NPR’s Terry Gross did a recent interview with photography legend Sally Mann on her book, Hold Still: A Memoir With Photographs. It’s up there with the top “uncomfortable” interviews Terry has given, where she picks a controversial point and continues on and on about an early series of photographs Sally took of her children, often nude. Sally got clearly annoyed at some point as well, stating “it’s only 70 pages of a 500 page book.”
Boundaries are a tricky thing with artists, and I’m not sure if Terry understood that in her curious method of questioning. Basically, artists think boundaries don’t apply to them because they are on a metaphorical mystic quest for knowledge and understanding. Any lines in the sand should be crossed because to not cross them is censorship and cowardice. That is true of all the great artists I can think of. They ignore “no trespassing” signs, appropriate the work of others’ into their own art without asking, and usually the thought of consequences or audience reactions doesn’t occur until well after the work is assembled.
What do you think? Do the great artists you know color within the boundaries? Is there a time where you’ve had a creative impulse that you’ve reigned in because of the possible consequences? I welcome your responses in the comments below!