There are two kinds of people in my little world (and no, they’re not those who understand binary and those who don’t.) I classify them as “Art” people and “Non-art” people. Gross oversimplification, certainly.
Pretty much everyone I’m related to is a non-art person. This isn’t an insult at all, but a statement of fact. Show any of them a piece of fine art that isn’t famous and they’ll be unenthusiastic about it. Show them conceptual work and they will most likely be puzzled by why you consider it to be art.
For these non-art people, art is usually something you hang on your wall. It’s a decoration, really. They are not ignorant or uncreative – most likely, they simply haven’t been exposed to much art outside of the all-pervasive color photography. Of the people I know, most of them support my cyanotype work but they prefer my color pics. The things I appreciate most about alternative processes – like the paper texture, the idea that each photograph is an original, and the hard work each photograph requires – are things they don’t care for or think are strange.
This is an important distinction because it dictates how people respond to my work. The majority of people I have met are non-art people – the cyanotype stuff gets a “how nice!” response, but the real compliments are usually about my color work. I’m fine with this – art is truly a subjective subject. Even people who claim to be art critics – the experts – really mean “I know what I like” when they say “I know what is good art.”
In fact, many of these non-art people don’t actually consider photography to be art. Not like painting or sculpture, the “real” arts. I probably hear the words “nice camera” more often than “nice photographs.” It’s funny sometimes and annoying at others.
This whole article started because I’m picking a photo to send in to the St. Agnes contest. I was originally going to send in a cyanotype print – and perhaps I still should – but it occurred to me that I’m dealing with the category of non-art people. Call it pragmatic, but I would rather win the $400 first prize than have my cyanotype print tossed into the pile of discarded photographs because the judges looked at it and said “how nice!” (and my chances of actually winning first prize are about as high as selling a lot of my work.)