PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ART FORM
Photography is an avenue of visual communication and expressionism. It embodies unique aesthetic abilities and is able to reach the viewer in ways that no other art form can. In order to understand these qualities, it is essential to recognize the process of image making. When exposed to light the lens from a camera captures an image and a negative is imprinted on the light sensitive celluloid film strip within the camera. The image becomes visible in the development process by adding sodium thiosulfate to the film strip which is later used to create the prints during the printing process inside the dark room. Through this form of image making the main qualities of an image are usually permeated at the time of exposure. This inherit sense of authenticity is what initially distinguished photography from other mediums and where the popularized notion: “The camera does not lie” arouse from.
This view of photography as a mechanical process due to its dependence on technology has dominated many discussions about its role in the arts, disclaiming the medium as a form of fine art and expressionism. As John Berger phrases in Understanding a Photograph “In twentieth‐century terms, photographs are records of things seen. Consider them no closer to works of art than cardiograms.” When photography was first invented its purpose was mainly to document and reflect existing realities. An image was attributed value depending on its indexicality. In earlier photography images strove to be indexical, rather than artistic or interpretive. This notion generally had to do with the affordances of the medium. “By their nature, photographs have little or no property value because they have no rarity value. The very principle of photography is that the resulting image is not unique, but on the contrary infinitely reproducible.”– John Berger.
Berger’s theory and other popularized notions on photography are completely mistaken when trying to understand the principles of this medium. Even though the camera might limit the photographer’s capacities of capturing imaginary and fictional objects, a talented photographer is able to introduce creativity, innovation, and brilliance to their final compositions. An image can be altered by using different lenses and filters, or by modifying the cameras exposure, shutter speed, or aperture. The photographer even has control over contrast, highlights, shadows, and coloring. For example, the same image with high contrast lighting can evoke a totally different sensation and transmit a different message than that same image with low contrast of lighting. An image with high contrast may evoke a harsh, intense, and dramatic response, while the same image in low contrast may produce the opposite emotions. By mastering all these techniques, a photographer is able to compose a distinctive and unique image of even the most infinitely reproduced landmark, or able to completely alter the aesthetic of an object or creature.
Below are two collections of images of the same architectural structure. I took each image from a different angle and perspective, proving the extend to which an image can change just by how it is framed. Shadow and lighting were also very important in making these images because it contributed to the complexity of the shot. These images were taken around 12 pm where a strong light casted a shadow onto the surface of the structure creating multiple geometrical shapes and forms which enhanced the composition. I colored the second series of images in black in white in order to demonstrate the change in subjectivity by just altering color.
Digital photography revolutionized photography as a practice and art form. Digital technology in image making arose in the late 1980’s and Adobe Photoshop, a software that allows for editing and adjusting digital images, was first released in 1990. Photoshop was initially seen as a replacement to the dark room, but allowed the editing process to go further than any photographer could imagine. The program allows the structure and contents of a digital image file to be completely manipulated and altered. “In a world of high technology, will you still believe in the truthfulness of a photograph? And does it matter?” –Misha Gordin states in his article Conceptual Photography. The creation of Photoshop forever changed the perception of photography and challenged the relationship between the photographer and the medium. As William J. Mitchell writes in his book The Reconfigured Eye “Today the very idea of photographic veracity is being radically challenged by the emerging technology of digital image manipulation.” The use of Photoshop calls into question the truthfulness behind images, and to what extent the rise of technically-altered photos depletes the credibility of photos used as documentation. However, what people fail to realize is that photography has always inherently had subjective elements. The photographer decides how to document or depict their subjects; every creative and technical decision is thought through and has purpose. Images are framed through someone’s perspective and intended to be viewed through the photographer’s eyes.
Below is an example of how an image can be altered with Photoshop. The first image is the the original landscape shot, in the second image you can see how I enhanced the coloring by saturating specific colors, and in the third image I created a kaleidoscopic effect by reflecting the same image 4 times around its axis.
