Art vs. Craft

Richard Hamm, a former student and current staff photojournalist at the Athens Banner-Herald, sent along a link to a post by photographer Derek Shapton where he talks about whether he is an artist or not. It’s a good read, particularly this segment:

At best, assignment photographers are craftsmen, not artists, solving other people’s problems and putting other people’s ideas into effect in the most timely and cost-effective way possible; to think otherwise is delusional. Sure, part of the job is bringing a personal point of view to the party, in fact that’s often the reason you’re hired, but a point of view is not art, and there’s never the degree of autonomy and self-direction that I think of as a precondition for something to qualify as a true artistic endeavour.

This is a talk I’ve had many times, often with one of my closest friends who is, without a doubt, an artist. I have always deferred, taking a different track than Shapton, saying that while what I do on a daily basis has artistic influences, the intent of art is to promote an idea or emotion from the artist. My work has always been about translating the events of other’s lives in an effort to share them with a greater community. My work, I hope, has had little to do with me but a lot to do with my community. Communities that I have cared deeply about, surely, but communities that needed their own stories told.

Mark E. Johnson

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