I had an important revelation this evening:
A young guy came through my till this evening at work and had with him a large print, a photograph of a dark and rather grimey alley. I asked him if he had taken the photo and he replied yes and asked me if I wanted to have it. I said of course, as long as he signed it for me, which he happily did.
Later in the evening I took the photo back to show some of my coworkers. They were disappointed when I showed it to them though; it wasn't a "pretty" picture of a sunset or a beach, and neither of them could see what I saw that excited me so much about the photo. And I just couldn't stop looking at it and gushing about it. That alley was the most beautiful thing I'd seen all evening.
When it comes to art, there are two kinds of audiences: Artists, and Observers. Observers see "pretty things" as art (and only pretty things as art), and Artists see anything or everything as art. Observers decide selectively what is beautiful and artistic, and Artists cannot help but see the art in everything. I looked at the alley in the photograph and was thrilled at its rugged character, and my coworkers didn't think twice about it because it wasn't something typically "pretty". As an artist, ugly things are just as "pretty" to me as anything else, because they have voices. Everything speaks and breathes art to me. Everything is art--what is and isn't, isn't for me to decide. That mentality is what makes me an artist. A sense of duty rather than an entitlement to choice; I can choose which things I capture, and ultimately decide whether I want to or not, but I am constantly overwhelmed by the art in the world around me and can't classify one thing as more artistically valid than another.