An opinion about using photographs

(Day 9)

Transition between art and photography

“Originally the only way you could record what was in front of you was to stand there, so there was a skill in drawing that was about telling people exactly what was there. Then along came photography, and drawing and photography became uncomfortable bed-fellows, for the want of a better word. Neither “art” nor photography needed to be about about simply recording. Until eventually what is happening now ─ in the traditional art world that is ─ it seems that rather than people learning how to paint what’s in front of them, with all the attendant problems of selecting, and dealing with the environment and perspective and being out there,  people are simply learning to copy from photographs. They don’t have that sense of the limitless. Everything is contained within the square for them, within the edges of what they can see. It’s already simplified and sanitised. The artificiality of the viewfinder constricts their views. So the whole notion then of artists recording the world had changed. What’s happening now is it’s being recorded for them and then they’re copying it. And so often I hear of people not even copying their own photographs. They’re just downloading something from the internet. There’s other issues: there’s moral and legal issues to do with copyright in this. But it’s much more about how the artists are doing themselves a disservice. They are missing out on  being on-site. The skills of trimming down the whole world is lost from the process. Trimming the sounds, the sights and the smells of the world down to what they’ve chosen for their artwork in front of them. It feels like cheating, because it takes effort to get out there on-site. But more to the point I don’t think it’s as much fun.That’s what they are missing, the fun and the process. If it’s just about the end product then they may as well take a photo. That’s what I think.”

Christine Porter interview by Susan Webster
Lismore 2/9/2017

Image top: Christine painting on-site at on a sheep property near Barcaldine, Queensland.
Things not seen in this photo: dust, heat, flies. Nor the smell of Gidyea trees, of 100 year old lanolin-greased boards, of metre high piles of sheep droppings under the shed. Nor the sense of peace and tranquility, nor indeed the sight of a sky that goes from one horizon to another and all the way to the edge of the world.
Image bottom: driving back to the house from a long day painting at the shearing shed. Barcaldine, Queensland.
Not seen in this photo: the delicious sense of achievement of a day well spent and the eagerness for a hot bath and a cold beer that would happen 20 minutes after this photo was taken.

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