what matters about photography?

With earlier predictions of 8-16″ inches of new snow having fizzled (what ever DID happen to today’s spring storm?), a trip south to Brattleboro seemed possible once again this afternoon. Destination: the town’s monthly Gallery Walk, and in particular the Vermont Center for Photography.

Earlier this year there was a call-out for artists to respond to the question, “what matters about photography?” with a short essay and a few visual examples of photos to support the answer. I pulled my photos together, and then thought long and hard about the essay question. It’s a more complex thought than it seems. The question wasn’t, “what matters to ME about photography”, or even, “why DOES photography matter?”. No, it’s what matters ABOUT photography. That’s tough to articulate. But I gave it my best effort and a couple of weeks ago I learned I’d had two photos accepted into the exhibit.

The show’s opening reception was this evening, during Brattleboro’s monthly Gallery Walk. The Center was packed and the chilly, wet streets of the town were equally busy with bundled folks shuffling from one glowing storefront to another.

Here are my two photos, and my essay. This is what matters about photography.

Photography is unique among the arts in being able to utilize indisputable common visual reference points (familiar colors, everyday objects and subjects and scenes) as a starting place for reinterpreting reality.

As a medium, photography has been historically relied upon to provide objective documentation of the visual facts. Through the eyes of an artist, however, we begin to see that there are as many realities at any given moment as there are people to observe it. Which world is “real” – the one the puddle lives in, or the identical one created in the puddle’s mirrored reflection?

I love capturing scenes that play on the difference between the immediate visual information a photograph offers, and the reality exposed upon closer inspection.

What matters about photography is its innate ability to reveal reality as a subjectively mutable, not objectively fixed, state of existence.


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