The Snapshot and the Artist
Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands group, is located off the Antarctic Peninsula. I was there as part of a photography tour I co-ran with David Burren in November 2010. We sailed from Ushuaia, in Southern Argentina, on the Polar Pioneer, a Russian ice-breaker operated by the Australian tour company Aurora Expeditions.
The above photo features tour participant, David Campbell, who had been photographing inside the interior of an old boiler at the abandoned Hektor Whaler Station during a quite heavy snow storm. I suspect we entered this space to find shelter as much as through any need to explore what was inside this old shell. Since this trip David Campbell has gone on to travel to Spitsbergen in the Arctic, in search of polar bears, and to Alaska where he made some amazing pictures of the Northern Lights.
Of Ice and Snow
The second photo features Ken experiencing the full force of the weather that had been served up to us that day. The tour was divided, primarily, between three different interest groups: photographers, kayakers and scuba divers. There were also more general tourists and, I think I'm right to say that, Ken and his wife, Jan, fell into that group.
Being from South Eastern Australia I've grown up without the joys and hardships associated with living in a much colder part of the world. In particular I refer to long months living in a world covered by snow and ice. To experience snow I've had to travel considerable distances, sometimes overseas. As a result I still find photographing snow and ice to be a fairly unique experience. I love it!
It's a Record, Nothing More
In the case of the photo of Ken I was as warm as toast. Clearly Ken wasn't, and that influenced the way I went about making the picture. He looked cold and I just couldn't get past the fact that his glasses were covered in ice. That whole notion of the eyes being a window to the soul is such a beautiful concept that underpins the success of many great portraits. As much as anything else this picture is the anthesis of that concept. And that's why I made it.
It's Not Art
The photo of Ken is all about surface with no deeper, inner meanings. And, as that's quite the opposite to how I'd normally go about making images, it was fun to take a totally different approach and concentrate on the obvious reality in front of me, rather than exploring any deeper meanings or messages suggested by what I perceived through the composition I created. It's not the way I prefer to work or, for that matter, live. But it's OK every now and again. It's a record, a bit of a giggle and, in this case, it doesn't need to be anything more than that.
To say It's Not Art, it's a Photograph is true for both of the above photos in this post. But that statement is certainly not true for all photographs. Art is about intent, meaning and exploring not just what's in front of us but, via the tools (e.g., camera, lens), processes (e.g., software) and output (website, eBook, print) available, what that subject or scene suggests about ourselves, our world and the Human Condition.
As in all things we have a choice. Not about what's in front of us, the weather we find ourselves photographing under or, for that matter, what happens to us, but what we make of those circumstances, events and interactions. That’s really all that matters. Such choices determine our reality, in the present, and also in the future.
Choice, like Free Will is a gift, and all great gifts come with responsibility and consequences. Do they not?