Is Photography Art?

I have visited a number of fine art galleries big and small over time, and only one so far has said ‘no’ to accepting any photography.

And so recently I visited a local art gallery with a juried exhibition.

The subject matter? Landscapes.

All artistic mediums were accepted, and fortunately I saw a variety of them present: a lot of paintings, sculptures, wall art, ceramics, mixed media, and of course photography.

Photography was in fact well represented, more than half of the exhibit was such.

And what’s wrong with that? Landscape photography is massive at the moment. So much that the industry is bloated with them, admittedly so.

While I enjoyed the both film and digital photos, my annoyance came when viewing the guestbook halfway through the show..

“Too much photos/digital stuff.”

“Too much photography.”

“Where are the paintings?”

With some optimism sprinkled in between such as..

“Nice to see photography being represented well!”

To be honest I felt a little bit offended, and I wasn’t even showing any of my work in this group exhibit! I felt a little sympathetic for the very talented photographers exhibiting.

People have their opinions and that is fine. To be honest I will say I wished there were more landscape paintings involved. Art is simply art to me.

And while none of them said photography isn’t art. It still got me thinking..

what really is Photography?
is it Art?

To start, we need to know what art is; what does that word objectively mean?

Let’s rationally break down what a typical photographer may do in their day-to-day activities and operations.

So, art is defined as…

“Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.”

In its simplest form of explanation, I go out and press the shutter button. But that’s not it, to make a halfway decent photograph requires a trained eye for pleasing composition and balance. That to me sounds like a skill or set of skills based on experience, study and/or observation.

“An occupation requiring knowledge or skill.”

Photography can and is an occupation for millions of people around the world. Any occupation requires a legitimate set of knowledge and skills in order to finish the task.

I only can improve with making an effort and with time. Studying the works of others and observing my own failed photos helps to become a better photographer.

Even after the shutter capture, I still meticulously edit the image file, then print on the suitable papers, checking all the colors for accuracy. Then choosing a frame and matting that appeals to the photos’ strengths while improving the overall “experience.”

And as I said, many people make a living producing these works or similar, whether for a client on commission or for a gallery.

“The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”

This is perhaps my favorite definition for the word. I am taking a tangible three-dimensional reality, for example a old-growth forest, and transferring it to a two-dimensional photograph. There is a conscious need to know what looks right vs. wrong in making a photograph of something real.

Not only that, but the photo must have a stopping-power that only the best can do. Stellar use of contrast, color or subject matter needs to apparent, and that only comes with harnessing a creative imagination.

Now, that image you have created is the production of an aesthetic object. Photos can document and spread awareness or ideas, but at the end of the day they are a means of communication or entertainment. With the photo being an object to admire and appreciate for aesthetic purposes.

“One of the fine arts.”

This is obvious, but a good majority of photography can be classified as “fine art.” To be fine art photography in my opinion is producing an image or print in hopes of selling if after the fact to prospective buyers. In essence, the opposite of commercial photography. I am creating this image first and foremost for myself and with my unique vision, but then intending on someone else to “buy my unique vision” in the form of an open or limited edition print.

You can probably guess, but yes.

I believe photography is an art form, and always will.

Art transcends digital pixels and technology and is no different from using a paintbrush or pastel, which at one point were considered new technology as well.

So with that being said, I personally don’t care what camera you choose to use, or whether you shoot digital or film, full-frame or mirrorless.

The point is, to keep on shooting shutter bugs and f-stoppers.

Photography is alive and well.

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