I create fine-art photographs by using my ideas about the subject, using my artistic vision. The pictures of famous artist such as Joel Tjintjelaar, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn triggered my latent sense of creativity a couple of years ago. I wrote Joel and asked him if he could teach me to ‘create’ fine-art pictures. Fortunately, he accepted me as a student. It turned out to be a fantastic journey but also an interesting quest for answers to ‘simple and basic’ questions.
The mentorship started in January 2014 with the most straightforward part during the first weeks: technical and post-processing skills. It was a prominent and specific part, liked it a lot and it was instantly showing significant improvements, technically speaking. That moment I wanted to show ‘the community’ my work and was greedy to get a lot of likes on Facebook. Let us be honest everyone wants his work/creation to be liked, right? Nowadays my intention is different: in the first place, I have to love and agree with my work. And of course, it is very pleasing when others do like my images as well. However, it is not a matter of the more Facebook likes, the better my work. It took me a while to believe that!
Later during the mentorship, Joel asked me to think and tell about my favorite photographers, painters and the what / the why (when I compare my choices at the start with those of today, they are entirely different). It was the first time I faced the discussion on ‘artistic vision’. Still, even after four years of frequent and intense conversations with Joel, it is an intriguing but very complex and delicate subject.
Confusion about artistic vision and visual style
It is remarkable that artistic vision has so little attention in the Fine Art photography community on the internet. There are just a few who are interested and also are willing to talk or write about it. I am convinced that most photographers do not intend to take a break, to set their minds at rest and do some introspection and self-reflection about ‘their work’, about why and what. Be honest; there is a lot of copy-paste of visual styles without any intrinsic drive and emotion in that particular creation. Every time (it is not frequently) I visit Facebook or photo websites, I am surprised how many images some colleagues are producing per day, per week. Astonishing: how do they do it and why and what are they doing? I wonder how many photographers take it seriously to reveal themselves and take time for self-reflection. When watching hundreds of photos on Facebook and other places on the internet, there are so many identical images, in my opinion, a lack of genuine artistic vision. No offense but there are a dime a dozen photos. It seems that people like to ‘create trendy styles’ and be sure to ‘collect as many likes as you can’ atmosphere. The higher rated, the better the fine art!? Are these identical creations a result of a kind of ‘crowd artistic vision’ or ‘universal artistic vision’?
As you probably noticed, I struggled with focussing on ‘me’ and my way of creating fine art, the realization of a photograph with a message from the ‘inner me’. And of course, I use and implement styles and techniques ‘invented’, ‘extended’ or ‘fine-tuned’ by others. For example, Rembrandt applied chiaroscuro to his work because he observed this in Caravaggio’s paintings. Then he extended and fine-tuned this technique on top of a completely different and specific vision compared to Caravaggio’s vision.
Artistic vision is personal and unique
Since I am a novice in the world of ‘Fine Art’, it might look conceited, perky to write about such a complex, complicated and controversial subject. The fact that I encounter this subject as a novice, it might bring new and fresh thoughts, ideas and perhaps answers. Artistic vision is a simple word but with an immense amount of intrinsic implication and burden. Can one be a creator of Fine Art (photographer, painter etc.) without a vision? I don’t think so although we know that many Art Movements exist, e.g. Impressionism, Modernism, Cubism and Pop Art. And all of these movements have certain characteristics with a ‘general vision’. Looking closer to the individual within the movement, there is a personal and intrinsic emotional expression. For example, Cubists such as George Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Juan Gris conveyed and incorporated their vision in the Cubistic visual style. And I do believe that vision is per definition personal and unique, intrinsic to the artist.
Nowadays, I ‘m still exploring my personality, character, my way of thinking, my perception of ‘the world’. It is a constant challenge to elucidate why I like the masterpieces of Tjintjelaar, Gospodarou, Avedon, Newman, Karsh, Burtynsky, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Picasso, and others. Probably an equally interesting question is why I am not attracted to a lot of art (paintings, photographs etc.)… Nowadays when I am going for a photo shoot, I am prepared, more aware and more comprehensively informed about the subject, the way I am going to capture it so I can convey my emotions and experience of ‘the’ world.
I ask questions to myself about why this subject, how to convey a mixture of emotional (time-related) experiences and the (present) state of light and shadows so the viewer may feel my intentions and emotions. It is also a matter of making a statement. This statement does not mean that it has to be related to social-economic, political or environmental issues. For instance, when I capture a cityscape, I try to state the relativity of life in time and space. I am fascinated by people, how important things are for the individual…how relative frail importance is regarding time (‘existence’) and space (‘location’).
Dear allies, I hope that this essay points out the confusion and delusion of artistic vision. There is a fundamental difference between artistic vision and visual style (and beyond). Artistic vision has to do with emotions, personality, introspection, self-reflection while visual style is the way to transform this into a photograph. So, dare to leave the convenience of applying the visual style of successful fine art photographers. Take a breath; it is time for introspection, self-reflection, and emotions! Dare to elucidate and demonstrate your artistic vision. The result will be unique and beautiful art to be proud of created by yourself!