The Art of Photography like The Art of the Hairdresser, Manicurist, Bootblack

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Bill Burk, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    In an article, "What Makes a Photograph Good" by Edward Steichen, included in the book I keep reading and re-reading, "Photographic Communication" compiled by R. Smith Schuneman.

    A passage by Steichen keeps drawing me in. I have to say it makes a lot of sense to me. I thought of tagging this thought into a few recent threads, but I think it is a pretty valuable discussion point on its own...

    Steichen: "I have never maintained except possibly in my youth that photography was a fine art. I always referred to it as the art of photography. That puts us in the same class as the art of the hairdresser, the art of the manicurist, and possibly the bootblack. That's the way I like it."

    "As to my personal feelings, I get a much bigger kick out of someone saying to me about one of my prints, "That's a fine photograph," rather than "That's artistic." Let us take pride in what we are: Photographers. Let us take pride in photography and let the rest take care of itself."
     
  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    That's the way I look at it too Bill, I consider Photography a craft and good photographers fine artisans, in fact in the middle ages the old masters only were regarded as craftsmen the same as stone masons etc., unfortunately everybody and his brother these days as soon as the learn enough to produce recognizable images is a self professed artist, and wants his work to be regarded fine art.
    I find it deeply ironic that if you told the majority of the people who were the greatest photographers of the 20th century that they were artists, they would probably laugh in your face.
     
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  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Me too.


    Steve.
     
  4. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I recall reading that years ago, now that you remind me.

    As for whether or not photography is a "fine art", I do not call or think of myself as a photographer, but as a craftsman/artisan who happens to use a camera to make nice pictures. Sometimes.:wink:
     
  5. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I see that too, and there is that space they play in. For a long time, as I improved my photography, I thought that was where I wanted to position myself. That's why I like that qualification of Steichen's ("perhaps in my youth").

    I don't mind when an Artist picks photography as a medium to produce compelling, thought-provoking pieces of art. Fine Art can be produced without much craft. I can look at Andy Warhol's Polaroids and appreciate them as Fine Art, but I've had my 15 minutes of fame -- now I want something more meaningful.

    I most admire photographers who know and practice their craft. That's why I have strong positive opinions about AA and HCB. Perhaps a hundred others. And that is what I want to achieve. I see my prints getting better, and it's very satisfying. But I'm relieved to know that I don't have to claim I'm in it to make Fine Art.
     
  6. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    Art doesn't come from a tool, it comes from a creative mind. It isn't about your level of craft, it is about your aesthetic inspiration.
    Dennis
     
  7. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    Isn't the word art derived from artisan?
     
  8. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Most of this stuff is just arguing or pondering words that have lost their meaning. Art, craft, fine art, less than fine art...

    When someone started acting out in public and described that as "performance art", I knew we were doomed. When a singer started calling themselves "recording artists" and when painting canvases with her boobs became art, the game was up.

    To me much of the wording is merely marketing, and much is the breathless adoration of morons trying to show off that THEY know and recognize "art".

    Most of these artistic pursuits are just people trying to learn and perfect a craft, and once in a while they reach a point when one of their projects reaches the level of art. Pretty rare really.

    So for me it's all pretty easy to sort out. If you name yourself an "artist" you're a bullshitter and if some one else names you that, then maybe you are. Maybe.
     
  9. zsas

    zsas Member

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    When was "What Makes a Photograph Good" by Edward Steichen written?
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    1961.

    Additionally, in the introductory paragraph he wrote... "As a matter of fact I have photographed actively for 65 years."
     
  11. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Yes, in some cases we are wearing out the words by endlessly discussing them. I thought this was a fresh take.

    ...

    I admire people trying to learn and perfect a craft... That's the group I want to associate with... When it reaches the level of art... Then there is something I find remarkable.

    I also admire, but on a different plane, those artists who can make a statement using photography without knowing the first thing about the craft. These same artists might create something the janitor accidentally cleans up. But it's different from what I am trying to achieve.
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I think it's worse than that.... What on earth is Street Dance?


    Steve.
     
  13. zsas

    zsas Member

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    The 2nd quote basically says its all semantics:

    But then the first quote takes a stance:
    Is he saying it is all semantics but if he had to pick he would consider it like how the first quote suggests? We have a cake and eat it too going on here?
     
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  15. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    No not exactly it means skilled crafts person and comes from the Latin (artit)in the same sense as the middle ages sense of artful ,artifice and artefact, it's more akin to skill of making things in the modern sense than the way we use the word art nowadays.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artisan
     
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  16. LarryP

    LarryP Member

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    I like the quote ,it's pretty much how i see the art of photography. Makes me think of the Eric Clapton quote when asked about the whole 'guitar god ' bit . " Hopefully I'll be remembered as a journeyman guitar player. "
     
  17. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I'll continue where I left off, maybe it will clarify:

    .."There is no longer any question, nor has there been any question in 50 years, that photography is entitled to the same consideration as other art mediums. As far as that is concerned, I don't think any medium is really an art medium. The only thing that makes any medium an art medium is the artist who makes the picture. And there are not too many of them..."

    His next point is that the best training in photography is the understanding of self.

    Then he goes on to explain what makes a photograph good, which is to put all you are into it. "Unless that image becomes alive, it's not a photograph. It's just a record."
     
  18. Ian David

    Ian David Member

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    Quote of the day!
     
  19. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Very nice, inspiring too!
     
  20. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    No, the English word art is from the Latin ars the root is art- which does not appear in the nominative singular. Thus the MGM logo of the lion roaring at the motto "Ars gratia artis" which roughly translates as "Art for art's sake."

    An ar·ti·san is a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson. This is very different from the meaning of an artist.
     
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  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    My mother once said to one of my cousins when he graduated from medical school, " to me your a doctor, to the rest of the family your'e a doctor, but to a doctor are you a doctor ?"
    Speaking personally I always try to avoid photographers who refer to themselves as "Artists", because "self advertisement is no recommendation" .
     
  22. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Sometimes that's all the recommendation you are going to get!


    Steve.
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    You guys are too funny!

    It is an inspiring speech, and a damning one. I internalized the advice long ago, the part about how to become a successful photographer. The part that applies to me the worst is that he says without the "guts" to "sacrifice anything and everything to become a photographer, he won't succeed."
     
  24. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    It always comes up. What do you do? I am a photographer. What kind of photography do you do. I am a fine art photographer. Oh you mean you photograph paintings for artists. No I make photographs that are art. Oh. (not convinced)

    Or what do you do? I am an artist. Oh what sort of art do you do. I do photography. Oh yes that is sort of an art.

    Lately I have been trying this... What do you do? I do art work. Oh what kind of art work? I find interesting objects and then arrange them as a sculpture then I use an old style large camera
    and make a very large negative. Then I mix up a photo sensitive solution from platinum and palladium salts and paint it on watercolor paper. Then I put the large negative on the paper and sandwich it between sheets of glass and expose it to the sun. Then I put it in solution that develops an image of the negative and then I put it in baths of Hydrochloric Acid to fix it. So I am kind of a sculptor and kind of a painter and kind of a photographer... oh cool.

    Dennis
     
  25. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Just tell everyone that you a a research chemist!


    Steve.
     
  26. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    :confused:
    I was once introduced at a party by my host who knew I was a Photographer to a woman who he said was also a photographer and that we should have a lot in common, after the usual pleasantrys I asked her what format and type of camera she worked with, to my astonishment she replied " Oh I don't have a camera, I make pictures in my head" :confused: , I made a hasty retreat into another room and found my wife.