Because There Ain’t No Cure for the…

I thought this song was an appropriate way to open with what I’m feeling right now.  At this point I’m waiting for the semester to start anew.  I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of building a show for our senior exhibition while trying to build a body of work for the same show.

Earlier in my adventures this evening I came across the website of an artist named Brandon Bakus.  Brandon lives in, I believe, Ohio (that is if I am reading the phone number on his website correctly) and has recently graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design where he minored in Photography.  As I was looking at the page listing his different projects, I first clicked on the “Borrowed Time” link (click here to view page).  The short statement reads as follows:

An intimate and delicate documentation of my time traveling throughout Europe with a borrowed camera.

The images themselves do give a sense of intimacy and there is a delicate balance running through them.  I was actually quite impressed with a lot of the images.  Brandon processed them well and did a really did a good job of editing them down.  It’s the last part of the that artist statement that throws me off.

There are 2 things that tie this series together – the fact that the images were all created in Europe and a borrowed camera was used.  In his attempt to strengthen the series by bringing forth 2 connections, he really has weakened it.  We can see the European in a few of the images, even if they aren’t the more famous spots on the continent.  The fact that he borrowed the camera, however, is completely irrelevant to the images.  Yet, he built the series around the fact that the camera was borrowed for his trip to Europe.

Therein lies the problem with conceptual art – it is too dependent on the idea and the artist (and in some cases the curator and art critic).  The art itself suffers.  These images could have stood well on their own as single images or as part of a text essay of Brandon’s trip through Europe, which would have communicated much more to the viewer.  Instead of getting a deep narrative, we are simply left to remark on how well he mastered the controls of a camera that was not his own.  The weakness of his concept drags the images down with it.  It may be true that the camera was borrowed (I’m not saying it isn’t), but it does nothing to bolster the body of work.

I contrast that to his series, “Findings,” (click here to view). In this series, Brandon goes back to one of the fundamental concepts that sets photography apart from other art disciplines.  That is the fact that photography is, for the most part, a selective process rather than a purely constructive process such as painting or sculpture.  As photographers our editing process starts with seeing the image in front of us, before the camera is even touched.  Even when images are constructed (or farmed as some would say), we have the ability to throw out those images that do not serve the needs of the project.  In this series, he definitely shows a grasp on this basic tenet of photography.

At this point I think I’m going to call it a day.  Before that, however, I must say goodbye to someone I knew for only a short period of time.  While most of my experiences with her were only in passing, the few times we did converse I found she had a huge and kind heart.  She was also a very talented artist and had just this year graduated with her BFA in Photography/Digital Media from the University of Houston, and that’s after completing a Bachelors of Science (Mathematics concentration) from SUNY Stony Brook .  I just found out the other night that she took her own life.  I wish I had gotten to know her better, but she did leave us with some great art to enjoy for the rest of the time we have on this earth.  Rest In Peace, Jameela Al Amin.  You will be missed by many.

“Borrowed Time” by Brandon Bakus

“Findings” by Brandon Bakus

Website for Jameela Al Amin

And here is a “finding” of my own from a few weeks ago as I was shooting a local concert.

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