When Photography Crosses Into Art

Photography is sometimes art and art sometimes uses photography. But what is the determining factor?

The answer is that photography is art when it mirrors contemporary art concerns. So just what do I mean by that? Well tough as it might sound, contemporary art moved beyond just being beautiful or representational back with surrealism, futurism, and all the other ‘isms’ of the modern age. Now of course we are past modern art and into post-modern and post-post-modern. But a common thread in all the modern+ art movements has been to move beyond beauty and representation. What matters is meaning, having something to say, going beyond appearance to some deeper levels.

An image from my Time and Space series

Now that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with beauty and representation. In fact contemporary art practice would certainly be all the better for some interest in beauty (IMHO). But it does mean that a work that is mostly concerned with beauty and representation is not contemporary in an art sense.

Another characteristic of contemporary art practice is a lack of interest in process. It doesn’t matter how you do something, all that matters is the final result and the meaning conveyed by it. This is another problem for a lot of photography to get past – much photography has an overwhelming concern with process. This is perhaps exemplified most by the alternate process people – those using gum bichromate or gumoil or some other long surpassed process. These processes appeal because of the beauty of the resulting prints and perhaps a sense of nostalgia for the believed simplicities of the past.

And I have to say that the absurdity of much of this alternate process work should be obvious to all. Not only can the look of most of them be reproduced quite well using the latest inkjets but so much emphasis is put on wonderful papers that are then matted and hidden behind glass for exhibition so it can never be really appreciated. It is what I would call process masturbation at its worse.

Does that mean that I would argue that you should not make beautiful images? No, of course not. Just don’t think you are making contemporary art necessarily. I make two completely different types of images – my contemporary art work which does not have a primary aim of beauty (though I do aim to make it so) and my landscape photography work, which is primarily produced to be beautiful but that I don’t fool myself is art.

This is what it all comes down to – what pleases you and what your priorities are. But don’t fool yourself that it is more than it is.

artCircles App for iPad from Art.com and Hot Studio Named App of the Week

SAN FRANCISCO, June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — artCircles, the first iPad app released by Art.com, the world’s largest online retailer of posters, prints, and framed art, was recently named the iTunes App Store’s “App of the Week.” Conceived, designed, built, and branded in collaboration with Hot Studio, an award-winning experience design company, artCircles represents a new and highly engaging way for people to discover and interact with images hand curated from Art.com’s massive collection.

Experience lies at the heart of the free artCircles app. Designed exclusively with the iPad in mind, artCircles leverages the iPad’s high-resolution display and touchscreen capabilities to provide a unique and innately engrossing art-viewing experience. Anchored by a clever user interface (literally comprised of interrelated circles), the app enables easy discovery, discussion, and sharing. Deep social integration lets users share their favorite works of art with friends, while a Curators circle features hand selected collections from creative leaders like John Maeda and Yves Behar.
Setting goals that included thinking big and bold, the team from Hot Studio leveraged its collective experience on past award-winning apps, like Zinio’s iPad magazine reader, to help create a highly interactive, visually stunning application. Hot Studio’s visual designers, user experience architects, and technical engineers worked in lockstep throughout the process to design and build an app that fundamentally changed how people could experience Art.com’s image collection. Hot collaborated with Art.com on the app’s concept and strategy, user experience and interface design, engineering and integration, as well as the naming and visual identity.

“Congratulations to everyone at Art.com,” says Rajan Dev, Hot Studio’s President. “artCircles leverages Art.com’s great catalogue of images in a new way and we’re so happy that the app has been so well received.

Be sure to check out the app yourself, and download it from iTunes.

About Art.com, Inc.
With more than 12 million customers in 120 countries worldwide, Art.com Inc. is the world’s largest online specialty retailer of high-quality wall art. The company was founded in 1998 with one goal — to help people find the art they love so they can love their spaces more. Art.com Inc. runs three sites in the USA — Art.com, AllPosters.com and ArtistRising.com — and has a strong international presence with 25 local sites in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and South America. The company offers custom framing and specialty printing, interactive visualization tools to help people find the perfect piece of art for their space and an app for iPad called artCircles, that lets users explore art from a hand-picked selection of curated collections. Art.com, Inc. is a privately held company headquartered in Emeryville, CA, with other facilities in Ohio, North Carolina and the Netherlands. “Art.com” and “artCircles” are trademarks of Art.com, Inc. For more information, visit www.art.com.

About Hot Studio
Envisioning, designing, and deploying innovative experiences since 1997, Hot Studio is an award-winning experience design company with offices in San Francisco and New York City. Dedicated to creating elegant solutions for complex design challenges, we collaborate with business leaders, community organizations, and emerging companies to create breakthrough products and services that have global reach and local impact. For more information visit www.hotstudio.com.

