Photography: legitimate tool or cheating crutch to be ashamed of?

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

Photography: legitimate tool or cheating crutch to be ashamed of?

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005

In truth, photos are only one more tool for the artist. Those that don’t learn to draw and to paint from life, who then use photos almost always wind up making the mistakes that the photographic process causes. But if you know your craft and then on occasion use photography as an aid, it is no more wrong to use than one or two point perspective.

Would any of us say that the artists that use a pencil and a ruler along with that technique, invented by Albrecht Dürer in the 16th Century, are somehow cheating and being less truthful? Would it make sense to take some “purist” position that any artist worth their salt would use the naked eye to achieve the illusion of perspective?

Of course not! Yet for all we know, there were in fact large groups of artists who had made their career without that tool and who insisted that any “real” artist would never resort to such cheep parlor tricks.

Perhaps photography is still new enough, that we haven’t yet gotten past that typical period when a new tool is argued down by practitioners who perhaps resent the existence of a tool that they were not able or not permitted to use during most of their careers.

But Piet is correct when he says that it is the result that counts the most.

In the case of photography, things have been further confused by 100 years of modernist ideological success, and the fear that today’s realists have that their work will be denigrated if it is known that they used photos.