Valuing the Arts

Analicia Honkanen

For a large majority of my younger, elementary and high school life, I was destined to become a mathematician, scientist or engineer. Going into a field such as art was not even a consideration as it is a career path that many think is not exactly employable. That fact makes it seem like a less important part of society.


I have some extended family members that do not have such stable or high paying jobs. My father, being a computer engineer, pushed me to go into engineering and obtain a successful and stable career. I attended Michigan Tech my freshman year to start a biomedical engineering degree. I had always thought that my good grades in math and science would lead me to become a contributor to society in the hard sciences.

Now that I’m a senior at NMU majoring in photography, I have been educated about the art world and its importance. I see that art is inspiration, imagination and creation. Without art, we would live in a tasteless, gray world.

Art is also influential. Artists start discussions on certain topics that influence their viewers. In our image-filled online world, art is more important than ever. We soak it in from so many places, from Instagram to Youtube to Netflix to Spotify.

All sorts of media fills our screens and immerses us in tangible and intangible worlds alike. Art is an expression of an artist’s perception of our world around us. It can be enjoyable, fun or educational. Disdaining art is an old and retro view.

My own artwork comments on adverse topics in society, the media or positive advancements in our world. I had once read a book for class by Fred Ritchin called “After Photography.” In it he discussed the influence of mass media on its viewers. In one example, he was to be featured in a magazine and the editors wanted to put his head on top of another, more muscular and fit body. He refused, and the article was never published.

This inspired me to simulate the same exact scenario as a photo series. Titled “Photoshopped,” my series features two sets of photographs of normal individuals who happen to also be my friends. One set is their photograph without any editing or manipulation. Next to that is a photograph of their head photoshopped onto a magazine model’s body. The series shows how easy it is in our digital world to manipulate photographs, thus manipulating our perception of the ideal body type.

This type of art can influence the minds of it’s viewers. It sends the message that we should be comfortable with whatever body we have and not set our standards on models and celebrities.

It frustrates me when someone puts down my degree as easy or insignificant. To be a successful photographer requires attention to detail, high level of craft, technical knowledge, comprehension of what is attractive, lots of time and effort, just to name a few.

Without photographers, the world never would have known the gruesome horrors of WWII and the Vietnam war, for example.

Without the photographs of the smokestacks that were the twin towers in New York, the world would not have experienced the impact of terrorism, and then in turn done something to make change.

The arts can be a release of emotion, a distraction from our current reality. Other times, they can be a connection to our current story, a creative display or representation of events in life.

In my life the arts equate to joy and happiness, societal change and progress. I am thankful that I came to NMU to experience so many different fields of study. We are all valuable parts of society, engineers and photographers alike, and we need to recognize and respect one another for the paths we may take.