05/20 Making Photographs (part two - art photography or photography as art)
Contemporary art photography or art-based photography functions within the context of art with a big A. It functions in a discussion based on the history of both photography as art and art itself, especially ideas in art. If it’s not likely to make or even engage either of those histories, it is likely not art. An example of art photography might be the recent output of Chuck Close that I riffed on most recently. The early “joiners” by David Hockey, or more recently the frescoes of Canadian artist Jeff Wall to name three very different types of Art Photography. The intention of the artist in making the photograph is to make art. My favorite piece of art photography is a photograph made my French artist Yves Klein as he leaped out a window. It was based on the conceptual premise that if a man kept jumping from a window he would eventually learn to fly.
In hindsight, I don’t do very much of this kind of photography, but as I said before I know when I’m making art and I know when I’m not. With my recent Chuck Close piece, as random as it was, it certainly wasn’t commercial photography nor was I trying to make “a good photograph.” The gesture was instinctual, referential. I was making art. It wasn’t my first “self portrait as” piece. It might be something I should keep working on. But given how little of this kind of photography I do, I seem to fit more into a third category, the one that Cartier-Bresson fits in. The one that Robert Frank fits in. the category of the subjective "artistic photographers." That makes me a writer and a photographer, not much of an artist. Art is where I get my ideas.