Sunday, January 23, 2011

When is a Photograph Art?


Nervous
Originally uploaded by Iguanasan
I was recently asked "When is a Photograph Art?" and it really made me think. What is art? Art, in its raw form, is any work which creates an emotional response in the observer. Someone who cuts hair remarkably well can be called an artist with scissors. A chef who puts together a tasty meal can be called an artist in the kitchen. Even a basketball player can be called an artist on the court. These titles are bestowed upon these people because of the emotional response of the observer of the things they do or create.

A photograph becomes art the moment the photographer presses the shutter button and captures a moment in time. One might ask how this can be since a great painter may spend hours and hours at the easel or a sculptor might spend days in front of his or her clay creating their art. How can the press of a simple button be considered art?

Well, first off, it's not about how long it takes to create the art. The tools of the trade for a painter or a sculptor require a lengthy creation process and while the technology afforded by a photographer allow for a fast and simple capture of the moment, the training of the photographer's eye, the study of composition, colour, lighting all took a lot of time.

Some people create very good art and and others create very poor art, however, it does not make the art any less real or less important to the creator. Whether the art becomes popular or successful depends upon the emotional response created in the observer. If the artist has captured a universal feeling that makes an impression on many who see it then their art will be popular and well regarded.

This brings us back to photography. When the photographer has pressed the shutter button he or she has considered the available light and the form and composition of the subject within the frame. If he or she has done this work well then they may create art which elicits a strong emotional response and be considered a good artist. If they have pressed the shutter button without consideration for these things, they are still an artist, however, their results may not allow them to emotionally connect with the observer.

It is always my hope that with every click of the shutter I have captured and can share a moment to which I was emotionally connected. The decision as to whether I was successful will be up to the viewer. For me, I just feel the need create and share the moments.
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