Photography is NOT an art……

Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings…. You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the galleries of today.

-Alfred Stieglitz-

Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his 50-year career in making photography an accepted art form – but I suspect we fail sometimes in our thinking of what art really is.

There have been a number of discussions on various forums over time, which usually seem to devolve into factions – some who believe one thing, and those another. The consensus on one forum though was that photography cannot, and never will be art…. I ask why not?

Which brings me nicely to the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring….. If you have been to my talk on the beginnings of creative photography, you will know that I talk about Henry Peach Robinson (Founder of the Birmingham Photographic Society). The Brotherhood was founded in 1892 and the idea behind it was “a means of bringing together those who are interested in the development of the highest form of Art of which Photography is capable.” Alfred Stieglitz was also a member.

In November 1893, Robinson created the Photographic Salon,  an annual exhibit event in England whose aim was to “exhibit images in which there is distinct evidence of personal feeling and execution.” As a result, interest grew in processes such as gum bi-chromate, oil pigment and transfer, and supported the trend in producing images not for reproduction, but works of high value, as well as creating interest in surface texture, papers, and colour of print. (Thanks Wikipedia)

There is much at stake these days, as photographers critique one another by saying that images have been ‘photoshopped’. All art involves manipulation of material in one way or another, to the pleasure and discretion of the ‘artist’. It is impossible to put together all aspects of photography, and not call any of them art.

Some images are a straightforward representation of the ‘thing’ the photographer was stood in front of – but the vast majority, have something of the creator in them.

At the dawn of the photographic age, photographs were seen as a projection, with no input from the operator, but as usual, the more adventurous amongst them started to experiment, and create things that were impossible in the ‘real’ world.

Take a look at the work of Peach Robinson – some of his images were the result of many different photographs, stacked together, much in the same way that we would use photoshop layers today. The skill of these masters I feel are remarkable given the level of technology that was at their disposal compared to what we have today.

At one talk I gave on ‘composites with negatives’ – a person said at the end, they didn’t know that composites could be done pre photoshop. I find this a sad state of affairs, that someone with a hobby, in which they profess great interest has never looked at the work produced by past masters of the subject, and the skills that they have in turn, passed down to us.

In short, we need to create our own work. Deal with images as we see fit, and use our artistic skills in any way we want. Images can be artistic, aesthetic and creative – they can even represent what was just in front of the camera if that’s what the photographer wants to do.

Let’s not choose to produce what everyone else does – lets get away from the ‘tripod holes’ at the usual places and create our own images, in our own way.

Begone to the nay-sayers………

I’m on my August break from social media – though I have had a quick look once or twice, and I think I’ve made a couple of comments, but not put anything on my own page apart from a link to this blog.

It’s funny though, the less I look at it, the less I’m inclined to – I think the addiction is starting to fade.

The image below is of windows at St Boltophs Church, Saltfleet – in camera multiple exposure, but edited in Photoshop !

Shooting in the Round

Results from the Camversation Talk

After the talk with Sally and Glenys the other week, it’s been wonderful to see so many images that have been created by the people who came to the talk (and some from people who didn’t get there live, but have watched the recording.)

I’m now inordinately glad that I said yes to having my bit recorded.  No-one pushed me to say yes, but I’m so pleased that I did. 

The shots taken ‘in the round’ give of course, anything from a 180 degree to 360 degree of combined images which takes pictures to a whole new level.

These are things that have been photographed a million times before, but sometimes not in the way you expected.  Multi shot images create a whole new way of ‘seeing’ things, and the results are usually completely unexpected.

The thing is, that by changing the ‘where’ and the ‘how’, a whole new look and meaning can make themselves visible to you – it can be a revelation.

Dave Balcombe sent me the image below of the Market Cross in Wymondham, he said that he only used 13 individual shots, and didn’t follow any strict rules.   The only critique that I offered (at his request) was to reduce the number of text references to a ‘certain’ bank, that repeated throughout the final picture.  Other than that, the image was lovely.  

He tells me that this is his first attempt at this style of photography and was inspired by my talk though he has seen this style before and admired my RPS A panel, he tells me he will try again, now he has the idea.

With his kind permission – I show it here:- he says that this is not too far from where he lives and so will be able to return easily and shoot it again.

Market Cross, Wymondham by Dave Balcombe – used with his permission

What do we see?  Windows that have their own worlds inside, the patterns of the stonework in the foreground, the balance of the trees either side of the cross.  The whole image is transformed into almost a kaleidoscope of shapes, rather than a single cohesive one – and yet it works.  You can see exactly what the image is about – it’s a totally different take on a subject that I would think has been taken a million times before. 

