A spin-off thread: when is a photo a work of art?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by lar, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. Before asking when a nude is a work of art I would like to ask when any photo can be defined as a work of art.
    Everybody can produce a photo.
    In an presentation on his contact sheets, Elliott Erwitt says "even a trained orang-utan with a wide angle lens could not fail to make an acceptable picture of that situation".
    When is a photograph art?
    On this site it is very frequent to read self-definitions such as: "I am an artist"; "I produce photographic art"; and references to "my art".
    What differentiates us from Erwitt's "trained orang-utans"?
    Is a photo a piece of art when:
    • it is particularly faithful in representing reality? (the recently discovered Vivian Maier; Magnum's Martin Parr)
    • when it succeeds in making reality surreal? (David LaChapelle)
    • when the author has particular skills in (post) processing images?
    • when the photographer is particularly imaginative in conceiving visual situations which s/he photographs?
    • when the photographer is particularly able to present the scenes s/he imagines? (the recently quoted Chan Chao)
    • when the author succeeds in producing particular effects in the phase of printing her/his works (e.g.: William Eggleston and the dye transfer)?
    • when the photographer is particularly able to perform well in critical situations? (Magnum's Steve McCurry and Paolo Pellegrin, or Karen Kasmauski)
    • ???
    • ???
    I presently feel overthrown by photographs. Are they all pieces of art? how much art do I miss because of visual overflow? How do I recognise art in photography? Do I need the mediation of an editor/a museum curator/a photographic critic/a historian of plastic arts?
    We can very well reason starting from examples, but nevertheless they are not enough: there is the need to find a philosophical method (rooted in aesthetics), to understand if I am in front of a piece of art or not.
     
  2. I think one can worry way too much about that moniker. Everyone is going to argue when something is art and it is a losing proposition in any and all cases. Reading wikipedia, a book on art or whatever will give definitions and most wont agree.
    Concentrate on making your images and let them speak to whoever they need to speak to. Art or not shouldn't be our goal, creating compelling images that meet our vision is what is important.
     
  3. On PN, art is often simply an excuse to say "everything is subjective." Art is mostly "the reason I don't have to listen to your critique." Art allows me not to think about photographs and not to think about how hard it is to make one and not to think about how much harder it is to develop a body of work. Art allows me to think that magic will get me where I want to be.
    Deciding what's art and what's not art is classification. Classifying art is what curators do. They are the closest we have to agreed-upon experts, or at least they're the ones hired to do the classifying. Many of us disagree with curators' assessments fairly often. (Mind you, there are some theories of art, institutional theories, that give classifiers, curators, patrons, etc. a vital role. There's merit even in that theory, combined with others.)
    [John posted while I was writing, so I see the following couple of ideas agrees with his sentiments as well.] Worrying too much about art is a good way to avoid thinking about photographs and what needs to go into them to produce what you want to produce.
    Viewing or making photos with an eye toward the goal of art would be much like viewing or making photos with an eye toward their being good. They're distractions. Get into your subject, get into your process, get into your photos, and let others worry about whether or not they're art. The photographer just needs to do what's in front of him. He needs to involve himself in expression, light, texture, color, focus, understanding, symbols, signifiers, rhythm, grain, harmony, discord, intimacy, passion, and a host of other things.
    At the end of the day, he should be so exhausted and exhilarated from all that that art is the last thing he'd be concerned about or have energy left for. Then, he might actually become an artist.
    Here's something from Wikipedia about Tolstoy:
    According to Tolstoy, art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience, one that "infects" the viewer. Thus, real art requires the capacity to unite people via communication (clearness and genuineness are therefore crucial values). This aesthetic conception led Tolstoy to widen the criteria of what exactly a work of art is. He believed that the concept of art embraces any human activity in which one emitter, by means of external signs, transmits previously experienced feelings. Tolstoy offers an example of this: a boy that has experienced fear after an encounter with a wolf later relates that experience, infecting the hearers and compelling them to feel the same fear that he had experienced—that is a perfect example of a work of art. As communication, this is good art, because it is clear, it is sincere, and it is singular (focused on one emotion).​
    It strikes me today as being beautifully expressed and having a great deal of truth, but not being True. It's a good addition to a collection of ideas of what art is. I think it covers a lot of significant territory, but also leaves a lot out. My gut would disagree a little with the idea that the boy would transmit the same fear to the audience. I think it could be more a matter of empathy than sameness. And some would be troubled by his emphasis on the link between artist and viewer. I'm not. I think it's an important perspective and why shouldn't Tolstoy go for it.
    Thankfully, other great minds will differ and by reading all of them we will have a sense, though likely not a definition, of what art is.
     
  4. Luca -- I can hardly wait to see the responses that your post elicits. ;-)
    [and John and Fred posted while I wrote this -- good answers each, looking at different aspects of your question]
    A short, but not very satisfying or illustrative answer is that "art" is in the eye of the beholder. The complexity comes in when you try to determine which "beholder" you're going to believe. Individual photographers may think of their images as "art". This could be someone on photo.net, or flickr, who posts heavily saturated and haloed HDR, or flowers or kittens or family. Or it could be someone who recently received a MFA and is being exhibited in galleries, or it could be someone with a decades long reputation and a known body of work.
    If you, or I, look at the work of some unknown photographer and decide it is "art", is our opinion less valid because we are not established art critics, gallery owners, or museum curators? Conversely, if art critics, gallery owners, and museum curators bestow the "art" label upon a particular photograph, or photographer, and you or I think it is not "art", whose opinion prevails? To me, it gets even more complex because the very way in which I have framed my previous two questions implies a competition or a weight of validity to be bestowed by money, education, or reputation...or a grassroots, common man rejection of these things.
    I suppose one could read through a history of aesthetic theories, concentrating on the works of more recent decades that deal specifically with photography. In the end I think it is a sort of personal aesthetic that needs to be applied, but one tempered by a familiarity with the theories/opinions/judgements of previous critics, historians, and photographers. There is sometimes a tendency to sneer at and reject the opinions of the amorphous "art world" as overly intellectual and snobbish. At times, they may well be, but I think an attempt needs to be made to understand them before one rejects something out of hand.
    As to your specific questions, I think some, or all of that, might come into play, but it is the photograph itself that matters, not the process, effort, or photographer who created it.
    People may tire of my posting examples, but I find it interesting to actually look at images in these kinds of discussions.
    Among these, which are "art"?
    http://www.brucesilverstein.com/artist/156/Maria-Antonietta-Mameli
    http://d2f29brjr0xbt3.cloudfront.net/020_hdrroundup/2.jpg
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_OZaHvxTKRI4/TNd3wv-BnpI/AAAAAAAAAHM/hx7BjJfOVo0/s1600/rose400.JPG
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2404/2181997458_0f2dbcc018.jpg
    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/images/h2/h2_2000.272.jpg
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_KcdrHS628...8Fu2Jvs/s1600/renee_cox_+HOTT-EN-TOT+1994.jpg
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_UtsPHpXoW...dicated+to+E.P.BENJUMEDA)+by+Mehmet+Akin©.jpg
    http://cdn2.lostateminor.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Paolo-Ventura2.jpg
    http://www.artinfo.com/media/image/139907/MartinMunoz_001.jpg
     
