Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is Photography Considered True Art?

After a year on Etsy, I began to realize that many of the sellers were photographers. Some have exquisite photos while others were definitely more avant garde. I noticed that since the advent of Instagram the trend is to make your photos look like an old Polaroid Color print.

I remember the excitement of my first roll of color film for my "state-of-the-art" Polaroid J-66. I got it for Christmas my senior year of high school. At first, all we had was black and white, Type 47. Then the following summer Type 48, full color arrived. It was color, sort of. It was faded even at the time of development. However, it did have a charm and look many still prefer today.

Photography wasn't a new thing for me. I have a photo of me with my first camera given to me when I was 5. It was an old box type Agfa camera that my father brought back from his stint in Germany after the war. There was a progression of cameras over the years. Then in high school I took photography class and learned not only to take better photos but to develop the negatives as well. Then when I was a senior and yearbook editor in high school, I ended up taking and printing a good third of the photos that were not class portraits. And, I did a pretty well too.

I took more classes in college and when I went to Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, I went armed with one of the first full frame Olympus 35 mm cameras. I took quite a few photos with that and still am amazed at the quality of the lens. I regret selling it.

During the summer break, a whole bunch of us chartered a jet and flew to Ethiopia. After spending a week there, on the way to Kenya we were able to shop in the duty free shop. In 1969 both Pentax and Minolta came out with popular SLR cameras that were cheap, or cheap enough with high quality mechanics. After carefully inspecting them I chose the Minolta SRT-101. The biggest reason was that when you stopped it down, the viewfinder didn't darken like it did on the Pentax. Focusing was much easier to do.

I took lots of photos yet in hindsight wished I had taken more. They have remained in their storage boxes all these years and finally in retirement I am beginning to sift through them.

Over the years I've been all around the world, literally. My wife and I returned to Europe after we married (I took a months journey there coming home from my two years in the Peace Corps) visiting Denmark and Germany. There was a trip to Peru and Brazil when my wife was pregnant with our son, then Europe to meet my wife's AFS mother in Germany and to meet the family of the boy we were going to host in his AFS year in our home from Austria. We went to Japan for Christmas when my son was spending a year as an exchange student in Italy. In 2007 after an illness we still spent a month in Europe flying to Copenhagen, then driving to Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Rotenburg, Faaborg and up to Skagen both in Denmark. The camera clicked constantly!

The one Trip I always wanted to take was the one we took in 2009 to Egypt and Jordan. Considering the events that started soon after we got home, we were SO glad we had gone. Egypt was a dream since grade school and it was everything I thought it would be. The one shock was that my Nikon D-40x literally stopped working as we started the tour standing in front of the gates at Luxor. Later I found out, I could have manually used the camera to focus as the focusing motor had died. Instead I used my trusty Canon PowerShot SD770IS, a tiny, smaller than a deck of cards 10 megapixel camera. I took 2400 shots with that camera. My wife was happy with that arrangement. I kept the strap on, and one hand holding the camera or putting it in my pocket. I could take photos on the run without the Nikon banging against me all day.

When I sat down to go through them at home I was stunned at the quality. I published a book of the trip and no one can believe that tiny camera took those gorgeous photos.

However, this brings us to our question, does a photo constitute art? If you look at the photo of the two sisters above, is it art? Artistic? Great art? For some reason, many consider a painting or drawing to be many levels above a photograph. Yet the look captured here, the smaller sister peaking over the shoulder, the colorful garb are every bit as arresting as the finest portrait. Heck, this IS a portrait.

Whenever I see a "realistic" painting, I always wonder, why? You are literally copying literally something that already exists. The "camera" view. The great masters of the past, often created this type of painting when there were no cameras. There WERE camera obscuras that projected an exact view of what the artist could see. That made it much easier to paint an object exactly as it was seen. So, even in the 1600's artists had "aids."

There are many iconic photos. Ansel Adams "Moonrise Over Hernandez, NM," Dorothea Lange's photos of the Depression, Brady's images of the Civil War. These and many others all mimic some of the greatest paintings ever made. In my opinion a photograph can be great art and I know there are many out there that agree as well.

In making the decision to put photos in my store, I find that making the decision of what to put there is almost an overwhelming task. I am gingerly looking at them and trying to decide what people might want and if they will buy. So far, only two photos have made it. It is a long process yet one that brings back so many memories. My advice to those camera bugs out there, keep those cameras snapping. You just never know!

Be sure to check them out on my store: krugsstudio.etsy.com


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