Updated: May 17, 2021
Watching my 3 year old daughter take photographs with my iPhone, got me thinking. Her introduction into the visionary world of photography is a far cry from my analogue beginnings. The digital age has provided us with the instant ability to document everyday narratives and the only probable hindrance is the availability of server capacity. Photography has become mainstream, a common recognized media which bolsters the memory for future generations to gaze into the past. It’s now a common site to walk the streets and notice proverbial influencer idealists capturing the familiar selfie. But have things really changed that much? Arguably, you could say that we have been self obsessed by self image for centuries, just browse the achieves of the Neoclassical, Baroque and Renaissance art movements, the majority of work is self centered around portraits of reputable aristocrats. The open availability of technology, in particular the cell phone camera and the internet, has just increased the opportunity for documentation. This photographic self publication now comes in a variety of formats, from the flaunting of excess skin, the brandishing of wealth or exhibiting self-expression through photography as an art form. Again, this could be reflective of the historic paintings of the affluent era, which hung on the walls of aristocratic stately homes, like that of a social media user feed. But honestly is this comparable?
Obviously, both era’s will never be comparable from a content perspective. There’s a cavernous difference in the calibre and overall quality of content, with a low level of thought process behind the majority of photographic images shared though today’s social media streams. I think this is where my quandary lies. As a professional fine art photographer, I’ve always strived to produce photographs that portray a sense of honesty, that reflect the best of my ability at that given moment. I’ve resisted temptation to share with the world photographs that have little meaning or personal expressive significance. But I think this mindset has been shaped by my upbringing, early influences and deep interest in the arts. From a very early age my parents helped open my eyes to the art world, we visited galleries, hiked across stunning landscapes and would paint and draw a lot in our spare time. These experiences and influences drove me to study art and design at college and complete a BA (Hons) in Furniture and Product Design at university and which eventually led to me choosing photography as a full time career.
But everybody’s preference is different; some aren’t interested in providing aesthetic perfection, just a documentation of life or lifestyle. A depiction or window into how one wants to be perceived, so photography has become a means of painting a picture that may or may not be truthful. This could also be said of those who wish to stay behind the lens, landscape photographers, portrait photographers etc. The digital age now allows for seamless manipulation, the removal or addition of photographic elements in order to provide the viewer with an interpretation of their vision. Some photographers are adamant that this goes against the grain and isn’t an honest approach to photography, particularly when manipulation is not acknowledged. But the genre of conceptual photography has been created for those who wish to openly create works conceived in the mind rather than the camera.
So what’s the conclusion? My personal point of view is we are all creators, and have a right to produce photography in any art form. My three year old wasn’t consciously capturing images for any particular usage, she was free styling, randomly clicking the shutter on the iPhone. But in my mind, that’s where creatively is born, in the unconscious state, the open mind, creativity cannot be forced; it’s drawn from deep within.