  5. We just did this...Luca, my response to this can be found towards the end of the Lannie thread. There's no Sword of Solomon by which we divide art from non-art. Not even good from bad art. That ability is a type of intelligence, like that of an oneo- or audiophile, and takes years of time/money and experience to acquire it. It can't be handed over like a cell phone for someone else to use.
    Very astute and tempting list, Steve.
     
  6. Luca, a question I've got on my mind frequently too; I think it's rather unanswerable but very good to discuss since the different views will enrich my own ideas on it no doubt. My own very short answer is disappointing, though: I have no clue at all.
    Many photos regarded as art just don't talk to me, don't impress me (technically, choice of subject, or as communication, so not in any way) nor make me want to look a second, third and fourth time to discover the story within. Other photos do. And some photos not regarded as art do shake me up and I can revisit them time and time again to find something in it.
    I agree with what Steve wrote. As a result, I cannot help but using my own judgement, and listening to others as they discuss their judgement to enrich my ability to judge. I refrain from calling work 'art', instead, try to learn to describe why it touches me or not. Ultimately, the label 'art' does not add a whole lot to that opinion... discussing with you might add a whole lot instead.
    I do like what Fred brought up about curators. I do have a slight point to it, though: aren't they also trained to see what one could sell, or which work at least will represent a financial value being recognised at art? So, are their judgements purely driven by getting a grip on what is and is not art, or is there also a part judged on market demands? (this would not invalidate their opinions, but it may help some criticism to be founded when a whole body of work "becomes art")
    Steve, I agree bringing in examples does work. Given my answer so far, clearly I will declare none of them art :). Just opinions on a few of them. This one grabs me, it's a photo that draws in and tickles my fantasy to make a story in it. These series, I would like to see much much larger - I envision they are quite great then, but as small thumbnails, it's a bit too difficult to say. This one is a photo that I see called 'art' often, which manages to leave me completely cold. And sorry, can't resist but oh dear, how I dislike HDR gone wrong.
     
  7. I do like what Fred brought up about curators. I do have a slight point to it, though: aren't they also trained to see what one could sell,​
    That really isn't the job of a curator but more a part of what a gallery owner has to consider in their selection of work. Curators are generally within institutions that collect or put together shows for such institutions. Curators do rely on gallery owners quite a bit for the introduction to new work but do a lot of their own research.
     
  8. John, thanks, I mistook their role then.
     
  9. Curators in Museums aren't concerned with what the work can sell for, but the number of admission ticket sales the exhibit will generate. Remember, galleries sell works (among other services), museums sell admissions tickets to make money.
     
  10. I hope I was understood to be saying that curators have to do with the "classification" aspect of art. As I have said, classifying what's art is not a good way to go about understanding or relating to art. I think it's important to recognize the institutional role played with regard to art, whether it be for reasons of money, popularity, networking, knowing who's who, etc. But I wasn't suggesting it could be used effectively to understand what art is or how it works. I was suggesting that curators and institutions are a major factor in the classification and selection of pieces of art. I don't think the art world can be easily separated from art. They influence each other and are intertwined. But there's a lot more to art than museums, as evidenced by the quote I also included by Tolstoy.
     
  11. Luca, the following is a theory that I've been thinking about since that "other" thread. Joseph Kusuth says, "... a work of art is a kind of proposition presented within the context of art as a comment on art."
    Obviously, that's not a definition of art; it's circular. But I like it for just that reason (Kosuth also says that "Art is the defnition of art"). Because it seems to me that it describes the way "art" works for a lot of people. If you go to make a snowman, you have to start by grabbing a bunch of snow and mashing it into a snowball. Then you can start rolling your big snowman snowballs. Likewise, if you want to make a ball out of some string, you start by sort of wadding up a little core kernel of string -- upon which you then build your ball of string.
    I think everybody comes to the question of "what is art" with a starter ball already in their mind. They already have something going on that they think of as or treat as or act as if it is -- art. Therefore, I think we can elude that dreaded initial question of "what is ...?" and skip to Kosuth's "art is the definition of art" and further, that "art is a comment on art." By that I mean that when you encounter all those examples you gave in your OP, they "comment" back on the art you already have experienced. (And if they don't "comment" on it, then they aren't art. Maybe they will be later, as you develop, but maybe never.) Further, these "comments" are reflexive as well as expansive.
    I don't think this is the same as saying "art is whatever you say it is" but I do think that it puts you, the individual viewer, in charge of a developing conception of art.
     
  12. Fred, that aspect was (to me at least) clear, I only had a doubt on the role of monetary value - since that would kind of undermine the "l'art pour l'art" idea. But well, better that let that part topic go, since it will only deviate from the actual discussion here.
     
  13. Luca, if you put the question directly: "When is a photo a work of art", I would repeat what I tried to formulate in the previous thread:
    Art is creation, involving thoughts and imagination of an original idea with aesthetic or non-easthetic content. It courses transcendence, sublimation and spiritual enrichment through our sensitivity and intellect, often exceeding the intentions of the creator .​
    Art much always include a creative dimension and can never just be reproduction of already seen, heard or known ideas. Something new and unexpected which provokes enrichment for those that by intellectual and spiritual readiness are able to appreciate its transcend and sublimating messages.
    Art can never just be grounded on admiration. Art is life changing for those that make and experience it.
     
