Art, Photography

What is Art

Someone asked me the other day what was the different between photography and photographic art.  I couldn’t answer it at the time, I needed time to think, then I thought why don’t I do a post on it.  In my mind photography is more about recording what is around you, using angles and in photoshop just doing the basic to make it look good.  Photographic art is more about doing a lot more to it and it is about expressing yourself.   It is about ideas, finding ways of expressing those ideas.

So I asked Google what is art? and this is what it said

Art  Noun

  1. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,…: “the art of the Renaissance”
  2. 2. Works produced by such skill and imagination.

Then I asked about Photographic Art, and it come up with fine art photgraphy.

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.

I do like this definition and it probably does it explain it better than I can.

One aspect of being an artist that we have to do is have that vision, our work has to lead to something, or all the work has be in a similar vein.  When you enter competitions or put in submissions or proposals to galleries, one of the things they are going to ask you for is your artist statement.  Does your work all fit into that vision, and what does your work fulfill that intention that you have stated in your statement.

When I was at uni we would get told off if our work was all over the place.  We couldn’t do one thing one day and then do something else completely irrelevant the next.  They wanted us to work towards a body of work.  So if your primary work was portraits and then you suddenly started doing landscapes, you would be asked why, what does one have to do with the other.  They wanted a connection to them.

I think what I am trying to say is that photographic art or fine art photography is about your work helping you to express something.  If you are just photos that look good but have no other reason for it, then you are just taking photos.  Is there a theme to your work?  Do you have a style?  What do you want people to think when they look at your work?  Some questions to ask yourself.

I am finding my way though that maze now.  I am developing my new style and I am starting to work on what my artist statement is and what my intention is in the work. Of course the worse part is that I hate writing artist statements, I really need to find someone who is good with words, that can translate my ideas into a really articulated artist statement.  Of course first I have to work out what my work is about exactly.  I sort of know and I am slowly working it out as I go.

I consider the images I do on the weekends, just photography.  When I go our for an excursion and just take some photos, I think of them as just taking photos, nothing special.  When I take my portraits, I am taking them with a purpose and I am trying to express an intention.  They are planned and thought out.  I have a vision when I am taking them.  So to me, they are fine art photographs.


This image I consider just a photograph.  It shows what was there and what I saw.  It doesn’t express anything in particular.

Leanne Cole - The Offering, 1st Version

For me this is a photographic art image.  It was photographed with an intention, to convey a mood and to fit in with other work that I have been doing.  It is more than just what was there and what we saw.  She was dressed up, and we were after something in particular.

I hope I have answered that question now.  What do you think is the difference between art photography and photography?


  1. You are correct! I’m not as well rounded with my artistic feeling as you and many others are in photography. I do draw and paint, so I feel that through those mediums, I can release full creativity. I consider photographic art to be in the same vein as traditional art. I guess what I do with my photography is try to introduce people to the landscapes and nature but I do what I can afford to enhance the window. Staging in photography is what I strive to accomplish one day but that takes unlocking doors in the mind. Sometimes obtaining those keys is tricky. Great post! :-)

    • I like that way you have said that, staging in photography, really good. I think we all do it differently as well, I also have done drawing and painting as well. Thank you Ryan.

  2. I think your description of what is photography vs photographic art is spot on.

  3. Art photography is the skill to express your vision through a photograph.
    Photography is the means to capture images, normally while clicking the photographer as a reason, not a vision/ agenda but those untitled photographs are moments, others who see can find other reasons than the basic.

  4. Thank you for posting about this. I find it interesting and now have some sort of explanation as to what I am doing with my photography when I am asked. I am new to it but have found that i am able to immerse myself in it for hours…I really enjoy it! I think you nailed the difference between the two. I think the expression of ones self through art photography is the key difference between them.
    How long have you ben doing this for?

    • That seems to be the key, the expression and the intention, what was the intention?
      I have working at this for over 10 years, though learning photography for 20 years.

  5. An interesting argument and whilst I accept the points you make re: the difference between photographs and photographic art, I don’t agree that photographic art is in some way more worthy. By referring to non-art images as “just” photographs I feel you’re being very dismissive. Are you saying that photo-journalists, documentary photographers, street photographers and to a lesser extent wildlife photographers, to name but a few examples, are in some way less skilful or less worthy – because they don’t capture fine art images? The strength of photography over more traditional art forms is that it gives you the ability to instantly document what you see – to capture a moment in time. Now I do think that as photography is an art form, ideally the photographer should be looking to document the subject in front of them in as creative a way as possible, using light, composition etc to get the best out of the scene, but sometimes that isn’t possible and sometimes it doesn’t matter – sometimes just capturing the moment is enough to create a great and truly memorable photograph! Finally I can’t agree that photographers should be restricted to a particular style in order to consider themselves artists – what’s wrong with taking portraits one session and landscape the next? Surely the instant nature of photography lends itself to variety. If travel photographers restricted themselves to the subjects they captured then I don’t think their editors would be too pleased – their brief is often to capture the essence and variety of a place.

