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Come in! There are a few adventures I’ve written about, but most of the content offers classes in photography and mentoring for photographers, including photo theory, which, although a vital part in our profession, is largely an overlooked subject in all published media that profits from and feeds our gadget minded mindset today.

Photography ART JOKE

April 15 2017 - Gallery News

A Photo Art Joke Discord #1


Another @ Metro-Misguided Museum of Art

       Enjoy these wonderful photographs from Marilyn Monroe’s home on the next page…

You’ve got to be kidding? NOT!

The ART JOKE: Discords on Photography by James Schot

I am kidding…the pictures above were taken after my Mother, Hendrika Schot Bailey, passed away as part of a record of inventory. Calling them “photographs” would give them more relevance than they deserve, for the subject matter lacks a need for in-depth (visual literacy) considerations of artistic elements. These inventory pictures are merely a visual record of existence. Nevertheless, such a display of Elizabeth Taylor’s home is being presented as fine art photography at a City’s Museum of Art.

What is the possible reason for a curator to lend the museum’s prestige and accolades by exhibiting this visual display? Does it represent the depth of our culture and its entrancement by celebrity? OK, this visual engagement may be thought of an easy audience draw on that basis, although I disagree. There may even be darker political and social undercurrents leading to this inappropriate decision, but I’m reminded of a quote by Bob Zimmerman that “if my thoughts could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” What were the curator’s standards in hosting this exhibit? These pictures of a person’s belongings require the most rudimentary photographic skills. Does any eye of a beholder, which in itself is not a good measure, see art? There is always that other possibility of curators (and critics) not understanding a medium enough to make educated choices.

This last obstacle is especially problematic, because it is hard to know or admit to what we do not know, and people unknowingly have a difficult time understanding photography. It is what psychologists call “the Dunning-Kruger effect.” This effect has existed since time immemorial. Millenniums ago Socrates noted the effect another way when he defined a “fool” as a person who thinks he/she knows what he does not know. Today, due to the Internet, they say such foolishness is a burgeoning problem.

Why? Photography is a most prevalent, accessible medium, and “generally” simple to apply. Is it any wonder that among the masses of users, little is known about it in-depth?  In the past, photography had difficulty being accepted as an art form. It’s true that most of what this medium produces can at its best be considered “artistic,” and today its output is further clouded and confused with computer output and art. Be that as it may “Photography as Art” is valid art form (a link to a script by that name of my explorations into fine art photography exclusively through this medium, using camera, optics and light is provided at the end).

I can’t say whether it is convenience, politics, not wholly/fully appreciating photography or all the above that put pictures of Elizabeth Taylor’s home onto museum walls. Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Marilyn Monroe and Hendrika, my Mom (photo by Hendrik Schot), were talented and beautiful women…


…but home belongings as pictured above and those of Elizabeth Taylor in a museum are a yawn, and certainly not “art.”

Honest Abe (Abraham Lincoln), known as a great story teller, mentioned that only one-sixth of those stories credited to him had actually been his invention, commenting “I don’t make the stories mine by telling them.” Apart from the broad ownership given artists by US copyright, we don’t make visual stories ours by (just) taking them. Photography can be graded as a) recording, b) which can be advanced to a high level of artistic interpretation depending on a photographers’ command of visual literacy, or c) be uniquely creative fine art photography. Student year book shots, mug shots, and pictures of closets and photos on dressers make no grade as fine art, but only damage thoughtful and genuine standards.


On the next pages enjoy another photo art joke.

A Photo Art Joke Discord #2


Another @ Metro-Misguided Museum of Art

How do you like this photograph directly below?

You’ve got to be kidding? NOT!


The ART JOKE: Discords on Photography by James Schot

I specifically worded it this way, “the photograph directly below” instead of saying “the photograph below.” Why? Any normal person would keep scrolling down looking for a photograph. Come on, this is either an abstract painting recorded and copied with a camera as a copy machine, or it is an abstract art piece created in Photoshop. Fine, great, nevertheless this City Museum just to the north talks about this abstract creation as if it was a fine art photograph. Read this blurb:

Whether this piece is a photo copy of a traditional brush painting or a product of a digital computer software brush, its creative essence is not based on photography. The medium of photography hasn’t shifted with the advent of new technologies; instead new technologies have shifted art with the advent of new mediums.  There is so much Gobbledygook lately in developing a narrative that will compliment exhibited pieces in museums, as if words alone will boost them to some level of artistic value. Too often an accompanying written embellishment is there to make something out of nothing. Among like-minded artists it is called “art speak,” and in serving critiques of my medium, photography, I call it “photo speak.”

