A Photographer as a Visual Artist

Jerusalem Hands P1000829

What are the limits within which a bona fide photographer must work and how far can he move outside the box and still call himself a photographer?

I have combined images before but not much. It was laborious when using Selection Tools but now that I’ve learned to use masks, combining images is much easier. The image above is one I did today.

Part of me resists combining images. What I’ve done so far in post is alter exposure, contrast and hue. Combining images would be a huge step. It involves structural modification.

With layers and masks, I can use collage to paint not only with color but with images. I have an old Wacom tablet that I have never used continuously. The tablet would enable me to use a pressure-sensitive surface to vary the heaviness of my “paint” brush and thus achieve texture as well as different widths of strokes. Somehow though I am starting to like the difference between painting and photography. They are both visual media but each has its own traditions and history that I rather like to keep separate.

I would be more inclined to use masks to combine images if what I am combining are not recognizable images but patterns or color blends that add depth and complexity to my photographic composition. I still think that a photographer, even a digital photographer, should restrict himself to tools that relate to qualities of light i.e. saturation, hue, contrast as well as color, lines, and shapes. The structure of the image he has to capture from real life. That’s the main ingredient to which he adds emendations as a cook adds spices and herbs to a pot roast!

In this I may be in a diminishing fraction and I question my resistance. All things change and it’s those who can think outside the box who lead the way.

Are we bound to preserve the limitations imposed on film photography? A digital camera captures an image conveyed to its sensor via reflected light. That image is what a photographer works with. But then he uses another gadget to process that image, a computer program to manipulate the pixels comprising his “image.” These two, camera and computer, share equal billing for today’s photographic output.

A visual artist may use matériel like oil, pigments, fabric, found objects from the garbage dump, hair, rope, wire, titanium sheets, vegetable matter, and yes, photographic images. His mandate is not just too keep the brain from going senile early; his mandate is to create a diversion for the eyes, a challenge to the mind behind those eyes to imagine and dream, to think the impossible, to believe.

To remain relevant art has to change with a society’s conventions, with its emerging technology. Maybe to be able to call oneself a photographer is not the point. Maybe we should think of ourselves as visual artists first and only secondarily photographers. The goal is the same for all who use the eyes as windows into the Soul.

Handheld camera with 50 mg lens makes surprisingly good images!

I was worried about shooting these two models with Brian. Somehow with the Canon 7D, using zoom lenses with stabilization control I end up with blurry images. Moreover my photo shoots the whole of this year were all done in the studio where I controlled the lights. In fact I have been shooting with more variety of lighting sets-ups since adding Alien Bees to my arsenal of lights.

Brian asked the models to contact Peak Performance on the city’s northeast corner, theorizing that since the gym was a standalone gym, not a national chain affiliate, they would be more likely to consent to use shooting on their premises. It worked and I went along for the ride.

The first half hour of shoot I turned out blurred, unusable images. I finally put on my F1.8 50 mm prime lens and decided to shoot manual. It worked! The colors were surprising. They were not as rich as what I get with either daylight-range strobes or Tungsten but seemed more alive! I am hooked!

I am really grateful to Brian for forcing me into this situation. Watching Jazmine Star’s five-day workshop shooting a wedding on location with minimal use of any artificial light wa invaluable! This was a major step forward for me.