• Tom Lee

Photography and the Establishment

#Photography in the art world, has in my view only attained a so called ‘Associate’ membership’ granted a concession by the greater establishment, who still try to keep us out.


#Science and art once stood together as equals in the Royal Academy (RA). In capable hands the camera (born of science) is quite capable after due process, of producing a pleasing to the eye composition, with use of #colour, light, shade, contrast and subject matter. Just as a #painter understands his ability to mix pigments and lay brush strokes on an empty canvas, we are both striving to achieve the same end. We have often been accused as having the easy option as photographers but I beg to differ. One of my composite creations can take up to 50 hours to complete, but a painter who creates an abstract painting in only a few hours might seemingly attract more gravitas and we only have the painter’s word that the finished article is what was intended all along. Why then are no photographs allowed to hang alongside paintings in the RA? I know they have special #exhibitions, but they are only temporary, surely this should be rectified. It seems that photo-realistic painting is OK but not photography….. Each discipline has its place and I think that eventually some enlightened curator will make this happen at the risk of being ridiculed themselves.

I guess they ‘fear’ what we can do with #technology, which is why the bigots of the art world continue to pour scorn on our skills that (like painters) can take many years to master. Phrases like ‘it’s easy’ or ‘it’s a machine doing all the work’, are usually made by someone who does not understand the complexities of the science of photography. If I were a bigot I could easily do the same for some of the so-called abstract works of this world – but I’m not, and I don’t.

It would be churlish of me not to accept my #abstract ‘brother in art’ and walk side by side with him in #solidarity, rather than throw stones at him in ignorance of his skill. Why then can painter's and #sculptorsnot do the same and accept that there are only differences in the way we try to achieve the same end.


#Composition, tone, colour, balance and content are all aspects that both photographers and painters strive to achieve in their work, so why does the art community think we are so different? Until we break down the barriers that make them so frightened of us, nothing will change. Our brand of art is a young one compared to painting and drawing, after all the cavemen started it all two Millenia ago! We all know there can be good and bad art, so why then do we seem to agree that a cave painting is described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘amazing’ when these people had no training in art and their skills were rudimentary at best? It seems that the #establishment has some of it’s wires crossed here. A red palmprint on a rock face made by a primitive with no skill has more merit than a trained photographic artist with decades of experience. Of course the cave artist has something I don’t – a #historical context….perhaps in two thousand years, my images will take on the same #gravitas.


Where am I going with all this? I think what I’m trying to #communicate is that we should all be #enlightenedby the ‘art’ that we see no matter how it was created, and appreciate the skills of our #contemporaries, acknowledging that we are the same – but different! I hope we can all change a little and keep knocking on the door of the establishment to let us in. One day photographs WILL hang alongside paintings in the RA (maybe!)

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