Is Photography Art?

January 02, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

The debate on whether or not photography is a legitimate art has raged almost since the first photograph was taken by Nicephore Niepce in 1814. The "anti art" school of thought says how can it be an art? You simply point a device, press a button and your image is there, like magic.

To me, that's a little like saying an artist who paints on canvas simply dips his brush in paint, makes marks on the canvas and hey presto you have a Rembrandt.
 
Obviously, I believe very much that photography is an art.
 
Give ten people a camera each and ask them to photograph the Sydney Opera House for example. I can guarantee you will not receive ten identical pictures back. Why? Because it is, like any form of art, very open to interpretation as to what the final product will produce.
 
In my early days in photography I spent a lot of time in darkrooms experimenting with different developing and exposure times, the varying temperatures of the chemicals and a million other little darkroom tricks you only learn by trial and error. These days instead of the darkroom it's usually Adobe Photoshop, but nothing has changed. The post processing effort is just as important now as it ever was in a darkroom.
 
If only it were as simple as "point and click" and you suddenly have this fantastic and dramatic photograph, truly a piece of art.
 
Even now in the digital age when in theory technology has made things easier, I find that there are even more possibilities as to how I will process and present my final photographs, in other words the eye of the artist is probably now more important than ever due to the endless possibilities available.
 
In some ways I think of photography as one of the more demanding of art forms. When you point your camera at a subject and shoot, a percentage of that photograph is a "fact", it is shot exactly as you saw it at that very moment.
 
So, the question then arises what percentage do you leave as "exact" and how much do you interpret as the artist? This is where it gets so difficult. I have recently added a collection from the Blue Mountains to my website, the actual shots of the mountains themselves were a real challenge in so far as how to present them and what forms of processing to pursue.
 
That view from Echo Point and nearby in the Blue Mountains is truly one of the most beautiful and spiritual landscapes you'll ever see. However, do I see it exactly the same as you? Of course not. I see a magic, a mystery and a power in that view. How can I hopefully relay what I saw the day I took the shots to you? How can I supply a photograph that will provide you with the same impact, passion and awe I see in that view?
 
This is where the "art" is, to me, indisputable.
 
As the artist, I must make decisions on focus, composition, contrast, vibrance, saturation and a dozen other tangents and then hope that someone who views my work will pick up a little of the feeling I get when I take these shots.
 
Is it art? Of course it is, and it's a beautiful one full of endless possibilities and conclusions.
 
I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of others on this topic.
 
Ciao
 
 

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