The Daily Rambling Artist: The Art of Not Changing the World

The Daily Rambling Artist: The Art of Not Changing the World

I was first introduced to Houston's Fotofest International during my college photography class. It's an event that takes place every two years, and during certain years, our class assignment was to attend exhibitions and write about them. For me, this was an absolute delight.

Many years later, I had the incredible opportunity to receive a guided tour of one of the exhibits by Wendy Watriss, one of the festival's co-founders. The tour was enlightening on various levels, but my favorite part came when we reached a particularly weighty section of the exhibit dedicated to insane asylums in China.

Wendy herself acknowledged the gravity of the images before us. I recall her pained gaze fixed upon them, a sigh escaping her lips, as she mused aloud, 'Why do people create images like these?' A colleague of mine who was also on the tour chimed in with an optimistic, 'To change the world!' He said it with the earnestness of a true Boy Scout.

Wendy responded with a melancholy, 'You're not going to change the world.' She recounted her own experience creating a photography series on Agent Orange and its devastating effects, noting that it had changed nothing.

Her response is, of course, open to debate. What I took away from that exchange, however, was a profound realization. Regardless of what I believed my work to be about, I had to come to terms with the fact that it might or might not accomplish what I envisioned. Irrespective of the outcome, my duty as an artist is to create, to express, and to publish, regardless of whether the work does what I expect it to do.


-Sergio Santos t