As a photographer, you are not an artist. As a photographer, you are merely documenting life and other peoples works of art. As a photographer, you do not create art, you do not create anything, you simply take pictures of what others have created, including God’s creations. Photographers, you are not artists because you do not create. It’s best to think of yourselves more of a historian, just documenting what has already been done.
I’d like you to stop here, go back, read that paragraph above one more time, this time think about it as you read each sentence. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Now, let me break it down for you, see if I can make the insult clear.
The act of photographing something is not the act of creating something. Thus, it is not art!
How does that sentence above sit with you? You’re all photographers, tell me, what does it say about you and all that you’ve tried to do with your camera? Sure, some of you may not consider yourselves artists, but I’ll bet that some of you do. Some of you even like to think of photography as art, I mean don’t they have galleries and hang big impressive looking photographs in museums?
Why don’t we take another look at this. I’ll give you a few examples.
Let’s imagine for a second a true artist. A man, he takes three people, three bodies and poses them into position. Then, said artist uses paint and brushes to decorate these three bodies, he spends time toiling over the details, uses fine brush strokes. He transforms the once three bodies into, umm, let’s say a Walrus. When finished, the three bodies, after hours of work, represent a Walrus. Yup, look just like the real thing. Three people all posed and painted, now look like a real life Walrus. This man, no… this artist, has created something. He has taken things and created something from them.
Once all is said and done, lights are set up, a backdrop put in place, a camera comes out, and a picture is taken. This picture is not the art, it’s just a way to document the event, the creation of real art. The picture itself is not the art, it isn’t considered the art.
Let’s think of another scenario, this time let’s imagine an architect. This architect spends a year designing a building. He spends hours going over equations, figuring out the materials needed to build his structure. Once the design is complete a team of people get together, gather the required stone and metals. It takes years to build the designed building (or monument) until it is finally complete, done for the world to see, to occupy, to use. It’s a beautiful building, and in time a national treasure, a true work of art.
A photographer comes along set’s up some lights, waits for the right time of day, the perfect sky. He sits there for hours waiting for the right moment until the time comes to click the shutter button. Finally, CLICK! The images is edited, printed, and then sold to thousands of people. This photographer didn’t design the building, he didn’t build it, he didn’t create the sky, all he did was take a picture of it.
A well known photographer sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful pasture. A stream quietly rolls along in the foreground while a majestic lake sits in front of towering, snow peaked mountains. Tall, green trees surround the scene, wrapping it in beauty beyond words. The sun is low in the sky creating a golden glow to the landscape and the clouds lay out across deep blue sky like a blanket.
After hours of waiting for the scene to unfold, for the light to be perfect, the photographer makes a few final adjustments to her camera. Finally, after scoping out the location for weeks, waiting for the right weather conditions, after carrying her monster large format camera to the spot… finally, she presses the shutter release. CLICK!
Later, she develops the negative, she makes a print. She reprints the image over and over, dodging and burning here and there to create the perfectly exposed image, she is satisfied. She has a print she is proud of, she shares it with the world, it’s printed in a book, the book is sold to thousands of people, she wins an award.
All the while, some will say that she isn’t an artist. She didn’t create the scene, some will say God created it, some will say it was a product of evolution, no matter… she just documented a place in time.
Have I said enough? Do you get where I am going?
Photographers Are Not Artists
All the above stems from an actual conversation I had with another photographer last week. He argued, yes a photographer argued, that as photographers we do not create art. We just take pictures of it.
Here’s where I call bullshit! Photography is art. Sure, not all of it, not every picture taken could be considered art. In fact I’d even go as far as to say that 99.9% of the pictures taken are not art, but some of it is. There are thousands of photos uploaded to Flickr in a minute, and thousands more being taken at this exact second. Think of it, all around the world there are thousands of pictures being taken at this exact moment. While most are not what some would call “art”, there are surly masterpieces out there. True works of art.
Rather than go into my thoughts on the subject I’ll leave it up to you. There’s a comment box below, let us know what you think. Is photography art?