Craft, Applied Art, or Fine Art?

I continue to ponder just what artistic activity we photographers engage in.  A craft is an activity exercising skill in making something.  These days it is possible to switch on a DSLR, point it in the direction of the subject, and let the electronics in the camera decide what sort of scene is being viewed, adjust all camera settings for that type of scene, select the “film” speed, focus the lens leaving the photographer-artist with the only task of pressing a button.  While many of us look for cameras that allow us much more control over settings, and focus, I suppose it could be said that the camera’s internal computer is engaged in the craft of photograph making.

Back to the dictionary … an applied art is modifying everyday objects so that they are harmonious or beautiful (the dictionary uses “aesthetically pleasing” but that just references back to beauty).  That begins to get closer to what the photographer does — at least one like me who often just wanders around looking for minimalist or abstract points of view — what we do add to what the camera as craft operator does is ‘see’ the scene in the viewfinder as a totality and judge it attractive to our personal sense of aesthetics which we hope others will enjoy.

As I noted earlier, the dictionary tells us that fine art is the production of items which are beautiful and provide intellectual stimulation.  It is that last part that is the killer … stimulating the mind, getting a reaction that starts the viewer thinking, even if the viewer comes to the conclusion that they disagree with the artists vision, the artists was successful in igniting the thought pattern … the process is difficult for any artist, and I think especially difficult for a photographer.  Ramon Martinez has mastered the craft side of the photograph and is successfully working on the fine art side of intellectual stimulation.  Check out his work here.



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