It's what you do!
The Power of Photography, the Power of your Voice.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. No—the only thing I was—was tired of giving in.”
This piece is to be read as a dialogue as much as it is a presentation of a text. We, as protagonists of art, myself included, use this platform to advocate a keen interest in the student’s development and as such offer our gift of critical thinking. As teachers, we act as ‘connoisseurs of taste’, but we have to do better by truly enhancing student life in the same way our life has been enhanced. Therefore, this body of text has two aims. The first is to set out a constructive vision for students, encouraging them to investigate the distinct materiality of creative exchange as something that has value in and of itself. The second is to propose this new perspective as an expressive vehicle for art. The purpose of this perspective is to engineer an inclusive democratic experience within the arts, one that removes privilege.
From the very beginning of photographic development, artists have been intrigued by the materiality of the photograph and have experimented in the gap between the photograph as an image and the photograph as an object. For instance, in 1859, French photographer François Willème made what he called "photo-sculptures" of people by putting his subjects on a platform surrounded by 24 individual cameras. The individual photographs taken by these cameras were printed, then re-assembled to create a three-dimensional portrait of the subject. François Willème understood that both insistence and the object override limitations. This fight for new expression was necessarily idealistic in that it existed in relation to the limitations of the frame. The border of the frame as the absolute limit is still a central characteristic of photography. The location of the frame edge is a major component in containing subject matter, in establishing its limits. However not all subjects are shaped by limitations – some are measured through the pursuit of ideas which can cause changes in mental consciousness. A shift of ideas is traceable because people do things a certain way for a certain number of years and thus, paradigms are established: For instance, in 1967, minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King gave his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, that he said: "We must move past indecision to action. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter but beautiful struggle for a new world." Martin Luther King understood this, in that the insistence and object override the limitations, such that the fight for freedom was necessarily romantic however, exists against the limitations of certain ways.
Learning about photography is much more than looking at photographs and talking about context. To understand how and why an image was produced is to understand what it means to draw attention to the subject and objectifying it in a thought-provoking way. Toni Morrison’s writing, Prince's music, Etta James' singing; all a wealth of truths in which they capture exactly what it is meant to do with their medium that somehow charges our outward expression of the inner creation. Everything is right, everything in its right place. A wealth of truths if you break it down, a wealth of truths if you leave it for your instinct to assess. Because what marks art as art isn't compliance with aesthetic rules and context but that it compels us to feel and experience the artist’s intrinsic truth.
In its final analysis, the work you produce should proclaim authority and permeance. The work should give out messages as we approach and as we set our gaze. The physical presence of your work has the power to stimulate memories, to reveal a particular train of thought or to provoke a dialogue.
Before I turn my gaze, know that rather than predictably giving up your seat to obey standards that may discriminate against your work, shape your own path, produce your own voice, know you are defined by your intrinsic truth.
Sheyi Bankale is the Editor and Founder of Next Level magazine, the essential source for cutting-edge contemporary photographic art. Next Level has become one of Europe’s leading art photography magazines with a dynamic mix of art photography and ideas and has featured a diverse range of some of the world’s most exciting photo artists. It aims to bring awareness and debate to contemporary culture, showcasing and celebrating emerging and established artists, across various disciplines and alongside inspiring, provocative and critical writing.