    • Lisa says

      Yes, I also think its a bit annoying when you are expected to restrict to one genre of work to be more credible.
      I worry about photography and art being in the same sentence
      Photography can definately be a form of self expression but it can also be a bit of technical magic on its own when a split second in time is captured forever.
      I am a bit wary of ‘artistic statements’ also. I think it helps if the artist can clarify in their own mind maybe some form of working intent but I don’t necessarily agree that someone with great creative skills but is not very good at intellectualising about what they do is any less of an artist. If you are choosing to express yourself in a visual medium surely that should stand on its own. You shouldn’t have to justify it or even have to say a single word about it .

      • You will find that restriction is in all art forms, painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture. That is how the art world works. That body of work is what you get recognised for and why people collect you.
        I see nothing wrong with photography being another medium of art. I am an artist and the medium I choose to use is photography.
        I think it would erroneous to think that there aren’t technical aspects to other types of art as well, a sculptor making a bronze requires many skills. I don’t think of my images happening in a split second, a lot of planning and thinking happens before that shutter is pressed and then many hours work occur to it afterwards as well. For me it has nothing to do with that split second, it has more to do with all the parts.
        I agree that just because you can’t write a good statement makes you any less of an artist, but if you want to get work into a gallery, then you have to have one, and if you can’t write it yourself, then you find someone who can. I got some work into some galleries a few years ago, I had a great artist statement, but I didn’t write it, a daughter of a friend who was very good with words did it for me. I told her what I thought and what I was trying to do and she made it sound fantastic.
        As I said, if you want you work in galleries and competitions then you need that statement, they want to know what your intention is and why you are doing what you are doing. That is how the art world works, you may not agree with it, but that doesn’t change anything.

      • Can I just add that the statement can also be a great help to the artist, it can really help you understand what it is that you are doing and refine your art practice.

      • Lisa says

        Yes its true what you say – its just a personal irritation that you have to have a good bit of waffle to back up what you do sometimes whether you write it yourself or get someone else(thats actually a good idea)
        I went to art college and found it restricting when I had to produce similar works but its probably because I am very random in the way I work and struggle to have one consisitent style.
        You are obviously serious about your work and willing to put in the extra hard work to get your images out there as a cohesive body of work ofwhich I am in full admiration. I just think photography stands on its own as does sculpture,painting whatever – it doesn’t need the word art tagged along to make it better. They are all art forms…….

      • photos by erica h says

        I find this thread of discussion particularly interesting and I tend to agree with Mark Simms’ comments, but I do see the merits of all points of view expressed. My question to you, Leanne, is this: Is the purpose of creating art simply to exhibit in a gallery or competition? Certainly, exhibiting your work in a gallery setting is probably the quickest and easiest way to make money off your own art, but I don’t think that art that is created without the intention of selling is any less art. So an artists statement may be essential to be a commercially successful artist, but is not necessary to simply create art. From a commercial standpoint, I can see the merit of limiting yourself as an artist to a specific genre, themes, etc. Having a unique and consistent style/vision with a succinct artist statement is just basic business branding. But then again, can think of many classic, famous artists who have excelled in multiple artistic styles and produced valuable renowned pieces in various mediums.

        In regards to the comments on photography versus “art” photography, I do also agree that many images that record “what is” can and should also be considered art. Photojournalism, in particular, comes to mind. A good photojournalist is not good simply because he/she possesses technical mastery of a camera and just gets lucky to just snap interesting images. I would wager that a lot of thought, preparation and planning goes into anticipating where newsworthy and exciting activity may happen, figuring out the best vantage-point for capturing the action at the best angle, in the best light, etc. Even a landscape photographer must plan and prepare to capture a beautiful scene that many people may pass by at any normal time of day. I do agree with your point- all art is an expression of an artist’s vision. I simply think that the vision can be given a broader definition that is maybe expressed in this post.

        Regardless, Leanne, it has been a pleasure and a great learning experience for me to follow you on your journey, so thank you for posting your thoughts and images, and notes on your process. And whether we all agree or disagree with your opinions in this post, it is a valuable experience for us all to ask ourselves, what is art, how do I create art, what is my vision, how do/can I express my vision? Thank you!

      • A couple of people in this thread have suggested that aiming you artwork to an art “market” is limiting, dare I say soul sacrificing? However, i disagree.

        As a practicing artist, i don’t want to get a 9-5 job, or a part time job or be at the beck and call of Centrelink. I want to make a living from my art.

        So, that means I must exhibit and sell my work. That means developing cohesive bodies of work. It does NOT mean I am locked into that theme forever. I can develop a completely different body of work for a future exhibition.

