Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is Photography Art?

Over the years as I have attended art shows and events I've been noticing more photography than ever before, being displayed in more ways than ever before. What's interesting to me is that the presence of photographers alongside painters and sculptors and lithographers has not always been welcome.

Tad Beckman, in his essay Photography as Art, writes, "Photography has struggled, through one and a half centuries, now, to place itself as a fine art. To many people, photography has seemed to be merely a reproductive medium. The medium and the work were clear, but the role of the photographer as an artist was not. Many people assumed that the photographer was simply a technician who 'operated the medium' and, in that way, produced a photograph. Could the photograph be construed as an art work?"

Today it is pretty much accepted that photographers wrestle with many of the same problems as painters. Point of view, texture, composition, content... Both kinds of artists strive to master technique and require a knowledge of science to some extent.

According to Beckman, photographer Alfred Stieglitz went to great lengths to argue for the justification of photography as art. In Paris, Man Ray's avant-garde photography were as much as part of the Dada and Surrealist movements as Dali's melting watches. To dismiss Ansel Adams' photography as an unimportant contribution to the arts would be unpardonable. What is art anyways?

The camera on the scene 150 years ago was a new-fangled tool to create images in new ways. It's ability to document and preserve people and places and events contributed to the need for artists to do these things and help modern art get untethered from the realism that bound it.

A camera is just a tool. Many people who use cameras are simply interested in documenting their personal histories. But there are artists who use the camera in a completely different manner. It is a medium of artistic exploration and expression. The artist still has to make decisions as regards what to photograph, how to light it, how to convey it, and even how to share it.

This afternoon the Duluth Photography Institute (DPI) is having its grand opening from 5:00 p.m. till 8:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Appetizers and refreshments will be served. At 8:00 DJ entertainment will kick in. This will also be the opening of 4x: A Print Exhibit, v2.0.

DPI is located at 405 E Superior St, Suite 140, Duluth

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