What Kind of Photographer Are You?
It seems to me that there is a trend of recently published books, “The Education of”, Or “What I learned in…” I read a book a while back about the education of a chef, and another one called “The Education of a Photographer”. And while I feel stupid admitting this, I can’t find the book about the chef, even on Amazon. The one about photography was a compilation of Lenswork magazine. But that’s ok, my points will still hold true.
There are a lot of reasons to take pictures. There are those that are very happy to use their cell phones and just keep their pictures in the cloud. Then there are those that are willing to go a step further and buy a point and shoot camera and maybe print out their pictures to send to family members to share the memories of a holiday or special occasion. Then perhaps the next jump up are the folks that buy a DSLR because they feel that this will give them better pictures. Out of that group there will be some that realize that it’s not a point and shoot world, but there is so much more to photography. So, a large portion of that small demographic will go on to learn the technical basics of capturing the world around them photographically.
But ultimately there will be a group that will come to realize that photography is a creative, artistic medium. Capable of being an art form. I want to set the tone for the next several articles that will look at critiquing our work. Let’s start by trying to define what it is we do and where we fit into this photographic hierarchy.
What constitutes art? Or for that matter an artist? The points that I’ll lay out here are not intended to be a definitive explanation or an all-inclusive definition in any way. But they are where I want to start in our pursuit of a description of what it is we’re doing.
Firstly, can art be taught? There are those that seem to think that we can all be artists. While I think that there is some merit to that idea, I also don’t think that everyone can be a great artist. An artist that will be remembered and honored. We can all learn technique, and theory. We can express ourselves and communicate our thoughts, ideas, and feelings creatively. But the next step after that becomes will that expression capture the attention of the viewer. An artist in the historical sense needs to at some point have a following, or audience that can relate to their work, whether that’s with their contemporaries, or in historical hindsight. I think the role of a teacher and the most he or she can do is help someone find their direction or voice. By asking the questions and raising points that will inspire, encourage, and challenge the artist to better express themselves. This probably falls better under a mentor than a teacher.
Defining Art – the value, production, expression, or domain, per aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary. So, by definition, (and connecting this to the post about objectivity and subjectivity) this is a very subjective pursuit. That’s how we end up with all kinds of crazy installations and exhibits. There are so many points of view and so many opinions that if you could wrangle enough people to understand your creations then it will find its place in the art world.
However, the creation of art is the ability to take your perspectives, insights, and awareness of the things, feelings, and people around us and express them in a tactile way. Whether that is sculpture, painting, music, poetry, theater or even photography.
It’s the job of the artist to facilitate the creation of their visions, opinions, ideas and thoughts into something more tangible then any of those nouns are. It’s the artist’s job to look, think, listen, and be aware of their environment, lifestyles, and feelings then express this filtered through their life’s experiences and present it their chosen medium.
So why did I start here? We as photographers need to experience an awakening to what it is we pursue. Where do we fit on the hierarchal scale that I started with? It took me a long time to understand that I wasn’t a point and shoot kind of guy. I wanted to create. To show a piece of myself. That’s why the name “Peace of My Heart Photography” spoke to me so much. I wanted to be a creative. I wanted an outlet! Then much like the beatnik generation of Greenwich Village or the hippie’s summer of love at Haight Ashbury, or dare I say the f64 group of photographers, I wanted to gather like-minded folks together. To pursue our creative ideas and visions, and challenges. To learn from each other and inspire each other. Each growing and keeping ourselves accountable.