I think it is fairly obvious and generally accepted, that whether you create a painting, a song, a sculpture, a piece of furniture, a gourmet meal or a photograph, the finished piece is by the producer and of the producer of that creation. The exception, at least the exception for aficionados of any sort of art, would be when someone copies somebody else’s work. Somebody who carefully measures a chair made by someone else, in an effort to make an exact copy, might be a fine craftsman, but would fall short of a producer of art, simply because the concept (idea) and form of the subject, belongs to someone else. It came from the inner resources of someone else’s mind and heart.
I can say with all honesty, that I have never attempted to copy someone else’s photographs. Some might say I should have. I can also say with equal honesty, that I have never put any effort into avoiding creating a picture that looked like one that had already been made by somebody else. I think either one would be dishonest, and lacking in a truthful vision. I have never cared if my images looked entirely unique, or if they looked like the pictures of others, as long as they belonged to me in my heart and my mind. I also believe that photography is an information medium, and it can perfectly “artful” to create images that are designed to tell the story of a subject, whether that subject be animal, vegetable, mineral or anything else.
I have never efforted to create art. I see photographers every day, who feel that they need to be “considered” an artist. If the pictures they make don’t result in others proclaiming them to be an artist, they change either the subject of their images, the style of those images, or both. Ego and art do not combine to make a pretty picture….so to speak. You can say “I’m an artist” all you want, and it might be true internally, but in the end, it is those who view your work, who will decide whether it is art, and if it meets the external qualifications of others. Planning and plotting to create something just so someone else will call it art, is pointless and shallow. As I have said many times before, art is a matter of opinion.
There is nothing more satisfying than the act of creating something. I remember being in a Junior High School shop class and creating a metal scoop, with a formed metal handle. I have no idea what was supposed to be scooped with it, but it was my creation. Well, sort of. Like most things I have made with my hands it wasn’t very good and would have to be called at best, an example of craft. The design came straight from a printed diagram. If metal work would have been my strong suit, which it certainly wasn’t, there is no question that I would have had to make any creations truly mine, and develop my own designs, or at least create from my own inner ideas, not a design on a piece of paper. Photography is really no different.
There was a photographer once who traveled America visiting the locations where Ansel Adams made many of his iconic photos. He went so far as to cut down treed limbs that had grown in the path of the intended photo. That tells you that he was not attempting to show the differences in the landscape over those years or he would have left those branches there. He viewed himself an artist just because he produced images that he deemed to be as good as Ansel’s. I have photographed some of those same locations as well. I never gave a thought to creating anything but my own pictures, but on one occasion I made a picture from what must have been the same spot as Ansel, and wound up with an almost identical composition. The biggest difference was, my image was in color (film), and Ansel’s was in black & white. I mulled over the situation and realized that I had never seen Ansel’s picture until after I made mine. I included my picture in a photo submission for a calendar company, because that picture was mine, and it made no difference to me that it looked like one that was made by anyone else.
I guess I am saying, that it is about the original intent, and only you will know what that is. If it is “your” vision, then it is your picture. The rest of the world will let you know if they agree as to whether or not it is art.
I’ve never been a photographer with a definitive style. There was a time when I found it beneficial to go out and shoot certain subjects to match the needs of book and magazine publishers, but mostly I shot what I wanted, when I wanted, the way I wanted, and then looked for markets that might be able to use my work after the fact.
Below are a few of my (old) pictures of some of the most popular subjects with nature photographers.
There are a lot of ways to photograph any subject. Water can be soft and gentle, or crisp and harsh. It can reflect the colors around it, or be as clear as a mountains stream. It can exist in small drops of rain or dew. It can reflect the colors of autumn or sunrise. It can be a liquid, a solid or a gas.
To me, flowers are nature’s most versatile subject. Flowers are open to individual interpretation, and in the close-up or macro mode, the slightest shift in camera position, or change in the tiniest bit of depth of field (via aperture or distance), will transform the resulting photo in both the information it provides, and the mood it creates.
My personal philosophy on photographing most wildlife, is that the subjects are the artists, whether they know it or not, and I am the conveyor of their message. I am the “go-between” that bridges the gap from the artist (the animal) to the eventual viewer.
There is no better way to begin a day or end a day, then with a sunrise or sunset. It can set your mood (artistically) for the day ahead, or end your day with artistic satisfaction. Or as often was the case with me, both.
Sunrise/sunset can mean many things, it is another very versatile subject. It can mean pointing your camera straight at the rising or setting sun, or in the other direction altogether. It can be the backdrop for a silhouette of an animal or a flower, and much more.
There are two things (in my opinion) that separate photographer/artists from people who take pictures. Photographer/artists notice subjects that most photographers pass by, and they “see” the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Go out and create, Wayne
p.s. The former photography teacher in me is appalled at how few vertical compositions I have included in today’s post. I should be ashamed of myself.