Photography is a medium whose history has been riddled with moments of uncertainty. From its inception, its merit as an art form has been questioned. How could it compare to the mastery of painting when it was mechanical by nature? Was the photographer a mere technician? Now, in its exponential ubiquity, in the age of Instagram, what separates the dilettante from the professional – the charlatan from the artiste?
Self-doubt, I believe, is healthy. It is the antidote to arrogance, which is complacency so often cloaked in confidence. It separates those open to learning from those unwilling to.
The MassArt students whose images grace the pages of this catalogue understood their time in art school as a catalyst for growth. Undeterred by the complexity of photographic language, they forged ahead with humility and dedication required of undertaking any artistic practice. If photography is the lingua franca of visual arts, they were drawn to the beauty of a common language to describe the universality of human experience – to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice versa. As Albert Einstein said, “Art is the expression of the profoundest thoughts in the simplest way.” The photographs on these pages cut through all the white noise created by this Age of Information and of excess. They are pictures that are a mother tongue of substance and style and most of all heart.
Although they will graduate and move on from the 6th floor of the photo building, their practice of exploring the world through their photographs will persist. I suspect that being an artist with a capital A was never their driving force. In other words, their time in the photo department was not a means to an end, but instead a springboard for a lifetime of inquiry.
There will be moments of self-doubt along the way. How can there not be when we are living through a period of darkness? Even before the pandemic, I suspect the graduating class of 2020 had some reservations about the current state of affairs and what their role as artists might be. Dire times may seem to demand we cast-aside the reverie of art-making for something more pragmatic and utilitarian. It takes courage to dream these days. It takes fortitude to find illumination in the darkness. But, once again, these moments of uncertainty can become the cornerstone to build on the potential of the medium and, ultimately, oneself.
With this in mind, onward. Be brave.