Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I'm an artist who creates unique and individual pieces of artwork. I am not a photographer who sells photographs. It is frustrating to be lumped in with other "photographers" just because I use a camera as one of several artistic tools. I think the distinction (though subtle), is clearly there - both artist and photographer may dabble in fine art photography, but in doing so - the artist does not necessarily become a photographer and a photographer does not necessarily become an artist.

I don't use the results of my camera in a traditional sense (and is why I almost never have finished pieces in traditional photographic sizes such as 5x7 or 8x10). I don't use my camera to demonstrate my skill and mastery over my equipment or the resultant efforts - many photographers do (fine and otherwise). I use my camera at the beginning of an artistic endeavor/expression - the work I complete is often far from what is traditionally conceptualized as a "photograph". To further the differences: I don't often demonstrate any artistry in my pre-snapped picture composition - I compose my artistic expression long after the picture has been taken with the camera. I'm working on a letter to include on my art web page to better delineate the differences. But to be clear - I'm not an amateur photographer, I'm an artist. I don't produce quantities of any one photograph, I usually create a unique piece with a few similar pieces with variations and then move on to my next creation -- I don't take the stance that I've "caught" a view with the camera that will be "popular" and many people will be interested in owning their very own copy, (no matter how affordable it may be).

When I have more time I need to better articulate this as there is a distinct group of artist who fall in to this category whom I'm sure all feel misunderstood. A less defensive tone perhaps and a more "educational" piece to seize upon the opportunity to better explain this concept to the general public. In the mean time, it would be nice if those venues who feature 'artists', would also include artist who create fine art photography -- you don't have to be a painter, printmaker, sculpture, glass blower or ceramicist to be considered an "artist". I'm sure that to some extent fiber artists, ceramicist an glass blowers may have some similar issues -- given that their art/craft can cross the line from purely art to functional pieces (I'm thinking ceramic dishes, vases and glasses, and clothing), but photography doesn't have as clear of a functional component except perhaps when you see it as a way of documenting family/personal events - (photo journalism).

I think those who represent "artist" do not know how to present an artist whose medium is fine art photography - they don't know how to convey the uniqueness of work and perhaps think they that they can not defend against a mass produced concept (I contend that an artist would not be interested in a mass produced piece - as if that is indeed the intention of the work then it's a commercial product not art - or of minimal art value.) I often spend more time in the photo processing stage of any one image than I do in creating a piece in pastels. Does that help validate the "art" provenance? (Though even I concede "more time" does not always equal "better art". ) Another reality is that a painting can also be "mass produced" via the Giclee technology. All two dimensional art is subject to this.

I will continue to define myself as an artist who dabbles in fine art photography as even the title: "Fine Art Photographer" is confusing and is often used by those who are also photographers - of which I am not nor intend to be.

I welcome comments on this.


Sheila Vaughan said...

Marietta, well said - what you are doing is re-inventing the common 'operational definitions' relating to art. Some people say it doesn't matter but I think it does. As far as the "Visual Arts" are concerned (and we have a whole range of other "Arts" from cooking, dancing, playing the guitar, poetry... and so on..)I feel that an artist does three things: perceives, interprets and presents that interpretation for others to see. For me the key thing in that process is interpretation and the depth of it. I see people who I consider brilliant painters but not particularly "artists". I know in my own work which pieces are an attempt to produce "art" and which are simply "paintings". That is a very personal view I think but we only get to understand these complex things more if we share our perceptions. Great to get your views on this.

Stone Bridge Studios said...

Sheila! Thanks for your lovely comments ( on all the posts). They are very helpful to me as it seems to be something intangible that I'm wrestling with. I like how you define an artist doing three things -- that framework makes it easier for me to see my own role in the process - it feels authentic in the differences I perceive between those working in the same medium.