I had an interesting conversation the other day about the “meaning” of a work, particularly in my recent photographs. Someone said they enjoyed my work but didn’t understand what the meaning was: What does the rose symbolize? What does the facial expression mean? My response was that meaning is not important to me – but this was not the answer they wanted… I began to contemplate the importance of meaning in my images. I realized that I am far more interested in letting the viewer search for meaning themselves. I am just the creator of ideas.
My practice lately has been: Start with a theme – Develop a scenario that involves that theme – Explore and experiment in the studio. Here the theme was “New Growth” as springtime is here. I had a rose in a vase that I took from the garden. Next I had the idea of a rose coming out of my mouth, being held, or balancing. That is it. I began shooting in the studio and this was my favorite exposure. Do I have my own thoughts of meaning, yes, but they are not important to the work.
The artist Minor White speaks of Equivalence, that a photograph functions beyond the imagery, as a symbol, and each viewer carries their own history, emotion, and interpretation of the image. My interest lies somewhere in here. Photography creates a lifelike image that we all can relate to more easily than painting, for example, and so inherently our brains are going to try to make sense of what we see, interpret it, and create some kind of meaning. Possibly that meaning is not concrete but open-ended… Therefore as the artist, I am using imagination and creativity to conjure an idea in the form of a photograph. It is not that meaning is unimportant but rather that MY meaning is not important. What is important to me is watching someone else experience and deal with it themselves.