Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Questions Needing Comments

My old/new friend Carl http://www.carlart.com and I were travelling together this year. At Meat Cove, the end of the line at the far end of Cape Breton Island, we camped.

A few days ago Carl sent me an ink-wash that he uses as a kind of sketch or first step in doing a painting or wood block print. The ink-wash was taken from a photograph that he did.  The scan of the ink-wash appeared in my e mail with the comment I moved the (camp) fire like you told me to do (at the time) but I would have moved it anyway. So Carl did what artists have been doing ever since there were artists, moving the campfires in drawings or paintings or any other damned thing they wanted to move to serve the needs of the art piece.

When digital photographers do this now, it is viewed by some (and I am sometimes included in that "some" but not always) as "cheating".   And it is cheating, if you think, as I do, most of the time, that the crowning glory of photography, that sets it apart from all other artistic media,  is that the viewer regards it as "real".
Any student of photography knows that photographers have been retouching negative and prints and now digital images ever since the beginning.  Edward Weston, one of my personal heroes in photography was a proponent and practitioner of stark reality in his art work, but spent most of his life making money by retouching and glorifying portraits of rich women.  A practice, I, his disciple, continue to this day on my big Mac computer using Adobe Photoshop.

Photographers cry and wring their hands wanting to be taken seriously in the art world (for over 150 years and now, still!) But they do not realize that when they throw away the illusion of reality by having access to Photoshop, the medium itself becomes a throw-away medium--just a lot of ones and zeros inside some infernal computin' machine signifying nothing and worth nothing.  And even though the actual images created in Photoshop are as good or better than anything in the world that is painted or drawn by hand, no one can convince me that something whipped out on Photoshop in a few minutes or even a few hours has the absolute value of a painting that takes weeks or months to complete. And the public's awareness  that the work done on Photoshop can be reproduced in infinite quantity does not help the value of the digital work either.

Even though I am making what seem like statements, they are all still questions in my mind and I invite comments.  Please...  Why does work that I do that is of the highest order of visual quality, that if it were a painting or even a wood block print could hang in almost any gallery in the world, have to languish unsold in my portfolio?  The question is rhetorical, let me assure you.  But a little edge of bitterness remains.

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