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Oh Starry Night!
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Single Image Award, Special Issue #113 of BLACK & WHITE magazine , February 2016
The artist’s interpretation only begins with the camera since the image in the viewfinder is never what is seen in the mind’s eye. Images have been manipulated virtually since photography was invented in 1826 to meet the artists’ aesthetic. As early as 1857, Rejlander created a masterpiece, “Two ways of Life”, which was purchased by Queen Victoria and had been made from over 30 negatives blended together during many weeks in the darkroom. This photo, as big as an easel painting (16 x 31”) had earlier shocked the art world by being displayed on par with paintings. Even “tin types” from the late 1800’s have been hand colored to add life to faces and the sparkle of gold to jewelry.
With each leap in technology, the other arts were affected as well. For example, a running horse had never been depicted correctly on canvas until 1878 when Muybridge took advantage of the new fast emulsions and an array of 24 cameras to capture the equine movement in a stop motion sequence. He answered the often posed question as to whether all 4 hooves from a galloping horse were off the ground at the same time, which they were.
Photography was also inspired by painters as evidenced by Picasso saying of Alfred Stieglitz's “The Steerage” (1907), "This photographer is working in the same spirit as I am." In fact, a number of photographers such as Edward Steichen were originally trained as painters. He is best known for his curation of the famous MoMA photography exhibit “The Family of Man” (1955-1962) seen by over 9 million people.
We have at our finger tips a very powerful set of tools from the digital camera to the computer to the inkjet printer to create our art. And the cross fertilization will continue just as painters use photo realism and photographers use pictorialism as artistic styles. Using the power of computers and the availability of new materials and processes, it is and should be, a period of intense experimentation with all artists pushing all boundaries. We should respect the past, but forge ahead with new and different accomplishments.
Faced with this myriad of options, I choose to follow an aesthetic rather than a particular style. An image should convey a story creating a level of interest on the part of the viewer. The story can be as simple as “look at the beauty around us.” But it doesn't have to be the only emotion that is raised. Some images may even contain a hidden story, presenting several levels of interest from the macro to the micro.
Nevertheless, to paraphrase Ansel Adams, ‘A photograph is not taken, it is made’.