The first practitioner that I found to be the most intriguing was photographer and film maker Serena Stevenson.
The general overview of her symposium was explaining her practice as a photographer and how she progressed into becoming a film maker. She told us about her Italian ethnic background and how she tries to implement that into her personal work through her family and symbols of Italian culture. Her main practice as a photographer is story-telling and documentary style photography while she makes majority of her income as a photographer from commercial photography. She also indicated that when she does her personal projects as opposed to her commercial ones, she views them from a holistic point of view. This is the point where I felt intrigued in her as a practitioner more so than the previous symposiums. Photography has always been something that I’ve loved and hoped to pursue in the future. I am new to the world of photography so I’m still exploring different styles but I find myself learning more towards documentary styled photography.
But I’ve always worried about how I would make a living out of it due to the stereotype of being a photographer and their income. So, to hear Stevenson say that she can pursue her personal photography while still making an income through other means of photography, awoke a spark inside of me. I realized at this point that my perspective of my possible career as a photographer had been very constricted, only thinking about the stereotype of the income of a photographer. But Stevenson as went on to explain her work, my perspective widened and gave me a new burst of inspiration and motivation in my own work. Stevenson put emphasis on her view of what the back bone of what being an artist is, no matter what kind of artist you are. She stated that as artists, we need to know our own personal ‘why’ behind our work. I related this statement to our current course in Creativity and Design Fundamentals where we are creating work. I feel that we’re tasked to create pieces of work and it’s easy to just make something because it’s required if we want a chance of passing the course. But we need to have a personal ‘why’ behind our creations besides the ‘why’ of simply “I’m making this because we have to make something”. I think that when you have a personal reason behind a piece of work, you put more of yourself into it which is what differentiates a single piece of art in a room full of dozens igniting a passion within you. Stevenson also skimmed over what she personally looks for when hiring people to work alongside her; passion being one of them. Alongside efficiency and pure common sense. In all honesty, I feel that in this moment of time I am working towards that a lot more than what I was before her symposium. Stevenson ended her symposium with some wise words, saying “Just do. Follow your heart. Do what you love doing not what think you should be doing.” These are words that summed everything up perfectly for me. While she was speaking, I was having all these revelations within myself so her saying those words at the end just solidified my thoughts, my newfound perspective and my new shot of inspiration. Because I am more of a thinker, I now feel like I can comprehend the concept of ‘just doing’ rather than thinking about what it is I might be doing, much clearer than I did previously. But at the same time, I realized that I still need to fully understand the concept of having a personal ‘why’ behind my work to motivate me. There was another symposium that made me realize that I needed to come to grips with understanding the concept of having a personal ‘why’, which was done by contemporary artists Bernie Harfleet and Donna Sarten. Harfleet and Sarten work in relationship to the community and responding to social predicaments. They went over some of their collaborative projects that all have a personal ‘why’ behind them like ‘Feed the Kids’ for example, which was a project that was done in response to an aspect of child poverty in New Zealand that 83,000 children don’t have food. But the project that I found most interesting about theirs was a project entitled ‘Coffee and a Blanket’. Their ‘why’ was to create something that brought in a supply of coffee for the Wellington Soup Kitchen and to have viewers come to reality of the current state of humanity. They set up the ‘scene’ of what the homeless face daily and made a sign asking for coffee and blankets. They then invited by passers to create their own sign and experience what the homeless experience regularly for 10 minutes by sitting with their sign in the ‘scene’.
They explained some of the reactions of those who took up the proposition, which was that they came to realization of the state of humanity and it moved them to tears. I find that as hard as it must have been for them to watch these people come to this realization, they must have felt a sense of accomplishment in having their ‘why’ be recognized. As I was listening to this, I thought back to Serena Stevenson’s symposium, and everything she had said, my revelations I had during her talk, and listening to Harfleet and Sarten’s ‘why’, it all seemed to click. It’s hard to explain what exactly it is that clicked for me in that moment but it made me fully comprehend that my current comprehension of having a ‘why’ was off. I now know that I need to relate my art to not just me but to the ‘why’ of my life and life around me. But I also realize that maybe I’m not fully comprehending it. But maybe that in a twisted way, that’s the point of it, which makes it a mystery of sorts. But great art emerges from the unknown.