Confidence in nonsense is a requirement for the creative process

photographers and artists


Let me put a disclaimer first. I am just a person who loves taking photos and making up stories and hopes to be somewhat creative and artistic one day.
With that said, this post is merely my random ramblings. I use this blog to document my experiments and ideas and this is but a part of that.
So with that unasked for preface, here goes πŸ™‚

It’s a long standing point of discussion regarding the classification of photography. It’s a craft some say and some call it art. The lines between the two however seem to be really blurry. Because to master an art, you need to master the craft first. Conversely however, mastering the craft does not an artist make. Is what I think at least.

With the advent of the digital age, the possibility of becoming a photographer has been opened up for anyone with a camera. Learn the basics, add good technique and thought, and with practice, one can easily become a good photographer. Because to master a craft needs intelligence and hard work. But photography does extend beyond that, doesn’t it?

A few days ago, a friend, who is an outstanding photographer btw, and I, had a slight difference of opinion. Thing is, my camera is always (always) set to super vivid because I love bringing out vibrant colors in my photos. Even in a dusty street scene I see the bright, bold and shiny first and the dust later. And his point was that he prefers to portray a scene exactly as he saw it. And I completely respect that opinion. But then he commented that if one wanted to make art, they should go paint, not indulge in photography.

And that got me thinking. Being a skilled craftsman enables you to repeatedly create great stuff. But are you moved to tears by a beautifully made table?

Think of names like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz .. (If you haven’t yet, please do check out their work). When looking at the images these masters have created, one point consistently jumps out at me. And that is not just their tack sharp images or perfect focus or exact exposure. It’s the ‘feel’ of the photo that stays with me. The story it is telling. The emotional response that it evokes. The composition. The colors or the lack of them. If it is a landscape, the feeling of being part of the scene.. the feel of water at my toes or smell of the ocean just by looking at the image. Is a portrait a replica of the person’s face or is the ‘person’ behind the face visible?

To me these aspects make a great photo.

Anywho, lets stop with the rambling and get on with today’s photo.
I discovered another photographer recently. Cindy Sherman. This lady is something. A lot of her work is provocative and a bit too edgy for my taste but I am fascinated with her series of untitled film stills she did in the late 70s. She took photos of herself portraying various women characters in film. They don’t look like self portraits at all. It’s almost like she is the character she photographs. And then of course I wanted to try it out. Because I’m original that way :p

So what are your thoughts? whether you are a pro or whether you make photos for fun, do you think about photography beyond making good looking images?

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17 responses

  1. Thats an excellent post – some thought evoking questions.

    To me a photograph is always photographers perspective. But a great photograph allows other to have their own and thats an interesting facet of visual arts – photography is indeed an art.

    I read a very interesting take on this by Kalyan Verma a renowned wildlife photographer. His view was that in wildlife you should limit your processing to correcting the camera / lens handicap. If you do more than that – you are being unreasonable to your viewers who admire what they think you saw in wild. Same is the case of photojournalism. But there is a place for Digital Art and there is nothing wrong there.

    You are doing great work with your shots, this love for vibrant colors outgrows soon though, i can tell you ! πŸ™‚

    May 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

    • dhaami

      Thank you for your comment Mayank! Yes a great photo lets both the photographer and the viewer have their own interpreation.. much like a painting or a poem. This ability and freedom of open-endedness is what I find most attractive about photography. And if I was told to stick to a set of rules in order to be considered valid, I’d give it up without a second thought.

      With regards to wildlife photography or journalistic images, if you are publishing for informative purposes like newspapers or magazines, of course editing the photo to alter reality is unacceptable. But when I am doing it as a form of creative expression I am allowed to have a purple tiger if I so feel like it πŸ™‚

      With regards to vibrant colors, you may be right. After all, one has to continously grow and evolve. As of now, I’m enjoying it πŸ™‚

      May 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  2. Congress Gawat

    I think it is the unique perspective while composing a frame and many times perfect timing of a click that makes some photographers stand out. I would call that the artistic sense. How many of the great photographers use vivid filters or paintbrush effects? If the focus is more on processing the photos to “make them look artistic” then painting is better medium to express one’s ideas…

    All I am saying is post processing chya kubadya gheun firanya peksha origianl compose ka nahi bhannat karata yenar?

    BTW (IMHO) above photo will be lot more appealing if the eyes do not wander to the umbrella behind due to its vivid color. Try toning down colors / BW for this photo.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    • dhaami

      Totally agree on perspective and composition. But unless you shoot in RAW your image is already processed to a certain extent by the camera. I think I said this previously as well.
      With regards to filters and effects, a lot of the great masters in the film era applied processing techniques on film as well as used films with different properties to get the image to look like they wanted. You have worked with film SLRs so you would know that Fuji Velvia will give very different colors than a regular Kodak with standard speed. What was that if not processing?

