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Are you an artist?
#1
Are you an artist?

Is your photography art?

Do you create art in other media, or do you live as an artist?

...these are questions that I was happy to never think about, but recently they've become important to me. I'm wondering how you feel about art, and your own personal place in it.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#2
I suppose one might look at my animal portraits as art.Smile
Sit, stay, ok, hold it! Awww, no drooling! :O
My flickr images
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#3
Software development is part science part art! Big Grin
Muzza

"The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer." -Anonymous
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#4
yes, ideally I want my work to be seen as art. I love some of my abstract shots, and actually get very different kinds of response to them, from "I don't see anything on there" to "oh, this has really deserved to be blown up and framed", so yes, I think they are not just documentary.

Matthew, what do you think your picutres are if not art??

to say whether you are or feel like an artist is a lot harder to say. I am coming from being a scientist, which is more than your professional job, it is your identity. and I believe, for artists it is similar, in ways. you can't decide on day, not to be an artist anymore, if you have it in you. and then you might have to cope with being something you find really hard to be. and what about money? do you have to live of your work? how far can you go? or do you keep your bread and butter job, and deny your being an artist.........

I could go on forever.

speaking of artists and such, I promise I will post on two people I have met this week,
Alex Cao (http://www.alexcao.com/flash.html), a commercial photographer,
and Elinor Carucci (http://www.elinorcarucci.com/), a fine art photographer.

I was fantastic to meet both, I just honestly have not had a minute to tell you about it.

uli
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#5
Here's how I'm thinking about this:

For my first question, no, I am not an artist. I say that because I don't intend to express a creative vision with my photography, and never intend to produce Capital-A-Art when I'm taking pictures. I look for a documentary approach, rather than an aesthetic one, with the subjects that appeal to me. I would rather use my flash to reveal than illuminate.

I neither create art in other media, or live as an artist. I wrote short stories when I was in high school (which is one cliche away from a child with divorced parents writing poetry) but suffered from a crushing lack of anything to say. I've remarked before that while most photographers seem to be frustrated painters, I'm a photographer because I'm a frustrated writer. My lack of anything to say is a frustration for being a photographer, as well.

Photography seems to suffer from a lack of confidence as an art form. Nikon sells its D50 by saying 'now you can take pictures just like a pro' and shows D50 LCDs displaying artworks in a gallery. (All makers have always sold cameras this way, all the way back to 'you push the button, we do the rest'.) Photography-as-art is sold as easy and accessible, so how can it be special? Many photographers, in reaction, seem eager to set the bar very high and become extremely protective of their specialness.

I've also heard the same kind of comments about painting; the "My three year old can do that" reaction to the Colour Field Art of Mark Rothko and company comes to mind. Yet painters don't seem to agonize over every schoolchild having a watercolour set.

David Levi Strauss correctly points out that photography is not art. Photography is a medium of communication. Writing, also, is a medium of communication, and it can be used to create a sonnet or a shopping list. Similarly, a photograph can be art, or it may not be.

As to my second question, is my own photography art... I don't think so. But, as with everything in photography, ultimately it's a subjective question that's best answered by the viewer.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#6
Here is an anecdote:
I'm spending quite some time at the studios of people who are funded as and consider themselves artists. Nevertheless, the other day one of them picked something up from the floor in one of the studios and asked if this item was new and had not been unwrapped yet.
The artist whose studio we were in replied that, no, this was a piece of her art, she likes to wrap things in tape.....

so even artists among themselves don't always seem to recognise all the art around them.

It was quite a revelation to me when this happened, and takes the strain from me when I am around these people and start to think about whether I want to be an artist or not.... who cares after all. I do what I love.

uli
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#7
making music and making pictures Tongue


well.
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=artist Wrote:n.
1. One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.
2. A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You are an artist in the kitchen.
3. One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts.
4. One who is adept at an activity, especially one involving trickery or deceit: a con artist.
1. sounds like a photographer.
3. sounds like a musician.
4. sounds like a photoshop-manipulation-pro or someone who uses heaps of effects... hhehe
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#8
wulinka Wrote:Jules, what do you think your picutres are if not art??
Good question... I may occasionally (and I mean very occasionally) see myself as creative, or inspired, but almost never an artist. Dunno why...

