Friday, 20 April 2012

how to work as a fine art photographer and still be a gun for hire

Edward Steichen
The debate between the most noble use of the camera has been raging since photography first started. The  photographers of the post world war including: Eugenie Smith, Robert Capa and George Rodgers cast a compassionate eye on major historical events. Public opinion in America was more easily influenced by the still image in a magazine, without the benefit of television or the Internet supplying instant pictures. Our capacity to be amazed by and have faith in the images we see, has changed forever,  we are now more aware of post-production techniques and mass media manipulation. There are a wide range of photographers including Martin Parr, who have let their most prominent works be used for advertising the most banal products. Students of photography are taught early on that images can have dual meaning and that subject matter (what the picture is about not of) can be used in various forms has long been accepted. The rivalry between the two camps is astounding and feels very childlike in origin. Alfred Stieglitz chastised Edward Steichen for 'prostituting his art' by shooting commercial work which is demeaning to the ground breaking work that Steichen produced for Conde Naste. Working as an assistant in London during the early nineties for a range of photographers from still-life to fashion the sniping continued, although I did feel that some of this was 'tongue in cheek.' Still-life photographers often criticised fashion photographers for their lack of technical ability and felt that the use of colour negative  'proved beyond doubt' they could not expose film properly.

Nick Knight
Nick (we are so not worthy) Knight is a technical master and to suggest that he uses colour negative to compensate for dodgy exposures is laughable. Weather  you are being paid a lot of money to produce advertising images or you have fifteen minutes in a hotel bedroom to photograph a Hollywood star this requires very different skills and an ability to work under enormous pressure. Contrast this to images created from imagination that may take many months to plan and execute. The reality is that neither is easy and they are both equally challenging for different reasons. We are all part of the same family and while it maybe good fun to sneer at others (in a professional way) it is neither accurate or valid. Let us move on from professional snobbery.