As a photographer I'm saddened by what is transpiring in the art world. It is an issue primarily but not exclusively concerning photographers, reaching now into mixed-media artists and painters somewhat. It is a dark-side issue, one of ethics, definitions of categories, and back-doors into shows. The situation is that many artists, griping out of one side of their mouth about high jury fees, are applying multiple times to shows. Applying in photography, in digital, and in mixed-media categories or some combination thereof - with the SAME BODY OF WORK. They seek a back door into a show they really wish to be a part of. By itself, it demonstrates how desperately many of us wish we had a level, fair, unbiased-as-possible playing field so we have an opportunity to exhibit our work before the public in that area. So some are trying every possible bending, re-interpretation, or outright breaking of rules that are obviously being ignored by the very people who wrote them (aka: Promoters). I’m wondering that if a show says they have 1000 applications, how many ARTISTS that actually represents, when you subtract out artists applying multiple times either in the same category or different categories. I’m thinking ..... a lot less. Just looking at the medium of photography involved in this issue ...... Photography and printing of photographs have evolved since the inception of the medium. Each step has allowed more control of how an image was taken and how it was printed. Always involved has been some form of light-sensitive substrate (e.g., plates, paper, film, now digital sensors). As photography has evolved, photographers have become more creative in how they produce photographs or images, both in the taking of images, also in the printing and/or compositing of images. I would point to just a few examples: the photomontage works of Alexander Rodchenko, the multiple-image style of Freeman Patterson, the revival of dreamscapes by Andre Gallant, the photomontage images of Barbara Kline and the works of Jerry Uelsman. All film-based styles. Chris Maher and Larry Berman have a wonderful interview with Jerry Uselsman on the Shutterbug website at: Look at the work of those PHOTOGRAPHERS. Those final-form images do not exist in the world such that you can go take a picture of them. Yet they are photography. They are the creative genius of the photographers that took the images on film cameras and composited, montaged, the images in the darkroom. So I ask: the fact that someone can now do similar work digitally, why does that somehow make it something different than photography? Is a digital camera not still a camera? Is a digital sensor not now the next step in photography replacing film? Is a computer and software not replacing the chemical darkroom? Also, ask yourself if filmed ceased to exist tomorrow, would photography disappear soon thereafter as an art medium? Or has the advent of digital technology just been the next step in the evolution of the medium of photography? That said, I have to challenge the ethics of some of the digital photographers on the show circuit. When digital cameras first emerged, those photographers switching to digital found a fair level of resentment, or even rejection, by show promoters that felt the digital technology was NOT photography. Those digital artists had to argue their point continually with promoters with the hope they could convince the promoter of their perspective and be accepted into shows, as there was no “digital” category at the time. I believe that argument was supported overwhelmingly by film photographers that digital capture and printing was still photography, just the newest form of photography, with the computer and inkjet printers becoming the new “digital darkroom”. Eventually, the majority of promoters were apparently won over by the argument. Now I see many of those same “photographers”, self-proclaimed photographers, saying “no, I’m a digital artist”. What????? Even though they call themselves photographers, their body of work is self-described as photography, their colleagues know them as photographers, their websites and advertising literature all say they are photographers, most shows they will always apply as photographers and exhibit their .... hmmmm .... photography. Yet now they apply also as mixed-media with say a hand-colored (or digitally colored) black-and-white image (a long-established photographic technique) or as a digital artist ... again, WITH THE SAME BODY OF WORK THEY EXHIBIT AS A PHOTOGRAPHER. Am I the only person who thinks this is wrong? That they are doing so merely in search of that back door into a show they want to be a part of? I totally relish the day they invade the world of painting, and apply with that same body of work as a painter, and get accepted to shows, and win awards. Because to in any way claim that their image, created by using computers and software to apply ink onto a canvas or watercolor paper might somehow be argued to be “painting”, or convert a photograph with a few clicks of a Photoshop routine or software plug-in, or Corel Paint, to turn a photograph into a pointalism/pointillism, abstract, impressionistic, or other style of painting output on some type of painting medium ..... well, won’t that be interesting! And wrong? I welcome the voices of painters into this discussion. The only true digital artist I have ever had the pleasure to meet was Kenneth Huff, out of Florida. He creates his work with 3D animation software, much of which he writes now himself. All the image is created in 3D computer space. His website is: How ANY digital photographer can compare their work, self-described as digital, to what Kenneth does, is incomprehensible to me. So my points are these - debate them as you feel compelled or support them as you can add to the issues - both are most welcome. Digital cameras and the digital darkroom are still photography. No matter how much photomontaging, compositing, digital alteration is done. Again, I point to the works of the artists I mentioned above and say since that work is all photography, doing anything even remotely similar using a computer is still photography. If you digitally capture and output on photographic paper, watercolor paper, a canvas, a film, perhaps with other media the argument would hold .... the process is still photography. If you use variation of what hand-colored photography with pencils and oils has always been, done in a computer, it is still photography. And a true hand-colored photograph is still photography, NOT mixed-media. If a computer, software, or other digital process is used to mimic or expands on an existing technique in the realm of photography, then it remains photography. It is not digital, it is not mixed-media. Not until you transcend the realm of photography does it become something else. Also, the same body of work should not qualify in more than one medium. It is either photography, OR digital, OR mixed-media. Not two or three of those categories. That implies either the artist is cheating the rules knowing the promoter is unlikely to enforce their own rules, or the rules are so vague and unclear as to not distinguish media. Especially for shows associated with art centers or promoters that are trying (god forbid!) to hold indoor-style art museum shows outdoors, this should definitely be a no-no. If artists are confused about what qualifies in what category, how do you expect your art patrons to understand what they are seeing? Again promoters, this is your role as manager of your event to clarify and prevent. SOLUTION: Promoters - first step to solving this issue: acknowledge that digital capture, processing, and output is: Photography. Second: the images submitted for jurying must represent THE BODY OF WORK (your rules) that will be exhibited. Third: a body of work can only be submitted in ONE category. Period. Fourth: absolutely you MUST do CHECK at the show to confirm the jury slides represent the body of work, that the images are not “special jury slides” meant to WOW! the jurors but do not represent the body of work. That is your responsibility as part of your management of your event. Body of work. Fifth: do away with the category of digital. At least for now. Until more artists emerge that create entirely in the digital realm, it is probably dysfunctional and confusing to have this category, regardless of how much more money you make by artists applying in multiple categories with the same body of work. OR, define the rule more clearly. As an example, define “digital”, if you must keep it as a category, as work for which at least 50% (or whatever percent is reasonable) of each piece is created solely within the computer. Not composited from different digital or film images, but created in the computer, independent of anything scanned into or otherwise brought into the computer from any other source (that would be compositing or photomontaging). I really do look forward to discussion on these points!

