I was trawling through my contacts’ Flickr Photostreams the other day when I stumbled on an image that lead me on a trail of exploration, at first through other images on his stream, then to the streams of others who’d commented on his images, and finally into my own mind, to reflect on how these images and the comments they attracted made me feel.
People create art for many reasons and this seems truer of photography than of any other art form. Not everyone can draw, or paint, or sculpt, or sing, or dance, or play an instrument, or compose, or write or direct. But anyone, it seems, who has at least one hand, can pick up a camera, point, shoot and call themselves: “a photographer”.
Even those photographers who think of themselves as artists take photographs for many reasons. Some want to make a political statement; some have an axe to grind; and some simply have a compulsion to share what they have seen with others who may not have had the good fortune to see it for themselves. But for some artists, a photograph is a cry for they, themselves, to be seen; to be noticed; to be acknowledged and accepted and understood. It is a cry for approval, for justification of their being, for evidence that they are valued in society, by society. Every image they create is a portrait of themselves; their needs and fears exposed; a cry into the void that surrounds them, in a desperate hope that they are not alone; that someone else is there; not just anyone, but someone who understands, who empathises, who can read the language of their image and know and feel, in the depths of their soul, what it is saying.
But who can really know what is in this artist’s soul? Who can really know the pain of loneliness and alienation he feels; the need he has to be recognised; to be understood, to be valued? He is unique. We are all unique. And therefore, to some extent, we are all alone.
I do not wish to embarrass the photographer whose image triggered this reflection by naming him here. Besides, maybe I am the one who has got it all wrong. Maybe I have misunderstood what he was trying to say. Maybe, in the end, I was really talking about myself.
Sometimes, I think I think too much!