Photography and Novel


Sculpture-Book picture

So much appreciation for art is tied up to disbelieve: “How did they do that?” (Cirque du Soleil performance for example). We stare with amazement: “it simply cannot be” There is certain “wow” factor that impress us. To some degree, we can say that about other art forms. Where is that “wow” factor in photography? When was last time you looked at a photograph and had the deep “wow” factor experience?

For another photographer seeing work of photography goes with joy. It does not go with “how did they make that?” question. I know how it was done. I am not surprised or amazed. I imagine doing the same frame like if I was there. Why there is no “wow” factor experience there? Is it because I am a photographer or is it something else in photography itself? Despite that, a machine like a camera is amazing. A printer can make amazing, giant, tack sharp photos. The “wow” factor exists in a manufacture of the product but not in the artwork the product produces. Curiously, we cannot imagine looking at the tube of paint and say: “my dear, this is a marvelous tube of paint”. In painting or sculpting, “wow” factor exists entirely in artwork – not marble, chisel, hammer or paint brush. How is photography an art form?

Photography is mechanical. It is based on task and almost is never going to contain the same “wow” factor experience as in many other art forms. No one looks at the marble statue and wonders “what a spectacular marble”. Likewise, no one says: “what a spectacular way of pushing the camera button”. So, photographers are left with a depth of experience that they portray in their work. More, they express sensitivity in which they can obscure lives and make an interesting photograph. Arguable, “wow” factor could be embedded if we capture a spectacular subject (example: Burning Hindenburg). But then, photographic skills are irrelevant. So, where extraordinary technical talent and abilities go? Are they credited to a manufacturer of the camera or printer? Thus, it is rational to base photography on sensitivity, communication clarity, and expressive emotion. That leaves photographers face to face with “wow” factor that it is completely different than other visual art forms. The closest comparison related to photography is a novel. Writers use words and write them the way nobody else does it. What makes their novel spectacular? It is clarity of their expression, depth of their feelings and thoughts. Their talent and ability to express thoughts the way it is engaging. We can use exact the same definition to describe both: novel and photography.

In my opinion, there is one more thing. If the moment it clicks synchronize two environments, it uncovers beautiful frame. But only when you are patient enough and quick enough to recognize and react to it.


From Brooks Jensen podcast: LensWork