>The Art of Photography

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Find Me a Good Seat, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel
From the So Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away series of Abstract Photographs
Pigment Print, 22×30 inches, $350 framed

It happened again a couple of weeks ago. It’s been brewing since.

A woman who identified herself as a watercolorist approached me and told me that she doesn’t think that photography is art.

Ok. We photographers get that a lot. Some are. Some aren’t. Some watercolors aren’t art either.

But blanket statements that photography isn’t art are getting annoying. All the more so because why I happen to hear them.

She continued: But you work IS art. I can see the stroke of your hand in your work.

Really? That’s too bad. I want people to see the work, the intent, the interpretation, the vision. I don’t want them to see my hand. She was referring to the hand-altered Polaroids. They are alternate process photography but the sculpting of the emulsion elevates them above “mere photography” in some people’s minds.

When I tried to engage her premise (that was stupid — I should have just nodded and moved one), she pressed: But this is a compliment. She was implying that she was bringing me in the exclusive fold of artists. I could leave those icky photographers behind and be a real artist.

Uh-huh. It was more like you-move-pretty-fast-for-a-fat-lady like of compliment.

First, I’m not interested in getting praise at the expense of other artists. Second, there seems to be this lingering, elitist, self-important attitude that “anyone” can take a picture, so it’s not art. This women actually said that to me too. “Anyone can take a picture, but you do something with them.”

Ok. Let me get this straight. Cameras are common, lots of people have them. All you have to do to take a picture is point and shoot. No art there. If that’s the definition of art, can anyone be an watercolorist? I have watercolor brushes, tubes and cakes of paint. If I dip the brush in the water and then in the paint and pull it across the paper, did I make “real” art?

In that context, doesn’t it seem a little silly to say that “anyone can make a photograph”?

Art is NEVER about the tools. Photographers get trapped by the temptation of the new toys all the time. We think: if only I had THAT kind of camera, I could make THAT kind of picture. Let me say it again. Art is NEVER, EVER about the tools. A camera is a tool. Nothing more.

Give a good photographer an oatmeal can, a piece of film, a pin and a piece of electrical tape, and she will make a wonderful photograph. Give most people a $35,000 Hasselblad and you’ll still get a snapshot.

So, if it’s not about the tools, what it is about? Like every other art form, it’s about the vision and the statement. The best tools in the world won’t guide your vision. Only an artist can do that.

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About jeanevogelart

Art saves lives. That's my mantra and my motivation. My primary purpose as an artist is to inspire, entertain, make you smile, make you mad, make you think or recall a memory. I strive for work that is intimate and genuine, and sometimes whimsical. It's always more than a "pretty picture." I demand a relationship.
This entry was posted in Art, Photography, Polaroid, Soap_Box. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to >The Art of Photography

  1. >I think that a lot of artists need photography from a purely documentary standpoint in order to submit work to galleries and shows (previously via slides, now with digital photos). Thus, a lot of artists may have a hard time seeing the artistic merit in it because they can’t get away from the practicality of it.I also think that there are an awful lot of photographers who are apt to complain that they are being seen differently and yet go out of their ways to create photography-exclusive shows that set them apart from other media. I realize this is in part because photography has been (and still is on occasion) discriminated against in the art world. (So is video, performance, installation…) Simply put – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If photographers want to be set apart from other artists, then they must be willing to see themselves as different somehow.To me, art is what you make of it, regardless of materials and methods. It is more in the philosophy of the approach than anything.That said, there is a lot of strong, artful photography. There are some photographs that aren’t as well. (There are also some paintings, sculptures, and other forms of expression that don’t rank high in artistic merit.)

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