Photography is not art

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by charles_wood, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. A few days ago a foreign visitor entered my gallery and spent about fifteen minutes browsing. She kept coming back to one image and finally commented, " I love that image (an image of Yei bi Chei and Totem Pole at dawn in Monument Valley) and if it was a painting I would buy it". I ask her quite politely why it would have to be a painting. She replied that it is "only a photograph" and brush strokes would allow her to experience the emotion the artist experienced while creating it and photography is only pictures created on computers. I then explained the picture was originally created on film, with a lot of planning and working with a native Navajo guide to find the spot that I pre-visualized. She shook her head and said, "I'm sorry, it is only a photograph".

    Needless to say, I was a bit taken back. Had she stated she did not care for my work I would not have been offended. I can tell when a visitor is either moved or bored by my work but I found her denial of photography, in general, as less than art to be offensive and ignorant. I also found her incorrect observation that all photography comes from computers (like milk comes from a grocery store) to be a misconception among a growing number of people.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience and how did you handle it?
  2. I haven't had too many of those. Something of the opposite, sometimes, though... where a person stops too look at an image and says, "Is that a painting? Or like, a thing you did on the computer?" And I'll say, "No, that's a photograph, and sure it got handled after the fact to deal with the post-production required to make a print that I liked - just like I spent years doing in the darkroom, with film." And, if I play my cards right, I'll end up with a customer who likes the image even more, because they realize that it's not a confabulation, a composite, or something that I "brushstroked" into existence. They like having the image's backstory, hearing about how I made the light do something, or what it took to cause something to appear or happen the way it did.

    It really doesn't matter, of course. People will say anything in order to back away from making a purchase without just coming right out and saying, "I don't feel like buying that photograph today." I've heard 'em all, and the same lines are used both honestly and disengenuously by different people. Comments about their budget, whether it will go with their furniture, whether their spouse will like it, whether they can get it on the airplane, whether they'd rather see a painting based on the photo, whether they think it's worth buying a print and mounting job entirely in archival materials when it's just going to be in their office lobby for a year or two, and so on. Some people are telling you exactly what's on their mind, and some are just trying to throw you a seemingly viable excuse for disengaging, conversationally.

    I'd never be offended by someone saying photography can't be art, because they're either lying or they're uninformed. I'm not insulted if they're ignorant (I just try to help), and if they're such buffoons that they think they'll somehow smooth over some social discomfort or manage to talk me into lowering a price because they've described a silly understanding of art ... bah, I just don't care. I might be curious to understand their clunky world view a bit better, but mostly there's no helping people who toss out little conversational hand grenades like that - they're motivated by things a lot more complex than a shallow understanding of photography as an artform.
  3. There are dumb people around in the world. Nothing anyone can do about it, it will always be like that. Better not to bother wasting time on it - concentrate on trying to get through to people with an ounce or more of brain and common sense.
  4. It's an opinion. Opinions are like anal orifices--we've all got one.
    I hear this all the time. For many people, art equals painting. You can blame this on ignorance or on badly-taught art history courses. Ask someone to name a great artist; you'll probably get DaVinci or Michaelangelo or maybe Renoir or Picasso. You won't get Weston or Penn or Mapplethorpe. There is a common conception even among some photographers that photography is, or ought to be, easy. Hence the ridiculous obsession about 'photoshopping'--"Why can't you get it 'right' in the camera?" (In the film era, there was a smaller, but similar, reaction against 'darkroom tricks'.)
    In my (very unscientific) sampling, I have noticed that this prejudice falls away among people who are computer literate. Those who are not believe that software is magic--presumably you hit the Create Masterpiece button, and out pops 'Moonrise'. Without appropriate suffering, there can be no art, correct?
    I think too that this attitude results from the fact that anyone can take a picture. In the age of evaluative metering, anyone can take a properly exposed picture. (Depending on your definition of proper exposure.) I am not an admirer of Annie Leibovitz, but I bridle instantly when someone says that they could do as well as she if they had the staff, and the lights, and the makeup and... I call it the Martha Stewart effect. A co-worker pooh-poohed Martha's career as a very highly paid caterer by saying, "She has all these people. I could do that." I asked her the difference between larding and barding, and she fell silent.
  5. It's not always verbalised so directly, but I get that impression fairly often at my own small summer gallery. I handle those apparently similar rejections, of photography not being the equal of paintings, very easily. You cannot expect to convince everyone that photography can be art. I am interested in the person who looks mainly beyond the method of making an image and appreciates the print for what it communicates to him or her. If he or she appreciates also the techniques and materials I've employed in the darkroom, or sometimes in the lightroom (mainly for the colour images), so much the better.
    What usually happens when the viewer doesn't appreciate photography is either a complete rejection of the presence of the framed photographs (they don't bother looking at them), no comment after looking at several, or many very laudatory comments about how they love certain works (and yet do not feel inclined to purchase one of them). They often like the photographer's way of using the subject matter but not the product. These are more discrete rejections, but are not particularly offensive to me. My gallery also has 60 or 70% of its space devoted to other art (sculptures, paintings, most of them being abstract or expressionist in nature) and many of these receive little attention, although they are in my opinion very good work. The percentage of art collectors who visit is fairly small, with most visitors being tourists or interested local people. I expect that most are curious but not necessarily those who are looking for art to grace the walls of their homes.
    Not sure that my comments will assuage your obvious sadness of the sort of response you received from one visitor, but we live in a world where photographic and cinematographic (including video) imaging is so prevalent that it is not unusual for many to think of otherwise fine photographs, of unusual or compelling glimpses of the world, as being "just another photograph." Persist in showing what is important to you and you will likely find a more appreciative audience than that one person.
  6. I don't handle it. They're entitled to their opinion, and I'm not about to waste my time attempting to change it. Photography has proven itself in the art world for generations. It doesn't need defending.
  7. I think a lot of the problem is that many in the painting world feel threatened by photography and other new media. Photography and the moving image is really the art form of the moment - painting is, if not dead as an art form, at least in intensive care. If you look around your average city and look at the number of painting exhibitions compared to the number of photography exhibitions and the extent of public interest in photography compared to painting, you see that photography really is well on the way to taking over.
    Of course, the reaction of lovers of painting, and painters themselves, is to dismiss photography as not being 'proper art', that painting is somehow more genuine, etc. etc. Who can blame them for putting this forward, I'm sure I would if I were a painter. It's a marketing spiel. Some people who are just buying artwork to decorate their walls at home or in the office may buy into this because painting is, on the whole, traditional and safe (unless perhaps you're thinking of buying a Lucian Freud). You won't get into trouble with your boss by sticking a few abstract daubs on the office wall with a certificate from some gallery to confirm that it's art.
    Ultimately, it doesn't matter too much whether or not people think of photography as 'art'. If they don't, then that just means art is no longer an important and vital concept - something more important and exiciting came along. Of course, photography and new media has to be accepted as art (and of course, it has been), otherwise art itself is dying. So whether or not photography is perceived as art is not photography's problem - it's art's problem.
    Really the important bit of having photography generally perceived as art is a commercial one - that it helps to sell prints.
  8. I had an image, still life of two single shoes, one for man and one for a woman along with lipstik and head strip, this taken in studio and with back lighting, the image did show un directly the relationship between a woman and a man.
    This was on my first expedition, a man came a and asked me if like to sell this image and I told him yes, he said he like to buy it, so I asked him, what did interest him in this image, he told me that he see a wonderful art in this image and he did buy it from me.
    May photography not so pupolar like painting to so many people yet but for sure many do approciate photograpy being a fine art.
  9. stp


    The reaction from the public that bothers me the most, and which was discussed on a thread in this forum a short time ago, is the question, "Is it real?" In other words, did this beautiful photography come into being because of skillful computer work, or does it really exist in the world? Despite the fact that an artistic vision and skill would still be needed to create an image through extensive computer work, the public is reacting, I believe, to computer-dependent photographs being represented as something that came (relatively) straight from the camera. I can't really blame the public, because I see plenty of that here on PN. Comments like "nice shot" on an image that obviously owed its existence to the computer and which was never seen in any viewfinder leave me shaking my head.
  10. Well she's right on one account, photography is not painting. One big reason I love photography is because I can't paint or draw to save my life. If I had the ability to paint, I would love to do it. So is this woman saying that since I have no painting abilities I have no right to at least try to create art. To me it always seems that artistic people or people that appreciate art are usually more open minded than closed, and this woman seems like she's saying "if you can't paint, then you have no right to be artistic." I don't think that's what art is all about. Its not about shunning everyone away from being an artist, its about encouraging everyone to create art. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If she doesn't particularly like photography, then that's fine and she's entitled to her opinion, but for her to single-handedly decide that photography doesn't qualify as art is ridiculous.
  11. and just so no one misinterprets my last post, I'm not saying that photography is only for people that can't paint. That kind of makes it sound like the JV team. That's not the case at all. For me personally, I am just better at photography so that's the avenue I chose. Photography uses a completely different set of tools and requires the mind to work in a different way, a way that I just happen to be better at. So just to clear the air, I wasn't saying that photography is the JV team, photography and painting are apples and oranges and each require different artistic abilities, neither more important nor more difficult than the other.
  12. Charles, I think part of the distinction is that a painting is perceived as truly one of a kind. A photograph is perceived as being reproducible. --Sally
  13. Not to be arguementative, but paintings are also reproducable. Am I to assume that the print of Starry Night on my 3rd grade art class wall was an original?
  14. In this context Steven Penland's post is particularly interesting. In regard to photography, one can ask on the one hand, "Is it art?" and on the other, "Is it real?" In art, reality can figure centrally, incidentally, or not at all, and in any case the response (to reality, if that applies) that the work demonstrates is a significant object of contemplation; so as photographers, we might all feel trapped in the middle.
    In the specific case of Charles Wood's visitor, he might refer her to a book by a noted artist, David Hockney, entitled "Secret Knowledge." Hockney saw an abrupt change starting about 1500 in the realism with which painters portrayed their subjects, which he attributes to sketches made with optical devices such as the camera lucida.
    So Nathan, who "can't paint or draw to save my life," is entitled to tell his customers that he is a full-fledged artist employing the techniques of a Jan Van Eyck or a Raphael--on modern media, of course. ;-)
  15. Charles, I think part of the distinction is that a painting is perceived as truly one of a kind. A photograph is perceived as being reproducible. --Sally
    Possibly, but I doubt it in this particular case. As Nathan noted, paintings are often reproduced and in fact I photograph/scan original art for local artists and print reproductions for them on a regular basis. On quite a number of occasions I've had painters buy my notecards and small prints and then ask me if I mind if they create a painting from my image.
  16. I have to agree with Nathan. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. My late Dad (who taught me most of my basic knowledge about photo) never thought of photography as an art either. He wasn't exactly stupid, but just very, very technicly stagnant. There are many people out there who insist that one simply must go through a long, and arduius course of studies before one can possibly produce any kind of "art". I was dating a very nice woman a few years ago, that could simply not believe that I never took any classes in the fine arts. She loved my work, but was constantly dismayed at my lack of classical art education. To me, that's almost the same as saying that some one like Stevie Ray Vaughn couldn't be a great guitar player simply because he was self taught. Thankfully Charles, people like that woman are in the minority.
  17. Likewise, bronze sculptures by the likes of Rodin are reproducable. French adopted a law to try to limit the edition to twelve originals. I doubt that anyone would reject an original Rodin scuplture as not being art on these grounds.
    Some famous artists seem to operate studios full of sub-artists which save them a lot of the boring donkeywork of actually creating the artworks. The artist is often seen as the one who has the concept, it doesn't necessarily mean they actually do all the work.
    I was also hearing about one very famous painter who commissions someone to take a photo, which he then uses as the basis of his painting. I won't mention who because I can't be certain about the details, but understand he's very open about this fact. To me it seems a bit odd, though I'm not sure how closely his paintings follow the photo.
    A lot of painters do follow photos closely for their paintings. Again, it seems odd to me - why bother to convert the photo into a painting? It seems a bit like applying a really heavy filter in Photoshop only using your hands instead of a computer, unless the painting really is showing something different that the photo can't do.
  18. Some famous artists seem to operate studios full of sub-artists which save them a lot of the boring donkeywork of actually creating the artworks​
    Exempli gratia...
    "On Thursday, up to 17 of the 22 people who make the pills for Hirst's drug cabinet series were told their contracts were not being renewed" etc.
  19. "Has anyone else had a similar experience and how did you handle it?"
    Sure, most of my Art teachers at school did no really consider it an Art although photography was part of the Art curriculum. Actually allot of so-called artist including Michelangelo based their art works on a crude form of photography used back in those days. Allot of artist today still base their paintings off photographs. So it's not that much different than taking a photograph and putting it through Photoshop.
  20. Personally I think photography is more of a craft than an art. Sure, it can create artistic images but these usually are images of things not created by the photographer.

    Allot of artist today....​

    What is this 'allot' word a lot of Americans seem to use?
  21. 'allot' is not a word, and many, many English teachers in the U.S. try really hard to get people to stop using it...
    That aside, to the OP, in my personal experience, I have heard it from all kinds of places. Galleries, people, and more astonishing fellow art students while I was in school (most of which were in the traditional studies). Between lighting and some of the amazing post work that can be done, you can spend as much or more time/energy/thought in photography then a lot of painters do in their paintings. Really, the debate should be craftsman vs artist, independent of medium.​
  22. I figure a person can think what they want. She rejects photography as Art. Basically she probably figures why is it art. You aim your camera at something and snap it. A lot of folks feel that way and a lot of folks feel digital photography is not even photography. I do not care what they think myself, but then I am not selling stuff. Interesting thing is when I go to a museum the first thing I seek out is photographs so I guess I am the opposite of her. I love to view very old B/W photos.
  23. I've heard people complement a painting by saying, "That looks like a photograph." And I've heard people complement a photograph by saying, "That looks like a painting." So... painting should look like a photograph and vice versa. Painting and photography are too different things, and require different mental processes to complete. I know a number of paint artists who paint from photographs, and they are horrid photographers. So the skills don't translate. If someone can't appreciate good photography, it's their loss.
  24. stp


    If I find anything in two dimensions that really stirs my emotions or sparks a strong memory of something that is very significant to me, I'll hang it on my wall and call it "art." (Heck, I'll even include something in three dimensions.)
  25. Money talks. I guess at the end of the day the one buying it would do so because they feel a special affinity to it. This might be a fondness for the capture, the subject or the technique. It doesn't matter so much that it is not art. Also, photography has an immediacy about this. Your snap is the representation of an exact moment. A painting can be that but only to a lesser extent. At the end of the day, if it makes you happy thinking that you are an artist. feel that way. That is what matters.
  26. Whether photography is art may not ultimately be settled to universal satisfaction in but it has been decided in a court of law; and a very long time ago too.

    1861 in France saw photographers Mayer and Pierson bring a copyright action against the photographic duo of Betbeder and Schwabbe. The ruckus was over pirated pictures of Lord Palmerston. Mayer and Pierson claimed copyright protection under the French copyright laws of 1793 and 1810. The catch was that those laws protected only works of art so the courts decision hinged on whether photography was art.

    Mayer and Pierson lost! Photography apparently was not art according to the judgement of 9 January 1862.

    Mayer and Pierson appealed the decision on 10 April 1862. Their lawyer, a Monsieur M.Marie, gave an eloquent defence of the art of photography using many of the ideas now raised in this very thread. The court reversed its previous decision and declared on 4 July 1862 that photography was art.

    The battle was not over. Later in 1862 a group of famous painters including Ingres petitioned against the decision. The arguments they used bear a striking resemblance to the anti-art-photography sentiments recorded in this thread.

    Finally on 28 November 1862 the French court threw out the painters' petition and photography has enjoyed secure status as art ever since; at least in France it has.
  27. Some painting is art; some sculpture is art; some photography is art. Some of all three can also be craft.
    Maris, thanks for the historical note. "Vive l'art de la photographie".
  28. I say give it time. Photography is still only a hundred and fifty or so years old. Fine Art museums are just starting to add collections, or galleries of photographs and they may even get to the main floor one day. Craft or art does not bother me much in the sense that can I look at a sterling silver tureen from late eighteenth century Philadelphia, cased and under glowing halogen lights, and it sparkles, and is beautiful to behold. Product of a craft or art? Maybe both. An appreciative eye will collect same and then display in in a gallery ( not use it to spoon out Campbell's Chowder at table )... As to so called Fine Art, they considered Impressionism to be less than fine art,ergo less collectible I believe, at least at one time.
    When I see seascapes by the wall- full in little gift shops, all framed and ready to ship, "on sale today only," well, it does give the impression we are looking at stuff that is less than a Van Dyke,huh... See what I mean. To be offended is okeedokee, we all would be, the knonothings still know nothing.
    I don't sell but I appreciate. A beautiful photograph,carefullly mounted, is a work of art. Period.
  29. Charles I would just say to each and their own and move on. There's no point in debating what is art with a stranger. As soon as I heard the "experiencing the emotion the artist experienced" part I would have internally rolled my eyes, smiled, said thanks, and excused myself. That kind of smug attitude gives art a bad name. Good to correct on the ridiculous notion that all photos come from a computer.
  30. I wonder if she would dismiss Daniel Barenboim's music because it 'just comes out of a piano'. Or would she have said, "That was a fantastic peformance of Rachmaninov. What kind of piano were you using?"
  31. "I love that image ... and if it was a painting I would buy it". ... "I'm sorry, it is only a photograph".
    A person walks into a gallery of photos and say this? That's called "trolling". She must have been a bit bored, and was hoping to stir up some of the local shop keepers. :)
    But the OP learned one thing: to a non-photographer there is little difference between mechanical device and electronic device or images formed on plastic strips using chemistry and images formed by pixels using software. Photography is highly reliant on the device, and the device allows people who wish they could create such images to make excuses that it's only the lack of the appropriately fancy device that keeps them from doing so.
    "Whether a watercolor is inferior to an oil, or whether a drawing, an etching, or a photograph is not as important as either, is inconsequent. To have to despise something in order to respect something else is a sign of impotence." Paul Strand
    "From today painting is dead!" Paul Delaroche (first seeing a daguerreotype)
  32. stp


    @ Chris: Suppose she were told that the beautiful music came not from a piano but rather a synthesizer. Do you think that would have lowered her opinion of the music as art? I see the same general reaction among the public regarding photography and computers.
  33. 'When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognised as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself.'
    I'm with Edward Steichen on this one. For me photography started going downhill when it became an art form, and started appearing in galleries. Many of its exponents became pretentious. "Wahay! I'm an artist" Like a lot of modern art, photographers started producing work for other photographers and for critics, not for other people.
    Well, if people like to consider themselves as artists, then good for them. It doesn't improve the quality of their work. Surely the important thing is not whether it is art, but is it any good? All this talk of art distracts from that.
    Alan (a photographer but not an artist)
  34. Well, if people like to consider themselves as artists, then good for them. It doesn't improve the quality of their work. Surely the important thing is not whether it is art, but is it any good? All this talk of art distracts from that.​
    "Any good" by what standard, Alan? Are you referring to technical skill? To some standard of fidelity to color or sharpness? Or are you referring to the image's ability to communicate what the photographer had in mind? Would you consider a photo-realistic painting to be "better" art than see-the-brush-strokes work from Monet or Van Gogh? Be specific: would you consider Van Gogh's works to be paintings that are "any good," or are you distracted by what he was communicating with his chunky, fanciful works?
  35. Many people honestly believe that a good photograph comes from a good camera and/or from Photoshop. It's not surprising that some of them, therefore, do not see photography as art, or see it as a lesser art form than painting. We can thank camera and software advertisements, at least in part, for this flawed and naive perception.
    The mindset of these people is that you point an expensive camera at something, press a button while on full auto, select a couple commands in Photoshop at home, and you end up with something just as good as the work of Ansel Adams. Seriously. They don't begin to understand any of the real work involved in producing a compelling image.
    It's especially ironic that they assume Photoshop is a piece of magic that turns any image into gold with a few button clicks. Having worked in both the darkroom and in Photoshop I can say that Photoshop helps you work faster, but it takes just as much taste and skill to produce something worthwhile in Photoshop as it does in the darkroom.
    I also find it hilarious when people are distrustful of a photograph and want to know if it's "real." No, it's not real. It never was. At its best it's a two dimensional representation of a single sensory view of a three dimensional physical world. And even in that capacity it is, by itself straight off the film or sensor, often quite different from what your eyes would have perceived of that three dimensional world. To say nothing of what your total conscious impression would have been given all five senses in that place and time.
    Often these same people will, strangely enough, have no distrust when confronted with a B&W print they think was produced using traditional film and a darkroom. As if their eyes see the world in B&W with all the dodging, burning, and contrast enhancement one finds in a fine art silver B&W print.
    Alain Briot has a lot to say on these topics here:
    I especially liked his essay "Just Say Yes":
    Some people are honestly asking and it's worth your time to engage them and teach them about your work. Others aren't worth the time and it's better to let them walk away believing what they believed when they came in. Alain Briot has a good point when he says to do what you love, then find the audience that agrees with you. Don't worry about those who disagree.
  36. I haven't read through the responses but, why is her opinion any more, or less, valid than yours? This is all entirely subjective. If she doesn't think that photography is "art" I don't see any reason that she is looking through a photographers work, but it is her time.
    Just like any other photographer or any other artist, your work is not going to be for everyone. In this case, the trouble was the medium. In others, it will be content. To me, it wouldn't make any difference why.
  37. I find my photography is a combination of both art and science, the art for me is seeing something that naturally calls me to to capture that moment in front of me that can make me weep, be excited, disgust me, and or play all sorts of emotional havok with my heart or head. There is then the science of aperture, depth of field, contrast, exposure, framing etc. which is then, further along, in combination with a dark room, or O.S. that can allow me to finely hone what I see in front of me.
    If the customer who walks into my exhibition, or sales area does not appreciate what I have on view, then, that isn't my problem, they just can't see what initially took my breathe away or stilled my mind to the extent of driving out any other extraneous thought. There are usually other people who can, and it will effect in them, a similar response, so, don't be disappointed, or critical of that person who doesn't see what you did, as beauty and art is a very individual thing of the heart and mind in us all. Just as to me, planetary gear in a final drive is a thing of beauty, others would see it as a combination of metals, and not appreciate it for what I see it as...a thing of beauty and science.
  38. In our gallery we sold a myriad of art works. We sold wood, glass, paintings, photography and sculpture. Our clients knew simply from the fact that our work was in an art gallery that all the items for sale were indeed art. It is rather difficult for me to understand how someone could view the beautiful photographic work that is created today and still not consider it an art form. I guess this is a situation were we can choose to enlighten the buyer or quietly say, "to each his own".
  39. Well if you faced just a single person here on photo net (no offence) but someone should come and visit Bangladesh (My Motherland), and I am proud of it.
    But people are growing up with a totally misconception, here only a few percentage can visualize what art is. The rest really don't care, if you are standing with a camera then you are just another guy who doesnt have an aim in life. They would stare at you as if you are the new arrival in the city zoo.
    But even then I love my country, not being modest but this land has given me so much of experience and knowledge that i feel that i owe my Motherland a lot. But yes there are people who would still appreciate a good piece of photography and not treat it like a computer generated knowledge.
    Sir Charles the person who described photography to be computer generated and not an art, maybe its not his/her fault at all for how she is judging the work. Maybe its his/her surroundings that have taught her what she is feeding as knowledge on. May be she has never had the experience of having taken a shot that might make his/her memory dual in those pictures for life.
  40. Don't you know Charles, it's photography anyone can do it. I mean all photographers do is just press a button. At least that was what I was once told while I was working as a cruisehip photographer. Maybe if your shot was out of focus with a holga she might feel it was more like art.
  41. Van Gogh in his time was not art. And he was a painter.
  42. Van Gogh in his time was not art. And he was a painter.​
    Ah, I see. To help clarify things, then, please provide your definitions of "art" and "artist." Thanks.
  43. The idea that photography is "Art" is a relatively new one started by galleries twenty or thirty years ago who represented photographers to enable them to sell their work, I've been a photographer for fifty six years and consider photography a craft not art, and I get very annoyed when people consider themselves artists as soon as they can take recognisable images of people or landscapes.
  44. The idea that photography is "Art" is a relatively new one started by galleries twenty or thirty years ago who represented photographers to enable them to sell their work.​
    So Steichen and all of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Pictorialists didn't consider themselves artists? Their works didn't hang in art galleries and weren't shown in salons? Same holds for Adams, Weston and Strand, sixty or so years ago? This is revisionist history with a vengeance. Do yourself the favor of reading a good text on the history of photography. Beaumont Newhall's will do.
    "I do not profess to have perfected an art but to have commenced one, the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain. I only claim to have based this art on a secure foundation."
    William Henry Fox Talbot, ca. 1854
  45. I wrote this dialogue as an article to one of Arabic forum. As I think it has some relationship with the subject of matter. So today I translate it for you, and I hope it contain something good.
    • Is photography an oppressed art ?.
    To some extent, I think so.
    • Why?.
    Because most of those who examine beautiful photography works ask about the camera used by the photographer and do not think about the great capability owned by the photographer.
    • Where is the flaw in that?.
    In fact, there is no problem if this guys when they listening to the player of guitar also ask .. what kind of guitar that plays on?. Or they ask for materials used by the painter. This is the side of the wrongs and unfair to the photographer.
    • Do you want to abolish the role of the camera or lens in the production of beautiful works?.
    I certainly do not mean that at all. I want to say, is that beautiful image comes from the capability of the artist first, just as the case with the beautiful music played by the musician. Beautiful Art is comes from the skill and creativity of the human and no matter how good machine he use.
    • However, don’t you think you can not compare photographer with painter or player of music?.
    That may be true at the beginning. What I mean here, when you give anyone violin and camera, for example, and tell him to play a melody then to take a picture for some thing. Certainly will be the most easier for him is taking the picture.
    • So there is no injustice, the painter and musician are best in place.
    I previously said, if you give a violin and camera for one who did not know the use of two machines, then for this man the camera is more easer to use. But what if we gave the violin and the camera for a man who already had learned to play violin, here the case will be different, and you will notice that he able to play a much more beautiful than any picture will take.
    • And How do you explain that?.
    This means that one needs time and effort to learn the art of photography is less than what he needs to learn the art of drawing or playing. But once he know the two together, it becomes the process of producing a distinct photo or exceptional piece of music or painting, will depend on the capabilities of his creativity. And both cases require the talent of creation and imagination without the despite of education and practice.
    • And how to read the limits of art creativity?.

    The most important requirements is the AESTHETICS AND ORIGINALITY. There is no art without beauty and no creativity without originality. Musician will remain an emulator of others until his performance is linked with creativity. And also the photographer will remain in the possibilities of his camera or up to a pretty picture he take it by chance, Unless he can provides an integral works with excellence in aesthetic and originality.
  46. I was walking across the street one day, years ago, in the NYC photo district, and overheard two young women discussing their career plans. One said "I would like to be a photographer. but anyone can do that." I laughed and did not get involved. The perception by the uneducated is that photography is a second rate activity not an art. This is a result of ignorance. Photography is far more difficult than people realize, it is an art medium, and to do it well, consistently, requires years of experience & training. But those without that experience and the sensitivity required, are not educated enough to see that.
  47. What art is, has to my knowledge never been properly defined. That is to say, I don't know any clear definition of art, that any and all can get behind. This means, that the experience of art is very personal. Whether photography is considered art, is surely up to the individual to decide. To say, however, that an image is not art, because it is not a painting, is, to my mind at least, not very convincing.
    I don't think that photography is more misunderstood than so many other things in life. Science (natural as well as humanistic), architecture, language, medicine, literature, religion, and so on and so forth, all suffer from misapprehensions. I think many amongst us (if not all) tend to see themselves as belonging to a group of enlightened people, no matter what the specific area of enlightenment pertains to, be it photography, art, cars, hopsital administration, biology, or whatever it may be. All people who are not in the know concerning this specific area, will give their opinions about things we consider within our personal ontological horison, and will by us, sometimes, be seen as being wrong, rude, idiotic or all of the above.
    Frustrating as other people's opinions might be, we have to live with them, just as well as other people have to live with ours. I don't know if this post has brought anything new to the discussion or said anything that nobody already had floating in the back of (or, perhaps, in the front of) their mind. These are just thoughts.
    Regarding the specific case in question, the woman complaining about the non-artness of the photograph, I myself, think her to be quite in the wrong, and her comment to be very uninformed and bordering on the dim. This, however, is only my own personal opinion.
  48. To quote somebody "Art was invented in the early 18th century by an Italian junk dealer when he discovered he could charge English m'Lords on a Grand Tour three time a much for his soot covered old pictures by calling them 'oggetto d'arte da mastets vecchio'-(art objects by old masters).
    Art is done by artists when they are in an artistic mood. Craft is done by craftsmen when they land an order. By this definition Jackson Pollock is an artist and Raphael is a craftman.
  49. The inventor of photography, Joseph Nicephore Niepce (1765-1833), made no claims to artistic talent, but if art is imagination, he did pretty well as an inventor:
    First photograph and first photographic process (1826), following former failures, based upon bitumen based emulsion and nitric acid fixer.
    First (primitive) internal combustion engine, working with a powder fuel (intended to power boats for Napoleon, but not developed beyond prototype scale).
    If art is a creative process, he was an artist, of sorts. If your photography involves creative thinking in realising an image that otherwise would not exist, why not accept the activity as art. It may not be great art, but a lot of things also exist to varying degrees.
  50. I tend to regard the act of photography and most of its usage as communication rather than as fine art. That's probably a reflection of my own rather unimaginative view of fine art. From that limited perspective I can see why some folks might regard photography as a lesser art.
    I tend to reserve that term for physical art objects: photographic prints, paintings, sculpture, etc. And I tend to distinguish between various types of photographic prints in terms of monetary value and technical value because of the cost of materials and effort in creation. But I don't necessarily regard, for example, a platinum print as aesthetically "better" than a gelatin silver or inkjet print of the same photograph.
    Many forms of communication may be art forms as well, especially performance art in all its permutations. So even a photograph or photo essay that's only viewable online may be a form of artistic communication. And I consider something as intangible as a single live theatre performance without any record of its existence apart from my own memory to be as valuable on a personal level as any art object that I can physically see, touch or possess.
  51. "photography is not art" is utter BULLSH*T. I hear this a lot from painters and sculptors who feel that if you are not creating the object yourself it can't be art. It's pure snobbery and if tou ask me, pure ignorance. Photographers have been fighting this battle for years. Never forget, art is in the eye of the beholder.
  52. I was just admiring a big scuplture that someone had knitted from wool. I'm fairly sure it was art.
    I think art can be knitted, projected on a wall, performed, printed, chiselled out of rock, daubed on a canvas, or eaten. It's not the physical form that makes it art, it's how brilliantly creative and orginal, to what extent it expresses something that isn't banal or cliched, etc. that matters. And no, I don't think great photos have to be printed to be art. The print is just one way of showing it to us. Maybe the print is a nice, tactile way that allows us to buy it and invest in it and possess it, but it's still just one way.
  53. Of course it (almost) goes without saying that nearly all photography is not art.
    It's the tiny miniscule ten hundred thousandth of a percent of photography that is actually original etc. that is art. The rest of it is just photography, or craft, or a record, or junk, or a memory, or something.
  54. In our culture of listening first to be offended, I'm not surprised at your reaction.
    So she doesn't feel photography is art? How is that offensive to you? Did she call you racist words? Did she laugh at photos of your children?
    You could have engaged her by asking if live theater is art, isn't a movie? I'd say relax and don't be offended by peoples disagreeing opinion as that is not a very enlightened view.
    Matt, Mark is correct in the context he wrote. Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, he would have been better off painting houses and not Starry Nights. His work was basically thumb tacked to walls. But that almost sums up the Impressionist Movement, it wasn't considered art in it's beginning.
    In most ways I agree with Lex. Photography is mostly illustrative, but many works cross that line and should be fine art. This is reminiscent of one of my favorite books, Robinson Crusoe illustrated by Wyeth. Wyeth's illustrations are most excellent, but not art by some peoples definition.
  55. I grew more and more uninterested in the question as time passed, mostly because I grew uninterested in the definition of "art". If you start discussing whether photography is art (or, if a specific photograph might be art), it is because you have a definition of art, a setting of its frontier so that you can say: this is in, this is out. Such definitions have been shattered so many times in history that their pointlessness should be quite obvious by now. Art has no hard definition. The Sistine chapel or the Brandeburg concerts are for sure art. Me scribbling a telephone number over a post-it is not art for sure. For a lot of stuff in between one could go on discussing forever, without such discussion accomplishing anything, adding an atom of understanding to the work you are looking at, or advancing your appreciation of beauty by as much as a nanometer."Art" as a word has its uses, but if one wants to use it as a scalpel to separate the worthy from the unworthy, well, it is his/her problem.
    Besides, I have seen plenty of ugly art, and plenty of beautiful non-art. So why exactly should I want photography to be art?
  56. Art is "Art", and photography is photography.
  57. and painting is painting and sculpture is sculpture and an elephant is an elephant. Except when it isn't, of course.
  58. This question is not limited to photography. The question '...but is it art'? came up with Jackson Pollock, Damien Hirst, Tracy Emmin and host of others be it a painting, a sculpture or whatever.
    One complication may be that for much of its early life phorography was a 'medium of record' and left painiting to delve into the abstract. And this is a cloak it has found hard to shrug off.
    And the question of 'is it real' is almost irrelevant. How many paintings are accurate to the scene they actually portray - with objects such as 'inconveniently' placed trees omitted from the final result? The first 'Paintshop Pro'? :)
  59. A friend's wife told me many of my photos look like pictures in postcards. In the set of pictures in view, there were no pictures of people, as in snapshots or portraits. I gave it some thought. Not because I was disappointed or defensive, but simply for her point-of-view. I had never thought of my pictures from any commercial perspective.
    As an amateur, photography is a personal and enjoyable use of my time and resources. It's an end in itself. Like going fishing.
    So what makes Art? The creator or the viewer? Or the marketplace?
    I think Art is in the Eye of the Beholder.
    I think there's also some ambiguity about a painting vs. a photographic print. Is the object itself, the painting or print, art? And what about the pursuit of ... the completed painting or print, does the print workflow involve no art? Or perhaps, only the unique frame of processed film from which the print evolved is equivalent to a painting.
    Returning to my friend's wife's comment, her comment did not lessen my appreciation of my prints. Each was it's own expression of a time and place which evoked ineffable sparks in my perception. And I have found other photographer's images, on the internet as well as in print, just as enjoyable, and many many times, enviable.
    So my response might have been "Thank you. Look around anyway. If you have any questions, just ask." And I would leave her to her muse.
  60. does the print workflow involve no art?​
    I would describe the workflow as a craft rather than an art.
  61. The way I see it is that a photographer is not an artist, instead we are skilled craftsman with our end product being a photograph. To me my photographs are a finely made, hand crafted product of knowledge and science, guided by my vision. They are nothing more, noting less. Much like a great furniture craftsman would call a table he just finished, a table. Now someone else might see my photograph or the furniture makers table and call it a work of art. The point I'm making is that it's up to the individual to decide for his/ her self when something becomes a work of art, or if it ever does.
    Consider this; if you sat your camera on a tripod, framed up a scene, and set all the controls and took a picture, then left it sitting there, even a complete novice could walk up to the camera press the button and get about the same picture. If an artist left all of his tools setup just like he used them to make a painting, could a novice walk up to the canvas and create the same painting? My point is that we do not actually create anything, we merely provide the vision and craft skills to use science and technology to produce a photograph. Nothing to be offended by or ashamed of, it's what we do, and some do i much better than others. Be proud to say "I'm a photographer." If I wanted to be an artist then I would try to learn to do something that causes me to create and not just produce. Just my way of seeing things, no one has to agree.
  62. a little late into the conversation, but the word 'artist' or the 'art' of something is pritty much an adjective discribing some one's ability to portray what they are doing, be it throwing a ball, painting a picture or even using words, it's an 'art' form.
    most people have a secondry langauage in their mInds, e.g. the same word having both a dictionary meaning and a greater 'meaning' when used with other words, emfasis and gesture to make it 'something' more, in short, meaning something else thats only applicable to themselves or others that get the meaning within the conversation.(the words become their own)
    so 'art' is an oil painting to one person, containing various variables or rules, to another its the 'freedom of art' to portray pritty much what ever you want to 'say' with that medium, the word medium meaning 'materials used to create a palet or texture or style, whichever words you chose to 'make the picture' 'make the model' or to make the visual 'thing' that someone looks at and likes, or just something you yourself likes, the rest is intent for a particular 'sector' which then concurrs rules and similarities etc.
    a photogragh, or more to the point 'just a photogragh' is simply a mecanicle reproduction of a scene, photograghy is the art of making an image with the medium of a camera.
    A holiday snap shot is a mecanicle reproduction having meaning to any one who gets personaly involved or has any intrest in seeing nothing more than a recorded version of something. It's made 'something' by the veiwer, given a value if you like, the rules are simple enough for all to see, i.e. 'the missis semi clad with great tits' 'the big musium we saw' 'cute kid vomiting that ice cream we allllllll told um not to eat'.
    Art comes in when things are not as they seam, or depending on how you see it, created to give that 'value' facter of a moment, so already the rules start to become aparent, so already that 'just a photogragh' coment(implying no skill with a brush therefore not an artist) is incorect.
    Alas, to the woman the photogragh could have been picasso's left nipple preserved, but it was'nt an art work, so she didnt like it/wouldnt pay for that. It was a mecanicle 'reprint'.
    As with all art's theres umpty seven ways to look at it, not including standing on your head or squinting in funny maners.... but at the end of the day the less you know the more some thing becomes 'pritty' not pritty'... 'like it' dont like it'... a real basic inanimate object that some one did not asign any 'value' to. The more you know the more it becomes a nice DOF, good scene, great exspresion captured, all the things we'd apply to anything, be it a painting, a car....the garden rake etc. 'hows it feel'...(not just a 2-D image that looks 3-D).
    the more you know the easier it is to slip into a train of thought that becomes mecanicle, or tecnicaly perfect, as such it can lose that very facter and becomes nothing more than 'a photo' in the sence that a machine reproduced an exact copy, another machine printed no human factor.
    'Art' being a 'free hand', or has the human facter of creativity, which in a lot of photograghy really does have the individuality or style 'of', so certainly does dipict or evoke a 'responce' that has been created.. so again, is an 'art'.
    a loverly play on word's no more no less........... ' i desided it wasnt' the other 90 people desided it was art... here's where words and popularity enter the twighlight zone and become politicaly motivated into popularity and keeping up with the jones's and any real meaning or value is lost in the arguement of individuals who've rightfully or rongfully claimed the fame for themselves.
    'did you like it', what has that got to do with another persons veiw...freedom. (apon stamping out the 3 year olds art and installing some one elses?.....)
    arts what you make, with whatever you make it.....polotics is the art of stealing some one elses for your own, or plainly aflicting your own onto another..that isnt 'art' it's an act of agresion, an act to steal or distroy.
    the big question here is, if you 'conform' to the mass's are you prostituting your self? or merely apllying your skill(art) to an end.
    a quote 'my religion is my own and not for sale. My art you can buy, take it or leave it'.
  63. That's why we call them foreigners.
  64. david_henderson


