The Art of Photography | Student View Series

“Andy Warhol” (1973) by Jack Mitchell

By Leonel Peon | IRA Intern

“A good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous.” These are the words from a creative genius that has become a legend not only within the photographic community, but the art world as a whole. Andy Warhol, or the Prince of Pop as some call him, revolutionized the art scene  as a sculptor, a commercial illustrator, an exhibition curator, and a filmmaker. Warhol’s experimentation through the different media is what makes him such an influential figure in the eyes of an admirer like myself. But it’s not just his work as an artist that inspires me, but the message of finding true simplicity in everyday life as well.

Through his photography, Warhol was able to capture what it would take most photographers an entire lifetime to accomplish. He was able to portray the emotions and uniformity of his subjects through his photographs in such a way that photographers only yearn to learn Warhol’s techniques. Examples of this can be seen at the Andy Warhol Legacy Project exhibition in the USF Contemporary Art Museum where over 150 Polaroids and silver gelatin prints are displayed. Gifted to the museum  in 2008 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, the Polaroids include a variety of settings and themes that caught the attention of Andy throughout the years including the snapshots of many celebrated figures, outside scenes, and the contemporary night life.

Andy Warhol, Unidentified Woman #23 (Blonde Hair and Dog), 1986. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.; University of South Florida Collection, Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program

Warhol’s photographs were able to grasp society and portray its most complex behaviors of human beings into one, single irreproducible snapshot. His photographs were not only able to channel this through the simplest medium possible, but it also demonstrates Andy’s obsessive desire to document human behavior and show all its glory. The Polaroids only add to Andy’s incredible feat of making the simple become famous and was able to accomplish all of this through the single click of a shutter button.

Only a few steps away from the Andy Warhol exhibition lies “The Importance of Being Photographed”; an exhibition hosting a range of contemporary photographs from several different artists including Tina Barney, Jason Lazarus, and Alec Soth. Their works explore a wide range of captivating issues like ethnicity, social class and identity, as well as sexuality and sensuality. And the Contemporary Art Museum’s layout of these pieces are perfectly placed to make it feasible for students and adults alike to perceive these issues and provoke the mind with curiosity and wonder of what cultural message each image conveys.

One photograph that did catch my attention was a work by Jason Lazarus titled “Spencer Elden in His Last Year of High School”. To any bystander, the identity of who Spencer Elden is and why he has a self portrait on the wall comes to mind. But for those who do not know who Spencer is, he was the naked baby featured on the album cover of the 1991 Nirvana CD titled “Nevermind”. Jason Lazarus does a phenomenal job by addressing these perpetually obscure questions that viewers like myself have had for years like; “I wonder how the kid on the Nirvana album looks like now?” or “who was that kid and why was he naked in a swimming pool?” Jason’s work as a photographer take on a different perspective of what it means to make art and be an artist as well. He is able to combine reality with pop culture to create mesmerizing photographs that express different ideas within each of his images.

“Spencer Elden in His Last Year of High School” (2008) by Jason Lazarus

Whether you’re an art lover or not, both exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum capture the inquisitiveness of the human brain and introduce both new and old social problems through the art of photography by accentuating these concepts in a moment frozen in time. I, as a dreamer, a wanderer, and an enthusiast of this new invigorating and inspiring photographic universe, would strongly recommend anyone who is remotely interested in photography to go check it out for themselves.

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