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Author Topic: Food for Thought  (Read 10673 times)
Mark Graf
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« on: November 25, 2002, 05:14:59 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I know where you are coming from Rick, about the skills and technique that often go into creating a successful image.  However, I don't agree that photography in general is a craft.  (Somehow I think this has been debated before  :: )

It is because a photograph can be emotionally moving, just as a piece of music or a fine painting can, that I stand behind this.  Not every photograph has an emotional message conveyed in it, but those that do can easily be considered works of art.[/font]
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AWeil
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2002, 11:44:48 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']In using the analogy to music and painting you are inviting an  argument against your statement. In music, painting/drawing and in photography you have the same elements: talent and vision, skill and craft, determination and hard work. Some people (in all of the three fields) have an incredible amount of skill and determination - talent but maybe not a lot of vision. This would be a group you could call master craftsmen, but maybe not artists - think about master illustrators, brilliant orchester musicians or in photography master printmakers. Some people have talent and vision. But without skill and hard work the results will be wanting. Even the most talented must develop the craft element.
I consider photograpy as a visual medium very much like painting and drawing that takes particular skills and techniques one can learn.
What a person will do with it depends on the vision and the talent. There will be photographs that are clearly a work of art and others that are an excellent piece of craftsmanship. The best will be both - just like in the other fields.
A.Weil[/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2002, 03:06:47 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']So, Rcik, an artist is basically somebody who does what he does with no thought, no training, just pure instinct ?

Prodigies (not proteges) can be artists. This doesn't mean that artists can only be young.  Beethoven was still producing masterpieces into his very late years, for example.  (I could go on for pages here but I won't). Also prodigies are frequently recognised as such with hindsight...

Maybe the reason that renowned photographers appear to be older is because photography isn't actually all that easy. It has a very shallow initial learning curve, and it takes quite a while to realise that there is a bit more to creating lasting works.  It may also be the nature of the medium that people perceive photography to be "easy", this do not recognise - or encourage - talent.

But anyway, just to name two, Cartier Bresson and Doisneau were producing landmark work in their mid-20s, even if they continued to produce significant work until they were much older.

Any many Renaissance artists that we now consider greats were viewed as, basically, master craftsmen in their time.  It's all down to perception and cultural filters.[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2002, 05:35:47 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Rick,
That's an interesting observation about Adams, with far reaching implications. Photoshop is a tool far more powerful and flexible than any darkroom techniques Adams had at his disposal. So there's hope for us all in rescuing and redeeming many of those boring early photos. By mastering Photoshop we can turn mediocre shots into something ...er .. perhaps not quite a great work of art, but still quite impressive.[/font]
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Rainer SLP
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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2002, 11:15:40 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']This thread is really interesting and I found out following:

The difference between a Good and a Bad Photographer is his

PR Manager

and if the good one did not have a good PR Manager, than Nostalgia has risen this Photographer to where he is.

Look at the mexican Photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

I live in Mexico and it seems to be that he is or better said was the only good one. Why? Because we are unable to give young talented Photographers space for exhibit their work.

If you, as a young photographer in Mexico, want to exhibit somewhere they want your Artistic curriculum and at least you should already have had some 5 or something exhibitions. So if no Gallery gives this young talented Photographers the oportunity for their first exhibitions they will never reach a level of being known. That is the biggest Problem here in Mexico.

The other point is the risk for a gallery presenting somebody new.

If a Gallery presents somebody they want to be sure that they are going to sell if not it is not interesting, but the biggest problem is the cuestion of Taste and here comes the biggest inhibiting point for new young talented photographers.

They are exposing their work in front of one person, which is the Gallery owner and he or she decides upon his or her taste and he or she decides what is sellable and what not and therefore the judgement of this work is done under very limited conditions and not as it should be done under a broad public audience.[/font]
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regards Rainer

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Rick M
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2002, 04:07:44 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Photography is not 'painting with light'. It is knowing when to press the shutter and being able to craftfully manipulate an exposure afterwards in the darkroom.

Many speak of someone having a 'good eye' but there is more to the craft than this. Many people have a good eye but technically their images are nasty. Unlike painting, sculptue, and music photography is a craft where there are no child proteges. It is not something one can instinctually grasp or have a hang of without experience in the field with equipment. Reading a biography of Ansel Adams it notes his first photographs showed no sign of his later brilliance. It was years and many hours of work in the field before he came to fruition.

Whats my point in all this? Well I believe that photography is not a fine art. It is a craft. What is your take?[/font]
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Rick
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2002, 07:28:10 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']What I was saying is there is no innate ability in people to create a good photograph simply by posessing some gift or talent. One also requires technical knowledge and expertise with the equipment and processing.  Unlike a painter or musician who is gifted it does not take them years of practice and experience with equipment to perfect their art. With photography it does. Unlike music or painting etc there are no Ansel Adam's from birth or young 8 year old child proteges in photography. It takes many years of experience and working with equipment to become accomplished. Yes some learn faster than others.