Perhaps because "artist" suggest a medium as well... I mean do you call flimmakers artists? Perhaps, but when you call someone a filmmaker, then you immediately associate the prestige and creativity that comes with that term.

I'd be comfortable in calling myself a photographer, but not an artist...
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#9
matthew Wrote:. I wrote short stories when I was in high school (which is one cliche away from a child with divorced parents writing poetry) but suffered from a crushing lack of anything to say. I've remarked before that while most photographers seem to be frustrated painters, I'm a photographer because I'm a frustrated writer. My lack of anything to say is a frustration for being a photographer, as well.
Me too!! I started using photography to express myself in lieu of writing because
1. I was strapped for time after having a baby
2. I can look at my photos and go 'that's beautiful, I like it' and although there is always room for improvement, I can still feel as if I have acheived something when I look at a beautiful photograph. But I never felt that my writing was beautiful, and it took a lot more time to get it even close.
3. I wanted to do something which I could share with others, and my writing was much too intimate to reveal to anyone, and I couldn't handle critique on my writing. I can handle critique on my photos though. Don't know why.

Basically, I wanted to get good enough so that I could hang my photographs on the wall, in the place of art. I wanted them to be aesthetically pleasing, and also of the people I love. I guess that's why I'm more drawn to taking portraits. But I really don't feel that I need to wear a label of 'photographer' or 'artist' I just want to make pretty pictures.
Canon 350D with Speedlight 580EX flash
EFS 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 II, EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM, EF 50mm f/1.8

http://www.inspired-images.com.au
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#10
I always thought of myself as an artist. Certainly there's little practical in my photos. My poetry writing has actually received some recognition so I feel safe in that claim for my writing. My photography received much less, but I soldier on. The last time I claimed to be an artist in photography I was nearly laughed off the internet. lol.
Nikon D3100 with Tokina 28-70mm f3.5, (I like to use a Vivitar .43x aux on the 28-70mm Tokina), Nikkor 10.5 mm fisheye, Quanteray 70-300mm f4.5, ProOptic 500 mm f6.3 mirror lens. http://donschaefferphoto.blogspot.com/
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#11
Sorry, I don't know why I thought you had posted this, jules, but thanks for your reply anyway!!

sorry matthew!!!!!!!
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#12
I feal that i have a " artistic mind " , and to learn how to put it on " on film " is a art form all by its self . The little bit of class that i took also said and i will try to quote , " Photography is painting with light ". Is it art, sure it is .

A photograph has to tell a story just like a book. Thats what sepperates it from a " picture " . The adds are only adds when it comes to cameras . I found this out the hard way LOL . Learning how to shoot like a pro , now thats what they havent told people how to do.

Thats just my oppinion on art . I may not see the art in every photograph that i look at , but then again people are spending big money on them.

Thanks for reading ........ Shawn
Canon 20d and a few cheap lenses ..

It is our job as photographers to show people what they saw but didnt realize they saw it ......
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#13
Thanks, everyone, for the great and thoughtful responses. Art is a hard thing to grasp, but it's fascinating to see the common threads and different resolutions.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#14
Yes I see myself as an artist. I shoot digital and then spend a good hour or sometimes more on an image in Photoshop.

My worst comment from people is " Wow that camera takes amazing photos "

