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….or Meditations on the Subjectivity of Art Appreciation.

You may recall that I submitted some of my work into a photography competition run by my photo club last year. Some, the pretty pieces, were accepted. Other, the emotional pieces, were not. The whole process left me with very conflicted feelings about competition in general and what was meaningful to me in terms of my own art.

I suspect these mixed feelings will continue probably forever but something happened last week that served to very much validate my own view of my own work. I had submitted three of the rejected works from the photography competition into the Washington University Medical School art show and they’ve been on display for a week or so. You can see the pieces here, but here’s one of them, one my ‘Memorials’ series.

Triumph of TIme by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

I had printed this, along with the two other memorial photos, on canvas as a wrap and they came out very pleasingly to my eyes.

So I was naturally very thrilled – as well as surprised – when asked by an art director at Washington University if I would be willing to put together a stand alone show of my own work for display in one of the educational buildings. A decision based on an appreciation of these photographs.

Of course I said yes, and it will happen, dates to be arranged. I have to give thought now to what I will include in an expanded exhibit. As of the moment, I feel drawn to continuing the memorial theme as I have plenty of candidates that would fit the bill handily.

The joy of this opportunity is that I have complete control over what I will put into the show and can the chose the photographs that I judge to be meaningful. They are not going to adhere to the standards of conventional popular photography. Instead they are going to adhere to my standards of what a photograph should convey.

This may, in all probability, be my one and only shot at a photography display and I’m going to keep it as true to myself as I can. It’s as heaven sent an opportunity as any photographer could wish for, one I really relish. If I do nothing else with my photography in a public setting, this will have been enough.

A really nice feeling to hold on to. But it all pivots back to art appreciation. It’s a really subjective concept despite reams of thought devoted to aesthetic principles and the like. Someone else has seen in my ‘Memorials’ series something of the quality that I appreciate in those images and, being in a position to do so, has allowed me space and time to expand on these expressions. This is all I have ever really wanted from any form of public interaction with my work. I have zero interest in making money from them or winning a prize, insights that have become all too clear during my efforts to engage with photography competitions. As it stands at the moment I feel no desire to ever enter another competition again. They give me no pleasure. A chance to display on my own terms, well, that is a very different story indeed. I’ve very lucky to have been given the chance.