  14. Luca, a substantial discussion of art should at least make reference to craft.
    The honing of and delight in craft is often what allows for the emergence of art. This emergence can be actively intended or more passively just come to be. In other words, a photo doesn't have to be intended to be art in order to become art. Craft, by itself, is likely not enough, though I'd maintain it would be quite difficult to tell the difference between true excellence in craft, on the one hand and art, on the other, even though I think there IS a difference.
    I'm not suggesting that art comes only to those who are techno-geeks or who have studied the zone system until they're blue in the face. But some very intimate connection to some aspects of the craft of taking photos, whatever that be for each individual, is likely going to help one's photos achieve the status of "art." The integration of craft/technique/medium with communication/message/creativity/contemplation/proposition/transmission of feelings/beauty/spirituality/sublimation/transcendendence/empathy is where I might begin my search.
    Even in Tolstoy's example, whether that boy is aware of it or not, it will be his "craftiness" with words, facial expressions, gestures in addition to his genuineness and sincerity in telling the story that will allow his listeners to feel that fear he was feeling. The fear itself, as originally experienced, is NOT ENOUGH. It has to be re-created for the audience. Passion for what you've seen or for what you're doing is NOT ENOUGH. It has to be evident in the photo itself. It has to be fashioned (crafted) into the photo, consciously or not.
    In any case, I like what Julie has offered because it's non-specific enough to be thought-provoking without being restrictive. There is also, as she recognizes, a meaningful sort of circularity to it.
     
  15. When the artist says it is.
     
  16. I think of photography as a craft rather than an art. A craft which can sometimes produce art.
     
  17. "Elliott Erwitt says "even a trained orang-utan with a wide angle lens could not fail to make an acceptable picture of that situation"."
    Does Elliott Erwitt admit he knows how to train the orangutan? Or how to communicate with the critter?
    That said, how does he propose to get the orangutan to know the instant the shutter must go off to capture the "less than art" image with the wide-angle lens?
    Art is dependent on the viewer. If one likes a photo of a flower or a sunset, that makes it art....
     
  18. I let the artsy-fartsy crowd figure out whether or not it's art, and I could care less about their conclusions. I like to take pictures.
     
  19. Luca, you asked a question about something that has been under discussion time and time again without a final consensus answer. And, as the definition of Art itself, I suspect we'll continue the same way.
    Just as a coincidence, this afternoon I read the chapter of an interesting book (Photography, by Stephen Bull), with the title of "Photography as Art", that refers "the fist exhibition entirely dedicated to photography took place in December 1853, at the Society of Arts, London.
    Nevertheless, photography still had a long way to go before being recognized as "an Art", status that nowadays is not discussed anymore and you can see it in museums, galleries and private collections, as well in auctions where prices can be quite high.
    But, during all the process we can see the discussions around authorship of photographic art (the artist or the photographer) and the different photo art movements (pictorialism, modernism, conceptualism, postmodernism, contemporary art) as well as some other movements within or aside this major ones), and for each one the elements that define a photography as art are not necessarily the same.
    On the other hand, you have photographers that did not consider them as artists, like the french E. Atget, that was considered as a reference in photographic art by the MoMa, NY, and linked to Surrealism or as an influence to well known photographers.
    This brings us to the influence of museums, curators, galleries, critics and the media to the attribution of the "Art stamp" to a photograph or the work of a photographer, and to give it a market value.
    Obviously, this leaves out of Art the vast majority of produced photographs and at a more individual or "local" levels (forums, photo clubs, etc.) some people can consider themselves or be considered among theirs peers as "artists" and producers of "Art", even receiving tributes and honors for their "master pieces", but that will never reach recognition at the level of the elites of the so called Fine Art.
    All this makes the definition you're asking for a very difficult one.
     
  20. stp

    stp

    It strikes me that the default wording in the information for posted photographs on photo.net is "artist." For me personally, it's more accurate, I believe, and more satisfying to replace that word with "photographer." It has struck me as slightly pretentious to be designating myself as an "artist." Some would probably say the same thing when I call myself a "photographer." "Person who took/made the photograph" is too long, unfortunately.
     
  21. On PN, art is often simply an excuse to say "everything is subjective." --Fred G.​
    I think that you are right, Fred, On the other hand, if anyone comes up with an objective criterion, or objective criteria, please notify the rest of us. This issue hardly comes just from the last thread. This issue has come up over and over, and I see no end in sight to the discussion.
    Nor is that necessarily a bad thing. The conversation is worthwhile, in my opinion, even if no firm conclusions are ever reached. The best thing that tends to come from such discussions is the opportunity to explain why some works either "speak" to us or do not do so.
    Steve has given us another start.
    --Lannie
     
  22. I was just on the "ratings" link under "Gallery," and this came up under the category of "Fine Art." In other words, the claim was not merely being made that this was art, but "fine art." I had to laugh out loud--but perhaps someone can see "fine art" here:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13931512
    --Lannie
     
  23. Maybe "art" is different for each of us--what excites us, draws us in or makes us think, etc. That is certainly going to be different for each person. We can all look at the same thing and have completely different reactions. Art scholars have their own definitions, which are a lot different from the person who likes velvet Elvis paintings.
     
  24. I let the artsy-fartsy crowd figure out whether or not it's art, and I could care less about their conclusions. I like to take pictures.​
    Sounds more like you couldn't care less.
     
  25. First, I'll do a 'Professor Joad' and say, "It all depends on what you mean by 'art'." That said, I consider something to be art if it concerns the 'exploration and communication of great and final things', a quote I have taken from Professor George Steiner, though he used it in a different context.
     
  26. John A
    I tend to agree, but isn't it the purpose of philosophy to investigate possibly unanswerable questions? I am interested in this topic since "art" is a term - and maybe a concept - thrown around a lot on photo.net.
    Fred G
    I like your quote of Tolstoy.
    Steve Gubin
    That art is in the eye of the beholder should be in line with Fred's statement on the "excuse that everything is subjective". If we enter the realm of subjectivity, everything can be art in photography.
    Is everything art in photography? If so, what distinguishes the merits of a renown photographer from the one shooting away?
    Thinking of other plastic arts in respect to photography, art is also craft. Art is research. Art is a path of activities, a path of thinking: how many long hours of training, of conceptualisation, of experimentation does a painter or a composer need to produce art?
    Is the recognition of art bound to the knowledge, understanding and interpretation of this path of the artist the real key to understanding a work of art?
    Luis,
    Thank you. I as aware of this possibility of repetition, and will look for your post in the other thread.
    Julie,
    This "circular" concept speaks a lot to me. In the very end it might be the real "non-answer" to the question. I will have to think further on your sentence:
    I don't think this is the same as saying "art is whatever you say it is" but I do think that it puts you, the individual viewer, in charge of a developing conception of art.​
    Anders,
    Thank you for repeating. Your formulation is another which speaks a lot to me. If I interpret it correctly, it includes my concept of a "creative path".
     
