Was in Denver last week trying to drum up some business… spent an afternoon in the Santa Fe Drive Art District… lots of galleries… lots of studios… lots of art… another of the “things to do in Denver before you’re dead” (bastardization of the title of a movie I’ve never seen). I’m told first and third Friday evenings are the times to go if it’s a ‘social’ experience that you’re looking for… you can look at the art and the people.
To be honest, I saw a fair amount of ‘same old/same old’ art in some of the galleries, but I also saw a lot of really good stuff. One stand out was the Vertigo Gallery (960 Santa Fe) which had a cool photo exhibit and I got to have a great chat with Kara Duncan who owns the gallery… definitely a must stop on future visits. But probably the most interesting and thought provoking exhibit I saw was at the Metro State College Center for Visual Art (965 Santa Fe). They are showing, through April 9th, “Sight Unseen” – “International Photography by Blind Artists”.
What? Yep, blind photographers. Now those of you who know me well, know that I’m frequently prone to deride certain images, particularly a lot of “new/edgy” photography, as emanating from the “Stevie Wonder school of photography”. I know that’s not very PC, nor is it at all fair to Stevie, who I’m sure could take much better images than a lot of the crap I see out there… he is, after all, very creative and talented. I’ve also mused at times, that at some point in this age of “it’s all about how you can market and promote yourself” someone would eventually find a niche as “the blind photographer”, and make a career of it. Little did I know that it was already being done, and by multiple photographers. But what I never would have anticipated is that I would actually like some of the images by these photographers. The other thing that surprised me was all the questions about the very nature of photography that I came up with as I viewed the show.
These photographers evidently run the gamut in degrees of blindness – from totally blind to ‘legally blind’, and I don’t know who is what, so it’s impossible to know whether a particular image is the result of someone shooting “in the dark” or whether the shooter can “see” forms and light. But does it matter? Does it?
To be sure there are images in this show that I would consider crap, but there are also images that I like, and if there’s an image that’s “art” to me, does it matter if it’s a “shot in the dark” or if someone was actually able to compose it? Does intent matter? Can someone who can’t see, actually compose an image unassisted? Can they manipulate their camera to get the desired affect? Do they even know what that desired affect might be? Can they edit and pick out the best images from their shoot? If they’re relying on sighted people to do these things, can they claim credit for the final product (Those of us with sight, utilize assistants and editors to get to a final product)? Can a person who may have never experienced sight really meaningfully create art that can only be experienced visually? Is art made for the artist or the “consumer”? What if the person used to be able to see (like Beethoven could hear before he went deaf)? Does any of this matter if the final result is a good or great image?
I’ve got my ideas. You go get your own.