        An artist statement is a mechanism to communicate to the gallery and buyer the underlying intentions of your body of work – again it is not set in concrete.

        If I make a body of environmental for an exhibition in July, it does not mean that is what i have to make for the rest of my left – it is all very fluid- as is the creative process.

  6. I love this post! I am going to try do I prove on my work so I can become a photographic artist too instead of simply just shooting pics!! Thank you for the wonderful post! Your work inspires me to stretch my imagination more!! Hugz Lisa

  7. I think I am in agreement with you on the photography! However you have brought to my attention the artist statement and after 10 years I still don’t have one! Thank you for making me think about that. I am also not good with words .

    • Oh yes, the artist statement, that is something that I really need to write soon. Actually in the next few days really. I am terrible at writing too.

      • I don’t have one after 10 years. I did have a style, but after a period of no art work it seems to be changing. I’m like a dead fish going with the flow. lol

      • Haha, I love that, the dead fish. I have felt like that the last few years, but I am finally starting to understand what I want to do and it is definitely time for me to write that statement. I just need to find someone good with words who can do it for me. LOL

    • For me an artist statement though is an evolving entity – I never have the same artist statement for any exhibition – it is always changing and evolving – otherwise one is not developing as an artist (?)

  8. I would disagree that your landscape photography is just ‘photography’ and not art. In your landscapes you have the same underlying vision that you have in your portraits, and this shows through in your work. Even landscapes need an amount of arrangement, if not of the buildings themselves then certainly of the manner in which they’re photographed, the camera settings, the composition etc. Your landscapes aren’t just photographs. They have all the hallmarks of your own particular style.

  9. Leanne, I have to agree with Brian above. I can’t imagine that I would ever be able to take a photo like your first one, of the bridge. It takes skill and knowledge and you have that in abundance. Don’t put your work down, it’s all beautiful. I have a friend who is a painter and it took her a long time to realise that just because she had a particular idea of how a painting should look and felt that she never achieved exactly what she wanted didn’t mean that others felt the same. I look at her paintings and am filled with awe by what she creates and it’s the same with your photography.

    • I have to agree with Brian and Carol on this one. When I saw the picture of the bridge and the lights, it took my breath away. To me, that is artistic and reflects your artistic eye. I might have taken a different picture altogether, or processed it differently. I don’t think you can help being artistic in your photography. You see and compose everything artistically. :) In portrait work, a lot of what you are doing is developing a relationship with the subject to get the best out of them – like Miss Cheeky. :)

  10. Sonel says

    Your artistic vision comes through your photography Leanne. Taking great photo’s is an art and making them is an art as well and you can do both. Lovely post hon. :D *hugs*

  11. Perhaps the art part does not reside with the photographer, but rather with the viewer. If a piece moves the viewer on an emotional level or makes them feel something (good or bad) – then maybe that is what makes the difference between photography and photographic art. I do agree that even the best photographer’s can still take simple snapshots. Interesting question – Thanks!

  12. I think you hit it on the head, Leanne…but, as Brian said above, landscapes and street photography can be art, too…When you head out to photograph a place, you consider the time of day and the conditions, and it helps create mood too. :)

  13. I find this article very well written…and the comments were just as enlightening. I’ve just stumbled onto photography and I use it basically because I want to illustrate my poems or stories…although with a new project I’m working on it may be taking more space than I may care to give it…but, from my personal point of view, I want my photographs to be the visible image of the written image, if I can put it that way. You’ve given me some things to meditate on. Thanks so much!

  14. You really said this well.

    I know that my frustration with being a beginner is that I can’t have an idea and then make it happen because I don’t have the skills. I am starting to be able to do it with writing, but I’ve been doing that for 12 years. So I know I have to build my skills withe visual art and be patient!

    But my goal with visual art is just to be able to express certain things that are visual, not verbal. My goal is just to dabble but to be effective, not to be an artist. I agree that real artists do need to have a unifying artistic vision.

    But you really have a vision in your architecture photos, too. There’s a real unifying vision, so I agree with Brian, above, that these are art too. The line gets blurred really fast!

  15. Hi Leanne,

    I agree with you. Art is about expression. Whether it’s simple like the art of the cave dwellers or Lowry or very sophisticated digital art, we try to express emotion through it. Artists of all kinds often say they are looking for something, it’s search, sometimes for perfection, but often just for something that they are happy with. I was asked to review an art exhibition a few weeks ago. It was photographs of underground spaces. Not everyone would appreciate it, but the artist was trying to say something. I tried to put the message into words too when I wrote the review. I think I appreciated the message.

