As artists, or observers, we’ve noticed that reality often looks different than the photographs and evidence of it. An example of when photography and video represent reality in a worse way are Youtube videos of concerts. We all know that a concert in person is a whole different environment- the music is loud, clear, exciting, the crowd is pumped and jumping. It can be an unforgettable experience completely different from the wobbly video where all you hear is unrecognizable music blasting and your own loud screams.
On the other hand, photography can also make things look better. I often find some of my artworks sloppy, ugly, and unworthy in their original form but a photograph of one shows a different perspective. Sometimes, paintings that I think have no real value will be extremely photogenic. This is why, I photograph everything I make; while the original may be unimpressive, it might be a great colorful jpeg to accompany a blog title.
Lastly, photography can help put the artist back into reality. You’ve probably heard the common story of a painter who mistakenly paints a disproportional portrait because his canvas was at an odd angle or he never stood back to review his work. It’s typical for instructors to remind an artist to step away and look at the art from far away to make sure our angles and perspectives are correct. But even more than that, a photograph can expose things you never saw on the canvas. A great example is my painting of the Eiffel Tower from last year (above). I painted it rather quickly without much worry for proportion and realistic perfectionism. However, when I took a picture of the finished image, I was extremely surprised. The two sides looked nothing alike, and in fact, I had painted it leaning to one side! A picture of my painting a few hours earlier would have been a lot more helpful, although I was able to correct some of the damage.
So next time, before you throw out an artwork you think is unworthy of documentation, take a photo! And when you are in the middle of a piece, don’t be afraid to take photographs to get different perspectives.