Is Photography Art?
In this blog, I look back at my life’s journey as an artist, from my school days to the present day and I ask myself the question Is my photography Art?
Above: Fantasy Art Photography with model Grace Gray but would you categorise it as art?
Above: A Damsel in Distress. A humorous fantasy art image of model Kelly R and actor Kenton Church
This is the question I’ve been considering during lockdown as I’ve recently been inspired to be creative. The problem I have, and I’m sure I am not alone feeling like this, is the fear of failure. I want to create something amazing but my past experiences play on my mind and more often than not I don’t even make the first pencil mark. So why am I like this when it comes to drawing or painting?
As a child I always liked to draw, I wasn’t any good at it but it gave me a lot of pleasure. I took art as one of my options at school but because I wasn’t a natural illustrator I felt as though the teacher spent her time concentrating on the pupils who were naturally gifted and I just got on with my own thing unnurtured. When choosing my options at school I also wanted to take photography, unfortunately for me, I was the only pupil in my entire year who chose photography as an option, so that was out of the question.
Not long after starting my school options when on a short break with my family, I discovered a piece of art created on Scraperboard, which really inspired me. I wasn’t brilliant at it but it did fire up my interest in other forms of art other than just watercolours and pencil drawings. In the interest of encouraging you, here's some of my early art which I'm honestly embarrassed to share.
Above: A very early Scraperboard drawing of my hero, stunt rider Eddie Kidd - sorry Eddie, you were much better looking than this!
Above: An early art project of Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Jose Wales
My scraperboard art inspired me to take up glass engraving which uses a similar technique. It also helped me get my first job which was an apprentice Silversmith where I repaired silver antiques. I attended Sir John Cass School of Art for one day a week and had two very proud parents! Unfortunately, due to a recession, I was made redundant after a couple of years and went on a different journey.
Above: As one of my projects at Sir John Cass School of Art I created this drinking tankard out of Nickle Silver. It's in need of a good polish but hasn't fallen apart, yet. Incidentally, it was made from 4 pieces of metal, one for the body, another for the base ring, and two for the handle.
Above: An illustration showing the profile and top view of sugar bowl I designed while attending Sir John Cass School of Art on day release.
Jumping forward a few years and feeling rather fed up working in a dead-end job after being made redundant yet again, I handed in my notice at a job I hated to become self-employed as a glass engraver. While doing this, I learnt a lot about business and how difficult it can be pursuing a passion for a living but I did really enjoy what I did and have carried those experiences with me.
Above: One of my first engravings using a hobby engraving tool on perspex. This is still proudly displayed on my mum's wall at home!
Above: A couple of Scraperboard illustrations which I used as templates for my glass engraving projects
Above: Glass Engraving on wine glass
Above: Glass Engraving of Mozart with music score
Above: Stipple art illustration of The Edge from U2. This must have been early 1980's.
This eventually led me into graphic design which I absolutely loved and after gaining a few years of experience working in agencies I set up my own business. I went on to be a director (glossy term) of an advertising and design agency with my cousin and his business partner. Not bad for someone who didn’t do well at school and couldn't draw.
We ran our agency for 15 years, it was like a family business where we had lots of fun times and worked for some great clients. My talent was being a graphic designer and any illustration would be commissioned. Using Apple Mac's and Desk Top Publishing software I was in my element, creating commercial art and doing a job I enjoyed. But I still didn't enjoy the day to day tasks of running a business, if I'm honest.
I was still passionate about my photography and hoped that one day I would be able to pursue this interest for a living. You can read more about this on my website blog.
We closed the business for a number of reasons and I knew now would be the opportunity for me to really concentrate on my photography which was now such a massive part of my life. Life was photography and photography was my life.
When I first started experimenting and building my portfolio, I promoted myself as a Commercial and Fantasy Art Photographer, and that description still applies to this day. Photography is my only source of income. As a commercial photographer, I work for many businesses and organisations doing what I love, day in and day out.
Above; Model Grace Gray, soon to be portrayed in an original painting. More of that to follow!
Above: A boho/whimsical style of photography with model Sasha Wright
A Dark Fairytale series of Fantasy Art images with model Sian
Back in 2014 I created an image based on the Dark Fantasy Series which we've kept under wraps all this time. The reason being, there was talk of the image being commissioned as an Art Print and we couldn't share it on social. Both Rosey and I decided this is now the perfect opportunity for us to share. What we loved was how different the shot came out compared to the original image above, even though we used the same props and actually shot at the same location. It was one of those moments when the sunlight became magical and really suited the fantasy world we had created.
Above: Model Rosey Pooley
Photography is still also my hobby, it is my art and the way I express myself; I really enjoy retouching in Photoshop using a Wacom pad and stylus pen. Holding the stylus feels like you are holding a pencil and gives me the same feeling as an artist would get with their brushes, or at least similar!
Above: Fairytale Fantasy Art with Anna Nause, Makeup by Clare Bradshaw
Above: Whimsical style art with model Sasha Wright
An ethereal shoot shot on location with Sasha wright and assistant Emma White
I’ve always been an ideas person and love being creative. Looking back from where I started you could say I was Drawn to Photography.
Is photography really art? This is the question I’ve been considering recently. My wife and I love watching Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, as well as Landscape Artist of the Year. In 2018 we were able to attend a live event and chat with the artists and hosts of the programme. My favourite was Samira Addo who not only won the heat but went on to win the competition that year and was commissioned to paint Kim Cattrall. We both love watching an artist start with a blank canvas and interpret the subject in a different light, using their style and technique.
