This is a photo I bought recently at an arts festival, only the second piece of art that I have ever purchased. Now, I’m not an art expert or collector by any means, but I figured that I’d share my thoughts about this particular work. Maybe some of them might be applicable to art appreciation in general.
This work is eye catching. Even after seeing many booths of photos, the vibrancy of the colors still drew my attention. Then I asked myself, “what exactly am I looking at?” It captures a slice of life that is at once ordinary, exotic, and spiritual. It is a ordinary fruit and vegetable market, probably a daily occurrence in Cairo, but it is exotic to us because it’s in a far off part of the world. It is the midday prayer time, and all the vendors unite as one, despite normally being competitors. There is something inspiring about that to me.
The best part of these festivals is that you can chat with the artist right there. The first thing I discovered was that Gene is an amiable guy, down-to-earth and easy to talk to. He has also had quite a colorful life. One of his photos helped him win a dream trip to Antarctica and South America in 2007! I was excited to find that we had a common purpose behind our travels: to explore this interesting world of ours and to share what we can with others. Like me, Gene is particularly drawn to the mysterious and spiritual places. Photography is his means of capturing the essence of his experiences, not an end in itself.
As I talked to him more, I also learned things about his techniques and methods. He only shoots on film, doesn’t digitally enhance or alter his images, prints on matte-finish archival paper (vs. glossy), and frames the photos himself. I love that what he saw is what you get and the level of craftsmanship he puts into his work. There is something very old school and genuine about this approach. The digital wizardry that you can achieve today is quite amazing, but somehow it feels “too perfect” to me.
When a works speaks to me on multiple levels, it really sinks in and stays with me. What I meet a kindred spirit, it refills my cup with inspiration. That is why I bought this work. If you should ever find a work that touches you in this manner, consider investing in it. You’ll be rewarding the artist for his or her effort and yourself with something to treasure for a lifetime.
(Photo: “Midday Prayers, Cairo” by Gene Pembroke)