Artisic integrity and photography…. What!!!
The idea of photography being art has never really sat well for me. Because so much of the photography I see, sure as hell isn’t art if you know what I mean. And the label “fine art photographer” is one I would be reluctant to wear, even if that genre was one that I was striving to join. Just try doing a search for fine art nude photography on the web and you’ll see what I mean…. Wowsers!
Today of course there will be much discussion again about whether photography is art with the news that former Aussie photographer Peter Lik, has just sold a single work for over $7,000,000 . Just watch the experts come out after that one.
However I digress once again. It took me many years to understand that me merely taking photographs was in some way an act of artistic expression. The first dawning for me occurred at the opening of a photo exhibition where one of my images was hanging, surrounded by many other works from other photographers.
One of the viewers of my work, a well known artist, asked me whether I had noticed the strong triangular lines created by a small island in the background which was repeated in the pose of my model. For a second, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. Of course I’d bloody noticed… The whole point of the models pose was the repetition of lines. Her integration into the landscape. Human form being part of our landscape was the dialog if you like…
Finally I said Yes… He just smiled softly and nodded his head knowingly and moved on. At that point I started to believe that I did in fact have some artistry in my vision. My way of seeing does have some merit. When I frame things within the view finder there is artistic merit.
Which brings me, to artistic integrity. Being a photographer who earns his entire income from photography. I have become use to having my vision butchered by all sorts of people. Mostly well meaning people with varying levels of visual literacy. Mostly I take it as part of the job. It hurts, when someone doesn’t get it in any way shape or form. A couple of instances spring to mind.
One, a portrait of an elderly lady. Devoutly religious, we posed her inside a church, cross on the wall in the background another tiny cross in her hands. Sounds corny but it made a powerful image. It was picked up by a publication to illustrate an article about the lady. Days later, the picture editor rang me to inform me, the picture came up well AFTER THEY HAD FIXED IT. His words. THEY had cut out the cross in the background, trimmed off the ladies hands and totally destroyed the context of the image. Even worse they had put my name on it. So much for artistic integrity.
More recently another producer of a visual publication had to FIX some of our images. Images that we had poured many hours into getting just right. Seems these people had changed the shape of their page layout and our pictures wouldn’t fit. So it was decided, without asking us, to just stretch the images out so they would fit the shape. Result a physically distorted set of photographs. Worse still, instead of using the high res files supplied, it was quicker to use the low resolution comping files…. The photos have come out a bit blurry… Must have been something you did when retouching them Ian… Again artistic integrity.