Photography as Art

Few months ago I had chance to watch Creative Live broadcast featuring renowned nature, travel and art photographer Art Wolfe. He is an author of several books, and featured in two television series: Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe and Tales by Light. He was born in 1951 on the outskirts of Seattle, USA. At the early age he started exploring nature around his town and was in art school drawing and painting. He eventually got a university degree in painting and art education. He attributes a lot of his success to the background in painting.

When we consider art history, painting early on was not considered art in itself, but more of a recording of historical events and portraits. As time went on and styles changed and evolved, painting became more abstract. Subject matter was no longer the literal representation of reality. Painting shifted to abstract art, culminating in abstract expressionism. You respond to it on an emotional level. Similar thing happened to photography. Early on it was copying painting style, than became documentary and eventually evolved into art form in itself, abstract and free from restrictions of previous style.

Art Wolfe – Rhythms from the wild –  impressionistic posters, inspired by paintings by Monet. Technique used: long exposures, slow shutter speed, panning of the camera.

Rhytms From The Wild
©Art Wolfe. Rhythms From The Wild Book cover
Flight, Mallard Ducks, Fraser River, Canada
©Art Wolfe. An explosion of water and wings fills this image as a flock of wild mallards erupt off the surface of a tidal pond along British Columbia’s Fraser River Delta. Wary of both man and predatory falcons and eagles, these ducks instantly react to the slightest movement.
Burchell's Zebras, Zimbabwe
©Art Wolfe. Burchell’s zebra race across an open plain within Zimbabwe’s forested Matetsi’s River region. A long exposure accentuates the graceful motion of the troupe.


How To See And Make Art In Exciting New Ways

Wabi Sabi
@Art Wolfe. Screenshot from Create Art Through Photography

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term referring to the randomness in nature, but also impermanence and balance. It inspires to fill the frame with subject (which is random, not pattern), so your eye can navigate throughout all of this abstractions. The idea is to have the eye move evenly through the composition. Communication, inspiration, surprise. Using the line to fill the frame with content, trying to avoid areas with no content whatsoever.

Another way to achieve balance is playing with positive and negative space. Positive space is (generally) the subject, negative space is what lays beyond. When those two elements play together nicely, balance occurs and viewers eye stays where artist intended it to be. You should start looking at subject in graphic elements, squint your eyes and render them as spaces and shapes. Look beyond the obvious.

negative space
@Art Wolfe. Screenshot from Create Art Through Photography

When foreground and background match each other in space and content becomes graphic and it becomes art. Its easy to say but hard to do. It comes with experience. You start to analyse everything in front of you. The more you can do that, the more you are on your way to achieving more sophisticated, more graphic, more appreciated work. When he critiques and evaluates work he always gives a nod towards people who thought out the subject well. The stronger it is on a graphical level the more he appreciates it.


The picture of rocks went into Lightroom to convert into very strong black and white shapes. Playing with shapes, making white (negative) space as important as black (subject, positive) space. To do that he cropped the image tighter, selecting only a part and making it even more abstract. The whites are now as important as blacks. White areas come forward and dark recede, in other words the negative space now becomes the subject. It is playing with perceptions, it is a challenge and not easy to do. It is not the way we usually see the world around us.



Assignment criteria: 1,2,3


Creative Live Create Art Through Photography with Art Wolfe

Art Wolfe website


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