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  • Hector Heathwood

Photography is its own artform.x

A recent request from a painter set me thinking about something that's long been on my mind. I should like to make it clear from the outset that I have no problem with this particular artist, who has acted completely properly by seeking permission from both the model and myself. Nor with any other means of artistic endeavour.

The painter asked for our consent to make a copy of this image, and promised to credit those involved in the creation of the photograph. We were both happy to give it.

This is far from the first time this has happened, indeed I've seen several of my works turned into paintings, both with and without my consent. I've also been credited with inspiring poems and prose through my imagery.

But it did set me thinking, and led to my writing about a phenomenon I've never really understood. What I find odd is that the paintings of my images are valued more than the originals. On several occasions a proud model has shown me the painting, proudly displayed on the walls of their home, but when I ask where my photograph is I get an answer like, 'It's in a drawer somewhere'.

I would argue, though, that whatever artistic merit the image has lies in the original vision, styling and lighting of it. For me, the medium is irrelevant and merely technique. It took an awfully long time for photography to be accepted as an artform in its own right, but it is a very different type of expression. At its heart it is a mass-media format, and democratic rather than exclusive. It was made to be shared.

Also, it uses a common vernacular, everybody nowadays can take a photo, just like poets use words from everyday language, but some do it in a way that expresses far more than what's in front of the camera. Plus photography starts with the whole world and selects from it, where most other media begin with a blank canvas/page/stone. Personally, I don't think that implies any more value to one medium or another, each artist uses their own means of expression in their own way. But the intention is the same, no matter what discipline is followed.

When I watch American or mainland European TV/Cinema I'm always fascinated by how people decorate their homes with examples of good photography. For some reason this doesn't happen so much in the UK and Ireland, as if only the older arts are revered or precious.

Remember, your vision of the world has been brought to you largely by photographers, opinions have been influenced, and emotions evoked. Just because you see it every day doesn't mean that it cannot move you in a way far beyond the physical.

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