Looking at the fine art of conventional photography

There’s something interesting that happens when a bunch of college kids go abroad: everyone becomes a photographer. Every cracked, stepped on, abused iPhone somehow becomes a $4,000 DSLR camera; and how can this not be the case? When we’re given the opportunity to travel to some of the most beautiful, exotic and culturally rich areas in the world, how can we be expected not to turn into our own amateur photographers? It’s the reason why you’ll hear your semester abroad referred to as “the most photographed three months of your life.” It’s the reason why our Timelines,  Instagram feeds and Snapchats are polluted with images of our friends doing amazing things in amazing places. When we are surrounded by so much beauty, we cannot help ourselves but try to capture at least a little piece of it.

I’ve thought about this topic for a while because it lies at the crux of the discussion of the philosophy of art. Why do humans make art? As an artist myself, I struggle with that question a lot. Since being abroad, I feel like I’ve begun to find an answer. Here, wherever I go, whatever new city I travel to, I find myself taking hundreds of pictures, tirelessly trying to adjust the settings on my Sony Cybershot until I can get the picture just right. In the absence of the paintbrushes, pallets, easels and endless number of colors I can mix back in the painting studio at Colby, I find myself satiating my thirst to capture the world around me through photography. I think one of the beauties of the art of photography is how accessible recent technology has made it to most people.

Now, I’m not saying by any means that anyone can be good at photography. In fact, it’s just as difficult an art to perfect as anything else is. The beauty of going abroad, however, (and the beauty of the iPhone) is that it encourages others who may not be comfortable with more advanced photography methods to get their toes wet. So many people say to me that they simply “can’t do art.” When you’re abroad, I think that artistic spirit is almost impossible to suppress—even in the least creative of among us. The beauty of all the new experiences and places just doesn’t let you ignore it.

With the iPhone, in all its ubiquitous glory, any person is invited to participate in the collective struggle of capturing the beauty of the world. When I see the hundreds of new uploads of abroad photos on Facebook, it reminds of the inherently human desire to create and capture beauty. Say what you want about iPhone photography, but it’s hard to ignore the value in its ability to open art to so many.

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