Someone once said, “Everyone sees the world in a different way; so, when someone dies, it is – in a way – the death of an entire world.”
While visiting reddit I came upon the quote listed above and interestingly enough, I did not note any comments for this quote. As I thought about the quote, it seems like perhaps it needed to encompass the universe and not be limited to the world.
All of us bring to this life a veritable universe of life. The human body is a universe traveling in a vast universe of space; it is a vast, intricate system of incredible detail. Our bodies are a microcosm of the Cosmos and offer a biological cosmos within the realm of this bag of mostly water (a little Star Trek NG trivia).
My intent here is not to delve into the philosophical ramifications or justifications for such a view point, but to approach it from what happens when the artist dies. Does his/her viewpoint disappear forever and is it the loss of world or universe?
From my point of view, I would have to say that yes, there is a loss when a someone dies, the death of a unique universe. Each of us carry thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, that cannot ever be replicated as we all are distinct individuals. My vision is certainly different from others and vice versa. While I have been greatly inspired and influenced by Edward Weston, my view of the world and the resulting images I have created are far different from his. Our lives overlapped by 4 years, but what each of us has experienced and then shared as photographic artists is completely different.
We both lived through turnings of the century, albeit 100 years apart. He was 14 when that event took place and I was 45. We each carried differing experiences based on our ages and the times we lived in. And there were many upheavals in the world at the turning of our respective centuries.
Each of us in our universe are part of a greater whole and are connected by our humanity and our limitations. Each of us has a singular way of expressing our vision of life and sharing that vision with others. Using photography as the medium to express what we see, feel, experience, and desire to communicate, sets us apart and also binds us with others seeking to express themselves, to communicated their re-externalized understanding of life events.
Our photographs are an interpretation of what we see today. It binds us to those early artists who shared their vision of human life from the earliest of cave paintings and drawings to the present. As artists we provide a vision of life that is similar to spiritual insights, visions of the shaman or other spiritual leaders of the tribe. An artist views an external event or phenomena, which is internalized. This internalized observation is then interpreted though the lens of the artists vision and the subsequent vision is then re-externalized in the form of art, whether it is a cave drawing, a sculpture, painting, music, dance or photograph. It may or may not be profound, spiritual or mystical in nature, but the result is a vision made physical.
Each of us as artists and as humans are worlds and maybe even singular universes existing in a greater ever changing and violent universe. We bring a unique transitory vision that is so very brief, like bubbles in a stream, flowing and existing for seconds as it were, in the seemingly timelessness of the universe itself.
I know that when I die the images I have created will be of passing interest to only a very, very, few in this world of billions. My images are not lasting like the cave drawings or paintings, or the sculptures that have survived for centuries. Indeed, my images would need to be accepted and held safe in an ever-changing society of differing values and norms. What one generation holds dear or important is not the same as what a later generation deems important or historic. My world or universe is only dependent upon what I am able to express now and for not much longer after. Legacy is what the living worry about as the dead no longer have any input.
What any of us hold dear or important will only be relevant to a very limited few. Once any of us dies, there is indeed the loss of a world, a universe, an irreplaceable voice in an infinite chorus of voices. Voices seeking acceptance, audience, ascendance. Creating art is personal and there are few who will ever see the work we create or understand and appreciate what we attempted to reveal about ourselves. All any of us can do is live to the best of our abilities in the limited time we have and be true to the inner voices seeking expression in a dying universe.