  27. Fred,
    Here we go, bringing up our beloved concept of craft.
    We mentioned it before and I support that craft is not enough and hardly can be identified with technology.
    Even if it can be strongly related to technique.
    Maybe the output is artistic when a combination of craft, ingenuity, creativity and emotion comes to being, in a nearly "astral combination".
    In some way it seems to me, however, that art is something produced by a recognised artist (even posthumous).
    In this respect, Michael Axel's tautology may well be correct.
    Does the "universality" of recognition have a bearing on what is art and what not?
     
  28. Jerry,
    One of my professors at university used to say: "we may place a monkey in front of a piano and he might be able to produce a concerto by Chopin. Except that it is highly unlikely".
    How to train an orang-utan is not the point here, as he likely will nibble at the camera. If you look at the video, you will put the phrase into the context.
    Art is dependent on the viewer. If one likes a photo of a flower or a sunset, that makes it art....
    I totally disagree. That would confirm the orang-utan pattern, maybe with a less sophisticated tool like a paint-brush.
    And the answer cannot be (a paraphrase) "I recognise art when I see it".
     
  29. So we are not only back to the question of what is art, but to the question as to whether there is or can ever be an objective standard for answering the question. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  30. Antonio,
    Thank you.
    Very thoughtful post. It could lead to the conclusion - which I share - that art is too much a complex concept to be thrown around thoughtlessly.
     
  31. I let the artsy-fartsy crowd figure out whether or not it's art, and I could care less about their conclusions. I like to take pictures.
    Sounds more like you couldn't care less.​
    You're right Steve. You caught me.
    My statement being said, I do ask, "Is it a good photograph?"
    That's my focus.
     
  32. For me, the answer is pretty simple.
    If the photograph in question provokes thought/feelings/emotion/reflection in the mind and soul of the viewer, then it is art.
     
  33. galleries sell works (among other services), museums sell admissions tickets to make money.
    Right, but the purpose of the admission tickets in museums (if any) is to cover the costs of having the exhibit and the space rather than expressly make money in the sense that a company makes money as its sole purpose. The primary purpose of the museum is to exhibit art and educate.
    "Is it a good photograph?"
    That's my focus.
    You should also ask is it something new? Because there are millions of people who spend time in making repetitive images of certain subjects that are technically fine but lack any novelty. A good photograph is not enough if it has been done over and over again.
     
  34. Luca, not that I developed my thoughts any further to actually shed any light, but just trying to think along....More to hopefully offer some idea that could develop somewhat deeper.
    1. Art is not dependent on the taste of the individual. At best, many individuals have difficulty digesting the idea that art can be something they dislike. Beauty can be part of the reason why it's art, but it's not the only one nor mandatory.
    2. Art requires craft (not only in photography), but craft alone won't do.Which brings me to the rather hard-to-pin-down things: the work needs to represent a creative vision, or play a clear role in a body of work that represents a creative vision.
      I refrained from saying 'original vision', since I think there is actually quite a lot of art that is not so much original, but excellently executed (Vermeer, Rembrandt, Ravel's orchestrations). Craft winning over content maybe? The reverse sure also does happen, though never with complete disregard of the craft, I think.
    3. I mostly get stuck at the word 'creative' since it means creating something. But isn't part of streetphotography or event photography dealing with what you get handed, and making the best of that? If the artist there is not actively creating the scene, would it be excluded for being 'art'? (please no!)
      Is it in the message, and in the way it's brought to us (the elegance or brutality with which the message gets told)? If so, what did van Gogh want to tell me with a sunflowers?
      Doesn't creating also imply 'new', isn't it recreating otherwise? Kind of goes back topoint 2, when craft trumps the actual content, how much is it created rather than created again? Would this matter at all?
    4. And talent? It's been discussed here before, but it remains a lovely mysterious thing. Yet, it seems to be what seperates most succesfull artists from the rest of us.
    Antonio's conclusion makes a lot of sense: a definition that's very difficult to find; regardless I just throw up the above ideas as food for thought/discussion.
    By the way, Stephen Penland's notion made me gniffle. Never considered it, but indeed here on p.net and in EXIF data are the only places I get called an artist. I prefer 'trained orang-utan with a wide angle lens ;-)
     
  35. But isn't part of streetphotography or event photography dealing with what you get handed, and making the best of that?​
    Wouter, you may have answered your own question. Making = Creating (?)
    .
    Maybe "art" is different for each of us--what excites us, draws us in or makes us think, etc. That is certainly going to be different for each person. We can all look at the same thing and have completely different reactions.​
    You may be talking about taste . . . "what excites us, draws us in, . . ." Taste is a component of art but, IMO, it is not art. What is art is too often agreed upon for it to be as subjective as many suggest, I think.
     
  36. The Wife and I own a small picture framing business.
    When I started out in this business I may have had a rather simplistic definition of art. But I had a definition located in a place of my mind I called "taste". I looked upon some work as crap, some as mediocre and some as excellent based on personal taste.
    Now, after a many years of seeing what a large variety of people consider art I don't think I'm in any position at all to universally define art except perhaps; Beauty and "art" are in the eyes of the beholder.
     
  37. I guess my point early on is that if you want to call yourself an artist and what you produce art, who really cares or should care? Some greats claim they are not artists but merely photographers and some who just have a camera they use periodically call themselves photographers and not just someone with a camera.
    If someone produces something that is horrid and calls it art and stands by it, hey, more power to them--it doesn't affect me or what I am doing. There are a lot of people producing work that think it is better than it is and maybe that is the way it should be. It is that person's loss if they don't remain open to hearing feedback and taking it into consideration as a means of growth but it doesn't change the fact that bottom line it really shouldn't matter to anyone else. How many galleries have we been in where the work on the walls is poorly done as to craft, poorly scene and produced and yet it is there for sale--and sells.
    One of the classic definitions of art includes intent as a criteria. If one intends to create art, then it is art (quality may be a separate issue). And I suppose that if one makes a photograph, one can consider themselves a photographer. Bottom line is that the work is what is important, the rest is just a digression.
     
