My Leaf project led me to experiment with a number of ways of presenting the leaves of Autumn. One of those ways involved applying a background wash of mud to a white panel and layering leaves onto that panel. Below is perhaps my best attempt at this involving Oak leaves that had spent a few days marinating in a bucket of water. They glistened rather nicely.
As I started to clear things up, including the muddied white panel – which once upon a time was a shelf in a flat-pack wardrobe – I paused to look at the splatter of mud , and an idea formed. What would the panel look like thoroughly plastered with mud?
There was only one way to find out. So I layered the mud on thick and fast with bold strokes of a paintbrush. It only took a minute, and I liked the dynamic swirl of brush strokes. I had just created a small item of abstract art with the most basic of materials. So I then did what any photographer might do – I photographed it (see top). I promise you I was stone cold sober at the time.
So, what exactly have I created? Is it art? is it a photograph? Allow me to digress for a moment.
I, along with many of you reading this, will have photographed Grafitti, or Art installations, sculptures, stained glass windows etc. I do it because I enjoy the challenge of recording something that someone has created, and which has given me pleasure. And having captured it digitally I may post it on this blog, attributing it (if I can) to the artist. In so doing I am bringing that art to the attention of others. Those photographs fall into the category of Record Photography: they are a record of someone else’s work.
Try entering one of those images in a camera club competition and the judge will very likely make a comment along the lines of – who should take credit for this image, the creator of the Art or the photographer who has simply photographed it? Such images don’t often attract a good score.
I understand that thinking but it has the potential to be the thin end of a very long wedge. For example (and I’m playing the Devil’s advocate here), how might we judge photography of modern architecture? Who takes the lion’s share of credit there – the Architect who designed it or the Photographer? One way to answer that is to decide if the photographer has produced simply a record of that building or whether he has created an image that is pictorial. [‘Pictorial’ is almost impossible to define except that it describes the treatment of a subject rather than the subject matter itself].
So, to return to my experiment with mud. I wonder what a judge would make of it. It’s a record shot of monochromatic swirls. He probably won’t even know how, or with what, those swirls were created. But actually does that really matter? And would he judge it differently if he knew that the exhibitor was not only the photographer but also the creator? Would he think it a valid ‘image’? And to complicate our thinking further, the ‘art’ I created was transitory – it was wiped away within five minutes. Does that sound a little like the social media platform where images can be made to disappear after ten seconds?
It’s art of a sort. And a record was taken of that feat with a digital camera and that image has been processed – in two ways, see below for version 2 – and could now be printed (in fact it already has been). The acid test perhaps is to enter it into a future club competition and see what a judge makes of it. I intend doing that in 2018 and I will let you know what happens. Your comments as always will be welcome.