Monday, June 15, 2009

I left my heart in San Francisco

"So, do you think you'll go back to San Francisco again?" my mother asked me on my way out the door. I paused and looked at her, "I loved San Fran, Mum, but there's a whole world out there I've yet to see."  She smiled and asked me where I would go next year. I shrugged but my heart is set on Ireland.

San Francisco was great and I saw everything I wanted to see.  It was a little overwhelming at first and somewhat surreal.  I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight/Ashbury, The Painted Ladies (shown in the intro for Full House), Pier 39 & Fisherman's Warf, countless markets, an aquarium where I got to pet some funky underwater animals, tried sushi for the first time (and by 'tried' I mean chewed, gag, and spit it out), mastered the art of chopsticks, rode up and down the ridiculously steep hills, learned all about hookah, visited the Modern Art Museum, realized I didn't like photography, drank beer, played scrabble, grew close with old friends and met new friends.  It was overall a satisfying trip; I was surely sad to leave California but I'm sure I'll make my way back there again someday.

I was hoping the trip would shed some light on what kind of art I want to make in fourth year at MtA.  I realized that my love for photography has diminished.  Photography is so popular now because anyone can be a photographer if given a nice camera.  There is no magic to photography anymore; it used to be about the element of surprise - not knowing exactly how your pictures would turn out until you developed them yourself.  But now that everything is digital, you can delete and retake to your heart's content until you find a picture you really like.  To me, it's sort of like cheating the system.  Obviously, not everyone feels this way and a lot of people really enjoy looking at photography and enjoy taking photographs - but for me, it's different.  And once you've seen one photograph, you've seen them all.  I'll regain interest when I stumble upon a photographer who does something different than what the rest of the photography world is doing.

A few years ago, in Cape Breton, a photographer grew quickly popular - advertising his photographs all over malls, the newspapers and television.  Everyone wanted to be one John Ratchford's models who glowed in these magnificent photographs... and you could.  It was like a frenzy where everyone where I'm from grew obsessed with this photographer and it was the "cool" thing to go be photographed by him.

I was one of them.  For a ridiculously high price, I went in to his studio where he photographed my graduation picture as well as some "cover girl" shots, and he photographed me with my artwork.  

Every time you walked through the mall, you would stop to look at his photographs to see if you knew any of the people in them.  You almost always did.  A lot of other artists started adopting his photoshopped style of black and white photographs with only selected color items in them (Such as a guitar player gripping his guitar which was blue, while the rest of the photograph was in black and white).  This was new.  But now everyone with a camera can do this.  Why would you go spend thousands of dollars when you can easily just go do it yourself?

With free trials of Adobe photoshop, Youtube tutorials and other online tutorials, Facebook applications such as "Picnik" and digital cameras, it's as easy as pie to become a photographer.  People no longer slow down to see if they recognize faces in Ratchford's photographs in the mall because they can just go home, log on to Facebook and do the same.

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