is not art.
The University of Texas at Austin. The First Photograph. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/firstphotograph/..
These words have stuck with me, after hearing them in 2013. I was volunteering at a local school of the arts, and excitedly submitted an entry for a staff exhibit. While other dutiful staff submitted sculptures and paintings they had masterfully created, I had compiled an arrangement of photographic images that represented my life and experiences. I placed this grouping on the director’s desk, and held my breath for the same reaction I had, but it never came. Instead, I heard, “photography is not an art.”
This medium, capturing photographs, was first invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827. The earliest known surviving photograph made in a camera, depicted the view of the upstairs window at Niépce’s estate, Le Gras, in the Burgundy region of France.1 Assuredly, if Niépce were still with us, he would have quite the rebuttal to photography not being a form of art, as do I.
“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.”
— Scott Lorenzo
I grew up marveling at the slides my grandfather would show my family, after he and my grandmother took once-in-a-lifetime trips to places such as Israel, Greece, Austria; riding camels in front of the Sphinx and visiting a number of the ‘Wonders of the World.’ I remember vividly vowing to travel one day and capture my own memories on film. I saw the pride and a gleam in my grandfather’s eyes when he exhibited his carefully arranged Kodak slideshow and recounted each photographic adventure.
As a pre-teen, my first camera was in 110 format, with a cube flash. Although I know that disclosure just dated me a bit, I don’t mind sharing that I captured roll after roll of documentation of my family’s travels, my school friends, birthday parties, scouting trips, and the nature around me. I am sure my story isn’t much different from others, and we all have utilized photography to preserve moments we wanted to cherish. Still, I contend this documentary style of photography is very much an art form. Composition, creativity, and the vision of the soul behind the camera are all crucial elements here. Capturing the beginning and ending of a lifespan, and everything in between, we have used film and digital formats for preservation. This, my friends, is art.