(This is a reposting of a post from a few years back, I suspect the situation is still much the same)
A few days back whilst riding along on one of my not regular enough evening bike rides my mind began to wander to things photographic, which is a good thing as it takes the mind off the inevitable pain as hills and personal fitness targets are attacked.
The issue I was contemplating about was just what is it that makes a photograph appealing to people and what exactly are people prepared to hang upon their own walls. Obviously we all have our favourite styles and decorating needs but in the back of my mind I have always felt it was not just a clear cut issue of personal likes and dislikes. I feel that photographic appreciation and indeed the appreciation of any art is about much more than just personal preference.
In a way photo/art appreciation is probably a bit like fashion, by that I mean I think a lot of people will profess to like clothing they have been conditioned to like by outside forces and in terms of art are prepared to hang upon their walls works that they consider are safe, works that will not cause household visitors to question the taste and sanity of the owner and importantly works that have been given the seal of external artistic approval.
Lots of people like landscapes, going by what I see for sale in many galleries seascapes and sunsets in particular, yet many of the works people buy and assumingly hang are mind numbingly boring and lack any real artistic merit, many don’t even display half decent technique or creative flair.
But as a choice for the wall they are safe, they challenge no one, they hang there upon the wall never offending and creating a mildly pleasant backdrop for daily proceedings.
Nothing wrong in all that but is it any different to a testosterone laden “doof door" boy adorning his bedroom walls with images of Ferraris or V8 Commodores or some similar subject. In many ways I think this approach to what we hang on the walls is really a matter of conditioning, it’s OK to hang a car pic if you’re young and male, a pretty landscape if your more middle aged, or perhaps a portrait of a movie/music star if your young and female, no real strength of conviction is needed in such a choices.
We probably like to think that we make our decisions upon what is good or bad purely on the basis of what we personally feel is good or bad, we believe that we operate independently of anyone else, but I suspect that it is anything but the truth….a bit like fashion.
Fashion is all about telling people what is in, what is out, and what is going to be in next season. Fashion often bears little relationship to practicalities, matching climate needs to suitable clothing, ultimate quality or even being visually pleasing, no sir, fashion is about following a trend created by someone else, and one that is more often created purely for the reason of financial gain on the behalf of the trends/companies creator.
Art and photography is a bit like that too, I propose boldly that if some unknown artist (or even perhaps non-artist) were to produce some pretty average images that were then hyped up by a group of art critics around the world as being the greatest thing since Ansel Adams, it would not take long for those works to be selling like hotcakes for crazy prices. The great unwashed would proudly hang them upon their walls to display their good taste, culture and financial success. It would indeed be interesting to see just such a thing orchestrated as an experiment, in fact it probably has already been done many times without the general public being aware of the ruse.
The thing is I feel people tend to purchase art works which they have been given permission to like and purchase, in general they have permission to like and purchase seascapes, sunsets and landscapes, flowers and the Eiffel tower for example. To hang a family portrait is of course permission granted, likewise images of expensive cars, flowers and most famous landmarks are all more than acceptable, (even if you have never been there).
In the painted art world abstracts are now also permission granted, providing they are not too challenging and preferably come with a name attached.
But what about photography, it is interesting really and I speak here as an observer of what I see all over the world and to a certain degree in my own work and the responses I get.
Many times I have had people looking at my work actually say, "I love that image, it is really stunning, but I could never hang it one my wall its too, "out there”.
Funny really when you think about it, an example is the architectural images on the top of this post, (Sooley Dam Pump House), it is actually one of my personal favourites and I have had many people say they felt it was fabulous, they have even told me it was their favourite of my images, but as yet no one has ever bought a copy, they all say they couldn’t hang it on their wall.
I see the same thing in other artists work, images in galleries that are extraordinary, finely crafted, exquisitely composed, everything going for them, yet they are passed over for work of utter banality that were probably taken as little more than random pretty snapshots.
In essence people may feel they have permission to at least appreciate the more artistic works but they do not have permission to actually embrace, pay for and hang those works upon their walls despite the fact that deep down they really love the images.
What a strange old world we live in.