Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

May 23, 2017

Artist versus Photographer

Bluewater_Shore-Big_raft

Big Raft, Bluewater Shore, 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Recent events related to the self-publishing of my limited edition artist book Bluewater Shore is causing me to rethink how I might describe myself to others: artist or photographer? Okay another option might be artist/photographer. I am probably reconsidering this whole classification subject because of my preparation on the subject of “Branding” for my Marketing Your Photo Book workshop coming up at LACP in July.

So here’s whats been happening; I have been reaching out to some photographic friends and editorial acquaintances who helped me with the promotion of my earlier artist book Pine Lake to spread the word about my recently self-published Bluewater Shore. I did not anticipate all of the rejections based on the fact I am using family archive photographs as my source material versus the fact that I did not actually take the original photographs. I am not sure what has happened or shifted in the past four years, but it seems that a lot more photographic folks are being more discerning as to what constitutes a “photographic” book.

They response that Bluewater Shore is an artist book, not a photographic book, since I am using vernacular photographs which I found to create my narrative versus being a “pure” photographic project in which I created (photographed) the original photographic source material similar to my book Ciociaria. Or maybe I have pitched my Bluewater Shore story incorrectly? Now that I take a closer look at these magazine and web-zines I see that artwork similar to what I created for Bluewater Shore is not being featured.

So maybe you are wondering; what’s the big deal? For me it might be that I have been envisioning myself as a “photographer” when I made this declaration back in 2008. Realize that for about 15 years before that I was a painter so I thought that this was a big deal that I was dedicating myself to photography as my creative medium. I also did not think it was a big deal to create my two self-published books Pine Lake and Bluewater Shore since I was using photographic material. Wrong!

Turns out what I perceived I was doing is not matching up with the outside world’s perception. I think there was hints of this difference while I was talking with those who attended my exhibit space at Photo Independent for my launch of Bluewater Shore but at the time I was not picking up on it. Duh!

This takes me to the Stockdale Paradox (okay, this was from Admiral James Stockdale, un-related); which states “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties” while at the same time “Confronting the most brutal facts of your current reality, what they might be“. So the brutal facts of my current reality is that I am deemed to be an artist and I am NOT a pure photographer. Which is probably good to know and understand.

This is a not a seismic shift of who/what I think I am; but what this does is to better prepare me for where/who I make submissions of my artwork. I still feel that I am part of the pure photographic community since that is the space I created both of my photo-investigations In Passing and Ciociaria. Nevertheless I will go across those pure photographic boundaries when I am inspired to do so and I need to understand the implications when I do.

Another aspect of this is that curators, art directors and others appear to more comfortable with classifications. So am I an artist or an artist/photographer? I guess if I have to chose one it would appear that I am an artist and one who uses primarily photographic source material, mine as well as others. Done.

Maybe this is a seismic shift after all as I now need to look at all my photographic reference sites, e.g. LensCulture and here on Singular Images, and make some adjustment tweaks to my biography; artist, educator and mentor.

Cheers!

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March 10, 2008

I am a Photographer

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:15 pm

Construction Gate

Just to say it again, I am a photographer. Oh right, I am a lot of things; husband, friend, dad, Papa, etc. But as to what I do to express myself, I have settled on being a photographer. For about 15 years I was a painter. Before that I was a photographer. So you are probably wondering what this is all about?

My insecurity, plain and simple.

Up to recently, my web gallery read ‘Douglas Stockdale, Fine Art Photographer’, but now I have deleted the “Fine Art” in front of the Photographer subtitle. Just ‘Photographer’.  When I came back to photography I had the same insecurity as many others, that is, if you are not sure that what you see (of my photographs) constitutes ‘art’, let me help you and reassure you that I am indeed an ‘artist’. Oh, by the way, painters are really no different, they are just as insecure as the rest of us (I am not a house painter, but a painter of houses), so don’t think that this is just a photo hang-up!

So why the change now? Part of this is getting comfortable in my own skin. Part is getting my series Bad Trip – Sad Trip published in LensWorklast month. The last part is reading David Vestal’s column in the March issue of Photo Techniques about Improper Nouns. And yes, it’s all about the use of the ‘fine art’ words. To summarize Vestal’s article if you have to actually tell someone you are a fine artist, what does that say about you and them??

Yes, if someone recognizes as what you have made as being something creative, they will. If they have to be told, well, I think you get the point.

As a photographer we are more dependent on our eyes, vision, thoughts and equipment. And now that equipment can be very simple: auto-this and auto-that.  Or we can make it terribly complex such as the large format cameras, film development techniques and Palladium printing folks.  (With all that difficult manipulation it just has to be artistic, eh?)

As a painter one had to have some manual dexterity, color selection, ability to draw a line and you worked from a very blank canvas. Seems a little more evident with as a painter that you are creative and really are an artist, eh? Nope, you can paint and it can still look like crap and be thoughtless and pedant. I have been to enough art shows to have seen this.

Not to try to argue the creative side of photography because thank goodness it is all too evident. I hope it’s the realization that what’s in your head that counts.  And then its about getting it expressed in a medium that works for me such as photography does for me.

It does not mean that I am any less insecure, but now, when asked, I am a photographer. Or perhaps a Landscape Photographer or maybe even a Urban Landscape Photographer. But a photographer;- )

Best regards, Doug

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