Quotes of the Week
“I am a photographer, not an artist,” he says. He deems the conflation a “very American” way of thinking. “A lot of American photographers call themselves artists. I don’t make art. I use composition, but it is not art.” Don McCullin (Artnews)
Question: Can a photograph be a work of art? Answer: A photograph is a disposition of sensible matter and may be so disposed for an aesthetic end, but it is not a human disposition of sensible matter. Therefore it is not a work of art. James Joyce 1904. (Scruton)
This week and the first week is about beginning to create a language to enable us to have a dialogue about photography. This is necessary to prevent each of us saying we like or dislike a photograph and having no parameters by which to judge our views. We will still disagree but with a language and grammar we will have a better chance of understanding our disagreements.
We can now classify images in to naturalistic or scientific and artistic. Or put another way we can see them as documentary or aesthetic. As with the title of my project The Truth and Beauty of Me, truth and beauty is another classification. We can say whether an image is iconic, looking like the thing it is said to represent, iconic, with a causal link between image and the thing being represented or symbolic, an agree symbolic representation of the thing…ie a word such as egg.
The above image captures a number of the issues for this week. It is an image of a painter painting a portrait of me from a portrait photograph of me. The portrait photograph is indexical and iconic and symbolic of man or human or many other classifications we could name. The painting is not indexical but is iconic and can be symbolic in similar fashion to the portrait photograph.
I bristled at the idea that a painting offers so much more artistic truth than a photograph. As I reflect on it I fear it is true. There are photographs that challenge this idea. David Heath’s Dialogues with Solitude comes to mind but does not quite convince me. The painting of me by Mairi Brydon is remarkable in the way it captures me in a way I don’t believe any photograph could. This is because the artist has the ability to add their own interpretation of what they see. Somehow Mairi has captured me perfectly in a way I can understand myself to be. The portrait photograph is a reasonable capture of me but comes no where close to the painting.
I disagree with Don McCullin if his general point is photographers merely compose while artists create. Or do I? Maybe he has a point. I look forward to exploring this further as we progress.
Artnews Interview with Don McCullin by Naomi Rea Feb 4th, 2020…https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/don-mccullin-hauser-wirth-1766997/amp-page accessed 8th Feb, 2020
Scruton, R. Photography and Representation. (1981). University of Chicago Press.