These delicate images of the Thalia Jonquil were recorded at 4:50 pm on April 30, 2011. They reveal the soft, luminous quality of late afternoon light at this time of year. A long, nuanced tonal range is achieved in the image, all the way from pure white at the tip of the corona (or “horn” of the flower) to pure black inside the corona. Light of this quality — what I call glancing light — gives the artist great expressive opportunities. (See my recent post on Glancing Light.)

This gives me a segue to the larger issue of photography as art. It’s surprising how often people resist this notion. Photography is not interpretive: it merely records. I hear that muddled assumption all too often.

“Records what?” I ask. After all, reality is infinitely complex, and to record we must select. Therein lies the art. What we select reveals a great deal about ourselves and how we see the world. This is true for the photojournalist as well as for the photographer aspiring to art.

Friends often express shock or disapproval when I tell them that, using software, I routinely remove spots and blemishes from flowers and other subjects. “But that’s cheating,” they exclaim; “it’s not reality.”

“What is ‘reality’?” I retort. Is it the flower’s petal before the fly deposits the spot, or afterwards? And what, indeed, is my obligation to “reality?” Am I limited simply to recording (which I essay often enough), or can I also aspire to interpret, to reveal the essence of a subject as I see it?

Of course, these questions aren’t new with me. They’ve been discussed through the ages by writers and philosophers. They bear repeating, however, because most people are new to this thinking, at least when it comes to photography.

A friend, whose judgment I respect, was cool to the top photo when I showed it to her. “It’s not how we’re used to seeing jonquils,” she complained. Of course, her comment was one more variant on the “reality” argument I’ve been trying to debunk.

What is the role of the artist if not to show us new ways of looking at the world around us? The bottom two photos may be more conventional, and so more to her liking. But the top one would be my first choice to show in a gallery.

Not all the photos in this blog rise to the level of “art” Many are merely illustrative of a story being told, or may tell a story themselves. Occasionally, the line between art and illustration may disappear entirely.

See related post: Glancing Light.* Click an image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 

One Response to Photography as Art*

  1. Lyn Carter says:

    Love your Photos! (as alway) Love your Blog! (just as much) Hope all is well. Thanks for keeping me on your list. Please keep shooting and sharing your amazing ability with us.

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