Photography: Art or Craft?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Jorge, Sep 14, 2003.

Is photography an art or a craft?

  1. Art

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  2. Craft

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  1. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Ok let me pose the same question here as I did in PN.

    For a little background I found myself in another of those digital vs classic discussion ( I know, I know, some of you think I will never learn...:D) and one of the arguments proposed explaining the lower value of ink jet prints in the art market was that they were "mechanically reproduced." To which the digital camp responded that ALL photography is "mechanically repoduced" and that it is merely a craft, not an art (figures, uh?). The arguments explaning this were rather ludicrous and easily opposed, but to my surprised I found myself in the lone position defending photography as art. So I posed the question in another thread. Again to my surprise most of the replies fell on the middle, where people said it was both.....some said it was art, some said it was craft, but the overwhelming mayority said it was both, depending on who was doing it.

    So, you guys dont get the chance to waffle and be PC, you get only two choices, I will be interested to see what the outcome is here.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This is a serious forum, so I'll be more serious here than I was over there.

    I don't see mechanical reproduction as the decisive factor, but utility.

    Fine furniture is often made with hand tools only, but furniture making is usually regarded as craft, because furniture is functional.

    "Fine Art" (images for display only) is opposed to "Applied Art" (illustration, journalism, advertising, etc.) in photography, and I would say that applied art is craft that sometimes is regarded as art, while fine art at least strives to be art.

    Is photography an artistic medium--yes, just as paint is, but not every painted surface is art, nor is every photograph.
     
  3. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    Assuming we are talking about the fine art, aesthetically pleasing, like to look at it sort of photography....

    it's art. Art, art, art.

    (Ok, and yes, there's craft in the printing aspect, but since it's one choice, or the other....)
     
  4. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    I think when you start in photography, the craft needs to be learned to have control about how a scene is interpreted (the photographer's vision). Craft and Art should work together.

    Often, comments about my photos are: "Technically excellent but the subject is not interesting". I guess I lack the "Art" part of the equation..
     
  5. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    A nice scene, correctly framed will become a good photo if correctly exposed and developed (and I mean correctly for this very one scene).

    So, it starts by craft.

    A news photographer is not concerned with art - he's concerned with been there and presenting the fact. But sometimes there is art in it.

    A fine art photographer is not concerned with facts - he can choose the right light, etc, he creates a scene as per his inner vision. And sometimes there is art in it.

    So, craft is inseparable of good photography.
    Art, we all hope it's there...

    :smile:

    Jorge O
     
  6. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Too intersting to avoid. My comment .... Who really cares?

    A possible difference: "Craft" is explainable; "Art" is not.

    Here goes ... from "Alfred Steiglitz - a Biography" by Richard Whelen:

    "It would be a mistake to think that Steiglitz's purpose and objective was to make people understand modern art," wrote de Zayas. "In Steiglitz's hands modern art had transcendental value. He showed it not only for what it was, but for what it could be for the individual to find his own real self... Modern art was to most incomprehensible; for that reason it was the best tool to make people understand themselves."

    "The `work of art' was never... of much interest to Steiglitz," opined Hutchins Hapgood. "It is what the work of art symbolizes, what is behind it , that counts.... Apropos of a picture by Marin, a drawing by Rodin or a painting by O'Keefe, Steiglitz would talk by the hour about `life', as it manifests, or should manifest, itself in all human relations -- marriage, politics. morality." In the photographer's view, however, any attempt to explain a work of art, to analyze it or fit it into a theory, was antithetical to the spirit of art."
     
  7. BobF

    BobF Member

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    I don't know that you can say "who cares" as apparently many do because the question or variations of it keep being asked.

    I guess I am PC as I didn't vote for either as I think it is both and possibly neither depending on why, what and how it is done and used. Today I spent most of the day in the darkroom printing little itty bitty photos of grandaughter to hand out at school and to her friends. Art? I think not but some craft necessary.

    I also tried again to print a negative that I have unsuccessfully tried before from a scene that I have shot several times. I would say art and craft if I ever get what I have invisioned.

    There is also the vast majority of film and digital images which are shot in all manner of cameras without thought or purpose beyond the fact that Kodak has convinced people that you need to record things for yourself. I would contend that most of these shots and their automated mechanical printing are neither art or craft, but they are photography.

    Bob
     
  8. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Poll: Foolish or Dangerous?

    Sorry to pee in the pool here but this sort of question comes up often and it's always silly. One could ask the same of painting, scultpure, or even performace arts like music and dance. Art's inherent subjectivity makes it immune to such smug quantization.

