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Is Photography Art?

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

I will start this by clearly stating that, at one time, I was one who answered this with a resounding NO.


Starting at my early roots in what is defined as art, I began with a simple tool known as a pencil. I drew what my mind perceived or even what my eyes landed on. I graduated later to using a brush and paint to do the same. Dabbling briefly, though admittedly not as successfully, in sculpting was also part of my journey. In my long winding quest to find my purpose in this world I knew in my heart that whatever I chose professionally would have to involve some visual representation.


I was in my own mind an artist after all but defining just what that meant was not easy. Since my earliest recollection, I was inspired by what I saw as magical. Watching a young child draw a horse from memory in jaw dropping detail, I thought to myself this is a gift that I would love to possess. The ability to express oneself without limitation or rules by simply allowing what is within my mind to be seen in the real world is indeed powerful. The ability to birth ideas creatively was now my goal and the definition of artist began to take form.


My definition of an artist however was rooted in the hands-on approach to birthing ideas.


Drawing, painting, and sculpting were all forms of expression that allowed the creator to put forth their own visual perspective and was as unique as the person creating the work. The work thus became a direct reflection of its maker's mind. When I finally decided to go to art school, I chose photography, not because it was an art, but more so because I wanted a profession that would allow me to be visual and was more applicable in the world of business. Photography at this point was a compromise, not a love. It was a practical means to earn a living but still use my natural visual skills to make "nice pictures", but certainly not art. I had relegated the camera as a mere Xerox machine that took the 3D world and captured it in 2D. Photography garnered no respect at this point because I failed to see where the creativity of capturing what is already there could be. Cameras were accessible tools that anyone could own. A photographer and an artist were surely two very separate and distinct things, but the question now became can they be one?


What clearly had to change was my perception of the camera/tool used to capture images. The title of photographer is used if you make a living using a camera professionally. Millions of cameras are sold but owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer and furthermore not all photographers are artists. So, when does the photographer become the artist? I will answer this by rewinding to the beginning of this blog.


I didn't see photography as art because I came from a school of thought that said the artist creates or gives birth to their way of seeing the world. The camera was a tool/machine in my eyes that only copied accurately the world as it is. I was now faced with the title question: Is photography art? The world I live in has forced me to define myself in two ways. First and foremost, I am an artist, but because I use the camera to make a living, I am also a photographer. Coming from a background of drawing, painting and design I found that I was applying all the same principles of what is considered art. Color, composition light control and placement for mood etc. are all useable techniques in photography. I had found myself unwittingly creating art, not just taking pictures. Without realizing it I had proven to myself that yes, photography can be art but whether it is or not totally depends on the individual using the camera.


To the photographer, the camera captures an image or takes a picture. To the artist, the camera is a mere extension of his/her mind's eye. My position and how I distinguish myself can be summed up in my motto “I don't take pictures, I make them”.

MONTANO ST. JULES (theartof1)

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