Does Originality Matter in Art?
January 22, 2014 • 2 Comments
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before), you will, nine times out of ten, become original without having noticed it.
~ CS Lewis - Mere Christianity ~
The Road Often Traveled
There are no two ways about it: some locations just have iconic shots. They capture our fascination with or without a camera.
Ever since William Henry Jackson first brought a camera to Yellowstone, we have been making photographs of Old Faithful. There are hundreds of other geysers and thermal features in the park, but anybody with a camera comes home with at least a few photos of the iconic fountain. Why is that?
Further, with so many photographs of Old Faithful, does that somehow diminish the artistic act of taking another photo?
Does Originality Matter?
I believe that originality matters, but not in the way we usually think.
Originality matters because perspective matters. The chief end of the artist should be to communicate the truth he or she sees in the world. This is perspective. Art gets noticed because a perspective either resonates with an audience or conveys a facet previously unknown by the audience. The best art does both. As an artist, originality, simply becomes the process of realizing and sharing my perspective of the truth. As C.S. Lewis said it, "if you simply try to tell the truth... you will... become original without having noticed it."
Being different is not the goal. The goal is to be true.
How I See the World
Some things are worth shooting over and over, if only to add that perspective and experience to my own.
My photo of Old Faithful is one piece of my perspective. It is not be "original" in and of itself, but it is one fraction of a second containing the truth as I see it.
My lifelong goal, then, becomes building and refining my ability to the point that when you see my work, you understand how I see the world.
Thanks for looking,
I think often what resonates with the viewer is a mixture of originality or creativity and familiarity. The most powerful connections we can feel with a piece or body of work is when something 'speaks' to our own perspectives in life. Your image of Old Faithful is beautiful on its own, but is especially meaningful to someone who's been there, someone who revels in nature, someone who thinks symbolically about sunrise or sunset.
Nicely said. :)
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