Why I Art

I’ve taken up photography and videography this summer. It’s always interested and awed me, but I never thought I had the eye or creativity to perform as well as all the other awesome photographers around me.

Sure, I used to record silly movies with friends and I got an expensive point-and-shoot camera for high school graduation, but I never showed or recognized any particular aptitude.

But studying story led me to books about screenwriting, which led me to consider visual storytelling and direction. I watched many, many hours of YouTube videos about filmmaking and visual composition.

In short, I got the bug. Then I talked myself (and eventually my wife) into dropping some mad dough on a camera, for a couple of reasons—one being that if I invested into it, I’d keep doing it, keep learning.

And so I carry my camera around, shooting what I see, amid snickers and stares from family and strangers.

This new way of living sparked an interesting discovery this morning. I wondered why. Why do I have so many artistic interests? Though self-doubt blocks me from taking pride in most of them, I argued with myself that my joy and desire come way before the results of the art I produce.

Before I began writing regularly, I already knew why I wanted to. And the rest of the mediums that I dabble in provide the same kinds of benefits that writing does. Maybe it has something to do with a pantheistic or mushy emotional value I place in art, and maybe I’m wrong but this is why I art.

It helps me experience the world better. The locus of this realization was David Foster Wallace, which I admit makes me feel a tad pretentious. But it’s true. Maybe it was just the time in my life that I read him, or maybe he’s a literary deity—or probably, both. But he saw the world well. And I want to do the same thing. I want to have empathy for everyone and learn/feel their stories. I think people are the most important things on the planet, and I believe personal relationships are my ties to people, and those relationships happen only through communication, and our primary way of communication is language. So I write, I learn story.

The other mediums help me see the world in the same way, because (here comes that mushy thing I was talking about) art is a reflection of life, it’s a manifestation of the way someone (or a community) sees the world. So I wish to learn as much as I can about the creation of art for two reasons: (1) to develop taste, to appreciate and understand others’ art better, in order to experience the world more fully; (2) to express my understanding of the world, which has a reciprocal/reflexive effect of making me more aware of the world.

Note: “world” is pretty vague. By it, I mean everything (e.g., physical, metaphysical, epistemological, etc.). So, that’s not better, huh.



And sure, among the many doubts I have is that if I’m switching between writing and music and photography and graphic design that I’ll never master any of them, but the quick, logical argument (the one I’d vehemently argue in a coffeeshop) is that I’m not interested in being a good artist as much as I am in being a good person. And I think art helps me.