I guess everyone worries about standing up in front of a bunch of people and talking about a subject they know something about. It’s easier if you know the audience well enough to feel comfortable, but more nerve-wracking if you’ve only just met them or know nothing about them and their interests. What will grab their attention? You’ve nothing to go on. Can I talk about what I’ve achieved as an artist? We live in a society that encourages individualism, there’s even a new phrase for it – bigging yourself up. However this doesn’t come naturally to someone who’s background and upbringing predate the celeb culture.
The advantage of being a visual artist is that you have visual artefacts to base your talk around. In the last ten or so years, society has become much more image aware. It’s a legacy of all that television and film viewing that we do and the advent of smart phone-cameras are also producing a visually educated society. We constantly share images to illustrate the minuteae of our everyday life. Social media is fascinating because images that really work for you aren’t necessarily the ones that people react to. People ‘see’ different meanings in the same image.
Images have also become very disposable. Only a few images have the power to keep us coming back, filling us with strong emotion: drama, horror, passion, humour, cuteness, sadness or revealing an unusual viewpoint, event or juxtaposition. We constantly graze (not gaze), moving on to fresh pastures without a backward glance. Yet we constantly illustrate our daily life with photos and borrowed images. Occasionally something stops us in our tracks.
So for my talk I’m planning to select a few well-chosen images which have already got a reaction from people and talk about creating those. But I also need to be aware that my audience may make other interpretations of the content of my favourite photos. There are some quite interesting tools online to help you gain valuable insights into what connects with your audience. That’s the science and number-crunching bit. But there’s also art and individual taste involved which for me makes the study of visual media so compelling.
On a recent trip to Cheshire we had to pass this group of old vehicles. I enjoyed playing around with the camera, composing pictures and spotting wonderful juxtapositions of colour. It seemed odd that so many vehicles designed to travel efficiently at speed had come to rest in this graveyard location among the weeds, their colours gradually disappearing under a patina of moss and leaves.
Sic Transit Gloria…