Dave was open to seeing this, he didn’t look past it, he stayed sensitive to what was literally right in front of him.  

Thing is, he tried something different – and it worked……. remember that as you go about your daily photo life……

So next time you go out and shoot something that everyone else has photographed, make it your own. Find a new point of view, or choose a different time of day, or combine images, or all three. The more you look, the more shots you take, the luckier you will get – but whatever else you do…….

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

‘Freedom Day’, Maybe….

Today is the same as yesterday and the day before – we’ve not quite unlocked fully, but apparently we will do next week.  Maybe I’ll be able to bin the hazmat suit finally, (it was too big for me anyway) and open another bottle of wine, but keep the mask… which actually makes it a bit harder to drink – never mind.

I wonder what my daughter will tell her kids about the last year or so.  Maybe she’ll make it sound like it was fun…..   It’s been a bit like being stuck in an ever repeating sitcom….. without the laughs, or maybe there were a few laughs….….. moving on……. 

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a lot of time overeating during the pandemic, maybe a bit of over… well over everything really.

I have also apparently lost the concept of time. Can’t remember when I last wore a watch. It’s like we’ve been trapped in an online life, and infinite loop of despair, with no memory of a time before – and suddenly it looks like it’s going to end, and it’s actually a bit scary !

So, after all these months of booking speakers for the camera club, we find we are slowly struggling though the sludge to the end.  I’ve got another three I think before the end of July, and then we’re having a whole month off…. Wonder if I’ll miss it, and wonder what will happen next.  

At the moment though, I don’t fancy sitting in a small club room with folks breathing over each other..  I’m distrustful, I know……

At least the inspiration that has come from other photographers and artists has kept me going, especially in the last few weeks, and the last two speakers to come are both experimental, and artistic at the same time.  So that’s all good then.

Plus for the first time I really felt that I’ve had my fill and monies worth of the RPS – from being a far flung organisation somewhere on the edge of the galaxy, they came full circle and put on loads of events (albeit online) that were brilliant… fingers crossed all that will continue…. 

Of course there’s been the online zoom social meetings, (and a party, that was interesting) as well as the photo meetings….  and I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff…… like how to plait wheat, and make basic corn dollies….. yes really, and I’ve got two hung in the downstairs toilet to prove it.

Soon be time to go outside again, maskless, in the garden, and then the dogs will need a walk.  I tried to take my camera once on a dog walk – didn’t do very well – I spent more time watching them leap around like the demented animals that they are, than taking photographs, oh and avoiding other people who also seem to think they should walk their dogs too, who might just want to TALK to me.

This weekend though, we have guests… it’ll be a bit strange having other people in the house, overnight, who doesn’t normally live with us.  They take photos though, so it’ll be OK.

What’s the point of this?  Well I just thought I’d put it out there that I’m still experimenting, and playing – we adults, we don’t play enough do we?  In my talks, I advocate playtime, but for some grown ups it’s a hard thing to do.  I’ve a couple of friends who are avid gamers, but not photographers… I like playing with software and cameras, and pushing boundaries where I can.

Trouble is, we can get too fixated on the so called rules …. I keep saying, ‘there are no rules’, this isn’t a sport, it’s supposed to be fun (unless of course you’re doing it for a living).  I used to do it for a living…… and what I did, well, no editing was allowed…. 

I got fired once, from a company I didn’t work for – I was out there taking photographs of a building for a business (who will remain nameless).. security (who hadn’t been told I’d be there), thought I was a member of staff sneaking out early…. I got hauled into the office and was actually officially reprimanded, till someone from HR came along and realised I wasn’t actually an employee.  This was a good rule…. ‘Keep your staff in line’.  The other rule they had was that all staff had to wear shoes, not boots, not even in winter – I digress.

I’ve actually forgotten the purpose of this post now… so I reckon I’ll stop…… Here’s a photo for good measure that I took on our first club outing in 18 months…… I might have slipped – waved the camera round a bit, or maybe it was the gin….. who knows……..

Cleethorpes Country Park

Keep shooting, and taking the pills as necessary – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

A Friday – early July

It’s been an odd week. Hot, humid and not very brilliant for taking photographs, and I am not even inclined to sit in front of a computer editing ‘stuff’.

It’s also been a busy few weeks in terms of talks and judging that I have been asked to do, so actually more computer sitting has been involved – my office seems to get really warm in the evenings but it has been great to either listen to other speakers, or join in and speak myself.

