29 April 2016

In the Mind of the Beholder

In a post two days ago, I raised the issue of photographic "truth."  A picture may present an iconic image; but what informs the intent of the photographer, the context in which the image is presented and the viewer's predisposition? These questions are explored in another thought-provoking New York Times series by filmmaker Errol Morris published seven years ago.

One of Morris's blog posts deals with these questions succinctly.  To frame the discussion, he offers the same photograph, but labels each differently:


Questions arise and perceptions change immediately, based on how the photograph -- one of the most famous from the Dust Bowl days -- is identified.  I will leave you to explore these questions and Morris's pieces (they are well worth your time), while I apply the same idea to one drawing of mine:

Christianizing Native Peoples

Lord and Savior of All Men

White Man's Burden
I had a clear intent when I drew this image -- not to state a fact of proselytization, nor as a declaration of religious piety but as a sharp critique of American history (and by extension European colonialism).  The title, White Man's Burden, makes that intent plain. In the communication between artist and viewer, I have led you where I want you to go, and your reaction to the piece is shaped by your own view of American history.  You may share my opinion or reject it.  You may be indifferent, but I would venture to say your reaction to the drawing shifted, however slightly, with each title change.  It's a critical part in the artistic interaction, and it's fascinating.

I welcome your comments.

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