How Dependent is Art on the Artist?

We’re going to wander a little outside of the normal realm of visual journalism this morning and look at Richard B. Woodward’s piece in the Wall Street Journal*. It’s a good read, exploring the question of whether prints made by someone other than the photographer (or under their supervision) reflect the artistic vision of the photographer.

I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, though I’ll easily admit there are artistic elements to what we do. The goal of my images – our images – should be to tell someone else’s story, not to say something about them or their story. (Yes, I am a purist. Yes, I accept this is a minority opinion in the world.) So what happens when we turn raw files over to a picture editor? How much of our voice are we losing?

To me, our images should be straight documentary interpretations. Minor toning and cropping to clarify the message, to simplify the story, are fine and then stop. The mood, the feeling, the emotional impact should come from the content, not the presentation of the content.

But that’s just me.

* You may need to do a search to find the article. Plug “what does art look like” into your search engine of choice.

(Thanks to Michael Johnston at The Online Photographer for the link.)

Mark E. Johnson

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