I’ll add a caveat at this point. I really hate listening to myself, so talks that I’ve done, that have been recorded, I tend not to want to hear again – but when it came to a talk last week with Sally Sallett, and Glenys Garnett, and both said they were happy for it to be recorded – I gave in, and had my bit recorded too.

Funnily, although I’m happy to talk photography any time anyone asks me, ad nauseam, this time I was nervous – I’d practiced – I’d sorted out what I was doing, I had everything set up, and ready to roll, and still I felt acutely that what I was about to present wasn’t going to be as good as the other two ladies I was with….. don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Anyway – to cut a long story short – talk time came, it went, and it was utterly, ridiculously brilliant. Glenys and Sally were consummate professionals, and I think my bit was better than I thought it would be…. The feedback from the attendees was completely positive, and the great thing is that I’ve been sent images that people have created following on from the talk- and they have all been really good.

It’s truly wonderful when you show people how to do things, and they go away, apply those techniques – and then the images they produce are testament to not only how they have been taught, but more importantly, how they reacted to the ideas they were given. To see images that are well produced is a thrill beyond words.

Many years ago, at my first camera club (which will remain unnamed) I asked a photographer how they had done something (no idea even what it was now) – but I remember his reply so clearly. He said “if I tell you, then you’ll know” and he walked away, it was so frustrating and in equal measure, disappointing.

From my point of view, there are no secrets in photography. As an artist, and photography is an art form I believe, you should create what pleases you, but it shouldn’t be a secret how you did it.

So, get out there and create what makes you happy – feel free to experiment, to use colour boldly. Add grain to images if you want to, there’s no rule that says images should be noise free. Make dramatic black and whites, be abstract. Play with your camera, and your software. Make your own dreams come true.

Enjoy your art life.. and remember that photography isn’t a sport – there are no rules, only guidelines.

I said I’d never mention Brexit in a post!

I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately.  I’ve also been in a bit of a creative hiatus.

The only reasons I could think of was that I was just going through a phase, and also that there’s so much bad news about lately.  We are plugged into 24 hour news bulletins – it’s there all the time – TV, Radio, Internet, magazines, newspapers etc.  I’m bombarded with news everywhere I look – it’s practically inescapable – and this issue of Brexit in the UK is driving many of us to the brink of despair.

I’m pretty sure then that all this bad news can deflate our sensibilities unless we do something positive to combat it.

My ‘recovery’ began a week or two ago, when I started to look at more of the work that is appearing on a Facebook Group called ‘She Clicks’,  (www.sheclicks.net) – a group for female photographers.  Then I attended a Royal Photographic Society Event in Nottingham, where the speaker was Magnum Photographer Ian Berry.

I conclude that a further aid to my ‘recovery’ is to surround myself with excellence.

I must look at excellent photography, listen to good music, and watch artistic and creative films (for which Netflix has an abundance if you look carefully) – for example, the other day I watched an old black and white film called ‘Laura’.  I knew the music, but not the story – and it reminded me of family times in my younger days where we would listen to music together.

Moods change, and with it, creativity changes too.  I’m currently looking through some of my photography books, reading about editing, and discovering again things I want to try. the mojo (I’m pleased to say) is slowly coming back.

I actually want to get out now, and take some images, make some art….. it’s been a long time coming, but at least I now have an idea for the cure……

Trees Autumn 3

Autumn is here – let’s go catch some colour……

Make a Picture, Take a Picture

It’s been chucking it down with rain today – so what better to do than work through a few images taken over the last week.

I’ve been away visiting a friend just outside Liverpool.  I’ve not been there for ages, and my friend is not a photographer.  She came out with me for a couple of walks, but was obviously not interested in what I was doing.  “Let’s go for a coffee…” she said.

Now, I did go to visit her, so the invitation to coffee, was not really that; it was translated loosely as “stop ignoring me, and lets go sit down and talk”…  we sat down and talked.

The next day, we travelled into Liverpool centre to visit the Walker Art Gallery, where there was a Charles Rennie Mackintosh exibition.  He’s a Scottish artist I’d not heard of, but I was assured it was worth the visit, and it was.  It was very much reminicent of the Art Nouveau / deco style.  I loved it.

What interested me too,  was the fact that the gallery welcomed, and in fact encouraged, photography.  Even in the paid exhibit section.  They were asking photographers to share their images on social media, though having looked at their Facebook Page, there doesn’t seem to be any way to do so.

