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Permission Granted

The issue I was wondering about was just why do people like the photographs they do and what exactly are they prepared to hang upon their walls. Obviously we all have our favourites and decorating needs but in the back of my mind I have always felt it was not quite just a clear cut issue of likes and dislikes.

I feel that photographic appreciation and indeed the appreciation of any art is about much more than just personal preference.

In a way it is probably a bit like fashion, by that I mean I think a lot of people will profess to like what they have been conditioned to like and are prepared to hang upon their walls, images that they consider are safe, images that will not cause household visitors to question the taste and sanity of the owner.

Lots of people like landscapes, going by what I see for sale in many galleries, seascapes and sunsets in particular, yet many of the said works I see people buy and hang are mind numbingly boring and are lacking in any real artistic merit, message or even good technique.

But as a choice for the wall they are safe, they challenge no one, they hang there upon the wall never offending anyone and creating a mildly pleasant backdrop for daily proceedings.

Nothing wrong in all that but is it any different to a testosterone laden doof boy adorning his bedroom walls with images of Ferraris or V8 Commodores or some similar subject.

In many ways I think this approach to what we hang on the walls is really a matter of conditioning, its OK to hang a car pic if you’re young and male or a pretty landscape or a portrait of a movie star, no strength of conviction is needed in such a choice.

We probably like to think that we make decisions upon what is good or bad purely on the basis of what we feel is good or bad, believing that we operate independently of anyone else, but I suspect that it is anything but the truth....a bit like fashion.

Fashion is all about telling people what is in, what is out and what is going to be in next season, it bears little relationship to practicalities, matching of needs to suitable clothing, no fashion is about following a trend created by someone else, and often that is done purely for the reason of financial gain on the behalf of the trends creator.

Art and photography is a bit like that too, I propose boldly that if someone unknown somewhere were to produce some pretty average images that were then hyped up by a group of art critics around the world as being the greatest thing since Ansel Adams, it would not take long for those works to be selling for crazy prices in big quantities to people who would proudly hang them upon their walls to display their good taste and culture. It would indeed be interesting to see just such a thing orchestrated as an experiment.

The thing is I feel people tend to purchase that which they have been given permission to like and purchase. In general they have permission to like and purchase seascapes, sunsets and landscapes. To hang a family portrait is of course permission granted, likewise images of expensive cars, flowers and famous landmarks which are all more than acceptable.

In the painted art world abstracts are now also permission granted, providing they are not too challenging and preferably come with a name attached.

But what about photography, it is interesting really and I speak here as an observer of what I see all over the country, and to a certain degree in my own work and the responses I get.

Many times I have had people looking at my work actually say, I love that image, it is really stunning, but I could never hang it one my wall its too “out there”. Funny really when you think about it, an example is one of my architectural images, (Sooley Dam Pump House), it is actually one of my personal favourites and I have had many people say they felt it was fabulous, they have even told me it was their favourite of my images, but as yet no one has bought the image, they all say they couldn’t hang it on their wall.

I see the same thing in other artists work, images in galleries that are extraordinary, finely crafted, exquisitely composed, everything going for them, yet they are passed over for work of utter banality that was probably taken as little more than snapshots. In essence people may feel they have permission to at least appreciate these works but they do not have permission to actually embrace, pay for and hang those works upon their walls despite the fact that deep down they really love the images.

What a strange old world we live in.

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