Photography as a separate work of art – thinking about the status of photograph today

In the course material there are questions posed about the status of photography today and if it enjoys the same status as sculpture or photography – this question is based on the argument by Honor and Fleming in WHA that photography became accepted as a work of art in its own right.

This is possibly the question that I have most direct knowledge of due to the fact my own brother is a professional photographer!  I have been brought up in a family with a keen interest in photography and early memories are of the bathroom being out of bounds as Dad and Andrew took it over to use as a darkroom!

Fine art photography does not have a specific definition and is also referred to as artistic photography due to the fact it is very much the expression of the photography – if you like it is Expressionism Photography.  Consequentially this style for want of a lack of style covers every type of image you can imagine – from landscapes to urban environments to people to psychology to animals … if there is something that captures an artists imagination then they will create the image.

I have chosen two different artists to illustrate my answer:

Carlos Tarrats images of still life I have discovered during a little research for this question and his work does not involve digital manipulation but the sets are constructed before the images are printed.  The still life work is that of a painter but just in a different format. Carlos’s main subject is plant life – it involves the cycle of life and although is photographs may distort the plant his aim is to apparently give hope.  For me personally I am fascinated by the detail and the imagination of his abstract images – the colours, textures and depth is extraordinary.

Cindy Sherman established her reputation taking a series of self-portraits and continues to examine the role of women historically and in contemporary society  in the same way that artists have done throughout the centuries – at this point I think directly of Artemisia Gentileschi, Baroque painter and her own self-portrait.

Both of these artists use photography as a specific art form to express themselves or their interests

The emergence of photography as an accepted genre of art has enabled the development and diversity of Fine Art Photography to evolve – some artists do use technology to digitally manipulate images but many choose not to instead using their own skills to capture the subject in their chosen way.

I do believe now that photography does enjoy the same status as painting and sculpture and in fact for many people it surpasses traditional art forms and holds a higher status.  Photography is accessible to the common man whilst for many painting  and sculpture is still seen by many as elitist or daunting if where you see it is in a gallery or exhibition – sadly there is still a snobbery about art in the same way that there is an assumption by many that going to the opera is not for the likes of someone from a council estate despite many artists coming from poor backgrounds which can be the irony of the art world.  Photography is something that anyone can participate in and therefore a photography exhibition is accessible and affordable too – some people may not be able to afford the materials to become an artist but some may start off with a basic camera and slowly upgrade as their work becomes more well known.

Another factor I have to consider is the fact that many of the great art galleries and art exhibitions are based in the big cities of London or Birmingham or Liverpool and that is where the great works are to be seen with smaller exhibitions by local artists or lesser known ones in smaller cities or town.  The situation is improving but those 3 cities are still the centre for the majority of the classical art exhibitions but photography can be exhibited in any city and people are not so daunted – photography as a hobby is all around us and part of everyday life now and for the majority the domestic household is more likely to have a camera or mobile phone than a paint brush and paper.

For me personally, particularly having studied this course, I see photography as a lesser status than traditional forms of art but that is purely because it is the later art form and I am realising that I think I am in the traditionalist camp in terms of my favoured artists – by this I mean my overall favourites are the old masters of Caravaggio, Raphael, Vermeer and of course Artemisia but also John Constable and Joseph Wright.

If I am to consider photography as an equal to traditional art forms whether painting or sculpture is done by a modern artist of my own era then I have to look at the Fine Art Photographers  – I have to take the art in comparison with the contemporaries of the artists whether they hold a camera, a paintbrush or a welder.  Each different art form has its own sets of skills which take time, talent and a love of the subject to develop so yes in this aspect I do think that photography is an equal to painting or sculpture – I know that my brother has spent many many hours taking image after image and at times in his landscape works got up to capture dawn or stood in freezing cold water to capture a waterfall or just worked long hours in the studio with his clients.  The work of a photographer is no easier than the sculptor or painter who spends hours, days or weeks from the conception of idea to completion – I have seen photographs of my brothers sketches of his concepts for photographic shoots.

In summary my answer is not definitive – I am definitely a traditionalist in terms of what paintings or sculptures I like personally but I am also someone who loves the medium of photography and use it in my own textile art work as part of this course extensively and am a keen fan of the art form in its own right and have been since childhood.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Artsy. 2016.   Cindy Sherman [online]. [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:  https://www.artsy.net/artist/cindy-sherman

carlostarrats.com. (date unknown).  Carlos Tarrats [online].  [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:  http://www.carlostarrats.com/

Hongkiat.com. 2016.  50 great photographers you should know [online]. [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:  http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/50-great-photographers-you-should-know/

Webist Media. 2007-2016.  Fine Art Photography:  Work of 24 Famous Photographers [online].  [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:  http://weburbanist.com/2009/09/23/fine-art-photography-work-of-24-famous-photographers/2/

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