“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso
I am writing this in the first week of April 2020 ... The Covid19 pandemic is real, London and the whole of the UK has been in lockdown for several weeks, other parts of the world longer. I've just about recovered from 3 weeks of what I believe to be Covid19 but I have yet to be tested so who really knows ?? I know there are others who are worse off than me. I know those that have not come out of the otherside.
In these times of heroic acts from front line workers, NHS nurses and doctors who are quite literally putting themselves in danger every single day to help the ill, and many others like them it is easy to sit here as an artist, a photographer and ask What is the point ?
I'm not saving lives, I'm not adding to the effort I'm just asking for permission to point a camera in someone's face .. and either record a period in time for historical purposes or to make art of the sake of it.
And that .. well that is just the point isn't it. I've thought long and hard over this whilst I've been self isolating .. alone with my own thoughts at 3am ... wondering how I might as a photographer survive, come the end of the social distancing and the return of parties, as Robert Plant sang Laughter, Does anybody remember Laughter ... ?
So what is the point of being a photographer ... well let's take the easy one first. If I'm photographing your wedding, party, event or anything else that is a social gathering I am there to remind you of what happened, show you the things you had no idea about and generally a few weeks after put a smile on your face. Today, tomorrow and all of the tomorrows that follow. You will print a portrait for the wall, it will be artistic and it will remind you of a great day every time you look at it. For the few parties and weddings that took place before total lock down .. the weddings that went ahead with as few people as needed, they will remind us of these strange times .. It's also, quite possible that the photographs I take are some of the last photographs that will ever be taken of some people .. sad to say it but it's a horrible truth that we need to face. So if the point is to get one of the best pictures of someone, the last time they were out and about, and it has been the case in normal times, then that is an important point.
What about photos for the sake of it .. a visit to the studio, a set of portraits or boudoir images. What is the point of such a frivolity in times like these ...?
Well to be honest the reason is the same as it always was and always will be ... it's an experience that is there for fun. Art matters ... it is in some ways what separates us from the animals. It is there to transport us to a different time or place. It gives us something to loose ourselves in and it acts as a very very worthy distraction .. and that is never more important than it is right now.
When Italy first went into lock down we saw the news articles of the distanced flat owners on their balconies singing together. Creating a solidarity out of loneliness ... the Internet, Facebook is flooded with Zoom video sessions of artists singing together, duets and bands doing what they do ... and when we watch that art, it is uplifting, it makes us smile it makes all of this go away for a short period of time.
And so it is with boudoir photography ... if you have a photograph that I have taken, printed on the wall, a selection in a book or any of the other ways we can deliver these days I am sure you a taking a look and remembering the experience as whole .. the run up, the planning, the fear turning into excitement, the shoot day, the reveal. The great feeling of pride, empowerment and joy at seeing yourself like you have never ever done so before. I hope for those with pictures we have created together that they are looking at them and using them to escape from this current situation.
Art making is an amazing response to a wide range of emotions, anger, sadness, happiness and joy ... we make art during all of these times, not everything an artists does is seen. It is no less worthy because of it. Painters and sketchers I am sure lock themselves in a studio and just let what they feel flow. We produce art as a way to process emotions and feelings. We create pictures together to push the limits of what you thought may be possible and show you who and what you can be. It takes courage and trust to produce boudoir images but when we do ... oh they are great.
So art has no antiviral properties, it will not save lives, cure the ill or care for you in the same way a first responder or medic can. Let's face it I'm a photographer, I can't operate a respirator ... but with the photos I take or the knowledge that you are to have an experience it is a way of looking forward.
So what is the point ... why am I here, why should I pick up a camera again when all this is over. I'm here to remind you that you are not alone. I am here to remind you of the good times. I am here to let you be something you thought maybe you could never have been, to help you create a fantasy. These reasons and more add up to a single reason ... a single why ...
I am here to put a smile on your face
Now that might be a trite statement. It might seem trivial during these times. However when all is said and done we need to smile. We need to smile now so much more than ever, to transport ourselves to the days before lockdown ... and the days that will follow when we are allowed out again. When we can be ourselves. Touch and hug ... and just do things for the sake of doing them.