Photography

February 8, 2010

Photography is a very different medium than most others.  It is produced almost entirely by the efforts of technology, with the user only taking part in manipulation.  It engages a much different skill set than many other traditional forms.  And, perhaps because of their technological roots, photos represent the world we live in a very calculated and objective way.  Because of this close relationship to physical reality, one would think that art would be cast aside.  But that is far from the truth.

Art is found through photography in the way the photographer manipulates the photo.  Art exists in photography through subtlety.  And as often happens in art, this subtlety rests on a knife’s edge of abstraction and precision.  But the irony is often that good photography is at odds with the very essence of photography itself.  Good photography is not objective.  Good photography is subjective, as is all art.  Not necessarily a provocative kind of subjectivity, but rather a natural subjectivity.  The kind that speaks.  In a way, it is this juxtaposition of a very objective medium and a very subjective photographer that can produce good photography.

For me, this is the beauty of photography.  It is the beauty of art itself.  It is its essence.  It is what I struggle with, obsess over, and dream about.  But of course it is worth it because in the end you have produced something that has a part of you in it, and there is not much that I find more satisfying than that.

26 Responses to “Photography”

  1. arshavsky Says:

    Would you say the art photography is a visualisation of philosophy? Not only good or bad, priety and ugly, but more “working” or not. If you say art how can photography be a objective and not totaly sunjective in objective like form.

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  2. RoseReverie Says:

    “Art is found through photography in the way the photographer manipulates the photo. ”
    I disagree. I believe that a good photographer doesn’t need to manipulate their photographs, and when a photograph does get manipulated, it becomes a digital image. Photoshop is ruining the art of photography.

    • johngmartin Says:

      It is a great point – actually in this post, I was not referring to Photoshop at all (although it seems that I did not make my language clear enough). By manipulation, I was referring to physical manipulation through the medium of the camera itself, ie. composition, focus, exposure, aperture, white balance, tilt-shift…

      That being said, although this is not the focus of the post, I disagree that Photoshop is ruining the art of photography. Photoshop is changing photography, and it is making it more accessible to more people. Generally, the people who are anti-photoshop are the people who find the need to make the distinction between “amateur” and “professional” or “artist”. The problem is that these people miss the point of art itself. They forget that art is about expression. Photoshop is allowing more people to express themselves; it is allowing more people to create art. It is allowing amateurs to try to be professionals. And I don’t see how more art is a bad thing in this “superficial, egotistical, mass-media, money-munching, greedy, selfish” world.

      You can of course make the distinction between “photography” and “digital photography,” but to call one better than the other is simply wrong.

      • RJ Says:

        I both agree and disagree.
        1. Yes, for amateurs Photoshop is good, but
        2. For professionals, thay will start to lose their “professionalness” by just using Photshop to make it better, like myself

    • Warren Draper Says:

      Post production itself can be an art-form. Not as the rather fascistic practice of airbrushing people so that the fit somebody’s narrow view of ‘beauty’, but as an honest exploration of form, light and texture.

      Ansel Adams famously said that “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

      When viewed in this light modern computer-aided post-production photographic techniques are akin to the use of a synthesiser in creating music. There will always be purists who feel that every score should be played as the composer intended and only on the instruments it was created for, but surely it is equally valid – artistically speaking – to explore/exploit new technologies.

      • cleanlinevibe Says:

        I agree with both John and Martin. Me being as young as I am, Photoshop for me is my darkroom, As is the physical darkroom for the previous generation. There are those few who choose to opt out of the growing photoshop phenomenon but that is simply a choice.I think that the only discrepancy I have with photo shop, Is that anyone with a few hundred dollars, and a copy of cs4 or 5 can call themselves professional photographers. With that being said I think that the distinction between art and snapshots is just that. Picture takers, take pictures. And photographers compose and create pictures. Photoshop is just another way of cross processing or vignetting, or color correction, as is a darkroom.


  3. […] decided to do a quick search for “photography”. The first blog post that came up was by johngmartin and unsurprisingly, it has infuriated me. He […]

  4. saveschools Says:

    There is nothing objective about photography. You are taking a two-dimensional slice, at a certain time, of reality and slapping that onto a piece of white paper with CMYK colours. Objective, no.
    All photography is manipulation.
    The art is in when and if the photograph reaches into the mind of the viewer and makes changes there.


  5. I feel photography is and can be both subjective and objective. It is objective when a photographer captures the scene as it is, not trying to wait for a cloudy, grey day to capture say human suffering, or waiting for New Years Eve to capture the “feeling” of New York’s Time Square. In other words, capturing the subject as one would find it makes it very objective.

    Of course doing the opposite makes it subjective. Photography can be both. A camera is much the same as a paint brush in the right hands, the artist uses both to create the artwork. Which way they create it makes the art objective or subjective.

    Just my thoughts, excellent post johngmartin.

  6. CaryHugs Says:

    I don’t think I could have defined photography in any better way.

  7. Darryl Putter Says:

    The way i see it we are all expressing our creativity in one or another way be it in through art or photography and thats what makes it all worth while. I like what you’ve written though.

  8. eddievargo Says:

    Very well said!
    Comment back!

  9. viewbug Says:

    I love photography. This description is very well-written!

  10. Joe Says:

    I love your description about photography. And what is nice with it now, with the digital revolution photography is accessible to the masses. So everyone can create their own art and capture their own memories.

  11. Melissa Lynn Says:

    ❤ the description of photography!

  12. emeraldsun33 Says:

    Well said! Two people can shot the same view or object at the same time and get very different results. I’ve noticed a real difference in quality and mood in my work when I’m just out shooting and I’m just in my head and in a hurry, compared to when I’m centered and more present, listening interally as well as actively looking for the right shot or a new angle. I heard a former National Geographic photographer say that the difference between a good shot and a great shot is a quarter of an inch. Something to think about.

  13. Melissa Lynn Says:

    ❤ it!

  14. kevin Says:

    >It engages a much different skill set than many other traditional forms.

    except for darkroom retouching; where skilled hands matter. photoshop now allows hand skills back into photography


  15. […] PDRTJS_settings_430652_post_715 = { "id" : "430652", "unique_id" : "wp-post-715", "title" : "Photography+%28via+Rumblings%29", "item_id" : "_post_715", "permalink" : "http%3A%2F%2F10pastmidnight.org%2F2010%2F06%2F12%2Fphotography-via-rumblings%2F" } Photography is a very different medium than most others.  It is produced almost entirely by the efforts of technology, with the user only taking part in manipulation.  It engages a much different skill set than many other traditional forms.  And, perhaps because of their technological roots, photos represent the world we live in a very calculated and objective way.  Because of this close relationship to physical reality, one would think that art … Read More […]


  16. A very accurate description of photography, amazingly put. 🙂

  17. aheiney Says:

    Art is… context and perception. A photograph as art versus a photograph as a snapshot is really the most important distinction. Color, composition, lighting (forget the technical aspects of using aperture and shutter speed to manipulate perspective consciously or not) these things can for a “natural” happen in an instant or require thought. Photoshop at its core represents the techniques used in traditional darkroom manipulations. Anyone who thinks its missing a valuable tool.

  18. Lucky Says:

    I feel art photography is more a portrayal of the mental state of the photographer. As we all know a glass can be half full or half empty. The way you look at a scene and the way you portray it says a lot about the person you are. Wouldn’t that be applicable?


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