Words Matter

| March 28, 2013

This is a post about the manipulation of reality. No, it is not about Photoshop.

I was recently invited to showcase my work at a site proclaiming to promote art. The first thing I noticed as I brought up the page is that it was divided into “Artists” and “Photographers.” When I inquired with the site owner about photographers also being artists, his response was that the separation was for ease of navigation. Navigation, it seems, is more important than decades worth of struggle by photographic artists for the legitimacy of their work.

The site was not alone, though. Try looking for books on Amazon.com and you will find a category for “Arts & Photography.” Barnes & Noble goes further by separating “Art, Architecture & Photography.” Even a site entirely dedicated to art, such as Fine Art America makes references to “Artists/Photographers”.

Why single out photographers, as distinct from other artists (or from any artists)? Why such ingrained institutionalized discrimination?

Famed author Philip K. Dick said that “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”

Words matter.

Deep Vein

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Category: All Posts, Bits & Pieces, Rants and Raves

About the Author ()

Guy Tal is a published author and photographic artist. He resides in a remote part of Utah, in a high desert region known as the Colorado Plateau – a place that inspired him deeply for much of his life and that continues to feature in his images and writing. In his photographic work, Guy seeks to articulate a reverence for the wild. He writes about, and teaches, the values of living a creative life and finding fulfillment through one’s art.

Comments (9)

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  1. Bob Palin says:

    I think you are being over-sensitive Guy. I see the Amazon use of Arts & Photography as inclusive not exclusive, they could easily have had completely separate categories for them. Their mission is to sell books, because of the bias against photography as an art many people would not think to look under Art for Photography books and sales would decrease.


  2. Russ Bishop says:

    Indeed they do Guy! Unfortunately, photography has struggled to be accepted as a legitimate art form since its inception. As visual artists we should be considered for our creative vision and not the medium we chose to present it, but society will always be the final judge.

  3. As a funny observation, Guy, you have them separated also. :-) If you look bellow the article, you have two tags: art and photography.

    I don’t want to comment much on it, I think photography is art. My guess it comes from the way the school has taught arts. Like in photography, you have to learn the techniques to create the work of art, but it is taught in the same time with the studies and classes on arts. Maybe in the end learning of the art blends with the techniques and the people don’t perceive anymore the separation.
    But in photography, with all the advances in technology, there is a very clear separation between the technique and the creation of a photograph. Here in the end the technique gets to be “blended” (read perceived as blended) into the actual artwork.

  4. Well said, Guy. Imagine a career center with two windows: one for professionals and one for teachers; or a university with a science department and an astronomy department. How we categorize things, whether for navigational purposes or for managerial effectiveness, shapes how we see the world. If sites make the distinction between art and photography, then we are compelled to reinforce the distinction in our tags. Ironically, words shape how we see even more than images do.

  5. QT Luong says:

    I’ve mixed feelings. I like to be able to browser photography books separately. Their nature is indeed different. Photobooks can be original art objects, which cannot be said of books about other arts.

  6. Carl D says:

    “Words matter”? … course they do, Guy. To those who claim otherwise, tell someone you love them. :)

  7. Eric Pye says:

    Bob, I think you missed the point. Words matter.

  8. Brian Snyder says:

    I agree with you Guy. If the promoter of the art site wants to categorize, then he should also break the categories down further. Like painting, pencil drawings, chalk drawings, etc.

  9. Photography can be fine art, but it is so much more. Imaging techniques can literally save one’s life. So I vote for distinction rather than getting lost in inclusion, especially on the web. And if words matter, photography can also be poetry. It is within the eye/ear of an individual where the photograph, painting, or words blur to a felt sense, where your distinctive photography is included in awe-inspiring.