Part Two: The Artist – Diamond amid the sewage

abbey attrrocity-1_edited-1

Abbey Lee braves appearing in a mock up photograph which contains every possible rookie mistake, poor photography technique, awkward and cliché posing, and just downright bad taste, we could come up with, to show up the constant flow of photographs uploaded to the internet on a daily basis, which are almost identical to this in so many aspects, masquerading as ‘art’, created by legions of self proclaimed, and (almost always) ‘international award winning’ photographers, and invariably rewarded by comments of ‘awesome capture’, ‘inspired’, and even ‘you should become a professional’

After careful reading and attention to accepted definitions given in Part One of this blog: “Are You Really Creative?” it seems evident that self proclaimed ‘artists’ are coming from the wrong end of the creativity spectrum.

In this Anti-Intellectual era we are now so blessed to be living in, the time honoured tradition of ‘artists’ only being drawn from the most accomplished, technically expert, and imaginative, with something profound or at least meaningful to express, has been well and truly abandoned in favour of the naive tyro, who not only has little to no experience, but actively shuns the development of required expertise, technical ability, and problem solving skills, in order that ‘creativity’ and the ‘artist’s integrity’ and ‘passion’ should not be corrupted.

The oft heard mantra: “I will succeed because photography is my Passion!” is indeed the cry of the times, no matter how fanciful or delusional it may be.

Armed then, with apparently nothing but their passion, and faith in their own mostly delusional raw talent, most have not, and many will probably never have the talent, ability, motivation, or originality of thought to get anywhere other than demoralising oblivion…and those few who do have the imagination and something original and inspiring to offer, or say to the world, have not the tools, the training, the experience or the knowledge of how to communicate their ideas and vision effectively.

In other words, their own naive attitudes towards creativity and their undeveloped concept of art, actually conspire against them ever acquiring the requisite skills.

Including:

  • Societally induced expectations of reward without work, inability to accept responsibility for one’s own actions or lack thereof, an over-arching belief that the world ‘owes me’, and the nanny state will protect and look after me, a general lack of inquisitiveness, and the desire for instant reward and gratification

  • Lack of effective and properly structured learning opportunities, in which education is increasingly becoming a world of underfunding and poorly trained and lower quality educators, including a preponderance of mickey mouse courses, the blind leading the blind, (or as some would say in more recent vernacular, the blonde leading the blind) style of internet instruction, and the piece-meal approach to learning advanced techniques, without first mastering the required basics

  • Coupled with this are two further aspects: a) so called ‘professional’ courses are increasingly becoming more a way to get people off welfare, rather than preparing them in any useful way for a career, and b) the vast majority of photography courses, excluding a very few high end ones, are not preparing potential professionals for the rigours of a very demanding and shrinking industry, but actually through choice of method and subject matter, and lack of teaching the very important skills of running and effectively promoting a viable business, are simply affirming amateurism.

  • The reliance on long outmoded preconceived fantasy ideas of the role of the artist, which are now actually being heavily promoted by the increasing ultra conservatism

  • The narcissistic delusion of greatness beyond ability, due to the indiscriminate sycophantic adulation of anything and everything posted on social media pages.

  • The rapid demise of former ‘arbitrators of worthiness’ such as print publications, competitive exhibitions and salons, rights managed stock libraries, and their replacement with pay to play vanity publishing; rights grab competitions; accept anything, especially the lowest common denominator micro-stock agencies; and encouragement to self market and self promote, or talk up how great, creative, wonderful, and otherwise talented you are, rather than letting your work show your real abilities.

  • The preponderance of the miracle work of ‘fix it in Photoshop’, where the best of a bad lot, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of attempts, can be readily salvaged and made great by simply, and usually ineptly, applying Photoshop manipulation, or even the complete reliance on ubiquitous, tacky, over saturated and generally over-processed ‘filters’ and ‘presets’, which supposedly turn even the most unbelievably ‘average’ snap into an instant work of art.

It seems that many would be artists have a very naive, immature and uninformed view of creativity, which hasn’t developed beyond the kindergarten level when Miss Prissy set out the poster paints, and suggested that: “we will all be creative today”.

Unfortunately many don’t recognise that there is and always will be a vast difference between having the wonder of a child, and a strong belief in the fantastic: and living, or trying to make a living completely deluded in a fantasy world.

