Being an Artist
This isn’t an article solely about photography, or sculpture, it’s about art. I sincerely feel that much of the photography community has become somewhat separated from the art of photography and that our industry has room to grow as a result. We have photographers that excel and take fantastic storytelling images, and then we have those that work in the trade, yet lack the ability to tell captivating stories, or make truly creative compositions to differentiate themselves from the pack.
One can imitate the work of others, and find purpose in achieving the skill level of someone else, but until they really develop their own sense of style, and find a unique direction, they haven’t proven their artistic merits. They’re only working, and that work may lack feeling. Take four minutes to hear an interview from renowned Sculptor, Jeff Koons. Applying his words to photography as an art form offers some great advice. A fair warning, the credits are partially NSFW; you can stop at 3:26 if you are concerned.
Learning From Sculpture as a Photographer
Jeff Koons talks about how he strives for perfection, taking every detail into account through a “controlled vision,” and that’s what’s necessary to tell a good story in photography as well. The medium of sculpture forces an artist to consider three-dimensional space from a viewers perspective, and how light and shadow interact with different colors, and textures, quite like photography. Other art-forms can be used as training tools for photography as well; a prime example of this is an article using the work of make-up artists to dodge and burn, or using color theory to more effectively color-grade images in Photoshop.
Creating Unique Imagery
Koons also discusses how art connects to all peoples and disciplines, and how the work of an artist is to “make a gesture,” to give meaning to the work. In conceptual photography specifically, it’s easy to get caught up doing levitation photos, and maybe adding an umbrella, or a hand clenching friend for dramatic effect. Those aren’t necessarily bad photos to take, but they only prove the technical ability of a photographer, not their artistic ability. Those who strive to continually say something new with their imagery will likely succeed where others fall short. To end where Jeff Koons began, “When you trust in yourself, and you follow your interest, that’s really where you find art.”