Ansel Adams said a photograph is not taken, it is made. I say photographers are made, they are not born great like a Leonardo or Mozart. Thats why i say photography is not a fine art. Yes people can create works of art in photography but that is something different altogether. I do not consider a photographer an artist. I consider him/her a skilled craftsman who often can produce art given enough experience and the right vision.[/font]
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2002, 12:46:29 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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Unlike a painter or musician who is gifted it does not take them years of practice and experience with equipment to perfect their art. With photography it does.

I'd have to disagree. A child protegy may quickly grasp things on a certain level, but it is only through years of practice that they build on that initial gift. By the time he's 10, a violin wiz has probably spent the majority of his young life learning and practicing his craft. And who says there are no protegies in photography, simply because we can't name them... that is simply an issue of PR.

Just because there is a great deal of craft behind photography, does not mean that it cannot be an artform. Any creative field has its spectrum of practitioners, from craftspeople to artists. The book "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud has a great discussion of this (as it relates to comics). According to Scott, there are levels of craft and levels of art, and people rise to the level which interests them and meets their capabilities. Some people want to become the best illustrators, but care nothing for the story. Others need to tell stories but are not the best colorists. No level is "better" than the other -- the field as a whole needs them all. Photography is similar: it is wide open and has room for people to explore its potential for craft, for art, or both.[/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2002, 02:57:39 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']So, Rcik, an artist is basically somebody who does what he does with no thought, no training, just pure instinct ?

Prodigies (not proteges) can be artists. This doesn't mean that artists can only be young.  Beethoven was still producing masterpieces into his very late years, for example.  (I could go on for pages here but I won't). Also prodigies are frequently recognised as such with hindsight...

Maybe the reason that renowned photographers appear to be older is because photography isn't actually all that easy. It has a very shallow initial learning curve, and it takes quite a while to realise that there is a bit more to creating lasting works.  It may also be the nature of the medium that people perceive photography to be "easy", this do not recognise - or encourage - talent.

But anyway, just to name two, Cartier Bresson and Doisneau were producing landmark work in their mid-20s, even if they continued to produce significant work until they were much older.

Any many Renaissance artists that we now consider greats were viewed as, basically, master craftsmen in their time.  It's all down to perception and cultural filters.[/font]
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David Mantripp
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royfel
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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2002, 07:41:07 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Being that this is a landscape forum I would agree with the first posters theory; landscapes as they are presented here do require a certain amount of craft. But the field of landscape photography does not represent the entire body of photography and a proficient knowledge of craft does not make one an artist.
Photographic history is rife with photographers with next to no knowledge of craft but are considered artists. No one would argue that HCB, Eggleston,Frank, Winograad are great craftsmen.
I think that landscape photogs can fall into the trap of worshiping craftsmanship and losing site of the picture.[/font]
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2002, 07:10:11 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I wouldn't say PR is the difference between good and bad photographers, but it is often the difference between the known and an unknown, regardless of talent.[/font]
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jeffreybehr
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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2002, 11:48:45 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Rick, I'll agree that some, perhaps even many, aspects of photography are a craft, that is, they are more technical than subjective or artful. But the creation of a GREAT landscape picture depends FIRST on the very artful eye and heart of the fotografer.

Excellent fotografic technicians who are not excellent artists will create technically fine fotografs that are boring. Excellent fotografic artists who are not excellent technicians will create pics that are wonderful works of art that probably are somewhat lacking technically but are still emotionally satisfying images.

Personally, I'd much rather view one of the latter than one of the former. There are many examples of the the former on DPReview's Canon SLR forum. (Please, everyone, understand that I'm not picking on the Canonites [being one myself]; I simply don't read any other brand-name forums there.) The panoramas are the worst examples of technically excellent images that are BORING...midday lite that's hard and glaring, etc.

A great landscape is created first by an artist and then by a technician.[/font]
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Rick
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« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2002, 07:42:36 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']ps.

...Ansel Adams in interviews and in biographical accounts would often say if he took one goood picture a month he was happy. He was a master of the darkroom and relied heavily on expermineting with dodging and burning and various techniques. It took him many years to perfect this skill and many of his original exposures look nothing like the finished version. For instance the Moonrise Hernandez original looks nothing like the finished product. Ansel Adams is famous for doing what nobody else before him had done in the darkroom.  That is where his brilliance lies and shaped his vision. But this is not something someone is born with or a latent talent one posesses.  It is something one discovers through trial and error to reach a creative vision. This is not art. This is a craft.[/font]
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Rcik
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« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2002, 02:40:32 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']dansroka there are no child wiz kids or prodigies in photography nor have I ever heard of anyone under the age of 30 who really made a statement in photography. If you know of one I sure would like to know. Most photographers considered revolutionary at the top of the pack are middle aged with lots of years of experience in the field or old farts. There are no young proteges and there never was. Again the reasons are the ones I outlined above. There is more than something you are born with going on.  This is not an art that relies on some inborn talent. It is a craft and trade that is slwoly perfected as a good chef perfects his dishes.

