I am an avid reader of “View Camera, The Journal of Large Format Photography.” Practitioners of this form of photography are the keepers of many of the wonderful time-tested forms – from wet colloidon to large format Polaroid – of the art that might otherwise be lost. Indeed, they keep these forms new and vibrant, since their goal is not merely to copy but to create. I was despaired, however, to read in one article recently, the comment that digital printing was merely poster printing, not truly a photographic process. That is not true and misses a very fundamental point.
I used to believe that if you painted squares or lines and dots on a canvas, but couldn’t paint like Rembrandt, if required to do so, then you weren’t really an artist. Somehow I believed that being an artist required achieving technical prowess beyond that required for your own art. It seems silly now and rather convoluted. It is not true and misses a very fundamental point.
Art is vision and the ability to express that vision. It encompasses everything from a detail fifteenth century tempura or fresco that might have taken years to complete to minimalist art – a string glued to paper or a paint-laden sponged dabbed selectively on a white board. You can like it or not, but it expresses vision and is art.
And the marvel in all of this is the individuality of vision. I have a coworker who showed me marvelous pastel photographs that she had taken in Greece. They were wonderful, and I remember thinking that if I had been standing right beside her and taken the same pictures they would look completely different. It’s all about vision. And it’s all art.
Modern digital cameras, even cell phone cameras, have become progressively easier to use. They have made the technical part easy and allowed us to concentrate on vision. Or said differently, they have opened up for us previously unheard of technical capability. One may argue that the endless droning litany of drunken partiers posted on Facebook, represents a new low in photography. But I would argue that the real mediocritization of photography came with a vengeance with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie. Dull meaningless black and whites, or was it gray and grays, and colors automatically set by processing machines to muddy indifference. They have given more artists a voice.
Let’s embrace photography in all of its forms from the most ancient to the most modern. They all contribute an important vision or voice to the diversity of the art.