#32 in a series of background briefs

TCQ, “art,” and famous photographers

Linked here is a list of 100 famous photographers who each made thousands of photographs that would meet this website’s definition of “undoctored” (and would also presumably meet all nine qualifications of the Trust Checklist.)

One of newcomers’ biggest concerns about TCQ is likely to involve the role of “art.”

Aspiring photographers who hear about the non-manipulation standards of TCQ may well respond with “That’s fine, but I want to make art.”

A surprising number of photographers in the digital era seem to be under the impression that it is actually necessary to doctor photographs after they are taken in order the images to be considered “art.”

But TCQ is a reminder that undoctored photographs can be “art” too — even though TCQ uses a definition of “undoctored” that is as strict as any in universal use.

The best evidence that it is not necessary to doctor photographs in order to make creative, artful, or beautiful images — albeit often of mundane and even grim subjects — can be found in the work of many of the best-known photographers over the past century.

For most of the photographers listed, their personal “style” (their “art,” even) depended on subject matter, composition, vantage point, equipment choice, camera settings, timing, and use of light — and not on some distinctive “recipe” of post-exposure processing that made their photographs look significantly different from how other photographers on the list would have rendered the same scene. (This paragraph duplicates #308.)

See list | Who doesn’t make the list?