Photography as an art form, is my question today. Could the humble artist and photographer be one and the same? Or are photography and art two different animals?
Today’s technology has made photography more accessible and easier than ever before, of course it has.
But at an enthusiast level; at a professional level, ‘easier’ is not necessarily the case. The skillset required of the modern day photographer to produce excellence has mushroomed. Digital has yanked the bar right up for those with cameras and keeping up can be overwhelming at times.
So back to the question, is photography art? Let’s examine the evidence.
What’s Art and What’s Not? | Darrin Henry
International Artist Day is celebrated on 25 October each year, and this prompts debate on who exactly may be called an artist. How do you know? What’s art and what’s not?
“A photograph can’t be art; anyone can take a picture.”
How many photographers have bristled at that comment? Or laughed?
When it comes to the ‘is it art’ debate, I find it useful to look at other examples.
For instance, we can all sing in the shower or belt out ‘happy birthday’ at a party, but the most of us wouldn’t dare call ourselves an ‘artist’ – in the singing sense.
I’ve dabbled with a paint brush, even sketched a few drawings I’m proud of, but would be embarrassed to be called an artist, in the painting/drawing sense.
Practising one of the fine arts
Let’s see what my aged, 1979 Collins dictionary has to say about who can be called an artist:
art – skill; human skill as opposed to nature; skill applied to music, painting, poetry, etc.
artist – one who practises one of the fine arts, eg, painting, sculpture, etc.; applicable to any craftsman whose work is of high standard.
No mention of photography! Haha. Perhaps that’s what the, ‘etc,’ bit is all about.
The Violence And The Fury
Right, let’s leave the old Collin’s dictionary and roll forward a few years – the days of the year website promoting International Artists Day made this statement in 2016:
“International Artists Day honors those creative souls that will leave a record of today for the future that can’t be captured in history books. The anguish and joy of the human soul is portrayed through the haunting tones of a melody, the violence and fury caught in a photograph, or the serene gaze of a statue staring off into eternity.”
There you have it folks, it’s official! Photography has a seat at the art table.
Influence and Inspiration
Of course, the art world doesn’t live in neat little boxes, rather, the different forms and disciplines are constantly overlapping.
Paintings, drawings, photographs, music, poems, sculptures, graffiti… one is constantly influencing and drawing inspiration from the other.
Distinguishing between what is and isn’t ‘art’ is often down to quality and craftsmanship behind the final product. Creative work produced at a high quality, tends to automatically, be more widely appreciated and thus, acknowledged as art.
Styles Of Photography As An Art Form
Photography, of course, has many styles; many disciplines. So which style of photography, is art?
Fine Art photography sounds obvious.
Classic portraiture that captures a mystical mood and stirs emotions in the viewer – that must be art, right?
But then if I think about it, interior and real estate photography is a bit of an art form. Capturing a sense of warmth of a room, showing off lines of architecture, managing light in cavernous spaces; it’s painstaking work and a lot harder than the glossy brochures suggest.
If I think about it a little more, street photography must also be an art form. Many photographers get the cold sweats at the thought of street photography, approaching complete strangers and trying to capture intimate images that don’t look like cheesy snaps.
Photo-journalism I’m convinced is an art form. Sensing the mood of an event, instinctively knowing to be on the other side of the road, or behind a crowd instead of in front; Recognising how changing camera position could tell the complete story in one frame. Good photo-journalists can often identify an otherwise ordinary shot where the historic value won’t mature until a few years later.
Again, it would seem when photography (like painting) is used as the tool to purposely create an image, it is more likely to take on artistic value.
Soft Re-Touch Of The Digital Artist
While the age-old principles of photography (light, composition and camera handling) are as important as ever, the 21st century photographer must also contend with computerised post production. Re-touching or digital editing, is a whole new skillset on its own.
Photoshop has become the weapon of choice which we all need to know, but the vast array of post-production options on a computer is endless. Rarely if ever, now, is an in-camera shot sufficient.
Digital enhancing, manipulation and correction is an art form in itself. In fact, there are specialist re-touchers who ply their services to photographers that choose to outsource this vital work.
Modelling headshots are retouched.
Digital software has also enabled amazing techniques of photo-stacking and blending.
Is Photography Art? What Do History Books Say?
Really, all styles of photography could be interpreted as an art form, particularly when crafted at a high quality and the final pictures convey mood and tension and purpose.
Anyway, that’s my two pence worth in support of photography as an art form.
Both Sharon and I have a great appreciation for art in all its formats, all its shapes and sizes and especially for the artists whose passions lie behind it.
On International Artist Day this post celebrates and pays tribute to just a few of those creative souls we’ve encountered along the way who are recording today for the future, in unique and creative ways that history books can never do.