Making A Scene.

When I photograph street art I never think of myself as making art; I think I’m merely documenting someone else’s work. I know it’s much more complicated than that. After all I’m choosing how to frame the work I’m photographing, choosing the camera, even if it is just my phone, the distance between me and the work. Sometimes I crop the image, and if altering a picture isn’t an artistic process I don’t know what is. There are also other factors like the ambient lighting that I can’t control—or that I could partially control by choosing to come back at another time. Nature photographers sometimes try to capture their subjects either at sunrise or sunset, considering the lighting optimal at those times.

So I recognize that the pictures I take of other people’s art are, themselves, art, but I try not to think of them that way. After all I’m looking at the art critically—not in a negative sense, but I’m trying to understand what the artist was trying to convey. Because it’s street art I have no way to talk to the artists. It’s their work that speaks for itself, and I like it that way. Some artists are happy to describe their work, the inspiration, what they meant by it, but I enjoy it when an artist just puts the work out there and leaves it up to us to understand it, to decide what it means.

I’m breaking my own rule a bit here, though. I found this red balloon when I was out for a walk and decided to put it next to the red building, among the green plants, next to the red No Parking sign. I made this little scene—sort of. The balloon was out on the street. I have no idea where it came from, and the red building—Gilda’s Club—just happened to be near where I found it, as did the sign and the plants. All that got me thinking about how much art is a result of coincidences. I know some artists dismiss or downplay inspiration. They talk about how much time they spend learning skills, honing their craft, all of it so they can be ready when inspiration strikes to make the most of it. I haven’t really studied photography but I’ve spent a lot of time looking at art and studying things like composition and I feel like all that was preparation that allowed me to take advantage of this confluence of events to make a picture.

As for what it means I leave that up to you.

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  1. mydangblog

    I love the way you’ve set this scene. But it also reminds me of that French film The Red Balloon, which we were shown at school when I was about 7 years old, and it traumatized me for years!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I thought about “The Red Balloon” as I was setting up that scene and also writing about it. I ended up doing a lot of research about the film and was sad to read that some of the neighborhoods where it was filmed are gone now. It was a very traumatizing film and I think I had to watch it at least a dozen times.


    It means that you are a thoughtful, artistic, articulate, and wonderful person, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thoughtful, artistic, articulate, and wonderful people seem to find each other, Ann, which I believe is how we found each other.


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