Is your photography art or a product?

Whenever I see something that draws my eyes, I think: “Cool, I need to capture that!”. There are however moments, that make me hazitate and lose all interest to take a picture on second thought. One of those moments is when I walk past some graffiti, or any other creative work. At first I see a potential picture, but quickly I think “Why should I take a picture of someone else’s art?”. The photo wouldn’t feel as my own work. There are exceptions though. During art festivals for example, when I try to capture not just the piece of art, but the impact of it on the people.

This got me thinking, is my photography art, or a product?

Amsterdam Light Festival

A blue art work at the Amsterdam Light Festival 2016. People walk around this work to admire it.

I like to tease one of my lovely nieces, Marjolein Linders who is an amazing artist. I challenge her thoughts on art and the lifestyle of some artists, and she challenges me back. I make mean comments about artists and their position in our society, jokingly stating they are too lazy for a real job and rather exploit the social securities than contribute to society with a 9 to 5 job. These little moments, make me think about my photography, and her replies and questions towards me are always very sharp: “Why did you focus on this particular colour?”, “What does this scene mean to you?”, ” Why are you a photographer? “. When she asks me questions like that, I feel a little caught, as if sometimes, I don’t think about it enough.

There are art works I really don’t understand. Paintings, statues, or photos that seem idiotic to me. Maybe a bit short minded, but it makes me question if these works are truly art. Like this picture of a potato, sold for over a million dollars. Is that truly art? And this got me thinking, what is art anyway?

If I take a picture, and sell it on ShutterStock, is it art? Is tock photography art, or just a product? The picture below is for sale on Shutterstock as a product. However, I meant to show the contrast by the poppies and the bunker. Freedom versus war. I did not create the bunker, neither the poppies, the grass and hills, so can it sill be art? I merely captured the scene.

Bunker at the Atlantikwall

Freedom and war.

The Dutch dictionary (Van Dale) defines art as: “The ability to create beauty and to awaken an aesthetic pleasure”. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as: “The making of ​objects, ​images, ​music, etcetera that are ​beautiful or that ​express ​feelings”.

According to that definition, I am trying to make art. My prime goal is to expose beauty of anything. However, the picture below, is just a product photo. My goal is to show the beauty of the product, but if it were to used on a product page of a web-shop, would it still be art?

Gitzo GT3542LS

The Gitzo GT3542LS, a product photo. could you define this as art? Why (not)?

I guess we all have our own interpretation of art, and maybe it is up to the creator (or perhaps spectator?) of an object to decide whether it’s art. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the mean time, I’ll continue my photography and shake my head in confusion. If someone can sell a photo of potato for over a million dollars, there might be a person who is a little less idiotic and buy one of my pictures for a much lower price.

The main reason for raising my eyebrow over the picture of the potato, obviously is the price. There is something to art though, that the more I look at it, the more I like it. Like classical music, or a deep whisky. You have to learn appreciating it. Potato’s are ugly, but every potato is different (in shape, size, colour, and even taste). And this ugly crop, is the ingredients of my daily life. I honestly think it is a cool picture that many of us never thought about taking.

Maybe I am too immature to understand art. I think I do “understand” (as far as it is possible to understand art) most of the great works of the big painters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt, made with great precision and craft. The concept could be relatively simple: a portrait, or a landscape to show beauty or simply on behalf of a client. But honestly, as for my photography: it’s about enjoying the process of creating pictures, my photography isn’t about art, not intentionally, but it is to move people.

I wouldn’t simply state my work as a product either. I have no intention of making money with it. Not that art shouldn’t be sold, but there is a differences between selling a painting, or selling passport pictures or maybe stock photography.

Amsterdam Light Festival

This birds would light up as people walked by, a cool piece of art because it made people  move! But why is this art? – Amsterdam Light Festival 2016


What is your vision of art? Is your photography a 9 to 5 job and are your pictures simply products sold to customers, or is there more? I am curious, so let me know by leaving a comment!

Thank you for reading!

Kind regards,


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