Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Artist vs Photographer

Today I enjoyed both the beautiful fluffy snow in New Jersey and the slush and puddles of the city.

This morning I had a meeting with the program coordinator at a center for active seniors in New Jersey. We discussed photographing the center, the members and the variety of activities the seniors enjoy there for a fundraising calender and photos to display within the center. I'm really excited to begin working with them in March and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

After that there was some routine errand running and then a trip into the city for an event held at the Aperture Foundation, "Zoe Crosher and Jan Tumlir in Conversation". Here's the brief description of the talk:
On the occasion of Aperture magazine, issue 198, featuring Jan Tumlir's article, "Femme Fatale: Zoe Crosher's reconsidered archive of Michelle duBois," Aperture is hosting a conversation exploring self-invention and role-playing as told through personal photographs, and what comes of the great "archival theme" in the digital era.

It was an interesting discussion based on Zoe Crosher's work, which I haven't seen but would like to. She showed slides of her work and the installations, but regretfully that is never the same as actually seeing it in person. The subject of this art is a woman named Michelle duBois. Hearing Zoe speak about her made me wish I could know her. The work tells a story of her life, one really lived to the fullest with few regrets, complete acceptance of each aspect of life, and zero judgment of others.

There were a lot of pieces to the installation that were discussed, one portion I found interesting involved photos of Michelle where the people surrounding her, always men I believe, were blacked out of the image. This brought up a number of interpretations and concepts but Zoe said the main reasoning was to keep the focus on Michelle, to show how interchangeable the others surrounding here were and, on a practical note, due to lack of permission from the men to use their image.

During the question and answer portion at the end, a comment was made that was slightly off topic of the specific work she'd done but I found to be really interesting. It was touching on the idea of identity and was something along the lines of people being offended by being labeled as either an artist or a photographer when they identity as the other. For example, if you consider yourself to be an 'artist' and I introduce you to someone as a 'photographer' there may be some level of offense.

I think this peeked my interest because I identify as both. I consider myself a photographer based on my photo work and an artist based on my drawing and painting. I can't imagine anyone who considers themselves a photographer to mind being labeled an artist, but I can imagine someone who considers themselves an artist, who uses photos in their work, to be insulted by the label of photographer. Photographer is a title that can possibly come off in a way that describes someone that captures reality and doesn't necessarily delve into concept and interpretation in their work. I know photographers that truly think about and inject meaning into the images they create, but I'm speaking about the interpretation of the title.

I definitely feel that photography is an art, but I don't think it would ever occur to me to introduce myself as an artist when speaking of my photography. What are your thoughts on the this? Do you think their is a difference? Do you identify as artist, photographer or both?

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