    Also, the question is shockingly vague on both sides of the equation -- not just defining "art" but also "photography." Do you mean the process of photography, or certain works of photography, or the marketplace for photography, or, like Roland Barthes, do you really only care about the impact of photographs upon the person of the viewer, in which the photographer plays only an incidental role as the middleman between viewer and nominal subject?

    The notion that such complexities can be rapidly boiled-down to "facts" is IMO antithetical to the very nature of "art."
     
  9. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  10. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    That's just it, nobody does if you think about it. If you say "painting is an art" chances are most people will agree with you. Of course some might start to get too technical, dissect your sentence etc, but overall I think most will agree with you.

    It is certainly not my intention with this question to "define" art, or photography in the context of art..etc, etc.

    What took me by surprised and made me curious is that this opinion existed in the Large Format forum. Supposedly it is the pinnacle of photography, where the supposed photgraphers have the reputation of taking the most care when making a photograph and are supposedly the most ruthless when editing the images they plan to show. Yet, apparently they go to all this trouble and dont consider what they do an art.

    Am I the only one who finds this strange? I never had any doubts that photography is an art. Of course it makes use of "tools" but to me the end result, a print, is an art object much like a painting or a sculpture when done with that end in mind.

    SO I think you misunderstood my question, I dont want to "quantify" art or photgraphy as art, what I am really interested to know id how you
    feel deep inside you about photography. There is no need to explain, qualify or make a disertation.

    Ed, thank you for the courtesy of expanding on your answer. A moron at pn simply answered "who knows/who cares", the funny thing is that this bufoon calls himself a fine art photographer....lol....
     
  11. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I think that photography is first of all a craft. The craft in this case "photography" is one possible means to produce a work of art...but not necessarily the only one or not necessarily always successfully. Simply because it is "photography" does not automatically elevate it to a position of "art".

    I think that for a photograph to be seriously considered a work of art it must elicit an emotional response within the artist and others as well. That response transcends the degree of competence the photographer may or may not have.

    I have seen some very beautiful and technically perfect photographs that bring nothing in an emotional content. They may be "pretty"...but I am rapidly approaching the point of ad nauseum with "pretty" photographs.

    Jorge says

    "That's just it, nobody does if you think about it. If you say "painting is an art" chances are most people will agree with you. Of course some might start to get too technical, dissect your sentence etc, but overall I think most will agree with you."

    I must inform you that I do not agree with the "painting is art" generalization. To me painting, again, is a craft that may be used to produce a work of art. But not necessarily so.
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes.

    Knowing the craft is a prerequisite to producing art. This doesn't mean that all photography is art, nor even that all "art photography" displays good craftsmanship.

    But in my opinion, the answer is "yes": Both are needed to be more than snapshots.
     
  13. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

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  15. Robert

    Robert Member

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    "Is photography an artistic medium--yes, just as paint is, but not every painted surface is art, nor is every photograph"

    Like he said.

    Well I'd like to point out the MOMA I think contains furniture. Which shows anything can be art. It's not the craft that makes art it's the final item. All the craft does is make it easier for a person to make thier vision real. A well crafted piece doesn't equal art. A badly crafted one can.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The furniture issue is actually more difficult than I'm making it out to be. There are many museums with furniture, clothing, etc., and architecture is in the same category.

    The MOMA exhibits suggest that the industrial design is the art, and the manufacture of the furniture is the craft.

    More generally, the thing that makes these kinds of things interesting is usually something beyond their functionality, such as design, surface, etc. On the other hand, some would say that the most interesting forms are those that follow function, so it may not be possible to separate form and function in a chair, building, or evening gown.

    The "fine" (as opposed to "applied") art photograph, painting, sculpture, or musical or literary work, however, has no function other than to be itself. Of course few works are really that straightforward in their intentionality, or they wouldn't be interesting.
     
  17. Robert

    Robert Member

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    Personally I think this applies to everything. It's the artistic vision that's the art. Weather the person uses paint,photograph or a coffee table.

    I'm trying to remember who but one of the old Italian masters would go to the quarry pick out his stone. Walk over to the guys with the chisels. Tell them his vision. Come back awhile later and pickup the more or less finished piece.

    Or a photographer that uses a custom printer.
     
  18. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Obviously in need of expansion.

    I should have been more picky, more precise, and replied "Not a MAJOR concern to me." I don't lie awake nights pondering "Photography - art or craft?"

    One idea is to suppose we have an answer, and try to predict the consequences.

