Does process actually matter?
I am not sure if this has been brought up before, I'm sure it has, but I can't seem to find it...
I had an interesting conversation with one of my teachers today regarding photography. He and I were talking about the statements a photographer might make regarding his or her work and their intentions. I mentioned that I like to orchestrate my images, staging fake realities and having my friends act them out. He then answered, "why does that matter?" I've had a few hours to think about that question now and I am a bit stumped. In many ways, he is correct because the only thing most people care about (apart from fellow artists and photographers) is the end product. In a commerical world, editors and art directors only care about the end result. Even in the art world, buyers just want to buy the piece. The rest of the world doesn't look at a Gregory Crewdson image and say "gee, look at how much care he put into this--the perfectionist asthetetic, the surreal lighting, and the eery artficial fog."
But on the other hand, we as photographers and artists might see that ourselves because we know how hard it is to create images like he does. Even more so, whenever I buy photography monographs, I always read about the artists process in making his or her work. Rineke Dijkstra's book discusses her use of the 4x5 camera and the need for her adoloscent subjects to hold their pose for more than a mere second or two. Or Avedon, everyone loves the fact that he uses the 8x10 camera, the intimacy and honesty that he's able to pull out of the subject because he can step next to the camera instead of being in back of it.
I am in a bit of a conundrum on how to actually interpret this. I've had several art professors who emphasize their use of the 4x5 or 8x10--the elaborate planning they need, the intensity of shooting with a camera like that. But of my other professor is supposdely right in saying that none of that stuff matters, only the end result, who is right? Or, are they both right, and do we just have to choose for ourselves?
I can't wait to see what everyone writes!
It does and it doesn't. It matters to the person taking the photos, because the process they use works for them to get the images they want. It doesn't matter HOW they got there to their audience so long as they are getting the images they want out of their process. It also matters to other photographers who are interested in learning how to achieve a particular look.
You're actually asking two questions: one about whether it matters that photos are staged, and another about whether it matters what type of camera one uses. I would argue that the first matters a lot (whether an image is real or staged is of vital importance to how it its viewed) while the second matters a little (robert frank's images can be just as beautiful as richard avedon's).
there are many factors that combine to make a successful image, you are considering but a few
too many photographers get too hung up on some of the factors and forget the rest
just because an image is printed/captured/made a particular way doesn't make it successful
a successful image/artwork moves it's audience
how do you move the audience?
by considering all the factors; composition, perspective, subject selection, artistic intent, lighting, technique, materials, equipment, presentation, etc, etc
who is the audience?
different audiences will be moved by different factors
pjm, what is important to you is also important, especially if you are not a pro. If photography is your avocation then you can easily justify caring more about process than about the final image, in fact many do.
I wrote an article for View Camera on this very subject titled Five Kinds of Photograhpers. It was in the January 2006 issue if memory serves.
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It is important when discussing one's work, not as important when viewing the work.
Exactly what TheFlyingCamera said.
Intention matters ABSOULUTELY. I find it a little irresponsible that your 'prof' would say that (which school is this??). The visual work you are making is one solution to a problem which you have framed for yourself. It needs to succeed within that of parameters/that context. Granted - others will have independent readings of it.... but if they understand where you were coming from - it opens them up to territory they might not have considered exploring before. That's what doing art is, IMO, all about!
I think the question was a challenge, not an admonishment. If you are going to discuss process there has to be a reason to discuss it. If you shoot people in the IC ward, but only display those that lived, it would be an important item to add to the discussion of the work. We might not know you used TXP and if you bring it into the discussion of the work there should be a reason that it is part of the discussion. If you shot them on TXP because Kmart was running a sale then it wouldn't matter.
Many art teachers and photographers will obsess over process. I tend to think that is the craftsperson in them coming out, not the artist. No one needs to know how you did it, unless it is integral to understanding what it is. To the viewer the image is the art to the artist (maybe) the entire process (including looking at the work) is the art.
McFactor, yes, I think that is what I was getting at too: the difference between the staged and the natural.
And Sparky, I agree with you--the context part in totality. He's not really a photography teacher, he's really just is the head of my high school and does photography on the side.