Why Photography is A True Artistic Discipline - Part 1
Are all photographic disciplines artistic? Are all photographers artists? These essential questions are, in our view, as important as those relating to the technique. It is by trying to answer these questions that we have better defined our work, thus advancing in our projects.
The Different Approaches to Photography
Photography can be broadly classified into two main approaches:
- Realistic photography includes many subjects such as: photojournalism, paparazzism, astrophysics and naturalistic photography. In this photographic approach, the photographer reports on a scene or situation without artifice. The reality is the most important factor to create the photographs.
- Artistic photography is an imaginary representation of the real world. In this approach, the photographer uses reality to describe his emotions, his feelings, his worldview and his life.
Both approaches are rooted in reality. The scenes that are photographed truly exist. The big difference is that one is an interpretation, a perspective, of the real world while the other gives an exact picture of what happened at a given moment.
All photographic disciplines are not artistic. Photojournalism, paparazzism, certain portrait techniques, and food photography, are not necessarily artistic. They describe reality and show exactly one moment. The photographer must be as objective as possible by describing precisely what he has in front of his eyes at the time of triggering the camera. In the case of realistic photography, the photographer does not seek to convey messages or emotions: he documents a fact, an action, a slice of life.
The artistic photographer proposes an interpretation of the world that he has in front of him at a given moment. By this, we do not mean photocomposition or photomontages, but photographs which are corrected or retouched in order to evoke emotions and feelings that the photographer wishes to share with his audience.
Well then, what is an artistic photograph? How can one build it? How can it be defined? To answer these questions, we must journey back to the essential definitions.
What is art?
This is the first question we asked ourselves, years ago when we switched from stock and documentary photography to artistic photography. At the time, it was very important to us to understand, in a simple way, this concept which has raised many polemics since the beginnings of humanity.
It is not easy to understand the subtleties of the classification of artistic forms. However, one must have a firm grasp of the concept of art in order to utilize it within artistic photography.
Trying to define art has caused endless arguments and discussions because everyone has an opinion on this issue. Each individual has a specific interest and perspective which has the right to be considered. If the definition of art was simple, there would be no permanent debate. Because art is not simple, it has caused disagreement for centuries in the West.
Yet, we will try to give a simple definition based on common sense to better understand the classification of artistic forms and see why photography is an artistic form. Do not judge us to be sententious. We do not hold any truth on the subject but we have some certainties that we want to share.
As artist photographers, it is important to understand how broad the idea of art spans. This has helped us to more completely define our work as artists, and it has also answered the question of why we feel the need to create photographs in order to show our vision of the world.
First, art is a human activity. This is what distinguishes us from other species in nature. Until now, it has never been proven that another animal species has been able to produce works of art.
Art is a human activity that aims to express concerns, ask questions or raise beliefs in some form. Art allows to translate emotions or feelings that are imagined by human beings. The content of art has the power to allow human beings to express their feelings and emotions in an intimate expression. Art is related to an emotional context. For example, according to the content, the art could make you feel either melancholy or happy.
While art is the best way to understand a people, a culture or a civilization, it is also the best way to understand ourselves either by creating or appreciating creations.
Art allows a person to question, to dream, and to convey feelings. Art connects people in a complex, multi-faceted way.
Art is independent of the medium used: paper, screen, musical instruments, etc. The important thing in art is how the message is perceived by the audience.
Ranking Various Artistic Disciplines
It is true that the human individual must classify and organize information in order to better remember the content. As professional photographers, we constantly create and implement formulas which we call “work processes”. It took us years to understand the immense impact our “work processes” have had on our work. Although this formula has allowed us to be more creative, it has also organized our plans into well-defined tasks. It saves us from wasting time. This organization allows us to focus on the essentials: create new photos.
Let’s return to art. Art has not escaped the methodical organization of the human mind. Many philosophers or thinkers have tried to establish a ranking. Today, the following list prevails. It was established by Etienne Souriau in the 20th century.
- Architecture and Sculpture.
- Dance, Mime, Theater and Circus.
- Literature and Poetry.
- Cinema and Photography.
This classification was established through particular stages: form, lines, color, movement, pronunciation, and light. For us, this classification is especially interesting because the gradation integrates all the elements which appeal to the five senses of the human being.
However, we must emphasize that there is a more general classification of the arts:
- Visual Arts: painting, drawing, photography.
- Living Arts: theater, dance, mime, circus.
Regardless of classification, photography appears in each type. Obviously, photography is a recognized form of art. Artistic photographers can create emotions, convey messages, evoke questions, and share intimate concerns. The artistic photography does not depend on the medium used, although we consider an artistic photo as a printed image on paper.
Now that we have described what art in general is, it becomes interesting to better understand what a specific piece of art is. Indeed, an artistic photographer produces unique photographs or series, made up of specific photos.