Iran Art Exhibition
Iran Art Exhibition



Conceptual art has been criticized and adored by critics and art consumers alike. While some of the criticism capitalizes on lack of technique and aesthetic, much of the criticism stems from the confusion of the term “conceptual.” After all, what characterizes a work of art as conceptual? Adding photography to this debate only increases this confusion. So, what is conceptual photography? This type of photography at least can be narrowed down to a medium, yet it is still difficult to concretely define. So in this article, we aim to demystify the idea of conceptual photography by looking at its history and how it is used today.

Conceptual photography is often seen as a niche within conceptual art. But understand this niche, we must be able to distinguish it from other types of work in the photographic medium. Let’s take a look at the definition to learn more about its characteristics.

Conceptual photography aims to express ideas and concepts through photos. Conceptual photography derived from conceptual art. Both hold that the idea or concept is paramount in the creation process. The ideas that conceptual photographers explore are wide ranging and are typically achieved by staging a photograph in a way that represents the idea they desire to communicate.

What is conceptual photography used for?
• Advertising
• Abstraction
• Social commentary

History of conceptual photography
Conceptual photography derived from the Conceptual Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Conceptual art emphasizes the importance of an idea or concept over technique and aesthetic, largely used to express the abstract with physical material.
Photographers took part in this concept as they applied it to their medium. Although the practice of staging photographs is as old as the invention of the camera and photography itself, conceptual photography naturally leaned into abstract ideas.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Because conceptual photography is meant to illustrate an idea, the purpose of it is wide ranging. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways photographers use conceptual photography for different purposes.

Advertise an idea
Advertising has one specific goal: to sell an idea. Ideas may be meant to sell a product, service, or even deter consumers from specific products. Whatever it may be, advertising aims to persuade.
But this can often be a difficult task in advertisements that utilize still images. Conceptual photography is a common technique to illustrate a whole sales pitch into one photograph.
Of course, not all ads are designed to sell you a product or service. Some are designed to deter you from consuming a specific product. Anti-smoking ads have taken full advantage of conceptual photography ideas to illustrate the concept of “smoking kills” in various ways.
As you can see, even advertising concepts can be big and difficult to communicate. Conceptual photographers use advertisements to be simple yet effective at communicating a message to a consumer. This type of photography makes it possible to illustrate an entire sales concept in a single image to be used in a magazine or on a billboard.

Express social commentary
Art in general is one the primary ways human beings create social commentary. Photographers specifically express their thoughts on society through conceptual photographs.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Whether it is a comment on the state of politics, technology, or general societal behavior, these ideas have been creatively expressed by conceptual photography.
It is not new for artists to be frustrated with societal behavior. Conceptual photography is just another way for artists to express the frustrations and thoughts.

Tell a story
Unlike cinematography, photography works in still images. Telling an entire story through a still image can be challenging. But conceptual photography allows photographers to use anything at their disposal to illustrate a story within a single image.

In this photo series by Marja Pirilä titled Interior/Exterior, Camera Obscura Dreams, rooms were converted into a camera obscura. This effectively allowed her to capture the interior of the room and the exterior simultaneously.

IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Pirilä brilliantly used this effect to conceptualize a child having a dream. The result is a photo that holds immense storytelling power.
As you can see, conceptual photography is a creative way at illustrating the internal state of a human being. Beyond dreams, conceptual photographers have found the method effective at portraying the complex emotions human beings experience.

Reflect internal states
One of the challenges many artists face is expressing the internal experiences they have within in an external way. Conceptual photography has been used as canvas to express these internal states in creative ways.
Whether you are trying to express a specific anxiety, joy, or internal conflict, the ability to stage a scene for a photograph can result in incredibly creative ways to portray the abstract.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Oftentimes, conceptual photography that reflects the internal state of an artist is designed to be provocative and elicit emotions. While the creation of this type of conceptual photography can be cathartic for the photographer, it can also be cathartic for a viewer seeing emotions they have experienced expressed in such an accurate way.


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