      A bad composition can never be salvaged by processing. But a camera is a tool. It is not magic. Do you know that the human eye has a range of 20 stops with 10 times the contrast ratio of a digital sensor? As of date there is no camera which can capture that range. So even a non-processed image is also not a true representation of what our eyes can see at the time of the shutter click. So what we have in our hand when we click the shutter is visualization, composition and the kind of exposure you want. And I totally agree that there is no substitute to that.
      πŸ™‚

      May 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

  3. I’d just say both are different genres of photography… Today photography is so popular and such an evolved art form (yes, there’s nothing else you can call it), it’s like an ocean out there, you can swim in your own little corner of it and be happy, if that’s what works for you! πŸ™‚

    You totally look like a character out of a movie in this photo.

    May 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    • dhaami

      True enough. We can stick to our own corners but we can also try to learn about others’ corners and learn from them.. after all art cannot be art without anyone appreciating it. Isn’t it?

      And thank you..I feel grand ! πŸ˜€

      May 16, 2011 at 7:28 am

  4. elmediat

    Your friend seems to be in the trap of thinking that the photograph never lies. Photography is one of many artistic mediums and it is also a form of mass media. A photograph can also be a component of another work of art (mixed media) or a component of another mass media (a magazine, a poster, or a blog post).

    All forms of mass media have their own codes and conventions. They all construct a reality in their own way. As soon as you compose a shot you shape reality by deciding on the subject,the angle, the distance, and how you frame the subject.

    A photograph is never a 100% depiction of reality. And like any medium, the codes and conventions contain their own set of aesthetic values.

    Oh, one other thing, your work is excellent! These are beautiful compositions that frame your subjects and use vivid colours to their best effect on the viewer.

    May 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    • dhaami

      First of all, thank you SO much for taking the time to write that thoughtful comment! Because what you say is educative (is that a word) to me at least. I totally agree with your statement that as soon as we compose a shot, we shape a certain reality. Because after all even reality is subjective and relative.

      And thank you for the kind words πŸ™‚ I’m happy that what I do gets conveyed to the viewer the way I want. What more can one expect!

      May 16, 2011 at 7:24 am

  5. love that photograph!
    portraying a scene as it is is photojournalism and photoart is what you have portrayed. Both have their place and are as different as journalism and literature.

    May 15, 2011 at 7:26 am

    • dhaami

      Thank you Magiceye! And yes I did not think in terms of photojournalism and photoart..but even photos which are depicted under the tag of photojournalism rarely depict the scene as is.. a lot of creative leeway is usually taken by the photographer to provide the viewer his/her opinion of the scene..don’t you agree?

      May 16, 2011 at 7:18 am

      • definitely the final product will be biased depending on the perspective of the photographer πŸ™‚

        May 17, 2011 at 7:28 am

  6. To start, those are some killer photographic artists you called out. There was a Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand exhibition that just closed at the Met…http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={EC47F3BF-9FEB-444B-BBF6-E81E4748C49F} –
    I don’t see how you can look at their images and not call them art.
    Cindy Sherman is probably my favorite photographer of the last 40 years. Her combination of performance and photography has produced some fascinating and brilliant art.
    The best way to learn is to pay homage to the masters.
    An excellent first attempt and I love the vibrant colors. And I do wonder where that woman is because she is not with her body. She is traveling somewhere else.

    May 14, 2011 at 5:33 am

    • dhaami

      Thanks Robert! That woman is indeed not me.

      And you are right, it’s not possible to look at the images and not call them art. Did you get a chance to see the exhibition at the Met?

      and I love that line ‘the best way to learn is to pay homage to the masters’ πŸ™‚
      Thank you for your always insightful comments

      May 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      • I did see the exhibit and it was overwhelming. It took three seperate visits to really appreciate what I saw.

        May 16, 2011 at 6:00 am

      • dhaami

        wow! Did they allow photography inside?
        I hope I get a chance to visit New York again someday. The Met, MoMa and Guggenheim are on my list of must visit places and I regret I didn’t visit when I had the chance.

        May 16, 2011 at 7:33 am

  7. After six years of studying Literature, I firmly believe that literature is what a certain social group considers as literature at a given time. It was one thing in the Middle Ages, another in the Modern Era, and it can even be something different for different cultures at the same time. The same extends to art. Art is what people call art; there isn’t one absolute definition that is more right than the others. So, if you think photography is art, then for you photography is art. I agree with you, and your friend may disagree with you, but it doesn’t make any of us more right or wrong than the other. Isn’t that great?
    I love the shot, such vibrant colors and such a powerful composition.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    • dhaami

      Hi Belen..you make a valid and interesting point that the popularity or acceptance of a body of work as art or literature is not just relative to people but also to time.. so I guess it’s all the more important to accept everybody’s point of view and encourage them.. We never know what will be in the limelight today or hated tomorrow. As long as everyone has the freedom of expression in whatever medium they choose, its good enough.

      Also I knew you were studying to be a teacher but didn’t realize you studied literature.. That is amazing! Maybe someday I can attend your class πŸ™‚

      And thank you! πŸ™‚

      May 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

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