I’m going to make a very bold statement that could make some of you cringe: Photography is, first and foremost, art. I know…I’m making a leap here. I offer that statement in jest, of course, because I know my audience is well aware of photography, the art form. But I do feel it’s worth reminding people sometimes. And so I would love to share a haunting portrait from Tina Negara: Open my blind eyes and you’ll see growing flowers. The photo is clearly art first and foremost while photography is merely a medium.
I dare say that Tina’s photo is more like a painting than a photograph. I don’t know how the image was created; I don’t know if the flowers and “blood” are props and makeup, or if they are added in post. Tina’s portfolio doesn’t offer much evidence to support either case as she is clearly a master of both in-camera work as well as editing in post. If this was handled in-camera, then she earns my respect for creating convincing props. Not that I truly believe she has flowers in her eyes. But because of the lighting of the flowers fits very well with the story that she’s trying to tell and the image is complete in this manner. If she edited in post, then she earns my respect for her editing skills. Even the grain, an often overlooked detail, is seemless and no evidence of whatever grain might have existed before. I am of the belief that this particular shot was handled in-camera. But she is clearly skilled regardless of how it was handled. But I digress as the process is nearly irrelevant and secondary to the finished product, which is haunting and creepy.
She is a true mixed-media artist. But like all mixed media artists, there is a primary medium that is favored. Tina’s happens to be photography. Does this make Tina less of a photographer? No. Because in my mind, we are all artists first and foremost and photographers second. With a photo like Open my blind eyes…, the “art” is so obvious that it smacks you in the face. But there is art in every documentary photo, every architectural photo, every product image and so on. Websters defines art as “an expression of human creative skill and imagination…works to be appreciated for their beauty and emotional power.” What photo – be it for documentary or marketing purposes or otherwise – is not intended to be either beautiful or exhibit some sort of emotional power? I rest my case. My point is that drawing a line between photography and art is a pointless exercise.
Tina Negara is an Artist-Photographer with a small but impressive portfolio. Her work features work that can only be handled in post, but features a number of photographs that are clearly handled in-camera. She has a great deal of talent and a lot of interesting ideas. She’ll be one to watch in the future, so get on board now.