The essence of the Kodak camera (1888) that made it The Best Camera is that it was affordable and thousands of people used it to create photographs. Today the best camera argument is always focused on the very expensive models. But for photography as an art, the best camera may be the low or middle level camera or the phone or even the lowly PS camera.
Equipment is but a tool, and still the most important part of photography is the vision of the photography. For me there are two ways to develop and increase my photographic vision, that is by seeing art in all forms and then imaging every chance I get in a manner that is consistent with my point of view.
I have quite a few cameras and what determines which I use is not the cost of the camera but the subject matter and environmental circumstances of the shooting location. I often have a theme for the photo trips I take (long or short) and often the deciding issue on what camera do I use is my selection of lenses. While I won’t deny that certain technical aspects of certain cameras are required for very specialized imaging, almost any camera made today can image 85 to 90% of the potential images one wants to make.
Quite simply, The Best Camera is the one you can afford and use often to improve and create your art.
Image manipulation started as early as the 1850’s, with such photographers as Oscar Gustave Rejlander’s “Two Ways of Life”. Here is a good link to learn more about Rejlander. The key issue here is that fine art photography started its life and the photomontage quickly became a tool of photographers. “Straight out of the camera” and “no manipulation” have long been lines of contention in photography. With criticisms coming from within the photographic community and from the “Other Arts” community.
Again I make the distinction that for some types of photography no modification (except for that required in scientific endeavors for specific purposes) is acceptable. But for Fine Art Photography, it is my belief that all forms of manipulation are fair game. I have a quote that for me defines what this is, “The Heart of Art Lives in The Soul of Man”. It has nothing to do with reality, but everything to do with what make your soul smile.
For me its ok to have various lines of photography vision – from groups like F64 to those who image with no preconceived paradigm to follow. For me the “straight Out of The Camera” is not a badge of purity but one of many valid visions of what photography is.
Over the last 10 years I’ve spent many hundreds of hours on various “gear focused sites”, and about 60% of the information is golden and about 20% is neutral, and 20% is waste product. Over the last several years, I’ve started search for sites with great image galleries as finally the technical capabilities of digital have surpassed film. One of the main criticisms of photography early on was its dependance on mechanical tools, similar to the discussion of film is better than digital because it doesn’t depend on computers. The Mechanical Aspect of Photography is a vital part of photography but is no where near the most important part in my view.
One of the great things about the digital photography revolution is that the mechanical part of photography has gotten to the point where small cameras can produce images that it took a much larger camera only a few years ago to produce. In my opinion almost any current DSLR is better in resolution, contrast, and dynamic range than were 35mm film based cameras. If you want to be an artistic photographer, it is significantly more import how you see and envision than what you image with.
The people who first started imaging with the very primitive tools available to them had incredible hurdles just to get an image, and yet the tried to get the very best Artistic image as well. Photography by its nature is dependent on machines/computers to deliver its images, yet that mechanical aspect is in reality the smallest component of photographic art in my opinion. As someone on a forum once about those who buy the most expensive equipment hoping that it will make them a great photographer, “you can’t buy game”.
When Daguerre, Talbot, and Niepce started the photographic revolution at first it was a curiosity. But by 1839 the Daguerreotypes had their own exhibition. The philosophical arguments were that photography was to be a hand maiden to the arts. In the very early stages only a few saw Photography as a Threat to Art. After this stage it was a scientific endeavor which could take proper perspective of still objects but that was all. Just as the Camera Obscura had been used for hundreds of years if not a thousand, it was at first seen as a technical tool to help artist. But there were undertones of distrust among the artistic community.
Photography started its perceived assault on art in the field of portraiture. In the 1830’s artist who made their living painting portrait miniatures were making a living, buy 1858 they were all but extinct. Was it an asteroid? No, it was photography. Why? Cost and speed were the key reasons. The artist who were impacted were finding employment coloring photographs and/or being a Daguerreotype studio. This was an ominous shadow creeping toward the fine arts.
The effort to sit for a Daguerreotype for the image was long and tiresome (but not as long as sitting for a portrait to be painted). It took considerable technical skill to image a good Daguerreotype and of course the equipment was expensive ($50, an average blue collar worker earned $0.33 per day). But in comparison to the multi-session and cost ($5-$10) of the painted portrait, the Daguerreotype with its one sitting and cost of $.25 to $2.00 made it the market king.
Were the alarmist correct? No, but neither were the “Photography won’t challenge the fine arts” folks. Many painters began to use photography as references for both people and landscapes. As photography began its evolution, its future and the future of 2 dimensional art was in question.
Is the History of Photography important to armature and professional photographers? How about those that only shoot sports or weddings? I would say that unequivocally Yes the history of photography is very important to any photographer. From understanding the laws and freedoms that govern its practice to the knowledge of photography’s place in the world of art or communication. Even the creation of images and the current status of equipment manufactures, it can be argued, has been impacted by the way social and technologically photography has evolved.
I read a lot about art, and while a little dated but correct I think for the time frame in which it was written, Arron Scharf’s Art and Photography is a good pedagogical foundation for discussing this issue. I recommend it to any one interested in photography as an art. One of the most striking parallels is that the conflict of miniature portrait artists and engravers and the first photographers and that of the current conflict of flim based photographers and digital photographers.
Photographer has always been an provocateur among the arts. The tools are very much technologically driven, and can used in professional endeavors other than art. It is the ability of photography to do so many types of images well that has frustrated the traditional arts.
Before photography was accepted as an art, it is interesting to note that several of the worlds greatest painters used early precursors to the camera (Jan Van Meer and the camera lucida) for the proper perspective.
Perhaps most interesting is the vitriol used by the early critics as well as some of film based imagers that have been used against photography and digital photography in specific. But before I digress into that 7th level of hell, I would like to explore some of the history of photography as it relates to becoming an art in coming posts.
I’ve been a small business consultant and now am in retirement. I will be leaving my posts in the business categories up, you can still find them buy using the business categories. If your a photographer the posts you are looking for will be in the photography category. If you have a photographic business you might be interested in reading all 500 pages (156 posts) on the topic of business management. This blog will continue to have a few small business posts but most posts will be on the Art of Photography, and so the name change of Photography Art Blog. Here is the link to the Art Photo Gallery Website.
My photography blog has as its focus (pun intended) the art of photography and how it relates to the other arts as well as to images of my own and others that are what I call “art images”. On my Photo Gallery website you will find a page that discusses my equipment and why I have and use it. My belief is that almost any camera made today can be used for art photography when used with the right software (which is covered on the equipment page).