Thursday, 10 January 2008

Influence or natural choice?

Barns and trailer, Wiltshire, December 2007

Following on from my mention of the Ansel book & the tonality of the work, there was another aspect that struck me. It seems that quite a lot of my work has a similar composition to Adams', especially his "grand scenic" stuff. As I cannot claim to have either his talent or skill it got me thinking about how this might come to be. It's not just his work or my work, either: how might works in general come to seem similar?

The first, obvious, solution is to consider influence. Here I am taking this to be an aspect of conscious awareness: one knows what/who ones influence is. As to cultural or unconscious aspects, I'll come to that later.

There is one problem with this in relation to my own work - I had seen very few of Ansel's images before I got the book and none until a couple of years ago. Yet even my older work has similar compositional themes. It could be I am influenced indirectly but there again, it is only recently that I have been actively engaged in looking at photography. Other art forms could also be cited but personally I don't much are for landscape painting and couldn't state consious awarenes of any influence. The point I am trying to get to is that it seems entirely possible that several artists might come to similar results independently.

This then lead me to the next possible source of "convergence" - something that I will call "natural choice". The idea of natural choice is that there is a natural compositional form for a given subject. It then follows that if there is a natural choice, many will choose it independently. This would explain why "everything has been photographed before" and why I might produce work that looks like someone else's without ever having seen theirs before.

There is a potential second aspect to natural choice, that being the cultural influence that I mentioned before. It is entirely possible that in defining the natural choice of compostion for a given subject we need a cultural reference as the datum. Thus, the same subject might be realised differently in China, say, than France due to the different cultural references. This cultural aspect, however, might be entirely unconscious - our artistic sensibilities being the result of our accumulated exposure.

If it is the case that natural choice is the result of cultural reference, there is the implication that the natural choice may change should the references also change. This is where the pioneering or cross-over work comes to the fore. Those artists that choose to do things differently either by calling on other cultural influences or just shifting their personal reference are then the ones who are lauded for creativity. It might not be, however, that they are any more creative than all the convergent artists, it is just that their creative difference makes them more noticeable.

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