Being an art fair artist means that I talk to a lot of people about art. A LOT of people. Literally thousands of people.
Some are knowlegable about art. Most are not. All deserve my attention. I believe we learn from every conversation — even if I’m annoyed at the time.
A handful just want to impress me with their “superior” knowledge.
Those conversations go something like this:
Man (Sorry, but it’s ALAWYS a man): I see you’re using film. That’s great. I only use film.
Me: Yes, this body of work uses a discontinued Polaroid film. I love the characteristics of the film, but I work in digital too.
Man: Oh, digital isn’t real photography. I’m a purist. I only shoot film. Anyone can shoot digital.
Me: A purist? Really? (I’m getting annoyed by this time.) I would think if you’re a purist that you would coat your own glass plates and not shoot film. Film is so 20th Century. A PURIST would shoot glass plates.
Man: (reaching for his cell phone) Sorry. I gotta take this.
For years I’ve been saying, rather sarcastically, that purists would coat their own glass plates. It’s the arrogant photographer who thinks that his or her medium is the PURE one and rest of us are lazy hacks. It’s the vision –and the ability to communicate that vision — not the tool, that is important.
Imagine my surprise when I heard Webster University Photography Professor Extraordinaire and acquaintance Bill Barrett use EXACTLY THOSE SAME WORDS in a discussion about “purists” using the now defunct Kodachrome film during an interview on the local NPR show yesterday.
“Purists would coat their own glass plates,” he said.
Now, Bill and I haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time together, and I don’t think we’re ever heard the other say this line.
My only conclusion: great minds think alike! Thanks for the affirmation, Bill!
And if you’re in St. Louis, please go to the May Gallery at Webster to see the Kodachrome exhibit the university put together from the last batch of processed film shot by students and faculty. Buy the book. Support the next generation of artists who dare to work in photography. And support their teachers.