Monday, November 17, 2008

Occupational Hazard?

“So ……what do you do?” This should be a simple question but I frequently stumble over my words when trying to explain what it is “I do”. Of course what I usually say is “I am a photographer”. Easy - right? You would think so, but what invariably comes next is something like “do you do weddings?” or “can you take pictures of my kids?” After this exchange I usually launch into something about how I “hand-color black and white photographs that I have taken of flowers, landscapes and/or architecture". If they seem interested, I might talk about art festivals and my studio, but due to the awkwardness I feel, I usually l try to change the subject.

Now what would it be like if when asked, I say “I am an artist”? My first reaction is “oh I couldn’t say that, it sounds so pretentious” Why is this? Isn’t that what my art festival ID badges all say? Why can’t I say it? I would still have to describe “my art” because no matter what I call myself, I still feel an explanation is needed.

Maybe this dilemma is a result of a question I was asked at an art festival once. While viewing my work, someone asked “is this photography or art?” By the look on my face, it was apparent to them that they had asked the wrong question and they quickly mumbled something and left.

It has taken many years for photography to be recognized as an art form, and perhaps I am doing a disservice to the craft itself by my reluctance to declare with confidence and enthusiasm “Yes, I am an Artist!” Just writing this is hard. The committee in my head has gone into overdrive. “What do you mean you are an “artist”? “Your brother is the artist, not you!” “You never took art classes in school, how do you justify calling yourself an artist”. This is just a small sampling of the cacophony of voices in my head.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to have become an accountant. That would have rolled off my tongue easily………. but at what price?


  1. I hear you! When I say I'm a photographer, I'm always asked if I shoot weddings and portraits. When I say I shoot travel, landscapes and still life mainly in B&W it does spark a little interest, but they don't usually know what to say next since it's not the 'norm'. I just prattle on about what I do and where the images end up (on walls or in magazines etc).

    Your work is definitely artistic though! You are adding your own hand tinted touch. I think all photography is art if that is the intent. You're a photographic artist! :)

  2. I definitely vote "artist", and you can tell the little choir of voices in your head thanks for chiming in; but their opinion is overruled. Then tell them to go play while you create more art! They will get used to the idea as long as you keep reminding them.

  3. Rachel - Photographic Artist! I like that. Thanks!

    CT - Telling my "voices" to go out and play while I work is a great visual tool. I can imagine little gremlins scattering out of my way. Thank you!

  4. Hi - Rachel beat me to it - but I was going to say Photographic Artist too. A gallery used that term on their blurb about me and I have adopted it now. It feels a better fit for me than either photographer or artist.

    Best wishes :)

  5. Photographic artist - I like the sound of that! I am really glad I brought this subject up!