You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Votes: 0
Email me when people reply –


  • My art work is photography.

    I capture images with either film or digital cameras, and then compose with forty or more layers of images or manipulated images using a variety of post production tools, some of which are designed for the motion picture industry. That's all I'm willing to reveal about how I do what I do, but it's still just photography. Period.

    Furthermore, "photography" is not about chemistry; it's about photons! The distinction between chemistry and digital is BS.

    Someone using film and chemical processing is no more a "real" photographer than someone using digital means exclusively.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that the deceased masters would have used the most modern and efficient cameras and tools available. They always have; they always will.
    • I think this is good William. That a definition of photography include light interacting with a light-sensitive medium. If that is what you use to capture your base images from, if that is the basis for your output, it seems it provides a good working definition. That an image captured with film or a digital sensor is photography until something substantial changes it into something else. And digital manipulation of an image of itself would not seem to constitute that type of a significant change. Also, that the categories of photography and either digital (if it is kept around) and mixed-media be mutually exclusive categories. The work is either photography OR something else. Yes? No?
  • No Munks, you're not. That's bullshit. It's one thing to contribute ideas, yes, that's valuable. It's another thing to do it in a way that insults and offends people. That's not what free speech is about. Your rights end where mine begin, and I don't appreciate you, Mike D, or anyone else crossing that line. Trust me, I'm not that nice a guy.

    Look at Mike D's last response:

    "I'm not saying these things to be unkind." Yes, yes he is to the extreme. He's not interested in a discussion, a discourse, and exchange .... merely bashing listeners with his rants of his opinions. Hence his use of the word "ignoramuses" in referring to any and all of us that don't agree with him. He's showing himself to be a natural stand-in for a right-wing talk show host .... maybe Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly where all that matters is what they think, not anyone else ....

    "This is just my opinion. I think your anger stems from the fact that you know I'm more than partially right and a majority of other art show artist's would agree with me". This too, unadulterated bullshit. No, I don't agree with him, nor do most photographers I know. That conclusion is based on what? Many of us do resent people using back doors, any backdoors, into show but that is not his point or his rant. That other photographers are using digital, or printing on canvas? I don't care. Photography changes, it evolves. My photographer friends don't care. Many have switched to digital capture and digital printing. I haven't. I still shoot film. So what? It's my choice in my medium for my reasons. The medium is changing and will change, regardless. I will pick and choose as I see fit. Mike D's assumption is just false and its rampant stupidity on Mike D's part to draw that conclusion and then base his rant on that.

    "... all the dark, unethical behavior being perpetrated by the people who call themselves Photographers and Digital Artist's. I'm just saying nothing can be done because those mediums have been melded into one big pile of dark, unethical something ..." You don't think that's insulting and meant to be? Choosing the word "unethical" was intentional as he has used it before? It more than implies we do things we know to be wrong or against some ethical standard and here too .... bad conclusion ...... ak: bullshit.

