is there more to it?
All week I have been niggled by something; it keeps chipping away at my thoughts whenever they wander. I am currently working on a couple of creative photography projects which hopefully should come into fruition next year. One of these is an exhibition set within the framework of Dorset Arts Weeks. Spread throughout Dorset, artists of many genres exhibit their work over a two to three week period in June. I have enjoyed hosting exhibits in this way before. I like it because in many ways it’s contact time with fellow artists. It’s also good for business! Now in essence, this doesn’t really have much to do with this post. That said, it has prodded my thoughts on how creativity and artistic expression could influence all aspects of our photography.
Creative photography – art or representation?
In February 2016 I posted my ‘Of course it’s not art, is it!‘ blog. I told a tale of how, during a previous creative photography exhibition, a chap metaphorically speaking hit me below the belt with his views. I often get to debate whether photography should be described as (or is) an artistic medium or solely representational. The question seems to be a bit of a hot potato. I guess the argument depends on one’s viewpoint and upon which side of the fence you are sitting. The conciliatory outcome of most debates is often that normal photography is defined as representational. These are not my views I might add!
Take the artistic expression and creative photography away from me
and I would quickly take myself away from photography.
Obviously I can appreciate the need for representing what we see: passports, IDs, police mugshots, journalistic photographs are all bonafide and necessary. I also have no issue with photographers who want to use photography to capture a natural and objective scene – to represent what they saw at the time. The technical ability to produce such objectivity in that way is considerable and can include so many proficient camera skills. This may include careful planning, honed landscape techniques, weather watching and careful compositional choices. So, my concern is not that photography is perfect for representing what we see.
However, I am concerned that the refusal to accept photography as anything other than representational is holding back the medium as a recognised art form.
If we compare it to other art forms, this handicap would be like saying a paint brush can only be used to paint a house. Or in music, an instrumental piece can only be performed using a three-stringed guitar. Both could be done well but with little imagination, character or creative input from the artist.
Creative photography as an art
No matter what style of photography we choose to enjoy, the camera skills employed may often be similar. Whether representational or creative, the only real difference is in the unique mindset of the photographer. Both need a fine degree of practical skill and foresight and both will hopefully result in a pleasing aesthetic image. Creative photography and artistic expression are born in the mind.
Put another way, instead of photographing something in an objective way,
the creative thinker and artist will look to photograph it in a subjective way.
I like to think I am fairly versatile as a photographer, enjoying many styles, especially landscapes and street photography. They involve very different ways of working technically, aesthetically and practically. Whichever I choose to do, if I were to close my mind to my creative and expressive input, I would only be an operator of a small machine called a camera. As photographers, we need to recognise ourselves as artists first, with an ability to impose an important creative ingredient on our photography: an open mind.
If we say photography can only be a true representation of the view, this just damages photography as a recognised form of art.
In some ways I can understand the reticence by some to accept images that do not tow the line of conformity. This traditional and somewhat blinkered view is that it can only be captured at the moment the shutter is activated with no post processing or editing. I have often heard the words “just like the film days” uttered in defence of this – but this of course is not true. Even the earliest photography developing processes could alter and manipulate images to suit the photographer’s intentions. The advances and successes of digital photography mean we have more good processing techniques available which can be used in tandem with the camera to enhance and produce art in a non-representational way. With good camera skills, a mindful and visionary approach, wonderful imagery can be produced.
Place the camera into the hands of a creative and open-minded artist and it has
the potential to produce truly mind blowing and subjective art, all in the name of photography!
See related post: Of course it’s not art, is it!
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