Re: Art vs Composition vs Content vs Technique

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Chris Malcolm, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. David Dyer-Bennet <> wrote:
    > Eric Stevens <> writes:


    >> Something which nobody has mentioned up to now is the content of the
    >> photograph. I think an important aspect of a good photograph is it's
    >> content. Photographs should have subjects which are of interest
    >> themselves. The photograph should be well composed, the technique
    >> should be faultless (yeah, right) and the general standard of the
    >> presentation should be a work of art. But can you do this if there is
    >> no subject of interest? I don't really think so.
    >>
    >> I would go so far as to say that the content may help make up for
    >> defects in the composition and the photographer's technique.


    > Unless you're using "photography" as short-hand for some very limited
    > types of photography, I think you're looking for too much in it.


    > A photojournalist's picture lives and dies by the content, with
    > technical quality vital (unless somehow nobody else got the key photo of
    > the big event) and composition of some value (it'll help sell one
    > photographer's photo over another's, but will make little difference if
    > there's just one picture available).


    > A photo taken primarily for art is very, very, different. Some of them
    > are abstractions -- the content doesn't matter at all, it's just
    > material used to produce an artistic effect.


    I recently visited an annual exhibition of photographic prints whose
    publicity suggested it was well established, well known, and rather
    prestigious. From a large submission the panel of judges had selected
    a prizewinner, and many worth special commendation in a variety of
    categories. The prints on the wall without special commendation had
    still been selected as worthy exhibits from the much larger
    submissions. So I thought I was in for a photographic treat.

    I quickly discovered that my subjective opinions about photography
    were strongly at variance with those of the judges. There were quite a
    lot of photographs I simply wouldn't have put on the wall because of
    simple technical imperfections in the printing, the processing, or the
    photography. Some of the local universities and colleges put on
    exhibitions by their graduating students which are uniformly of a much
    higher technical quality.

    What startled me is that many of the "photographs" I wouldn't have
    called photographs. They were exercises in artistic photoshopping,
    often using more than one photographic image. Some of them had fitted
    a subject taken from one photograph with a background taken from
    another. They looked as though the artist had intended to blend the
    two so that it really looked like a shot of a real happening, or a
    dream fantasy image, but they'd failed to be quite fussy enough about
    the shadows, lighting, exposure, edges, etc.. It was almost
    immediately obvious that it was a patchwork photo, and the more you
    looked the more obvious it was.

    I would have rejected those composites on the grounds of poor technical
    work. They would have been much more impressive and striking images if
    they'd been done more carefully.

    But maybe it was part of the art, part of the intention of the artist,
    to reveal the joins and artificilaty of the work as part of the
    "message"? And maybe the techically poor photographs and prints were
    deliberately so for artistic reasons?

    Obviously my subjective baggage about photographic art was
    inappropriate in the context of this exhibition. I thought they should
    have called it an exhibition of experimental photoshoppery, but they
    would also allow plain old-fashioned photographs of real things if
    they were particularly well done and had some artistic merit.

    --
    Chris Malcolm
    Chris Malcolm, Dec 17, 2012
    #1
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