I would  no more consider a photographer an artist than I would a famous chef an artist. They are craftsman who through many years of hands on experience have a developed a skill.[/font]
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2002, 11:56:23 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Simply because Adams was a good technician does not mean he was not an artist as well. Most art requires a great deal of technical skill. Watching my sculpting teacher work, it is amazing how much she has had to learn: phyics, geology, a little engineering -- all to achieve her art. The amount of technique, and difficulty of learning it, will vary from art to art, of course.

Regarding the connection between prodigies and art. Hmm, it's interesting question! I guess it comes down to how hard it is for a child to grasp the basic skills of the artform, and how that relates to what the general population can do. For example, few people can play instruments. So a child prodigy who learns how to play quickly surpasses what most people will ever be able to do. Maybe the foundation skills for playing music are well suited for a child to grasp, so he can quickly understand 80% of the skills he will ever need. This is amazing to us, and makes a darn good news story.

But in photography, like DRM says, most people can take decent photos, so any child prodigies are just not as amazing to us. Maybe the skills behind photography are a little tougher for kids to grasp, so a prodigy can only grasp 40% of the skills, and then need the rest of his life to get the remaining 60%. So it takes longer for them to get THAT much better than the general population. I'm not sure -- but this would make a fascinating study![/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2002, 06:12:19 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']So, so far:

Adams isn't an artist
Adams early photos are cr*p
Adams is just a darkroom geek
Adams doesn't understand composition

Amazing he managed to take the lens cap off, really.  Still if such a bumbling incompetent could end up in every bookstore and major arts venue in the world, there's hope for all of us.[/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2002, 06:49:53 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']drm, I don't think anyone is questioning Adam's ingenuity and briliance at mastering new techniques and being able to do what nobody else before him could. To be honest though his compositions themselves are really nothing revolutionary or spectacular. Some of them are quite boring IMHO. Most academics would probably dissagree and this is pretty subjective but if Adams were around today his prints would probably just be average among the top photographers of today. He was a master of the darkroom. I have seen many photographers today who produce better compositions of the same subjects that Adam's photographed.[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2002, 07:53:48 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']OTOH, you could say that PR and a bit of luck is necessary to get your name up there, but real talent is required to keep it there.

There's an interesting article by Dale Cotton at http://members.rogers.com/dale-cotton/ , addressing the "Myth of the Final Print". Essentially, Dale's saying that famous painters (and all painters) might be embarrassed at their early works as their technique and mastery of the art, and insight into the human condition increases with time. Yet they don't go back and re-touch or amend their rearlier works so that they might conform with the painter's current skill and knowledge.

The photographer, however, can do this. At each stage of post-processing, there's a level of skill which will affect the final result. Not only that, there's a level of sophistication of equipment and software which can affect the final result (print).

The photographer can go back at any stage to his/her original negatives or slides and probably produce a much improved result. I know I can.[/font]
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2002, 02:30:20 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I'd have to say I agree with Jeff.

There is craft in every artform, and there is the possibility of art in every craft. Craft is the carefully learning and applying of skills, where as the art is the occassional leapfrogging of learned skills to something which trascends them. Neither is a "better" way to be.

Rick, I think your point is a good one though. Some people tend to place the Adamses of the world on a pedestal. (I get so tired of hearing of a "golden age" that will never come again.) Yet, when they started, they were inexperienced schlubs like the rest of us. The San Francisco MOMA had a great collection of early Adams' prints, and frankly, many of them are pretty mediocre, technically and artistically. He worked hard, and got better both as a craftsman and as an artist. So there's hope for all of us![/font]
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2002, 11:40:19 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
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I say photographers are made, they are not born great like a Leonardo or Mozart.

I think that great artists are born with a potential. I'm sure even Leonardo had to learn which way round to hold a paintbrush. And anyway, if ever a painter was a technician, he was...

Quote
Thats why i say photography is not a fine art. Yes people can create works of art in photography but that is something different altogether. I do not consider a photographer an artist.

Sorry ? My logic detectors have just gone on the fritz. There seem to be several contradictions fighting to get out of there

I don't consider any old _painter_, or writer, or whatever, an artist. I think the difference between art & craft works at a level a bit more subtle than you're addressing. I would say that it is down to intentions and agendas. It is a bit harder to seperate out art, craft and rank amateur in landscape photography, where the familiarity and direct appeal of the subject can obscure the intent, but would you say that Man Ray was a craftsman...or an artist ? Or just a point'n'shoot photographer like the rest of us ?

Personally I think Adams was an artist who chose photography as the medium to express his emotions. The fact that he was an exceptionally dedicated technician is secondary.[/font]
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