How long should we look at the photograph?
When we are in a gallery, in average we spent no more than 2 sec. to see each picture. So, how do people look at the photograph? They do not look at the photograph based on the merrier itself. They tend to scan the photograph at the glance moment. In this fraction of the second, we apply unfair analyses. Do we like it or not? In other words, does this photograph portray the world we would like to perceive? Does the artist agrees with our point of view? How much this piece of artwork matches our preconceived ideas? More interesting question is “what do we think about it?”. If we extend the time we look at the photo, the relationship with the photo changes. What if we adopt the term for active viewing. This involves an act of predetermined questions:
1-What is it about it? (idea behind it)
2-What we are suppose to feel it? (Does it imply emotional influence. Is it’s about me? Why do we have these reactions? Is it our prestige, upbringing, knowledge? How do we relate to the artwork?
3-What is this photograph like? Did I see it before? Is it different? How different? Did we put this picture in some kind of content in history?
4-Is it a lucky accident or consistent plasticity? Does the photographer know what techniques to use it?
5-Why should I care? What difference does it make if I have seen this photograph? How does it change my life? All the effort and energy to make this artwork for what?!? If I cannot relate to that, it is hard to have a relationship with a photograph. You cannot answer all these questions if you look at the photograph at glance.
At last, is it an art or entertainment?
Art is meant to be seen over time. Entertainment, on the other hand, is designed for a temporary audience. It is reproducible, inexpensive, available for many. It could be enjoyed and let go. The way we see photography today is more like entertainment. We have HTML galleries, flicker, photo books. We look at it, enjoy it and let it go. How are most people interfering with photography today? In my opinion, fine art photography has to recreate personal estate. The time we spent to view personal imagery is much greater and more profound. If the personal content disappears, is the beauty resonate with the same vitality?
Thoughts from LensWork Podcast “Active Viewing” and “Art or Entertainment”
(Reference: how to engage in active reading. Book: “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren)