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Photography, art or craft? Half a$$ed poll.......


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On a different thread a seemingly innocent question turned into the

typical digital vs "traditional" thread. As if this was not bad

enough, one of the arguments explaining the lower prices of ink jet

prints was that they are mechanically reproduced, to which the

digital camp counter that <b>all</b> photography is mechanically

reproduced and that photographers are merely craftman. Funnily

enough, apparently I was the only one taking the position that

photography <b>IS</b> an art, albeit with some craft like elements.<p>


This being the LF forum I find this very puzzling, supposedly we

represent the pinnacle of photography for lack of a better word, in

an age of smaller and smaller cameras some which do not even require

film, we are still lugging this heavy equipment because (supposedly)

we care about the art and the quality of the work, yet I found most

people on the other thread arguing that photography is no more art

than the work done by the guy who fixes your shoes.<p>


Regardless of the differences of opinion and disagreements I would

have thought this was a common belief among this group, <b>that

photography is an art</b>. God knows I am not advocating that we all

hold hands and sing Kumbayah or pat each other in the back, like most

here there are some people I want nothing to do with and one I would

not pi$$ on if he was on fire, but all this aside I thought there was

one underlying thing that at least kept all of us coming back.<p>


So what do you all think? Art or craft? If you feel you need to

qualify your response, do so, but the first word I would like to read

is either art or craft, so I can take a "head" count sort of



I promise to stay out of this one, I simply want to know what is the

general feeling of this forum.

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I usually don't respond to topics of this kind, since the consensus is usually irrelevant anyway. However, I do have some thoughts on this particualar topic:


Firstly, "art" is a much misunderstood, misused and ambiguous term. In one sense, "art" means exactly the same as "craft" (indeed the latin "artis" just means "technique"). Take for example, "the art of motorcycle repair" or "the art of wood finishing", etc.


However, I believe the sense you are getting at is "art" as a supreme achievement intellectually, spiritually and in craftsmanship. This is much harder to define. Where does one draw the line between merely competent and workmanly and a truly inspired artwork? Why is Mozart generally better than Salieri? Is a bad piece of music, photograph or painting still "art", just "bad art"? Is one person's "kitsch" still "art"? Is it "art" if it gets into a gallery?...


Rather than try to come up with a working definition of art, let me simply state my opintion that, somewhere along the continuum between mere craftmanship and a supremely insightful, sublime and inspiring expression, there is a point where a created work becomes "art".


Therefore, any creative discipline contains elements of both "craft" and "art". Are line illustrations for a medical text "art"? Probably not, just competent drawing. Are Dürer's illustrations "art"? They are certainly recognized as such. School portraits probably qualify more as "craft" than "art", however, Annie Liebovitz, Richard Avedon and others have elevated photographic portraiture to what is commonly accepted as "art".


The real question here is: Are we not only good enough craftsmen (craftspersons??) but also educated, insightful, creative, motivated and sensitive enough human beings to be able to cross the threshold from "craft" to "art" if that is our desire? I imagine that recognition in this respect is reserved for the few who are harder working and superiour intellects. Not everyone can be a Mozart. Most of us, no matter how hard we try, will remain shackled to mediocrity. Should that stop us? Of course not. We should always keep in mind however, that aspiration and inspiration do not always coincide. Greatness is the result of many factors, talent and hard work are principle among them, but culture, education and exposure all play roles as well. I believe most of us think of "art" as an expression of this "greatness" in some way. This automatically reserves the successful artworks to a very small percentage.


I try to make "art" with my photography. When I had a job copying artworks for museum catalogs I considered myself (in that capacity) merely a craftsman. Creating an artwork has inherently more individual communication in it as well as some attempt at universal insight and intensity (much more as well, but here we are back to trying to define "art").


So, in conclusion I must answer: Yes. Photography is craft and, in the hands of a creative master it can become art.


Maybe we should stop thinking in terms of "either/or" and, pardon the pun, black and white.


Regards, ;^D)

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For me, photography is at its best when used as a medium. When created as an

object, it does not do anything to me. Much of the contemporary photography I see in

galleries leaves me stone cold.


The photographer isolates a piece of what surrounds him and transmit it to the world.


For me, Art is creation. Photography, being a selection of things already created, is

therefore not Art.

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I am hoping that in my case the mastery of one (the craft) leads to the creation of the other (art). I do enjoy the "craft" part, the learning curve in relation to film, chemicals and gadgets. I love these toys. But if I did not feel that these tools led to something which I felt was my artistic expression of life then I would get bored with these toys fairly quickly.


I believe that most things that "create" can be artistic if done from the soul. Unfortunately, there is so much more of the other kind of work.