    So, we travel to the mountain, climb it, and reach the Ultimate Guru on top of it - the "All Knowing One". S/he enlightens us ... "Photography is Craft!!", with an undeniable, logical explanation ... why!!
    How would that knowledge affect what we do? Would our "vision", our motivaton, our interaction with the world - and life - change?
    Suppose further, that the opposite answer, "Photography is Art" is the ultimate truth... then what?

    I'm fairly sure, that I would say, "Well, I don't have to wonder about that any more (no, I DON"T want to NOT wonder); go to bed tonight, wake up tomorrow (hopefully) and try to do the best I could in that day. No different than what I do now.

    I have been in a couple of "waiting" situations lately - I bring "Alfred Steiglitz - a Biography", by Richard Whelen, with me to read. This book is *filled* with Post-Its, marking interesting passages.
    One of them ... on topic:

    "In 1922 Steiglitz would write,

    Photography is not art. Neither is painting nor scupture, literature nor music. They are only different media for the individual to express his (or her - ES) aesthetic feelings; the tools he (or she - ES) uses in his (-- oh, you get the idea - ES) creative work.... You do not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And if so you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today."
     
  19. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    LOve that quote Ed. Of course I dont lie awake at night wondering this either. But I thought that if any one group would think photography is an art, would be photogrphers.

    Now it seems many a times we tend to get too deep into questions like this, here and in PN I was looking for "your" core feelings. To borrow your Stieglitz quote, a shoe maker can be creative, accomplished at his craft, but he does not do it for joy, or at least not in the sense we do. Of course, before you even say he might derive joy from a job magnifecintly done and the praise from his customer. In this case we could say photography is a craft, similar to those who make their living creating images on demand for customers. But why do you do it? I am sure whatever income you get from phtography is small compared to your main income, so why do it?

    Get my drift? Sometimes we tend to over analyse things, I dont know....I am very surprised at the reaction an comments....
     
  20. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Lets face it. Everything that comes out of New York to the great unwashed is ART. BE is music, performance, photographic, fashion, whatever.

    To the rest of us struggling to produce fine photographs, I believe the same as Don has said. We are craftsmen(people), working to produce the occasional work of art. Hopefully.

    I also believe that people that call themselves artists, are rather pretentious. Others may call you an artist, but you are really a craftman. When you start to call yourself an artist, you are in my opinion waaaay tooo full of yourself. EGO. "I'm an "ARTIST".

    However the two terms, art and craft have become so blurred and watered down that my previous rant about, nose art, boob art, etc in another thread has left me with the feeling that the entire question is like mental masturbation. It may feel good to talk about it but we don't really get anywhere with it.

    So I begrudgingly have to fall in line behind ED yet again, and say that I may stay awake at night for a few minutes, thinking about it, but once the alcohol kicks in I sleep like a baby.


    Michael McBlane
     
  21. BobF

    BobF Member

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    Jorge, you have said much the same thing several times (here and PN) and I keep wondering why, unless you are thinking of Photography only as what you do. I keep wondering if the photographer that pulls the 100' of 5" film out of the U2 spy plane feels like an artist? How do those that do nothing but copy shooting or simple snapshots feel about their art? I think that numerically most "photographers" have never thought of what they are doing as art and relatively few may aspire to some sort of artistic expression.

    It strikes me that most of us are talking past each other perhaps because of differing definitions and experiences.

    Bob (staying awake at night because of this question)
     
  22. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Greeks didn't regard clay pots as art, though they regarded painting and sculpture as such. I don't know, though, whether they regarded plaster casts--the earliest form of mechanical reproduction of aesthetic and religious objects--as "art."
     
  24. RAP

    RAP Member

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    It is essential for an artist to be a master craftsmen. To be able to have complete control over his medium. It does not mean he has to be able to do everything or know everything in his art or all aspects of the craft or technique of his medium. For example, just how many types of films, developers, papers did Weston use? What did Steiglitz say, less is more? Or was that Weston. But to be able to control what he does so as to create freely, intuitively, spontaneously, no matter what the circumstances.

    Control is essential for creativity. To go out shooting with the mentality of the more film you expose, the greater your chances of getting a few shots that are worth keeping, showing, is not the thinking pattern of an artist.

    Just because someone is a master craftsman, does not make him an artist. I have watched marvelous furniture craftsmen carve, chissel, sand incredable pieces. But they are reproductions. But to create an original design, brings one more into the realm of artistry.
     
  25. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    Craft + emotion + intention + taste = ART
    Craft + boredom = CRAFT
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    if it is a photograph - at the end of the wash cycle, it is art. (it seems that all artform need a tool for its creation. in photography, it is a camera and or the enlarger.)

    ... but there is a lot of junk to clear before finding the piece you actually need ...