Vision vs Artistry

I have to admit that I generally find artistry to be a solution to a problem. I bring this up, as usual, coming from photography. Photography is one of the mediums I have the hardest ttime accepting as art, and it’s partly because so often there’s no solution to the problem. Cartier-Bresson made reference to the facty himself, there’s only a split-second in which a photographer is an artist, and that’s knowing when to hit the shutter. There are exceptions to this, there are always exceptions, but I think the current photodocumentary whiplash against digital manipulation removes the artistry from photography. The idea that we should meddle with, control, accentuate, and sometime blatantly lie about the scene we were presented has always struck me as where the artistry in photography is.

In painting you don’t get these quandries anymore. There has always been a problem (how to represent a complex visual world using paints and small clumps of hair on a stick), and the whole of the discipline is a way to overcome these limitations (glazing, various stroke styles), and, at its zennith, to alter the visual plane, or to create a new one altogether. It has long now been accepted in painting that the end work is a statement of the artist, and that their decisions andmethodologies completely alter the perception of the same scene.

Give three photographers three brands of cameras and the same scene and you’ll get three enarly identical visions of the same scene. Sure, you can choose lenses, and framing, but ultimately a camera is a device designed to record without bias. There’s no vision, it’s just a recording. Now, once you start getting beyond what the camera can do on its own, however, once you exceed its dynamic range, or its sensitivity to light, well, now that’s a different story. Now the photographer has to step in and make decisions. There are problems that it becomes necessary to solve, and should they prove insurmountable there are lies that need to be made. There’s almost no artistry to using a camera on program mode in good light. It runs on autopilot and out come pictures. Start adding things like bounce reflectors and off-camera flash and the world gets far more difficult.

To the forum troll I read once who said his vision does not have noise in it, I tell you that you’re a mere documenter, a recorder. To those of you who look at life like a canvas and a camera like a brush, an instrument to wield to your own purposes, well, now that’s where I start calling you an artist.