Sunday, August 12, 2012

Process vs. Results

Process is fun. Process affects how you work, slowing or accelerating the pace. Process engages you as you work, leading down comfortable paths that let you think and breath, or down new and inspiring paths.

Process only affects the results to the extent that it affects the results. Process is not part of the result. If your goal is to produce 8x10 transparencies, an 8x10 view camera might be the shortest path to that goal. If your goal is large, sharp, prints an 8x10 view camera is among the most cumbersome, difficult, and expensive ways to achieve them (although it will probably work, once you have the kinks sorted out). Some results are only really achievable by a single process (e.g. tintypes) while others can be done by almost any process (e.g. 8x10 color glossies).

Sometimes a process makes the artist better or worse, by slowing or accelerating the working, or through any other intricate psychological process. One process may simply be more fun than another. This is all perfectly well and good. The trouble arises when one tries to connect the process with the artistic merit of the results. Artists and art press do this far too often, talking in hushed tones about the custom-built 16x24 view camera the artist uses to obtain his unique results, or the way the painter uses this material or that, or the way the sculptor uses only tools made of Egyptian mud.

Results don't care about the process used to produce them. They are not better because a more difficult process was used to create them, they are not imbued with more art-ness because an older process was used to create them. I am not a superior artist because I use a 4x5, I am arguably just dumb. You are not an inferior artist because you use a pro-sumer DSLR.

The only thing that makes work better is: being better.

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