Why It is so Difficult for Some Photographers to Define Themselves as Artists – Part 1

We often meet photographers who do not dare to say that they are artists. They gladly use term for others but not for them. It is as if this word was taboo.

We also experienced this discomfort. But we have defeated our demons. We do not hesitate to claim this status. We had to accept three simple concepts to find our place in the world and assume the role we defined ourselves.

This fine art photograph of the Canyonlands is artistic.
This fine art photograph of the Canyonlands is artistic.

How to Define the Word “Artist”

There are several definitions of the word “artist”.

In the most general sense, the definition found in the dictionary is as follows.

"An artist is a person who has a sense of beauty and is able to create a work of art." We never use this definition because it is too generalist. We prefer this definition that we copied from Wikipedia.

"An artist is a person doing works, cultivating or mastering an art, a knowledge, a technique and whose creativity, poetry, originality of his production, his actions, his gestures, among others. His works are sources of emotions, feelings, reflection, spirituality or transcendence ".

The Artist Status is Primarily a Social Status

Why is it so easy to say that you are an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer when a photographer will have the greatest difficulty in saying that he is an artist?

The reason is quite simple. There is no training to become an artist photographer or for any other artistic form. There is no school. An artist is defined either by the other people who surrounds a photographer or by himself. The status of artist is decreed.

Artistic photography and all other artistic disciplines are taught in different grades, but the diploma awarded is that of photographer. The artistic qualification is not mentioned.

Photography is never seen as an artistic discipline but as a technical discipline. Photography students learn how to use a camera, how to use light to get the correct exposure for an image, and how to get special effects like bokeh or zooming. But photography is never considered under an artistic aspect as described in this article. We have written that photography is an art form that allows a person to express their emotions, feelings or to convey messages.

At the end of a training in photography, a person becomes a photographer. But what does it take to add the word artist? The answer is simple. Either the person will be recognized by their peers based on the photographic works created, or he will declare himself his artistic status.

Being a photographer is above all a social status.

We believe that an artist photographer must overcome three pitfalls in order to be well defined and assume his role in society.

The First Pitfall to Overcome: Accepting to be Self-taught

The first stumbling block to accepting oneself as an artist photographer is to say that photographic art is not necessarily taught in school or textbooks.

The arts generally as taught in a scholastic way are very subjective. Since art has existed, no one has been able to truly define art. It is a very malleable and very morphic notion. The definition and perception of photographic art depend on the times, the modes, the state of mind of a society. What is taught in the arts depends entirely on the societal context.

We believe that it is not necessary to have an artistic training in the academic sense of the term to be able to claim the status of artist.

Having taken studies or a photographic course is not a necessary condition to define oneself as an artist. As far as we are concerned, we both have computer engineering training. We are totally self-taught in photography. And yet we assume our status as photographers.

The Second Pitfall to Overcome: The Vision of Others

The second pitfall to overcome for a photographer to assume his status as an artist is to ignore comments and what other people may think of his approach.

To imagine how others perceive the activity of an artist photographer is a false good idea because it is totally subjective.

The opinions expressed and the comments are only interesting if they are fleshed out and argued in a precise way. This is not often the case.

Unfortunately, most photographers take too seriously light and detailed remarks. They think then that they cannot assume their status of artist.

We think that, just like the first pitfall, these judgments, which are often made in a piecemeal fashion, are subjective and unfounded. They are therefore without real interest.

The Third Pitfall to Overcome: Comparison with Others

The third pitfall to overcome for a photographer who wishes to assume the status of artist is to avoid comparing his artistic approach and his creations to those of other artists recognized or not. He often thinks he's doing worse than others. But again, it is a purely a subjective judgment. How to think that to be different is to be less good? How is it possible to compare two photographic artists who do not have the same artistic vision? What are the criteria to consider? Is the turnover or number of works sold valid criteria?

In the latter case, we believe that sales are primarily representative of the marketing qualities and commercial actions undertaken by a contractor. They are not directly related to the artistic work.

The Method that Allowed Is to Assume our Status

The rest of this article is available on another page. Click on the link below.

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