May is National Photography Month!
By Emma Coyle
It’s halfway through May and while we celebrate photography everyday at Museé, now is the perfect chance to observe National Photography Month!
Officially recognized in 1987, National Photography Month is an amazing opportunity to celebrate both the history of photography and how it shaped the modern world. Photography is journalistic in that it captures distinct moments of people’s lives and renders those magical, ephemeral memories into timelessness with a click. It is also symbolic, blending tangibility with the internal life of the photographer to make art that surpasses all expectations. The range of possibilities is vast and still being explored.
The Road of Gaillon by Jacques Henri Lartique, taken in 1912, embraces the mundanity of everyday life and elevates it with its use of framing and composition. The figures are so near in the foreground, just the tops of their faces can be seen, made alien with round goggles. In the short time since Lartique was taking his pictures, photography has quickly changed the way the world is perceived and driven innovation across multiple fields from fashion to anthropology.
Photography has the potential to communicate, to tell the viewer something important, but it also is about aesthetics and self expression. The field is becoming more and more accessible as technological advances put a smartphone in every hand and that only makes it more important. It has become a part of daily life (as it should be!) Every photograph is an invitation into another point of view, the opportunity to see how someone else looks at the world.
This highly planned photograph by Yinka Shonibare, blends references to Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat with commentary on colonialism. What drives a photographer to take a picture like that? How do they imbue their internal life into an external scene? Shonibare is clearly a master as he layers “traditional” fabrics over the European man reclined in the soft lighting. The dark background makes one think of paintings by the Dutch masters, and in both those paintings and Shonibare’s photography there is densely packed symbolism in everything from the flowers in the window sill to the torn papers on the floor. He brings his own investigations and past into his work and by doing so he manages to create a work that expands to include more than the individual experience.
The scenes that a photographer can capture range from naturalistic to a highly planned and arranged stage with a high production value. In either case there are often layers of meaning, intention and intentional placement. Neon Scooter by Ashley Bickerton captures his established blue man character on a vibrantly saturated scooter in marbled reds and yellows, the background lushly filled with neon signs blurring behind him. Photography may be used to record important moments, but it really excels at capturing the energy and emotions of a given scene. A landscape can be imbued with joy. An crowd dancing to music can evoke a loneliness that belies the expressions on the subject’s faces.
There isn’t a day that photographs aren’t being taken, shared, or pulled out of our wallets when we meet someone new. This month it is important to take the time to think about how often we see images, how often we take them, and what a large role photography has in our lives. To celebrate National Photography Month, practice taking more pictures of the world around you, try and see a gallery opening, visit a museum, or spend a little time learning about the amazing range of photographers crafting their art.