Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Photography and Painting

Since about 150 years of its existence, "photography" has had a close bitter-sweet relations with its closest relative in the art-world "paintings" ...

But till date, photography has been a poor cousin!!! While Christie and Sotheby's have auctioned top paintings in more than $100 millions, the top photographs has grabbed less than $3 millions ... While most paintings by Impressionists [Neo and Post-Impresionists ... like Monet, Van Gogh] fetch around $50 millions, Ansel Adams' photographs grabs less than a million bucks! It's even more funny that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sold their kid's photo in more than that [$4 million dollars] ...

Photography joined the art-world after a long struggle. Although early photography [Daguerreotype and Calotype] appeared by the mid 19th-century, but photographs began to be displayed in art galleries and museums only in the early 20th century. The art critics were of the view that photography is such a mechanical process that there is no scope for artistic interpretation. In fact in the early days, photographers imitated paintings to claim its artistic status. They pursued the same subject matter familiar to painting world [landscapes, buildings and portraits] ... and often added dreamy softness to images so that it was not taken as an objective factual record.

However what’s interesting is that, although 19th-century painters openly disparaged photography, but the advent of photography had a profound influence on the art of painting. We all know how Impressionists shocked the art-world .... and the rise of Impressionsims is said to have been widely influenced by photography. Although the relationship between painting and photography is rather complex but very perceptible. Photography is all about light … its influence on painters can be gauged from the increased importance of the effect-of-light on Impressionists paintings. While earlier painters worked in studios from sketches they made outdoors, Impressionists went out with their canvas, colors and brushes … so that they could stand right on the spot and record what they saw at that time. They tried to freeze the fleeting effect of light by recording the subtle changes in light sensations. Painters like Monet came back to the same spot at different times of day or at a different time of year to paint the same scene. Perhaps the idea of "photo-series" influenced artists like Monet, to paint several series of the same subject-matter under different lighting conditions [like Water Lilies, The Cathedral at Rouen and Haystacks ... Degas famous for painting ballerinas widely used photographs to study the motion of dancers ... Picasso’s "Blue-Period" paintings ... is said to have been inspired by blue-tinted cyanotype prints of the time ...

So despite being snubbed by painters, photography has had very profound, complex and perceptible influence on paintings by bringing it more "true to nature" ...

Even before the advent of Daguerreotype photography ... "Camera Obscura" has long been used by painters. It helped in converting a Three Dimensional [3-D] space in 2-D ... thereby aiding painters in their perception of two dimensional space. Another advantage was that Camera Obscura narrowed the whole range of brightness found in nature to more limited number of tonal values, which could be reproduced by painters pigments.

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Photography is one of the best things that relaxes me from the day a day routine, I love to take my car and just leave the city on weekends.


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