Even in the world of photography – an art that allegedly replicates the world before our eyes into a printable media – art is not so specifically defined. I feel that photography is modern art, and it can be as abstract or as chaotic as any other media to the right eye and mind. Photography is versatile and adaptable. Maybe not in the camera, but in post processing, the image can be manipulated and re-purposed And so it’s not so easy to categorize the end result. Are modified photographs still photographs?
I am going to admit a change of opinion on my part. Five years ago, when the bones of Shutter Photo were just getting roughed into place, I considered myself to be more of a photojournalist. Not that the subjects I was photographing were newsworthy, nor were they necessarily recording specific historical details. Rather I believe I had a photojournalists ethic: Change nothing, present the photograph as accurately as could be seen by the naked eye. My art was based on new angles, different and uncharacteristic perspectives of subjects and spaces that weren’t commonly seen. I was shooting to “get it right in the camera”, and I prided myself on what little post-processing I needed to do. I continued that way for a long while. My opinions have slowly evolved over time and it recently occurred to me the other day that I have been getting further and further from that ridged view. Changes in opinion rarely occur overnight. Looking back at my portfolio, I think that this evolution occurred over the past three years. I just didn’t realize my departure from my former view until very recently.
Openly admitting that view has removed the shackles from my limbs, and I am now free to create without any personal conflict.
It would be ignorant of any photographer – any artist – to believe that their style would never change or evolve. Evolution of style is just a nature of the art. Perhaps we’re ignorant to that fact because we look at the masters out of sequence. If we were to look upon a collection of Monet paintings, we might recognize them as fitting of his style. But would we recognize the earliest or the latest of those works? Would we be able to pinpoint the specific elements that were similar between the two? Perhaps. But not likely with any amount of precision. Monet painted for many years and as his skills improved in one direction, his influences moved his mind in a different direction. The more he was able to paint accurate representations of the real world, the more he desired to distort it to meet with his distorted – and certainly more interesting – vision. I used the example of a painter because I think a painters evolution is perhaps a little easier to conceptualize. Because the refinement of a brush stroke is somehow easier to grasp than a photographer’s ability to find an ideal exposure by gut. I think photographers all get to that point. I think there comes a time when your skill set simply becomes a set of tools that you can use and bend to your vision. And that is the point at which one can suddenly understand and appreciate the fact that photography is not classified by the process. Whether shot in-camera or manipulated beyond recognition, the end result is still art. And as art is so subjective in nature, it cannot be quantified or measured. An observer simply likes what he sees and admires that fact. Or he doesn’t. Sometimes we can try to apply a formula or analyze why. But we’ll never be able to fully explain why one person will love an image and the other can not.
There simply is just no blueprint or formula that can truly help a photographer create art. The creation process is much too personal, and the medium is much to versatile. So don’t fight it. Experiment. And create your art.