I am of the opinion that art should aim to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. There may be a message that the artist intends to communicate, but the most effective way to achieve this is by evoking an emotional response in the viewer. Sometimes the message itself is the means by which an artist can achieve this.
What is a message without some meaning behind it? In other words, art has to say something about our relationship to the subject being portrayed.
For me, the message I always try to communicate using photography concerns our place as animals within a natural environment. Most people in the developed world never really experience real hunger. Medical care can now cure or fix problems that that would otherwise be permanent. With central heating and air conditioning most of us do not have to fear extremes of temperature. This is a good thing.
But conversely, we end up with a new problem; how to apply meaning to our lives. This is not an issue if you are trying to survive. It does become one if you spend your life commuting to and from work, sitting either in a car, at a desk or on a sofa before going to bed. All so that you can earn money to spend it on things that can make the daily grind
Life becomes more stressful but with fewer rewards. For example, we may be glad to see that our local supermarket has stocked up on our favourite fruit, but this reward is insignificant compared to being hungry in the wild and finding a bush that provides us with fresh berries.
Obesity is becoming a major issue in western society. It is not just a health issue, but also one that concerns how we view our bodies. The epidemic in obesity is a result of the ease with which we can now feed ourselves. It is also a result of manual labour becoming less common. Most people try to solve this by paying for membership at a gym, a sterile place where you focus on exercising one or a few parts of your body at a time. Riding a real bicycle compared to an exercise bike will help improve your motor co-ordination, reactions and your balance as well as exercising other muscles in your body. But doing so can be less convenient.
Exercise, or playing computer games or watching television provides a daily fix of adrenaline in a safe package. But in the same way that junk food can satisfy a short term hunger, it can leave you unsatisfied. Some people satisfy this need by pursuing extreme sports. It all comes down to the same thing. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves as to who, why and what we are.
In the same way that animals in a zoo may pace up and down their enclosures, or factory farmed chickens peck each other out of frustration, many of us also suffer from being too far removed from our natural environment. We find the ‘junk-food’ society unsatisfying. For every animal there is an environment that it is adapted to. Modern day society removes us from our natural environment and in doing so, we deny a part of ourselves.
People can relieve their frustrations by driving to a beach and just sitting and observing the openess of a sea-scape; or a magnificent mountainous landscape such as that found in the highlands of Scotland. But we are still removed from the natural environment by sitting in a car. So some people take up activities such as sailing or hill-walking.
Clothes remove us from the natural environment by protecting us from it. We may know that water transmits heat thirty times faster than air, but what does this mean to us as humans within a natural environment? Removing our clothes in the same environment that our ancestors struggled to survive in helps us to remember who we are as a species.
That yearning to be in our natural environment living in a way that gives our lives meaning, is what I try to express using photography.