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Visual art or aesthetic pollution?

That old chestnut.

I was recently in a discussion with a friend about some images we had been viewing in an on-line gallery. Clearly we were not going to agree about them. I felt that, in terms of framing, point of view or composition, they mostly had no sign of intrinsic authorial effort and that any one of them could have been a random black and white shot on a telephone camera that was being used to record a walk through a town centre, full of strangers, on a busy Saturday afternoon. His view was that the lack of formal method was an art-form in itself, the affordable camera-phone being used represented the democratisation of the photographic process and the images were documenting reality and representing real life moments in a candid and unpretentious way.

Above image: The moment before the sun breaks the horizon of the English Channel, viewed from Felpham sea front on the coast of West Sussex.

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 20 seconds at f13, tripod, polariser

22nd November 2015

Gah! That sounded like pretty much exactly the opposite of what I do (was he trying to tell me something, I wonder?). Almost all my shots (the ones I display anyway...) are, as a general rule, carefully considered, pre-visualised and as technically perfect as I currently know how to make them. They are all real places and real moments; they are also my interpretations of those places and moments. Through my knowledge of photographic theory and camera settings and with a variety of lenses and filters, I apply myself to the creation of final, out of camera results that I can refine on the computer. As well as a photographer, this perhaps also makes me a digital artist (or a fraud, depending on your photography school sympathies!).

Regardless, the important thing is that my work is primarily bringing me fulfilment. The fact that others regularly appreciate what I do is a wonderful thing too (and I do realise that there are just as many who think of it as a waste of space as there are those who would be happy to give it wall space) but these opinions are actually neither here nor there. You are never going to please everyone (nor should you dilute your vision in order to) but you must at least, please, please yourself. This is the key to satisfying and continuing productivity in your work.

Keep working, learning and evolving, keep to your core artistic values and keep producing images in the style you like to present them. That's the way I see the process of personal development as an artist - constantly adding to your skill set and nurturing change and evolution in your portfolio.

When a viewer can appreciate the dedication and technique that have combined to produce something, even though the end result may not bring them any fulfilment as an observer, I think that's a better place for your work to come from and aura to be seen in than that of the casually unmade bed variety of art.

But that's just my view of course and, I do understand, one person's visual art is another person's aesthetic pollution.

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