What is photographic art?

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“Ohh”, I hear you say… This is a tough question that can spark a war!

Everybody appreciates photography and many of us really love it. Those of us who really love it, hop about taking photos, using the skills we have learned, emulating a style we like. Some go beyond this and extend the style and perhaps even invent their own. This process is called practising a craft.

When does it become art?

If you are applying learned skills and emulating work you like, you are not really making art. You are making your version of someone else’s art. Art that we celebrate contains a significant part of the artist themself. The artist uses their skills to tell a bigger story, controlling the tools to engage the audience and make them feel what the artist wants.

It has to be new, it has to be contemporary; otherwise we are just copying the masters, reproducing old ideas.

The audience is an important consideration in this equation; you are always making art for someone. Many times I have heard people say, I make art for myself, which is fine, but don’t get disappointed if you enter a competition and get nowhere, or hang it in an exhibition and it falls flat. Art is a conversation between the artist and the audience. You must consider the audience.

Therefore, making art in 2019 involves making something new, making something considered, making something from your perspective, making something that communicates deliberately to the audience.

It really helps to have an understanding of the history of art because we all stand on the shoulders of those before us. Art history knowledge prevents you from innocently making someone else’s art.

It’s like listening to Opera music. It’s all pretty noise at first, but when you have listened to it enough, you begin to understand the nuances that make it beautiful. We are so lucky today, learning about art history is available to everybody through the internet, or the local public library. Get onto it!

Art began on the wall of a cave and will continually evolve; everything in art has led to everything else. The camera is just a tool. It is up to you to wield this tool and forge the story that moves your audience.”

Paul Atkins 2019

This is an article reproduced from Weekend Plus, a local electronic newsletter published by Seniors Card, an arm of the South Australian Government.