What many are missing. (And I don't leave myself out)
I don't know if you've noticed, but it seems as though there are a ton of new photographers out there. Call them what you want; moms-with-cameras, guys-with-cameras, or Uncle Bob photographers, they are out there. Sometimes I even consider myself one of them. Though I've been shooting since the film days, I still feel like a total newbie sometimes.
There are varied complaints about these photographers from in and around the industry, some well-placed, others not. The most common in my experience relates to education.
The issue is not whether one has an MFA or is a Master Photographer as awarded by some respected institution (though those don't hurt at all), but if one's passion runs entirely through the soul. It's easy to pick up a digital camera these days, turn it on, and make a good image. It's also fairly easy to do the same and come up with the occasional top-quality image. It's also insanely easy to do it and come up with garbage. I know, I've done all three.
What separates the "real" photographers from the hobbyists is the desire to improve. For all its technology, gadgetry, and bright lights, photography is an art form. You may be wowed by the ability of the next generation of cameras to capture imagery in total darkness or its ability to be printed on a billboard, but none of that matters at all if the photo is not composed. Composition is a learned ability; studied and repeated over and over again. Schools teach it, magazine articles touch on it, books have been written about it, but the best place to study it is in history.
Composition has been studied at length for aeons. It doesn't matter whether you are a landscape, portrait, fine art, or casual photographer, you can an artist who has mastered the composition. Don't restrict yourself to photography, either. I find artists that expressed themselves through other media much more interesting. I guess it's because, whenever I look at another photographer's work, I spend most of my time dissecting the image; where did the light come from, why the subject was placed where it was, how much was in focus. You know the drill. When I look at some other artistic medium, I can just take in the image and absorb it into my conscious. I use it for inspiration. Sure I dissect it after a while, but I can just bathe in the inspiration for some time before I feel the need to process it.
Now, I must admit that I haven't studied this nearly as much as I would like. I enjoy art galleries and visit them as often as the family will allow. To say that I've may an intellectual study of art history, I can't. I have made a specific study of photography, both technique and inspiration, but have not done so for art in a broader sense. My commitment now is to forgo some of my consumption of photographic information in lieu of global art experiences.
I have a few favorite artists, but need to view more to expand my list. I'd love to find some newer, lesser known artists to follow. For now, though, my short list of favorite artists has some pretty well-knowns on it.
- Johannes Vermeer
- John Singer Sargent
- Edward Weston
- Georgia O'Keefe
- Minor White
- Dorthea Lange
- Charles Mary Kubricht
- August Sander
From what artistic avenue do you derive inspiration and who are your favorite artists in that medium?