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Thread: Elitism in the art community

  1. #1
    DanPBrown
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    Elitism in the art community

    Please pardon my slightly off topic post, but I would bet most photographers in this forum are professionals and may have had similar experiences to me. I've written a small article about how traditional artists treat photography more like a craft rather than art.
    Take a look if you care and feel free to relate your stories here and on the blog.
    http://www.danbrownphotography.com/blog/
    Thanks,
    Dan
    http://www.danbrownphotography.com

  2. #2
    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    I honestly thought that attitudes like that disappeared a long time ago, but they are apparently still alive. Unfortunately, the fact that they seem to re-appear in some cases, may have something to do with digital photography. It has become cheaper to take photos, which make photographers take more of them, and as a result, the quantity of quality work increases as well.

    With the world wide gallery that internet is, many of those photos are available to viewers at any time, an opportunity that "traditional" artists can only dream about. The downside is that the value of photography as an art form is devaluated in some people's eyes.

    Obviously, the sheer quantity of photography and photographers should raise the level of the images, and probably does. The problem appears when local artists and "experts" in other fields of visual art see the flood of high quality work. They sometimes seem to think something like "If it's that easy, it can't be art". Does the complexity of the process qualify as a component for evaluation of art? Not in my view. I know a lot of very complicated processes that I wouldn't classify as art.

    So we are left with fear of competition, ignorance and stupidity. None of them are easy to deal with, and it takes a rather united community of photographers to do so. I see a long, uphill struggle in some cases. Fortunately for me, I live in a country where photography is absolutely considered a worthy art form

  3. #3
    Super Duper
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    This is a very interesting subject.

    Over a decade ago I was forced to confront this issue head on. I entered an assemblage of "drug store" 4X6 prints of a portrait subject done in the Cubist manner (ala David Hockney). My twist was to partially paint over the assemblage with oils. The venue was a juried photo show at a highly revered artist organization known as the Scarab Club.

    http://www.scarabclub.org/

    The piece was awarded "Best of Show" ... which triggered a hue and cry from every end of the photographic spectrum. The Photographers said it wasn't photography, but instead painting ... in the same manner that painters would be loath to call it "Art" because it utilized photography. Thankfully, the Judges disagreed.

    The piece eventually sold, and in the words of Warhol, to a pretty "up-there" art collector.

    As a long time painter, and lover of art history, and an avid photographer who was much impacted intellectually and emotionally by many master photographic works, I had to think this through myself and come to grips with it.

    My conclusion wasn't easy to come by, but in the end was elegantly concise. My answer was "Intent".

    In the case of my portrait piece, my intent wasn't to take a photograph, or to make a painting. It was to do a study of "Time & Space" which is the underlying concept of Cubism. The media used was part of the intent to further explore an idea. Sort of inseparable.

    IMO, if one sets out to create art, and has some intent other than taking a photograph, then it can at least be considered as art ... whether it actually ends up as art probably depends on how faithful one is to the original intent. In the hands of an artist, any media can become art. Picasso wasn't only an artisan/craftsman when he worked in clay because he was exploring his artistic intent via the medium of pottery and ceramics. Same with Fernand Leger, etc.

    To my mind, "art" and "artistic", are two different things. A photo can be "artistic", but not necessarily be "art". In a manner of speaking, true art is the philosophical forward guard of visual thinking. So called "High Art" explores beyond that which exists and captures new ground ... which is often why it causes such disruption of established views of art.

    I view much painting as being artistic because, while it is beautiful and engaging, it often follows someone else's art. With my cubist portrait, I wanted to push past Hockney's photographic Cubist approach and see what paint would bring to light. Mostly because it was Hockney himself that said Cubism had not been full explored yet. Not earth shattering, but an incremental personal step in which I at least stayed true to my original goal. The judges saw past the media used and validated that intent.

    Also, IMHO, most photography that captures our attention is artistic, but hardly can be called art. However, there is photography that transcends that ... mostly because it goes deeper by means of its original intent. There ARE those that "Invent" ... those that devise by thinking, and come to discover something new.

    Among others, Cindy Sherman fits my notion of photography as Art. She was studying painting before turning to photography as being less confined. Her intent wasn't necessarily photography, it was realizing conceptual ideas for which photography was quite capable of in her hands.

    This is probably to simplistic a view for such a complex subject. Amused intellectuals will scoff at it, and a lot of photographers and painters will bristle at it.

    I see myself as participating in artistic photography. I react to my surroundings and derive satisfaction from recording split seconds of the human condition as it is today. No new art new there except the application of an original invention to a narrow swath of the contemporary scene ... a continuation or validation of another's invention so to speak. I may someday "stumble" on something inventive because my mind works that way. Accidents in Art do happen I only hope I recognize it when and if it does happen.

    On the other hand, I see my dear friend Irakly Shandize as moving closer and closer to being a true Artist because he is close to finding his intent and inventive discovery using photography as the tool of expressing his ideas ... some of which are pretty damned dark ... which isn't surprising coming from a product of the Soviet Union ... LOL.

  4. #4
    Ranger 9
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    Speaking as someone who's been the chairman of a cooperative art gallery and a published art critic, I think you want to avoid "catastrophizing" this. Back in the late 19th century it was a real issue, but hasn't been controversial in serious art circles for a long time since then.

