A beauty that is innocent, but not naive ::
There are currently 1.5 billion smart phones in the world, and 45% of american adults own one. By 2015, there were approximately 92 million Flickr subscribers, 300 million active Instagram users, and 1.5 billion registered Facebook accounts. Smart phones and digital cameras have made electronic journaling – picturing taking and making, and writing – an everyday practice for millions. Social media now allows people to publish and share this content with close friends and family, or with an audience of millions.
Most of the images that get posted to these sites are either too personal or too unskilled to be of interest to a larger audience. But for those seeking a more sophisticated community of image makers and/or a more discerning audience for their work there is a growing list of choices – Fotoblur and Bēhance are two examples. Even so, it can sometimes be laborius to cull through the mountain of generic landscapes, uninspired floral still lifes, and inane girly pictures to find something that offers depth or surprise.
One notable exception to this is Edna Dott, whose work I discovered while perusing Fotoblur. Dott’s portfolio attracted my interest for two reasons. First, her images are beautiful and evocative, intentional and intelligent. But second, I was also drawn to the fact that she has no formal training in the arts in general, or photography in particular.
Photography has always been a populist medium – we think of painting as an art form that demands intense practice (and usually, training), but anyone can be a photographer. That has been the case since cheap 35mm film cameras became widely available by the mid-20th Century, but today’s smart phones have fueled an exponential explosion in this phenomenon.
If the resulting proliferation of images swirling around in our already image-saturated world has been both a blessing and a curse, Dott’s work is squarely planted on the blessing side of that equation.
Her relationship with her camera is not tied to the vocabulary of photography – she sees more like a painter. This allows her to break some of the fundamental assumptions and rules, baggage really, that often comes with the medium; namely the edict to focus and to provide abundant detail. And I believe that her lack of formal training allows her a kind of innocent freedom with the tools that is often educated out of art school graduates.
This is a vision that, if innocent, is not naive. There are clear themes and compelling motifs in this work: murky domestic spaces and brooding landscapes, ethereal bodies and birds in flight.
The surface of these images is a constant reminder that we are being invited into an internal landscape; the invitation is personal and intimate. These pictures are more than merely a report, a document, or evidence from the external world. We have become travelers in a foreign land, with Edna Dott as our guide.
Dott herself seems to have only a tentative handle on what these motifs might be suggesting or where they are leading [I encourage you to read my email interview with her]. This is not intended as a criticism. What I am underlining here is the fact that the most interesting artists are often a step or two behind their work. They are simply following the direction the work points to, which can frequently be a place that is unknown even to the author. There is good news in this – the best news, really – because it means that the work is unfinished, there are more paths to follow. The worst situation imaginable for an artist is to completely solve the mystery of their work. There are clearly multiple uncharted trails for Edna Dott to explore. I hope she continues to allow the rest of us to be a witness to that journey.
be sure to read the Edna Dott interview
All images copyright © Edna Dott, 2016. No re-production of re-distribution without explicit written permission. Contact Edna Dott via Fotoblur.