Tightrope ~ Gerry
Many people have widely differing ideas about photography, especially in this day and age when virtually everyone carries a camera. A national newscast featured recently a report on the prominence of “selfies” in our society and how people make sure that something or someone interesting is included in the background of their “selfies” to “prove” they were in a particular place, at a particular time, or had been close to a celebrity or whatever.
How many photographs of our children, grandchildren, or other loved ones (including pets), or our vacations do we carry on our smartphone or are stored forever on our computers’ hard drives? How many food photographs are captured either at the restaurants we go to or of the dishes we cook at home?
With the sophistication, quality, and more accessible pricing of digital cameras and other photographic-related equipment and accessories, more and more people are taking on photography as a way to document all aspects of their lives, including sports, travel, special events, and the like. The spontaneity and instant gratification tends to be evident in the numerous social media outlets and it can be a lot of fun.
So, if photography is so widely accessible, when does a photograph transcend the threshold of a snapshot and can be considered fine art? The answer to this question is, of course, very subjective and is one that has been debated for quite some time. Not only does a fine art photograph capture a particular moment in time and place, but it contains other elements that may be absent in other types of photography.
A friend, who studied art, graphic design, and photography and served in the military as a combat photographer, had very strong opinions about the do’s and don’ts of photography. Since, she has pursued a totally different career but, because of her photojournalism background, she was against the use of anything she perceived as changing the image in any way, even if it was to enhance it. A photograph should only reflect what the lens captured, she said. Cropping in any way was a no-no in her book, not to mention any type of post-processing in the "digital darkroom.”
Any good photograph typically begins even before the photo is taken. It starts with the “vision” of what is appealing to the eye; subject matter, lighting, composition, etc.
Once the photographer considers all the artistic merits of what he/she “sees” with the eyes and the mind, the photographer uses the technical and artistic instruments at their disposal to craft an image that translates the creative vision into a fine art image just as a painter uses a canvas, paints, and other tools to create the finished art piece.
This may or may not be as obvious to the person viewing the image much in the same way that a spectator may not completely realize the many years of training a ballet dancer has required in order to perform moves that seem effortless and natural.
The conversation with my friend was longer than what I can convey on this post but the point is that, after I explained my views about fine art photography, she suddenly had a knee-jerk reaction, an “aha moment,” that “rocked” her world. She was very excited because of the realization that her views about photography as art had totally changed and was receptive to looking at and admiring our photographs from a totally different point of view. She raved about our talent and encouraged us to continue pursuing this art. Needless to say, I was extremely flattered, not only because she liked what she saw in our fine art photographs, but because I was able to open a window in someone’s mind and heart into “seeing” photography in a different way.