What is an Artist Statement?
Recently, I decided to dive into the concept of the Artist Statement to see what some of the top landscape photographers share when they explain their photographic vision in their own words.
Here’s what I found…
Before sharing some favorite landscape photographers’ artist statements, it is important to suss out exactly what an artist statement is…
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) explains the artist statement to its students in this way: “An artist’s statement is a piece of writing by you, that helps to explain your artistic work.”
Sounds simple, right? Well, apparently it isn’t so simple. In fact, the artist statement is so disliked amongst many artists that one artist called it “the dentistry of the art world”.
So what is this elusive thing called an artist statement?
Artists have been writing about art since the 14th century; however, the first four centuries were dominated first, by technical and strategic advice, and later, by theoretical treatises about the all of the arts (particularly arguments ranking them). The 19th century was filled with artists’ private letters and journals, while the early 20th century was chock-full of the artist manifesto. Finally, in the mid-20th century, we find the artist statement come into the spotlight.
Since then, artists have written, in statement form, in an attempt to explain the context of their specific work.
Some artists statements are nearly as famous as the artwork (Matisse, Picasso, Calder, Oldenburg). Their statements may include personal insights, influences, themes, techniques, and even politics.
These days artists statements may be complex, playful, simple, theoretical, coherent, nonsensical, or poetic.
I have searched for a few interesting examples in the world of Landscape Photography to share with you.
Onto the Artist Statements from some of the Top Landscape Photographers
About the Artist
Ted Gore is a landscape photographer based in Southern California who has a sophisticated style of photography characterized by a combination of ambitious compositions and seductive processing. His portfolio displays his range as well as his ability to translate scenes with even the most unconventional features and challenging conditions into compelling works of art.
Ted was awarded the title of USA Landscape Photographer of the Year for 2015, judged by a panel of highly regarded landscape photographers including Marc Adamus, Art Wolfe, and Charlie Waite. Ted is an accomplished outdoorsman who has completed the entire Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail in California. Ted is also a certified Wilderness First Responder by the Wilderness Medical Association.
Ted’s artist statement (what he calls his artistic vision) highlights what he calls a “new age of photography.”
He states, “I enjoy pushing the boundaries of creating imagery of our natural world, and it is no mistake that I use the term ‘imagery' rather than ‘photograph'. My work extends beyond the boundaries of what a photograph can be and fully utilizes the amazing technology that we have at our disposal in this day and age.”
Through his embrace of digital photography, Ted hopes to create “metaphors to my experiences in nature” that blend the real and unreal. His images combine nature and his creative vision, to tell the truth as he experiences with his art.
“I do not limit myself to the images that a camera creates, and often utilize advanced processing techniques such as focus, perspective, focal length, exposure, and time blends to better manifest my creative vision which is uniquely and largely influenced by my experiences with nature.”
The result of this vision is, in my view, a collection of stunning visual images that highlight nature’s fierce beauty.
Thank you, Ted, for sharing your artistic vision with us!
About the Artist
When she was growing up in southeast England, Rachael went on many family sailing trips. While these vacations had the purpose of being fun for the family, Rachael didn’t enjoy them because she was a “shockingly bad sailor” constantly overcome with seasickness. Thus, she most often could be found alone in the cockpit watching the ocean. “I spent ages staring at the waves,” she remembers. “I used to imagine creatures in the sea”.
Talibart’s new series, Sirens, was shortlisted for a Sony World Photography Award.
By the way, Rachel was one of the photographers that I tagged as a place marker in my article on which landscape lens are used by some of the best landscape photographers.
So far, I don't know what Rachel uses, regardless, she uses them very well.
While not technically an artist statement, Rachael’s explanation of her work in the Sirens series functions as exactly that:
While watching Storm Imogen on Newhaven Beach in East Sussex, Rachael captured the majestic waves featured in Sirens.
“It’s about understanding the sea, knowing when a wave is coming, being able to predict what it’s likely to do so I can get the shot,” she explains. The combination of strong winds, an extra high tide, and sporadic sunshine, as well as Rachael’s use of an ultra-fast 1000 frames/second shutter speed and telescopic lenses, resulted in the images.
“We never see that with our eyes, because the waves’ movement stops us from noticing the incredible shapes,” Talibart points out. “By using a fast shutter speed, I can freeze that motion.”
She has said in interviews that the resulting photographs remind her of sea creatures, specifically in this series the Sirens from Homer’s Odyssey. Each photograph’s title is a name of a mythological god or goddess.
“A part of me is still half-afraid of the sea,” she admits. “There’s a fascination and a love for it, but there’s also fear.”
Be sure to check out Talibart’s incredible photography capturing the power of the ocean! Perhaps you will even travel to see them from September to November 2018, where she has a show called Tides and Falls, at The Sohn Fine Art Gallery in the Berkshires, Lennox, Massachusetts.
Thank you, Rachael, for the inspiration of your artist statement and the beauty of your images.
About the Artist
Huibo Hou is a landscape photographer based in San Diego, California, USA, She is a full-time wireless communication hardware design engineer and part-time fine art photographer. She chooses to express her view of the world through photography, particularly what she calls “the poetic impact of Black and White photography.” In 2017, she won 3rd place in the International Landscape Photographer of the World competition with her photos of Bisti Wilderness Area of New Mexico and Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime.
