Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Of Geometric Signature: Questions of Commodifications in Photographers and Their Audience

Text and pictures © Eki Qushay Akhwan, all rights reserved

Can we really take photos without an audience in mind?

This question has been hovering my mind for the past few days. Looking back throughout the years of my affairs with photography, I can’t really remember any moments when I took a photo without thinking of an audience in mind. Perhaps there were, but they were too few to remember. In one way or another, there has always been an audience in mind when I am taking a picture.

The audience doesn’t have to be an outsider. Sometimes it’s just myself, thinking of what satisfaction I might get from taking good pictures. More often than not, however, it’s an outside audience that I have in mind. Getting an approving comment from a viewer is like getting a shot of adrenalin that keeps me going (and craving) for more good photographs. It’s a kind of energy that even proper food can’t replace. Well, sort of.

There is a problem in this though. When you have an audience in mind, you can’t really (and I mean totally) be yourself. There is always some sort of compromise taking place between your creativity and the public’s perception of what you create with it. Compromise is of course not a one-way force. There is always a push and pull in this. It’s like you put your creativity on a place, offering it to be tasted (tested?) by the public and – depending on their reactions to it – you will somewhat modify your creative ingredients so that they are more in tune with the public’s palate.

GEOMETRIC SIGNATURE copyrights Eki Akhwan
Geometric Signature, ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

Some artists (read: photographers) have a strong creative energy push. Driven by some sort of extraordinary vision and a strong conviction in that vision, an artist may choose to be isolated, if only temporarily, from the negative scrutiny of the “ignorant” masses, moving on with what he or she believes to be aesthetically good. But even with artists like this, some sort of expectation that somewhere, sometime, and some people might eventually see what he/she has already seen. And this is also a kind of audience, albeit a differed one.

Many artists, on the other hand, don’t have the strength to keep their conviction and choose to fine-tune their works to their audience’s scrutiny.

For the former as well as for the later, some balance will eventually be achieved in time in the form of some sort of compromise.

Like in language, the criteria for good and bad, acceptable and not acceptable, will always be shifting because it is an object of social and cultural conditioning, which in themselves are eternally dynamic.

Modification (or co-modification) of one’s creative expression that takes place as a result compromise-making does not need to be taken as a negative discourse. As I said earlier, the act of (co-)modification implies a certain degree of conscious control on the part of the doer. Hence, it is still possible to avoid the unnecessary pressure of an “ignorant” or uprepared audience on the kind of creative expressions you have to offer by, for example, choosing a closely like-minded audience. Say if your style of photography is steet – candid and unplanned – then you will have a better chance for appreciation (and therefore less pressure on modification) if you have an audience who are also into that kind of practice. The limits of this choice is, I think, your own extremity, that is the more extreme you are in your choice of aesthetic expression, the more limited like-minded audience you will likely have to share your passion with.

POINTING EMPTINESS copyrights Eki Akhwan
Pointing Emptiness, ©Eki Qushay Akhwan

All this are just my ramblings. As a photographer (photography enthusiast), I feel that I’m still very much prone to my own thoughts of who my audience will be when it comes to creating a photograph. What I like, what I feel so strongly about, is still a subject of volatility induced by my audience. Photographs I’m attaching underneath, for example, may not find ready audience, but myself. And this, sometimes, have me rethink of what I need to do to gain wider acceptance.

Now, it’s your turn to speak up and have a conversation about this. If you like!

1 comment:

Layrayski said...

I love your ramblings! Exactly! I have the same thoughts as you, we do get influenced by an audience, imagined or not. I love this post! =)

Very thoughtful.

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