We are surrealists, impressionists, abstractists, watercolorists, cartoonists, illustrators, artists of photography

Don’t look for a button

on a paintbrush

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(Companion piece to “5 Stories”. Overlap warning.)


 


All photography, art, and commentary, Jessie Carveth, 2017-18.


 1. Everyone became a photographer. Technology advancement, the evolution from snapshot to photo art happened at lightning speed, forcing professionals and other photography critics to devise ways to continue presenting themselves as superior.

What makes the new photography notable, secondarily, is photo editing, (or filtering or photoshopping), technology advancing at lightning speed. Filtering programs quickly became sophisticated but easy and popular.

Not only did everyone in the world become photographers, but artists of photography at the same time.


My unfounded definition of “surreal” is so broad and simplistic (sur-real), it includes impressionistic, abstract, dada, modern, expressionistic, pop–any tampering that leads away from the original, unfiltered capture.

If you think about it, we are all now artists, impressionists, abstractists, surrealists, if we alter an original camera capture.

A lot of it is horrible (Snapchat monkey masks, for example). A lot of well-renowned, allegedly dazzling photography (for example, children burned and scarred in war) is horrible. Both awful.

Fortunately, photography is the most generous art form. Anyone can do it. Push a button on a machine. Document napalm. Don’t listen to critics. They don’t have a leg to stand on.


 

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Image editing programs wrenched serious photography from the members-only darkrooms, galleries, and pros’ magazines.

Making art from a camera capture requires care, some attention, obviously interest, but not talent.

Realism (unfiltered), no matter how expensive and fancy the equipment, how superb the symmetry, the dark/light contrast, focal point, etc., is only as good as the subject is appealing.

Filtering and editing are different. Easy as it is, filtering involves artistry. Getting a snapshot doesn’t.

Editing can transform uninteresting subjects (mountains? flowers? what leaves you cold?) into compelling images.


 2. We used to shoot casually.

To share on social and other forms of media, photographers (people) have to pass through a warehouse of filtering options and if these options are made use of, art is created.

It isn’t easy being a pretentious art critic , especially the teacherly type who isn’t needed anymore.

So many people became really good photographers in such a short amount of time.

The arbiters of real vs. amateur, who try resisting the apps for the masses, have ingenious ways to insist they still own photography, though they gave in to filtering, editing, digital, color, and photoshop.

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3. Research.

One year. A sample of people taking pictures, not identifying as professionals, who started sharing their photography on social media at least once a week (not only on vacation, for example) were tracked.

The improvement in picture quality after a short period of time was dramatic. Most became careful for the first time, eyes opened, interested in a more serious level of picture production.

That wasn’t the surprise.

The surprise was that within a year it was difficult to tell the difference between the work of those who identify as professionals, and everyone else.

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All photography and art by Jessie Carveth, 2017

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4. Last

I happened to be closely involved for a year in activity leading up to a particular wedding, which allowed great research opportunities on the state of photography today. Without a photography research opportunity, I might have gone underground and disappeared that year, it was a reminder of the disadvantages of being a good parent.


 

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The Research

A still photographer was hired.

A videographer was hired.

All the friends and family took pictures, too, a ton.

The couple took pictures.

There was film. There was digital. There were zoom lenses on Leicas, and smartphones, tripods.

Unless you define “quality” as “amount of money spent on equipment”, the wedding pictures taken and edited by brothers, in-laws, friends, strangers on the street passing by were as beautiful as those taken by the hired professionals.

Or they weren’t good, but in equal amount to the not good ones taken by the pros.

This is not an exaggeration. Afterwards, looking at mountains of pictures,  no one had any idea who took what, Fancy Old Guy Professional Wedding Photographer, or Hipster Videography Art Weddings & Video Stills, or Ryan, Aunt May, little Callum, Jr. who got great, looking-up shots.

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