Thursday, August 28, 2008

Response to "Shelby Lee Adams Appalachia - The True Meaning of Pictures"

This documentary immediately hit home for me and I found myself able to really relate to Adams. About 5 years ago I spent 2 weeks in a remote Appalachian town in West Virginia. Although my time spent there was significantly shorter than Adams', my life was still changed forever. I have been lucky enough, and I'm well aware of just how lucky, to grow up financially stable with a complete and loving family. Consequently I also became incredibly sheltered and naive to what life may be like for other people. My trip to West Virginia was the best learning experience I've had, and it completely opened my eyes to the truths of life. Here, in America, there is poverty. It was and still sometimes is such an absurd concept. I was shocked while in West Virginia to learn that we had people living as though they were in a third world country. All I wanted to do was fix it, and bring home with me every child I came to know and love. Knowing this was impossible I vowed to tell the story of my experience, tell THEIR story, so that maybe people would realize what is wrong with our country and do something to change it. That was the only way I knew how to help.
I have always honored documentary photographers, because they too are doing what they can to make a difference, simply by taking photographs. In this movie there was a lot of focus put on whether or not Adams was a true documentary photographer. In my opinion he isn't, although his photographs do accurately portray the people of Appalachia. A true documentary photographer doesn't become a part of the scene, they only capture it. Adams spent a lot of time and energy on creating his images -posing his subjects, setting up the scene, using lights, etc. Yet despite the fact they were manufactured images they still held a lot of truth. Rather than calling them documentary photographs I see them more as environmental portraits and fine art images. I completely disagree with those who oppose his work and claim he is exploiting the people in his photographs. Everyone in his images were willing and delighted to have their photograph taken. I imagine if they felt they were being exploited and insulted they would have let Adams know and not allowed their photo to be taken. Adams was not exploiting but simply showing us the truth, whether it was pretty or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Response to Ch.12 of The American Experience - N.O.

There were only 2 things I thought of when I would hear mention of New Orleans: Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina. After watching the American Experience I am aware of just how ignorant I was. How could I ever define something so indefinable? I feel like blushing at the mere thought of how I used to think the worth of New Orleans could be defined by two events. New Orleans is so much more . . . The culture, the color, the pride, the music, the passion, the life, the people, the history, the spirit, the sound, the taste, the smell, the energy, the dreams, the fight. New Orleans is made up of all of it. And all I could think of while watching the documentary was, “Damn. I wanna go to New Orleans!” And then, “Damn, I’m GOING to New Orleans!” Out of all the chapters in the documentary the one that stood out the most for me was Chapter 12. It’s a shorter chapter, just over three minutes, but it’s the one that has stuck with me the most.

Perhaps it’s because I can relate to the artist, Amzie, who allows the cameras to follow him, or maybe it’s just because he’s so odd looking. Either way I was moved to hear him express his love and see him manifest his feelings about his hometown through his art. It seems as though everyone in New Orleans turns what they’re feeling into something tangible, whether it be music, art, dance, food, writings, etc. And that is so admirable to me. As an artist I am always striving to get my point across, a point that often is so hard to take from inside my brain and my heart and form into something others can hold. New Orleans is built for that. Every corner Amzie turned there was another human, molding their feelings into something everyone could see, feel, hear. How amazing it must feel to just turn a corner in New Orleans. I can’t wait, to turn corners in New Orleans.