Photography As Art Forum

This forum is for artists who use a camera to express themselves. If your primary concern is meaning and symbolism in photography, then you've come to the right place. Please respect other community members and their opinions when discussing the meaning of "art" or meaning in images. If you'd like to discuss one of your photos, please upload it to the photo gallery, and include a link to that gallery page in your post. Moderators: Irakly Shanidze, Megan, Asylum Steve
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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    May 2012
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    Where is the art in photography?

    I have been interested in photography long before I became a professional photographer- it goes back to when I was 7 years old. There was a family camera collecting dust in the closet- a Kodak Baby Brownie Special; it was made of black, not brown, Bakelite, had a plastic lanyard carry strap, a fixed focus and fixed aperture lens and used 127 film. I asked my dad to allow me to use it and he bought me 2 rolls of Verichrome 127 film. I went out and photographed things that interested me- mostly objects and the cat. Oh- I did make a “portrait” of he girl next door in front of the handball court in the park- she was impressed. I was thrilled because as a kid, I had bit of dyslexia and could not draw anything past stick figures. I longed to draw things and that camera was my magic pencil. My Aunt Celia spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent and used to say to her friends that her nephew Eddie was very “autistic” and people, at first, felt sorry for me thinking that I had a serious neurological condition but she really meant the word “artistic” and once she showed them my pictures of all the iron work on our front stoop, the fire alarm boxes, the fire hydrants, and half the lampposts on our block they understood- I guess they thought I was some kind of savant with a talent for photography. I liked the designs and details on those things- they were very ornate and decorative from the old days. My dad, who was footing the processing bills at the drug store would rather I made pictures of my siblings but I was not interested in child photography.

    Poor Aunt Celia- she though I was an artist but I had no such ideas about myself because I could not draw or paint to save my life. Danny, one of my classmates could draw all the Disney characters or anything else- he, to my mind. was a real artist!

    By the age of 10 I was a full fledged photography nut and was reading everything about photography that I could lay my hands on, especially my three favorite photo magazines; Popular Photography, Modern Photography and U.S. Camera. The big controversial topic in the day was- headline “Is photography really art” and I truly believed it was not because I could make pictures in 1/200 of a second and real artists and sculptors could paint, draw and sculpt where I could not and furthermore painting and statues took days, weeks, months or even years to complete. I read about Michelangelo painting church ceilings for years and that did it- Nephew Eddie was not to be an artist.

    Even when I read about photographers like Edward Steichen’s work hanging in the great Museum of Modern Art in NYC and his being appointed curator I still felt the same and figured he could also paint and draw but preferred to keep it a secret. I thought in my own immature mind (fir a few minutes) that maybe I could be an artist/photographer after all and besides Steichen name was Edward too- just like mine! I ran to the library and found a biography of Steichen and in the first paragraph of the forward it said “Painter, photographer and curator Edward Jean Steichen…” I knew it- RATS!!!- he was a painter first- “painter” got top billing! Damn! That’s how he got in with the art crowed I suspected. The there was a quote in that book “The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each to himself and that is the most complicated thing on earth”. OMG! Here I was 12 years old and doing poorly in English class and now I gotta be a philosopher too- forgetaboutit! I am going back to my lamp posts and pray that I could pass the next spelling test or dad might cut off my film supply,

    You may laugh (or not) but arguments about photography not being a real art are still around and art history shows us that every time a new era or new school of thought about image making arises it is severely castigated by the older or more traditional schools of though or methodology. In the olden days certain painters were not allowed to exhibit their work in prestigious galleries because of cliques of old established painters putting pressure on them. There were dirty tricks and all sort of despicable activities to discredit the newcomers and potential trendsetters- sound familiar? There were virtual war between the impressionists and the realists in centuries past and in more recent times. Check out Ansil Adams vs. William Mortensen back in the 30s and 40s and you will see mortal combat fueled by hatred. You would think that creative and artistically inclined people would understand that not everyone sees the world in exactly the same way and if they did. how dull that would be.

