I see you, do you see me?
Final Assignment: What is Art?
This image is called ‘I see you, do you see me?’
I chose this photograph as my final assignment piece, an image that portrays what I consider to be art. The definition of art, like beauty, is subjective, but I think the key element that a piece of art should embody is an element of intrigue. Art makes us want to look at it longer and make sense of what we are seeing. It should elicit a reaction, be it emotional or physiological.
I have found that shooting in and viewing black and white photos are more intriguing than color photos. The lack of color brings forth the more fundamental aspects of a photograph, and allows the composition and subject of the photograph more room for expression, as well as gives the viewer more freedom as to how the image is received. In this way, it simplifies the image; allowing the fundamental elements of the image to carry more weight.
At first glance, ‘I see you, do you see me?’ appears to be a complex photograph, with a lot going on in the picture, but the lack of color and compositional elements simplify the image. In it we see patterns of circles and lines, which give the flurry of activity, present in the image, an anchor. We see circles created by the mirrors in the forefront. Both the glass of the mirrors, the repeated shape of the circular mirror reflected in the glass of the larger mirror, and the patterns of circles on the frames of the mirrors create this repeated circular pattern. While these objects are static, the repeated circular pattern adds an element of movement and flow.
We can also see patterns of lines in this image. Lines are embedded in the pattern of the large mirror frame, and we see lines created by the two thick chains that hold the large mirror suspended from the top of the festival booth. There are also lines created by the man’s dreds on the left side of the photograph. They look as though they are a continuation of the fingers of his left hand, which are in the process of running down his hair. To the right of him, we see the profile of a man walking toward the mirror, with diagonal patterned lines on his hat. Just below him, in the background we see lines created by the books stacked sideways in the merchant booth behind him, and lines created by the frames of the white merchant booths. Additionally, the white tarps of the booths in the background provide a nice backdrop for the darker elements in the forefront, providing balance for the image.
I took this photo while at the Folklife Festival at Seattle Center. My friend, Ivan Odin, is the man in the black hat, walking toward the center of the photograph. We had lost track of each other, each walking through either side of the mirror booth, just missing each other. As I walked through the booth, surrounded by mirrors on all sides, I felt as though I was walking through an optical illusion; not quite sure if what I saw in the reflection of the mirrors as I passed were reflections or a view of what lay on the other side.
I consider this piece to be a work of art because it captures that illusory feeling. Upon looking at the large mirror, one is not certain if we are looking through the mirror, as the frames and coloring of the merchant booth that sits behind it match up with what’s reflected in the glass. In fact, this is a reflection of what faces it. I think this gives the image an element of intrigue. It piques our curiosity. It draws us in. This is what art should do.