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Camera Work: The Camera Captures. The Artist Works

"Camera Work cover" by Alfred Stieglitz, publisher; Edward Steichen, designer - Camera Work, No 2, 1903.

“Camera Work cover” by Alfred Stieglitz, publisher; Edward Steichen, designer – Camera Work, No 2, 1903.

Earlier this year, I did two OE articles stepping in as a guest contributor. Today, I am following up, continuing with what I hope will be a ongoing relationship with FDL. I called it Camera Work and I believe that deserves it’s own explanation.

Camera Work was the name of a particularly influential quarterly publication by Alfred Stieglitz,published between 1903 and 1917, who almost single handedly, raised the perception of photography as a fine art. But not only did he deal with photography, his Gallery 291 also presented rising avant-garde artists such as Matisse, Rodin and a young female painter Georgia O’Keeffe, whom later he married. In so doing, photography, through Stieglitz, became an extension of other, traditional ways of making art. Camera Work was the publishing arm of Gallery 291 and an earlier concept he called Photo-Secession.

So, why use his title for this publication? It was and still is considered a holy grail among many photographers. The answer is that there is no other phrase which captures so well, the essence of the whole. The Camera Captures. The Artist Works. The title reflects this concept.

The Wiki links to Camera Work and Photo-Secession are well worth the read. Much of what is written there still guides my work, for instance, this:

..what was significant about a photograph was not what was in front of the camera but the manipulation of the image by the artist/photographer to achieve his or her subjective vision.

-Photo-Secession, Wikipedia

The above quote brings up a problem. The problem? Manipulation. It’s both a curse and a blessing, because in photojournalism, manipulation is tantamount to lying. But, and it’s a big but, the photograph, as captured, can also be seen as a lie. Why? Because it frames an event, stops a moment in time. We do not see what precedes it or follows it. It is a two-dimensional representation; finally, many of the “memorable” photojournalism images have been in b&w. It is certainly not reality! So, is it a true representation of the event pictured?

You can see it doesn’t take long to plunge into mutually exclusive concepts, both of which have great merit. In the coming weeks I’ll be visiting these along with forays into other avenues of photography. As well as what drives a photograph. What influences impact the manipulation?

I would like to invite you to explore this world, both in the work of others and shooting your own photos. There are many, many sources of excellent photography on line. If I can arrange it, I would love to be able to have the folks here post their own stuff and we can have conversations about that.

I have a collection of my work at Take a look and see if you might find examples of images that could be photo journalistic and those that are expressive. Or both.

Image under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Lawrence Hudetz

Lawrence Hudetz