Understanding a Photograph (John Berger Essay)*
Part 1—How Photography Differs From the Fine Artist
Here in this first part I decided to compare photography to painting. It is true, I think, of what John Berger states about photography, that it is an image of a thing seen and, that it essentially isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum of time. We see images from photographs everyday, and practically everywhere. It is very easy to get a hold of a camera and take pictures. The everyday photographer sees composition as their primary means of expression. What you capture through the lens makes you unique, that and your subject.
I know several photographers who take pictures and create bodies of work through them, and they usually distinguish themselves as either fine art photographers or commercial. But what really is the difference? Is it because one sees they’re working in the commercial business, or because they want to be shown in galleries some day? Essentially I think it is because one can create meaning far differently through the thinking process in their work, and another sees photography as a fashionable, artistic visual outlet that applies to the everyday or particular consumer.
We don’t see the “true content” of a photographic image, only bits and pieces like “from a play, not with form, but with time.” This act of time can be preserved in a sophisticated act much like a fine artists way of thinking, but essentially the struggle and process is greatly different. To me, and according to Berger “Painting interprets the world, and translates it in its own language, but photography has no language of its own.” All its references are external to the self, whereas a fine art painters’ would be internal.
Part 2—Understanding a Photograph that applies to my own Fine Art in Painting
It takes seeing the world in different ways, artists that is. By finding a process that holds dear to you, be it painting, photography, etc. one can use it to create a vast language that is visible to the viewer. Though mentioned above, this language of photography may be different then a true fine artists’ language. Nonetheless, photography has greatly applied to my work as a fine art painter, but in a conceptual way.
Many times I have observed photographs that I have taken and enjoyed them very much. Once I thought about painting an exact replica of a picture I took, but then someone asked me “why paint it when it’s already so beautiful?” Here I have grown to believe that though photography can be greatly influential to other painters, it must be either for depicting a subject’s form, or through an accompanied concept for which by using the photograph—like in my work now.
I see the external world as something more like a puzzle. Through all the images we see world is full of enjoyment, beauty, and tragedy. As we see images everyday, we are overloaded with information, which I describe as being much like parts to a puzzle. We subconsciously connect to certain images, gain aesthetically pleasing information and the sublime, but where does all the other information go? We are lost, only to search for truth by exploring the real world, but do we ever find it? This is the basis for my current series of work, called Time and Change.