Is photography art? . . . discussing Lukas Amakali’s solo exhibition

An ongoing solo exhibition by Lukas Amakali at the Franco Namibia Cultural Centre (FNCC) which features his latest photography rekindles the debate on the rationality around embracing digital photography within the mainstream pool of visual art.

Lukas is spurred by a primary desire to reach that accomplishment that finds the role of the photographer as interlinked with that of the painter.

But can digital photography qualify to be art and to what extent can it receive the same critical analyses and acclaim as that given to creative works of art which deal with traditional and contemporary mediums? “It’s an old question,” begins James D.

Ellis in his essay Photography Isn’t art. Or is it?: “Some will say “photography isn’t art” and others will defend it until they’re blue in the face.!” Perhaps such a question can at best be dealt justice if we are to revert to what art is and to juxtapose such an assessment with the manifestations of what I may call anarchic art, that which has damned and challenged conservative views that have for so long guided traditional critics. In his assessment of his works, Amakali, a photographer by right and might, admits, “photography was not taken as an art,” reinforcing the idea that not all post-modernist manifestations have won the day in a world where the definition of art remains very relative.

His efforts spring from the thought of daring to prove that indeed photography through abstract presentments can attain the same depth of originality and creativity as any other form of art. “I thought I could do something with photography, I now I want to make it abstract photography,” he says a day after the launch of his exhibition.

Art critic John Berger has been vocal on this subject of debate, “Unlike any other visual image a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but a trace of it.” Prolific award winning novelist of the best-selling and critically acclaimed read, The Da Vince Code, Dan Brown would dare disagree as he submits, “Art is the imitation of the beauty of God’s hand.”

Amakali’s art falls far away from the act of reproduction as it simply captures what is there. However, the shutterbug goes an extra mile to employ an old technique, Double Exposure, to super-impose two images into a harmonised presentment. He thus achieves a level of creativity that retains the harmony of nature and often significant levels of symmetry that produces new pictures in an awkward manner that Ai Wei Wei, the iconic artist of our time, achieves.

This is not to say Amakali ranks with the latter, yet a closer look at their works depicts that both have the same pursuits. In her essay Is Photography an art form? JO Plumridge opines: “Art is a subjectively biased interpretation of the artist’s subject.” As such, Amakali’s exhibition opens the way for the critic and the art viewer to opt to interpret his works in line with such biases, a dichotomy of feeling and interpretation.

As biased as such views may be, Amakali thinks this is nothing else other than art. As Plumridge assumes, Amakali’s exhibition is then his own “unique vision” of difference sceneries “which provoke a reaction from us, the viewer.”

However, it must not be forgotten that ever since View From the Window at Le Gras, taken by Nicephore Niepce in 1827, photography has taken the job from painters to capture reality.