I had an interesting exchange with the Executive Director of The Center for Fine Art Photography a few days ago that has me absolutely baffled.
I had submitted some images for consideration for one of their exhibits, and they were rejected due to “technical errors”. What baffled me was that the exposure, contrast, etc, was exactly what I had envisioned prior to taking the photos. Granted, some of them, okay many of them, wouldn’t be considered technically perfect by digital standards. I didn’t expose to the right (I wouldn’t even know how to do that), they didn’t have wide dynamic range, etc.
The cameras I use are heavily customized and rather unconventional, specifically to give me the look that I want. I want to convey emotion, not show off technical perfection.
The conversation with the Executive Director, a man whom I had assumed would understand artistic expression, went something like this (paraphrased):
Him: Your photos lack dynamic range
Me: I know, they’re very high contrast for a reason.
Him: They’re underexposed too.
Me: Yep, exactly as I envisioned.
Him: But that’s not the proper exposure.
Me: What is “proper” in art? Who determines that?
And it kind of went downhill from there.
It reminded me of the scene in the movie Dead Poets Society (above) where the textbook uses the Pritchard Scale for Poetry to graph how good a poem is, which is obviously ridiculous. Robin Williams wisely has them rip those pages out of the textbook.
I can imagine the Impressionists having those same discussions during the Salon de Paris, when it first burst onto the art scene. How dare they not paint in the approved style?
I’m in no way comparing myself to the greats of Impressionism, but I’m baffled why someone in such a vaunted position could, in 2016, still be bound by the “approved methods”.
Don’t let yourself be bound by conventions. Art will only move forward when people try new things. Things that will make some people feel uncomfortable. As long as it makes you, as an artist, happy, that’s all that counts.