The Purpose of Art

As we get rolling into the new year I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about why I photograph and what purpose it serves.

Agnes DeMille, the noted choreographer was quoted as saying:

‘We are a pioneer country. If you can’t mend a roof with it, if you can’t patch a boot with it, if you can’t manure a field with it or physic your child with it it’s no damn good.’

Presumably she said this out of frustration with a sociey that doesn’t respect the arts. I certainly grew up in that kind of environment and it leaves me feeling a little self indulgent when I jaunt off to make photographs since my photography does none of these things.

When I truthfully answer the question why do I photograph the answer is simply because it makes me feel good and fills a void that otherwise is difficult to fill. Perhaps this falls into the category of ‘physic’? I would argue that it does.

Even if art, photography in this case, doesn’t serve one of the purposes on Agnes DeMille’s list it does serve a number of important functions that include to surround us with beautiful things, to fill us with a sense of awe of the world around us, to shine a light into the dark places and bring those topics into the public eye. These functions need not exist in isolation, for example environmental groups have used beautiful landscape imagery to provoke discussion around conservation issues.

While I’m happy to make photographs that I like to look at and go well with the couch I have yet to make the connection between my photography and a bigger purpose. It’s something that I increasing want to do and will look for opportunites in 2015 that fit with my interests.

How about you? Why do you create? Is it aligned with a bigger purpose? I’d be delighted to hear your story.

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10 thoughts on “The Purpose of Art

  1. I am yet to put it in my own words, but here is what Freeman Patterson said and I felt that he is right 🙂
    “Photography – both the craft and the art – helps me to be. It allows and enables me to live creatively, which is to honour Creation and my own existence. As I consciously pursue my craft, my concerns, anxieties, fears, loves, hopes and dreams bubble up from my unconscious. In this meeting of the conscious and unconscious, I can acknowledge my wounds and experience healing. Photography is neither a religion nor a panacea, but it provides me with the opportunity of “growing towards wholeness.” Freeman Patterson

  2. I just love to capture the wonder of the world, and I am torn between poetry and photography. I guess I do it for myself as well. It certainly meets some deep need.

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