Photography is not a Dying Art

Twisting the Day AwayTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

You hear a lot of talk about photography not being an art. It’s said, for example, that somehow the ubiquity of cameras has drained art from photography. However, according to the dictionary, art is the expression of creative skills. We all see the world differently and what we like or dislike is a personal perspective. In that sense we can all be artists. The ubiquity of pen and paper has not diminished the power of the pen, nor has photography killed painting, movies or the theatre. If we agree that we can all be artists and that there are a myriad of ways we can express our creativity, it seems to me that the camera regardless of its sophistication is a capable tool for someone’s art. Not everyone’s creative expression will be widely applauded or appreciated. However one thing is certain, photography is a tool for art with a long life ahead of it. Rumors of it drowning in a sea of cell phones are vastly exaggerated.

Art depends on context as much as anything else. A mad modernist painting in a great location, a painting of a medieval horror in a house of worship, may both have impact but out of context one could question either as worthy of our time or still proclaim them of artistic value. This is an exaggeration but put another way it may be easier to understand. Personal photographs of a vacation may have meaning for the family and no one else, photographs of a race may appeal most directly to aficionados of the race. But all of these examples have the potential for impact outside of their context. A family on a beach photo-bombed by a whale in the background would be a rather dramatic example that I suspect would go viral quickly. Rules were developed for photography in order to help people to find their route to impact. But those rules are guidelines and not all photographers grew up in the era when those rules/guidelines were as common as they are now.

Some talk about Photoshopping and over-editing and somehow argue that the same steps taken by Dutch Masters in portraying light or Ansel Adams in his treatment of negatives in the darkroom were good and proper. Our personal views of our own art and our own likes and dislikes are highly individual and if someone else wants to HDR and filter the world I say let them I may not like it but let them explore and have fun, find a style and work with it. To say anything less is to impugn your own art, as your own rules can be equally questioned.

So having established that a camera can be a tool of art that it is equally able to portray impact as paint, the written word, or clay; in looking at our own work we need to understand what about it resonates with our audience. Once we understand our own rules of impact, decide on our choice of tools (and that includes software), understand and become familiar with these tools, we may be much closer to calling ourselves artists and our work artistic without embarrassment.

Finally another factor in art, which should possibly be part of its definition is criticism. We need to expect it, be able to live with it and decide what to do about it. You can choose to be popular and/or you can choose your own path (they may not be exclusive) but everything about your creativity is in your hands. Ubiquity of a tool has nothing to do with how it may be used creatively.

For myself, I try to think about context and impact. It starts with a subject that catches my eye; I work with my tools to ensure that the context is clear and to increase the impact of my subject. It does not always work, nor should it. It’s not easy but I enjoy the challenge. I sincerely believe photography can be art and will remain so into the foreseeable future.

About the photograph:

My very low shutter speed influenced this shot and the eagerness of the chickadee to take flight was not helpful either. It makes the point that rules in photography sometimes get in the way of the interesting.

14 responses

  1. Great post! You are so right on here with your views. I think we tend to get caught up (at times) with the “likes” or “no likes” – I also view photography as a form of art – and the actual photograph itself can be good – bad – or indifferent. What matters is to shoot for oneself . And while some may critique your little chickadee as being out of focus – his actions make for an interesting photograph.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 23, 2015 at 2:18 am

  2. You may find this site interesting: https://framework5.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/ibra-thiam/
    Ibra Thiam from Senegal: Because of his interest in photographs he wanted to study at Ecole Nationale des Arts de Dakar, but found that photography was not an option (in 2008). In Senegal only painting and sculpture was seen as art.
    A year later he took a photography workshop. In the three years since, Thiam has exhibited at locations across the city and was chosen for the Dak’Art Biennale 2012 and collaborated with internationally renowned artists. [Dak’Art since 1992 has been a platform for contemporary art with cultural roots in Africa].
    He is best known for his work on ‘Reflections’. Ibrahima Thiam’s photographs capture distortions of reality – reflections, shadows, re-anglings – and bring out the surreal of the everyday. He paints with light through the camera lens.
    Thiam often arranges his photographs set against canvas, as if to give a giant “Ha!” to anyone who would deny the status of photography as art.

    Like

    May 23, 2015 at 4:41 am

  3. Well said! Photography is an art but as with any other art it varies depending upon who is wielding the “brush” and we all know the adage of beauty is in the eye of…

    Like

    May 23, 2015 at 7:04 am

  4. Too right mate! I agree with you. I recently tried a very gentle negative comment on one of my followers. Telling waht others had tought me. The photo was a flower in the center with a very busy distracting background. The minute I posted my tactful constructive critique the person removed the post and my comment. That is a shame because we learn from mistakes.

    Like

    May 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    • Thanks. I have left fora because of heavy handed criticism that amounted to only follow the rules and nothing but the rules. That said criticism done right is vital for the development of any artist. I have had some great useful suggestions (e.g. on my lack of contrast in B&W).

      Like

      May 23, 2015 at 9:44 am

  5. Your posting is thought-provoking, Victor, and I definitely agree with your view that photography can be art. I used to worry about sharpness being the ultimate goal in photography, until I realized that it is only one of a whole range of factors that affect my reaction to a photo. So I now am determined to post what is interesting to me. What exactly defines “interesting” will vary with my moods and my subjects. As for your photo, I was intrigued by it and it helped to draw me in to read the entire post.

    Like

    May 24, 2015 at 7:04 am

  6. Great pic! 😀

    Like

    May 24, 2015 at 8:16 am

  7. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If we “create” an image (whether by pressing a shutter release or in post-processing) with our cameras, we become an artist. What matters at this point is how WE, the “creator”, the “artist”, feel about our creation. Any observations from others is opinion and we can deal with that as we choose.

    Insightful essay, Victor. Keep creating!

    Like

    May 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

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