One would think that all that time cloistered in their respective garrets suffering for their art, they would have plenty of time to check out a book or two, thumb through their camera manual, brush up on a little technique, but apparently not.

Imagine what your house would look like if the carpenter or bricklayer relied on nothing but his childhood skill with Lego bricks to do his job; the accountant who relied on his Year One ‘sums’; the architect who designed buildings with two roof-line windows, a door, a tree and a dog in the yard to match his primary school artwork. And the fate of the preschool minded brain surgeon doesn’t bear thinking about!

So why is the artist obsessed with practising his creativity, but abandoning all he has learned between now and then, convinced that he is not merely an artist, but worthy of being a paid professional salary, by relying on some mystical innate ‘inspiration’, divine providence and the results of simply by buying a paintbrush and canvas, a camera, a hammer and chisel, or any of the tools required by the various arts, and believes his first play sessions with them will produce nothing but masterpieces?

The age old Hollywood quip claims it takes twenty years to become an overnight success, but does it really?

Experience and serious study of successful artists from the past would seem to suggest it takes something more akin to a lifetime, filled not with simply practising the art-form, but acquiring knowledge, inquisitiveness and appreciation of all aspects of the world, vast life and love experience, serious study as well as careful observation, as maybe even a healthy does of the perhaps more flippant ‘life is just a bowl of cherries’ aspects as well.

The starving artist slaving away in his garret, for little or no recompense, and nothing but recognition by facebook friends, has always been a total myth, part of the false romance of the artist more or less promoted by those without any artistic talent whatsoever, or who have wished to portray the arts and artists as ‘ne’r do wells’, as a waste of space, or contemporaneously, a ‘lifestyle choice’ for the unemployables, and a ‘drain on the economy’.

So why the hell are contemporary artists not only falling for this guff, but actually promoting it, especially by accepting piteous pennies for work they do, working for free, pretending sanctimony by offering their work under ‘creative commons’ type exploitation, actively undercutting prices of real artists, churning out ‘masterpieces’ and ‘awesome images’ which in reality are little more than learning exercises, or worse still, should have been binned as a total failure, or an omen of talentless incompetence?

A Picasso, a Pollack, or any number of artists from the last 100 years, may look childlike, even childish on the surface, and inspire insipid phrases such as surely little Jimmy could that, even I could do better…it seems however that every little Jimmy nowadays is giving it a go, to an avalanche of cries of ‘awesome’, ‘inspired work’, and a ‘Like’ thumbs up.

With total disregard of the fact that it takes many years of hard work to achieve such childlike simplicity, and awe of wonder.

As model photography is the go to genre of wannabe photographic artists, it is no wonder that the cliché phrase ‘anybody can take great picture of beautiful woman’ springs to mind.

But can they? A quick scan of facebook ‘internationally award winning, published, professional photographers’ will soon show the opposite to be more likely…that it is incredibly easy to make a good looking girl look downright ugly.

Who hasn’t heard the bleating of amateur photographers whenever they gather in whining herds of more than two: Don’t use her as a model; she’s no good; her tits aren’t big enough; she’s got a belly on her; she might be good looking but a she’s a real bitch. And so they refuse to photograph anybody at all, holding out for the perfect model who will never come their way due to their attitude, and their uncanny ability to make the perfect look less than attractive.

Then there is the group who go other way, and accept all and sundry as camera fodder, with promises of “stick with me honey and I’ll make you a star”: hence the parade of gross snapshots of less than average girls with broken teeth, lifeless eyes, dull, unwashed hair, hideously coloured and shaped false nails, orange suntans, wall to wall tattoos, and all the wonderful, and exclusively amateur fantasies built around total misunderstanding of terms such as ‘plus size’ and ‘alternative modelling’.

But it takes an artist with an accumulation of knowledge, technique, problem solving ability, understanding of human psychology, a real affinity with people, and experience to make an average, less than confident, or a girl of low self esteem into a stunning photograph…that is what creativity is all about.

No its not making a silk purse out of a sows ear…that is just as impossible as making an artist out of a person who has owned his camera for no more than a day or two…it is merely using all the required skills of a true photographer (artist if you wish to stick with that pretentious, overused term) to draw the best from their subject.

As far from a first attempt snapshot as you can get, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, if at all. Even more-so, for those who rely on nothing but unsubstantiated faith in themselves, and blind ‘passion’.

©Copyright: Stephen Bennett, MMXVII

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