Words have meaning


I messed up the development of a sheet of film in my makeshift rotatory processor.
Should I call it art?


Please, put your “Rant Alert™” off, or you’ll be deafened. 😉

Now, just to be clear, everybody should be free to do whatever she pleases with her images. After all we are talking about a creative discipline, so you ought to be creative by definition and be free of any boundaries.

The problem that gives me an itch arises when someone who has altered her images to death, cutting them, collaging them, maybe even burning them, or even worse basically creating the entire thing almost from scratch in PhotoShop, keeps calling the results “photographs”.

The other day I was in a creative rut, and I was browsing for ideas in search of something to jump-start my day. To give you just a few examples of what I found:

  • cut and stretch, stain, smudge, paint, erode, sew and embroider (!) or burn your pictures
  • how to transform an image in a 3d sculpture, puzzle, collage etc.
  • innumerable ways to make PhotoShop composites, manipulations etc.


Sometimes shooting while you’re running can yield interesting results 


Especially the PhotoShop composites nowadays pass more often than not for pictures. Sorry, but if all you took was a crappy (in terms of lighting) picture of your girlfriend / model / cat in front of a couple of trees, and after that you used 40 other pictures, yours of from stock, to make it look like she was a princess dressed in a dress made of butterflies: that is NOT a picture.

There is a word for that: graphic art. And don’t take me wrong, it can be beautiful, meaningful and museum-worty, like any other form of artistic expression. BUT IT IS NOT A PICTURE.

In Italy we have a saying: “l’italiano è bello perché è chiaro” (“the beauty of the Italian language is that you can express yourself in a clear way”). Meaning that the reason behind the existence of a particular word is to be able to clearly specify a definite concept.

But if you instead start using that same word for something else than the communication gets confused, and we don’t understand each other anymore.

So while there are many – well, not that many but you get my point – beautiful and interesting projects based on extreme alterations of pictures they are not “photographs”. At most they are “mixed media”, “visual art” or in a less clearly defined sense “images”; sometimes they are even outright “sculptures”.

I repeat, I’ve nothing against this kind of use of a camera, and I’m definitely not a “purist” – whatever that means – by any stretch of the imagination. But if your image is mostly a PhotoShop composite or it comes with real hair attached to it then in my book you shouldn’t call it a picture!