  38. note: "seen" not "scene"--need 2nd cup of coffee....
     
  39. Ikka - "The primary purpose of the museum is to exhibit art and educate."
    That sounds good, and I'm not arguing against it (and I have curated shows in small galleries and other venues locally) but let's be brutally realistic: unless there's a financially viable museum to do that in, it can't happen. And ticket sales (along with bequests, donations, deacquisitions, etc) make it all happen.
     
  40. Now, after a many years of seeing what a large variety of people consider art I don't think I'm in any position at all to universally define art except perhaps; Beauty and "art" are in the eyes of the beholder.​
    Where does that leave one in the face of "Elvis on Velvet"? We are back to the subjectivism to which Fred referred in his first response to the original question.
    --Lannie
     
  41. John A
    If one intends to create art, then it is art​
    John, go and look at the present 227 photos in my portfolio and you will rapidly agree with me that your definition of what is art, gives no meaning, - to say it politely - quality being a separate issue or not .
     
  42. Lannie, I've seen a lot worse than Elvis on velvet, but I've never seen Elvis on Velvet come into the shop.....yet.
    The piece that was the most difficult for me was a picture taken of a picnic table in a park. There was nothing on it, under it, or beside it. It was a picture of a picnic table that you may send to someone who wanted to buy it. It was printed 8 x 10, in color, by a one hour lab. The customer wanted a expensive frame, which since I'm in the business was good.
    I tried carefully to examine the merits of the picture but found none myself. I asked the customer, carefully, why he wanted to frame this particular picture, like maybe he and his wife had lunch there etc.
    "No", he said. "This picture was taken with a Leica."
    To this man the picture held some importance. When he picked up the picture of the picnic table he was very pleased. He obviously placed a value on it and may have considered it art.
     
  43. Paul, good example on how people may have their own reasons to define or defend their taste. But nor your customer or you have seemed to imply it was art. They liked it massively for quirky reasons, you take their money smiling - good business, I'd say.
    I just cannot agree with those who put art and taste as the same. There is little arguing that Van Gogh is regarded art. Yet, the more I see it, the less I like it. It just does not really do anything to me. I've seen photos here that affected me much more, and which I like on a much more profound level - yet many of those aren't called art. And me calling them art also does not make them art. Me saying Van Gogh is no art because I do not like it, is a statement that cannot be seriously defended either.
    So, let's think beyond what you like and dislike - in the famous works of art, which qualities are there that 1) made them so famous and 2) made them regarded as art ?
     
  44. Soma call themselves scientists and justify that term by dealing in the physical unknown and creating some rules or some apt description of the phenomena that render their subject more intelligible to the human being. Some, and I include myself, operate often between the science and the applied science, and the art of vision, and as an engineer or applied scientist, create serviceable items for mankind, much as the architect conceives and creates living and event places for the same.
    An artist is not someone very different from those I allude to above who also explore and research new relationships in our physical world (and our individual cerebral playing fields) and create NEW manifestations or "products*" that intrigue, enlighten, inform, wrestle one with, and complement the desires of their audience to experience something elightening that they have yet to experience. I think that is a measure not just of the success of the art but also the raison d'etre and definition of the art and the arrtist.
    * I use this word in a very catholic or universal sense, not necessarily just a commercial one.
     
  45. Something to consider is that generations inherit art. We don't choose it. It's art because it came that way. (This is PART of the art story. By no means the WHOLE art story. Often we do go back and choose, of course.)
     
  46. You should also ask is it something new? Because there are millions of people who spend time in making repetitive images of certain subjects that are technically fine but lack any novelty. A good photograph is not enough if it has been done over and over again.
    People do that?
     
  47. Fred, we posted more or less concurrently. In the context of what I was suggesting in my post I certainly agree with you that we inherit art, whether it be that we may have discovered for the first time this morning and or that of contemporary art or that of past decades and centuries. My contention is that we inherit what we wish to inherit, or in other words, we do not accord the same value to all art, some of which may strike us as not inventive enough or not intriguing enough, or not stressful enough to capture our mind, notwithstanding its ability to please others for differing reasons. Art, as I am postulating, is not different from other creative products of man (scientist, engineer, architect).
    In that sense, I had the very good fortune to see the Robert Lepage-Michael Curry production of the opera "Le Rossignol" (Stravinsky's The Nightingale, and other fables) by the joint team of COC (Toronto)-Ex Machina (Quebec)-Lyrical society of Aix-en Provence-Opera de Lyon-Nederelandse Opera a few nights ago. The multi-contribution of various arts, including visual (scene, marionettes, finger projection of light, backlit dancers on another level, water bath effects, optical illusions), instrumental and voice, displayed that search of newness, fantasy, intrigue and lyrical beauty or strangeness (whether visual or sound). Contributing elements were sometimes technically creative, other times imbued with the magic of visual and sound compositions. The art took many forms and was the exclusive territory of none.
     
  48. Anders, I guess my point is, again, that we shouldn't be worrying about the label on our work. If we call it art, then it is art. If we call it crap, then it is crap. Whatever works to help one make work that expresses their vision is all that is important.
    I know that what I think about this or that piece isn't going to make it art or not make it art--someone else's or my own. I know that my opinion isn't going to affect what the MOMA or MET or Louvre or whoever does. Yes, I have my own thoughts about what art is but I also have those challenged every time I look around at what is or has been done--and I like that.
    I think all that input helps me grow in my thoughts and in my own work.
    Anyway, I think I have participated in discussions on this topic so many times that I rarely hear anything that serves any real value that I haven't already heard in about every other similar discussion. Hearing it over and over again can lead to new insights and maybe that is the benefit of doing it. But the proof is always in the work.
     
  49. Fred, forgot to answer your point earlier... Creating is making; yes, you are right. I was more thinking about the total control in creating a vision, versus having partial control. Most works people consider art are created "from scratch" by the artist, or have had the artist in complete control of the creation.
    Which I think is not a mandatory requirement for art.
    My 10:28AM post was mainly just loose thoughts of which I think they are connected to the threat and may yield some further ideas or discussions.
     
  50. I think it's important to distinguish what is art by intention and what is art in the eye of the viewer.
    Ideally you should aim to achieve both.
     
  51. I remember having this discussion with a photographer friend whose wife was a painter -- in about 1968. We never settled it back then. I wonder if it might be settled now.
     
