Common newbie photography mistakes #2 – It’s my art, and I wanted it that way. 

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Okay, admittedly, this is more an error in thinking rather than an error in technique.

First of all, if you have ever said this, or even thought this, you need to have a good, long, hard talk to yourself about your alleged passion for photography, because if this is your fallback line, I’m sorry, your “passion for photography” is about as strong as my  passion for getting a root canal done.

Look, let’s not beat around the bush here:  do you have a passion for photography, or do you like clicking shutters and getting pats on your back?  Herewith an easy way to determine if you really have a passion, or if you are merely on an ego trip:  name your top-five favourite photographers, and your top-five favourite photos.  Well, I know you can name your top-five favourite movies and songs and bands… so why can’t you come up with the name of a single photographer you like?  Passion?  Ha!

(Mine, because somebody asked:  Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Patrick Demarchelier, and the genius simply known as Rankin, with a special mention to Ellen von Unwerth.  And Nick Knight.  And Steven Meisel. And Mario Testino.  And…)

But okay, so now the joke is on me and you can name your top-five photographers, and even say why, and you still come at me with “It’s my art, and I wanted it that way”.

Ding-ding, round number two, fight!

I’ll contend you know squat about art.  Here’s the thing:  you cannot become a lawyer without studying law.  You cannot become a musician without studying music (even if it’s just 3-chord rock).  But somehow, everyone thinks they are an artist the moment they pick up a camera.  Get this:  artists study art.

Now I hear you say “I don’t need no art school to…” and you’d be right,  you don’t need no art school.  That’s what the internet is for.  But the bottom line is this:  you cannot make art, even bad art, unless you know what art actually is!  You need to study it.  Art schools do more than teaching you how to use pencils, paints, and cameras.  They teach you about form, about line, about colour, composition, and a crapload of other stuff you did not even know you did not know.    And now you want to pick up a camera and call any given snapshot “art”.  That’s a laugh, and an insult to what actually IS art.  (Case in point – if you think your pop-up flash pic of a snot-nosed kid is art, then what the hell is Claude Monet?)

“But art is subjective!”

Uh, no.  Art is not subjective.  Taste is.  Taste differs, but art, by its more traditional standards (not the modern day BS of Banksy  [Formerly brilliant subversive urban artist turned marketing machine], Hirst [sorry, hanging 7 pans on a wall and exhibiting your cigarette butts ain’t art] and the ridiculous winners of the Turner Prize [Waring: link NSFW, or for anyone with a modicum of self respect, unless you want to see pictures of men masturbating]), is not subjective, but has very definite parameters.  Want to know what those parameters are?  Go do a 4-year art degree.

Can I prove this?  You bet your Campbell’s soup can I can!

In 1961, alleged ‘artist’ named Piero Manzotti LITERALLY canned his own crap.  Wrap your head around this:  he put his own shit in a tin!  He called this collection of 90 literal works of thirty grams of excrement “Artist’s Shit” and he sold it… wait for it… at the same price as gold!

Now, if this does not strike you as ridiculous and an exercise of bullshit baffles brains, then well, I admit defeat, art is anything you want it to be.  But wait, it gets better (or worse).  In 2016, one of these cans were sold for €275,000.  You know what else costs €275,000?  (For my South African readers: that is 4.25 million Rand).  You can buy a very nice second-hand Ferrari, or a brand new Audi R8 and still have some money left for a mommy-mobile for the wife.  You can get yourself a very nice 4-bedroom house in the suburbs for the same price as 30 grams of crap.

Now, if you think “man, that is ridiculous”, well, guess what: art has rules.

Stop hiding behind flimsy see-through shields as “It’s my art and I wanted it that way”, put down your camera, pick up a book, and start learning about this wonderful, magical medium called photography.  Who knows, you may even get to make art one day.

Blog pic:  the very oh so artistic me taking this random pic of a bull grazing outside the Likely Cemetery in California (About in the middle of nowhere, where Oregon, Nevada and California meet.  Click on the link for a laugh just to see how remote it is.).  I had my brand new Pentax MZ50 and a few rolls of Fuji 400, and this opportunity presented itself, and I took it!  Such class! Such grace! Such technical skill and understanding of composition!  Click on the image to check out the full-res version to see how wonderfully artistically grainy it is!

PS:  Sorry, can’t help myself.  Also take a look at the work of Craig McDean, Lara Jade, Emily Soto, Desiree Mattsson (The hand queen), and Araki (Definitely NSFW, and only if you dare!)

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On February 8, 2019

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