snapshots # 1-5 ~ the art of

from my parent's trip to Yellowstone

This entry is instigated by this entry by Doug Stockdale on his blog. You may want to read it first. My entry is my thoughts on Stockdale's quandry as articulated in his entry.

I have always been fascinated by "vintage" snapshots, both as found in my family's archive and those as found (and purchased) in curiosity shops. My fascination has also driven me to acquire the hardbound book The Art of the American Snapshot ~ 1888-1978 which was the catalog of the 2007 exhibition (of the same name) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The book's inside cover states:

... The Publication shows that among the countless snapshots taken by American amateurs, some works, through intention or accident, continue to resonate long after their intimate context and original meaning have been lost....

My thoughts exactly. And the book also makes an interesting case regarding that the snapshot "has also changed the history of fine art photography by the manner of its "distinctive subject matter and visual vocabulary". The book has 294 pages and is illustrated with 250 snapshots drawn from Robert Jackson's outstanding collection.

A CliffNotes version of Stockdales entry regarding whether he is an artist or a photographer stems from his creation and publication of a book of snapshots drawn from his family archive which is being rejected as a "photography" book inasuch as he did not make the pictures. Stockdale, who has published books of his straight photography, in this case considers the book to be his art. Hence, he been "accused" of being an artist, not a photographer.

iMo, although Stockdale doesn't state it in his entry, his am-I-an-artist-or-a-photographer? quandry is compounded by the fact that he is experimenting with applying effects to his original photography in order to "change the feeling" of the original picture. A practice which certainly not straight photography but much more of a Pictorialist approach.

All of that written, here's my take on it ...

A photographer is an artist who practices and employs the art of seeing in the cause of picturing the world as it is (inasmuch as the medium and its apparatus allow).

An artist who uses photography is generally regarded to be someone who employs some aspect of the photographic process in the making of a piece of artwork. In most cases, much like Stockdale's pictures with effects, the artwork is not intented to depict the world as it is but rather to create a piece of artwork which evinces the "hand of the artist".

When it comes to Stockdale's book of snapshots, iMo, he is neither a photographer nor an artist who uses photography. More than anything, he seems to be an artistic curator of photographic archives / artistic photographic archivist or some such nomenclature.

While Stockdale is bringing his photographer's eye and sensibilities to the editing and sequencing of his snapshot material, he is not, iMo, acting as a photographer nor as an artist who uses photography. One might even suggest that he is not making art at all but rather that he is practicing the craft of booking making. Although, iMo, there is an art to doing that.