Friday, April 17, 2015

"NO, THAT'S WHAT IT FELT LIKE"

Occassionally, someone will ask me about an image I made commenting "Is that what it really looked like?". Most photographers will answer, "Yes, that's what it really looked like" because either that is what the viewer expects to hear, or the photographer believes in his or her own mind that this was truly how it looked to them, or the photographer did not wish to explain their own artistic vision, leaving the viewer to wonder why they have never seen a landscape that really looked the way the image was presented. 

At this point it becomes necessary to introduce 'artistic expression' into the conversation. Without defining the answer within the context of art, the viewer becomes at best skeptical. My answer to this question invariably invokes skepticism, incredulity, or astonishment when I say "No, that's what it felt like". "But that's not reality" some will say. My response to this is "It was not my intention to show you reality. I am showing you how I felt when I created the image, how I interpreted the scene within my own personal artistic sensibilities".

As an artist, not as a photographer, my answer is based on how I see the world. My vision is not to represent the world as you and I see it, but rather to express how I 'feel it' using photography to express those feelings. This is why I consider myself an artist and not a photographer. The camera, software, and associated tools are just that - tools, a medium with which to express myself, a means to an end. If I were to choose paint, whether oils, acrylics, or watercolors on canvas as my medium/tools, I would still choose colors and form to express my vision. Would you then question 'Is this what it really looked like?' Probably not as we are 'conditioned' in school to appreciate art for art's sake and because we seldom ask this question when it comes to what we call 'art'. Only when it comes to a photograph do we question the veracity of it's reality. For this reason and this reason alone do we consider photography to not be one of the arts. 

And thus we come to the crux of the matter, whether or not photography should be considered art. My answer to this is that like all of the arts, painting, potting, writing, or sculpting, photography is and always will be a valid art form. The few who disparage the craft are in the minority, and for those few, my answer is to go back to school and learn that first and foremost, photography is an art form because it is the expression of the artist, regardless of whether or not it represents reality.




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