Cold Compassion

January 26, 2007

Cold CompassionIt was intensely cold outside last night, about -25 celsius (-13F). This image, in my mind, represents that cold well. It is an abstract winter shot taken about a year ago. I don’t think it was particularly cold that day, that is, I did not have to experience intense cold in order to create an image that conveys intense cold (at least subjectively to me).

In a LensWork podcast named Photography as Personally Expressive Art, Brooks Jensen said:

Art is particularly and keenly involved in the expression of human emotion.

Brooks goes on to say the following:

…but if photography is art, its not about what is in front of you, its about what is inside of you.

I think this statement feels right and we want it to be true but I think it represents a misconception. The misconception is that art springs forth from the emotions felt by the artist. The distinction I make is that the work of art conveys an emotion but it does not have to represent what the artist felt at the time the art was created.

I think this misconception goes beyond the age old “What is Art?” debate and applies to everyday topics. Solutions to problems are often judged by how well the proposed solution expresses the anger or compassion people feel towards the problem.

This, I believe, is why so many people have problems with the suggestions of economists on many social issues. If you are against public housing or raising the minimum wage then you lack compassion towards the poor or the needy. The economist is focused on outcomes while the general population is focused on the emotional value of the proposed solution.

I think there is something to be said for Cold Compassion.