seeing photography as art

On this page, from time to time, I will express some of my thoughts with respect to Seeing Photography as Art.

1. Perception
You stop to look at a photograph you have not seen before. You want to make sense of what you are viewing, so subconsciously you ask yourself: What is it a photo of and where was it taken?

Most often the answers come easily and you are able to put the image into a satisfying context. Other times, however, your curiosity takes over and you move in for a closer, more in-depth look.

Questions flow: What is the image about? What could it be or represent? Are you attracted to it? Why? If not, why? …

We all perceive things differently and will have different answers to the questions. Sometimes the lines or shapes or tones attract us. Sometimes the image will remind us of something from the past and feelings will be released. Sometimes our imaginations will engage and take us to strange places, perhaps evoking senses other than sight. Ultimately, though, we usually reach a conclusion, deciding whether or not the photograph holds some sort of significance for us.

My final question: Is the image you are looking at merely a tree, or a building, or a person, or … something more? Could it be art? It’s all about your Perception.

2. Photography as Art
Walking through a forest, you come across a tree that intrigues you. You take out your cellphone and take a photo that you really like. Have you created a work of art? Will others agree?

Can all photographs be considered art? Probably not. Can some photographs be considered art? YES! Which ones? I believe, the ones created by photographic artists.

Iconic photographer Edward Weston is quoted as saying, "To photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock." Photographic artists see this quote as a credo for their work.

As with everyone else, artists have their own unique minds, their unique ways of seeing, and their own, unique ways of expressing what they see, think and feel. Thus, when photographing a rock, or any subject, to be more than it is, photographic artists use their skills (photographic and otherwise) and creativity to produce an image that responds to the significance that the subject holds for them. How successfully they express their vision is for the viewer to judge, but the result is … a creative image. If a number of photographic artists photograph the same tree, no two final images would be the same. Each artist would come up with their own unique, individual and distinct, creative image.

Photographic artist and author Guy Tal says this about a creative image, " A creative image is an experience in itself, an aesthetic experience, something new the artist has given the world." He is definitely talking about art!

So, if you have used the skills of a photographer combined with the mindset of an artist to come up with a creative image of your intriguing tree, you have produced a work of art.

3. Producing Photographic Art
Almost everyone takes photographs. It’s simple. Aim your cellphone at your subject and click. You might be very pleased with your image, but have you created a piece of art that will engage others? Perhaps, but likely not. Producing photographic art is hard work.

As author and photographic artist Guy Tal states, “A photographic artist uses photographic tools with the mindset of an artist, not to take pictures of things, but about things.” …about things!

Photographic artists use their skill and creativity to produce images that express the significance that they see, perceive, or feel in a subject. For example, they can perceive the subject as a metaphor for a certain concept, idea, or emotion. Their job, then, is to successfully transform their vision of the subject into an image that will be a source of contemplation for others.

To allow for this transformation, many things have to be taken into account. First, to capture the image: appropriate camera and lens, lighting (intensity and direction), vantage point and perspective, deciding what to include in the frame and what to exclude, depth of field, shutter speed, filtration. Then, decisions must be made as to the manipulation of the captured image to express the artist’s intent, whether it be on a phone app, in a program such as Photoshop, in a traditional wet darkroom or by some other method, or whether no manipulation at all would be most appropriate. Finally, display decisions must be made, such as: size of print, canvas, aluminum, glass or paper substrate, type of paper, printing method, mounting method, mat type and colour and frame type and colour. Paramount throughout the entire process is the recognition that all decisions and considerations must be made with a view toward reinforcing the artist’s vision for the image.

Then, with the final print in hand, the artist must sit back and consider whether or not they have produced something of significance that they wish to share. Most often, this is the hardest decision of all.