Why a Photographer May Have Difficulty Defining Himself as an Artist – Part 1
We often meet photographers who do not dare to admit that they are artists. They gladly apply this term to others but not for themselves. It is as if this word was taboo.
We have also experienced this discomfort. Nevertheless, we have defeated our demons. We do not hesitate to claim this status. To reach this level of self-acknowledgement, we learned to accept three simple concepts that led us to find our place in the world, assuming the role that defines us.
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 states:
"An artist is a person who has a sense of beauty and is able to create a work of art."
However, we never use this definition, as it is too broad a term.
We prefer this definition 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 tell others that you are an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer, when a photographer often has the greatest difficulty in saying that he is an artist?
The reason is quite simple. There is no training to become an artistic photographer or for any other artistic form. There is no school. An artist is defined either by the audience surrounding him, other photographers, or by himself. The status of artist is decreed.
While it is true that 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.
By the end of a photography training, a person has learned how to become 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 adopt this artistic status.
Becoming a Photographer Creates a New Social Status
We believe that an artistic photographer must overcome three pitfalls in order to be well defined in assuming his role in society.
The First Pitfall to Overcome: Accepting Independent Self-Teaching
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. Instead, it is often taught by the photographer himself, and new concepts are learned by this same photographer.
Generally, the arts being taught scholastically are very subjective. Since art has existed, no one has been able to create a definition that truly encapsulates the essence of what art is. It is a very malleable and morphic idea. The definition and perception of photographic art depends on the era, the style, and the surrounding society’s state of mind. What is taught in the arts depends entirely on the societal context.
We believe that it is not necessary to have an “artistic training” from an academic standpoint, to be able to claim the status of being an 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, and yet we are completely self-taught in the art of photography and we have assumed our status as photographers.
The Second Pitfall to Overcome: The Vision of Others
The second pitfall a photographer must overcome is his status as an artist. He must learn to ignore other’s negative comments and opinions concerning his artistic approach.
The vision of the general crowd of viewers may be completely subjective, thus it is a poor idea to think of these opinions as helpful.
Comments and opinions expressed by others are only interesting if they present a solid, logical argument that precisely deals with an issue or concern. This is often not the case.
Unfortunately, most photographers take frivolous remarks too seriously. They think that they cannot assume their status as an artist because a few individuals deny the validity of one or more of their works.
We think that, just like the first pitfall, these judgments, which are often presented in fragments, are subjective and unsupported. They lack authenticity.
The Third Pitfall to Overcome: Comparison to Others
A photographer who wishes to assume the status of an artist must learn to overcome the third pitfall. He must learn to avoid comparing his artistic approach and his creations to those of other artists, whether recognized or not. He may often think that his works are inferior. However, such thinking is false because the value of art is purely subjective. How is it that a difference in thinking is often equated to the false idea of inferiority? How can it be possible to compare two photographic artists who do not share the same artistic vision? What are the criteria for such opinions? Is it the turnover or number of works sold?
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.