Monday, November 14, 2011

Photography as Art

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. A cold morning, frosty and foggy, greets us and brings in the week!

Today we’re talking about photography as art. Photography has several things that make it different from other arts. In some ways, photography can be more of a craft, or a science, or a way of recording things as they are. It can also be an art and art form. Much like the composer of incredible symphonies is an artist, so too, a photographer can be one, which is why we speak of composing our images.

Ayn Rand defined art as a concretization of a man’s values. She stated “Art brings man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.” While she viewed most photography as more of a recording, she felt that commercial photography was an art form. This was because most people view photography as a way to capture the moment, not to create a representation of what we value. She also felt that art should have positive subjects and values and that negative parts should be small and serve as a way to emphasize the positive attributes.

Most people can agree with the above. A see and shoot photographer doesn’t create art; they merely record what they see. Most shopping mall portraits are just canned poses and lighting, done on the cheap, with no eye toward impact. As artists, we visualize a scene, and either create it or make what’s there match our vision, and we create art. When we shoot to have an impact on the viewer, one that touches them somehow, we create art. Using our camera to share a feeling, or value, such as family togetherness or man’s generosity, we create art.

The next time you’re out trying to get the shot of a lifetime, visualizing the scene, setting it up just right, pause to think about its impact on the viewer. What does it say? What have you “concretized?” Even a simple portrait can have meaning; look at Leonardo or Rembrandt. A great way to develop the skill of making art is to look at art and figure out its impact on you, and then figure out how to make that kind of impact with your camera.

A fine example of photography as art is Ansel Adams. His work brought the concept of conservation and the beauty of the world to something we can perceive as reality. His series of photos documenting Manzanar relocation camp during the war is an outstanding example of showing the positive in the midst of a negative. Dorothea Lange captured the negative and sadness, but Adams really brought out the heroism there by showing how the residents made the best of things and created a life for themselves in the middle of this unbearable situation. Nobody can doubt that these folks were heroes! Yousuf Karsh did the same with his portraits of great people and great minds. When we look at the shot of Churchill taken by Karsh, we see the art there; we feel a sense of the man’s greatness and how the weight of his position and power he wielded made the man great.

Regardless of her politics, ideals, and viewpoints, and your thoughts on them, Ayn Rand’s view of art bringing thoughts, values, and ideas to life, is incredibly insightful. Her view makes us take stock of how we represent the world and how we share our take on it.

Hohenfels Volks shot in a church
ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/60 at 37mm
Bamberg, Michaelsberg Church. This "concretizes" two things, the importance of faith, and the importance of preserving the past to pass on to our children.

So, get out and “concretize” some values of your own. Make us feel something, bring a thought to life! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

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