“It no longer matters if a person knows anything about photography, anyone can take a picture”      

I met a young creative photographer that is working hard to make sure his photographs stand out amongst the legions of picture-takers in this popular and expanding medium. He leaned on my counter and gestured into space as he made that seemingly painful statement to me. “It no longer matters if a person knows anything about photography, anyone can take a picture”

His goal is to produce images that are visual statements of how he feels about the subjects he photographs. He has studied and studied and wants his work to be seen as more than just documents of the world around him.

The medium of photography has become very accessible for everyone. The days when most serious photographers actually went to school to learn about photography and had to be an engineer and chemist are long gone.

With today’s supercharged and computerized cameras many photographers get away without any knowledge whatsoever of photography.

Historically, photographers had to understand the combinations of shutter and aperture for a properly exposed image, and worried about camera shake and film choice. Photographers would carry more than one camera because they wanted the resulting photographs to be in both color and black and white.

One must remember that a few short generations ago photography needed large glass plates, hazardous chemicals, bulky cameras and wagons to carry everything.

I am not sure that the photographers of the late 1800’s or early 1900’s were actually interested in photography as a creative medium as much as a way to document reality of their unknown world.

Whether trying to convince some person to sit as still as possible for long time periods or setting up unwieldy photographic equipment on a cold mountaintop to photograph the view, photography was once a challenge that most of today’s photographers would shy away from.

There are those that are intent on complaining that with the end of film comes the end of photography. Personally, I don’t think film is going away any time soon. (Film is just one way to make a photograph.) The big box outlets may not carry it much longer, but there are lots of specialty items artists use that are only available in specialty stores, and I think film is still available at some small shops. However, the chances of getting the correct advice from the person behind the counter doesn’t seem likely.

Yes, anyone can take a picture nowadays. That’s a good thing and not something to complain about. There are lots of good photographs being taken and although most of them fall into the category of documentary or snapshot photography. People want visual memories of their world and the many camera incarnations are perfect for that.

I look forward to seeing more photographs made by that young photographer and others like him. My advice to him would be to embrace all the exciting technological advancements he comes across as he strives to make his photographs stand out in. After all photography has always been about technology.

I am sure he will work at producing images that will be technically perfect visual statements about what he feels or wants to say.

There are many, myself included, who are interested in the viewing good photographs. It doesn’t matter how the image is produced as long as the final photograph has something to say and is visually exciting!

That critical comment “anyone can take a picture” shouldn’t make any of us worry as we look forward to the future of this exciting medium.

Photography as a Fine Art

Orchid-2

I have discussed this topic before, but after a conversation I had about an upcoming photography exhibition in Kamloops with one of the judges and, of course, the heated debate now raging about that $6.5M photo of a canyon, I thought I would revisit it.

Wikipedia’s on-line encyclopedia says, “Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services”.

Photography as art has changed since its beginnings in the mid 1800s, and, in my opinion, with the increased interest in photography because of the ease of making photographs since digital technology became the mainstay, photography as an art interests more and more people.

That art may be nothing more than a screensaver on one’s computer display. Some photographers go further and it is not unusual to see a personal photograph, or one of a friend, framed and hanging on the walls in someone’s home.

I have been interested in photography as an artistic medium for a very long time and have attended many exhibitions of artistic world-renowned photographers. And I think Wikipedia’s definition is worth noting because it separates what it declares as fine art photography from photojournalism and commercial photography, classifications that could divide those photographers in new ways for me.

By the middle of the nineteenth century photographers felt their art should be held in the same exalted status that painters claimed for theirs. Their contention was that it’s the photographer, not the camera that makes the picture. The goal was, and still may be, to convince not only the art community, but also those interested in creative arts that photography is art. Then, as now, the discussion was about whether the different aspects of photography, commercial, photojournalistic, or those created only as personal creative vision should be considered art.

The question photographers can ask is, whether the photograph’s goal is as “visual support”, to “sell a product”, as a “documentary”, or as a creative vision?

I have come to think that definitions like those of Wikipedia’s have changed. Maybe it is the way modern viewers see and use photography. That quickly-snapped portrait of a favorite pet displayed in the owner’s home probably needs an explanation to go along with it, but is cherished enough to be included with the rest of the owner’s art even though art scholars would disagree.

Remember, photographers are still contending with those critics that hold that only painting and sculpture are art and that photography is but a technology. For me the lines have become blurred, and I see photography as an artistic medium equal to others, although I am not altogether secure in categorizing any photographer’s work.

Debates like those in The Guardian newspaper, http://petapixel.com/2014/12/11/columnists-guardian-debate-whether-not-photography-art/ are fun, but in the end forget that the camera is just a tool, absolutely a high technology tool for sure, but a tool just the same, that helps any person to be creative and photographers only need to decide on their own particular style, and what, as Wikipedia states, is “created to fulfill the creative vision of the artist”. What that vision is should be entirely up to the photographer and the audience for whom the image is produced.

 

I always look forward to readers comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com