Digital photography and post production software’s have allowed the medium to take on innovative affordances and created a new wave of photographic styles, enabling and facilitating the rise of abstract and conceptual photography. The post production process of image making can be as important as the actual capturing of the image given the extent to which an image can be modified. Typical perceptions of the use of postproduction image altering software’s; such as Photoshop may have negative connotations given the aged idea that an organic image has more value. Nonetheless mastering Photoshop is also an art and requires a lot of visual intelligence and creativity. How I edit my images is one of the most important parts of my creative process given that I take images thinking about the postproduction process. While shooting I make decisions about framing, lighting, pattern, and contrast depending on what my vision and conceptualized idea of the finished product is.
In the series of images below you can see my visual thinking process while editing this image. The subject in my original shot was a small crater made by erosion in the rocks next to the ocean. Before taking this image I saw something interesting in the form of the rocks, I studied and observed the space intricately by taking numerous pictures from different angles and perspectives because I knew there was something interesting that could arise in the editing process. The original image is not that interesting or compelling, however it had potential to become something mystical. I wanted the final image to resemble some sort of galactic look and was interested in creating my own reality. Through Photoshop I am able to take the world around me and modify it in order to create my own version of nature, existentially, and livelihood. I am able to create definitions without words or explanations through this outlet that allows for vigorous aesthetic and conceptual exploration.
An image that is Ambiguous beyond the artist’s intensions naturally leads the audience to discard such ambiguity, rather than continue to explore the unknown. Photography is a unique medium of art because it allows this exploration of depths that were not an object of artistic intension. A photograph is so intricate that there are always aspects subject to interpretation that were not a product of intension. “All too often, the photographer’s individual approach to image-making is hijacked by conventionally accepted photographic aesthetics; that is, how things “should” look.” – Lois Greenfield. Art has many forms and types, but it does not need to tap into the viewer’s experiences and pre conceptions. Rather a good abstract photographer is able to create non existing conceptions, and display a balance between the unknown and known in order to intrigue yet captivate the viewer. He is able to take creative risks and introduce new realms of vision through image making. As Salvador Dali states; “I strive to systematize confusion and discredit reality”
So why do we judge photographs so harshly and not appreciate them for what they are but what we think they should be?
The purpose of my photography is not to capture what is expected and conventional, but to revert expectations and break down all structured barrios in order to create art that confuses and stuns the viewer. For some reason there tends to be an expectation for photographs to tell a story or have some deep meaning. However, this does not need to be true, as Lois Greenfield wrote in Moments beneath the Threshold of Perception “I prefer that my photographs tap into the unconscious rather than tell a story.” Photography is a powerful medium that has the ability to make you question the reality in which you live in. The best photographers are able to create strong complex compositions out of simplicity and mundaneness. They see beyond what is presented to us on a daily basis and are able to look at their subject in a unique framework. As Misha Gordin writes in Conceptual Photography “Am I taking photographs of existing reality, or creating my own world, so real but nonexistent?” Photographers are essentially creating their own representations of what they see through their camera, in other words framing the world through their eyes. “Conceptual photography is a higher form of artistic expression, it employs the special talent of intuitive vision, by translating personal concepts into the language of photography.” –Misha Gordin. Photographers must have a certain level of creative intelligence and the ability to not only conceptualize but also turn their ideas into art.
Through my works I aim to create visually complex images by utilizing the structures that surround my environment focusing on their symmetry and geometrical qualities. I combine basic elements and principals of design, such as linearity, primary colors, and repetition in hopes of producing an interesting piece that challenges, intrigues, and speaks to the viewer. The abstract quality in my images produce a sense of ambiguity and mystery, intended to provoke the viewer and incite them to question the world in which we live in and the space we consume. I Provide an alternative perspective onto mundane objects, and a reframed presentation of realities. Therefore, through my photographs I am able to create my own world, and invite the viewer to experience this world through my framed perspective.
All images by Dahlia Dreszer
Gordin, Misha. "Conceptual Photography: Idea, Process, Truth." World Literature Today 87.2 (2013): 76. Web.
Berger, John. "Understanding a Photograph." The Look of Things (1972): n. pag. Web.
Mitchell, William J. The reconfigured eye: visual truth in the post-photographic era. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001. Print.
Greenfield, Lois. "Moments Beneath the Threshold of Perception." World Literature Today 87.2 (2013): 38. Web.