Saturday, 28 May 2016

The futility of art

Every once in a while I like to explore some of the lesser known nooks and crannies of my local area. This is where a bike comes in useful, providing the mobility to get places not normally accessible by foot or car. The general purpose of these explorations is to try and locate unusual viewpoints and positions not normally seen on photographs. Generally I fail, but at least it gets me out of the house.

On one such trip recently I stumbled on the following which sort of blew me away

Now I not generally someone who approves or encourages graffiti, however these are not your "Baz was 'ere" type works. They are all done with considerable skill and effort (Also it could hardly be said that they are despoiling the local environment since it is hard to make concrete more ugly than it always is).

It was obvious a large amount of effort and logistics was exerted in doing these. However there location means that  virtually no one will ever see them or even be aware of them even though thousands of people drive over them every day.

So the question is then why did they do it?

It could not be for monetary award since you could hardly hang these on your wall. Nor could it be for fame since the artists are generally anonymous.  In some ways they seem the purest expression of art, since they seem to have no purpose other than to exist, seen or unseen.

Maybe they just felt the need to make the world a slightly more colorful place? Another suggestion is that this is just there way of declaring to the world of their existence . You could almost imagine the people who did the cave paintings in France having much the same idea. Or maybe it is a simple as as they did it because they could.

Since we will almost never know who did them, the motivations will be always be a mystery(I can imagine archaeologist in a 1000 years having a field day if they found these, suggesting all sort of religious significance to them).

However it did start me thinking about why I take photographs.

After all, in many ways my photographs are similar to these paintings. 99.9999% of them will never be seen apart from me and even then many will only be given a fleeting glance. Even those selected few that make it out into the wider world will only have a short lifetime before consigned to obscurity.

One suggestion would be my photos will become my legacy. But I know from bitter experience that my decedents will not put the same value on my work as I do.

When I had to clear my fathers house out, I was faced with issue of what to do with my mothers art work. My mother was quite a prolific artist with some skill.  When we cleared the house out I came across thousands of drawings, paintings and other art works. My initial reaction was to keep them, but the very quantity and size meant that this was never realistic option. In the end the vast majority ended up at the local tip, which considering that I was basically destroying my mother memory was really hard to do.

When I move onto the lightroom in the sky, my children will have the same issue. OK, they will be on hard disks rather than paper, but I doubt that will make it any better.

So in some ways my photos are like those wall arts. We may pretend that we have higher reasons for taking the photos,  but actually we do it because we enjoy it, and there should be no embarrassment in admitting that. All the rest such as exhibitions and competitions really don't matter.

We may wonder about the futility and waste of time of artists painting under motorway bridges , but as photographers can we say we are any better?

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