what about the person behind the lens??
Retouching service at http://www.retouchme.co.uk
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#15
Oh dear, I think my jury would be out a long time on this one matthew! Just a few scattered and unsynthesised thoughts:
If art's "function" is to reflect life, then I'd reckon that documentary photography has every right to be included as art, as indeed every other "area" of photography.
Nowadays, what is considered art does sufficiently reflect society's desire to enthrone mediocrity and obsolescence: tenth-rateness and self-deluding pride has conned and lied its way into the space hitherto occupied by excellence. Thus, like the Emperor's New Clothes, we are expected to have a reverence for utter tripe just because the great and the good tell us so, whereas what we are viewing odes not actually exist.
We are fed so much delusion that we believe it: I know of many "musicians" who don't actually play an instrument or possess any musically creative sensibility; I recently left a "bohemian/poetic" circle in a local town as the "poets" were not imbued with any form other than a nihilistic "performance"-style doggerel; I see daily work by self-styled professional photographers who have no knowledge of their camera, and certainly none of what light actually does, and even less of form and composition.
"Art" is what an artisan does; that is, there should be a degree of craftsmanship, hard work, innate skill and a period of apprenticeship in which the "artist's" focus is on pursuing excellence in doing the best (s)he can, exploring the media (s)he uses to achieve this.
I'd guess the person who thinks of themselves as an artist almost certainly is not, yet they may believe so...they may even succeed in parrotting this so often that others believe them too, yet they are liars who have enthroned self-aggrandisement in the place of reality.
Traditionally, I suppose, there'd be an expectation that beauty is present in a work of artistic excellence: this beauty would only be attainable by the combination of innate skill, hard work, craftsmanship and a period of patient and humble learning.
I'd offer that beauty thus has been usurped from art for no other reason that hard work, patience and humility in learning are all considered anathema to quick-fix addicts who want to be seen as skilled immediately. I'd also offer that their egocentric, babywhining voices have all combined so noisily that society would rather nanny them by giving them what they cry for rather than what they and society actually need: tell them they are good and that they can be excellent if they have the right kit and the right money.
I plump for(said he) classical parameters here: art must have beauty, clarity, harmony, form and radiance, regardless of the expectations of others to water these down(good enough for Thomas Aquinas, good enough for me: Joyce devotes loadsa time to this in Portrait of an Artist, by the way, if ya need a reading-list; chapters 3 to 5 has the main exposition).
Don: art IS practical, that is the point of artisanship; it reflects life whilst commenting on it; heck, great artists have successfully captured and reflected the spirit of the age, the "sitz im leben". They would, though, have been laffed out of court for being charlatans, had they demonstrated poor control and less than mastery of their craft.
Must go and have a cuppa...shagged out after a long squawk!
All my stuff is here: www.doverow.com
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6mU6qaNx08
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#16
Wow Zig !!! thats deep . I dont know if i understood it all Wink, but it was deep ..
Canon 20d and a few cheap lenses ..

It is our job as photographers to show people what they saw but didnt realize they saw it ......
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#17
Zig Wrote:Oh dear, I think my jury would be out a long time on this one matthew! Just a few scattered and unsynthesised thoughts:
wow. I'd love to see what you come up with when you plan to write an essay.

Zig Wrote:Nowadays, what is considered art does sufficiently reflect society's desire to enthrone mediocrity and obsolescence: tenth-rateness and self-deluding pride has conned and lied its way into the space hitherto occupied by excellence.
And I wonder how much of that it because of photography. It's a very democratic medium; almost anyone can participate. Further, since it's a mechanical means of reproduction, so there's no need for a long and difficult apprenticeship or skills-building period. Certainly it helps, but anyone can get lucky.

Cameras are a mass-market item, photography can be a mass art form. And with everyone able to produce it, and so many different opinions on What Art Is, who can say what isn't art? Uli, your anecdote is a perfect example of this, but it still took an original thought to take something, wrap it in tape, and call it art. It's still an original expression. Odd, probably pointless, and self-indulgent, but original. There's no original though in the simple act of taking a photo, and the results become subjective. Sometimes, the worse it is, the better. If you print it large enough, or put it in a big enough frame, what can't be called art?

Zig Wrote:I recently left a "bohemian/poetic" circle in a local town as the "poets" were not imbued with any form other than a nihilistic "performance"-style doggerel; [...] "Art" is what an artisan does; that is, there should be a degree of craftsmanship, hard work, innate skill and a period of apprenticeship in which the "artist's" focus is on pursuing excellence ....
I agree with both sides of this. Perhaps that's two reasons why I don't want to think of myself as an artist: there are already too many self-styled artistes (said with a bad French accent) in the world, and I don't see myself as having either innate or earned skills. There's a difference between being a craftsman and an artist; maybe I'm aspiring to the former.


shellby, a very clever person commented that after a great meal, nobody asks what pots were used. Oddly, some kitchen equipment is sold with the pitch that it'll do all the work for you (like cameras).