  16. Specializing has its charms, but how are you gonna know what you want to see unless you follow what your eye wants to try? Create your “body of work”, sure, but digits don’t cost the way film does, so take that landscape, point your camera up or down, or while the shutter’s open, shake that camera!
    Play, experiment, have some fun! Do these things even if you’ve only ever taken photos of belt buckles before.
    That bridge photo of yours is not “just” a photo, for it also reveals how you see things. You noticed the reflection of the bridge lights, and included them in the image. That photo contains three of the “basics” present in most good art and design…those “basics”? Repetition, variety, and contrast.

  17. Anyone can push a shutter button. Anyone can put paint on a brush and make something. Anyone can grab a chisel and “break” a rock into an “interesting” shape. Intent is what makes it art. If you are walking down the street and a manhole cover explodes, many/most people will grab their phone and shoot something. A photojournalist will size the scene up (unconsciously since there is no time to “think”) because they have trained themselves over the years, and take the “right” shot. Their shot (if the camera and their reflexes are on) is art and journalism. Uncle Fred took a snap shot.
    We all, “art” photographers, “street” photographers, “travel”, “landscape” and “wedding” photographers, miss more shots than we get. Leonardo and Rembrandt, Pollack and Johns, all repainted and redrew their work many times. Threw it out and started again. Ansel Adams said “12 significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”.
    As a side note, I hate general artists statements. Love them and need them for a specific body of work but could not possibly do one to “sum up” all that I try to shoot. That is truly just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
    Good provocative blog!

  18. I am not satisfied with the definition above of fine art photography, not that I can do any better. Perhaps, I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. A famous jurist used that to describe porn. I use the term “Photographic Art” to describe highly manipulated images that are based mainly on photographic content.

    There is a lot of fine art photography that has documentary value. That brings to mind Ansel Adams iconic view of Yosemite Valley. The boundaries are not clear.

    The two images you published above are great examples of “just a photograph” and something special, especially in this context.

  19. Great post Leanne. It reminds me why I paint certain landscapes and seascapes in a impressionist/realist style, and all of a sudden throw in a few still life paintings and drawings. For me it is about finding style, what interests me and most of all to improve my focus and how I interpret the environment around me. I see some of the same for your artistic photography and natural photography – both ways of expressing your thoughts and feelings dependent on the time, place and objective. In the end it’s how you want to present your art to the world ~ I see both styles in your work and each make sense to me. I love it all!

  20. great thought provoking post. perhaps for those of us (like myself) for whom photography is a delightful past-time, and who do not need to show our work or make a living from it, an artist statement and ‘style’ are irrelevant, we can be ‘jack of all trades’ (and in some of my friends cases ‘masters of all trades!). I just loving taking pictures, from instant shutter pressing when something catches my eye, to thought out scenarios and from SOOC to potatoshopped out of original existance! Good luck with the statement, I do a lot of writing for articles for work, and can only advise to swrite from your heart, it usually works. :)

  21. Well you have certainly stimulated a good debate, Leanne. The multiplicity of genres is something I am grappling with. What is my theme? I don’t know. But then I’m not an artist 😰. Good food for thought here.

  22. Every once in a while, we come across a statement that slams home. I’ve often been asked what I shoot, or my specialty. My answer has typically been – everything. This treatise has helped me focus on what I really do & set me to thinking about personal style. We all have one – it’s obvious from the images of fellow club members; however, I am now off on a quest to define my own. Thanks for the nudge.

  23. I agree with both Mark Simms and Lisa and, in theory, to your response to them. However, if ‘art’ is fundamentally the application of the artist’s vision and creativity to the subject (whatever the medium) then the art worlds’ requirement of an “artist statement” and “body of work” seems to contradict the idea of creativity, the very definition of which is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness”.
    Maybe I won’t get any work in galleries – but then I’m doing it to express myself (and also to record my emotions and impressions of what I see) not to please someone else’s blinkered view.

  24. The 2nd photo DOES convey a strong mood. Art Photography allows the photographer to imbue the photo with layers of symbolism or dimension that a straightforward shot of the same subject would not convey. It is more creativity than craft.

  25. So great that you should post this, I have been feeling lately that some of my work isn’t “pure” because I have tinkered with it and added my imagination. But I see now that is ridiculous. My brother has called some of my photos “art-a-graphs” instead of photographs, which I thought was cute and right on. I love the idea of a statement, it helps pinpoint our heart’s true desire and why we feel called to this art form…I’m going to work on one! Thank you, Leanne!

  26. Love your two images! Interesting question….and thoughts. From my eye view I feel that both of your images posted here is art – an art form….as I believe photography is a form of art. For the difference bewteen the two I think it may lie in who is doing the shooting – is it someone who is just taking a photo for the sake of capturing an image – or is it someone who is passionate about photography (novice or professional) where each and every shot they strive for is in-itself more than capturing an image – they shoot for a certain vision that they see and feel and want the viewer to see what they see as they see it. Tricky it can be.

