I think maybe I am a pictorialist, not a photographer…or maybe not…

I found this great thought over on PixSylated.com, a wonderful sight I just discovered and am beginning to explore:

Photographers are like dogs – they come in many breeds, some are purebred, others are mongrels. Is there a right or best way to be a photographer? I think not. I am a pictorialist – a photographer who creates images rather than takes them. I’ve learned to shape light and do so freely whenever I need to. I won’t hesitate to change or fix something in Photoshop if need be (although I much prefer to get it right at the time of capture). Other shooters are documentarians. They strive to capture images with minimal influence on the event being photographed and process them in a way that does not alter the file. When I create photographs solely as a personal expression, I am working as an artist. When I create photographs to meet the needs of others, I am a businessman. Some photographers shoot only food or fashion or sports. Other photographers shoot anything they can. None of these is right or wrong, better or worse.

This was part of a series of posts called “Lessons I didn’t learn in photo school.”  Had you asked me a couple of days ago how I viewed myself:  pictorialist or photographer, I probably would have said “amateur hack”.  But if you tried to pin me down, I would have said a pictorialist because I tend to think I look at things from a more artistic point of view as opposed to a documentary point of view.  Or so I thought.  I found myself in the unique position of arguing with myself the other night about post work from this picture I took during the Scott Kelby Photo Walk.


Yellow roses in Texas - 42/365 -18 July 2009

It’s quite obvious I used Lightroom to bring out the yellow roses and subdue the background.  No biggee.  But what I found myself debating over was some of the spots on the wall in the background.  The artist side of my brain said, “Get rid of the spots.  They’re ugly!”  Then from nowhere, the documentarian in by brain popped out from around a corner and said, “But the spots WERE THERE.  You should leave them.  That was the reality of what you shot.”  This of course caused the artist side of my brain to say “WTF?  Who is this guy, where did he come from and who told him he could speak?”  At which point the art side of my brain donned a beret, turned his nose in the air and looked the other way, thinking that “If I don’t see him he really isn’t there.”

At any rate, the art side won in the end and I removed the spots in the final picture.  But I had no idea that that little realist part of my brain (I’ve named him Hector, for now.) even really existed.  In the end, I think I am, in fact, more of a pictorialist, but I guess the fact that there even is a Hector in my head, at least means that I am progressing enough as an artist to question why I am doing something.

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