It Really Is About The Journey

LifeShannon Reed

The 1940 painting by Henri Lehmann - "Study of a Female Nude"


My dad's photograph of our model...


His painting...


My unedited photograph of our model...


My edited photograph.

I've really enjoyed working with my dad on these studies.  We work in a tiny little space, dancing around one another trying to capture an interesting image (me) or trying to pay tribute to the masters (him).  

I have to admit that I hadn't seen Lehmann's painting until today when I got his "Our Work" email with the above images attached.  I knew my dad was on a mission to capture something that day - a very specific pose - as he was being especially thoughtful in his direction to the model. For reasons that may or may not make sense, I don't always want to see the original.  

I am envious of the freedom that comes with painting.  Photography seems to be more vulnerable to criticism whereas painters are allowed the space to create and express freely.  I've come to realize and accept that I don't take criticism well.  Then again, I don't take compliments well either.  I do appreciate the fact that sometimes people are honestly impacted by an image at a visceral level - either positively or negatively.  Otherwise, as someone somewhere once said, it's none of my business what people think of me - or my work, in this case. 

I can't imagine a day - a minute, really - without seeing an image of some sort; we've come to expect it, haven't we?  Photographs are almost as integral to our existence as oxygen and water.  It's paramount to our ability to communicate, but has the glut numbed our critical skills?  I imagine so.  What haven't we

seen already - is anyone doing anything unique or exciting?  Sometimes, yes.  Most of the time - not so much. 

HDR is everywhere now.  Tilt-shift.  Long exposures of moving bodies of water.  Vintage filters.  Lens flares.  Are people still using selective coloring? (blargh)  Trickery abounds.  Even my image above - photo shopped with layers of textures.  With an infinite supply of software available to us, it doesn't take much to fake our way toward "art".  Don't get me wrong - I love it - I think it's great fun to play and, because I will never possess the talent of the likes of Lehmann, it makes me feel as though I have an opportunity to express myself artistically in spite of my shortcomings.  I see beautiful images in my head - so I use whatever I can to manifest them.

Technology has, in fact, made it possible for everyone to be an "artist".  This is a good thing as it's better to create than destroy.  I've believed for a long time that we are moving toward a renaissance - a new way of living and of seeing our world which elevates us up and out of the dismal state in which we've found ourselves.  We crave beauty, but there can be no beauty in greed, politics, religion, mindless consumption, ignorance, intolerance, or fear.

It's time to see our world, our lives - our selves - through a new lens.  So we're seeing a rise in artistic expression because the means to do so are more accessible than ever.  It'll peak eventually, if it hasn't already; it'll be interesting to see where we land when we're eventually washed ashore from this sea of Instagrams.

What is real art?  Can you create real art with an iPhone?  Or with a camera, for that matter?  Can it only be art if your body is the immediate instrument?  Who is actually qualified to decide what constitutes real art?

In the end, it turns out that beauty actually is in the eye of the beholder and ("real" art or not) all that matters is what our eyes, ears, mouths, minds hearts, and souls find appealing.  

I'm moving into a new chapter and wanting to do things differently.  Things I thought I liked - well, I've found that I don't really like them at all.  I have a long way to go before I can feel really good about my work, but I am heartened by the progress I've made in a relatively short period of time - more importantly, I am appreciating the journey and actively seeking the lessons.  

Working on a project right now that will likely change me in pretty profound ways.  It's slightly terrifying and more intimidating than I can bring myself to acknowledge, but I'm going to do the very best I can do and bring every ounce of my ability to it.  I've already decided that it doesn't matter if it's a success or a failure; what matters, ultimately, is the journey and what I allow myself to learn along the way. 

Long live art and the freedom to express it.