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  1. #1
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    The Art of Photography like The Art of the Hairdresser, Manicurist, Bootblack

    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. #2
    benjiboy's Avatar
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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.
    Last edited by benjiboy; 09-07-2012 at 05:01 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    Ben

  3. #3
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Me too.


    Steve.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    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."
    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.

  5. #5
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by benjiboy View Post
    ... 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 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. #6
    dpurdy's Avatar
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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. #7

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    Isn't the word art derived from artisan?

  8. #8
    blansky's Avatar
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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.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  9. #9
    zsas's Avatar
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    When was "What Makes a Photograph Good" by Edward Steichen written?
    Andy

  10. #10
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zsas View Post
    When was "What Makes a Photograph Good" by Edward Steichen written?
    1961.

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

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