Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hi. I'm a thingist.

I struggle so often to get the words out... "I'm a photographer."

I do say them, however, because saying, "I am an artist," when folks ask me what I do other than raise my son, is fraught with so much baggage that it's ultimately meaningless or disparaging in some cases.

The word "Art" seems to be applied so liberally that it's like saying "thing".

I'm a thingist. Yeah.  Ok.

Cloud is her name. © 2011 Blue Algae Creative

But saying I'm a photographer seems slightly inaccurate too. I use a camera to capture images and those images are used to produce my art. Photoshop is also a primary tool.

Does using a camera automatically make me a photographer? If that is the case then wouldn't anyone who ever snapped a photo be a photographer? (This is the artist debate all over again) If anyone who ever snapped a photo is a photographer then calling the likes of Dorothea Lang, and Edward Weston photographers be meaningless, just like calling Andrew Wyth, Jasper Johns, and Georgia O'Keefe mere artists can see to dilute thier stature (particularly when we feel free to call our very competent mechanic or dentist an artist)?

 If I make art using a camera does that make me a photographer? Does it matter that my images are much more dependent on the work I do in photoshop than what I do with a camera? And regardless of whether what I produce is art (a question without an answer in my opinion), when is anyone a photographer? How good do you need to be? And if you need to be xyz good, how do you know if you are that good.

All of this comes from the fact that I admire so many photographers out there, and realize that I feel guilt when I proclaim to those I'm just meeting that I too am in their company. I'm not. What I do with the camera is something entirely different. I'd like to be like them someday, but that is a long road forward and I'll be lucky to have enough life left (let alone talent) to even get close. But that's a whole other debate I won't subject you to. 

As I have faced these questions, over the last several months, it has dawned on me that I want to be a better photographer, pure and simple. I want to be better at the bare bones of shooting with my camera the images I wish to capture, and not relying on photoshop to do all of the work. Hence, the online class and a studio light workshop I took locally a couple of weeks ago. 

I'm really not a technical person at all, and maybe that's why I've shied away from really getting to know my camera. But the time for assuming I can't learn this stuff is over. I've danced around the periphery of "photography" too long. It's time I embrace it with my whole heart and knock down the self imposed mystic. And so I am.


Jennifer Stotz Murphy said...

I vote for a new hybrid word, like artographer.

Ryan said...

You are what you do. Plain and simple. I think what separates artists and photographers from those that are not, are that artists and photographers don't care what others think about what they do. They just do it. And then they are. You make beautiful work, embrace that and realize that is what you do. No need to waste the energy caring what someone that isn't a maker thinks.

Rachel said...

Jennifer : Nice. I like it. Or how about digiartographerist. Imagine the looks I'd get if I started calling myself that. It actually might be a rather fun experiment.

Rachel said...

Ryan : Ahhh... but see, that is just the thing. I do care what people think, and deeply. That is, I care what their reaction is to my work after it's completed. When I'm making, it's all about filling an innate sense of rightness that may be completely and totally unique to me. But, after that, once my participation is past, it's ALL about what others think. If it wasn't, I'd never share my work with anyone.

But I do get your point. My angst about who I am and what my status is as an artist is silly at times. And, ultimately, it doesn't matter, I agree. I think I'm just trying to understand how to welcome people into my art, how to include others in that part of my world, and how to handle it when they say "no thanks". I never know what to do with that.. what to do with the feelings that come with it... and how to divorce it from an attempt of objectively assessing my abilities.

You always need other eyes to help you see what you create, because we see what we intended when we look at our own art, whether it's there or not. It's other's eyes and voices that help you to see what you have actually created. Like proof reading in a sense. So, I find it such a struggle to get that feedback (usually ambiguous and murky) and then not incorporate it into my sense of self as an artist.

Angst... I tell ya... I got it to spare.