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It was an experience to be able to sit still and gather images together – I’d had a shot like this in mind for some time, but needed the space to do it.

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People watching is one of my favourite pastimes too.  I think the bloke at the back might have spotted what I was up to though.

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Lost in their own worlds.  Totally absorbed in the drawings in the Leonardo Da Vinci section of the gallery.

In the few days of my visit, I was able to take quite a few pictures, and on my return home, make a few as well.

Here’s a final one of a windsurfer on the lake at West Kirby.

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Normal service will be resumed ASAP…..  Enjoy your week…

My Journey to ARPS – and with a Fuji X-T2 Camera….

For those of you who have been fortunate enough to NOT be around when I submitted images to the Royal Photographic Society, in an attempt to achieve my Associateship – Congratulations…. but it all ends here…..

After months of work, agony, and me constantly wittering on to all my ‘friends’, I want to say thank you to all of them.  For lingering and looking, for the critique, for the support, and to certain individuals who not only came to Nottingham and London for RPS advisory days, but who also came to Bath with me TWICE…. once to drop the portfolio off (thanks Vicky), and once for the final Assessment (thank you Mike and George)…

Many thanks also to the Lincolnshire Image Makers Group, who were so supportive, and nagged me constantly to get the job done.

All the images can be found on my website (links below), and were based on multiple exposure photography – with some having as many as 40 pictures to make up one shot.

When I started to think about what I’d done, and looked back on work I had produced over the last five years or so, I realised that I had been making multi exposure images for all of that time.  It was just that I had been going about it in a different way.  The images were made by me moving forward, or backwards in between shots, and I had also been combining them in camera – as the Canon DX allowed up to 9 shots at a time.  Sometimes I’d combined them in photoshop, but not in the way I do now.

So what I feel, is that I’ve developed something over a long period of time – but it was after I saw some images online by another photographer that my interest was piqued even more.

Between November of last year, and April of 2018, I developed, refined and changed my technique, and before I knew it, I was producing images that I was really happy with.

I chatted to the RPS at the start of the summer, and they advised that I would be presenting images in their ‘fine art’ category – and that they liked the work and wanted to see more.

You need 15 images for Associateship, together with a statement of intent – and for an advisory day, they recommend that you bring your basic 15 with 5 others as ‘spares’.   So in early July, I set off for London with 20 printed, mounted images – the RPS recommended I present the panel at an assessment day with no changes – they liked the small image, the style, and the choice of subjects.

My friend Vicky and I went to Bath towards the end of August, and dropped the panel off for Assessment in October.

Then in mid-October myself and two friends headed for Bath – where the panel was passed, and retained by the RPS as an example of what is required in an Associateship panel.  Drunk on success, and champagne we returned to Lincolnshire and I was overwhelmed.

So, the images themselves.  They are mostly of Lincolnshire, and the coast, and the structures – there are trees, and fountains, and landscape.  All together in the same multi-exposure style.

This isn’t one of my final panel, but a series of images I took on the way home from Bath after the assessment day.  We stopped at Westonbirt Arboretum, and this comprises 15 images shot of the fantastic Autumn colour there.

You can find my full panel, and statement of intent by CLICKING THIS LINK

The Slideshow is available by CLICKING HERE

All the images were taken with a Fuji X-T2 camera, and their excellent 16-55 2.8 lens.  The large format RAW files were perfect for this kind of work, and allowed me to crop in, to make the images exactly how I wanted them to be.  The lightweight camera meant that I had it with me most of the time, and so was able to get the shots I wanted.  I can also recommend their 23mm f2 lens, for its discrete size and superb image quality.  I don’t think I would have achieved this distinction without this camera….  Thanks Fuji…..

Practice Makes Perfect?

I’ve been reading a lot this week about photography, and how we improve.  Practice is obviously the answer, but it is always?

When you go to a concert, you hear the singer, the pianist – you see paintings in a gallery, the prints on a wall.  To get this good, the artist must practice every day – to get out of form before a concert is unheard of (well maybe not always! but you get the idea)…  So when you look at images, you are seeing the end result of weeks, and maybe years of work, and practice.

I know it’s nearly impossible to get out and shoot every day, but what other ways are there to keep your finger on the button?  I think that talking about image making, talking about photography generally is practice – as is looking at other people’s work – visiting galleries – sharing images.  Even looking at images on Instagram, Facebook or even Google, is practice.  Every time you look at someone elses work, you are honing your own skills, mostly indirectly.

