A boy is looking over his shoulder, his eyes directed at the camera. Unashamed, he makes no attempt to hide his face, full of tears. His patched clothing sits in contrast to the dull landscape of a Peruvian field, where several sheep lie, disfigured.
William Albert Allard is a renowned photographer for National Geographic. One of his well-known photos shows this young boy by his small herd of sheep, six of which were killed by a car.
Some may look at this photo, see a photo full of color, contrast, and focus. Some may stop there, and see nothing else. Completely oblivious to the fact that this boy and his family depended on those sheep for their livelihood. To them, there is nothing deeper than the technical aspects of the photo.
Some may look at this photo and understand a piece of what the photographer is trying to convey: the pressure the young boy is feeling, and the insensitivity of the driver who did not even take the time to stop after destroying the family’s livelihood. They may leave it at that, though, a picture in a magazine.
Some may take the feeling they receive from this photo, and keep it. As a photographer, I think this is the ultimate goal. When someone looks at a photo, sees a story, and remembers the message or feeling they felt when they saw the photo.
Art is to be appreciated in homes and coffee shops, but there is a depth that is not always touched with decorative artwork. I think this changes our perspective of art, by not learning how to view art in all of its depth, with both a critical and open mind.
Looking at Jackson Pollock’s work, it is easy to think that there is no purpose to art. Yet Pollock is said to have meditated over his pieces, spending hour upon hour, just thinking and formulating his next piece. While some say Pollock was crazy, he was still a developer of an entire artistic movement.
Throughout history, art has caused people to stop, to think, to question. This is the timeless art, the art that makes a statement, which speaks in a way no verbal words can.
This is seen in Edward Hicks’ piece “The Peaceable Kingdom,” which protested the injustice that was happening to Native Americans in the 1820’s. The piece looks to Isaiah 11, a glimpse of heaven when all of earth will be restored, and there will no longer be war or strife.
This is also seen in the photography of Jacob Riis, whose urban photography captured the despair that many felt living in poverty. Riis captured the less picturesque side of New York in the 1880’s, and was known as a man who brought about social reform, because of the statement his photos gave.
Art can be appreciated whether or not it leaves an impact on culture, but I believe that art can do much more than many allow it to do. Take time to study art, to let it affect you. Take time to let thoughts, both abstract and concrete, form from the voices of artists throughout history.