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Patrick Burke–The New Impressionists

It’s too bad the term “digital art” exists. It carries the stigma of new age disposability when it’s attached to anything. As an artist my sole concern is with ideas and expression. The medium (digital or otherwise) is not only secondary, it’s meaningless. I’ve never heard anyone ask, when looking at a painting, ‘What brand of paint did the artist use?’ Yet as a photographer I am always asked whether I use Canon or Nikon, Photoshop, or film.

These questions miss the point entirely of what art and the creative process are about. If I were to produce a work which was technically perfect in every respect, from the lighting to image sharpness to the processing used, yet totally unoriginal, that would be called craft, not art. Craft can be beautiful or not. It can be appreciated for being highly polished, extraordinarily sharp, incredibly efficient or brilliantly executed; but it’s not art. Here’s where the confusion lies–the processes used in various mediums require craftsmanship. But craftsmanship does not require artistry.

Before computers, conventional photography was already dramatically versatile and many photographers, myself included, treated the medium more as painters. Indeed, when photography was new some painters, such as the impressionist Degas, treated painting as photography, creating images which looked like a captured moment rather than a posed study.

Now, with the capabilities offered by the digital world the gap between painters and photographers closes even more. I’m not saying photographers should strive to be more like painters; there should be a new category between painting and photography.

A new generation of photographers now balk at limiting the extent of their expression to that of the captured moment. When Ansel Adams said that the film is the score and the print is the music he was referring to image manipulation. Photographers as artists now have choices of medium available to them which Adams did not. These people are the New Impressionists of photography, just as lyricists are our new poets.

Occasionally people look at my work and say “That’s not exactly photography is it?” I thank them for seeing the difference.

Patrick Burke, April 4th, 2007