Are you a photographer, or an artist photographer? With photography being the successor of painting when it comes to imitation, we find out exactly what differentiates between the two as they both share the same medium. We talk to artists and conceptual photographers Adèle Mathieu, Bárbara Bezina and Alfonso Aguilar on what separates the two and how they differentiate.
Defining Photography as Art
The words art are very loaded today. What constitutes one to be artistic is highly subjective to each person. Art photography, according to The Visual Arts Cork, is said to be the more personal approach with the camera, however, art photographers have their own standards of what constitutes an image to be artistic.
For French portraitist Adèle Mathieu, art photography is something that falls on to the aesthetics: "In my opinion, Fine art photography is something that you enjoy and appreciate to look at. There is something related to the aesthetic and beauty. Every artist defines his own definition of Fine Art when they create something new."
They say art photography is also something that should be transcending from reality, the kind of photography that looks beyond realism. Art photography is the creation of images that we're yet to see in life. Photographers Bárbara Bezina and Alfonso Aguilar share the same definition of the term. Barbara further elaborated:
"I can say that art is something alive, always in movement. Sometimes I can't differentiate between my spiritual path and the artistic. I would dare to say that they are intertwined and art is a door to the mysteries of life that is never superficial and that artistic photography would have that depth and see beyond as one of its main characteristics."
Moreover, art photography goes beyond the camera. An image is created through any means as long as the result materializes into the vision of the artist. Alfonso, who also works as a cinematographer, said: "Fine art photography is the end result of a concept, feeling or idea that exists only in the mind of the artist. He or she would then use the necessary tools to materialize this idea into a unique photo or series of photos."
The Photographer versus The Artist Photographer
Not all photographers automatically are artist photographers. As mentioned above, the word art is very loaded today. To start with, the photographer is more of a person that relates themselves to their surroundings. It allows the real world to take control and the photographer be guided. Alfonso explained:
"The photographer reacts to the surroundings and takes a photo when he/she sees something interesting. The artist has a concept in his mind and is looking or creating something specific that relates to a particular set of ideas."
Art, in itself, is to imitate life. However, art photography is to see beyond life. The camera is already the perfection of the painting medium as regular photographs are the nearest imitations of life. To make a photograph be artistic is to twist the world a little. The artist photographer has their own visions and leads to follow. There is a predetermination in art photography, according to Adèle and Alfonso. They allow certainty of their instincts and imagination take over. Adèle said:
"Not all photographers are an 'artist-photographer' to me. Some of them are specialized but not in an artistic way. Also, 'artist' is a powerful term to use. An artist photographer is someone who creates something, a story. Each image is conceptualized and the shooting organized. This is the difference between a photographer and an artist photographer. The artist photographer has a vision, the photographer has limited skills."
Furthermore, the artist photographer's medium is widened and expanded. Alfonso believes that the artist photographer is not only skilled but educated about the aesthetics, which makes the difference between the regular photographer and the art photographer even more distinguished. He said:
"For me, an artist-photographer is that person who creates unique photos and makes the viewer think of what he or she is seeing. It is a very concrete line that separates the artist photographer from a regular photographer. Anyone can be a photographer but to be an artist you have to know the craft, tools, a bit of history and through trial and error experiment to develop a vision. There is something that every artist needs to communicate, in this case, is through photography."
The artist photographer, of course, is actually just an artist with a camera. For Bárbara, the artist photographer is an artist of all mediums:
"An artist can make bread, gardening, photography or do the same nothing that he will continue to be an artist. A photographer takes pictures. Being an artist for me is related to self-knowledge. It's about emptying ourselves more than anything and to remove those layers that were hiding the jewel that is oneself, unique and unrepeatable. From that place it's from where something genuine and different is created, something magical and that for me is art."
On Becoming an Artist Photographer
So, how does a photographer turn themselves into an artist photographer? There are many standards for photographers to follow today – one that majorly influences photographers right now is the almost-perfect accuracy digital photography has provided. To be an artist photographer, one must first study. What makes iconic art photographers_iconic_ in the first place? What's in their work that makes it art? Alfonso advised: "First of all study the work of renown photographers. Read about them and their work, better if you can find interviews, books or quotes from them. Know your tools (camera, lenses lights, etc) what they do and how you can use them to affect a photo. Focus on a particular idea and try to find a very personal and intimate way to photograph it."
Another tip one should mind is finding the right balance of following and breaking the rules. Gain the confidence to go against the grind and follow their own vision. What makes a photographer an artist as well is that they are unique, and the only way to be unique is to embrace your individualism."Be yourself. Don't copy, don't follow fashions, don't look for references and constantly experiment, don't get stuck. You see so much of the same thing that it's a miracle to find someone who does something different. You have to see more for inside and less for outside." said Bárbara.
Lastly, becoming an artist photographer does not happen overnight. It's an accumulation of habits, experiences, rigorous training and creating a routine. The road is long and winding to your artistic journey, but never give up. As with the wise words of Adèle: "Try a lot of things, fail, and try again."
Do you identify yourself as a photographer or an artist photographer? Make sure to share your own sentiments about this topic by commenting below!