Aurora at the Gallery

There is a discussion ongoing on Nature Photographers Online Magazine that asks “A bias against photography?” (To get to the discussion, click on the link above, choose ‘General Discussion’ from the pull-down menu and scroll down to the discussion)

The context is the art world. I posted two replies:


Photography is an art form when it’s done artistically (whatever you take that to mean). We use tools to produce works on paper. So do painters and those who draw. The git who said, “it really isn’t art” was acting as a judge. To deny a piece because its B&W photography is to deny Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams — pretty silly.

Art is established by presentation and context. Rauschenberg displays flattened cardboard boxes — he calls them ready mades — in places like the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in NY. Is it art? If you squint and look into the sun it is. Or if its in the Guggenheim it is. Or if Bob Rauschenberg says it is… Oh and Rauschenberg uses quite a bit of photography in his ‘combines’ Some of them are his some are ‘borrowed.’

If we want to be accepted as artists we err when we over emphasize equipment, technical perfection and accuracy. We are artists when we use photographic tools to catch a glimpse of our own vision of the world and hold it up for others to see.

(I was in a group show at a gallery with two painters in February. We like each other and the painters say they love my work — they bought a number of prints; some to paint from some to hang. I love their work as well. We all sold quite a few pieces during the month the show was up. I thought the debate over photography as an art form was over. It is to me in any case.)

And second:

Another thought:

In some respects photography has rejected art.

If a photograph is not up to a predetermined standard of ‘sharpness’ it is rejected by most photographers.

Cartier-Bresson called the emphasis on sharpness a fetish. I agree.

When Ansel Adams abandoned pictorialisim (a soft painterly approach) for what he and Paul Strand (I think it was) called straight photography the direction was set and we are still under that influence.

While sharp photos can be delightful, so can softer ones. It depends on what the artist is trying to do and what the impact is.

Of course there is a school of ‘fine art photography’ that seems to believe that if a photo is in focus and sharp its boring and not art. In fact there are lots of fine art photographers such as Cindy Sherman who are well accepted by the art community but they are not found here on NP or 99.999% of the other web sites.

I think the trick to creating art with photographer’s tools is to learn all the craft possible but keep the beginners mind when applying them. Keep discovering and capturing whatever life puts in our path.

Easier said than done.

What do you think? Is it even of any useful purpose to question photography as an art form? Aren’t photographic tools simply tools? Isn’t the art up to the artist?

What do you think?