on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Art and Flow in Photography

Finding the Zone

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US. Website



The true artists, are almost as rare a phenomenon among painters, sculptors, composers as among photographers. ~Paul Strand

Photography has drawn criticism from painters and art critics practically since its inception. Examples are not difficult to find, going as far back as French poet and critic Charles Baudelaire who declared photography, “the refuge of every would-be painter, every painter too ill-endowed or too lazy to complete his studies,” to modern figures like Gore Vidal who, when criticising the work of photographer Cecil Beaton, claimed that photography is, “the ‘art form’ of the untalented.”

To this day, at least in some quarters, competition and prejudice between photographers and painters often surface, whether in the form of barbed, cynical, comments, in excluding photography from some art venues, or in more subtle ways, such as various titles and headlines referring to “art and photography,” as if the two are inherently separate things. Alas, competition and tribalism are innately human qualities, often transcending reason in their pettiness and extent, and sometimes culminating in outright rancor and intolerant attitudes. It is therefore perhaps appropriate that I begin this discussion by admitting my own position on the matter: I think that those who believe in the unequivocal artistic superiority of one medium over another, do so because of personal bias and perhaps ignorance, rather than objective judgment, and do a disservice to art and to artists.

I think that those who believe in the unequivocal artistic superiority of one medium over another, do so because of personal bias and perhaps ignorance, rather than objective judgment, and do a disservice to art and to artists.

Of those who gave serious thought to the distinction between photography and painting as media for art, I took note of painter Edvard Munch who, despite being an avid photographer, did not think that photography could live up to the expressive powers of painting.

I wondered if I was missing something important, perhaps being biased subconsciously toward my medium of choice, because, admittedly, creating art in photography was not a considered choice for me.
I also took note of the shifts in the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who started off as a painter, then became one of the most accomplished photographers in history, only to return to painting in his elder years, saying in one interview, “photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing.”



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