Not Photography, But is it Art?

Final Edit using Alien Skin Snap Art 4

I am a frequent photographer and an occasional artist, but my joy is often somewhere between the two, just as the photograph above has moved out of the realm of photography.

I have been a photographer for decades and a painter for a couple of years yet these perspectives combine into what I want to create. When I look at some of my photos, I see something that would be more inspiring as a painting. My painting skills aren’t good enough to create that vision, so I move on to painterly digital editing.

This is furthered by my love for the deep saturated colors that I remember from Kodachrome. For a long time I thought digital was great, but I have been re-convinced of the powerful unique look of old color films.

At a conference last year I sat for a talk on add-in filters for Lightroom and Photoshop. I’ve done that before and I've always rejected them from a kind of purist-photography-thought. This time it ‘took’ and I bought the Google Nik Collection (now free) and the Alien Skin Software bundle.

My Alien Skin Exposure X workflow starts with a selection of a film type. I usually start with Kodachrome or another color film that I used in the past. Next I use their Exposure X tools to build tone, colors, and look that I want.

More to the point, the picture that heads up this story was edited by the Alien Skin Snap Art product. In only five minutes I created this painterly look.

What I see in the original Lightroom-edited picture (below)is a set of colors and an unfocused background that I love. Unfortunately, in that traditionally edited picture, the flower does not have a symetry that pleases me and the short depth of field distracts. The painterly edited picture preserves the beautiful colors, hides the petal structure issues, and to my eye, creates a much more beautiful picture.

Is it photography anymore? I am sure most photography judges would dismiss it in a second. Is it art? Most painters would dismiss it since it is not painted.

But I think the painterly edited picture above is gorgeous regardless of what process created it. If you like the result, is the process important?

Original Edit using Adobe Lightroom

Should photography which is edited to look like painted arts be considered photography? Art? Who cares. In the meantime, I’ll continue to look toward shows and competitions that place artistically edited photography as the equal of other arts and judge it on its visual merit, not the mechanics of its creation.

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