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What is a Photographic Artist?

Don’t worry you’re not alone in wondering this.  Art is a massive area full of different types of art and artists.  It tends to be broken down into categories based on the medium being used.  For example, paint for painters, sound for musicians and for photographic artists the medium is light.  Essentially the creation of images using light.  That might not be what many people think of when thinking of photography, especially in this modern digital age, but that’s the essence of it.  Photo meaning light and graphy meaning drawing, so literally drawing with light.  So a photographer is someone who uses light to create their images, a photographic artist uses light to create art.

Cyanotype print being placed inside a mount for framing

What's the difference between a simple photo and a piece of art?

Oh, many an argument has happened as a result of that question.  Sometimes it’s easy to say something is art.  You look at it and you just know.  Sometimes it’s much harder and people disagree.  If you look at the dictionary definition of art it says…

"the making of objects, images, music etc that are beautiful or that express feelings"

Cambridge Dictionary

So if beauty is perceived by the beholder or they consider it to express feelings – and arguably communicate those feelings – you’ve got art.

There are even types of Photographic Artists

Photography is generally considered to have been around since 1839.  During that time it has evolved and grown to encompass a whole load of processes from the really early ones created using light-sensitive chemistry, to the modern digital photocells in our smartphones.  Each and every one of these processes can be used to create photographic art.

Old Vintage Wooden Camera
Botanical Photographic Art Print developing under a red light in a photographic darkroom

What is my particular type of photographic art?

Some artists are process-driven.  The process they’re working with defines the direction of their art.  Others, like me, are more concept-driven.  We use the media to explore a particular idea or concept often coming back to a particular theme.  One theme I keep coming back to is memories.  Memory isn’t as fixed as we all tend to believe and science has shown that our memories are malleable (something the marketing industry takes advantage of) and also fallible.  Essentially we forget things.  This is why we love photos of people and places they give us a reference point.  I aim to capture part of the essence of something as a form of anchor for memories, for example, a place, landscape or landmark, into an image that communicates some of the feelings and emotions of a place.

I use various photographic processes to do this that range from the very early days of photography (such as the Cyanotype process from 1842) through to the latest technology (a modern 21st-century drone with a digital camera).  What’s important for me is that the image forms a focal point for our memories and captures some of the emotion associated with a place or thing.

So now you know the basics of what a Photographic Artist is and can have fun exploring this amazing area where the world of art meets the world of photography.