I asked the new AI language model, ChatGPT to write an article for photographers concerning photo impressionism. The answer wasn’t what I would have written. It might have been better.
Photo Impressionism: A Guide for Photographers – by ChatGTP
Impressionism is a movement in art that emerged in the late 19th century and is characterized by a focus on capturing the impression of a moment, rather than creating a realistic representation. In photography, this approach can result in images that are dreamy, ethereal, and full of mood. If you’re a photographer looking to explore photo impressionism, here are some tips to help you get started.
- Focus on light and color: One of the defining features of impressionist paintings is the way they use light and color to create a mood or atmosphere. When creating photo impressionism, it’s important to pay close attention to the way light falls on your subject and to look for opportunities to play with color in your images. Experiment with using soft light to create a romantic or nostalgic feeling, or use bold, bright colors to create a sense of excitement and energy.
- Use motion blur: Another hallmark of impressionism is the use of motion blur to suggest movement and to capture the feeling of a moment in time. In photography, you can create this effect by using a slow shutter speed or panning your camera as you take the shot. This technique can be especially effective for capturing the motion of people, animals, or water.
- Look for patterns and texture: Impressionist paintings often feature patterns and textures that add depth and interest to the image. In photography, you can create similar effects by looking for interesting textures and patterns in your subjects, such as rippling water, rusting metal, or peeling paint. Pay close attention to the way these textures and patterns interact with the light and color in your image to create a unique, impressionistic look.
- Embrace abstraction: One of the most exciting aspects of photo impressionism is the opportunity to create abstract and dreamy images that challenge traditional notions of what a photograph should look like. Don’t be afraid to experiment with unusual compositions, unconventional perspectives, and unexpected color combinations to create images that are truly your own.
- Experiment with editing: Finally, photo impressionism is often associated with a soft, dreamy look that can be achieved through selective editing. Experiment with using soft filters, desaturating colors, and adding a vignette to create a moody, impressionistic feel in your images.
In conclusion, photo impressionism is a versatile and rewarding style that allows photographers to capture the essence of a moment and to create images that are full of mood and emotion. By focusing on light and color, using motion blur, looking for patterns and texture, embracing abstraction, and experimenting with editing, you can create stunning impressionistic images that truly reflect your artistic vision.
Using long exposure, multiple exposure, digital stitching and photo stacking, photographers are going beyond the limits of photo-realistic, representative work. Photographers are demonstrating their imagination, inspiration, and interpretation in their efforts to move from realism to emotion and expression. Like the original impressionists painters, these photographers are incorporating movement as the fundamental and essential feature of the experience of the art. This art seems to transcend the literal and become the stuff of dreams, movement and imagination.
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While researching my earlier post Re-examining the Link Between the Rise of Photography and Impressionism , I ran across a couple of great examples of Pictorialism that are too good not to share. These early photo impressionists used soft focus and post production techniques to create some really beautiful images. I think they provide a really strong argument in favour of turning off your auto focus.
Some of the most influential Pictorialists seen in one picture. Frank Eugene, Alfred Stieglitz, Heinrich Kuhn and Edward Steichen admiring the work of Eugene, circa 1907. This is a good example of post production scraping of the negative to isolate the subjects and produce a more impressionistic effect.
Nocturne, circa 1912, by Karl Struss. A really nice example of soft focus.
Karl Struss nude. Another soft focus; less is more.
Portrait of Mrs. White-Clarence H. White. To me this image feels like an impressionist painting; perhaps a Manet.
Stieglitz-Winter. Think about the mechanics of this picture. The streaks of snow give away the slow shutter speed; another beautiful soft image.
Another Stieglitz “Spring Showers, The Coach.” 1902. I love the mix of grain and softness here.
Niagara, a photograph of Niagara Falls (from the Canadian side) by English photographer Alfred Horsley Hinton (1863–1908).
Photographic art is a reflection of current cultural influences and the technology available to the photographer. Pictorialists, the forerunners of photo impressionism were strongly influenced by the impressionist painters of their day. But did the influence go both ways? Were the Impressionists inspired by photography? A recent exhibition of early photographs and impressionist paintings at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art suggests they did.
I found the promotional material for the exhibition an interesting read. According to the UMMA’s web site:
“This exhibition advances a new argument for the origins of what was called “the new painting,” namely that a unique convergence of forces—social, artistic, technological, and commercial—along the Normandy coast of France dramatically transformed the course of photography and painting (as well as of the region itself). Within this framework, the invention of the camera and the development of early fine art photography in that particular setting will be seen as the specific catalysts that brought about a new approach to painting.”
Elsewhere the promotional material for the exhibition says:
“”After gazing at Monet’s or Courbet’s work, it’s a short step to grasp how photographers’ quest to “arrest motion” became aesthetically valid and how instantaneity captured their imagination, said McNamara.”
I am not sure that is really what was going on. These photographers were not trying to arrest motion for its own sake. Like painters of their day they fought against the tools at hand to capture the essence of a their subject; and the technology at hand was limited, cumbersome and expensive. Remember that Eastman did not introduce a practical portable camera until about 1888.
It may be true that the photography en plein air challenged painters to do the same but I don’t agree that arresting motion was a factor. For me the open question is whether the photographers of this period would have moved towards impressionistic images if they had access to better tools? Was it a coincidence that Pictorialism traces its roots to about the time of the first Kodak?
“’The Lens of Impressionism’ is clearly an exhibition that draws on history, but raises contemporary issues,” said McNamara. “With the Internet and the proliferation of images in our culture, questions arise about originality. These were the same issues facing Impressionist artists working at a time when photography was influencing how they looked at the world.”
I like the ideas being explored here and would have liked to have seen the exhibition. You can read about it at Reexamining Link between Rise of Photography and Impressionism and at http://www.umma.umich.edu/view/past/2009-lens.html. The gallery guide can be seen at http://www.umma.umich.edu/view/past/Normandy_GalleryGuide.pdf
Watch this space for thoughts about photo impressionism.
Till then why not check out my personal photography blog at http://dagostino.ca/wordpress/