The finest craftsmanship and beautiful materials don’t make a work of art. They will make a beautiful object that is a joy to hold and view and one that provides the same pleasure each time you see or hold it.

This is true also for some photographs and other works of painting or sculpture. However the part we usually admire is the skill and ability of the person who made it, not the message or voice of the piece itself. The difference is craft is about the skill and mastery of that skill, not the image. Art is about the image and the skill will either add or become secondary to the work’s message and soul. It’s my contention that many folks in photography have been caught up in the skill portion of the work and can’t differentiate between the mastery of skill and the voice or message. When the two combine it makes the creation of a clear voice easier but it isn’t about how it is told as much as what is said. Not all works need to have the voice of Shakespeare to be eloquent or get the meaning across. Some photographs can use the simple voice of Steinbeck and tell a story just as well or even use a voice and skill set we have yet to discover. I admire craft for the skill of the person making the work and I admire them in the work. This isn’t the same as having admiration for the work and what it makes me feel. If the work can transcend the craft with message and feeling, it becomes much more than the maker’s skill.

I am not trying to diminish the importance of craft here, however craft without vision or something to say is not art. The development of skills and craft should go along with the development of a clear message and direction for the reasons for making something. If it were only about the craft, musicians could just play scales and we’d call it music, painters could just mix colors and we’d call it a painting, or it would be enough for us to just photograph the same subject over and over again. The addition of a piece of us through our vision combined with craft is our voice and it can be eloquent in a way that is ours alone. This brings a perspective to what we make that no-one else can duplicate because craft alone can be copied, voice cannot.

Leave a Reply