Art Photography

Art is a sensual experience created when work is done on or to objects that interact with one or a combination of the senses to promote an emotional and/or intellectual feeling or reaction… It effects a change in our attitudes and bringing about an understanding or re-appraisal of society’s values… It must always  have an altruistic element, not done purely for financial gain.

(Gesture and Meaning pp 53-54)

For art photographers it is artistic practice that is important – what they want to express that is important and how they express it – not  fantastic technique or equipment. Photography is just the current vehicle of choice, they may move on to other media and back and forth or just do photography.

  • Design-led practice: where the aim is to produce imagery for a product eg advertising, fashion photography
  • Art-led practice: generally experimental, make discoveries, analyse what they have found and then react through further experimentation and analysis. Intent is all-important, the message. Trying to tell the world through their work how they feel about either themselves or the situation they find themselves in.

Art-based photography can be triggered and communicated in many ways. From dreams and nightmares, illness, depression or loneliness, pleasure or pain. Messages can be expressed clearly, or through metaphor and allegory. Images may be graphic and include text, or text may be the image.


Presentation is important:

  • Context and audience
  • Surroundings, lighting.
  • Frame (is it framed? What type of frame and why? What is the effect of the frame (if used) and how does it endorse the context or message?
  • Size, quality of print,  materials (paper, fabric or metal?)

The image should stimulate debate.

Photography as art: Liz Wells ‘On and beyond white walls’

Photography as art

Understanding artistic traditions is key.

Exercise: Photography as illustrative art  to do

Who decides on the worth of a photographic image?
  • financial worth decided by market forces. Whether the photograph has been created for advertising or for art the price will be dictated by the market or how much any one individual will pay. Prices are higher in the US, even for reproductions.
  • quality is mostly dictated by critics and practitioners, educators and curators.
Image manipulation

In photography, the viewer is conditioned to believe that they are seeing a moment as it happened, unlike a painting where the viewer assumes that there has been intervention from the artist.

Image manipulation was not a new thing; it had been done in the darkroom for years as photography-based artists tried to break away from photographic conventions. The use of sandwiches of negatives was a dominant methodology and this is reflected in our digital practice through the use of layers.

The mechanical reproduction of images like these Warhol pieces caused a great deal of debate about aesthetic and financial value. Could a photograph be a ‘collector’s piece’ when it had been manipulated?

Clarke ‘the Photograph Manipulated’

Exercise Artistic Styles  to do

‘Seizing the decisive/unguarded moment’: artistic voice

When we think about photographers as artists or photography as art we need to take on board the values, reason and motivation displayed by the practitioner. A repeating pattern of values
emerges. ‘Seizing the moment’ is part of the specificity of photography as a medium – but which moment and how is it constructed?

Cartier Bresson

Steve McCurry

See William Sawalich article  “decisive moment in color”.

Whose Portrait is it?

Richard Billingham  is mostly concerned with unguarded moments and his own interpretation of his parents’ relationship.

Larry Sultan  poses his parents and includes his parents’ views

Tina Barney focus on trust and intimacy

Finding your voice

It’s important to develop your personal voice and provide yourself with a platform to engage with the realm(s) of photography you feel most affinity for – where you feel at home, the area you enjoy and find most stimulating. This may include both design-led (eg to earn an income) and art-led (for one’s own personal development).

Exercise My current position

Project: Photography and Feminism

Feminist art, photography (draft)

Exercise: Stereotypes (to do)

Exercise: Feminism Everyday Icons (to do)

Project: The notion of self

Exercise: Identity: There’s only one… (to do)

My artist statement



Cartier Bresson

Steve McCurry

William Sawalich

Richard Billingham

Larry Sultan  

Tina Barney 

Cindy Sherman

Rachel Stone

Barbara Kruger

Laurie Toby Edison

Miru Kim

Martha Rosler

Sam Taylor-Wood

Jose Ramón Ais

Zarina Bhimji

Elina Brotherus

Calum Colvin

Gregory Crewdson

Alexander Gronsky

David Hockney

Alfredo Jaar

James Nachtwey

Edward Olive

Lise Sarfati

Jan Saudek

Lorna Simpson

Jeff Wall



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