The Photography of h.butz

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:37 pm 
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Is photography art? Photography has always been at odds with the art world. Can someone create art in less time than it takes us to blink - that's roughly 0.35 seconds, thanks to Google and the all knowing Internet. When I'm shooting I often have my shutter set to 0.004 seconds. Is that enough time to create a work of art?

Back in the day of chemicals and "the wet method," silver halide crystals were exposed to light to create 11 shades of grey (not 50). These shades were fixed to a translucent bit of plastic, projected and enlarged through a lens to create "the print." The photographer's hands would be wet from contact with prints and chemicals, putting a bit of himself or herself into finished work although not always visible.

A photograph does not take on the brush stroke or chisel marks of the artist. Those marks and strokes capture the soul of the artist in the work. Photography is a bit more abstract and a bit more easily duplicated. Another skilled photographer, or the photographer's lab assistant would be capable of reproducing the print given the materials, chemicals, and process factors. Photographs need to be validated through series and certification of authenticity to preserve their value as fine art.

Is photography fine art? Generally, no. It's a grey area. While there are countless opinions from countless sources, my definition of what makes art "fine" is that the artist's hand played a part in its creation. A chisel mark on a sculpture makes the sculpture fine art. A brush stroke makes a painting fine art. The imprint of fingers on a spinning bit of clay makes it fine art. But, for photography to attain the mark of "fine art" it first needs to be "art" and it also needs to reflect the imprint of the artist. Sadly, there is too much abstraction for the photographer's hand to be captured by the image.

Is digital photography fine art? Absolutely not. It does sort of roll off your tongue tho, doesn't it? "Fine art photography." That to me implies that a photographer stood in a darkroom, got his hands wet, mounted the photo to a piece of cardboard, then glazed and framed it. Digital photography to me is when the photographer hits the "Print" button in his Photoshop program and spits out an image on his inkjet, er I mean "Giclee" printer. Do you know how to press the "Print" button? well, congratulations - you're a digital artist.

I've written elsewhere my definition of art. Art is the conveyance of intangible ideas, concepts, feelings, emotions through a tangible media. What about music? Poetry? Are musicians artists? Of course they are. Despite the fact that sound waves are not visible to the eye, they make quite an impression on our ears. That makes them tangible... well, tangible may not be the best word, but sound is real. If you stood in front of a speaker at a heavy metal concert you would certainly feel the music. I'm going with music is "tangible."

If music is art, is music also "fine art." It cannot be by definition. There's no way for the artist's hand to be imprinted on the sound waves. It doesn't make it lesser art, it just makes it not "fine." Is digital photography "fine art?" Digital photography falls into the category of music, for me. Just as we have musical instruments to produce sound waves and capture them on magnetic tape or store them as 0's and 1's in a computer, so too does the digital camera capture photographs as 0's and 1's on our FLASH memory cards. Just as a CD doesn't produce music until it's played in a CD player, so too are digital photographs kept in the ether of intangible abstraction until it is printed.

Digital photography is music. Digital cameras are recorders of light rather than sound. While the process of digital photography differs just slightly from the "wet method" it sheds any hope of becoming "fine art." But, that doesn't mean it is any less artful than conventional photography - just less valuable.

How much would you pay to listen to your favorite band live? $50? $100? $200? Now, if your next door neighbor has a CD of a live concert recorded by that band, how much would you pay your neighbor to play it for you? Would you even consider paying him? What is the difference between hearing your band perform live vs. listening to a recording of them playing live? Why is the live performance worth so much more to us? Suddenly, a $10 CD worth of music is easily worth 10x more if the artist is the one playing the music.

With me so far? Ok... what if it's a tribute band? You couldn't get to see Rush live in concert but there's a few guys down at the local pub who do a really good imitation, sans "Y Y ZED" because that's just impossible. How much would you pay to listen to the tribute band live? Maybe $5 bucks? Two drink minimum?

For the art, in all its forms to be valuable, it needs to be unique and has the "hand" of the original artist imprinted on it. A live concert will always have value which a CD recording will never have. And, a tribute band will never attain the status of the original performers. Digital photography will never have the same value as "wet method" photography nor can it be defined as "fine art." That doesn't mean it's lesser art. It just means it's different.


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