Sunday, December 28, 2014


               Photography: Seeing and Interpreting

In the beginning there was light and before long there was a camera and film to go with it. At first this technological invention was used experimentally to record images of interest to the photographer (and maybe a few other folks). Light was (and is) the primary enabling ingredient for these photo captures but much time and technological development were needed before these captured images could be reproduced & seen by large audiences as enlarged, quality  photographic prints. While these early prints were considered to be marvels of science, there was largely no association of them with Fine Art. That came much later.

Fast forward to much later and the advent of Fine Art photography, which was given life largely by the unceasing effort of Ansel Adams and his colleagues to develop the zone system of exposure and other elements of the photographic craft. Today photography has its place as Fine Art among other recognized art forms (painting, sculpture, drawing, woodblock prints,etc) and is regularly viewed in many Fine Art galleries and publications around the world.
Fine Art photography today comprises two principal elements: 
    (1) The understanding and practice of using the highly technical modern tools of the trade (camera with its film or digital sensor; chemicals and computers for processing the film or digital files, enlargers and printers for making viewable prints, etc);
    (2) Esthetic interpretation by the photographer after the image capture of the scene before him/her at the time of shutter release.

Both of these elements are necessary to produce Fine Art photographs. The digital camera today is an example of high technology but it is actually sort of dumb in a way...It needs to be told what to do. To tell it what you want it to do, you really need to understand the underlying basic technical issues of capturing a proper image. Once mastered, this craft aspect of Fine Art photography becomes second nature and frees the photographer to concentrate on the esthetic aspect of Fine Art Photography, also known as interpretation. It is a fact that cameras produce a limited representation of reality, which is why interpretation is required to produce a Fine Art Photograph.

There are those (purists) today who claim that digital photography is "fake, or counterfeit" and that a photograph should remain untouched as it came out of the camera. That may be the criteria for news photographs but it has nothing to do with Fine Art. There are numerous examples of internationally recognized Fine Art photographers who interpreted (some say "manipulated" it what you want) their camera negatives or digital files to produce Fine Art prints that were universally acclaimed as Fine Art. These interpretations were done in the darkroom in the film days before the advent of digital technology and Photoshop by Adobe.

  "Sandhill Crane In Flight”       © R. Frederick

 Shown left is one of my photographs that I interpreted (yes, using Photoshop) from the original camera file to produce what I consider to be a Fine Art Photograph. Others must agree with me, as the print has sold well to art purchasers.
 I will post another article on this blog spot before the end of the year to further inform you about the Fine Art photographers I mentioned above and give some insight regarding their interpretation of scenes to produce highly successful Fine Art Photographs.

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