But this is not a reflection on the local farmers market, but an exploration on the transformative power of art.
Early in the market season, we asked local photographer Robert Miller to shoot images of vendors and shoppers, as well as the rich variety of produce and products that would be for sale. We commissioned Miller for the task because we wanted more than just a visual record. We wanted him to capture the new life and the renewed energy emerging from the market and this collaborative community spirit. We had long admired the work Miller has done documenting events at the Sedalia Center, Bower Center for the Arts, 2nd Fridays, Centerfest and of course, our own events at Goose Creek Studio. In his engagement with this community over the past several years, Miller has revealed the transformative power of the photographic image to build community identity.
Miller’s photographs are not just documentary, they are an art form. He intentionally manipulates and filters the events that he shoots. A recognizable hallmark is his use of very bright and saturated colors. For Miller, the art making process only begins with what he sees through the lens and the click of the shutter. The power of his art is not just in his ability to choose a moment in time, compose a balance composition or even master the mechanics of his camera. The art making process really happens after Miller gets home and starts to process his images and weaves his shots into a more all-inclusive storytelling. The processing of his images post event becomes a critical component for making the image speak beyond the particulars of a moment in time.
For Miller to capture the essence of an event, he needs to literally change or embellish what the camera has captured. We all do the same thing in our own story telling and remembering. In fact, manipulation, embellishment or hyperbole are often critical ways to emphasize the role of an individual or the narrative of a story. “My grandma made the best cookies in the world.” The truth of that statement is not in the verifiable accuracy of the facts or grandma’s culinary skills, rather, the statement communicates the quality of a relationship. The true superiority of grandma’s cookies can only be understood in the depth on a relationship to her, and to communicate the depth of that relationship requires creative emphasis. If we focus only on the detail, we can miss the essence and the transformative power of a story. Great art often communicates in much the same way.
When photographing a public event, Miller focuses his camera on people in relationship to one another, in relationship to their career or trade, or in the expression of their individuality or personality. He weaves each vignette he captures into the larger mood of the day. A series of ordinary moments that take on more universal qualities and a more complete story of who and what this community is or seeks to become.
The message Miller communicates is not focused on an individual or object, but rather in the space that is created between the individual and object. Miller’s images communicate a quality of a relationship. His art is about shaping community identity by crafting images of who we are and what we do.
- MEB & VPE