Text and photos by Shaun La.
There is an energy in any given photograph. It could be the loudness, the silence, protest, wealthy, poor, happy, sad, the fashionable or nudity that addresses the onlooker into seeing while feeling the moment. What photography has that the art of painting, music, dance, sculpture, literature & acting does not have is the existence factor that is prevailing no matter what kind of photograph a frame may be categorized under. A photograph that takes on the abstract, let us say that a photograph captures a peeled orange & within the white coverings of this orange, you can see the letter “O” mysteriously shaped into this piece of a fruit. The orange & the “O” does exist. With photography, it does not sit on the same coasting zone that an abstract painting or sculpture could travel into, while the artist of either piece could say that the start of their creation is inside of their mind; furthermore, an abstract painting or sculpture could be a fantasy that does not have a physical location to track its creative inception. Yet, if you wanted to take a field trip to this proving thought from a painter or sculpture, you would not be able to visit its birthplace, because again, it is in their mind. Painters, sculptures, music composers & writers can always offer the world a piece of art, but they can also claimed that it is unfinished. A photograph is finished once that moment is captured by the pressing down of a shutter button.
Photography is from the moment, and it is a location that can be viewed, even if it is an old location where the buildings were deconstructed—the foundation of the ground is a physical existence. The high-fashion magazine photography sessions that uses conceptualization as a way to make a cover spread a fantasy has physical sets that were built. There are clothes, makeup & hair artists, studio lights, & while their concept is a fantasy, the location does exist. The storyboards for the set may be a path that explains what they are looking for visually, but nobody knows what the next moment will consist of, this is why photography has this factor that the unknown can be introduced to the lens, despite the notion that the highest level of professional preparations for a high-fashion magazine photography session is a cushion for contrived commercialism, the moment is what they all want.
Of course, the moment is not only conceptual. It is actually boundless. Every photograph has various degrees of the moment within it. Henri Cartier-Bresson (Decisive Moment), believed in being instinctively ready to see the moment. For Ansel Adams (Visualization), it was all about calculating the possibility of seeing the photograph within your mind, & giving strict attention to how you would print the photograph, because the print is were the merits stood out as evidence for good or great photography. Garry Winogrand paced with speed that life was passing by & that if you freeze it with the camera, when you took time to study your photographs, you would unfreeze new discoveries (the need to keep photographing without over-thinking). Neither of these photographers were right or wrong. What they all hold is a commonality that expressed a theory that made them function. All of these theories are related because it expresses the tangible fullness in the moment. Photography is an addiction that makes the photographer accept the right now, & not solely on an instant gratification level either, but on a lasting power level.
If photographers could make the moment, they would be right up there with musicians who can produce a musical note, or the painter taking the brush & letting some mental activity go into their painting piece. No, the moment is not controlled by the photographer in any sense. Nobody knows the path to a good or great photograph. What the photographer does is set their Eye on the sight, measuring time, light; thus fulfilling the most basic & powerful duty that they have as a visual artist.
There is a subjectivity that every photograph owns, no matter the outcome of what society or a single onlooker may see. This is why photography takes on the objectivity of an iconic photograph, this is why photography is argued to the edge about its artistic merits. Photography has a consequence that alleviates both the subjective & the objective; especially, when it come down to the times of today that carry trendiness that comes along with the instant gratification in digital cameras & mobile phones being an accommodation that modern society uses to present their visual grip on how they see things. Other artists outside of photography have protested or shoved to the side, the artistic contributions of photography because of this erratic imbalance of not being devoted enough to choose an artistic foundational movement (subjective or objective). There basis is that anyone can point the camera, hit the shutter button & see what is already seen by the naked eye. From Peter Henry Emerson, Oscar Rejlander to Henry Peach Robinson, all the way to the group of photographers who championed art in the Linked Ring when photography within its first 100 years, the bracket of it being inviting to an artistic philosophy was there in the early stages. Alfred Stieglitz was a forerunner for photography being an art in the early part of the 20th Century & of course Group F/64 would come with their steam in the 1930’s, hoping to let the art world know about this photography is an artistic medium. Even though the debates within these various photographers & organizations met disagreements on passionate levels, they were all in one pool of agreement & this was that photography had the depth to be an Art. The water in photography is the moment, it shapes & frees itself into traveling wherever the visual messages, questions, answers, mysteries, easiness, & complexities, naturally wishes to flow.
There is no other art form that pauses life at an exact time under unique lighting conditions indoor or outdoor under an exact degree of weather, all which defines that no matter what, every second is different than the previous or future second. That moment absorbs itself in being able to be a conduit to let recollections fit into its frame of a photographic print while time goes ahead. Some people & tribes in countries won’t even allow a camera to be aimed at them. The notion that the Soul can be removed from their possession & given to a photograph can place enough of a balance in their logic to understand that photography is a pondering visual expression that can take their precious Soul.
Photography is an art-form, may I add, it is a very young & innocent but bold art-form. The moment is the oxygen that connects its element into the atmosphere called the Arts. With a 180 something year old age, photography does not have the classical history of its older relatives, painting, sculpture, music, literature & acting. But it does have a placement, because there is something culturally important when we see in a photograph, a smile, fashion, the sun, moon, stars, an animal, cold or hot wars, ceremonies, events, a space-shuttle driving up into the sky, an individual, nature & so many things that life offers to the visual senses that we can see, feel, & know as living minds that need to understandingly see living as well as our universe. After all, is this not what art is consistently seeking to be about? Photography is from the moment, because art wants to be in photography.