    It is entirely a viewer's prerogative to like, dislike, dismiss or ignore any genre of what other people might deem "art". Personally I get little enjoyment from poetry or sculpture. There are whole classes of music that I dislike and others I love. The original comment is about on the level of "ugh, it tastes of celery; I can't stand celery"- its just a personal reaction and as photographers we have to accept that our work will resonate with some people and not with others. There are lots of people for whom the value of any photograph which contains no personal connection to them is the price of getting an enlargement made at Walmart or wherever, period. We need to find and communicate with people who don't think like that - its too hard to change their mindsets.
  65. in art has many definitions, i quote some: " .. the ... production, expression.. according to aesthetic priciples, of what is beautiful, .. or of more than ordinary significance. " and " skilled workmanship, execution or agency, as distinguished from nature."..
    photography then is ( or at least CAN be) art..
    to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of photography ( a certain type of it ) is that you can emphasize or reveal something breathtakingly beautiful ( sometimes hidden to the casual observer) that we know actually exists in nature and is not imaginatory.. numerous examples can be found in this wonderful site..
    as to the linguistic definition, afterall, i think it's of less importance..
  66. I am an American, and I can tell you that in my country, the term "art" has a strong connection with the concept of drawing
    or sculpting skills. The common conception is that if you drew it by hand or sculpted it from clay it's art, but if you just
    pointed a camera at it and pressed the shutter release it's not art, it's a photograph. I even get this attitude from close friends. This might have something to do with the way that art appreciation is taught, but it probably has more to do with
    the fact that photographic technology is newer, I.e. Leonardo didn't take photos, but rather he painted and drew his works
    because that's what artists do. That plus the fact that everyone has taken lots of photos in their lives, so they assume that
    all photography is as easy as pressing a button and letting a little machine make all of the technical decisions.
  67. Very briefly:
    Art as close to the magical aura which is surrounding the artworks and the viewer perceives that magical aura at first look.
  68. Well said, Mr. Jasim. It doesn't often happen, whatever the medium, but that distinction is a good one.
    I think that what Dan South describes in his last post is not just an American way of thinking but a very simple and superficial perception of art that is quite pervasive in many countries. The education on art and ontology is not given much attention, at least in the West. I cannot speak for the East, where the thinking is probably more related to the nature of being and art as an example of that. That sort of more sophisticated approach seems to be appreciated mainly by the cognozenti in the West.
  69. so art being anything with that 'aura' as discribed above, be it clip art (old or new) oil, or printed gloss... the printed gloss/cyber aspect just being the carrier medium to relay the informasion..
    or a it is art in it's own way if it's good enough,
  70. I really don’t know why some of those people are going off subject, but photography is just like painting. They say anyone can push the button of a camera, that’s why they think it’s not art. Don’t listen to them. Photography is considered an art when proficiently done, it captures the mind, emotions, and imaginations of the viewer.

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