When creative people start calling for another creative person to self-censor, I have to wonder what the hell is going on in the community, and possibly society at large. I have read posts about how disrespectful Ms. Greenberg was in her images of McCain (the ones she made for herself, that is), but there shouldn’t be any question of whether or not she showed McCain respect. It’s art damn it! The “questionable” images were manifestations of her art.
Now, you can like her art, the resulting images I mean, or not, but whether or not they are respectful is entirely irrelevant. Respect is not factor in making art or in the end-results. The art itself is often (maybe always) offensive to some people (as is the process, at times).
It is the nature of art to challenge us. It always has been. This isn’t a recent phenomenon–the great masters of the past often challenged the very people who were paying them and certainly they offended so-called “good society.” Artists often lived and functioned on the fringes of society and were repeatedly shunned for their lifestyles and their art.
But the recent attitudes by other artists–photographers in this case–towards the artist and the process of making the art is very disturbing, in my book.
Here is what I believe:
1) There is NO such thing as a distinction between Artist and Commercial Artist and no one should “have to choose” as some have called for. Every artist is a commercial artist and every commercial artist who is any good at all is an artist. You should be seeking to create your individual art, as much as you can, within the boundaries of the contracts you agree to with clients. And, when working with a client, you should be pushing those boundaries, even if only within yourself.
2) In the past, “commercial artist” in the realm of photography was essentially code for “great technician, but not very creative.” Today, there is no place for the technician without the artistry. ANYONE can made a good image today, because technology has lowered the barrier of entry to the field. It’s easy to pick up a camera and make something that is technically proficient. If you are not bringing something more to the table, you will not be in business for very much longer. So, today especially, the imaginary line between commercial artist and artist is gone.
3) We as a community of artists owe it to each other to defend creative freedom. You can absolutely hate the stuff Greenberg has made, but you MUST defend her right to make it. You can even not like how she made it, but still you must defend her right to have made it, even as she did. Censorship from outside of the community is bad enough, from within it is terrifying…and terribly sad.
We have a fundamental constitutional right to creative freedom, but we will keep that right ONLY if we defend it, even when it makes our skin crawl to do so. Just like freedom of speech and other freedoms which are arguably quite threatened these days.
If we continue down the path we seem to be starting down, censoring and calling for the virtual shunning of one of us, then in the not to distant future, what kind of art will we be allowed to create? Thomas Kincaide-ish stuff? Beige art to match the beige houses and beige personalities of the creatively challenged masses? Safe art like happy smiling babies and puppies and rainbows over golden fields with a photoshopped flag in the sky?
I shudder to think, but I believe that future is not that far away if creatives themselves attack each other as they have been.