This has been the subject of a long, ongoing debate. I was converted when a discussion in art school brought me to the conclusion that unless the artist's hand somehow shaped the composition, tonality or color combination of the image, it remains just and image—a frozen moment in time with no visible means of expression from the photographer. ---

The photographer must do something to make the image theirs, outside of random chance. In my opinion, Ansel Adams was a nature photographer, not an artist (my apologies to the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy). He was a master at waiting for long periods of time in national parks to capture light on atmospheric forms to make a compelling image. Yet the only part that even remotely resembles an artistic process might have been his use of certain lens filters. On the other hand, Cynthia Sherman uses herself as a form is artistic expression. As the model portraying characters in scenes, she leaves the viewer to determine themselves what is happening in it. British artists Gilbert and George did very much the same.

I ponder this as I visit the many galleries around town which appear to promote photographs like paintings. Mere windows into the goings on of human activities, especially those of exotic, foreign cultures or celebrities, are interesting, even visually stimulating. But do they elicit the obnoxiously high price tags attached to them? Was there any artistic skill involved? I ask you. I do acknowledge the value of photo-journalism, but those images seem more appropriate for periodicals, books and as educational displays. But why shouldn't the photographer frame his/her images and make a few bucks if there's a market? I ask you again.     

Segue into cultural critique …

In the 19th century, one's image might appear in a photograph three times a decade. The digital age has now flooded our society with cameras and most own some type of photographic device. This has caused many to obsessively record everything. The most mundane activities, repeated daily, have become a photo op then often made public through the web. And what motivates such behavior? The focus of Bansky's 2010 cult documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, took his video camera everywhere, even to the toilet.  Guetta's behavior is emblematic of ongoing behavior in public. Could it be a latent faith that someday someone will plow through all this imagery and make an award winning documentary of them and therefore make one's life more important? I ask you, yet again.

Until next week, dear reader.