The Problem With Photography

June 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The Problem with Photography

Red Sunset over Mount Emmons

 

Every artistic endeavor has difficulties involved. I don’t actually know all the struggles a painter might go through although I can imagine some. Neither do I know the challenges of writing music, composing a novel or screenplay, sculpting a statue or making pottery. I do, however, know about the problems associated with creating a compelling photograph.

 

Technical difficulties used to plague photographers. Understanding shutter speeds, film speed and apertures rendered many aspiring photographic artists impotent. The many variables, especially in black and white film and print processing, were mind-boggling and could take a lifetime to master. Even focusing on the subject could be a challenge if you didn’t have adequate light and great equipment. Then along came the “digital revolution”. While the start of this technological revolution was fairly rough and camera companies made plenty of promises that were not true, breakthroughs were in the works that would change photography forever. Over the last 30 years or so the technical struggles we used to face as photographers have largely vanished. Most of today’s cameras set on “automatic” will produce an image that’s in focus and exposed well enough to get an untrained “photographer” in the ballpark. The technical issues of photographic art are not the problem.

 

The real problem with photography as an artistic medium of self-expression is that in photography the scene has to actually happen. We can’t imagine a beautiful landscape and make a photograph of it. We can’t create an image of a fabulous sunset unless the sunset actually happens.

 

There are a few notable exceptions however. I had the privilege of visiting Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. They were featuring the work of Maggie Taylor, an incredible artist who uses photographic images and her phenomenal knowledge of Adobe Photoshop to create amazing images of whimsy and fantasy. While her work usually shows in photography galleries and she does use photography to create her images, I have trouble calling her art “photography”. Her scenes don’t happen except in her imagination and computer. They never actually existed. I am always amazed and inspired by her work though, whatever it’s called.

 

That’s where the problem with photography lies. That’s were the art of photography lies as well. It’s easy to go to Best Buy and purchase a camera that can deal with the technical issues of the craft. It’s more difficult to know what to point that camera at and to know when to press the shutter button. That’s where the “art” comes in. That’s where a photographer’s “vision” comes in. There’s a lot of distance to be covered between “seeing” an image in our minds and “capturing” that image, much less presenting it in a two-dimensional print that creates an emotional response. The image has to actually happen…in real time…in front of the camera. We can’t just imagine it and press a button. We can’t create it from scratch in a computer.

 

Today it’s really easy to take a picture but creating art with a camera is just as challenging as it ever was.

By Dusty Demerson, May 24, 2013

 

 

 

Death Valley sand dunes

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