Monday, April 15, 2013

A Photographic Art Practice - some thoughts

Photographers don’t want to be photographers anymore they want to be artists. Easy to say, difficult to do. It’s blindingly simple to point and shoot and ask questions afterwards. However, it’s more than likely that these pictures will join the endless stream of photographic noise and will amount to not much. To go beyond this and build a worthwhile camera based art practice requires self imposed guidelines and questions asked first. This is something I think about all the time and the points below are really written to myself.

1. Make work for yourself, from the head and heart and for the right reasons. If anybody else happens to like the work that’s a bonus and not a given.

2. Don’t follow the market, let the market follow you. If your work is any good it will be discovered. And if it isn’t, so what, you are doing it for yourself after all.

3. When considering a gallerist make sure they are as passionate about what they do, and about your work, as you are. Avoid dealers who are just shopkeepers selling decoration.

 4. An art practice is not just zipping off for the weekend and shooting a couple of models in a field, thinking this is a body of work. A practice is forever, work built up over years, it never stops and there is no arrival.

 5. Study the history of photography looking closely at the photographers you admire and work out why you like them. Look at the work, not to copy but to know what not to copy. In particular look at the ideas behind the work.

 6. Don’t make a picture if somebody has made one just like it already.

7. Realise that the important names in any art arena are often where they are because they discovered and occupied a particular position. For example consider Baltz, Ruscha, Tillmans, Goldin, Graham – this is helpful when thinking about your own voice.

 8. Consider the balance between form and content in your pictures, making sure that the work is idea driven but also looks good.

9. Try and make work that is simple yet profound. Paul Graham says that the work that he is drawn to is where something has been made from the ether of nothingness. Think about this.

10. A sense of mystery in a work is important - what might have just happened or what might be about to happen.

11. Context is important. Both in how the image is made and how it’s read. In making a picture what you leave out is as important as what you leave in. And in the reading, because the viewer is the author, incorporate signifiers in the work which will help the reader to construct their own narrative.

12. Work in series with an overarching narrative in mind. One photograph informs another and individual pictures can have their own individual narrative.

13. Make work that is intelligent and wise not clever and smart.

14. And last, never forget that you can always do it better.


Mark Kalan said...

An absolutely accurate assessment.

Douglas Ljungkvist said...

wonderful list that all new/emerging photographers should read!

Harvey's Blog said...

Right! We are all NEW, everyday.

canindya said...

Excellent article!

Christine Anderson said...

Excellent article. I am often wondering is there room for the art photographer out there? We are often shoved together with documentary style photographers....Or its seems we have to make the work fit within the context of rules set by traditional old school photography....

Graham Dainty said...

Harvey, this is very good and hits the nail on the head. Self belief to all. Thanks

Anonymous said...

brilliant.. just loved true. thanks a lot for sharing.

Dipanjan Mitra.

georg said...

That sounds right.