Dec 302012
 

If you’re interested in photography, you have likely read the buzz about photographers who use images from Google Street View for their work, either directly of by photographing the screen showing the application. The PetaPixel blog had an article about the phenomenon, Mike “The Online Photographer” Johnston ran another, and always we see the discussions whether this is art or not.

For all practical purposes this has been decided by the market, whatever we think about it, the consensus seems to be that, yes, it is art.

You may ask yourself why I mention that at all, but the answer is simply that it happened to me. I did the same thing, I enjoyed it and I can testify that it is definitely a creative act. This is the story of how it happened.

When you’re in a city and it’s raining, when there is no light worth recording, when everything tries to discourage you and you still don’t want to give up photographing, one of the many things that always work, is to go into a church and take some architectural images.

Churches are great for that, even if you are not religiously inclined at all. In the part of the world afflicted by Christianity it were churches, elsewhere it were temples, mosques, synagogues or other places of worship, but everywhere these are the buildings that were built most artfully. Castles and fortresses can be beautiful as well, but most often they are not. They are impressive and sometimes radiate power, but more often than not they are simply utilitarian and sometimes even plain ugly.

Not so churches, and that was the reason why I decided to visit a church that I had not seen in twenty years, Karlskirche in Vienna.

I was slightly taken aback when I had to pay 8 € just to get into the church, and when I asked what was included in that steep price, the answer was the museum, the church itself and the panorama lift. I shrugged, made sure that photography was permitted and paid the amount.

The Image of the Day shows the view that greeted me upon entering. For 8 € I got to see a construction site!!!

Shock and anger subsided immediately though, when I realized, that a lift went up to a platform suspended just below the cupola, and that from the platform stairs went further up into the lantern.


In the end I decided the money was well spent. Most people took the lift only to get up to the lantern and make iPhone images of each other in front of the rainy view over Vienna. I think on a sunny day it may even be an interesting panorama, but this day it left me completely cold. What I was after were the freshly renovated frescoes.

Using the 7-14 I made overall images of the four sides, and then I began, just like other photographers do in Street View images, to frame my own personal views of these paintings. That’s something you rarely get the chance to do. Normally it is impossible to come that close, and if so, for instance in a museum, taking photographs is frequently forbidden.

Now again, is this art? Can this be art? My only creative act was framing, but then, this is the most important and defining act in photography, and whether the scenery is real or part of the frescoes in a church’s cupola, why exactly should that make a difference?

Yes, I know, there is the matter of timing, the decisive moment and all that, but not all genres of photography depend on decisive moments. In landscape photography you frequently come to a place that you may never visit again, and whatever the light is, whatever the circumstances are, you try your best to get an image that you can be proud of. Does it count that I visited this church in the right year?

Whatever your opinion of the “art” question, it is still an interesting thing to do: to see what someone else’s eyes have seen, to see it through your own eyes, to view the details in your own way. Try it, you’ll probably agree: it is a creative process and you may enjoy it as well 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Someone Else’s Eyes” from Aretha Franklin’s 1991 album “What You See Is What You Sweat”. Hear it on YouTube.