“Art makers are not people who use a camera to record life so that they can see it in detail later. The art maker is the person who specifically chooses to engage life more directly, most intimately, most intensely, and they use the camera to reproduce or record that feeling … ” – Brooks Jensen, Single Exposures
If you ‘do’ photography, you cannot help but run up against the question, But is it art? I have written in this space before that I think it’s a bogus question – Jensen’s quote goes some way to demonstrating why the question is essentially meaningless. The key lies in the intent.
I often draw parallels between writing and photography. Think about words – we all use them, to serve a multitude of purposes. We make lists to help us remember. Maybe we write reports as part of our jobs. And every now and again, perhaps not often enough, we write a love letter. Words are common to all of these, but it is our intention, what we are trying to do, that sets one apart from another. Hopefully, we aren’t so incompetent with words that a love letter reads like a grocery list or that report for work sounds like a love letter.
Is photography art? It depends – what were you trying to do? I have said before that I struggled my first few days on the Oregon coast. I righted myself, but understand better now what I was doing and why it wasn’t working for me. I was taking photographs but honestly I was simply making a list of what I saw, so I might really look later when I had more time. I certainly looked like I was doing photography – and it was not photography the way I want to do it. I wanted to make my art, not a grocery list of what I saw. I still walked the beach, carrying the same camera, but being clear about my intention changed everything about my experience, how I approached the subject, and how I used my ‘tools.’ (My enjoyment also increased exponentially.)
So what are you trying to do? Is it working? If not, it might be a matter of being clear about what you want to do and making certain that your methods serve your goal.