Visually Challenged…


One thing I have learned in my several weeks here at MOPA is that the photographic arts can be challenging.  I think of photography in a classic camera-film-picture sort of way.  But that is a rather limited view.  First off, the term photographic arts includes more than just pictures or still images.  Video and film are very much a part of this category.  After all, a film or video is merely a sequence of images strung together in a rapid fashion.  But this was not the challenging part.

The challenge for me came in the diversity of the exhibitions here at MOPA.  Prior to starting, or even interviewing, here I came in to see the Ruud van Empel exhibit.  The images in this show were strikingly beautiful.  At the same time, they were eerie in a way I could not pinpoint.  What I learned was that each image was fabricated from numerous other photos.  A child’s eye could actually be a picture of doll’s eye swapped in digitally to get the feeling van Empel wanted.  And that is exactly what challenged my view of photography.  I was not sure I liked the idea of digitally constructing the image.  This was more than just the airbrushing of old that took place.  This was completely building an image from other images with digital software packages.


I wrestled with this for a while.  I was not sure I could accept this as photography.  But in the end, I came to realize I was a fan of it.  The images, as I mentioned, were beautiful.  They were haunting.  And every single element of the image was a photograph.  Quite simply, these images would not exist were it not for this digital manipulation and so I can’t begrudge the process.

What I realized, especially when the Jessica Lange: unseen exhibit went up, is that the photographic arts really include a wide range of media.  Jessica Lange, which is up until May 19th, shoots all B/W film of things she sees.  Ruud van Empel, on the other hand, takes many pictures and then creates the image he wants.  Ultimately what we get is artwork from both, but the process is very different.  I like the diversity.  And, it turns out, I like to be challenged.