  27. Pingback: De Oude Kerk (The Old Church), Amsterdam | Nia Simone, Author

  28. For me both pictures are art. The image of the brigde is very atmospheric, and this is not a random result. You took an object, here a piece of human technology, and transformed it into a subject, by selecting a particular point of view, and deciding on a certain light. This means that you have added your own idea of the object, your feelings, your settings towards things. And that is what makes art. Art adds a personal perspective to the world. Let me say it with Andy Warhol: “Everything will be art, and nothing will be art, because everything I think is beautiful.”

  29. I would keep it even simpler:
    Good photography is an accurate representation of the subject.
    Good art photography is a strikingly individual interpretation of the subject.

    • That is the best one I have read. I am not going to respond to all of them, there are some that make me very frustrated, but I really like what you have said.

      That really is it in a nutshell. Thank you.

      • This is the one I agree with the most. Your work is amazing and definitely an art, despite my not loving heavily photoshopped work.
        All photography is an art, but art photography takes a mere photo to another level.
        Keep up the good work and good luck with the gallery.

    • Accurate representation of a subject is photo journalism… however both images above, i think, are art photos… but different ‘genres’ of art photos – the bridge is not an ‘accurate’ representation – it has had mood intensified via manipulation etc – which is what sets it apart from merely an accurate representation : in my opinion :-) So, overall I agree with a few of the above comments which say that both images are ‘art’ shots.

  30. I think it’s true what you say. All art – whether film, dance, painting, writing or indeed photography – I believe is ultimately about communication. About an effort to convey something too elusive or big to be merely said.

  31. cracking thread – which I will have to digest before offering my view. I am currently researching a assignment for my Higher Professional Diploma in Photo Imaging – the unit I am working on is Fine Art Imaging – so your discussion is very timely – thanks

  32. Greetings from sunny Florida. Your talented eye is exquisite and you have truly been blessed. Don’t ever stop what you’re doing because it is remarkable and we need much more of your talent in our world.
    You pose an excellent question to ponder Leanne.
    I started my “non-Kodak Instamatic” photography when I was 15…. waaaaaay back in 1974 using my Dad’s Pentax 1000x SLR 35mm shooting B&W ASA400 and pan developing it in Photography Club in 10th grade back in my native New York. Actually, developing the print (on then-recently introduced RC paper) was as exciting as taking the shots.
    Your “photography/photographic art” question could possibly relate to a writer’s world of “fiction/non-fiction”, no?
    Take a picture of this: “Non-Fiction” would be a pristine sunrise from my bridgehouse on the Intra-Coastal Waterway, whereas “Fiction” would be that same shot, except in the foreground I would pose Marilyn Manson feeding Marilyn Monroe a fresh ripe strawberry dripping with honey. Augmented Reality. Both powerful shots, but the Marilyn/Marilyn thang would be ME making a statement. Honestly, I’m terrified to imagine what that statement would be….but it would be MINE.
    Natural beauty versus augmented reality – YOU are exquisite at both – DON’T STOP.
    I really appreciate EVERY shot of yours I’ve ever seen. I’ll keep following you until the NSA shuts us down – LOL – please find me a koala sitting in front of a misty waterfall at sunset.
    Love your art – Keep going.

    • I don’t know that Koala’s sit in front of misty waterfalls at sunset, but if I ever see one you can be sure I will take photos.

  33. I think all of your images project your soul. Your portraits show off your artistic talents. The photo of the bridge would look different if I took it. Not just because of skill level, but by how I see it. You see things with an artistic eye. Then you express what you see and how you see it. With your portraits, you are creating the total image and expressing it through photography. You are amazing Leanne.

  34. Palimpsest says

    I think you’re on the right track here, Leanne. I’ve always liked Richard Eyer’s definition of art which is: “Art is the expression of the voice of talented individuals with a point of view.” I tend to combine this with Ezra Pound’s description of the task of the poet, which, he said is to: “Select the luminous detail.” Thus the artist, whatever her/his chosen medium, expresses her/his voice by selecting what s/he feels is the luminous (enlightening) detail. Which all sounds tortuously abstract, I know, but it helped discover what I was trying to do with my writing, and I really must start to think about it more with my photography.

    When I was doing my writing degree I was lucky in that I was encouraged to experiment with every available genre and style. This helped me discover which best suited my style and point of view. Now I’m doing the same with photography, not because I want to be a photographer, but because I love it. For me photography is another way to tell stories.

    Great post, and it’s certainly sparked an interesting debate.

  35. Oh man, this is a hard question but I agree with your descriptions.
    Artist Statements are so hard and as you say putting it into words can be tricky.
    As an emerging artist, with a long way to go, I’m still finding my way… I like to take recorded photos of places and find all about them… but I also like to create and capture images with texture/light/perspective/??etc. and some essence of surprise… at least that is my aim ..and with everyday things. Plod plod plod ;) Each day is a learning curve.
    An interesting and thought provoking post Leanne. Thanks :)

  36. PS I’ve just been reading through the comments.
    So many differing, very interesting and valid opinions and experiences.

