Fotograd

Is it Art?

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Two of my favorite photographers, Jeff Wall and Michael Snow, also happen to be Canadian.  Personal nationalism aside, they accomplish what few photographers have done: make art. For example, in Wall’s Picture for Women (1979), and Snow’s Authorization (1969) both artists self-consciously draw attention to the medium itself by showing the process of making the photograph.

It’s true that there are a lot of people who make beautiful photographs, but can we call this art if the camera is used to record something from the outside world that happened to be interesting? In the two images below, Wall and Snow include the camera in the picture itself. The artist doesn’t use any tricks to conceal the medium, the process is right in the image for the viewer to contemplate. 

Jeff Wall, Picture for Women (1979). 
Wall’s inspiration for this photograph was Manet’s painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres (1881-82). Like Manet’s painting, a reflection from a mirror is represented in the image. The photograph and the painting both involve a complex game of glances between the figures in the image, a woman and a man, both reflected in the mirror, and the viewer. Wall further complicates the game by adding another gaze, that of the camera itself, its eye centrally fixed in the composition. 

Jeff Wall, Picture for Women (1979). 

Wall’s inspiration for this photograph was Manet’s painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres (1881-82). Like Manet’s painting, a reflection from a mirror is represented in the image. The photograph and the painting both involve a complex game of glances between the figures in the image, a woman and a man, both reflected in the mirror, and the viewer. Wall further complicates the game by adding another gaze, that of the camera itself, its eye centrally fixed in the composition. 

Michael Snow Authorization (1969)
Snow is the ultimate multi-disciplinary artist, using every possible medium available. One theme that runs through much of his art is exposing the process that went into making the image.
Authorization depicts two processes. First, like in Wall’s Picture for Women, the camera and the artist are both present in the photograph. Second, the event of making the image itself is the subject of the photograph. Snow began by photographing a mirror. He then attached the photo to the top left corner of the mirror. The same process was repeated four times, and in the final image the figure of the photographer, Snow himself, was removed and replaced by the camera which takes a photo of the mirror.       

Michael Snow Authorization (1969)

Snow is the ultimate multi-disciplinary artist, using every possible medium available. One theme that runs through much of his art is exposing the process that went into making the image.

Authorization depicts two processes. First, like in Wall’s Picture for Women, the camera and the artist are both present in the photograph. Second, the event of making the image itself is the subject of the photograph. Snow began by photographing a mirror. He then attached the photo to the top left corner of the mirror. The same process was repeated four times, and in the final image the figure of the photographer, Snow himself, was removed and replaced by the camera which takes a photo of the mirror.