Saturday, July 13, 2013

PhotoProject :: Rethinking Digital Photography for Artist

A sketch photgraphed "in situ"There seems to be an even bigger gulf developing between traditional artist, (particularly painters) and photographers.Of course there are numerous exceptions and some contemporary artist have focused on photo realistic art as their special genre. Illustrators are also split with many fully embracing computer graphics with a few still promoting the idea of hand drawn as better. The explosion of “artistic” filters on phone apps and some better known photo software packages has however seemed to aggravate a raw nerve with traditional artists. I’m more perplexed, because I realise that photography and more specifically digital photography is a really great tool for any artist. I don;t mean painting from a photo. I actually think that is a bad move and seldom do it myself. As well as having amassed a large collection of digital photos I have dozens of sketch books, which are usually my first call for reference to any painting. Once you get into sketching it is actually a very pleasurable way to get to know an area or scene. Making a few sketches will in fact lead you to a more critical focus on what you actually photograph. A lot of art is about seeing, seeing the important features and perhaps leaving out the un-important clutter that does not convey the essence of the subject. Painting from a photo tends to promote a slavish focus on details,details that usually look boring and perhaps send a signal of inadequate observation, Whereas a few salient features captured in some “en plein air” sketches are more likely to character of the subject.
Having suggested sketching in the field may be more desirable, there is definitely a place to keep a series of photos of the details of some aspects. Here digital photography is a real winner because there is little cost in taking many photos, to assist as an “aide-mémorie” the downside for anyone artistic is probably managing all these reference images. Hopefully I’ll write more about this later.
A really important aspect not to forget when collecting reference photos is to remember to document your work. Photos of your work in situ (as the photo above) or you creating the art work may become very important in proving the provenance of your work.
Our eyes actually see differently to a camera lens. We have a much greater dynamic range of tones and colours we can perceive that even the most expensive cameras. Most of us have a much broader field of view than typical camera lenses. Whilst a wide angle can do this seeing around corners trick it usually distorted the image and verticals tend to become curved at the edge of the image. This is really most obvious in the traditional “landscape” view. You will never see curved verticals in an “old master” landscape. Perhaps this may relate to a slavish following of the rules of perspective and vanishing points. However a photo does the reduction of three dimensional space onto a flat two dimensional plan automatically. This is a nice way to avoid having to tackle the very technical perspective methods. A neat way around this is to employing David Hockney's solution of “joiners”, A series of conventional photos taken at slightly different orientations can be placed side by side to form a collage. If you step back the “perspective” is closer to what you see when you are there looking at the scene."Joiner" style collageMy view is that digital photography is a perfect tool to help an artist learn to better interpret the visual world. It is not a substitute for seeing but it is certainly an aide to making better and lasting observations. These are only just a few important issues for any artist and I plan to cover more in upcoming post.
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