Photographer or Visual Artist?
Today the phenomenal curator and networker of photography, Andy Adams (http://flakphoto.com/) posed the above title as a question for his many thousands of followers. I do not have the skill to craft a tweetable response so I leave you with this note.
First with digital production, and increasingly with many-to-many online sharing, both terms are so fluid as to shape shift with the slightest variation in their context. But the terms may still convey meaning, and the designations are most significant when corollaries such as “craft” or “art” are applied by the maker to her work. If the maker says or implies that she will show us an artwork, then, in a sense, we are about to receive a gift. We may find the gift to be great or small or odious – but we have been provided a viewer’s cue. And our response depends on what we are able to bring to the reading. I find a useful analogy in poetry, especially if it is proving difficult to unpack. I am more likely to spend the necessary time and energy if I have some reason to suspect that the writer took his packing seriously. If we are told that something is art, we have been told of a serious investment on the part of the maker.
Arthur Tsuchiya (an old friend and colleague, first at Rochester’s Visual Studies Workshop and later with the National Endowment for the Arts) used to say of the simultaneously wonderful and disreputable discipline of Video Art – Know that the artist has generated a signal and that the audience is left with the task of tuning its receiver.