    There is a school of though that is ludicrous but still alive and well among some practitioners of fine art. They oftentimes espouse the idea that commercial art (and commercial photographer) as forms of prostitution because true art should be motivated by more important issues than money. That’s very philosophical if fine art or fine photography is your hobby not the source of your income and your well being. In the business world, a starving artist is a failed artist and that’s the reality. What could be a higher calling that being a doctor of medicine- a healer a scientist and an artist. In medical and dental schools there is now business training so the docs know how to administer their offices. We live in a free enterprise society and that’s another reality.

    There is another counterproductive idea that hangs over the existence of artistic photography like the Sword of Domiciles; the notion that there should be no rules, instructions or axiomatic principles regarding art and yet many folks call arts “disciplines” and when photographers follow the methodologies and philosophies for their masters or favorite mentors they are called disciples. If photography is truly art there is also a scientific component to it. It used to be chemistry and now it is electronics. There is the physics of light to understand and that is quite a package of science and aesthetics. There is optics, densitometry and even body mechanics to be considered in posing issues. You need not become an optical engineer, a computer programmer, a physicist or a scientist but you need to understand the scientific and mechanical principles that effect or affect you camera handling abilities and give you the means of controlling you composition, exposure and all of your artistic elements.

    In my own photographic life and career, this is the approached I finally decided on. In spite of my remaining dyslexia I decided to study art from an art appreciations point of view and even look into painting techniques just to get some idea of how the old masters gained their perception of lighting, color, depth perspective. I decided many years ago to apply whatever artistic talents I do have or have managed to develop over the years to my day to day work. The idea of light and shadow usage is very prevalent in the work of the old masters and my entire commitment to SEEING LIGHT is based on those principles.

    I think I have discovered the art science connection in photography, at least for myself. It is like music; the notes on the scores of music, even the ones that were written by a greatest composers over the centuries are only suggestions or guide lines or almost schematic plans. The ARTISTRY AND VIRTUOSITY lies with the musicians in their INTERPRETATION OF THE MUSIC. Apply this to your photography and you will prosper and enjoy your results. The art is where YOU interpret the guidelines and create images in your mind’s eye and bring them to tangible imagery using your technical savvy.

    My best suggestion for anyone who is serious about their photography is to indeed learn all the rules and become a good mechanic as it were. The next step is to study and practice the artistic aspects of your craft and turn it into a true art. If you are truly artistic and creative you must develop you intrinsic talent. If you find in your heart of hearts that you do not have theses talents, at least you will learn to be the best mechanic that you can be and deliver good images for you personal edification and for the clients who you may come to serve. If you are really artistically inclined you will learn the mechanics and aesthetics in a short time. Spend that extra time learning to promote your art and profit from it in order to reap the fruits of your commitment and hard work and hard work it is.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2011
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    Gunnison, Co, USA
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    Re: Where is the art in photography?

    Interesting read! Thanks for posting.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Jun 2005
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    Alberta,Canada
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    Re: Where is the art in photography?

    great story,it reminds me of the family poloroid and my 110 kodak,for me it was an adventure every time i went out to see what i could see and today it still is an adventure and i still can't wait to see the fruits of my adventure,only now faster and cheaper with digital

  4. #4
    Junior Member
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    May 2012
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    Shenzhen
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    10

    Re: Where is the art in photography?

    Thanks for your polite sharing. Your words just reminded me why I have chosen to learn photography when I was in college.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2009
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    Denver Colorado Area
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    2,242

    Re: Where is the art in photography?

    Photograph is an art, but if that is all you got, well, better be good at it....

  6. #6
    Member Blandar's Avatar
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    Mar 2019
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    103

    Re: Where is the art in photography?

    Technical side really is important. Without proper gear you won't able to express yourself as a photographer. And good gear costs much. But at least you can find some really good deals on used gear on ebay. It isn't an easy thing, I managed to find something I need for cheap and with shipping to https://worldpostalcode.com/united-s.../new-york-city only a few times but still.

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