The question is an old one, and also been asked throughout history by various critics and artists from all over the world, yet the question has never been as paramount as it is today. Photography has changed enormously with the advancement of technology, and I would venture that the very nature of it has changed with the digital age.
Capturing a moment in time, at a certain place and thus cementing it in history is a long gone advantage of photography, and no matter how much the professionals in the field argue for the case of documentary genre, it is a thing of the past, and as it did when it was popular, it belongs in news rather than art galleries and museums.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of some old photojournalism work, and I would still pay to attend exhibitions of works like Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, or Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier. However if I’m being honest I’d rather pay to see the Paris scenes by George Brassaï, because artistic photography draws me in, stimulates my mind and inspires my soul.
Documentation of a moment is admirable, and indeed tremendously important, but for me art happens when you use your imagination to create something new from that moment. I’m looking for an experience, and that is precisely why I enjoy stimulating work. I’m afraid photojournalism’s contribution to this stimulation is few and far between and those who capture these moments can only be called lucky, because as much skill as they might possess, they would have to come in contact with the right situation to use their skill, and that happens through chance.
When a painter is confronted with a white canvas, the possibilities are endless. It is like a poet and a blank page. It is like a musician with his instrument. Endless variations. Endless prospects. Endless risks. It is only when the camera is presented with these visions that it reaches the same level as any other art form, and again it requires an artist to arrange the scene, or alternatively manipulate the already taken image to reach a desirable artistic scenario.
Digital age of ours has allowed us to crop, cut, replace; play with saturation, light, contrast; blur, frame, distort; use effects like cracking, bricking, edge burning, rainbowing, inverting; even pixilating and sketching a photograph. You can change a photograph so much that it will no longer resemble the original, and you can now have a printer reproduce the image with paint onto a canvas which then can be framed and put in a gallery labeled oil on canvas and no one could argue otherwise. After all, if contemporary art has taught us anything, it is the fact that the role of the artist is not important; it is the product that is born out of the idea that matters.
The problem is that with all the digital manipulation involved one might find it hard to call the process photography, because what we are being presented with aren’t just photographs in the traditional sense, they are artworks created using photography. These images are a far cry from reality, and no one would claim they have anything to do with the real world, so we would have to find a new word for them.
I would like to call them “Digigraphs”, and I really think they have revolutionized the art world. Anyone using a few applications and programs can create a piece of artwork using their computer, phone or tablet, and the result are not just photographs because the original file looks nothing like the finished product. Millions of these artworks are being uploaded onto social media sites every day, and some even find their way into our local galleries and museums.
True art for the people by the people, and although of our time, certainly not the same as photography or any other art form previously revered by the elite of the society. This is something entirely new and in constant state of evolution. It’s time to get involved and express yourselves, because being an artist means precisely that.
Artwork by Taymaz Valley