Life can be likened to a movie that is shown only once to a captive audience of one in a darkened room in which the level of illumination is a decision for the occupant alone. But even the widest prairies have electric fences and beyond the wires leads me to blunder up against the wires whose muscle-shredding violence knows no mercy.
The perfect prison is the one in which the inmates have been convinced that really they are free. Society is such a confinement; the result of a binding contract made unwittingly between government and governed. I find myself attracted to neither camp. The guardians of society are troubled by their own shallows; the fears they have of others are the fears they have about themselves cunningly repackaged to increase their market appeal.
The artist, on the other hand, is unafraid of his depths and if you offer him the chance to exchange the gift of his imagination for the mediocrity that passes for happiness in the lives of most others he will not make the trade. He will tell you that imagination is the instrument of self-knowledge. The man of vision is charged with the duty of exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement; to see the light we must first acknowledge that we are in the dark. Work which displays most accurately the deepest recesses of the human soul will, by default, display some rather unpleasant aspects of it. It is not the duty of Art to be acceptable to polite society. Wherever he goes, the artist will find himself a stranger as he is the only legitimate citizen of the world which he inhabits. His lone, dissenting voice is society’s surest line of defence against its greatest enemy which is, of course, itself. Were it not for the pain to be found in the wider world I might not have sought sanctuary in the confinement of my own where I have discovered an endless supply of the raw materials needed to make the images I do.
Unless the truth be sinful, it is not possible to find fault with a man who views the world through a camera's lens though it is equally impossible in any given age to create work which is agreeable to everyone. Art often challenges existing assumptions rather than simply accommodating them; it is beyond Good and Evil, which are not the antitheses, but degrees of each other. I suspect that Evil may not exist at all, at least not in the form in which it is presented to us, though there can be little closer to it than the hypocrisies of men and women who claim goodness for themselves. Morality is a disease peculiar to humans and at its worst human life is not tragic but unmeaning.
I am not seeking approval, as a sense of worth should be independent of the approbation of others. What I hope for is an acceptance of that unique quality which is the province of every soul, the discovery of which reveals that facet of creation reserved exclusively for it alone. Art is not made by men and women who are wise, but by those in search of wisdom and to search at all is wisdom enough. Knowledge of oneself is the most that we can know.
And saying so to some means nothing; others it leaves nothing to be said.
© photo by: Dominic Rouse - Norfolk - England
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