Choose Your Weapon


Enflamed, photograph

“If Velasquez were born today, he would be a photographer and not a painter.”

– George Bernard Shaw

I wonder whether painters from long ago would have chosen different, not-then-available art mediums. It’s curious to contemplate what kind of photographs Rembrandt or Vermeer might have taken had the camera rather than the brush been their chosen instrument. Both were masters of light so I’m sure they would have created rich and compelling work.

It’s interesting to me why more painters do not become better photographers. It’s very common for painters over time to tackle different mediums – watercolor, oil, collage, pastel, etc. Few in my experience become equally interested in the camera. Of course, everyone takes pictures – but I’m talking about practicing fine art photography where the photograph is a work of art in itself. Equally puzzling is why more photographers don’t also take up painting at some point as a way to expand their expressive arsenal.

Perhaps the disciplines are too different. I suppose it’s equally true that not many painters (or photographers) become sculptors, writers, actors, dancers, musicians, etc. For some reason I have found painting and photography to share more in common with each other than with these other artistic mediums. But perhaps to others, picking up the camera feels as foreign to them as would sitting down at a piano or playing Hamlet.

What draws one to choose painting or photography to begin with? Both produce visual images depicting our world. Both allow for a wide range of creativity and expression. Both are considered valid art forms. Have you ever asked yourself this question? Have you ever contemplated getting serious about painting or photography, whichever you don’t do now? If so, why have you chosen to do so or not?



5 responses to “Choose Your Weapon

  1. Good question. I was first a photographer. I spent years out in nature taking photos with my Nikon. I wore two of them out! I entered some contests, did well and sold images. Today, we have digital and Photoshop. I don’t have a great digital camera, and while I have taken the “Adult Photoshop” class at the local college twice, they don’t teach what I want to know. I am only so interested in repairing images of my ancestors and I don’t want to do a presentation for a 50th wedding anniversary! I still “see” as a photographer, and if I had a great camera, all the time in the world to learn all those applications of Photoshop, and I had the time to go take photos, I would still do it. I follow lots of photography blogs because I love photographs. But right now, I must get my hands in the paint, and collage and paint…but photography is near and dear to my heart. I don’t consider it written off my list, more on pause. I wish I had access to a Photoshop class for Artists and that I could ask all my questions.

    • Leslie

      Thanks! So interested to hear that you were such a serious photographer! Maybe I’ll find my supposition wrong and that there are many such “ambidextrous” artists out there.

      While much has changed in the photography world in the last 15 years or so, it all still boils down to vision and artistry. One doesn’t really have to learn all the technical stuff nor even have a great camera to make great photographs. Many photographers do still shoot film with the same cameras they’ve used for many years.

      If you still have an old film camera, it might be stimulating for you to go out and play at being your old photographer self. I think you’d find it interesting to see how your painting and photography have infused each other.

  2. interesting question– I have good cameras but I have them on auto shoot– have the books on them but have not read them– the only time I take pictures is when I am traveling like when I was in Japan recently… and then it was still point and shoot– I don’t consider myself very good at taking pictures.
    I love the paint medium– layering and creating textures– and I love photo imagery– esp. black and white.. and will often combine the two– but I am not too interested in taking my own photo imagery. There is something about painting that simply turns me on.. but I also like to use collage papers and arrange and move them around and don’t need to use paint.
    My son, in NYC, is a fantastic oil painter–figures and faces– and a fantastic photographer and is often hired for his photographic skills as well– he is the only artist I know who can do both. but I don’t think I answered your question 🙂

    • Donna

      Your very honest answer does offer an explanation, one I think many share. Often there is just something that turns us on about our chosen medium – it’s a very visceral response.

      Sometimes when we reach a stage where we can express our artistic vision in one medium it is so frustrating to “start over” in another that we never make the attempt.

      And, of course, photography is mostly not about your equipment or often even using it the optimal manner. There’s an interesting book out called “The Best Camera is the One You Have With You” about using an iPhone camera to take amazing pictures. It’s all about artistic vision.

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