Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Other times, a picture is utterly and completely silent. A picture can express an entire narrative by itself without need for further explanation, or it can add visual aid and depth to something already existing.
Photography has grown tremendously over the past century, and now it is has become the medium of choice for so many young artists. This is no doubt related to the current age of mass-reproduction and social media where we consume an endless stream of images every day. Most of the images we see only stay in our brain for as long as we focus on them. But there are some so strong that they pierce the back of our eyelids and never leave. These are the types of images that trace the soul and can create movements. These are the types of photos that inspire so many to gravitate toward photography as an art form.
The camera is an infant when compared to mediums like painting or sculpting, but its birth was something that shifted the art world forever. Photographers were able to relieve some of the burdens from more traditional artists. Instead of having to commission a painter to paint their portrait, people could simply hire a photographer. No longer was documentation left to just painters and sculptors. Suddenly, people everywhere were able to grab a camera and capture the world around them.
In photography, making pictures, or making “art”, has become less about the process, but about selections and choices. The choice of what to say, the selection of what to photograph and how to frame it. This is partnered with the choice of whether to take the shot or not.
Though it may be hard for people who’ve grown up with cameras in their pockets to imagine, photography wasn’t always something that was so easily accessible. Cameras have become available to almost everyone thanks to technological advances. Now, cameras of all shapes, sizes and qualities can be found on a variety of devices.
“Snapping” a picture seems so easy, especially when using something digital, like a smartphone. So easy that many have resisted the idea that photography is an art. Many have generalized photography because in today’s climate it’s quick and something anyone can do. The negative stereotype holds that photos are mindless and devoid of anything truly meaningful. Unfortunately, today many photographers are still fighting against this fallacious stigma.
There are so many amazing works of art that have been created with the camera. Photographers are able to capture historic, fleeting moments in a way that other art forms never could. Many talented artists like Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Sally Mann have helped to establish photography as a serious art form. Photography isn’t just about documentation though, it’s also about creating. David LaChapelle is an artist who is known for his eccentric style by creating fantastical scenes filled with sensuality, fantasy, and pop culture. These sorts of photographs aren’t meant to be directly representational, but to be interpreted and viewed as fine art.
Unlike with painting, a photographer is tied to the truth of things. Outside of the studio, the real world is not so easily manipulated. Photos carry with them an air of authenticity, that whatever has been captured is real. This can also be viewed as one of photography’s downfalls. With this perceived authenticity, a photograph can be dismissed as just a reproduction of a scene, but with the added bias of the person who captured it.
Many can be deceived by the truth of the lens. We see examples of this all the time in fashion magazines and in distrustful news outlets; photos that are meant to be realistic, but are no doubt deceiving. This sort of deception has become especially prevalent due to photo editing software.
Despite its flaws, I personally love photography because it forces me to go out, to explore, and to capture. With my camera, I have the ability to take little parts of the world, exactly the way they look at that moment, and keep them like that forever. I am able to reveal the beauty of a scene, that others may not see.
Anyone can take pictures, but it takes an artistic eye and a lot of practice in order to create a photo that reaches through the myriad of photos people are bombarded with on a daily basis. Many, like myself, have found solace through the lenses at their disposal. Photography is one of the best, and most direct ways we can capture and interact with the world, which can be a beautiful thing.