  52. Art using different media (including photography) and differing subjects (nude, landscape, street, created subjects, etc.) is no different than other creative pursuits. Photography can be sometimes creative to the point of producing art, but not always of course.
    I developed a process at pilot scale with Alcan colleagues for recycling waste aluminium electrolysis production cells into new products. The more than a dozen process elements were put together mainly from existing Alcan sub operations of other processes and my role was mainly one of simple coordination (critical peth analysis) so there was little or no creative work from my viewpoint (although some of the team offered quite creative specific solutions to the problems of innovating a hitherto unknown overall process).
    Some years earlier, I coordinated a multidsciplinary team that sought to produce the most efficient and evolved bread mixer (a large kneading machine to produce dough for a million loaves per week scale). Despite my training in metals rather than in our daily bread and its chemistry and production, I was able to motivate the team and personally contribute some really neat creative elements of the new machine that had not previously been used in that part of the food industry. I have no qualms about describing my input and those of the team as art, although there are other engineering works that I cannot describe as being of the same nature as art (including the vision of creating new processes or products).
    I offer these analogies in other creative fields of activity (to that of visual art) and which we often tend to overlook in human creative activity and which I think also defend the notion of what is a similar creative art in photography (which is composed I believe of exploration, discovery, creation of hitherto unapplied approaches or treatment of subject, fantasy, intrigue, tension, unexpected beauty).
    I remember a few members of my former photo clubs saying "I have done everything, nothing else to do." When I hear the viewpoint that all has been done I am simply amused, and can only reply, when I wanted to show an opposing view, "yes, possibly, if you look at it in that way".
     
  53. I think it is in the nature of human beings to express themselves creatively. Many people can do this exceptionally well, whether it is in painting or drawing, music or photography, etc. I regard these people as being artistic or even artists, and what they create at some level is art. Being artistic is fairly common, in other words. I also think there are some artistic people who are able to redefine the medium they work in by being unusually inventive and new in their expression. These are the Frank Lloyd Wrights, the Miles Davis’s, the Picasso’s of the world. We all seem to recognize the feat of these individuals as being profound in some way. What I am saying is that humans are artistic as a group, and as you would expect there are also exceptional individuals who are more creative than the general population, so what we call “art” falls on a proverbial bell curve perhaps. We can appreciate all levels of art for what it is, and we can be astounded by the really great ones. There will always be arguments about who is really in that upper bell curve category, but it is in the nature of human beings to disagree as well. Heh.
     
  54. If we call it art, then it is art.​
    I appreciate John's approach to his work, rendering photography into a very reflected process, that I can fully adhere to.
    However by confirming, as he does, that all is art, if we call it art, he just empties the word of any meaning. This can be one way forward, but also just be a irrelevant sidestep.
    Personally, as I have tried to outline in my tentative "definition of art", it has to be creative, original and causing transcendence, sublimation and spiritual enrichment for me to accept the use of the term, art.
    If one accept such criteria, a second and immediate question is of course : creative for whom? The answer to that question can be anywhere between : for me personally, and for people in a community, and for shared history.
     
  55. it has to be creative, original and causing transcendence, sublimation and spiritual enrichment for me to accept the use of the term, art.​
    Anders, perhap you have outlined the criteria for inspiring art (whatever that is), but I am not sure that you have not set the bar a bit high for "art" qua art.
    --Lannie
    '​
     
  56. I tried carefully to examine the merits of the picture but found none myself. I asked the customer, carefully, why he wanted to frame this particular picture, like maybe he and his wife had lunch there etc.
    "No", he said. "This picture was taken with a Leica."
    To this man the picture held some importance. When he picked up the picture of the picnic table he was very pleased. He obviously placed a value on it and may have considered it art.​
    And he shot it with a Leica! Well, Paul, I guess the Leica settles it. If the overall undertaking (Leica, frame and all) was so expensive, it must have been art.
    --Lannie
     
  57. Art is by definition-"the quality, production, expression, or realm, according toaesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."
    To me this indicates a desire by the creator to rise above the mundane, and by the viewer to be raised to appreciation above the mundane as well.
     
  58. John – I appreciate your avowed occasional independency of what is determined as art by the curators and art researchers of MOMA, Louvre, MET, Tate Modern or Pompidou Centre and with our (healthy) ability to apply other perceptions. The plethora of definitions are useful in reminding ourselves of different concepts and catalysts in art while undertaking that exercise ourselves, although I think we need to be particularly careful not to be overly guided by certain movements and not let them unduly affect our personal artistic approach.
    Wouter – It is known that even the greatest known thinkers/creators of art creators do not always create from scratch. A good part of the music of many composers is rehashed (I don’t mean this in a pejorative sense) from former Works. I was impressed a few days ago by the similarity of the devil’s dance theme in "Histoire du Soldat" and Stravinsky’s "Ragtime" composition, as well as in other Stravinsky opera music heard that day. Beethoven and Mahler did the same and they are hardly unique in that sense. Many absorb ideas from artists of prior or contemporary times, many of who are not well known. I don’t think the absolute originality (from scratch) you mentioned is very important to the ultimate power of a work, in which the whole often exceeds that of its parts. And so it is in much fine photography, which you rightly describe as being partly created and partly recorded simply because it is there and is complementary to the overall approach.
    Steve – The bell curve is no doubt appropriate, although the question of putting sometimes unlike things on the same bell curve is a problem and who establishes the bell curve is also questionable. A friend taking very tough undergrad exams in his final year obtained a 42 on a key exam, whereas his only co-student in that discipline registered a 28. The bell curve was necessary, not only to recognise his real contribution (he also went on that year to win a Guggenheim fellowship for study) and to differentiate his result from others (only one in that particular arduous course). So bell curves are useful, but some things just won’t fit on the same curve as others.
    Anders – I sympathise with your criteria and observe that it is important here to highlight them in order to obtain comment from others. More later. I disagree with you that art has to be directed to a particular segment of society and would simply say that it should target (if it indeed targets anyone) the thinking and emotional or sensually sensitive being. When it focuses to a particular segment (as some academic circles art) it often misses the mark in regard to long-term power or effect. Mozart saw the light in his theatrical music and sought to produce operas for the popular theatre of his time, possibly in frustration for the reaction to much of the intelligentsia of his period. Today, his operas are appreciated less by the popular culture than by the older and perhaps more musically mature audiences (check out the percentage of young in attendance at the operas, despite attractive discounts often offered to the under 30s).
    Causing transcendence, sublimation and spiritual enrichment are no doubt pertinent to a definition of art and are also very nice sounding artistic terms. You are no doubt aware that they mean different things to different persons and cannot therefore unequivocally frame art in a standard definition. Spiritual enrichment is today often equated with the holy, divine or other attributes proceeding from God, as opposed to the more general definition of spirit as opposed to matter. Causing transcendence is useful in that it suggests something that is beyond the range, domain or grasp of human experience, reason or belief, but that can be defined in different ways of course, particularly in relation to photographic art. Sublimation, in the sense of purifying or elevating is also worthy, but again interpretable in very different ways in photography.
    I suggested that originality, intrigue, ability to enlighten, ability to inform, wrestle one with, and complement the desires of their audience to experience something enlightening that they have yet to experience, are perhaps fairly concrete and more easily applicable definitions of what is art, although they are not exclusive ones.
    The important thing is to be inspired by what is art and especially o get out and practice it, recognising of course that our abilities to do so should be in constant evolution and often need further development to allow us to go as far as our cognitive, emotional and technical bagage permit us.
     
