Is our hobby art?

If you got a notification about the Open Competition Results and already looked at them, you might like to check back.  I accidentally published the page yesterday when it was in an ‘experimental’, and poor state.  Now fixed!

A thought

A while ago, a friend and I went out to do an early-morning photo-shoot.  We photographed a lake while the sun rose over still water, lighting the clouds with a range of colours and producing interesting reflections in the early-morning stillness of the water.  Among other photographs I shot this.

Peeping Post (as shot)

Peeping Post (as shot)

Some time after the shoot, I had edited it and I showed to to my friend.

Peeping Post: Tim McMahon

Peeping Post: Tim McMahon

His reaction:

“I don’t like that.  That isn’t the way it was.  The colours were pinkish, not purple like you have them.”

I’m not particularly concerned by this reaction — image critique is certainly a matter of taste.  But I was again struck by my friend’s apparent belief that the image should represent the scene ‘as we saw it’.

By its nature, photojournalism demands truth.  Altering anything much more than exposure or contrast to allow the viewer to see into the picture, is a no-no in journalism, and rightly so.  Documentary photographers need to record truthfully the events they’re involved in lest the audience that follows them is misled.

But landscape photography is not photojournalism.

There’s no more necessity for a landscape photographer to edit an image to be ‘exactly as it was’, than for Grahame Sydney to have included the trees that would have completely changed his famous painting of the Wedderburn Station.

If faithful colours were a requirement in landscape photography then black-and-white landscapes would surely not be legitimate.  Nonsense, surely.

So, is our hobby art?  I certainly think it is more akin to art than it is to news reporting.

For me, an image is successful if it conveys the mood, or features that I thought were interesting enough to capture, and if it does so in a way that would draw people’s attention (for the right reasons) if it were hanging on a wall.

Your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Is our hobby art?

  1. Nik Player

    “But is photo-journalistic representation an abstraction?”

    Yes I think so, it may well be trying to show something in a truthful and accurate way but the image is still taken by a human that decided when and where and what to crop at the time the shutter was pressed.

  2. TheSizzlingBadger

    A photo is a two dimensional recording of light from a three dimensional world with sound, smells and tastes, it can never be more than an abstraction. Isn’t all art just an abstraction of our senses ?

    Cheers Nik

    1. Tim McMahon Post author

      Certainly I agree with “A photo is a two dimensional recording of light from a three dimensional world with sound, smells and tastes”. But is photo-journalistic representation an abstraction?
      Without wanting to ignite a flame war because volumes upon volumes have been written and argued on the topic of ‘what is art’, I would venture that art is an expression of ideas and emotions of the artist. An “abstraction of the senses”? Perhaps in as much as that the ideas and emotions were stimulated by the artist’s senses. More food for thought.

  3. Peter McNeur

    Hi Tim and fellow readers,
    This is a very interesting subject.
    When I started to see landscapes considerably altered (digitally) with things missing or added, I was struck by the lack of reality in what had become of what I knew was there.
    Then I began to think of what had happened for many years, with skillful people changing the image through the use of physical tools, so that the final image was as the photographer wanted it.
    I have always looked at the photographs of Ernst Hass as art. Mostly plays of light and movement.
    I think I am leaning strongly towards photography (not just landscapes) as art.


    1. Tim McMahon Post author

      Indeed. Bruce Girdwood’s images here are more extreme than mine. They are landscapes, and plays of light and movement; and they probably represent what Bruce ‘saw’ — but they are surely not exactly what was in front of him as the shutter was open. To me, these images of Bruce’s represent high art! Beautiful, too!


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