  37. I am not convinced there IS a difference. There is intent. Yet without conscious intent, art happens … and where art was intended, we all know how often it fails.

    There are technical aspects to all art, from writing to painting to sculpture. Writing is nothing without printing. Unread, does it even exist? The graphic arts — all forms — require considerable technical skill that must be learned. Music? How many years of study of technique and even then, maybe not enough. How is photography different except in the tools used? Each form of art uses tools, techniques, technology. All require learning.

    Is it beautiful? Was it created by human beings? It’s art. The rest is semantics.

  38. Wonderful thread with many astute observations. I would simply add that when I take a snapshot of a scene, like any ordinary tourist might do, in order to show others that “I was there” – that is not art.

    When I carefully arrange the elements of art (light, color, texture, space, composition, etc.) to “reveal” something about the ‘character’ of a scene – that can rise to the level of art.

    In other words, like so many of you have so nicely said, the artist’s intent, or vision, or creative imagination is critical. But only if you successfully convey that vision.

    Every image has a subject. If you just straightforwardly “present” that subject to the viewer, that is a document of reality but it is not, no matter how good your technical skill, a “creative” work art. A creative work of art “interprets” a subject, “reveals” something about its essence or character as seen and felt by the artist. It does that by manipulating the “elements” of art (mentioned above) so as to lead the eye of the viewer to perceive the subject in a certain way – i.e., to convey the artist’s ‘statement.’

    It is easy to see this in the different styles of art, particularly 20th C. Modernist painting. Impressionism uses short choppy brushstrokes to “reveal” quick fleeting impressions of an image. Cubism uses geometrical shapes and fragmented planes to “reveal” multiple perspectives. Etc.

    And finally, I, too, have always been leery of artist statements. But recently as a teacher I was forced to come up with a “teaching philosophy.” I struggled with it. And yet I now see that it has done me a world of good. Think of a statement as a signpost that points the way, not as a fence that hems you in.

    In some of your images, Leanne, I see wonderful shades of every one from Klimt to Cindy Sherman. And Rembrandt!!! Such a marvelous tonal palette in your photos! Your creative vision is everywhere apparent; your images are indeed “works of art.”

    Keep up the good work!

  39. Leanne, your post is wonderfully straight forward and clear.

    To me, artistic photography contains more than just the subject. An artistic photograph is like a painted artwork, there’s a thought process behind, one that is longer than composition and technique. Within the picture there’s a message, a story, a sensation, a statement or something else which the artistic photographer deliberately chose to add to the context.
    Like a painting artist decides every single element that goes onto the canvas, an artistic photographer decides every single element that’s in the frame.

  40. Reblogged this on maxitnz and commented:
    i just loved this post from Leanne, she has made so many things clear. Keep up the good work.

  41. leecleland says

    What a wonderfully diverse and animated discussion you have made happen here, Leanne. I found it all interesting to read and some gave me cause to stop a while and ponder. Anything that makes us think more about why we make photos will make our future photos, whether “Art” or Just” contain more of ourselves in them and therefore be a better photo.
    Thanks again for starting the discussion.

  42. A thought from an unknown source as shared by B&H:
    B&H Event Space
    ‘A great photo happens when a photographer sees a situation unfolding in front of them that evokes an emotion that the photographer feels deep down, in the middle of their chest. And in a split second, they then make a conscience choice of exposure, lens, depth of field, lighting, body language, composition, etc., and release the shutter. The film is then processed, scanned, laid out on a page, printed on a press, driven across town to the newspaper carrier who throws it on some guy’s porch, who then opens the newspaper and looks down at that photo … and if that guy gets the same feeling deep down in the middle of his chest that the photographer did when they viewed the situation in the first place, they have made a great photo.’
    ~Author Unknown

  43. It seems rather odd to me that artists should worry so much about the definition of art. Or even ask the question–what is art?–in the first place. I always thought that was for philosophers to sort out while artists just did their stuff. But then again, I’m not an artist so I wouldn’t know.

  44. Your post, like all your work, is so thoughtful. This is a question that seems to concern all of us who are out there taking pictures consciously–thinking about what we want to shoot and then shooting it.

    At the same time, since I am just an amateur, and don’t have any training at all, I know that my style is to try to get a good shot of just exactly what something looks like–only up close where other folks usually fail to look or don’t take the time to look. So, my “art”–if it could even be called that–is fully representational.

    But, as it has the concept of recording something that people usually miss, could that concept take it beyond just photography into art? I don’t know.

    Art does seem more conceptually or technically laden than merely representational. But, then some representational art is so technically skilled that it qualifies as art…Thinking Old Masters, here!

