Give Me Validity Or Give Me Death

country-detail Detail from: Temptations in Paradise

As my process has come to involve more three-dimensional imaging, it begs the question: is it still photomontage? To answer that requires asking: what defines a photograph or, more broadly, photography? That’s a question that’s been asked many times. On the surface the answer seems obvious, and for most of photography’s short history it has been, but it’s more complicated now. We have to further consider: should materials and process be the only criteria that defines “photography”, or can we use aesthetic intent as well? A traditional definition of photography might include, but not be limited to; using a device that that captures the light reflected off an object on to a medium that allows for reproduction. This has been historically defined by an evolving chemical process. In recent years, the photography world has adapted and expanded the definition to include digitizing the reflected light and forgoing the coveted negative. There was barely a hiccup of distain for this new process that both elevated and transformed 130 some odd years of established dogma. Traditional photography, including reportage, commercial, and fine art, enthusiastically adapted this new technology. Photomontage, a long-established corner of the photographic world, quickly integrated this technology as well. I’m still left with the question: is the work I’m doing now photomontage or something else?

Please consider the following.

A: There are pictures made with generally conventional photographic means and/or materials. However, although the images may have been created “photographically” their provenance may be incidental to the artist’s intent. For example, a photographer may exhibit their work as huge enlargements. However, if the size contributes nothing to the content I see it as a way some “photographers”(and some corners of the art world) seek to divorce the work from having the stigma of being photography. Other artists/photographers create work that use photographic elements in a way that has little to do with their origin, and even ignores photography’s syntax and aesthetic foundations.

B: Although my work contains few actual photographic elements, it borrows heavily on the photographic aesthetic. In fact, as my process has evolved even further away from traditional photographic methods, I’ve adhered more closely to the visual principles of photography. I believe you could see that in my latest two projects, Temptations in Paradise and Incidents and Innocence.

If this month’s blog entry seems defensive, it’s not my intention. Nobody has officially kicked me out of the photography world! I would just like to suggest that the definition of photography be expanded, or amended, to include aesthetic intention in addition to materials and process. Posing and lighting figures in three-dimensional imaging is, in effect, no different than posing figures before a camera. “Citizenship” in an artistic milieu should not be limited by where the materials were born. Rather, the work should be judged by what’s in its heart.