When I began this website I was concerned about art and photography and how they are related. I knew that not all photographs are art, but I also knew that some of them were. And it made sense to me that If I want to make art with my pictures I had better understand this relationship.

I did not expect that figuring that out would be so all consuming. The time I devote to my photography, yes I have another life thank you, is largely spent pondering this issue. And it has produced its share of frustration.  As I have wandered through countless websites and chased down the origins of various photos I have come across some wonderful photographers and many of them are included in my “Links I Like” section.

I have come across a few who are copying subject material and style from the Dutch and Renaissance masters of hundreds of years ago. And the results are striking. Lets consider some samples of portraits in this style.

The old masters were incredible. Working with what we would today call primitive materials, they turned out amazing images and developed lighting and compositional techniques that have not been improved on in the last 400 years. And these techniques translate well into our modern medium. I say that with a caveat that I will address at the end of these observations.

Look at these two images.

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This modern photograph by Bill Gekas of his daughter draws on Lawrence's style and composition."Pinkie" otherwise known as Sarah Barrett Moulton is a painting by Thomas Lawrence in 1794

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I don’t think this is Bill’s best picture ever but, right now, I just want to look at the comparison. Actually, I am not really fond of the Lawrence work either. I think it a bit contrived. But my point is that subject and style of the old masters can carry forward into photography. It does not always work and can easily look contrived but there is merit in considering such a treatment.
Let’s look at two more portraits.

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Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani painted around 1490 by Leonardo da VinciA modern image by Sacha Goldberger in the same style.

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Again, not exact but the attempt is made to emulate the earlier style. In this case Sacha is reaching back 500 years. The dresses are from different periods and the animals are different, but the idea is there. In particular, the lighting works. I think the monkey is wrong and a Persian cat might have been more appropriate. In this case I like the earlier work. I think Sacha’s does not work for several reasons that are not germane to my point. There is an attempt to engage with the techniques of the past.

We should have a look at one more comparison. Now for me, this example works completely.

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Wow! This is Bill Gekas again. The girl is his daughter and her confidence shows that she is used to dad’s photography obsession. But this is a magnificent portrait. Imagine a large print of this on your living room wall! You want to find art in photography: I give you “Lady with Pears”!!!