Every artist is, first of all, a craftperson thoroughly knowledgeable about the materials, tools, and techniques of his or her particular medium and skilled in using many of them.
However, in my view, no amount of technical knowledge and competence is, of itself, sufficient to make a craftperson into an artist. That requires caring -- passionate caring about ultimate things. For me there is a close connection between art and religion in the sense that both are concerned about questions of meaning -- if not about the meaning of existence generally, then certainly about the meaning of one's individual life and how a person relates to his or her total community/environment. This is not to say that every work of art is or should be a heavily profound statement, indeed many may be very light-hearted, but rather that consciously and unconsciously an artist engaged in serious work is always raising or dealing with the question: "What really matters?"
For me, answering that question means recognizing the factors that produced and shaped me. I cannot escape dealing with these things if I am to live creatively as a human being or, to put it another way, if I am to take control of and maintain the integrity of my own life. Photography (and, more generally, visual design) has been my enabling medium.
In the broadest sense I photograph Nature, which includes human beings. Growing up in a rural community, I was surrounded by natural things. Unlike a child in a totally urban environment, my friends and peer group were not only other children, but also wild and domesticated animals, plants of every sort, brooks and waterfalls, rocks and sand. In winter I listened to the wind-chiming of ice-covered branches, wandered through spring's greening fields, splashed about for minnows in the river, and gathered bouquets of autumn leaves.
However, the obviously beautiful in my environment was balanced by other realities. I saw the food chain operating, experienced the effects of droughts and floods, and daily observed the process of aging. When my little sister died, the loss I felt was assuaged by my having learned early that this happens to everyone and everything.
I believe that the ability of human beings to be creative depends fundamentally on the health and well-being of our biosphere, the few kilometres of air, water, and soil that surround our planet like the skin of an apple. Quite simply, they are the physical and spiritual bases of our lives, and the only source of materials and tools that enable us to express our responses to questions and feelings about ultimate things. Creation and creativity are inextricably linked.
This awareness now forms the central core of my work. The abstracting of visual elements in order to recognize their particularity has become automatic, but seeing, combining, and creating them as integrated "wholes" will remain a life-long challenge.
Images and Photographs © 2006 Freeman Patterson - All Rights Reserved.