I had been meaning to visit a photo exhibition in LA which has been open for a few months at the Annenberg Space for Photography. The exhibition showcases work done by photographers in Cuba.
At the beginning of this month I finally made it down there and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a very interesting exhibition and if you go, I recommend you take the time to catch the documentary which introduces the photographers and what they work on. The space itself is not huge, just large enough for events such as this and it’s free too.
I use exhibitions like this and also books to take inspiration and help me think about my own photography; and hopefully grow. This one struck a cord with me probably because of where I am now in my journey.
The thing I was strongly reminded of as I looked at the images is that context is such a very important aspect of photography and that the technical perfection of the image is far less important. These photographers, some of them ‘Professional’, some of them just doing their thing are capturing a culture and a time in a way I would struggle to be able to do; the fact that some of the images are slightly out of focus or not perfectly framed does not detract one bit from their impact.
It’s an interesting thing, when I think about it, that most of the great photographs and photographers of the past are great not necessarily because of the technically perfect images but more (I think) because they were there. They were the pioneers in what they were doing. They saw something special and were able to capture it using a camera as their tool. They may not have had formal training but they had a vision or a cause that they wanted to portray and that is what is important about their work.
For some reason I am reminded of an article I read recently about the early IT industry which is about innovation and “The bullethole misconception”.
The reason I think I am reminded of it, is it talks about the pioneers in the world of computing and the reasons they were so successful. One of the reasons is that they weren’t computer scientists and they didn’t know anything about computing so they just tried different things to solve problems and in doing so advanced immensely using true innovation. It makes perfect sense when you think about it as it was a new industry, there weren’t ANY computer scientists/experts at all just people using this new technology with the right skills and approach.
In some ways, and in my opinion, the great photographers of the past are similar, they may not have been photography experts when they started they just picked up a tool and learned to use it to create what they wanted to create. I have wondered whether this kind of greatness is only possible when a technology (or art form) is still young.
This exhibition suggests to me that there are still important images to be made but it’s not about what you have as a tool it’s about where you are and what’s going on around you, what are the stories that need telling. Beautiful images will always have a place and they have their own reward, but I think story telling is where greatness lies.
The exhibition is on until March 4th in Los Angeles