Photo speak can center on “the process” of making a piece, which can be a valid compliment in describing the creative process. If, on the other hand, a written embellishment is given to Marilyn Monroe’s Home (see An Art Joke Critique #1) style of exhibit, what could a description of the creative process say? “I saw the closet with hanging cloths, set up the camera on a tripod, then using the algorithm ‘P’ I pressed the shutter, and looked at the LCD screen to be sure it gave the proper exposure with hopefully enough DOF.” What fascinating insight! Many will ask “say, what is DOF?” Not to mention its relationship to DOL.

If it’s not photo speak then another challenge for “Art” brought about by new technologies is to accept where photography ends and new mediums begin, and need for them to be identified and named. Taking the discussion away from the confusion and sensitivity of photography, I like to ask the audience a question relating to the medium of sculpture. Reality today enables Michelangelo’s hammer and chisel sculpture of David to be made by 3D printing. Is the result still considered a sculpture, or print, or something new yet to be named? When you take a bunch of photographs and by bits and bytes grind them through a computer, do you still output a photograph? I don’t think so. That outcome can be the most creative and artful “image” on the level of an esteemed Van Gogh, but it’s a new technology image. I would call this outcome a compograph; others may like to call it digital art, or?  Let me know.

We can assume that Museum curators will have a degree in Art History, but that history has not been long or strong in support of photography as an art form. Unlike history in general, which may be said to have the possibility of repeating itself, any repeated outcome would be scorned and rejected in the art world, although attempts at being different often come to vapid results. Nevertheless, the future objective of artists throughout art history is always to be different and unique, and new applied technologies to meet this end should seek a new semiotics to introduce and welcome their “newness.”

Having studied Art History does not supply a graduate with the tools to identify and provide a language for a new art form. This is one of the reasons why what’s new art, is labeled by what’s old, that are art labels from the past. This is a lot easier than coming up with an agreeable consensus among artists using the new medium to agree on a new name and its semantics.  I have discussed (and written about) the creative destruction of photography into the new computer software driven image art with many artists who have taken to this new medium and find no consensus to clearly identifying its newness. It seems a big part of the problem is how to promote their work of art to be relevant. This dilemma goes on to promote the notion that an artist will have a better chance of establishing personal artistic relevance calling a composited enhanced computer image a photograph, even if as a photograph it is a fake. How could this relevance be achieved in a new art form in search of an identity?

Not to be overlooked is economics, which plays a large role in sticking with old labels.  Confusion for one is not helpful to a bottom line, and updating the presses to introduce a new art is risky, time consuming, and above all expensive. Even if the old art language is no longer fully suitable for the discussion, it doesn’t hurt potential sales of the new technology.

One aspect of it all that I do find welcome is the growing acceptance of the partnership of art and science. Throughout art history this relationship has always existed at some level, but it became more prominent with the advent of photography in the scientific revolution. Today, in the digital age, in many respects there might not be artists if it weren’t for the scientific developments behind the scenes (double entendre is intentional). I have encountered enough Luddite photographers in past experiences teaching photography that shunned with disdain such thinking of art/science collaboration; nevertheless it has always been there. Art has always enhanced science, and the most accomplished artists throughout art history have been the masters of both art and its related science.

With regards to Museums, fortunately there are those making more considered choices for their exhibits. This is why I flew to Manhattan…  there I enjoyed the Irving Penn exhibit at the MET, and it has provided material and inspiration for writing another article as an addendum to my thirteen part script https://jamesschotgallerystudio.com/blog/photography-as-art/.

James Schot – professional photographer and photography critic.

James Schot Gallery & Photo Studio, LLC

2800 N. Federal Highway

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33306

PH: 954-564-1112


Disclaimer: Names and places are withheld. Those admonished by this critique do not need to be specifically identified here by me. If there is additional interest by the reader it is simple to research identities.  The pictures included are mine, but virtually represent what was shown in the exhibit discussed, of which I also have several random shots. This is an opinion piece; feel free to make your own determination, I would be interested to read it.