...when I went into the camera store eight months ago, I asked which of the cameras in the display case had an auto-compose feature. (None of them did, but I bought one anyway.) But, it's not a harmless joke. I've seen ads where P&S cameras are shown with little chalk-figure outlines to tell the operator how to compose a portrait.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#18
matthew Wrote:Are you an artist?
Short answer.....No. Smile
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#19
ooo... Interesting topic!
Personally I don't think we'll ever come up with a single "right" answer, but it is still very worthwhile to discuss and think about this topic, and most importantly to question your own work.

My own personal view is that anything can become art simply by being called art. When Matthew said "If you print it large enough, or put it in a big enough frame, what can't be called art?" my response would be "nothing".
To me, art has nothing to do with aesthetics or beauty, and everything to do with communicating a message in a creative manner.
What differentiates a poster advertising Campbell's Soup from Andy Warhol's silkscreen of the same subject? Its certainly not the aesthetic value. It's the message and the purpose. The advert is trying to get us to buy soup, the artwork is making a statement about the artist's view of society. Simple.

So how does this relate to photography? Well, the same things apply for me.
An excellent example can be found in Christian's recent post containing a link to the World Press Photo Awards.
Take a look at the 50 Years Gallery there and you'll see the top photographs for the last 50 years (Note: contains numerous disturbing images). All of them are incredibly powerful and moving photographs and would be considered art by many people (certainly by me). But how many of them are aesthetically pleasing or could be called "Beautiful"? About none.

But just because I think art can be anything, doesn't mean that anything can be good art. Andy Warhol's soup can might be regarded as being "good art" because at the time it made an important social statement and it was pushing the envelope in regard to the whole questions of "what is art?", but if I knocked up a picture of a can of soup and stuck in on my wall and called it art then is it good? Of course not, because my only message is "look, I can do something that looks like Andy Warhol"

But I also don't want to dismiss all beautiful images. There is nothing at all wrong with photgraphs (or anything) being aesthetically pleasing. In fact, usually it is really nice, and I really enjoy taking beautiful images myself. But my point is that the beauty in itself has no bearing on whether or not it is art. Especially in cases where the beauty comes from the subject or the scene and is not a function of the photographer.

Which brings me onto my second definition - that of an "artist".
While I think anyone can make art, I don't think everyone who makes art is necessarily an artist.
Just as there can be considered a difference between a "carpenter" and a "craftsman", I believe there is a similar difference between a "photographer" and an "artist". The term "artist" (or "craftsman") simply refers to those few at the top of their trade. The pioneers who are taking things in new directions, for whom the tools of their trade are simply extensions of their brain, who can express their thoughts effortlessly and see things in a scene that normal people just don't see. I'm not sure if anyone can really call themselves an artist - at least not until they are already recognised as being one by many.

So finally, with regard to my own work (and my own definitions), I think that I do make art from time to time, but I'm certainly not an artist. I'm just a photographer.
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#20
Hmmm. Good question. I do try to be artsy in my stuff, and I have had some limited success commercially selling photos as "art" - but I certainly don't live an artist lifestyle or define myself as an artist as my primary function.

I guess the larger question is what is art? If art is self expression - then I guess I am an artist. If art is saying something profound about the human condition or saying something in a particulalry new or original way, then I definately am not.

Strangley enough, the photos that I consider my most artistic are the total fantasies I do sometimes - imaginary scenes that I have clobbered together in PhotoShop. I feel they are artistic in that they do not actually exist - they are comprised of fragments of other images. Because they originate in my mind, and are not based strictly on capturing something I see ( i.e. the "science" of photography), I feel they are more purely art.

Too bad, the subject matter of these imaginary scenes is usually more juvenile than profound...
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#21
Kombisaurus Wrote:An excellent example can be found in Christian's recent post containing a link to the World Press Photo Awards.
Take a look at the 50 Years Gallery there and you'll see the top photographs for the last 50 years (Note: contains numerous disturbing images). All of them are incredibly powerful and moving photographs and would be considered art by many people (certainly by me). But how many of them are aesthetically pleasing or could be called "Beautiful"? About none.
I'm glad you brought up the World Press Photo competition. I saw last year's exhibit in person, and the photos have tremendous impact and can be very powerful. There's a series from 2005 on domestic violence, and once image was simply of a row of bolt-together plastic chairs that could be a waiting room anywhere - bus, train,hospital. Seen three feet wide, and in the context of violence, it's powerful and disturbing. Seen in a newspaper, it probably doesn't amount to much.

