What does this image mean to you?

I have just finished doing an assignment on digital imaging where I had to produce a photomontage with a ‘message’. 

The instructions were to create an image which would make a strong visual statement about an issue, for example a political or social issue. This was difficult for me, not because I don’t feel strongly about a lot of things (because I do), but because it’s really hard to visualize some concepts, especially when you’re a bit hazy about your message.

The other criteria was that we could only use the photographs of certain (famous) photographers, so finding suitable source photos entailed hours of trawling the internet in a search for images which would inspire me. When I tried to rope in some friends and relatives to help me with my assignment, they all seemed to think that it would be a much easier task if I just knew what it was that I wanted to say. As a person who advocates for people to know what it is that they are trying to say before they start writing or creating presentations it struck me as hilariously funny that I had clearly failed to take my own advice. There was no way that I could find images that suited my theme when I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was I was trying to say.

I tried to get away with making some vague statements about the way the privileged classes monopolise culture, but it was hard to disguise the fact that I was just plain confused. I also tried to suggest that the finished image would express my idea better than any words ever could. Does an artist need to be able articulate the ideas behind their art? Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? Another ploy was to suggest that the viewer should be able to ‘read’ the image in any way they chose. Clearly, I was desperate and the due date was looming ever closer.

In the end I came up with the image below. It’s called ‘A visit to the gallery’.

What, if anything, does it mean to you? I would love to know if it says anything at all, or if you also struggle with pinning down your ideas?

8 thoughts on “What does this image mean to you?

  1. The message I get from your picture is to “look and think” Art Galleries are funny places, I think they would be much more fun if everyone was chatting and discussing what they saw, instead they are very quiet places and visitors tend to keep their opinions to themselves. Your penguins represent disinterest to me. They look like they are off to somewhere more fun and interesting.

    1. It would be more fun if everyone in the gallery were discussing the artwork, but maybe that would only appeal to people who like to be more social. It wouldn’t suit more contemplative people. It’s a bit the same for libraries. Some people think that they should be quiet places and other people would like to talk about the books and have a lively discussion. I think you’re right, the penguins probably are off to somewhere more interesting and not too chilly.

  2. I’m struck by the absence of visitors to the gallery – the people in the picture are part of the installation – so then what is the purpose of the gallery if no one is participating in the seeing? Makes me wonder whether there is any value in art if it is not seen – if the art has intrinsic value then I should make time to stop – but if it is valueless without my seeing it, do I have to make time to stop?

    1. To be honest there should have been more visitors to the gallery but my photoshop skills and patience were a bit lacking at the end of the process. Your comments are very interesting and ask some good questions about whether value is intrinsic or something that is ascribed by the viewer. There are things of beauty around us all the time and we often don’t make the time to stop and appreciate them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. So I think the answer is yes, art just exists. It’s up to us to choose whether or not we participate.

  3. I’m thinking that the penguins could take the traditional role of representing ‘suits’, beaurocracy. They are walking through the gallery,hurrying on to one of their own important dates, while others have time to stop and analyse the art. Am I a penguin or do I have time to stop?

    1. Yes, the penguins could very well be the suits. Too busy with their own business to stop and appreciate the art. That’s a very interesting idea, and no you are definitely not a penguin. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. It appears as if the portraits in the gallery are all staring at the penguins but the gallery audience are oblivious to the presence of these nine penguins. Art itself knows what is going on but its critics have no idea. Similar to me really!!!!

    1. I had never considered the idea that the artwork was looking at the gallery audience. I wish I had, it’s a brilliant idea.

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