Not that long ago I was having a deep conversation in the hockey dressing room with a team-mate. As we often do, we were discussing the arts. He made the comment that, as a photographer, my work did not count as art because all I had to do was push a button.
There are many types of photography. Some is purely documentary or photo-journalism: here the photographer is attempting to exactly record what is happening in front of their lens. There is no Photoshop adjustment except for framing and exposure, very much like what one would do with old school film and paper printing. Portrait photography attempts to capture families, groups, and individuals with a high degree of honesty through the skillful use of lighting and position to show the relationships and interpersonal dynamics.
What I try to do with a camera is more honey crisp and Gravenstein than apples and oranges when compared to what “brush people” do. The same, but different. Fine art is about the emotional and visual impact a piece of art has on the viewer. It is about feeling. When I capture images around our beautiful Valley, it is not about what I am seeing, but more about what these scenes and elements make me feel, and my hope is to be able to pass this feeling on through the image. A dictionary definition of fine art states, “creative art, especially [but not limited to—think : dance, music, theatre] visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content.” Am I successful in this pursuit? Not nearly as often as I would like, but the Valley is as forgiving as it is beautiful so I get loads of chances to get it right.
There is also the issue of longevity. Will photographs last? Modern papers and inks are considered to be “archival.” Acid-free matting, and not placing a photograph in direct sunlight, will prevent fading so a work should last decades. Another issue is the fact that photographs are “just reproductions of the same thing.” Many fine art photographers offer their works as limited editions, producing only a small number for sale and then the image is no longer available. Any painting will fade or deteriorate if not properly cared for. Printmakers will also use limited editions in their creative process, but this does not diminish the artist’s creativity or the emotions that a piece can stir in the viewer. The medium is not nearly as important as the emotion or visual interest the photograph conveys.
There are some wonderful local photographers who are showing their work at our local galleries. Dick Groot has an amazing retrospective, From Kodak Brownie to Smartphone, at Art Can Gallery in Canning that has been extended until Saturday, July 3 with a tentative date of June 26 set for an art talk and book signing. Harvest Gallery has work from Ernest Cadegan and Gary Ness. Jaimie Peerless (@girlphantom13) takes portraiture to the level of fine art to create a visual feast!
Back in the locker room, my counter to my team-mate, who is an excellent keyboard player, was that, as a musician, all he had to do was push on a key and be able to count to four. Exactly!
Colin Chase (@aperture16photography) is a photographer based in Kentville and shows his work at Tides Contemporary Art Gallery.
Photo courtesy of Colin Chase.