Above: Samira Addo at Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
Above: The brilliant Frank Skinner
Above: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year with Michael Ball
Below: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year with Robert Bathhurst
Above: Joan Bakewell and Kathleen Soriano at The Portrait Artist of the Year
We’ve recently started watching Grayson’s Art Club on C4 which has really inspired me to create again but what images have I created would I say is art?
I would to say yes it is but I'd like to know your opinion. Art can mean different things to different people. For most, it's escapism, a way of getting away from the real world to a fantasy world. Even if your art is lifelike, photo-realism, it's still a way for the artist to disengage from the every day while they are creating.
Above: Beauty and Rope. Shibari Rope Art mixed with Beauty. Model Grace Cairns, Makeup Gemma Howell.
Above: Macro Beauty Photography. Model Natasha Estdale. Makeup by Grace Gray
Above: Model Romy Bondy. Makeup by Gemma Howell.
This year I had planned to shoot a lot more creative photography and I have a number of concepts I want to create. Covid-19 has currently stopped me producing my ideas as the makeup was going to play a big role and this part of the project can be very hands-on. My plans to create more Shibari rope art has also been put on hold due to the current 2m distance rule for safety. Creating Cinematic Photography is also difficult, but not impossible. It is also a worrying time for those working in the creative industry as the projects which I had in the diary for April and May were put on hold until further notice. Although, this has given me time to update my website, write new blogs but also assess what it is I love and what can I do to relax too, which I find difficult.
Above: Shibari Rope Art Photography with model Lucy
Above: Shibari Rope Art with model Rebecca White. Hair by Tara Johnston Make up by Clare Bradshaw.
Above: Sian Altman - Is portrait and Beauty Photography really art? Well, I guess that depends on the style and why the image was commissioned in the first place.
Whatever your situation I encourage you to be creative and experiment with art. There are so many mediums you can choose: Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Pottery, and Needlework are just a few of the obvious choices and you shouldn't be afraid to have a go! We (I) often will not start a project, especially a drawing, as I’m afraid it won’t be good enough. You should have fun creating and never be afraid to share your art! There are online or local art classes to join, or you can buddy up with a friend or family member!
Above: Grace Gray Fantasy Art Photography
Above: Model Grace Gray in a whimsical style photograph
Above: Motorcycle Art - Triumph Speed Triple 1050 S
Above: 'Camp VC' An original Oil painting on 39.5" x 31" panel by Stoke and Bear.
As many of you may know I’m also an extremely keen motorcyclist, take a look at my blog. in 2019 I won tickets to attend The Malle Mile which is advertised as ‘a non-stop programme of very inappropriate motorcycle racing.’ In one of the tents was an exhibition by Jet Bailey - Stoke and Bear, an artist specialising in motorcycle art, over the recent months I connected with Jet and have been enjoying watching her at work on her commissions. Following a recent exchange of messages, I’m pleased to announce that Jet will be using one of my images of my friend and model Grace Gray has her inspiration for an original painting.
Art Prints by Stoke and Bear - check out Jet's website where you'll find some awesome prints and original art.
I love looking up close at an original painting and admiring the brush strokes. Original art by Stoke and Bear.
As you can imaging I’m very excited about this and cannot wait to hopefully watch Jet at work on Instagram live and follow her stories as she interprets my photography in her style. Make sure you follow Jet too by following her on social media, links below.
Connect with Jet at Stoke and Bear
Website Stoke and Bear
Make sure you revisit this blog too as I’d love to share images of the painting in its different stages, which I have always found mesmerising.
Update: Created 15th June 2020
Stoke and Bear Original Painting of Grace Gray
Above: Using an HB pencil to sketch the composition on to a wood panel, artist Jet Bailey is using Michael Harding oil paints and applying them with synthetic brushes for a smoother application. Even after the first session, it's already an incredible painting and a fantastic resemblance to Grace.
Above: Work in progress. This close-up shot of model Grace Gray's hand and watch by Stoke and Bear shows the lovely brush strokes and fantastic detail created by artist Jet Bailey in this original oil painting.
Below: Update on 23 June 2020. It's nearly there and looking awesome! It's still work in progress but artist Jet Bailey hopes to finish the painting today!
A limited number of prints will be available in the near future, let's give Jet time to finish first, shall we!
It's finished, although when I received these images from Jet the paint was still wet!
Below: I love seeing the brush strokes and look forward to seeing this oil painting up close
Below: I love all the detail Jet has produced in this original oil painting
It's been an absolute please collaborating with Jet at Stoke and Bear on this project and I hope you would agree the level of detail within the print is incredible!
I know times are hard for some at the moment but if you could support us by purchasing a print that would be amazing and I'm certain you will not be disappointed.
Below: Look at the detail of the prints, the brush strokes and depth of paint really jump off the paper.
To find out more and order your limited edition print, please visit stokeandbear.com/category/fine-art-prints
315gsm fine art paper
Disclaimer: The images on this website may vary slightly in colour from the computer screen to mobile screen, to the print itself. Please allow for slight variation in colours.
I’d like to thank Jet at Stoke and Bear for her interest in working with me and to Grace Gray for giving us permission to use the image. Watch this space!
Grace Gray Instagram
Please also visit my YouTube page to find tips, advice and other art-related photoshoots such as The Art of Shibari with Grace Gray.