The use of the term art medium is, to say the least, misleading, for it is the artist that creates a work of art not the medium. It is the artist in photography that gives form to content by a distillation of ideas, thought, experience, insight and understanding. Edward Steichen
1 - Introduction
So far in this series we have looked at the importance of vision and at the relationship between vision and fine art. A third element of visionary photography is the presence of a well-written artist statement. In this essay we are going to look first at what is an artist statement and second at the elements that can help us craft an effective artist statement.
2 - What is an artist statement?
An artist statement is a text in which you describe your vision. Doing so allows you to express with words what you cannot explain with photographs. Using both words and photographs together is an effective way of sharing your vision with your audience.
Your artist statement explains your reasons for creating art., what inspires you and what your want to express in your work. Writing an Artist Statement can be difficult because there are many subjects to address. Your artist statement can include the following:
3 - How do you write an artist statement?
An artist statement is a window into the world of a photographer. It must first and foremost be honest and straightforward. ? You want the artist statement to take the audience further than they would on their own, if they looked only at your photographs.
You want to explain what is your vision, what you want to say and how you go about saying it. To do so you can describe some of your images, explain what they mean to you, how they were created and what you want to say with these images. There are many ways to write your artist statement. One approach that I like is to present it as list of questions that you answer in your statement. These questions can include the following:
4 - What it is and what it is not about...
An artist statement is not a tutorial or a list of equipment. While you can include a small amount of technical information about how you do what you do, the purpose of an artist statement is to teach how to do what you do. If you want to teach, you can do this during workshops and seminars, not in your artist statement. Similarly, if you want to talk about your equipment in detail, it is best to make a list and post it on your site under the heading 'equipment.'
The purpose of an artist statement is to describe your vision, your values as they pertain to fine art, and the sources of inspiration for your work. As such, an artist statement is primarily about aesthetics not so much about technique. As an example you can read my personal artist statement here.
5 - Vision Example: Sunrise Reflections, Bosque del Apache
Each time I visit Bosque del Apache I set it as a goal to take photographs without any birds. This was the first photograph I took that morning. When I created it I believed it would be the best image for that morning and it turned out to be so.
This photograph was taken during our just completed Bosque & White Sands Workshop. The sun was not up yet. I was so convinced that this was a strong image, a ‘keeper’ as they say, that I told the workshop participants that I had created my best image for that morning and that we could leave for breakfast now. Many participants joined me in capturing this scene. Somehow I knew that this was a strong image, possibly the strongest image I was going to create that morning. How did I know? From experience taking tens of thousands of photographs over many years. In other words, because of practice.
I also don’t use a light meter on my manual camera, instead I set the f-stop and shutter speed based on my evaluation of the light level of the scene. After many years of doing so I have become quite good at it. Usually, I find the perfect exposure after 1 or 2 attempts. That morning I found it at my first attempt. In fact, the photograph above was the first exposure I took that morning. I saw it as a sign that this was a truly exceptional situation.
6 - Skill Enhancement Exercises
Learning is more effective if you practice what you learned. The goal of this exercise is to practice finding out if you have a ‘keeper’ when you are working in the field, when you first see the image on your LCD scren. First, ask yourself the following questions: Does looking for keepers in the field come naturally to you? Is doing this challenging? If it is challenging, which aspect of this approach is the most challenging?
Second, when you return to your studio after a shoot, take a look back at the images you believed were "keepers": Were you correct? Are these photograph as good as you thought they were once you convert and optimize them? If you were not correct, why do you not like these images as much as you did in the field? What changed? If you were correct, what are the strong aspects of these images? What is it about them that makes them work visually?
Alain Briot - NPN 2054
Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, conversion, optimization, printing and marketing photographs. Alain is also the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available from Amazon and other bookstores as well from Alain’s website.
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Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.