I was able to identify Huibo’s vision for her art in an interview from March 2018 on Visionandlife.com.
I was struck by her insight into her inspirations, finding beauty, developing an understanding of the landscape, and her techniques.
She states “I have also learnt that beauty is everywhere waiting for any talented photographers to discover.”
She is not only inspired by the landscape, but also by other photographers: “my biggest source of inspiration in recent years has always been Guy Tal. His photography style and post-processing philosophy have greatly influenced me.”
Huibo also embraces lifelong learning, stating that she is “constantly evolving and developing my photography style. I really like nature abstract. Currently, my biggest desire and goal is to continue improving my photography vision and ‘eyes’ for more nature abstracts.”
As we all know, the place is extremely important to landscape photographers.
She writes, “I love going to new places, but I also keep coming back to the familiar places to discover fresh new angles. I do not think traveling far to new or popular places is imperative to produce great images. Such opportunities are very exciting and appreciated, but without spending enough time or forming a deep understanding for the places we visit, we can easily fall into the trap of producing similar images as many who have done it. To me, what's more important is to develop a keen vision to “discover” beauty, not just to “capture” beauty. Familiar places or sometimes even mundane scenery around us can be transformed into something exquisite by creative composition or under extraordinary conditions. I'd feel more excited and satisfied when I am able to capture that.” What an excellent way to explain the process of creating an artistic image that is uniquely hers.
Finally, Huibo describes her preference for black and white photography.
“Over the years I've discovered that I'm naturally drawn to black and white images. Without color, I can focus more on composition, contrast, textures, tonal range. With that, I can create images with a better visual effect. More importantly, I found it is usually more effective to express emotion with just the black and white. A good black and white image need to suit the theme, not just because the lighting wasn't good that day hence color version didn't work out. In another word, a black and white image needs to be captured with a purpose, rather than an afterthought…I strive to have my images convey these emotions to the viewers. In the last few years, I've learned to let my inner voice guide me to follow my heart and slowly develop my photography style, and I've learned to let it happen patiently”.
I was truly struck by the way Huibo talks about her approach to photographing new landscapes vs. those to which she’s more familiar.
Be sure to check out her images on Instagram, flicker, and in the International Photographer of the Year competition. You won’t be disappointed.
Thank you Huibo for your inspiration.
About the Artist
Alex Noriega is a landscape photographer currently based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States who has been working in photography for over eight years.
Alex’s artistic passion lies in the deserts of the American Southwest, particularly the Colorado Plateau. He is fascinated with its geologic diversity, its raw display of the processes of time, and the seemingly endless mystery around every corner. Alex has an appreciation for dramatic imagery as well as smaller, quieter scenes.
In 2016, he won three international competitions:
- International Landscape Photographer of the Year – “Hibernation”, “Ballad of Gales”, “Sanctuary”, and “Mother Brain” earned the top prize
- USA Landscape Photographer of the Year – “Volcanic Autumn” placed 1st overall
- International Pano Awards Photographer of the Year – “Hibernation II” and “Funnel Factory” placed 1st and 2nd overall
My images have appeared in a number of publications, including USA Today, Landscape Photography Magazine, Photography Masterclass Magazine, DPReview, Scholastic, N-Photo Magazine, LeNs Magazine, Digital Photo Magazine, Digital Camera World, Digital Photographer Magazine, Practical Photography Magazine, Photographer's Companion Magazine China, Amateur Photographer UK, Réponses Photo France, and the IES Lighting Handbook.
Alex has written quite a bit about his vision and approach to his photographic craft.
He writes that “the most satisfying type of image for me to make” are those that are “almost abstract, in soft light, and isolated.” These include those he’s taken of Mount Rainier, in what he describes as “a tighter panoramic portrait that shows the details of the peak in dappled storm light.” Looking at his images of this majestic mountain. I can see exactly this idea of the “portrait” of this massive mountain in the dappled.
Alex believes that the fact that he pays specific attention to nature is part of what has helped him improve his craft.
“I believe that focus improves one as an artist.”
Alex, like the other landscape photographers, also shares some of his beliefs and preferences about color versus black and white photography:
“I have hardly any black and white images in my portfolio, but I have a lot of monochromatic ones, particularly in blue. I find that color can usually be used to infuse a mood or atmosphere into an image, but I do sometimes like to keep the color ultra subdued, almost silvery in nature, which is close to a black and white….I decide during post processing if color is necessary and to what degree – in the field, I am only concerned with composition and light.”
If you haven’t spent time looking at Alex’s photographs, I can’t recommend them enough. They are at once powerful and quiet, awe-inspiring and intimate.
Please do go to his website and check out his work.
Thank you, Alex, for your inspiration.
I find each of these photographer’s explanations of their work to be incredibly inspirational.
I also appreciate the diversity of ways that landscape photographers write about their work. I really hope that you have found this deep dive into a few photographers’ artist statements as fascinating as I have.
Perhaps it will inspire you to write your own Artist Statement, or re-write the one that you already have.
Again, thank you to each of them for sharing their artistic visions with the world!