The fundamental difference between art and beauty is that art is about who has produced it, whereas beauty depends on who’s looking. -Chiara Leonardi
It comes to the surprise of many who read my Philosophy on the about page that I don’t consider myself a photographer. I am not sure how to break this preconception by others of such a description. Sure I understand, but I wish there was an easy way to explain that for all practical purposes, I am not a “photographer”.
This may stem from my own preconceptions I admit. When I think of a photographer I think of a person in a studio who has placed a background behind the family, gets all the lights and reflectors adjusted just right, then says, “say cheese” and click, takes a picture. To me, that is a “photographer”.
It seems the longer I go about this the more ambitious I get about dispelling such things. It may be because I read so many others artist statements or about pages that state claims such as; landscape photographer, nature photographer, wildlife photographer, and the worst one of all, “photographer”. As if it does not matter what they take pictures of, they will take pictures of anything and apparently for any reason.
Before you go thinking I am a killjoy and don’t think people should be taking pictures simply for the sake of enjoyment, that is not what I am saying. In fact, that is not what a photographer does. That would be what a spectator who happens to have a camera does.
I enjoy and appreciate the tools of the craft as much as anyone. I enjoy the spontaneity moments can bring, but to lay claim to the medium of photography as a title as if one has arrived at a destination seems, well, a bit insulting.
The spectator who takes snapshots of new places on vacations, or special moments of personal significance may be “the photographer” compared to those who don’t take pictures on such occasions, but does that really need to be pointed out? When one is running to catch a taxi, they could claim they are a runner, at least at the moment they are running, but what is the point?
I believe when we become specific as to our description we proceed to place ourselves in a smaller and smaller box. This may be fine if one is a specialized heart surgeon, but for art, it seems to stifle the creative muse that gives art it’s playful joys.
For all the deserving accolades received by Ansel Adams many others have gone somewhat unnoticed. Adams name is brought up whenever the talk of photography turn serious by those in the know. Philosophy may not be among the many things Adams is known for.
Among the tremendous number of quotes and sayings Adams is known for I find a seldom mentioned one holding tremendous insight. “It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than any other art medium.”
I would chance to say nearly everyone has watched a well-produced movie, read a well-written novel, or listened to a powerful score of music and been moved to tears. Have you ever been moved to such emotional depths by viewing a landscape photograph? Adams seems to have been right.
Those who long for baseless proclamations of expertise instilled in titles seem to ignore philosophies such as those shared by Adams, but make use of his name (or other masters) if chance predicts they may benefit personally themselves.
Pursue The Experience
As a personal observation, I find masters and consequently masterpieces seem to evolve through whispers of greatness instead of shouts of attention. Masterpieces may have an initial birth date but they are creations that evolve through many cycles of life.
Today shouting to the world seems to be the norm. Many hold “attention” in high regards. Noise is rampant, relentlessness, and most times irritating. This does not or should not change the nature of art and for ones continual desire to improve. Louder is not better it is just louder.
There are photographers who follow specific criteria in hopes for winning results (depending on one’s definition of winning). They follow checklists of composition, locations, styles, subjects, and looks of others that are popular. Emotional connection is gone, vanished from these checklists of popularity, replaced with best case scenarios and popularity polls. Equipment, tools, techniques, even locations, are today’s attention grabbers.
The thrill of accomplishing what many others have accomplished seems to be the goal of those who lack the understanding of or personal insight for originality. Only to leave empty hollow souls for future endeavors. Void of whispers from the muse who can, and will, guide the artists if freed to do so.
My final thought on this takes me back to the title that I wrote before writing the content. If it is the title one is seeking, disregarding the journey to such title. What would a title mean? What importance would it hold? To some, it may possibly hold importance. Vain as it may be. To fewer, it would be of no consequence, have no value, and be only a byproduct of intentional living.