Thursday, October 9, 2008

Digital art

This semester I'm taking a digital art class at the University of Memphis.  The first half of the semester we learned some Photoshop techniques so that we could spend the latter half utilizing this fabulous-yet-mind boggling tool to produce "digital works of art."  This art may take form through digital and film photography, illustration, paintings...hell, you can even scan an image of your behind and call it art, just don't mention it's yours during critiques.  The sky's the limit.

So, I commandeered my husband's Nikon D80, befriended some folks at the only decent photo shop around (Memphis Photo Supply), and got to work.  Botanical subject matter may be overdone and have high potential to exude a lame, hotel-art feel, but I don't care.  I generally enjoy organic, textured images, and trees and flowers are easy to find.  

In any case, I had a ready excuse in case my work bombed: "Oh, I'm in the English department, I'm not a photographer." 

I felt compelled to have this excuse ready for a reason.  Amidst a close-knit clan of photography students shooting morbid pix of bald men bathed in blood, my simple flower close ups and tree shots at Fisher Gardens didn't seem to hold up...conceptually, whatever that really means.  At the same time I judged the chick next to me carefully adjusting the contrast and shadows of elephant feces, I couldn't help but feel a little intimidated.  Am I boring?  Must I take pictures of depressing, icky or violent images to have any depth?

I decided to stand firm.  I'm thirty two years old, for Christ's sake.  Elephant girl is nineteen, what does she know?  

Thankfully, I began to notice a trend that convinced me I would not be heckled at the next progress review:  when the artsy students blew off work days, the others subtly revealed their own neuroses about their work.  The printmaking major sitting to my left would barely whisper, "I just don't see photographically.  Hey, do you know how to apply a curve to this picture that will lighten the shadows?"  And I did know.  It turns out that the older woman across from me wants to be a wildlife photographer; she spends as much time as she can shooting wild deer in Montana.  The other day she didn't know how to set up a canvas in Photoshop so that she'd have even 2 inch margins around her image of Grand Prismatic.  No problem!  Katie to the rescue.

I'm not saying I'm a Photoshop prodigy by any stretch (anyone that has spent ten minutes in front of the software would agree after reading this).  And I'm definitely not saying I know anything about photography.  I was just glad to be reminded that we're all students, and I'm not being asked to be a world-class fine artist for a semester.  Another thing I realized?  The cool thing about fine art is the eye-of-the-beholder thing: if you don't like my flowers you can kiss it.

Oh, and several people commented that they loved my photos, by the way, so all turned out well!  Uh, not that it matters what they think.  This is fine art.


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