Moss Image, Chris Moss, Moab Photographer, Watching, Art

Can Photography Compete As Art?

When the term artist comes into the conversation now days, most people tend to exclude or even ignore photography at art.  What causes us to view artists simply as painters, sculptors, and even musicians, but almost depreciate the value of photography?  I would answer that it is because we have a surplus of photography in our world today.

Across the globe, almost everyone has access to a high quality camera.  It really doesn’t matter what camera people have, the fact that they have one floods the market with images of food, family, vacations, landscapes, portraits, and anything else that comes to mind.  To illustrate this example just take a look at the infinite amount of hashtags you could search for on various different social media sites.

If everyone is a photographer who is the artist?

What makes an artist?  What defines as art? The definition of what constitutes as art can be somewhat convoluted and muddled as many philosophers over the centuries have tried to define art.  However, the most simple definition I can come up with is the fact that art is meant to communicate a message or invoke an emotion in the viewer.  This is a definition on the surface level.  Truly we could dig much more deeply into the conversation of what art is but for the purposes of this article we will leave it at that.

So, for a photographer to compete as an artists in this over-saturated world of photography, one must create the image with intent.  For example let us take a look at a couple of images from one of my works that I have been developing for over five years.  I point to my “Watching” series as we analyze how this type of photography is separative from just taking photos that are pretty to creating art.

Portfolio, Moss Image Chris Moss, Art, Moss Image, Moab Photographer, mobile home in the dark with trees in front

The process of art.

Art for me starts and ends with the process.  The first step in the process is to have an intention to communicate the message.  In my “Watching” series I wanted to communicate the idea that as human beings we tend to have this contradictory notion of privacy.  We hold on to the value of privacy but at the same time we fall very short of true privacy.

I thought about the many different ways to communicate this message.  I went through the process of trying to incorporate how our lives are posted for the world to see on various social media websites but that didn’t seem to fit.  The problem with that idea is that those lives displayed on Facebook are false lives.  They are not a chink in the armor of privacy but more of a construction of how we wish others to view our lives.

After driving around at night I began to notice how beautiful the lights were coming from inside peoples homes.  It was captivating at first and then I began to realize that here was the small pieces of information that we leave behind for others to view.  The window blinds left open gives us a view into each others private world.  I began studying different homes and locations.

Creating The Message

As I watched I could see what kind of art people had on the walls, what their bedroom looked like, and how messy or clean their home was.  Toys left in the front yard indicated the existence of children living in the domicile.  It was all of those small details that helped me create a story for each individual. But yet I chose to not include the individuals themselves.  I wanted there to be the evidence of humanity without the intrusion of humans themselves.  I felt like this could really let the viewer create their own story about the scenes like I did when I photographed them.

Chris Moss, Art, Moab Photographer, Blog, house at night

It’s All About The Message

Hopefully by now we can have a better understanding as to what the difference between photography and art is.  This topic is wide open for interpretation because the intent to create art can vary in innumerable values and ideas.  However, I believe the root remains the same.  Artists can be photographers and photographers can be artists.  But to be an artist there must be an intent to communicate.  That may be an idea, a thought, an emotion, an experience, struggle, or any other part of the human condition.  Its all in the message and process taken to achieve that goal.

Will everyone understand the message you are trying to communicate?  No!  But that’s what makes communication through art so great.  It is not restricted by a construct of words to guide the reader.  It is there to challenge thought and push the boundaries of our minds.  I always have said the best art is the kind that makes you think.  When you have to stop and question and ask yourself, “What am I looking at?  Why am I looking at it?  How does it make me feel?  What is the artist trying to say?”

Art, Moss Image, Chris Moss, Moab Photographer, Trailer at night

Feel free to comment and add your additions into the conversation!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you wish to view the full collection in my “Watching” series please click here!!