ing to “help” me with the erot­ic side, which I could do, had I the right mod­els (i.e. will­ing to be naked). There are def­i­nite­ly nuances to it, even though it may be a sim­ple sub­ject.

    I like your idea of cap­i­tal­ism vs com­mu­nism, I’ll have to approach it some day.

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