    Not sure this rambling adds much to the conversation, but you can see your thoughts have gotten a lot of folks thinking about this question…Thanks for the post!

    Oh, and I love watching your style change as I follow your blog. I have been off social media for a while, but am back now, and can visibly see a stylistic comfortability in your work that is wonderful.

  45. How annoying it must have been at ‘uni’, Leanne! I had an Art teacher (an illustrator) whose class I dropped after the first few hours, because though I draw very well, my drawings didn’t look the way he wanted them to–like his! I went on to paint 30′ high flowers in dyes for “A Mid-simmer Night’s Dream” for my Theatre Design professor (whom I ‘hired’ a year later, to help me paint ballets!). He was happy I quit the other guy’s classes, as he considered the guy very stodgy.

    To me, ART is everything I do, from painting and drawing, to photographing and even cooking! As you know, I do take shots I consider “cataloging”, more photojourno stuff, but the bulk of my work in photography is art-full, some more than others!

    • Uni wasn’t annoying at all, they didn’t tell us what to do, or how to do it, they wanted us to put together a body of cohesive work. Work that you can tell all came from the same person. Which if you are going to galleries is what they want. They aren’t going to show the work of an artist who does one image like this, then another like that. There has to be a cohesiveness to the work, which is probably your style.

      I think the biggest mistake I made with this post is that I didn’t state that I meant trying to get work into galleries. Trying to be accepted in the art world. That is really hard. It is like writing a novel and trying to get it published. Then writing something else that is completely different to the first one, a publisher, if they accepted the first one, is not going to like you doing something completely different for the second one. Once you are famous, you can do what you like, isn’t that what they say?

      • I guess that’s why I never tried for the gallery gigs, Leanne. I have always had a somewhat consistent ‘style’, but it became difficult to maintain when I was painting scenery (unless it was my own design!). I became more of a “human Xerox machine’, as I could imitate any scenic designer’s strokes, and I found I really enjoyed that. To this day, with my paintings, it’s the same…no two are truly alike in style, but each stands on its own, and is not really an ‘imitation’ of some other artist’s style. Some days I have the freedom of Van Gogh, some days the ‘tightness’ of Vermeer, and other days, the flowing brush of O’Keeffe or the exactness of Leonardo…it just depends where my heart and soul are that particular day!

      • The art world is a strange place. It is like becoming a member of a very clicky group. I am hoping this new work will be really good in it.

  46. I’m neither an artist nor a photographer but I am a food TV watcher ( maybe even professional TV watcher) and they tell every contestant to have a culinary point of view. I take that to translate to other arts as well.
    Congrats on your show!

    • That just means specialising, yes? I think that is what you have to do. Doesn’t mean you can’t mess around with other stuff on the side, but if you want to be taken seriously as an artist, then you do have to have that.

      Thank you.

  47. Well said Leanne…having said that you are a fabulous artist regardless of whether you are taking photos or doing photography art…beauty is in the eye of the beholder! :)

  48. You generated a lot of good discussion with this post. Not only are you a talented artist but a fine blogger :)

    • Thank you EllaDee, I have been feeling like a slack one lately. There certainly was a lot of discussion.

  49. I like that you are trying to explain the differences between Art Photography and Photography, but I don’t know if it is that clear cut. I have often wondered what constitutes art, especially when seeing certain things that have been described as such. Is it possible that art is whatever the viewer sees it as? In that case art is in the eye of the beholder.
    While in uni, did you find it constricting to stay within your artistic statement?

    • I think for me, I was thinking about myself and trying to get work into an art gallery. It is a tough topic, and there is a difference between photography and art photography, as far as the art world is concerned. If I want to get accepted into a gallery, then I need to be producing something else, than straight shots of what I see, there has to be more to it, that is what I think. Art can be anything, that is true, but there has to be more to an image, than just I thought it looked pretty so I took a photo of it. It is hard to explain.
      No, I didn’t find it constricting at all, in fact, it makes your work stronger and better. If you can define what you are doing, then the work is easier. That doesn’t mean you have to stick with that for the rest of your life. You can do a body of work, then move onto something else, but if you want to be collected then people like to see growth, but not too much change, if that makes any sense.

      • I never went to Uni so I had never heard of a artists statement. The way you put it sounds intriguing and perhaps it is something I should try in the future.

        I suppose I have never thought about the people who would by an art collection. I do understand what you mean.

      • they are annoying to write, but they can also be a great way to work out your ideas and where you are going.
        Yes, I think it is important to think of collectors and those that might want your work. They need to know that you are worth investing in.

