Creative Camera quote...because someone had to write about it...
·“The photograph alone among art forms can convincingly appear to portray the world legitimately…and at the same time, evoke associations and meanings which dispel any particulars of time, place or object…This photographic belief system holds that the world is studded with potential symbols; the artist needs skill to render or capture experiences, but he must also perceive the symbolic associations. This is a question of insight and vision and dreams.” – Lois Fishman, Creative Camera, 1977.
Face value: a rose is going to have particular connotations no matter what, and it's gonna take more than just your word to convince the random viewer that roses represent the unconditional love of your dog Skippy, and only the unconditional love of your dog Skippy.
But if we're going to proceed as imagemakers assuming that every little thing on this planet means something, and that every item means the same thing to every single person ever, I think we're denying ourselves as artists the possibility to expand on those possible symbolic associations. Sure, there are certain items that are so cliched they probably shouldn't even be touched. It doesn't mean we can't try to subvert them to represent something else, or use these symbols to create an alternate truth (or at least mock the cliche). So yes, everything can potentially represent something, but we can invent what a lot of these things mean. So while a work about your ferocious Rottweiler Skippy chewing up roses will most likely represent LOSS OF INNOCENCE OMG* because roses and Rottweilers have very familiar connotations, there's opportunity there with a little creativity and imagination to add other, more interesting details and symbols to make it about something completely different...or you can throw in a teddy bear and a bunch of soft pastel color and drive the cliche home.
That's what I took away from visiting Trenton's studio: as an artist, you have the freedom to make up your own language. As artists, we should exploit this right as much as possible.
*all caps because this is one of the most cliched themes ever