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Both...but the craft is more fundamental. You have to master the knobs and dials before you can make them speak for you. And most photography is craft and none the worse for it. I received loads of thanks recently for some photos taken at an in-laws family party. A straightforward job - pick the right lens, point the camera and get them to look natural. Pure craft. And that is what most people want from photography. Art is probably more what the photographer wants.
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About that "art is a creation" ... would that translate also to a "creation is art"?


If one agrees that art requires visualization, then why photography would not fall into this category? Those who disagree must see photography as nothing else but copying of what's aroud us. Is that it? Do we look at the scene from different perspectives, at how shadows fall, at how or where moving subjects place themselves, do we wait for the right time to click the shutter, DO WE - FOR GOD'S SAKE - COMPOSE WHAT WE SHOOT? Isn't this process part of "creating" something others may not see? Wouldn't this be art in its actual sense?


There is a lot of so called art out there, absolute majority of such created outside photographic medium. It's hardly anything more than a brainless garbage. I'm often glad I stuck with silver process to express my feelings.


Art or craft? Really makes no difference to me if someone wants to argue this.

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BOTH. I believe that at it's best, it's both an art and a craft. One might argue that because photographers don't "paint" the image onto the film or paper in some manual way, that it can't be art. I believe the process of selection is as much art as actual manual creation of picture elements. The photographic artist has a great free rein in lens selection, point of view, filtration, waiting for the right light, alteration of contrast range through zone system application and selection of taking aperture and shutter speed. In the darkroom, the photographer uses an entirely different set of tools. Through masking, paper grade selection, exposure, development proceedure and toning, to name a few, the artist can further manipulate the raw material into the finished product. All of these controls make up the craft of photography just as drawing, proper brush selection, knowledge and application of painting mediums and proper color mixing technique to name a few, make up the craft of painting. I think "seeing" is the real critical element in any art that is visual. All art involves mastering a set of tools. Authors and composers have to master tools. Sculpters have a set of tools to master. Yes, even the digital darkroom involves learning to use a set of tools. So, for that reason I maintain that there is an element of craft in all artistic endeavors. As to what is art? Well, that's another discussion. But, for me, art (whatever it is) is not much good without craft.
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Photography is BOTH art and craft. Art in seeing potential images, and in visualizing how that potential can be converted into strong visual statements. And craft in dealing with the technical issues involved in exposing film, making prints, matting and framing, etc.


The same can be said of other forms of visual art. Michaelangelo is aguably one of the most profound artists of all time, and yet there was an awful lot of craft involved in painting the Sistene ceiling, or hacking a statue of David from a ratty old chunk of marble. I'll bet his collection of chisels would have made even Norm Abrams jealous.



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"So what do you all think? Art or craft? If you feel you need to qualify your response, do so, but the first word I would like to read is either art or craft, so I can take a "head" count sort of speak..."


Both. Sometimes only one or the other.


A snapshot,catalog,news or fashion all start with craft. They can rise to art but usually that's not the point.


Other times it's the exact opposite. It starts with Art and the craft element isn't that important. The vision matters more then the craft elements.


Oh and "Master" Norm only likes things that plugin. If you've seen how he treats the chisels he has you know he'd never appreciate a good chisel and I hope he never touches one.

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Photographers are just another craftsperson. Some are more skilled in their craft than others. That does not make them an artist.

Some have an "eye" that others don't, and it has little to do with skill. Some have skills (craft), and an "eye". Often these people are referred to as "talented".


Art, is in the eye of the beholder.

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From my point of view, art is in the moving. When some one is moved, its art (at least to those moved). When no one is moved, its not (art). I have never understood the commonly proliferated idea that art is in the creation. IMO, a painting is no more considered art by the virtue of its creation than a photograph, sculpture, 3D work with animal dung or whatever. One persons masterpiece is a work of revulsion to others, ala the infamous "Piss Christ". Art is in the moving, and last time I checked, most people if asked, will recall having had moving experiences with photographs. So is photography art? It can be, just like any other artistic medium.
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It is both, but timing is the critical variable. Early on it is the mastery of the craft that drives the process with modest attempts at art. This is evidenced by the reading and copying what others have been successful with concerning films, chemistry, darkroom technque, equipment etc. etc. etc.


When hard work, experience and dedication result in finding your expressive skill set, now the pivotal "art" sequence either begins or one simply stays at the craft point stagnating and wondering what to do next. I call this the pretty picture syndrome and many times it (rightfully)causes reality to set in and a regression to 35mm or 6x7 takes place. And that can be a very good thing. Nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy concept as Ansel is quoted as saying. Without emotion or an ability to enter the emotional variables of the realm of true expressive art it is wasted energy and when mental frustration sets in. Just my $0.02.

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