  50. Leanne:
    I can clearly see that a company or a benefactor might want you (as an artist) to stick to a specific genre of artistic distinction due to their need to pigeonhole you into a category so that they can assign a “value” to your work, however an artist is by their nature, a creature of evolution. The vision that I passed today without notice might capture me on another day because I evolved my perspective to accommodate it for its simplicity or its diversity. I’m not even sure that someone who values art in purely a financial realm can pass judgment upon someone fulfilling the role of the artist. I studied the photograph of your cityscape as well as the model in character and I found them to both be “art.” This evaluation furthers my belief that a photographer is always in pursuit of art as he or she captures the vision of that moment in time, for all time, with the photograph. A moment’s truth is always and forever in the eye of the beholder. Great blog commentary.

    • I don’t think that at all, you do want to evolve, and that is part of being an artist and any artist you look at you will see how their work evolves over time. I never meant that if you are doing black and white photos of Lilies, that you can’t change and move on from it. What they don’t want you doing is that photo one day, then the next day doing a loud colour landscape, then the next day doing an interior shot of a bathroom, then the next day doing a shot of the football. They want you work to be consistent within a theme, to produce a body of work. You might do one body of work, then completely change directions and do another body of work in something else.

      There seems to be a problem with what I was trying to say, if I entered that image of the bridge into an art competition or for consideration to a gallery, they would pass over it quickly and dismiss it, why, because it is a common shot and anyone could do it. It isn’t special or unique. Whereas, at least I hope, they would find the other image different, unique and would consider it. They might both be great images, but in the “art world” of galleries and collectors, one would be considered art, or more artistic. The same thing happens with painters, if you are painting pretty landscapes, then you will never get a show in a gallery, unless what you are painting is done is an extraordinary way, you have to be far superior to what everyone doing paintings like you are doing. That is the reality of it.

      People might buy my images, but if I want to grow as an artist and to be able to sell images for $1000’s of dollars, then that is what I have to do, and believe me, that is what I want.

      • Hi Leanne
        I think that the difference in our perspectives come from our individual experiences. I have a multi-media company and so my clients are mainly large corporate internet entities that want social media content that their subscribers will share, “like,” and comment on. I’ve never had the opportunity to present a body of work to a gallery, however I maintain all of my work in distinct body files so that I can see the evolution of my work. I do see what you are saying. I will follow your work/blog. I hope to talk to you again.

      • Yes sounds like different perspectives. I come from an art background with my degree, and from the perspective of galleries and collectors, and people who want you work to increase in value. There is a lot of misinformation out they about that sort of thing. I don’t know how many times someone has received a piece of my work and then “okay I can kill you now and your work will be worth more”, they don’t get that it is only going to be worth more if I have a reputation and my work is selling and sort after. I am no where near that stage yet. The Art World is very different to the Internet World. Especially here in Australia. It has been nice talking to you. Thank you

  51. Google got both definitions right. Suprisingly, some of the qworlds most renown fine art photographers refute the notion that what they do is art because they really don’t understant the definition. Like many, they assign special notions to the term “art”, and while art is special, the special notions that are supposed to put the arts into some presumed higher state of intellect is really missing the point.

    Photography without artistic intent is about taking pictures. With artistic drive, it’s about making pictures.

    There are differences between the standards of Western Art and that of other cultures; say African Art for example, but these definitions still apply to the broader spectrum.

    • I think I agree with everything you have to say here, only you say it much better than I did. I like that bit about taking pictures and making pictures.
      Thank you for a different perspective on this.

  52. Very interesting discussion. I’m a budding photographer and do a bit of everything, whatever takes my fancy. Often a photo I take is inspiration for a poem , and a poem I write sends me off in search of a photo to complement my poem. I do only basic Photoshop, but one day I might start experimenting with more intricate manipulations. I don’t know which way I’ll go, as long as it’s fun. Thanks for sharing your views, Leanne.

    • I think many people find themselves in your position, and I was there at one stage and in some ways still am. I will have a go at photographing a lot of things, but my work or what I think of as my work is now the portraits and to some extent the architectural stuff. Fun is good and perhaps a good way to go. Thanks.

  53. For someone who thinks they need to hire a writer you did a great job writing this post and I read every word. Thanks. I found it both interesting and educational. Best wishes on your journey.


  54. I think the unique way a photographer “sees” and “captures” an image reflects an artist’s perspective. Thanks for the discussion! And thanks for looking at my blogs!

  55. What I found to be the most important advice here, and something I myself am completely at fault for, is not keeping a body of work in mind. When we allow ourselves to create pieces all over the place we are doing ourselves a great injustice and only working to confuse later observers. WIthout a sound consistency we become masters of nothing, it is incredibly important to maintain a focus and follow through with it. Thank you for reminding me of this lesson.

    • Yes, I agree, though it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with other things, I do that, but I know what my main focus is and that is what I concentrate most of my energies on. Thank you.

  56. Reblogged this on Shutterbug5 and commented:
    An excellent explanation!
    – a heartfelt thank you to Leanne Cole, from Lyann. Valadez. :D

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