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January 2011

It is often the case that the most important works of art are born when they touch or even exceed their limits. That is, in the area bordering failure. And this happens when the artist, out of folly, boredom, absent-mindedness or instinct, tends to transgress the boundaries within which he works.

Boundaries in art create a strange sense of security that liberates the creator from his fear of facing his art, or – more simply – of working. On the contrary, absolute and unlimited freedom combines the panic of failure with creative confusion. However, when the initial dilemmas of choices are solved, then the artist can begin his work with relative security, but also with an additional untold objective: to be freed from the security he initially sought.

Something similar to a good childhood happens. We need it so as to feel the security we consider necessary for facing life, but we must free ourselves from it in order to do anything substantially important.

In particular, in the case of photography, where the technique is very simple (and becomes easier with every passing day) no one can (as is the case in other arts) invoke the overcoming of practical difficulties even as a pretext for the production of work. Thus, the photographer, more than any other artist, should set his own boundaries, since the easy use and flexibility of the camera (combined with a strange and widespread perception of photographic audacity) gives him the illusion that he owns the whole world and that each photograph he takes has the privilege of expressing him and interpreting the world.

The required boundaries may be imposed externally, by social, professional or other conditions and practices beyond his will, or internally, that is, on his own initiative, in which case they may even pertain to arbitrary technical, local, moral, thematic, aesthetic, ideological or other restrictions. They may also be imposed on their own accord, that is, by the total moral, metaphysical, aesthetic and artistic convictions that come through the artist’s past and make up his personality.

The aforementioned boundaries are but the first step in the production of works of art. They should never become the frame or the precondition of the completed work. In this case we would be referring to applied and not artistic photography. However, if setting boundaries is to a large degree a conscious process, transgressing them is (and should be) a desirable and acceptable, but not conscious, act. If it becomes conscious, then it is a rationalized resetting of boundaries, which is of no interest, at least from an artistic point of view. Overcoming ourselves and our boundaries is not transcendence if it does not surprise us.

From the moment that the photographer feels safe in these boundaries, ready to start, repeat and continue the photographic process, an even more enchanting period begins, the one that consists of his wish to transcend the boundaries, without (at least not obviously) betraying them.

In other words, there is no given artistic freedom (or possibly even freedom in general). Artistic freedom should be a goal to be conquered and it cannot but be built on data, which are at once a source of and an obstacle to inspiration. Like the works of art we loved, the schoolteachers we respected, the childhood we reminisce about, our memories that hound us, everything without which one cannot create, but that one has a duty to surpass, or even more, to deny, if one wants to feel really free and creative.