"The camera should be used for a recording of life,for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh." (Weston)
The history of the photograph started in 1827. Since that time it has given “a new perspective on life and art”. (library.thinkquest.org) The style of photography varies since the “number of photographers is increasing” (luminous-landscape.com, par.1) Almost two centuries have passed since Nicéphore Niépce has taken the first photograph. And together with further discoveries in optics, new inventions are introduced to the world of photography. Genre stratification of photography is something that is peculiar, but there are features characteristic to fine art, i.e. there are key-genres represented both in fine art and photography (landscape, still-life, portrait etc.). What is the essence of photography? You have your vision, a lens and photofilm or image sensor to express yourself. Brightness, contrast ratio, color scheme and optical exposure are the means of expression you operate with. Since you have learned how to handle with these, you have all opportunities to give a memorable description to the most notable events.
Now it is important to clarify what is so complicated about the definition of art? What is art? Is it an invariant of culture? To some extent, certainly it is.
Among many others two peculiarities, that determine culture’s transformation into an art-form, stand out among the others: inter-dependence and inter-correspondence of life and reflexion, i.e. so to say social nature of art, its connection to life.
After almost a century-long armament drive the mankind is need of covering current events and global issues without extra charges. Photography and early cinematographic art illustrate this most vividly. What impels people to refer to their daily routine and back to rhetorical notions is a rhetorical matter as well. Ego-centrism, constant state of intenseness prevent people from setting themselves free. On the other hand, indebtedness, sense of duty and sense of responsibility keep us within bounds. An idea of a sort of universal rapid response network somehow came to ought. Previously, the gaps in social stratification were not so notable.
Visual art is static and, as any other art form, is dependent on stipulated terms. In case with photograph it is hard to imagine depicted events in another setting. It is almost impossible to believe that this could have happened somewhere else. What we can see on the four pictures, taken by Alec Soth, is the story of one community – the community of migrant workers in Owatonna, Minnesota State. The story I can see behind these 4 photographs is the search for better fortune. Being exhausted and aloof, people as if do not mind they are photographed, as if there is no camera and photographer nearby. This creates the effect like a photographer is one of them, as if these people and the one who takes pictures of them give credence to each other or something of that kind.
Visual comprehension is a sort of immersion into the world of these people. Photos were taken in 2011 and once you realize that this happens in the world you live in, you realize you may not care, but anyway you are responsible for such state of things, the conditions these people live and work in. People who long for freedom, peace, self-realization and the world without discrimination, the world in which others consider their rights – they are here. I think that the author of these pictures wanted to recall the minds to the subject of poverty, humanity and just the way people treat each other.
The other point of decoding Alec Soth’s art is ethics of emotions. Children beside the adults, adults’ perplexity and desperation in facial expressions and the eyes of children are staggering. Gestures, positions of hands, faces with tightened lips and sight with burden attest acquiescence. It is obvious that these people have nothing but hope, and this is their blessing. Hope helps them to live and children are what they must live for. On the other hand, the very idea that children got used to such life, they just might not want to strive for something more and would languish in poverty. There must be someone who may show them the real state of things and the real essence of life. Adults must never forget there is someone always by. Children are born and grow up, but adults must turn to them while they are unique and no one can take their imagination and inartificial way from them. Until a certain point comes.
The last picture is gloomy; it looks as if it is raining in the place the working people live. Edifices, these people live in, are suspect. Buildings are ineligible for a decent rest and recovery of strength, more so for accommodation.
Perceiving a visual art is most tiring. The more you try to notice and comprehend, the more you fail. By the end one does not know anything for sure. Besides, only humans can feel. Tool’s defect is something that should be taken into consideration. All in all, it affects the general comprehension not much since one has one’s own vision of an image.
Now, it is just the time to decide whether to consider Alec Soth’s works an art or not. The photographs are life itself. If one seeks the truth – so here it is. Catharsis is purification by means of mental activity. When comprehend something that disturbs you and evokes emotions and this had not left you indifferent and had made you feel special, that means that you have experienced purification by means of art. It might sound cynically, but that is the essence of art nowadays, this is the form of art, in any genre, most reasonable in present days. Photograph is no exception. Capturing a moment, expression, creative vision and creative concept make culture an art.