Photography as Art


This question comes up quite frequently.  Is photography considered it art?  Well, heck, ya, why shouldn’t it be?  But you’d be surprised at how many people refuse to accept that we, as photographers, can create art.  Take, for example the original charter for the San Angelo Art Club.  It forbids photography for their gallery and shows.  For their credit, they do have an annual show called “Anything Goes, Almost”, where art in all genres is accepted. 

Mountains in The Mist

To be fair, most of their members today, I think do recognize some photography.  They are quite complimentary of my work.  I entered their Anything Goes show one year and I got lucky and won 1st place.  I was even invited to join, but I saw no future in being a member if I couldn’t show or hang my photographs in their gallery. 

To get back to the subject of this post, there have been some great photographers that are certainly artists in their own right.  Ansel Adams is one of the greatest.  His beautiful black and white photographs of Yosemite are priceless.  He truly was an artist in the darkroom.  He was able to adjust the light and tonality to produce awesome images.  But he was one to admit that most people today wouldn’t know what the original picture looked like before he performed such artistry.  Then there was Galen Rowell, who I call the modern day Ansel Adams, and who was phenomenal working with color.  Yosemite was also one of his favorite places.  Not only was he a great photographer, but a mountaineer.  Many of  his photos were accomplished while he was hanging down the side of Half-Dome or EL Capitan.   Unfortunately, he and his wife Barbara were killed in a plane crash August 11, 2002.  He is certainly missed.  Anyway, Adam’s and Rowell’s photographs are certainly works of art.

I consider my images works of art.  Even though I can create a picture faster

Great Egret

 than the average paint artist, (in about 1/400th of a second)  it doesn’t mean that I don’t put a lot of work and creativity into it.  The average person thinks that I just aim the camera, then print it.  Not so.  When I am trying to make good scenics, I sometimes check out the location in advance, without taking the camera out of the car.  I want to see where the best location for a good composition is.  I want to check out the light so I know when the best part of the day will work best.  Of course, with my wildlife photos, I don’t have that luxury.  I have to be prepared to shoot with seconds notice.  I usually have my camera pre-set for the given circumstances so I can be ready.

After taking the photographs, I invariably am not satisfied.  I load the images into my computer for editing.  I check out the lighting, make color adjustments.  Then I crop for the best composition.  All this used to be done in a chemical darkroom.  Only now I don’t get my hands dirty.  Now the pictures are ready to be printed, framed and hung.

Eastern Bluebird

Nearly every time I participate in an art show, some one will invariably ask “where did you take that picture.”   It may be a mountains scene, such as my photograph of the rain-shrouded mountains that I call “Mountains in The Mist”.  I would prefer they just accept it as nice picture of the mountains.  If a paint artist created a picture like it, the  person would never ask “where did you paint the picture”.  They would, and rightfully so,  just accept as a nice mountain painting. 

Speaking of creativity, I sometimes am asked by someone who says he/she is an artist, if  he/she can paint one of my pictures.  I am glad that they like my work, but on the other hand, if they claim to be artists, why do they want to copy someone elses creativity.  It is rude and also violates all copyright laws.  So I tell them they can do so if they will sign my name to it.   ’nuff said.

I have to tell this tale that is somewhat unrelated.  A lady that works for the Chamber of Commerce whom I won’t identify, once asked me for photos of birds that were found in the San Angelo area.  I showed her all of my photos and she was about to select a few.  She came across one of my images of a Greater Roadrunner.  She asked, (wait for it), “where did you take that picture?”  I told her that it was somewhere near Knickerbocker,  near San Angelo.  She said she couldn’t use it because it wasn’t in San Angelo.   In actuality, most of the pictures she had previously selected, were taken at San Angelo State Park, which is outside the city limits.  She ended up not using any of them, since probably I couldn’t be trusted. :-).

So a final thought.  If a person can take a bucket of paint and just throw it at a canvas and call it art;  if a person sticks a paint brush in the mouth of a trained seal so it can swish a brush around and call it art;  then I think I can call my photographs art.

Incidentally, the image “Mountains in The Mist” was photographed in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. 🙂

Click on the photos to see enlargements.

Happy Shooting!! (with camera) and Happy Birding!!

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