vapors 1, photograph
“If all your life means to you is water running over rocks, then photograph it, but I want to create something that would not have existed without me.”
– Minor White
White wasn’t one to mince words and here he is being a bit judgmental in my opinion. But his point is one I’ve been thinking about lately.
There is an interesting period in the history of photography that started in the late 19th century and extended into the early part of the 20th – that of pictorialism. Photography started off being used to capture scenes very literally. The pictorialists wanted to use photography as an art form and they moved away from focused literalism to more interpreted images, often doing much of their creative work after the shots were taken (about a hundred years before Photoshop!). Their photographs were often very stylized, softly focused, emotional. It was an attempt to make photography “art”, which was not it’s reputation at the beginning.
The dominance of pictorialism in photography lasted only about 30 years before being taken over by photography purists who insisted that images be in focus, more “real”, less like a painting and truer to the unique capabilities of the camera.
I wonder why this trajectory has occurred. Why the turn away from pictorialism (I admit I haven’t read that far so maybe there’s a simple answer). I find my own work leaning much more toward the pictorial than the purist. I was told recently by a very well known photographer that my work “wasn’t what contemporary photographers are doing”. Hmph!
One of the things I like about the pictorial style is the obvious imprint of the artist. I both like to see that in the work of others and I like the opportunity to express myself more easily through my work. I like the idea that what I’m creating would not have existed without me – I think that’s a very good litmus test to apply to one’s work. Try it out…