Context changes content. The same image, presented in two different places, will be perceived and received differently. The question of whether or not something is art is at least partially answered by other people's opinions about it. (Warhol = art, ad = media.) A beautiful, nuanced figure study seen in a glossy magazine will be perceived differently if it is in a portfolio presentation in Lenswork instead of in a perfume ad.


Kombi Wrote:But just because I think art can be anything, doesn't mean that anything can be good art. Andy Warhol's soup can might be regarded as being "good art" because at the time it made an important social statement and it was pushing the envelope in regard to the whole questions of "what is art?", but if I knocked up a picture of a can of soup and stuck in on my wall and called it art then is it good? Of course not, because my only message is "look, I can do something that looks like Andy Warhol"
Absolutely. There's still the original though behind Warhol's presentation. But there's plenty of unoriginal subjects to photograph -- landscapes, sunsets, flowers, abandoned buildings -- what happens to the photographs that might be technically good and aesthetically pleasing, but aren't an original though?


Kombi Wrote:So finally, with regard to my own work (and my own definitions), I think that I do make art from time to time, but I'm certainly not an artist. I'm just a photographer.
I like how you think that through, and can appreciate it for myself, as well.

I remember reading a quip that subtle theological questions are the least important, because they'll all be answered for me once I'm gone. Perhaps the question of whether I'm an artist should await the same resolution, leaving me free to take pictures until then.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#22
matthew Wrote:But there's plenty of unoriginal subjects to photograph -- landscapes, sunsets, flowers, abandoned buildings -- what happens to the photographs that might be technically good and aesthetically pleasing, but aren't an original though?
I would argue that it isn't the subject that makes the difference between bad art and good art (or original/unoriginal art for that matter), its the message and how its communicated.
It is the idea behind the photograph that's important (to me anyway). The subject, like the camera, is really just the medium.

And for those photographs that are aesthetically pleasing and technically good, yet might not be good art - well they can certainly still have merit. While I might argue that aesthetics have no bearing on what I consider to be art or not, I'm not saying that aesthetics aren't important. There's plenty more to life than just art. Good aesthetic design and decoration are important parts of life that are often snobbed in discussions about art.
Ask yourself this... would you rather live in a home filled with tasteful, beautiful colours and designs, or one filled only with ugly, bad art?

matthew Wrote:I remember reading a quip that subtle theological questions are the least important, because they'll all be answered for me once I'm gone. Perhaps the question of whether I'm an artist should await the same resolution, leaving me free to take pictures until then.
Beautifully put. We simply are what we are.

And finally, here's a link to an essay which I think holds the secret to becoming an artist...
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/practice.shtml
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#23
I think the simple process of framing, composing and taking a picture is more recording than creating.... that said, once you start adjusting F-stop, film type amd speed, filters and exposure to adjust what you are "seeing" you are certainly creating something.... so I guess I would say photographers are artists.
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#24
Could there be a type or genre of photography that we could label as "artistic photography"?

For example, a sports photographer would fit Craig's description of "recording" - the pics might be WOW, but the primary purpose is recording the events at a particular point in time.

When you move beyond simply capturing and documenting a scene - i.e. creating your interpretation of a scene through various techniques (composition, lighting, post processing etc.) then you start to venture into the realm of the artist...


What makes it difficult to classify is that artistic techniques can cross boundaries of all different types and genres of photography, so that even travel photographers (I would classify mainly as documenting) can zoom on detail or create beautiful abstracts, such as what you'd see in national geographic...
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#25
With the Photographic Society of America definitions of Photojournalism, Travel and Nature you are not allowed any retouching or manipulation of images. They all are supposed to be accurate recordings of the happenings.

Pictorial images can be manipulated. Creative division are of course expected to be altered.
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