A single thought terrorized me with sleepless nights, poor appetite and cold sweat upon my troubled brow. The idea that photographers are not true artists, but rather remoras or sucker fish who just latch on to the greater being and rely upon it for sustenance and are never capable of actual creation. Don’t get me wrong, sure we do contribute to the greater creature’s well-being, but are just unable to survive without it. At this point many of you are probably outraged, some might be mildly confused, the few might even be intrigued by this statement so please let me elaborate.
A painter will take a blank canvas and with a brush and colorful goo create a painting to rival their imagination. A sculptor will take clay or rock or whatever medium they desire and turn the unshapely mess into something truly unique and extraordinary. A musician will mix and match sounds to create a symphony… and so on, and so on.
So, that being said, what of us photographers, why aren’t we true artists? Well to create a picture all we do is use the elements in front of us and click a button. Now, of course, those of us with fantastic imagination can go out and assemble complex scenes and then taking a picture of them. But is the photograph the true masterpiece or the subject? Is the model the true talent? Is it the people that contributed to the model such as hair and makeup artists? Could it possibly be the setting?
In this day and age how hard is it to go out and purchase an expensive camera and go to a remote destination and just snap a few shots off a mountain top. Granted, these pictures capture a breathtaking view, but are they truly art? Are these pictures not simply a cheap and quick imitation of reality?
Yes, photographers have to capture just the right moment, with perfect precision, lighting, at the correct angle. They have to constantly worry about focus, bokeh, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, zoom, framing and so on. But despite all those things, each photograph still takes roughly a second to create, not counting post edit of course.
To use computer terms, a photograph is just a screenshot of life. So if we take a picture of a building. We post that picture on the internet and someone goes out and takes a screenshot of our photograph of this building. Then, they go to change the color scheme, add a little flower in the front lawn and superimpose some birds and some fog. At this point is this new picture a copyright infringement? The law says yes. We, as the original artist say yes. But could this person just as easily have been there, standing at the same exact spot taking the same exact picture? But who is the original artist? The man who built the building or the person who took a picture of it or the person who took a picture of a picture? Or are they all artists after a fashion?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.