Photoartistry at a Gallery Near You
ALERT, ALERT: Photoartistry will be gate-crashing a gallery near you soon, very soon. Photoartistry is a new form of art and is emerging, up to now, drawing virtually no attention to itself. With a few notable exceptions, photoartistry is shunned by purist photographers for ignoring the classic rules of photography, and yet it is shunned by many others for using photography at its core rather than paint. Nevertheless, a dedicated cadre of artists around the world is creating the most amazing body of work, ranging from the whimsical to the terrifying, from the impressionistic to the ultra-realistic. And all of these artists have two things in common: much of their work is based on photographs and all of it has been digitally manipulated in its creation.
Of course, people have been using Photoshop and other photo-editing software to enhance images since the dawn of time (actually Photoshop came out in 1990 – it just seems that long) and there are many, many fine practitioners who create composites, often commercially and others who use software to improve on their classic photographic output, just as photographers in the old days, such as Ansel Adams, used a variety of tools in wet darkrooms. But photoartistry as a discipline in its own right is growing in energy and the tsunami that is building around the globe is quite literally going to crash in to a gallery near you soon!
Some artists are already exhibiting in galleries, but really no more than a tiny proportion of those who have embarked on this new genre of work. Currently photoartistry is just coming to the simmer and is bubbling through the internet, on Facebook, in websites, in dedicated training groups, and photoartists everywhere are creating the most extraordinary work. Just look at “Living the Photo Artistic Life” the online magazine, edited by Sebastian Michaels, one of the pillars of the photoartistry community. Michaels has provided training to literally thousands of individuals who up to recently have felt constrained by their existing photographic or artistic lives.
Many of us seemingly had cameras implanted in our limbs since early childhood: I myself had my first camera at the age of five. A friend recently asked whether I ever put my camera down. My response: why would I do that? But as photographers, from all around the world, we have been feeling frustrated by the norms that traditional photographers seem to want to impose on us, and we are now breaking free of those limitations, able finally to create with passion in a style that suits our personal artistic ambitions. There are no rules: we are exploring through a whole new Wild West of art, clearing paths to anywhere that we want to go, whether it is photorealistic unicorns or new perspectives on sights we have all seen. The excitement in Michaels’ online groups is palpable.
And many of us are now ready to launch our work on this unsuspecting world. But why should you pay any attention at all? After all, isn’t there enough art work out there? And surely there are more photographs than you could ever shake a stick at.
A quick Google search will tell you that an estimated 1.2 trillion photographs were taken in 2017. Also, Google will tell you that there were approximately 2.1 billion smartphones held by the world’s population of 7.6 billion people. Guessing that most people who own a camera also own a smartphone (but not necessarily vice versa of course), that means that they each took an average of in the region of 550 to 600 photographs. Of course, this is only a very rough average with heroic assumptions: but I know that I personally took something like 18,000 photographs this year on my main camera and maybe another 1,000 on my iPhone.
And so therefore photography is ubiquitous: it is available to almost 30% of the world’s population. So how on earth can something that is so mundane, so available, so “just there” be art? And yet something like 15 to 20 billion pencils are made each year: an average of about 2.5 pencils per person in the world. And nobody questions that pencils can be used for creating art.
And perhaps that is the point: in some sense art needs to be created. Who cares whether the starting point is a pencil or a camera? Well actually, according to many gallery owners, the public does care. Forget the fact that the highest ever paid for a work of art was something like $106m (Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was sold by Christie’s in 2010) and the most paid for a photograph was $6.5m according to Peter Lik. But the kind of art that you or I might like to hang on a wall is unlikely to be a photograph, because, according to gallery owners, people like to think that a work of art should be a one-off and not reproducible.
This is of course strange because many, many galleries will sell you limited edition prints of works by artists like Jack Vetriano (there is a Vetriano print in a gallery local to me right now, which is one of 275 prints). And many, many sculptures come in limited editions with ten, twenty or more bronzes being cast. The economics are such that an artist can in many cases only both be affordable and make enough money to live if they reduce the average sales price by increasing the number of copies available for sale.
So, we can put the issue of reproducible art to bed (because most of the art sold today IS in limited editions) and let’s get back to that issue of “creating” a work of art. In just the same way that a sculptor might start with clay, or a piece of marble, or a painter might start with paints and a canvas, we start with photographs: whole photographs, parts of photographs and we mould them into the shape we want. We craft the light, we shape the shadows, we invent whole new worlds, all created from photographs and using the tools of our art.
Innovation in any field is often resisted by existing practitioners. We only have to look at the Salon des Refusés where the Impressionists exhibited in the 19th Century to see the inward-looking nature of the art establishment. In many senses while everything has changed, nothing has changed. Who can say that given the opportunity Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo or Rembrandt wouldn’t have used today’s techniques, had they existed?
My call to action: go out and find photoartists near you. Find out what they are doing. Find those that give you cause to question your prejudices. Those who create images that speak to you. Those that resonate with you and your life. Discover those that give you joy. And buy their work.
Keywords: art gallery, digital artist, photo artistic, photoartistic, photoartistry, photographer, photography