Artistic Intent and the Story Behind (and Beyond) Still Photos

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of artistic intent. What story is an artist trying to tell, or what statement is the artist trying to make in a given work of art?

Having worked for a while in an art gallery, I came to realize that most artists don’t really like to reveal their intent. Thus, the intent or meaning of a work of art is usually left to the beholder to interpret. A major component of art-history scholarship seems to focus on making scholarly arguments for what an artist’s intent was for a work or body or work.

still_for_next_chapter_lg.jpg My fascination with artistic intent was piqued by a new contest Canon is holding, called “The Story Beyond The Still,” which the company describes as “the first user-generated HD Video Contest where photographers become filmmakers, and we all see beyond the still.” The contest is largely to promote Canon’s EOS 7D camera, but also to “demonstrat[e] the social appeal of collaborative storytelling.”

The contest, as it turns out, is not really about artistic intent. If it were, the contest’s name might be “The Story Behind the Still.” Instead, it’s more like “what happens next” in the story of the still photo. The idea is to move the story forward rather than to look back at what inspired the photo.

Canon asked photographer, Vincent Laforet (who is also a judge for the contest), to “interpret” what story lives beyond the first still and to tell that story with the new camera. Laforet collaborated with Grey New York to bring his interpretation of a still image to life in a short film entitled “The Cabbie,” which begins on a still image depicting a teddy bear left on the sidewalk outside of an airport. “The Cabbie” serves as the first installment of a seven-chapter collaborative work in which each participant is asked to interpret the previous winning photographer/filmmaker’s final still image to start their vision for the subsequent chapter. The still photo at right above, a large trunk sitting in what appears to be a warehouse, is the still for Chapter 2. Submissions for the next chapter are due February 11.

Even though I’m a little disappointed that the contest doesn’t focus on the storied intent of these visuals, I admit that Laforet has created an intriguing first chapter (below), and I’m looking forward to subsequent installments.

You can read Canon’s press release here.

The Story Beyond The Still: The Cabbie from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

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