Contemporary Photography

Brie Koons
4 min readMay 16, 2020

Contemporary Photography: A Modern Art

Image shot by Brie Koons in Plymouth, CA.

Contemporary photography is a modern style of shooting in which traditional rules of photography are bent and broken. It developed around the 1970’s, and is still quite popular today. William Eggelston is an example of a contemporary photographer. There are many others, but I’ll talk about him today.

Welcome to the world of Contemporary Photography! I do research for most of my blog posts, and I could find no specific definition of contemporary photography. Simply put, one definition describes it as being the “art of today.” So I’ll do my best to describe it in terms related to my artwork.

Contemporary Photography is a modern method of taking pictures; the term can be used to refer to work that is either abstract or unusual in it’s subject matter.

Contemporary photography is considered to be photography with a message, where the meaning of the picture holds greater weight than it’s subject matter.

Images do not have to be pleasing to eye, but rather tell a story or carry a message that needs to be interpreted by the viewer.

One goal of Contemporary photography is to elicit a response or reaction from the viewer rather than to encourage simple observation.

Some contemporary photography incorporates techniques that used to be considered incorrect by photographers. A contemporary photo may have blurred focus, over saturation, or unusual subject matter.

Oftentimes, this gives the photograph a sense of rawness. It comes down to what the photographer is trying to say with their work.

Now, most of the artwork I’ve created over the last 3 years has been experimental in nature. I’ve been working on developing a style, and creating work that tells a story. I believe some of my work does this, but most of it has been experiments with different techniques.

I want to be honest with where my work is at right now. I’m sure over time it will develop, and I’ll explore that in my blogging journey.

People often ask me what I am photographing. It’s a hard question to answer. And the best I have come up with is I just say ‘life today.’ I don’t know if they believe me or not. Or what that means. ~William Eggleston

I recently went to see Mr. Eggleston’s work in person at the Met Museum in New York. It was there that I was finally able to really appreciate his work. It is quite beautiful, when you see it printed like that. One of my favorite images is the one below:

William Eggleston

I know his style of shooting is nothing like mine, but what I like about his work is you can really see how each piece tells a story, and it’s captivating. In my opinion, artwork that tells a story is far more interesting than work that is simply pretty to look at.

In a couple of the art books I’ve read about starting an artist business, the authors stress creating work that is meaningful. I can see where most people would be more likely to buy it than other art.

Moving Forward

Since leaving the program at Brook’s, I feel I’ve lost the ability to create good contemporary art.

The work we learned to create was supposed to tell a story, but not too literally. In other words, the viewer should have to really study the image in order to figure out what the artist is trying to say. The meaning of the work should not be obvious.

It took me at least two semester’s to get a handle on how to create this type of work. In the end, I’m still not quite sure I mastered it. I was just beginning to get it, right when the school was closed.

Unfortunately for me, my memory has been getting worse the last couple of years. I have already forgotten much of what I learned. I still have my notes, so at least I can review them. But it may take me a while to learn to create really good conceptual work on my own.

One of my professor’s gave me a list of some good books to buy to help me out. I’m sure I can figure it out with some practice. I’m a pretty determined person, and I always find a way to achieve my goals, especially if it’s something that’s important to me. Never give up, and keep moving forward. My motto.

Get Inspired

Wanna try contemporary photography for yourself? Check out the website Lensculture, and follow them on Instagram. You’ll quickly get an idea for how and what to shoot.

A couple of good books are The Photography As Contemporary Art (World of Art) by Charlotte Cotton and the War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Both can be found on Amazon. Remember, as the artist, you choose how you want to photograph, and what you want to say. Enjoy!



Brie Koons

Student Writer | Photographer | Traveler | I write about health and wellness & art.