What It Means to Be an Artist
Why do some photographers not consider themselves artists?
This is seriously a question that haunts me some days. If I had a nickle for every time I encountered a photographer in various art forums who wanted to be strictly styled as a photographer rather than an artist… Well, I wouldn’t be wealthy, but I certainly could afford a nice trip somewhere!
Considering how long photography has fought for a place at the artistic table, I’m often amazed when I discover photographers who consider what they do outside of the arena of artists. I mean, I grant that every snapshot may not be a work of art, just as every doodle is not the work of an old master. But I’m not talking about people taking happy snaps here. I’m talking about people who make it a big part of their lives creating beautiful and original imagery. That’s art!
In my mind, artists run the gamut from musicians, to painters, to photographers, to sculptors, and well… There are a great many creative endeavors that I’m omitting by necessity. The practitioners of these varied disciplines are, at the end of the day, all artists. The tools of their trades vary (and have in fact changed over the passing of the centuries), but the artist is more than their chosen tool.
I’m guilty in my own right, I suppose. Years ago when I first got interested in photography and wanted to share it with others, I sat down and started looking for a web domain to use. Vanity of course made me think my name should be part of that domain name, but my name on its own was taken. The first thing that popped into my mind of course was photography. Hence, my blog has been hosted under a combination of my name and photography every since. Hindsight being 20/20, I have wished many times since I had chosen a shorter and sweeter name that focused on the art side of things. When the new .art top level domains roll out, perhaps I’ll make that wish real. In the interim, my apologies to everyone who has had to type the whole thing in over the years! You have no idea how many times I fat-finger my own name, never mind photography when I’m typing my URL.
Connecting With The Audience
For me, it was a gradual trip from emphasizing the tool over the artwork. In part it was a result of interacting with the people who enjoyed my art. I realized that a great many of those viewers were far more interested in the artwork than how it was made. Outside of other photographers, they didn’t want to hear what lens was used or any of the insider jargon. And to be honest, although I love to pick up new tricks both behind the lens as well as in Photoshop, if I’m not actively engaged in researching new methods, I glaze over when I encounter paragraphs of information about the technical process involved. I feel the same regardless of the tool involved, be it camera, computer, or paint brush.
At the end of the day, what matters is the art itself and whether or not the audience connects with it. I still think one of the nicer things that’s been said to me in regards to my images was by someone who followed my work on Facebook a few years ago. Their comment was something to the effect that they had never really considered photography as art before, but after seeing my work, they had a new appreciation. And while it speaks a little bit to our collective preconceptions about art, I really appreciated knowing that by doing and sharing something I love, I had adjusted at least one person’s outlook about what it means to be an artist.