As I led my gaggle of photowalkers into yet another open house on the Saltaire Arts Trail I was met by a display of framed photos along with the photographer who welcomed us warmly. “Are you the artist?” I asked. “No,” he replied “I’m not an artist, I’m a photographer.”
So is photography art? Certainly the organisers of the arts trail think so, otherwise it would be the Saltaire Arts and Photography-Which-Isn’t-Art Trail, but a couple of other photographers said the same. Their work was displayed next to paintings, sculptures, textiles and other arty stuff, but they didn’t consider it art.
What did they think their work was, then? Well, photographs, records, images, representations of something seen. And what about art? What makes art art? Imagination? Skill with tools and media? Twiddly bits and texture? A place in a gallery? A price tag?
A quick Googlification reveals I’m certainly not alone in asking these questions. Different definitions of art based on how it’s produced kick photography into touch as an art form because it’s not original, it goes through processes out of the hands of the photographer. Others say the interpretation and vision alone make photography an art form. I’d be very happy to take this further with a PhD thesis, but in the meantime, I’ll reserve judgement. (Any sponsorship for said research welcome!)
There were 20 or so people who turned up for the Photowalk, many not quite sure what to expect. After doing a totally out-of-character shouty announcement in the Victoria Hall, scaring small children and a few napping stallholders at the craft fair in the process, they knew what to do: walk, take photos, have fun. They did – see the results on Flickr here