Art Photographer

Here’s what I think: I think an art photographer is a photographer with an opinion.

An opinion about which of their photographs can truly stand as one of theirs, and about how the photograph ought to look.

—The Online Photographer:
The Difference Between
a Photographer and an Artist

This was a great post. I don’t agree with all of it. But it’s all worth thinking about and my response is way more than what would fit into a comment dialog.

First, the point about having an opinion. 100% agree. What are you photographing? Why is it interesting to you? How can you make the image be about what you’re interested in? And that’s all in the pre-exposure phase. Too many people take photos of things just because they think they’re supposed to photograph them. Many of them even learned all the other rules of composition and exposure and take perfectly nice photos. But there’s often something missing.

This is how people get sucked into the equipment acquisition spiral. They conclude that they “need” a better/wider/faster lens/camera/etc. instead of thinking about why they’re not satisfied with their images. Even if the goal is technically competent pictures of pretty things* many many people sense that their images are missing something. And that something is quite often the point of view of what is actually interesting.

*That group is a bit of an in-joke which references a much-older discussion. As easy as it is to knock this type of photography, we all do it. A lot.

Having an opinion is what distinguishes between artists and artisans. Artisans can’t choose between multiple technically-good images. Artists are looking to make a point.

Mike’s second point about editing is one I don’t agree with fully. In terms of presenting yourself? Absolutely agree. In terms of presenting other artists? It depends.

But even in presenting myself, I don’t fully agree. I should edit more. A lot more. But I also know that I’m a crap editor of my own work and I really enjoy the raw feedback from contacts on flickr, etc. I also know that only after I’ve had stuff posted for years do I see the patterns emerge. If I photograph in a zen state of mind, the results appear to approximate pu.

You’re damn right that pun was intentional.

With presenting other photographers? It really does depend. I hate the idea of displaying art objects as collect-them-all specimens. This does a disservice to both the object and the artist. But at the same time, if the not-good work is presented as context to help illuminate the way the artist worked or to show experiments which didn’t work out right? I’m fine with that. I love seeing contact sheets and process. If anything, seeing how the great artists edit, or are edited,* should help me become a better editor as well.

*Since, to me, it doesn’t matter who does the editing.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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