  59. Arthur, the "from scratch" was in quotes for exactly that reason. I know many works extend on existing other works. My point in that post was more about the level of control for the creator, not so much the starting point of creation.
     
  60. Thanks, Wouter, I understand your context and re-read your post. I also benefitted from reading some other definitions you listed on August 8th. The question of taste and what defines art is important and I'm glad you brought it up. Someone used the word "compelling" as a definition, but it ostensibly also can refer to taste which I also recoil from as a universal definition. It is, as stated, equally subjective and non-quantitative/qualitative in describing what it is that motivates us to consider something as art.
     
  61. All photos are works of art, just like all drawings.
    Art is the end result of a creative process.
    But, some works of art are better than others.
    maljo
     
  62. Arthur, I'm aware that the various terms I used (spiritual, transcendence, sublimation) have different connotations for different people. I believe however, that it is a good principle of writing not to accept any monopoly of concepts of special groups, but to take the time and grasp the opportunities for explaining concepts in order to arrive at a common understanding among readers.
    Therefor, "spiritual enrichment" is used by religions, but its basic meaning is something not tangible and or immaterial. Art enriches the mind, the spirit, in that meaning.
    Therefor, also, sublimation in relationship to arts is concerned with our reaction, as viewers or artist, of challenges, provocations of works or art (replacement, repression, denial, intellectualization projection are some of the sublimation are some of the (re-)actions involved if we should refer to psychoanalytical categories).
    When you propose concepts like : originality, intrigue, ability to enlighten, ability to inform, wrestle one with as well as something enlightening that they have yet to experience - I find it all too nice and committable. Art is not entertainment, in my understand, and, so to day, not a good friend to drink a beer with. Art is dangerous to comfort and challenges us to change our understanding of our selves and the world and question ourselves.
    Concerning the question of directing art to specific segments of society, I think I did not make myself sufficiently clear.
    I had no intention of suggesting that art by definition should address certain segments of society and not others, but acknowledge that art speaks to different communities in different ways: The art community (whoever that includes among those that make, art and "consume"/appreciate art invest and organize art and the art marked in specific cases and specific places); the general public is another; the world community, yet another.
    What one could say is that if a understanding of art, as I suggest, is accepted, only certain people would be open and available (in "spiritual terms) for arts - say, to make art. I think this is very much in tune with reality anyway.
     
  63. Anders, I think we are quite close in regard to the definitions we each privilege, and while you say that my few chosen ones (amongst several other parameters I would happily propose as well) are too nice and commitable I must heartily disagree. Wrestling with something is not an easy thing and it can require physical and metaphysical appreciations and struggle. Enlightenment is I think what many look for in visual art. or in a new book, or in a poem, in music, and, importantly, in one's job, and that enlightenment can take many profound and surprising forms. It is not just nice and commitable, as you say.
    If art can do it, for me it defines what art is. It is in effect a definition that is independent of the type of viewer (As we can all be intrigued and enlightened in different ways, according to our specific spirits and antennae).
     
  64. What about the point on the artistic path along which creative evolution and experimentation can be observed?
    Is the recognition as a visual artist precursory to the recognition of a work of visual art?
    Who is entitled to qualify a photographer as an artist and a photograph as a work of art?
    Except the photographer him/herself of course, who might be tempted to think that buying certain equipment necessarily leads to the production of work of art?
     
  65. Is the recognition as a visual artist precursory to the recognition of a work of visual art? --Luca​
    Luca, all the anonymous works of art should help answer your question.
    .
    Who is entitled to qualify a photographer as an artist and a photograph as a work of art? --Luca​
    Who is "entitled" will be determined in a given context and milieu. But you're knocking on the door of expertise here, which is useful.
    ________________________________
    There's an aspect of artifice which is significant to art (even when it's its most real). Artists may reach and move the soul but many of them do it by getting their hands dirty. It can be carnal.
     
  66. Who is entitled
    Obviously, noone is "untitled" to decide what is art, apart from within a speciific historical or institutional context.
    History of art is filled with institutional setups determining what was art and was not according to the doctrines in place. That was the basis for the two yearly "salons" of panting and sculptures in Louvre and later in the Grand Palais in Paris in the 17th to 19th century. The limits of such exclusive definition of what was art and was not, was clearly shown by the exposition of "Salon des refusés (those rejected) in 1863 - but even in those expositions, exclusions took of course place and strict criteria, doxtrines, of what was "modern" art were set in place and debated and disputed continiously.
    Present days art fairs (counted in thousands around the world) play of course the same role of including, or excluding, works as art or not. Whether these events and selecting committees are "entitled" or not, they do, de facto, play a central role of defining what art is at a given moment. Go to the present Biennale of Venice and you will see what was art yesterday, and be sure that art of tomorrow will be different - and decided by a similar group and contested by another group.
    "What is art" is never decided ones and for all by anyones specific, but by a long process of decisions, contestations and debate, that in some rare cases end up with a consensus - over time.
    We can between ourselves decide that it all does not concerns us and that for us, art is something else and less exclusive - like so many artist, and others, do. Personally, I find much inspiration by following and attending as my art shows as I possible can, because they seem to be a better place of inspiration than for example the "top-rated photos" on Photonet.
     
