Is It Art? Instant Drawing and the Digital Darkroom

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Henri Cartier-Bresson is reported to have said after he had given up photography. “All I care about these days is painting—photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing.”

No one disagrees that painting is art, albeit the quality may vary but it is always considered art. Why isn’t this the case with photography? It is agreed that there is an art to photography but this means it is a craft but photography of the highest order is referred to as “photographic art”. Likewise images created on or enhanced by a computer are labelled as “digital art” or “computer art”. Whereas painting is just art, be it water colour, oil or acrylic.

In part the problem lies with the artist. The discussion about photography is littered knee deep with technique and coloured with technical jargon. Seldom if ever is the art discussed. I have yet to find a discussion about a painter’s work where the types and sizes of the brushes scores a mention. And quite frankly who really cares? If I was to twiddle the knobs like Ansel Adams would I make an Adam’s photograph? The simple answer is no, I’m not Ansel Adams.

The photographer makes the photograph with their attitudes, opinions, experience and aesthetic. The very same attributes that the painter brings to their work, as does the sculptor, the writer or the composer. Technical ability only makes technically correct work. The most interesting work is that which is out there pushing the boundaries, ignoring the rules and making it up as they go along, finding new forms of expression.

The development of the digital darkroom heralds a new age for photography. Gone are the days of mechanical drawing, now full blown paintings are as accessible as the artist’s ability to imagine them. With attitude, opinion, experience and aesthetic being the guiding principles not the recipes of those who have gone before.

It is a play ground, don’t worry about mistakes it is through them that we learn. As one of the greatest artist’s of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso, said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”.

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