Copyright and the Artist in a Digital Age

Let’s be honest, copyright is a complete mess. There are differences in law from country to country and, in a day when putting an image on Facebook or your blog makes it vulnerable to attack under any copyright jurisdiction in the world, the risks are considerable.

The largest problem for artists is that techniques and approaches that they have grown up with do not apply in the digital. So I can legally take a magazine, cut out a photo and glue it onto a canvas to make a physical collage, but if I copy the same image off the magazine’s website and paste it into Photoshop I have breached copyright if I publish the result. It makes no sense, but unfortunately that is not a defence under the law.

Until the law catches up with the realities of the modern world we all need to be careful.

So what do I do when I need source images that I do not have in my own image library? Well, I do one of three things:

  • Buy them from a stock library, like iStockPhoto for a few dollars
  • Go out and shoot them myself
  • Google for open source or public domain images

My own image library is, of course, large. But it doesn’t cover everything. I have supplemented that with a number of collections of images on CD and DVD that I have bought the right to use. But what about when I can’t find what I want there either?

My preferred solution is iStockPhoto and the other micro stock libraries. I know I have the right to use and I have supported another artist in their activities. Everyone wins. This is the approach I use in designing book covers and also occasionally in artwork, though in my own artwork I prefer the integrity of using all my own imagery if at all possible.

Googling for open source, free or public domain images can be tricky. When you Google, what Google is doing is looking for pages where all those words occur. That means the words public and domain may occur on a page but not mean that the images are explicitly released into the public domain. To stand a better chance you need to enclose the phrases in quotes, as in “public domain’ or “open source” so that Google will only return pages where these expressions occur as is. Still what you then need to do is to then check the page the image occurs on to see if there is an explicit statement that the images are public domain.

Many government agencies make images available for use, such as US Government agencies like NASA. But you should always check the terms and conditions of use on the websites. They will be there somewhere.

In education it is common to take a more relaxed view over copyright when allowing students to experiment and develop experience and techniques. Note that while there are general exemptions under copyright law for educational uses, it is a grey area when it comes to then putting such images up on the Internet, which is effectively publishing. So students should be careful about publishing assignment work to Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. While it may be acceptable to a teacher for a particular purpose, like a skill building exercise, that does not make it legal.

Photographers protect their work in many ways. There are encoding techniques that embed within an image traceable information that is capable for surviving extensive cropping and modification in Photoshop. This is a very effective way of identifying images on the net that have incorporated your work. Many professional photographers do this and it makes sense when your living is your images.

There is also the danger of urban myths. The main one relevant here is the idea that you can use a certain percentage of an image. This is just plain wrong. There is no percentage use figure in copyright law regarding images.

A complication is that copyright laws are constantly changing. Not only is there the general copyright law, which differs from country to country although there is general agreement on some aspects, as agreed by international conventions. Individual countries are also active with special legislation that covers certain areas of copyright. The US in particular is one country that has special digital laws and one where new laws are being proposed frequently in response to lobbying be areas of industry with particular interests.

All the above makes it a nightmare for digital artists. My advice is to be very conservative.

As is obvious, I am not a lawyer and this article does not constitute or substitute for legal advise. Seek the advice of a lawyer over your particular circumstances.

 

LoFi Gallery in London Call for Submissions For Their Opening Exhibition

LFG call for submissions

Are you a LoFi Fool?

iPhone photography by Wayne J. Cosshall

A brand new London gallery is looking for the best and most interesting images taken with LoFi cameras – that’s Holga, Lomo, Polaroid, Diana and iPhone – to display in their inaugural exhibition in August.

It doesn’t matter if you’re amateur or professional, young or old. If you have a catalogue of work or a single great image. We care about good pictures. Any selected photos will be featured on the online gallery, with a smaller collection featured in the gallery space itself.

All work featured will be on sale to the general public, and cash prizes will be awarded at the inaugural exhibition for the most interesting photographs in three categories.

If you have some great LoFi pictures, email [email protected] for details on how to apply.

Entry fees may be applicable.

Google’s Art Project

Google has launched its Art Project, an ambitious project to bring the art works of the world’s galleries and museums onto the web in deep zoomable, detailed form.

Currently Art Project has work from the following institutions on show:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC – USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC – USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC – USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC – USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid – Spain
  • Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid – Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague – Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London – UK
  • Palace of Versailles – France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg – Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow – Russia
  • Tate Britain, London – UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence – Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands

Each of those has chosen to show some galleries and some works. So this is a work in progress.

As a tool for art students, photographers (who can learn a lot from painting) and more this is a wonderful tool that will become more useful over time. While nothing is the same as standing in one of these great institutions and examining the work in person, this is a really amazing alternative.

The level of detail in some of these artworks is truly amazing.

http://www.googleartproject.com/