So, how do you practice with your camera ?  Well, there are a number of ways – you COULD just walk out the house and shoot anything and everything you see.  Is that practice, or just shooting for the sake of it?  Or, you could go on a workshop, and immerse yourself in the photographic life for a week, absorb, and create… that seems good to me… or you could set yourself a project!

A strategy is needed, and I think that the best way of learning, of moving on, is by ‘finishing’ things; and by finish, I mean print, or otherwise share your work with the wider world.  I prefer the former.  A book, a print to hang in your home, a set of images to a theme.  This makes it harder to do, but also offers a challenge to the photographer.

On the other hand, by sharing your images online, you leave yourself open to critique by others.  I’m intrigued by photographers (and I use the term loosely), who post images on Social Media, but who won’t accept that sometimes, not everyone will like them.  I like to ask people why they took an image, or why they processed it in the way they did.  The answers vary, but on ocassion, they take great offence that I had even the temerity to ask.  Why is this?

Back to projects.

As I said in a previous blog post, I used to be a one image producer.  I didn’t do projects, or even panels of three.  It was one shot, or nothing.  Since I became a member of the Linconshire Image Makers though, my whole ideal and attitude changed.  It’s taken months of talk, and work, (and nagging), but finally I’m seeing not only the results of the discipline, but I think my whole attitude to photography and art has seen a dynamic shift, and because I’m questioning my own work, I’m starting to question other people’s work too.

Within the group, it’s simple.  This is what we meet up for – we look at each others work, and work of the major photographers, and ask why this, why that, why this image, and not that one.  Outside the group, well, as I said, it’s not so easy.

I’m considering a Social Media blackout for a month or so – I need to get my head around where I want to go with my imagery, and I need to plan a strategy to get me through the winter, and maybe well into next year.  My website needs an overhaul (it’s long overdue), and I want to allow myself time to experiment more.  I’ve run through the multiple exposure sets, and I won’t stop doing these – they give me immense pleasure,  but I want to also run a set of images on a ‘what if’ basis….  What if I shot everything out of focus?  What if I did everything with a dutch tilt? (a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle), What if I photographed…………… (fill in the blank as you desire).  Maybe just 6 images – maybe a project of just one image, maybe 15 or 20.  What if I set myself a project to complete 100 prints in a twelve month period? (that might not happen)……. but what if it did….?

As someone said to me only today – “it’s only a photo”….. and when I questioned why denegrate it to “only a photo”…… I was met with silence….. and there the matter rested.

 

 

Photo Impressionism – Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about my re-discovery of multiple exposure images.

Since then, I’ve worked on a good number of new photographs using this style, and a refined viewpoint.  I’m also starting to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.

My starting point was the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and his impressionistic painting “Sea and Rain” – The dreamy effect of the lone man, walking along a foggy beach was remincent of views I see fairly regularly along the East Coast of England. It was paintings similar to this that encouraged me on my way to try and re-create photographically this style of art.

There is a book that I’m keen to get a copy of – it’s entitled “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874″ and includes the beautiful mid-19th century photography of Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and others.  The Normandy Coast is where Whistler spent time painting, and it is also the time when painters and photographers were trying to capture motion.  Whistler was trying to move away from conventional art, and experimenting with a softer style.

In the time following the invention of photography, there was controversy about whether art could be photographic, or whether photographs were merely recording a scene.  I would say that the photograph of the French Fleet, Cherbourg, taken by Gustave Le Gray in 1858, shows great artistic quality.

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So photography became the ‘new painting’. Did photography influence the painters, or did the painters influence the photography…….?  I don’t know the answer..

A trip to the Science and Media Museum in Bradford revealed images by Frank Eugene (whom I remember from my college days) who scratched his negatives, to give a softer feel.  As far as I know, no-one before him had tried this, and even the ‘purists’ of the day were said to admire his work.

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Nude Man by Frank Eugene

Eugene was one of the founding members of “The Linked Ring” – Also known as “The Brotherhood of the Ring”, a photographic society created to propose and defend that photography was just as much an art as it was a science.

You can access the Linked Ring exhibition catalogues HERE (It can take a while to load even with a fast internet connection, so be careful) – Sadly the photographs themselves are not reproduced, but you can access all the Salon members, and search for their photography.  You can also see many adverts for the various processing labs, and cameras that were available in 1903.

I did try searching for some of the images in the catalogue but without success.

So – to go back to the start, you can find more of my impressionistic images on Flickr, by checking the link on the right hand side of the blog, I do hope you enjoy them.

More to come on this topic.