A thought occurred last week while carrying work to an exhibition opening shortly; a thought pertaining to the slightly askew position photo artists occupy between photography and brush-arts. As a photo artist, I have to nail the roles of both the photographer and the artist. Blow either and the work bombs. Playing the artist on the computer, I might can salvage a photograph with poor exposure or sloppy composition, but I doubt it will be great. Same thing in reverse; take the photograph in the wrong artistic direction and it just looks like an unfocused blob. I have to be just as competent with the camera as any professional, and just as good with artsy manipulation as any artiste. The extent to which that applies is not something I’d much previously dwelled on.
What the photo artist has which neither of the other two do is a spectrum running between them. Professional photographers use the computer to perfect the exposure, color, lighting, and to remove any blemishes. An artiste starts with a blank canvas and fills in, to the best of their ability, whatever they imagine. Photo artists get to do both.
I typically work to perfect the photograph, and then, depending what I see beyond that, bend the pixels to my imagination. Today’s work bends those pixels very little – that’s partially due to the flower itself (a Monarda? Holler if otherwise) which is unusual enough that it already seems abstract. (NOTE: That’s something I’ve discovered in my work – the more unusual the subject of the photograph, the less that photograph lends itself to the artistic process. The two offset each other). My most recent work of July 30 clearly lent itself to greater artistic license. So too, and to a more extreme extent, did my works of July 15 and 17, two recent works I’m quite happy with.
In a perfect world, the photo artist might grab a photographic capture with a particular artistic application in mind. And, yeah, I do that – nine times out of ten I’m wrong. Maybe even 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t go the way I’d thought it would, so I don’t do it. When I pick up the camera, I’m thinking like a photographer. And when I sit down at the computer, I’m thinking like an artist. I cultivate the duality.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.