Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Here and Now of Working from Observation

I recently had a conversation with a student about the differences between working from photos and working from direct observation of a subject. I have conversations like this one fairly frequently, and the choices that we artists make about where and what and how to work could be the stuff of many, many posts. In essence, though, my case for working from observation is this: Working from direct observation of subject matter that occupies the same time and place we do roots us even more firmly in that time and place. On the other hand, working from a photo emphasizes all of the spaces that we're not moving through, all the things that we're not seeing, and all the moments that we aren't experiencing. There are certainly occasions when this "not-ness" can be a useful thing to grapple with in the work. However, I find that working from photos causes a disembodiment that most makers don't even realize while it's happening. Working from observation puts us back into our bodies, and it yields work that embodies the world of lived experience.