The Illusion of Knowledge

by | Jul 19, 2019 | 0 comments

I’m sitting at the White Horse Tavern texting this post into my notepad. Anyone else would sit down at the bar with a brew, and try to recover from this heat wave. Me? Inspiration has struck for this post which came following a few meetings at Parsons. I’ve talked about this at length with friends and students but haven’t gone the distance in putting pen to paper.

What an amateur is, is a lover of a subject. I’m a lover of facts. The fact is the savior, as long as you don’t jam it into some preconceived pattern. The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge. – Daniel J. Boorstin 

Reflecting on this I’ve come to realize I love and hate the Internet. We now have so much information at our fingertips, the unthinkable is possible. We’re able to dream so much bigger, and compare one another just from having a thought and googling our query out into the world wide web. Often a false sense of security. But with Art, it’s just a first step among many. When we look from the perspective of knowledge, we forget that raw information is not this.


Without real world practical application, information is just data. Now this idea is nothing new. Fake it till you make it runs rampant in this city, practically imbued moments after setting foot here. However, such hubris can lead to the downfall of many an artist who have risen prematurely based on illusion alone.

Art takes time. Studying photos, and taking photos are linked. In my class we briefly touched on painters of the Renaissance. When directed to my students post paper submission to me, Do you think you could take great photos without the knowledge of Caravaggio, Rubens, Vermeer, Rembrandt, da Vinici?, nearly unanimous, and without hesitation my student students responded with a resounding, Yes. Now, whether that’s true or not is immaterial, a deeper conversation far beyond a few sentences on this blog. However, it’s the lack of inquiry, the confidence to respond in the negative, in a way which even the masters have a hard time responding to that confounds me. Alarms me.

What Mommy says is true.

When you’re child you believe without question the knowledge of your parents. And then at some point we learn the word, question… why? We run home to Momma, or in this digital world, Google, Wikipedia, the mass collective for information. This inquisitiveness is what drives us, theoretically. The quest for understanding. But it’s more than just information. It’s knowledge once applied in craft, in our own voice. Authentically and with originality.

The Experience of Art.

Suffice it to say, you can read what it takes to make a great photograph, to model, to “style”, hair and makeup, but to participate in the experience, that’s everything. To sit and wait for the moment, for everything to fall into the perfect frame, the information to do it is far less vital than actually sitting on the street corner and waiting. Don’t settle for less. Spend time with those who walk the walk. They’ve spent the 10,000 hours in the studio bleeding for their craft. Studying. Experimenting, Breathing.

Go beyond the screen. Take the steps. Lights, camera, Action.

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