    Couple this with his phrasing on another posting about "punching an artist in the mouth" .... while meant probably in some way to be humorous, is just bad taste and demonstrates a pattern of anger and frustration. Time after time. And me or anyone else on this blog are not alone. Mike D has a reputation on blogs for this type of writing. He's no longer welcome on most if any. And I don't get why he wants to just spew out his anger and frustration at people on this one either. I don't appreciate it, don't enjoy it, and don't care nor do I wish to in any way empower him by pretending I don't care. So unless Connie says its okay and wants to tolerate it, I hope that kind of attitude is gone. I'm happy to listen to others, consider other viewpoints, and change mine accordingly. I think most everyone on this site that I've read the postings of are also of that mind. But never, ever, from somone like Mike D. Apparently he has not learned he can get his message across far better if he packages it a bit differently. It isn't about preapproval or fluffy sugar coating. Just not being such an arrogant ass that you piss everyone off in the process. There aren't many I know that would tolerate his arrogance, either in writing or in person.
    • Thank you Linda and William for working to keep this on track. Let's see if we can't get off the woeful path this has strayed onto and return to what brought us here to begin with.

      From what has been written, I think there are at least two primary issues that are rising to the top from these many thoughtful discussions. Again, theoretical threads with practical implications. Let's see if we all agree on what those two issues (or others I have missed) and we'll go from here.


      William, you've started a good thread on this and maybe people can jump in there as has Larry ... or continue here.

      Throughout the evolution of photography as an art form, photography has changed. From plates to film to digital sensors. From chemistry or chemicals on the plates to darkroom chemistry in tanks to computers as the digital darkroom. And skill sets have arisen to work the medium as it has evolved. Throughout this process of evolution in photography, has there ever been a time, including now, when the process of producing a print through these processes stopped being photography? Or as Larry pointed out on your posting William, is it no different now, using digital capture and digital printing, no different than for example when color arose? And I think Larry's point was well stated. That when color film arose, many people viewed it as different form B&W photography. Though now, in retrospect, it doesn't seem there are many if any who still hold to that point of there being any difference whatsoever, that black-and-white and color are both photography. If it is no different, then the suggestion which I think would be supported by most writing here and as a suggestion to show promoters is drop any use of the term "digital" in reference to photography, except to say digital photography = film photography = photography, period. AND ..... there should be no category of "digital", correct? Unless it is .. what? Something entirely created within the computer in a digital realm using digital tools?

      If not .... if there is disagreement on this, then the discussion should go on to either reach a consensus of identify these differences.


      Case in point being William's description of what he does. At what point in working an image with some other medium such as paints, oils, acids, polymers, gels, metals, plastics, sequins, buttons, etc. does a photograph becomes something else? And then, WHAT DOES IT BECOME? Mixed media? Painting? I think this is also a concept that needs clarification as it pertains to art shows, one that promoters would benefit from in writing rules and structuring their show by acknowledging and addressing this issue.

      What say you?
    • Who's going to set the standard - you?, me?, MikeD?, some guy on the street?, how about the biggest bully with the biggest stick. How about the government? - they're good at this kind of stuff.

      How about the use of profanity? Does that make someone's 5 paragraph rambling manifesto unworthy or worthy of attention? How about tone? What if the writer's tone is inappropriate? What if you and I disagree with a writer? - does that make them unworthy of posting? What if the sense of humor doesn't agree with you.

      Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor? Picasso? William Buckley?, Gore Vidal?, Matisse? O'Keefe? Lennon? George Orwell? Bob Dylan? Are all these people ok in your book? Are their ideas acceptable as they presented them?

      I'm just going to sit here wrapped in the flag.....whatcha gonna do Mr. Pottymouth? - burn me? As I said before - get over it and let people express their opinions without you being the thought police.

      • This is a DISCUSSION FORUM Mike D or Munks or whatever you want to call yourself.
        Most of us have been members of Connie's forum since it started and while we have not always agreed, it has been always discussions with care of thought and treating all with respect. You have brought in a personality of nasty false opinions that is not wanted on this forum.

        Ron - If I may suggest - you close this particular discussion and reopen it at a later time.
        Connie - can you check the ip on this guy and please remove his/their memberships. Likely it will be the same ip address.

        William - good luck with your first show.
        Let's all have a terrific fall
        • "Methinks one who blubbers out of ignorance should gather facts before he proves to all his ignorance."

          -from your post a few days ago.....

          By the way, I am not MikeD, so now you have one fact to work with.

      • Your rants have nothing to do with art, or art issues. Just rants. And obviously you don't apply the same willingness of free speech to me that you seem to extend to Mike D at whatever the cost, do you! So you view me as some authority figure with which you seem to have intense internal issues with? I'm not. I'm just one voice. You have problems, which are not fixable on this site by any of us. We are done.
        • I stand by what I wrote. Re-read it. You and Linda Anderson do not understand the exchange of ideas in a public forum as evidenced by the writing that has been posted.

          Re-read what is being said to you, or don't - but no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Geez MikeD -

    Please have the decency to submit your writing to the folks on this forum in private and receive their approval of your thoughts and writing before you post! What do you think this is - America?

    Don't you realize that artists are all one big happy family that we all think and act alike? It's bad manners to speak your mind without prior approval first. I would suggest you purchase some of those lovely misty mountain notecards or maybe some cute puppy cards at your next show and jot your ideas on those and then submit them for approval - you might have a better chance.

    Obviously, you just need some "re-educatin" there son - then everyone will approve of what you think and you'll be popular and everyone will love, respect, and admire you.

    . . .and so it goes . . .
This reply was deleted.