100 Days of Art – Day 29: The Art of the Ordinary

Nothing happened during this photograph. People climbed on a subway train, running at 10-minute intervals, headed from the city’s center to the suburbs. The photo was shot with a non-SLR, my small Fujifilm X-20, under existing lighting. I didn’t alter the photo in any way except to correct the exposure that was altered by the computer, and I shot it in native black and white. It is, in all respects, an ordinary photograph.

So why does it feel like art? Perhaps it’s the tonal variation between the bright subway car lights and the dark framing of the windows. Maybe it’s the man at the far left, blurred from his motion to climb aboard. Perhaps it is the people in the train or the repeating patterns of windows and tiles, or even how the train slants in a diagonal toward an unseen vanishing point. I  say it’s none of those things.

We see art because the artistry is in ourselves. The best photo, painting, song, or poem can only paint what our subconscious notices. As viewers, we go through life, noticing, sometimes beneath conscious levels, the small beauteous moments in life. If we’re lucky, there’s someone by our side to share them with. If not, we store them away and forget. Later, due to habit, we even start forgetting to notice them.

As artists, we don’t create art; we simply remind patrons of the art within each of them. Some of you will see art in the photo above. Others will not. It is up to each of us to find the art within–the glorious art of the ordinary–and remember it. We come this way but once, for the next time, nothing will be the same. See it, remember it, share it.

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3 thoughts on “100 Days of Art – Day 29: The Art of the Ordinary

  1. Nice post baby. Photography especially gives people the opportunity to experience the mundane in another form. We photographers call people’s attention to that which they would normally ignore, and perhaps look at the mundane for the exceptional art that it is. To appreciate feats of engineering, both biological and non. In that momentary altered state of awareness we encourage others to deflect focus from themselves to the world around them, and from that new vantage point we then enable, as you say, others to see the art within themselves. Photographers are a different breed of storyteller, but storytellers they are, evoking volumes in a split second. The journey and the destination are simultaneous. That I think is a very special thing.

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      • Some of the impact of a shot will depend upon when it is viewed, and from the light of a future point, just like with your portrait shots from the 70s and 80s, it can tell a multitude of stories. Encapsulated in each shot is a moment of history that only gains resonance with age, but also in a more lateral sense when viewed by those for whom this isn’t the mundane. The story changes, the art changes according to who is viewing it, so it has the potential to evolve in its own right.

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