Having more options does not mean you no longer have the obligation to make a choice. What it means is that choice becomes even more important to make. Just because you can convert an image into B&W in your computer, it does not follow that you should be exhibiting it in both B&W and color. It still means that you should be making the choice between which works best for that image. In the dinosaur days you would choose ahead of time whether you shot it in color or B&W film. You still need to make that choice. Only now you get to do it after taking the shot. That is the only difference.
Seeing in Black and White
This lesson is especially important if you are an equine photographer and you are hoping to take your work beyond the commercial and into Fine Art. So take note! There are four image subject matter that have been done to death. All of them make for lovely greeting cards, calenders and posters to be sold to pre-teen horse obsessed girls. But if you are thinking of entering your work in a Fine Art competition or heading with it to a substantial gallery, you had better be sure that your rendition of these are so very different than everything everyone else has done. They'd better be remarkable!
1 - Eye Shots. Yes, we know how beautiful and liquid a horses eye is. We know how they can reflect the landscape if shot just right. We know that they are the "windows to the soul". We have even seen more than enough shots with that as the title.
2 - Mare and Foal Shots also grouped with Foal in Field of Flowers - The "awww" factor aside, I have rarely seen one that is truly more than cute. And cute - a fine art photo does not make.
3 - Cowboy Silhouette with Sunset - I can hear the theme song to Bonanza in my head....but I have rarely if ever thought "art" when seeing one of these. The newest addition to the cliche category comes right from the headlines. And I am wholly supportive of all of the wonderful photographers who are using their images to influence the anti-Wild horse roundup efforts. But......
4 - Wild Horses Running Free or Wild Stallions Fighting or the ubiquitous Wild Horse with Blowing Mane shot does not automatically make it a Fine Art image! Good politics aside......you must learn to separate the surface emotion enough from a photograph to understand if it makes for a shot that can stand on it's own without the sentiment of politics. Fierce Grace by Tony Stromberg and many of the shots by Dutesco do....but very few that have been done since. They make for beautiful and important photographs, but they are not art.
Any subject that gets over done, loses it's impact and becomes a huge challenge to those trying to create art from it. That does not mean that it is not possible to do. But it does mean that very, very few will be able to do it in a unique enough way to capture the attention of the savvy Fine Art viewer.
Oh and by the way....my own close-up body shots are getting to cliche status now too with the incredible number of photographers now doing their own version of them. So as you might expect....my own work will have to evolve now. Time to go beyond the cliche and explore the unknown. Who will join me?
Juliet (and my photo above, does not make the cut either. It is just another nice eye shot.)
(thanks to Linda Shantz for this image. www.lindashantz.com )
Just over a year ago, without my knowledge or permission, one of my images was entered into an online amateur photography competition. Low and behold, it came in second place. The entrant received a minimal gift certificate and the image was posted in an online gallery with the entrants name on it as the photographer. A friend of mine saw the competition image gallery and congratulated me on the win. I immediately set about to find out what had happened and what I could do about it. The first thing was that I had to go to the organizers of the competition and prove to them that the image was my own. It took them several weeks to acknowledge that the image was mine and still more weeks before it was taken down off the website. But, because the entrant is a citizen outside my own country, there was very little I could do to insure that he did not do something like that again. The cost of hiring a lawyer to do the research on the International laws was completely prohibitive.
But that is not the point of this blog post. The point is that during the time that I trying to get a resolution and since, it seems that everyone has been very unsure of what the actual laws concerning Intellectual Property rights are in relation to the internet. You hear people saying over and over again, "If it is on the internet, it is free for anyone to use". That is not the case. In fact the last blog post that I wrote about my own experience sparked the following response from one of my readers -
"As a criminal court lawyer (and amateur photographer) I have to say that you really must be kidding, right? Do you really have nothing better to do than to rant about a photo, and a 25$ GC? I understand about copyright infringement, I understand about hurt pride, and 'standing up for rights', but usually these things entail something way more in depth and weighty. I also know from vast years of experience that people do make mistakes and that your argument in court would be laughed off the docket."
So let's clear up some misconceptions - Intellectual property and copyright infringement are serious matters. And we cannot tolerate those that do not comply. There are whole law firms that are now dedicating their practices to the protection of such rights and the resolution of claims made against infringers. The US congress is, as I write this, engaged in studying the policing of such rights for US citizens whose rights are violated by individuals outside the US. The internet explosion has made the question of how to enforce copyright law on a global scale an imperative issue.
As artists, we must all know what our rights are. The following links provide some answers
I continually see work that is used without authorization of Facebook, eBay and elsewhere. It does not matter if the infringer is getting financial compensation for use of the image or not. It is illegal to use the creative work of others without permission of the creator. Remember how our teachers reminded us over and over again not to plagiarize? This unauthorized use of a work of visual art falls into the same legal group. Until we have clear organizations and agencies dedicated to the protection of Intellectual property rights on the World Wide scale, it falls to us, as artist to know our rights and to speak up in the protection of the rights of our fellow artists. As the phrase goes, See something? Say Something!
This word in relation to fine art photography has been on my mind lately. I joined a Facebook group called "Minimalism". The work posted there is all supposed to embody this concept. But really....what is minimalism? My dictionary defines it as "the use of simple, basic design forms". I like that. Simple, basic...uncluttered. I would also think one could add to that definition. That it could also include something that has perhaps a strong single concept or message? I don't know. I need to think on this more. But I like that it has sparked some thought. I know in much of my imagery I have tried to narrow down the primary focus or subject matter. I like it to be clear what my subject is and for it to have a strong impact. So, simplify the object and minimize the distractions from that object. And speak to the viewer in a singular voice. Talk of a singular idea. Minimalism.....food for thought.