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Robert D Feinman

Conceptual Photography
An Artistic Manifesto


With billions of images being made each year, serious photographers have become increasingly challenged to create something different. The market for "fine art" photographs is no longer satisfied with scenes of nature or expressive portraits. In many cases it is necessary to build an entire tableau in the studio and then photograph this to express the innermost thoughts of the artist.

As a practitioner of the school of "show what is in front of the camera" photography I have felt increasing left out of latest trends. Recent shows have displayed over-sized images, images printed on special papers, images made with esoteric processing techniques, images made with inferior equipment, or images illustrating the ennui of our present condition.

To spark my creativity and to enable me to participate in this world of trendy "fine art" photography I set myself the task of doing something that no photographer has ever done before. I think my breakthrough as described below is just such an earthshaking artistic event.

This page is my first attempt into what I am calling "conceptual photography". Because of the difficulties in making these types of images I am restricting this first public display to just three examples.

All the images were taken in August 2005 using a variety of lenses with a Bessa 35mm range finder camera. I feel that this modern-day reimagining of a traditional, austere design matches well with my artistic aspirations. Because of the restrictions that film has placed on the creative process since the invention of photography, conceptual photography is made with no film in the camera. This allows for total concentration on the subject and allows full capture of the mood of the moment as well as also recording my inner state at the instant the shutter was released. It is only in this way that the true liberation of the mind can be intermingled with the physicality of the world before the camera. The increasing use of digital cameras is another indicator of how relevant filmless photography will become in the future.

As this was a first attempt at this unprecedented creative approach, three classic subjects were used to see how the interactions of the scene before the camera and the psychological manifestations as I approached the subject would commingle. The images and their descriptions follow:


image 1

The Rhythm of the City

Standing before this scene I felt an inexpressible longing for the lost days of youth. The flow of the streets and the rush of the traffic combined with the seeming permanence of the surrounding buildings  could only be captured while reflecting on the transience of life. Unburdened by the restrictions of the temporal definitiveness of the street, the image resonates for all time as a true reflection of the city and my place in it. To allow the subject to speak for itself, I made use of standard choices for both lens and camera angle.

image 2

Study in Shadows and Sensuality

The difficulty with photographing the human form is the impossibility of separating the physicality of the individual subject from the cultural inhibitions that overlay our response to a potential object of desire. Instead of seeing the true abstract form of light and shadow, we are constrained by the aspects of the dimensionality of the subject. Imperfections and the constraints of the human design prevent the complete separation of the effect from the actuality of the person. In this study the true qualities of the person as a reflection of light and shadow is portrayed without any of these difficulties clouding the purity of the emotional content. The use of a single harsh light further delineates the sculptural aspects of the human form while the bareness of the background indicates the dissociation of the natural form from the impact of society.

image 3

Naturalism and the Perishable Environment

The changing natural landscape has made traditional scenic photography an artificial record of a barely preserved environment. These recurring attempts to portray nature in contemporary society produce a cognitive dissonance between the scene and the mechanistic means used to capture it. By employing a wide angle lens, and including signs of the urban surroundings in this image, I am able to portray the eternal conflict between man and nature. With no attempt to minimize the complexities of solar lighting, the interplay of natural forms and human activity is revealed in all its contradictions. In addition, the low view point emphasizes the infinite detail of nature in the foreground at the expense of the rigid design of the human scale objects in the distance. Can Earth continue to replenish itself in the light of the fragility of human thought?

I hope you will agree that this initial effort represents a real step forward in the effort to separate photography from the limitations that have hindered it heretofore.  Using these techniques it is once again possible for the true artist to liberate himself from the pressures of the marketplace and the ugly face of economic necessity.

Copies of these prints will be made available for purchase to select buyers possessed of both the exceptionally discriminating taste and sufficient economic wherewithal necessary to be a patron of a true artistic pioneer. All prints are made on appropriate, hard-to-obtain specialty papers designed for other uses. It is anticipated that the prints will age quickly as part of the total conception and should be unsuitable for further display after a few brief years. This transience represents the completion of the objectives of conceptual photography.

If you seek a deeper understanding of the true import of this artistic breakthrough, please click here for an explanation.



To view some of my images made prior to this artistic breakthrough click here.

Please note that the images and entire content of this page are copyright 2005 by Robert D Feinman. All rights reserved.
Persons making unauthorized copies will be haunted.

Send email to robert.feinman@gmail.com
© 2005 Robert D Feinman