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ALL ART IS PHOTOGRAPHY: David Campany's Deep Dive Into the Intersection of Mediums

Updated: May 4, 2023

Claudia Angelmaier's "Akelei"

In Kunstverein Ludwigshafen’s photography exhibition curated by David Company entitled “All Art is Photography '', the medium of photography is explored in its relationship to works of art.

This exhibition is a collaboration of several different artists and photographers, including Dennis Adams, Claudia Angelmaier, Tim Davis, Pablo Genovés, Maurice Jarnoux, Steffi Klenz, Mark Lewis, Josh Murfitt, Antonio Pérez Río, Nick Waplington, and Ewa Monika Zebrowski. These single works were curated together into one exhibition. The Biennale shows six exhibitions at six different locations, this one located in Ludwigshafen. It ran until April of 2020 and is no longer available to the public. While this exhibition is mainly photography, it also includes reworks of famous paintings. Some pieces are photographs solely, others photographs of art, and even others illustrations mixed with photography.

Steffi Klenz's "Staffages" Series

There exists a tricky connection between photography and the art world. First, you must distinguish the different types of photography: utilitarian photography and artistic photography. One is a means of capture, a way to display physical information to a viewer without actually being in front of the information. The other uses this capture of information as an artistic medium, commenting on the physical while keeping composition, content, color, and technique in mind. So, over the course of the medium’s maturation, a dichotomy between the two types of photography has developed along with it.

The main point illustrated, however, is not this separation of ideals within the medium, but instead how the two intersect and interact together. With photos becoming more and more a part of the average human’s life after the emergence of the phone camera, photography is starting to become a perspective of its own.

Josh Murfitt, 2014

“All Art is Photography”, first, looks at the relationship between art and the picture. Today, most art that is viewed is a photocopy of the original; one rarely gets to actually see the work of fine art they admire over the computer screen. We view most art first through photography. Does the innate reaction to art change from the screen to the eye? Do we view only the finished piece as art? Can we manipulate the presentation of art through photography? And, can we find a new kind of beauty in doing so? These are all questions that this exhibition raises.

The first piece in this exhibition perfectly embodies these questions. In Pablo Genoves’ El Museo, a black and white print of a photo of a museum gallery, paintings upon paintings hang proudly on the walls, so many works of art in one place, intact. But, the viewer can see the museum is ultimately a place of ruin, the floor completely caved and collapsed in, leaving this magnificent relic frozen yet forgotten to time. This exemplifies the themes of the exhibition perfectly: in manipulating physical works of art through the camera, can we create something greater than the initial art itself? Can we create something even more powerful?

Pablo Genoves' "El Museo"

Or, will we ever be able to capture the overwhelming sensation of viewing a work of art? The second section of the exhibition plays with this idea. A series of seven famous paintings, from Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People to Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist at His Easel, hang side by side in gold frames at their original size. However, the paintings have been reworked to blur out the content and place in front a mobile phone and a hand that captures the painting on a small screen for the viewer. This is not a far cry from how museums operate in today’s world, with viewers holding their phones out to capture and view the famous works of art, but none actually looking at the art itself. This series comments on the negative (or at the very least, indifferent) interaction between art and photography. In this secondary viewing, an experience of its own, we have lost an essence of viewing in general; we have lost, as a culture, the ability to be truly moved.

Somewhere in the grey area lies the answer in striking a balance between art and photography. With technology becoming a part of everyday life, this utilitarian aspect of photography is kept in tact. The camera still very well serves as merely a means of capture, and will continue to. But, because of continual, infinite creativity on the part of artists, new ways to perceive artistic photography have been born. New ways that move past just the creation of an artful and aesthetic image, but instead take on art as their subject. This type of photography, photography of works of art, is no longer only for recordation. It attempts to create something new out of this recordation, something that moves the viewer just as much as its subject can.

Ewa Monika Zebrowski's "End of Beauty" Series

Not only this, this new medium attempts to consider all levels of aesthetic beauty. It has found ways to find artistic value in not just the finished piece of work, but instead the beauty that goes into and out of it. As the exhibition description poses, “What can a camera do in a painter’s studio, in front of a sculpture, or in an art gallery full of people?” Is there newfound artistic value in the artistic process itself? In the consumption of art?

This is asked in respect to the obvious trend in contemporary art in general; anything can be art, as long as the right person thinks it is. The boundaries of art have been pushed further and further as the years have gone on, leaving the artist wondering if there is anything of the natural world that can’t be considered art. Photography in the way it is presented in this exhibition is merely an effect of this boundary pushing. These works are as much part of the contemporary art movement and ideology as performance art or Earthworks are -- movements that are extrapolations and reactions to this new definition of art.

While artistic photography with tangible, traditional art as its subject is not yet concretely explored as a legitimate and definable movement, it provides immense clarity and context to where we are as a creative culture. Some say that photography is uniquely a cannibalistic medium in its nature, that it feeds on the world around it, including itself, to produce a work of art. That it will never produce something new, but instead captures what already exists. But, by this logic, all art is cannibalistic; all art is capturing something that exists, either inwardly or outwardly. Most of all, art has the ability to indiscriminately move, creating, again, that feeling of inspiration inside that will be fed on to create more art. Art is not only cannibalistic, but much more: art is the current that encourages innovation within itself, giving way to new questions to be answered in exhibitions like “All Art is Photography”. It is this continual innovation that drives us to create and further expand what art means to us, and what we mean to art.


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