Saturday, October 17, 2009

Photography, Is it really ART?


Why does a piece of painting always worth more than a photograph in an art gallery?

Let's look at the original intention of the invention of the camera. It is undeniable that the purpose of documentary cannot be separated from photography since the camera was invented. 

To bring photography to a ART level, the photograph produced has to justify beyond what technology can produce to what a true artist's imagination and creativity produces. Simply put, it's a photograph that shows how imaginative and creative the photographer is rather than how capable the camera or lens is. 

Man Smoking-Abstract

However, history has more or less proven that no matter how great a photograph is, it can hardly call for a higher price than a piece of painting in a gallery. The fact is, photography can never be on the same standing as painting. Reasons could be that commercially, in terms of demand from collectors, it never matches the same demand for paintings. More collectors would choose to hang a beautiful painting in their living hall compared to a fine art photograph, for example. And famous precious photographs taken by war journalists for example, will never reach the walls of a collector's home. Not unless the collector is a passionate photography enthusiast of course. But still, who would want to hang a war photograph at home? Generally speaking, a photograph can hardly sell at a higher price than a painting.

Photographers always face the struggle to be recognized as artists. But why aren't the painters? Because they are true artists. Take the brush away from the painter and a true painter can still paint with his fingers or toes. But take the camera away from the photographer, all he's left with are images in his head like any others. (Although jokingly, some photographers think so highly of themselves as artists that they think they can still shoot with their hearts and minds, accompanied with songs and poems maybe? I'd rather not live in delusion!)

Every human being on earth record millions of images in his mind as "photographs" daily. Take the camera away from a photographer and he no longer can create "ART" as an artist. Unlike a true painter, he probably can still paint with his body parts, using elements from the nature and his environment. The same goes for true musicians. They can make music anywhere, anyhow, using their voices, using trash bin covers, using anything they can find from their surroundings. See the unfortunate setback of a photographer now?

Man at work

Photography has always struggled to stand on it's own as "ART". No matter how we try to escalate it's position to "ART", you can never take away it's original form which is to document things as they are. Photography has contributed greatly to crime-solving, scientific development, medical researches, etc. and etc... ... that without which the world will not be what it is today. We will also always remember war is ugly because of a war photograph we have seen. The value of documentary, shooting things as they are, using images for researches, solving crimes, etc., in which none are totally ART, cannot be forgotten. If we measure values, these contributions are of a far more noble and immeasurable kind than any great fine art photograph ever produced. 

Man sleeping

So, is photography ART?
To me, yes, it is.
But I also just realized that I shall never try to escalate it's position higher than what it actually is.
I should not think of myself too highly as an artist. I should not always label myself as an artist. I am not always an artist when I shoot. I should not categorize photographers into "artists and non-artists groups". Photography has it's original calling which is to benefit mankind, whether aesthetically or scientifically. Photography is self-therapy. Photography is a medium for self-expression and understanding oneself. Photography is for everyone. Photography the ART is for EVERYONE!