For the last 9 months, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing toy photographers from around the world for over 30 episodes (and counting!) of the podcast. When first pitching the show to Shelly and Brett, I hoped it could be an extension of the “Why?” posts we do here on the blog. I didn’t just want to chat with photographers I admire (which is, of course, a major bonus) but I wanted to understand why they chose toy photography as a hobby, what their process was like, and what they hoped to achieve through our cool little art form.
I bring this up because it’s lead to a question I’m now asking myself about art in general: How much do we need to know about an artist to truly appreciate their work?
If I didn’t understand how much He-Man means to IntangibleDandy, would I still appreciate the adventures he gives the Masters of the Universe? Now that I know that he’s acting out his own version of fan-fiction, extending the stories he loved as a kid, don’t I look at those photos in a new light? Knowing how closely Janan relates to Spider-Man, do I not look at his photos of the wall-crawler with a new, more informed, perspective?
I don’t think I have an answer to this question. On one hand, yes, I absolutely appreciate an artist’s work when I know more about them. In some ways, I’ve formed a sort of kinship with the people I’ve interviewed. After chatting on the show, I look at their photos understanding the creative drive behind them, the techniques that went into capturing the image, and why the photographer may have chosen a particular subject.
From a certain point of view…
The best example of this would likely be my relationship with Kristina. We hardly knew each other before we began co-hosting the monthly themed episodes of the podcast. I’d always liked her work, but I don’t think I truly appreciated it until I began learning more about her. I love recording with her every month and hearing the story and intent behind each photograph, straight from the artist. It doesn’t mean that my own interpretation is invalid – in fact the podcast is specifically designed to provide both perspectives. We can have our cake and eat it too.
There are, of course, countless artists I know nothing about but whose work I love and appreciate. But I can’t help but wonder what I might think of a particular painting, song, movie, sculpture, or photograph if I had the chance to chat with the artist about it.
What do you think? Do you find yourself appreciating an artist’s work if you know more about them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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