“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.
– David Bailey
This is an uncommon viewpoint and, i think, one that can only be understood if you have done a lot of both painting and photography in a serious manner. I believe most people believe painting is a more difficult artistic activity because it takes more pratice before a good piece results than is the case with photography. One can occasionally take a good, or even great, photograph, even with little experience – no one produces a great painting without a lot of practice.
But I tend to agree with David Bailey – the challenge with photography is to take ordinary scenes and do something original and creative with them. In painting, you have such license to add, subtract, change or alter what’s in the painting. The constraints of photography, the “ordinariness” of the subject matter, make it really hard to do something unique. And now there are so many photographic images out there, simply by sheer numbers it has become difficult to differentiate yourself. Finally there are fewer options in photography about the medium used for the final product – there isn’t the range of papers, textures, paint types available as there is with painting that can make paintings so interesting to look at.
Now admittedly both pursuits are very challenging and worthy of our efforts. For me personally, I find that it is easier to be creative with painting than with photography, where I usually feel that my efforts are just not really new and exciting, albeit somewhat competent. And it’s the creative juice we’re all after in the end!