    The boiled-down consensus might be put this way: Photography can be used in a lot of ways, and one of them is to produce works of art. It depends on the artist's intentions.

    Often when you encounter this "exclusionary" attitude, it's actually for practical reasons. In a juried or competitive show, the organizers may restrict photography simply because photographers are very numerous, and they want to have a balanced representation of media. In a sales-oriented show, the organizers may feel that there isn't much crossover between the clientele that buys paintings/sculpture/art prints and the clientele that buys photography, so they're better off concentrating their marketing efforts on potential painting/sculpture/art print purchasers.

    You can see the same effect in art publications and art criticism. Although there are some broad-spectrum galleries, publications, and critics that try to cover the entire fine-art field, you tend to see a segregation: there are painting/sculpture/printmaking magazines and fine-art-photography magazines; there are galleries that specialize in painting/sculpture/printmaking and ones that specialize in fine-art photography; there are critics who specialize in writing about painting/sculpture/printmaking and ones who specialize in writing about fine-art photography. In my mind this isn't so much exclusionism as simply a recognition of the fact that each sub-field has its own history and areas of expertise, and it's difficult to know enough to be effective across the whole spectrum.

    Another thing to think about is that if there IS an exclusionary attitude (and I suppose that may be true if you're talking about individual artists' attitudes) then it does cut both ways. For example, consider the now-widespread genre of "digitally manipulated" photographs that have been altered in appearance by filters, Photoshop compositing, etc.

    Sometimes when I look at one of these, I can't help thinking that a skilled illustrator could have produced a similar result more quickly and easily by just painting it from scratch! If such a painter had done that, scanned the painting, entered it in a photography contest, and won a prize, can you imagine the chorus of outrage from photographers whose creative process happens to include the use of a camera? Often when these controversies arise, it's not really a question of philosophy, but simply one of whose ox is being gored!


    Don't forget that there's also a lot of exclusionism within the photography field itself. For example, there was a story in "PDN" last month about fine-art photographers seeking, and getting, editorial assignments, and I would guess this might be somewhat controversial among photographers who have built a specialty on editorial shooting.

    (And this controversy might be very legitimate. In the PDN example, the fine-art photographer illustrated a story on the recession by using long-exposure techniques to make a crowded, busy shopping mall look deserted and empty. To me that's not much different from the notorious case of the Palestinian news photographer who Photoshopped in extra smoke to make an Israeli air strike look worse than it really was. I would like to think that an editorial photographer would have raised the question with his editor as to whether the shopping-mall pictures didn't cross over the line between "illustration" and "distortion"; a fine-art photographer would have no such qualms. Of course, that may be why he got the job, in which case the blame belongs to the editor...)

  5. #5
    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    I think it's all Art. It's Art when I call it Art, just like Duchamp.

    As for scanning a painting and then manipulating it digitally artists are already doing that. Example 1, 2.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


  6. #6
    nei1
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    Duchamp was just a piss-artist.......

  7. #7
    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    Quote Originally Posted by nei1 View Post
    Duchamp was just a piss-artist.......
    No, that was R. Mutt.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


  8. #8
    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    I'm with johnastovall - my work is art if I say it is. That doesn't say anything about artistic quality (which is why I hesitate to use that term).
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

  9. #9
    nei1
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    And my work is a giant blaumange if I say it is,,all we can be is honest and not present anything that we are not satisfied with.An artist is a tradesman like any other ,when his product becomes art is decided by others,some of the greatest artists were superb manipulators of these "others".Art is a word invented by these "others"to describe things they had no hope of understanding,making it expensive left it understandable ,forgettable and possesable.

    I didnt know that John,
    Last edited by nei1; 22nd March 2009 at 10:59.

  10. #10
    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community


    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


  11. #11
    Member Rick Waldroup's Avatar
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    A friend of mine was in New York a few years back and saw this show.

    http://chelseaartgalleries.com/Alan+...ot+An+Art.html

    He found it fascinating because, at some point, photos that were never intended to be made as fine art had become, over the years, just that. These images were made for science purposes, advertising purposes, and so on, that at the outset, the photographers had no intentions of producing fine art. But now, years later, some of the images are considered to be works of fine art in the photographic medium.

    Last year, I had a chance to hang some photos in a new up-and-coming art gallery. The owner was trying to expand and include other mediiums. However, he was very much inclined to accept only the pieces that he felt would accent his main collection- oils by various local landscape artists. He saw some of my street work and asked to see it, but he also wanted me to bring along some B&W landscape work as well. We met, and he really liked the landscape work, which I thought was rather pedestrian. He picked a few of the safe or non-controversial street shots I showed him, but he really wanted to concentrate on my landscapes. I declined the invitation to show my work there.

    To me, art is a challenge. I want art, whatever it is, to make me think. I want it to challenge me intellectually. I don't care what the medium is. Cindy Sherman has been mentioned as a photographic artist. Her concepts and ideas are her true artistic vision. Using a camera is simply how she produces those visions.

  12. #12
    nei1
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    Re: Elitism in the art community

    Producing anything to the very best of your ability is as old as time,the fact that someone somewhere,sometime will declare this as art is an absolute certainty.So relax and wait your turn,honesty is all you need because if your honest you will be original,you will be you.


    John ,isnt the internet wonderful,I just love it!

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