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  1. #1

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    Photography as artistic expression

    Before I begin let me say that anything that I am about to say is as applicable to me a photographer, working in traditional photography, as it is of any of us. My thoughts, that follow, have been well considered and are the true and honest expression of one who struggles with artistic expression as a condition of my passion with photography.

    Perhaps it is a condition of my thirty years involvement in photography...perhaps is is a condition of my advancing years...perhaps it is the ruminations of an overactive mind...I will own all of those as being true of me and my station in life.

    What about photography for that matter is it truly artistic? Is most of what I produce and observe in photography simply illustration? Is the illustrative output of any value to either myself or to a prospective viewer? What defines artistic output?

    Before we get into another "what is art" discussion...which quite honestly have risen to the level of gross and flagrant over intellectualization of a subject that most are ill prepared to discuss, let us agree that artistic expression has certain qualities that have held true since the beginning. The first of these is that it is an original creation of something heretofore unknown and heretofore unproduced and second that it engages both the senses and the emotions of the artist and a portion of those who may view the original work.

    Taken those conditions into consideration, what then is artistic about that which we (you and I) produce? Since most of us are human beings at the very core of our condition...that furthermore our work is not singular in point of address, what conditions of human experience are we addressing in the production of our photographs? Does the record of the existence of a tree, a stream, clouds in a sky, the interior of a temple, address anything about the conditions that human beings experience? How does illustration of these "known objects" lead to any universal acceptance by others and how does the illustration of these "known objects" speak to the matters of hope, fear, despair, lonliness, joy, sorrow, hunger, plenty, peace, or unrest within the soul of man?

    I have no answers for these questions. I have only questions...but they are damned important questions to me as a human being first and foremost and subsequently of one who aspires to artistic expression.

    Your thoughts are appreciated. I would hope that this fosters a constructive dialogue...I have no interest in contentions that seek only to fortify the constructs of our egos.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  2. #2
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    So then by your standards music is the only true art form, as it doesn't visually represent anything?

    The medium isn't the problem, it's the quality of the message being conveyed through it.

    Good luck with this navel gazing session...just by asking these kinds of questions means you're willing to learn and grow, which is the only way to improve as an artist.

    Murray
    _________________________________________
    Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by MurrayMinchin View Post
    The medium isn't the problem, it's the quality of the message being conveyed through it.
    Dear Murray,

    I could not agree more.

    We are all born artists. Levels of innate talent vary. So does the amount of work that we are willing to put in. So does our flexibility of mind, about what is and isn't art.

    And that's about it, really.

    Cheers,

    R.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by MurrayMinchin View Post
    So then by your standards music is the only true art form, as it doesn't visually represent anything?

    The medium isn't the problem, it's the quality of the message being conveyed through it.

    Good luck with this navel gazing session...just by asking these kinds of questions means you're willing to learn and grow, which is the only way to improve as an artist.

    Murray
    Murray, Thanks for your response. Perhaps we are misunderstanding the questions that I posed and what I was saying. I did not intend and don't think that I did say that the "visual" is a poor handmaiden of artistic expression...I think that you and I are in basic agreement when you say the "quality of the message"...just didn't want this to go far afield at the outset.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  5. #5
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller View Post
    ...let us agree that artistic expression has certain qualities that have held true since the beginning. The first of these is that it is an original creation of something heretofore unknown and heretofore unproduced...
    A small portion of what you wrote, I know, but it forms a base for your questions. Music is the only thing which meets this criteria.

    Off to work I go

    Murray
    _________________________________________
    Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.

  6. #6
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    I think that by including the terms "heretofore unknown" you're getting yourself in to trouble. Any visual medium must have a referent in the known world to convey any sense of meaning. With post-modern abstract artwork, that referent is other artwork. With music, although it does not have a visual referent, it has an auditory referent to sound. While it would be possible, I suppose, to compose a piece of music that had no auditory referent to any known or recognizable sound, it would be utterly unintelligible. It sounds to me like you're just suffering from that age-old photographer's angst - "is what I do 'ART'?". Photos of rocks and trees and even other manmade objects remain at the level of representational records when no effort is exerted to structure that representation in such a way as to ADD meaning to the image. It may be simply a matter of composing the image to emphasize pattern, form, or texture, or it may be viewing the subject from a distinctly unexpected viewpoint. It may be photographing the subject in such a way as to most closely mimic the actual way the human eye sees the subject, and as such, raises questions about the human experience of interacting with the subject.

    In short, to me the distinction between art and photomechanical representation is purely one of intent - if you have the intent to do more than create a photomechanical representation, it is art. This says nothing at all about how SUCCESSFUL the artistic endeavor is.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by MurrayMinchin View Post
    A small portion of what you wrote, I know, but it forms a base for your questions. Music is the only thing which meets this criteria.

    Off to work I go

    Murray

    Murray...I can think of many other artistic expressions than music.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    I think that by including the terms "heretofore unknown" you're getting yourself in to trouble. Any visual medium must have a referent in the known world to convey any sense of meaning. With post-modern abstract artwork, that referent is other artwork. With music, although it does not have a visual referent, it has an auditory referent to sound. While it would be possible, I suppose, to compose a piece of music that had no auditory referent to any known or recognizable sound, it would be utterly unintelligible. It sounds to me like you're just suffering from that age-old photographer's angst - "is what I do 'ART'?". Photos of rocks and trees and even other manmade objects remain at the level of representational records when no effort is exerted to structure that representation in such a way as to ADD meaning to the image. It may be simply a matter of composing the image to emphasize pattern, form, or texture, or it may be viewing the subject from a distinctly unexpected viewpoint. It may be photographing the subject in such a way as to most closely mimic the actual way the human eye sees the subject, and as such, raises questions about the human experience of interacting with the subject.

    In short, to me the distinction between art and photomechanical representation is purely one of intent - if you have the intent to do more than create a photomechanical representation, it is art. This says nothing at all about how SUCCESSFUL the artistic endeavor is.

    Whether it is original or not seems to be a qualifier of plagiarism.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  9. #9
    juan's Avatar
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    As someone who was a music major in college, a union performing musician for 20-years and a photographic diddler for 40 or so, I've always thought my music and photography were the same thing.
    juan

  10. #10
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    "...gross and flagrant over intellectualization of a subject that most are ill prepared to discuss..."

    This I feel recuses me from comment. Perhaps most of us. Maybe all?
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

    http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com

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