I have had two nice little rush jobs lately – both to photograph a painting yesterday already and email the image the day before in a hurry. Printing deadlines are beyond comprehension; one day (when I am big) I will get a few days’ notice for one of these jobs.
You probably know that the best rugby players originate in the Eastern Cape and then get stolen or exported and end up in other provinces. So it goes with artists – the best ones originate in the Eastern Cape and luckily they stay. The two whose paintings I had to photograph were Walter Battis and George Pemba. Both were true sons of the area and both incredibly talented – mindblowingly talented in their genres. The use of colour and simple lines (and shading) as well as the use of no colour and complex (and no shading) lines and variations thereof* make me feel small as a photographer. Wonder if the Eastern Cape ever had a photographer who could match their stature and vision. Doubt it.
My point is at a tangent to this. If you aspire to be a good photographer you have to know what a good picture is and this should go across the art genres. If you want to be a good surf photographer you have to know what a good surf picture is. You need to look at the local magazine and the international ones and you will discover that they have one thing in common – excellent images. If you don’t know what makes a good image how can you create great images? You also need to look outside your area of specialisation – a bird photographer can benefit from looking at what a sport photographer captures (and vice-versa). It is not a giant leap to realise that all artists benefit from this and that it might be an idea to immerse yourself in all art across all the genres and learn from it.
So where do you find art? You find it in galleries, on walls and on most printed materials. Keep your eyes open and learn from the images you see. You find art (in its photographic form) on walls, galleries, websites etc and especially specialised libraries that support educational institutions that offer photography (and other art) as study fields. I don’t know all the names of great photographers but they range from Ansel Adams to Zybeigo Zorbas (not sure who is last or first actually) and you would benefit from seeing their work. In fact I have no hesitation in saying that by seeing other art your art would improve! Actually we all benefit from seeing creativity – go to Nieu Bethesda and see outsider art, go to any new or old building and see whether it is art. Go look at children’s drawings and graffiti – just go look at anything and learn with your eyes!
Incidentally what I am preaching about is called visual literacy. I really enjoyed the two paintings I photographed and the cropped image above is from a larger work by Walter Battis. I love its simple lines, shapes and colours. I am sure I will benefit from it in future.
* disclaimer – I don’t really know much about art, its techniques and whatever in a formal way nor do I know the language in which art is communicated but I know what I like (and do not like – which is also important).