In ethics, there is a re-defining of the word ‘ought’. It normally is used in a similar setting to ‘should’, but when used with an ethical context it implies a moral duty. Therefore, when I say that I ought to keep social responsibilities in mind when creating art it holds me to that standard at a personal level. It is all about the philosophy of art!
As a photographer, it is easy to get distracted by being just creative and become a visual factory churning out pieces. The issue is that they don’t mean much and it starts to look like I am just another ‘guy with a camera’. The value of the art created can really only be as high at the point as is the beauty visually and no meat behind it. It is like just the skin on fried chicken, it tastes good but isn’t filling.
Creating that is work that fulfills a goal or shows something pertinent socially is more interesting. As a landscape artist, this is fairly easy! I want to protect our public lands and monuments because their continued existence is valuable to me. While learning the art, I didn’t have much purpose other than creating visually interesting images. I went through a faze about two years ago where I wanted ‘Compelling Imaging’ to mean more than just nice work. It is this idea that something ‘compelling’ is more than just an image and that it requires, by definition, something “evoking interest, attention or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way”. As my art continues to mature it has more of a message communicated with it either through the image itself and/or what I am doing behind the scenes.
There is the obvious side to this where not all of my art is going to be immediately obvious how it is connected to a purpose. I put out images that are beautiful and nothing more. What I am doing with this blog is part of my art. I am spreading a message and those beautiful images are meant to bring attention in. My message about being knowledgeable about the landscapes and the what and why behind threats to them.
If you haven’t taken a look at some of my blogs about our responsibilities around land use, conservation vs. preservation, Wilderness, environmental sustainability, Leave-No-Trace, etc… take some time and invest in yourself! The next time you go out on a trail or even to a local park you’ll be able to help protect them for future peoples. This is something that is important to me and it has been for a long time. Ever since I was in the Boy Scouts learning about nature and enjoying what it offers I have held it at a very high level of importance.
I can’t just talk the talk either. There is a time and a place for me to walk the walk too. When I go out on the trail, I practice leave-no-trace. I have helped to build trails in the past, and I have helped to educate others of best practices while in the field. Understanding what can create a dangerous situation for myself, others, animals, or ecosystem is important in avoiding situations that could do harm.
So, it isn’t all about the art itself. Art is nice, but when tied to a voice it can mean so much more than just a face value. It has to mean something and come from the heart of the one communicating it as an artist. Ideally, it is visually and verbally obvious through what is created and said over time, and that is exactly what I strive for every day. I ought to do everything I can do to help to protect nature through my art.