A Day at the Museum

"Art is the most sublime mission of man since it is the expression of thought seeking to understand the world and make it understood."

- Rodin

Written by Guy.

Sharing what we see is a defining characteristic of our modern culture. Each day millions of people share photos on Instagram or Facebook for all the world to see. We share our breakfasts, lots of pictures of cats, and maybe some humble-brag moments like going to the gym or actually working late. Too often we share the frivolous, the senseless, and anything else that we think will get a like.

In that heap of memes, gifs, and lattes with a perfect floating leaf in the foam there are also countless people sharing photos that embody their experiences and perspectives. Photography is the art of capturing a real-life image of the world to perpetuate a transitory perspective. Courtesy of the internet, anyone with a phone and data plan or access to wi-fi can be a published photographer with a worldwide audience. Everyday people step into the artistry of photography merely sharing what they see. They share their stories.

What impact will this have on our culture and politics—will the opportunity for awareness spark worldwide change?

Megan and I visited the Portland Art Museum this past weekend to see the American Photographs exhibit that features Robert Frank. Frank’s The Americans captured the conscience of the nation by showing the poverty and hardship widespread in 1950s America. Frank traveled the country for a year taking photographs of what he saw in small towns and blighted streets. Then he published his work, sharing it with the world.

His work gave a glimpse into a world starkly different from the Leave it to Beaver wholesomeness of early TV. People were struggling, fighting for survival in rural towns or equality in the inner-cities, and all the while sharing love and building their own communities. Frank captures all of this through his camera lens in The Americans. In doing so, he sparked awareness and helped pave the way for the fight for equal rights in the 1960s.

We now all have the power to raise awareness like Robert Frank. Scrolling through Instagram hours after leaving the museum, I am inspired by people sharing what they see and think. People no longer need someone to speak for them. With a phone and a minute—a few taps on the screen—anyone can let everyone know what is happening around them.