What does a photograph mean? I asked myself this question while recuperating and looking over images of past gardening seasons. When not quite able to play in the dirt, yet longing to do so, those images gave me a sense of place, of being there. While many looking at these pictures of past seasons might see beauty, there is more to these time slices than is evident from seeing. There is triumph and disappointment, and running from bees and learning not to run from bees. There are still moments of fragrant breezes and slowly, seeping water and scratching mosquito bites. There is lived experience and encouragement to live. There is remembrance. But is there art?
Having found my way to fine art photography magazines, the question of what makes a photograph art has reappeared. I set out to make images of the garden for remembrance, for those days when being amidst the flowers had to be in spirit only. And now, as I look over hundreds of magazine images and ads for art galleries, I ask myself whether my flower images are art.
Actually, the notion of them being art is more of a passing twinge of curiosity than a serious query. Even so, it has made me consider how my goal of wanting something to remember relates to wanting to create art. Is art something one necessarily does deliberately or is it in the eyes of those who behold the result? Is it both? Are cave paintings art or simply planning for a hunt?
I have a list of potential still-life images that grows daily. The list holds subjects and places along with notes for lighting, camera angles, and such. If or when these notes become photographs, will they be art solely by virtue of my intentions? If no one else likes them, will they still be art? Bizet’s Carmen was booed, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused a fistfight, and the first Impressionist salon showings in Paris were ridiculed by the cognoscenti–now all are revered.
Ultimately, the question is moot—whether my flower images are art in no way changes their raison d’être. Through photographs, I can relive every moment spent with them whenever I need to (yes, need to). And that is why they exist. Others who see them are free to accept or reject them as art. But I would be happiest if, on viewing the images, they paused and imagined themselves surrounded by flowers.