Art & Free Speech

This is a two topic article today, and the words are merely my opinions. No more, no less.


The question of what is art and what isn’t, is an old one. Art is truly in the eye of the beholder. It is a matter of opinion, and an opinion is one thing we all have. While I love art in its many different forms, as you might expect, photographic art is what interests me the most.

During all these years of writing about this subject, I have tried to hold on to a few things I believe to be proper. I hopefully have never referred to my own work as art. I have never hesitated to tell you about a print sale or how way back in the beginning, I had my black & whites hanging in galleries. To me that only means that a print buyer liked my image, or a curator thought my pictures were art. Others may have and probably did disagree. While I’ve sang the praises of a lot of photographers, and I’ve called much of their work art, I’ve never suggested that a type of image wasn’t art, or that a specific photographer wasn’t an artist.

The years in my life are wearing on and my patience for snobs or those who practice ego-art, has worn thin. A beautiful picture of a bird with its wings flapping, or an eyeball portrait of a grizzly bear, can be just as much art as a motion blurred picture of some wading birds. An image of an overly photographed location in a national park, while it will never separate the photographer from the crowd, is just as much art as a back road picture of some trees, or an old rusty car. I have made pictures of all of those things in my life, and that’s because I have ‘tried” to make my pictures without artistic prejudices, or an ego filled attitude about my own work. Confidence is attractive, ego is ugly.

Notice that I did not suggest that those who act that way, should in any way be silenced. We all have a right to speak our piece.

My basic premise over the last ten years has been to consider the wild animals I photograph, the landscapes I have made pictures from, the dragonflies that have posed in front of me, or for that matter the grasses that I may have abstracted or even the old boat that has been my subject, to be living (yes even the boat) art, my camera and I are a vehicle to share them. No definition of myself as a photographer would fulfill my personal vision of image making, better than that one.

As I have said, my patience has worn thin over the past three years. For that I apologize. The discussion of what is art and what isn’t is a worthy one, but the arguments carry more credibility (in my opinion) when they come from people who may or may not be artists (in my opinion), but who can separate their egos from the discussion. They really aren’t that difficult to find. There are many humble artists, in my opinion.


Free Speech

What you see written above the line, is me exercising my right to free speech. You of course have a right to disagree with me, and can do so by exercising your right to free speech. That’s just as it should be. Many have died for that right and it is sacred.

As a society, we rightfully decided a long time ago that the right to free speech does not include inciting someone to commit a violent act on others, or to incite a group to riot. We also decided that we could not frighten others into a deadly set of circumstances. The example usually given is shouting fire in a crowded theater. We also have civil courts to decide whether someone has been slandered or libeled. That’s about it. We have a right to say things that others don’t agree with, and even to say things that some might believe to be hateful.  Otherwise, the entire system fails.

Our avenues for carrying our speech also have rights. A TV network has every right to censor speech it finds vulgar or hateful. A newspaper has every right to do the same thing with the printed word. They can also roundly criticize the speaker/writer. They cannot however tell you not to say or write it, or stop you from getting your opinions published somewhere else. I have in fact, in the past used my right to censor this blog by deleting a couple of comments that I found off topic, or just plain inappropriate. The writer could of course, have transferred them to a different blog that would accept them. That would be his right and the right of the other blog.  I have even deleted my own posts when I did not like the tone or content.

Our second President of The United States John Adams, was a great founding father who lost his way after gaining the Presidency. Unfortunately he assigned to himself rights that are not granted under our Constitution. He began using the military to arrest those who would say or write things, that he considered anti government. His best friend, Thomas Jefferson ran and won against Adams in the next election just because of that form of repressive and totalitarian governance. Jefferson’s first act was to set those people free

Inch by inch, step by step, city by city, America is letting our government (s) decide what free speech is meant to be. They will choose the selected groups for whom no negative opinions can be offered, and those that it is okay to criticize.  Penalties will be enforced including firings, fines and in some cases jailing. They (the government) seems to believe that they are the sole arbitrator of who is protected, and who is not.  Where are you Thomas Jefferson?

There are no sacred cows in America. You and I have a right to say what we damn well please, as long as we do not intentionally incite violence. Others have a right to exercise their free speech in reply. We can vocalize our discontent on anyone we so choose. People have died for that right and it is an inalienable right that is still worth dying for.

I have once again exercised my right to free speech, and I suggest you do the same.

Thank you and have a great day,                                                                                                Wayne


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