What if Leonardo had a camera?

localattractionHave you ever wondered what it would have been like if the great masters had cameras?  I spent the week on vacation in a gorgeous setting, and everywhere I went I thought how beautiful a painting that would make.  But during the day it was 100+ F.  I couldn’t stand outside for more than a minute before I was totally drenched in perspiration.  So I whipped out my handy camera phone and began snapping pictures of things I would like to paint later.  I think several of the landscapes and still lifes turned out rather well considering they were done on a digital camera phone.  I have several held back to use as reference photos for later works.  But I wonder, sometimes, how people coped before such things were available.  I guess I’m just to soft to work as the masters did.

treesWhat if Leonardo had a camera?  Would we still be as interested if we had known exactly what Mona Lisa looked like?  With the mystery of her smile gone, would we even know who Leonardo was?  He was a great artist, that’s not what I’m getting at.  My point is that if he had a camera, without the artistic interpretation of his vision, would his work have survived the centuries?  I contend that it is not the craft of art, but the vision… the personal view that makes something art.  My favorite definition of art is “applied creativity.”  I’m not sure where I heard that or if I made it up, but it goes to my point.

HydrationbreakIf Michelangelo had a camera, would the Sistine Chapel have looked more like a billboard?  If it had been that easy, we wouldn’t have the stories of Michelangelo cursing at the priests as they chided him taking so long.  Do you suppose that all of his models were as cut and fit as the figures in his paintings and sculptures?  One thing for sure is that he would have had to find a real woman to pose as Eve.

hardcorebikercoffeeandcookieWould Rubens’ work have been deemed pornography?  Would it be hanging in museums around the world or merely traded in dingy, back-alley shops?  Would his religious photos have had the same impact as his “Elevation of the Cross?”  Of course not.  In the orginal film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, there’s the scene where Jesus is praying at the Garden.  To drive the “Passion” home to us, the viewers, they use a series of Passion paintings.  Why?  Because a photo just doesn’t convey the same sort of emotion as a sculpture or painting.  The hours of labor, sweat, tears, blood that go into creating a work like that show in the end.

vacationdinnerinThat’s not to say that there aren’t some great photos out there.  The drama and suffering of the children of Africa have graced many pages of fine magazines and galleries.  Historic and heroic events like the fire fighter carrying the limp body of a child out of the Murray Building during the Oklahoma City bombing disturb us on a deeply emotional level.  And they should.  They are at once beautiful and disgusting, heart warming and heart wrenching.  There are many such images as the men and women around the World Trade Center comforting each other.  There are photos of butterflies and kittens and children laughing, also, that all are quite well executed in composition, design and detail.

homecomingdinneroutThere are some great photographers whose works are every bit as prolific as the masters of the past.  Ansel Adams, Todd Gipstein, Suze Randall… All of whom have taken some amazing and inspiring photographs.  But I wonder, will we remember those photographers 500 years from now as we do the grand masters?  Will any of the photos even survive 500 years?

0 thoughts on “What if Leonardo had a camera?

  1. Very thought provoking post. I have often wondered if the photographs of today will be considered art in the next 200 years.

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