Friday, May 13, 2011

Moral Dilemma Reconciled

I've said before I could never draw.  My mom and my sister are lovely painters and artists.  They can take a white piece of paper and produce something lovely with just a pencil.  Me?  Not so much.

I learned long ago that my inability to draw is actually more a personality issue than it is an artistic one.  You see, I like to be perfect.  I want to see something in my head and make the mark on the paper look exactly like it.  But art doesn't work that way.  Art needs to flow, needs room to move and change and mess up and still be lovely.  I've changed a lot in that way, and I'm actually way better at it now than I used to be.  Now, I'm willing to let my lines be indefinite, so to speak.  I've learned not to press so hard with my pencil.

Photography is different because there is more technicality involved than most other art forms.  The advent of digital has certainly made this even more true.  Yet it's still an art, so it still needs to be free-flowing.  I think this was part of where my questions about the "morality" of photoshop stemmed from.  I like things to be "right," good in the technical sense as well as the personal sense.  I was struggling because I wasn't sure where the lines should fall when it comes to changing and improving.  And while I am the last one to declare "Everyone's right!" in our post-modern society, and my foot will always be down when it comes to absolute truth, art is an area where- guess what?- everyone is right.

My friend E posted a beautifully written comment on my "Moral Dilemma" post.  Go and read it!  She pointed out that the problem for her is more an issue of personal aesthetic than morality.  I really agree.  After all, this is art, and as I alluded to on that post, there is something wonderful to be said for taking lovely pictures and having someone look at them after and feel really special and beautiful.  I hope so much that one day my baby(s?) will look back over her photos and feel utterly adored.  Besides, once I start wrestling with the "morality" of brightening a photo to smooth and even skin tone, do I have to somehow start justifying using a 80-200 mm lens to make a maternity portrait because the lens length is more flattering for an adult than a 50 mm?  What about shooting looking down rather than up?  Or editing out an ugly "No Smoking" sign on a wall behind my subject?  See what I mean?

I'm glad I mulled over this, talked it over with a few, read a bit here and there.  I'm glad for the good thoughts out there and I'm glad I'm taking the time to know exactly where I stand so that I can feel good about my art and move forward.

So, here's where I stand.  Adjusting, brightening, saturating, texturizing, using actions; all of it is great in its place.  I'm going to practice editing more, start using actions here and there, and do whatever I want to a photo until I look at it and adore it, until I feel that I have captured and honored the beauty of my subject to the fullest extent.  If that involves a lot of editing, fine!  If it means I got it straight out of the camera, even better!  I want someone to feel amazing and lovely when they see a photo I took of them because they themselves are amazing and lovely.  I also need to allow myself the time and space to experiment and develop my own personal style and aesthetic, as well as allow myself the space to let that style change whenever I want.  You know how you know a Van Gogh is a Van Gogh and a Rembrandt is a Rembrandt with just a glance?

One of my niece's most beautiful physical traits is her lips.  They are so full and kissable.  She was pouting about something at the store the other day with my mom, and an older woman stopped, lightly sighed and said, "My goodness!  That is the loveliest pout I have ever seen!"  We cracked up, because it's true.  She sticks out that little lower lip and heaven help us all.  I've found though that when I photograph her, it can be hard to capture just how full and red they are, just how much they define her lovely little face.  So, I sometimes pop the color of her lips when I edit.  Not because I'm thinking to myself, "She doesn't have red enough lips," but because I'm thinking to myself, "Gosh, her lips are so red and lovely, but I didn't really capture their color enough here."  Or, I might color them slightly just because I want the eye drawn there just like my own eyes are drawn there in real life.    
Straight out of camera

Still, I will never change eye color, change the size of someone's eyes or remove a scar.  I will stay true to my belief that everyone is beautiful just as they are and choose to capture the natural beauty of a person to the best of my ability and continue to work to create art that brings me and others joy.  I will practice and keep my focus on finding that certain twist of a smile, that gleam in an eye, that smattering of freckles and makes us uniquely us and heart-stealingly lovely.

Now I just need to save some money to buy some actions!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful thoughts, Taylor! I couldn't agree more:). I can't wait to see all the beautiful work you do with actions, as you're already doing a wonderful job without them!

    I'm in a similar place of trying to discover and define my style. I find that it's getting easier to copy somebody else's work (posing, lighting, etc.), but more difficult to be original. But I guess that this is a common battle artists face, as you mentioned. Anyhow, I do love your thoughts and I think it's fun that we're on this photography journal alongside each other:).


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