Blog 12 July 2010: Is Photography an Art or a Science?
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Is Photography an Art or a Science?
I started thinking about the above question when a person
posting on a "Digital Photography Review" forum asked whether he is a point and shoot "P&S"
photographer or a "real" photographer! You can find this
discussion thread here:
My thoughts on this question are as follows:
I have seen magnificent photographs taken by artistic people who are inspired by a scene and who rely totally on the automatic functions of a simple camera. On the other hand, I have seen photographs that do not inspire me that have been taken by professional photographers who have all the latest gear!
So, think in terms of the end product, not the camera used! A "real" photographer is one who is inspired by beautiful scenes and who can pass on this inspiration to the viewer. For example, I was inspired by this wonderful scene, and I hope one or two others may be also!
But I realise that not all photographs need to be "inspiring", and that a professional photographer often has to take the photos that clients want, not necessarily the ones the photographer wants!
I like to think in terms of the quality and inspiration
of the end product, rather than the camera used to take the image! So,
although digital photography can be very difficult from a technical point of
view, I think that inspiration and artistic ability are the main things! Even if you have only a
simple camera, if you are inspired by a scene, and if you have the artistic
ability to depict it with sensitivity, then it's likely that your
photograph will also inspire others!
Way back in 1955, a famous photographer, Andreas Feininger, wrote a book called “The Creative Photographer”. Andreas included a chapter in his book titled “Why People Take Photographs”. Andreas said that, in his opinion, whether amateur or professional, people take pictures for one of the following reasons:
Because they wish to make visual records
Because they are fascinated by gadgets
Because they have to earn a living
Because they feel the need to express themselves
So which of the above categories would you place yourself in? With regard to the last category, Andreas said that creativity is independent of hobby or profession, and creative photographers are found among both amateurs and professionals. One of the most mysterious forces in man is the drive to create. Creative photographers are driven by a compelling urge, which is the root of any creative work, they must express these opinions in tangible form and share them with others. It is this compulsion to create which makes great photographers.
So, if you put yourself in the “need to express yourself” category, you can do this with a “P & S” camera or the most expensive camera available. However, the more you know about your camera and post processing, and the better the camera is, the better your images are likely to be. So, in this sense, a "real" photographer needs to be artistic, creative, and have the ability to inspire others. In addition, the photographer should also have a reasonable knowledge of some of the fundamental scientific / technical aspects of photography.
Andreas Feininger (1955). "The Creative Photographer", Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
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