  67. While Anders' description and Fred's "determined in a given context and milieu" sounds like very right answers to the question 'who is entitled to decide', it brings me none closer. The question would be more, why do they deem themselves entitled?
    It instinctively made me think of something that bothered me endlessly during my history studies. A lot of people still believe the Enlightment vision that the Middle Ages were some dark, murky useless wasted 1000 years, and how we were better off revelling in awe at the ancient Greek society. The disrespect shows ignorance and self-glorification, while the extreme adoration goes through very filtered opiniated views.
    This expert-rewrite of history still has impact today.
    What Anders described as "a long process of decisions, contestations and debate, that in some rare cases end up with a consensus - over time" at work, I think. But the decisions and debate are founded very much in their own time, and biassed by it. And at some point, things transcend the debate and become "facts". The wide audience will accept that Rembrandt, Brueghel, Monet and so on are art without any glitch. Picasso, things get hairy since many will admit to not getting it. Warhol... "they heard it's art but I think it's a can of soup". Let alone the less famous artists or more recent artists.
    I doubt whether we can just dismiss the "general public opinion on art", even if we disagree or find it simplistic. A wider concensus, to me, seems part of the definition on what's art and what's not.
    And even so; if we state that a certain elite (chosen on whatever merit) makes the decisions, debates and reaches full or partial concensus, after which the choice trickles down to the wide audience... the question remains unanswered. Why are they making their choices? What are their yardsticks, what the objectives and their motivations?
    In short: what is the expertise? Why would "they" see more than me?
    (even shorter: I'm clueless and only getting more confused!)
    Luca,
    What about the point on the artistic path along which creative evolution and experimentation can be observed?​
    I had to think about Mozart here. To me, Mozart has this distinctively own sound. Something in phrasing that makes it Mozart. It's his blessing, and curse. Blessing, because I am awed by being able to have such a consistency without repeating too much. Curse, because Mozart bores me after a relatively short while for this reason.
    To me, his very last works show a creative evolution and experimentation. All before - well much seems pretty much the same. I cannot detect that strong a development, nor experiments.
    Admit, this is a rather harsh judgement on Mozart, but all the same. I think evolution, experimentation are no necessities. Consistency of style and vision (uniting a body of work) can work just as well. With the risk of being more of a one-trick-pony, but true talent will overcome that.
     
  68. To judge a piece of music of considerable complexity, it is almost essential to be in the position of being able to make or at the least skilfully interpret such music. The approaches differ and so will the judgements or preferences of different musicians. Debussy, Vaughan Wiliams, Elgar, Mahler and Bruckner all produced in very roughly the same time period, but their music is very different and the erudite and intellectual Mahler approached composition in a different manner (certainly with different results) than the paysan like, spiritually driven, and highly musically competent Bruckner. that Anders mentions
    I think that the differing competing movements that Anders mentions are not due to the art intelligentsia of the period (who were slow in transiting from one movement to the next) but innovated by the artists themselves, as the Impressionists, who were forced to seek alternate venues for their work. As it was with the Fauvists and with Der Blaue Reiter movements, or the later Bauhaus artists. The artists determined the evolution and nature of the originality, and not the museum curators or others of the academic art circles, who would "catch up" only years later. The long process of recognition is often redundant to the original validation by the creators themselves.
    So it is also the photographer who must make his own path, borrowing from contemporary or past tendancies. He is creating art if he is often going beyond current movements. Exploration and discovery, as it occurs also in other creative fields of human activity. Not often are the products of such E and D not visionary and not art.
    As for the entitlement question, history has shown that it is the artists that are most entitled to designate work as art and not the PhD thesis of an efficient information gathering but wet behind the ears MFA student who years later analyses the significance of some painting approach, style or specific artist's life, and but so rarely the gallerist's notes about his in-house exhibition of another's work.
     
  69. Wouter, why should the general public decide what's art any more than they should decide things about plumbing or who a doctor is? The general public will decide, based on various methods, which doctor to go to and which ones they like or think are good, but they don't and shouldn't decide who's a doctor.
    I don't think experts deem themselves entitled to decide. I think it is often the public that deems the experts entitled, except for those who think they know what art is, and are often simply mistaking art for stuff they like. The public tends to listen to art critics and curators and other artists, as well they should. They are also often skeptical, as well they should be as well. (And I don't mean to say that what determines art is ONLY a matter of experts. I think it's part of it, though, that can't and shouldn't be ignored. If a photographer I respect who I know is good at his craft and I consider is accomplished, tells me that a certain photograph is art, even if I don't like it and even when I didn't know much about photography, I would take notice and give that statement quite a bit of weight. That kind of insight has often guided changes in my taste over the years.)
    Your harsh judgment of Mozart could say a lot about your taste and could also say a lot about his work. But it doesn't make it art or not. We are allowed to dismiss artists and their art and we are allowed to think some art is better than others and we are allowed to hate some art. If some didn't hate some art, it probably wouldn't be art. Think about that in terms of your photos (and I understand you may or may not consider them art). If everyone liked them, they probably wouldn't be speaking very personally or passionately. Because if they were, they would turn some people off. Art will often NOT be universally appealing. And it may revile some viewers, to various extents and in various situations. That may be just when you know it's working.
    When I said art is determined in a given context and milieu, I didn't mean that statically. In other words, what is determined to be art in one context can change in another, and has throughout history, though many works stand the test of time, which I don't think is a requirement for art. Much art is local and temporal and isn't made to last. It's why defining art is impossible. It's a fluid notion.
     
  70. Why would they see more than me? --Wouter​
    Because they've studied it and worked hard at it, much like any other discipline.
     
  71. Why are they making their choices? What are their yardsticks, what the objectives and their motivations?​
    One of the reasons why certain people and certain institutions get away with making decisions on "what is art?" is that they make the effort of convincing others of the reasons why they consider some work as art and some people as artist, and maybe even others, not. We cannot consider the question on what is art as a black and white question, a yes or no. There is always basket full of maybes and maybe nots.
    To take an example like the Warhol's four Campbell condensed tomato soup tins, it is surely painted tins, but is is also art because of its creative quality at the time in history it was made (1962) just like Duchamp's ready made. Nothing is art in the emptiness. It is art in a context, just like it is creative in a context, that cannot be left out. Admiration (of art) should never be a lazy admiration (ref Andre Gide) - it needs personal engagement, mental efforts, guts and knowledge to answer the question : what is art? This is one of the reasons why I express my disapprouvement of a definition of art that I consider as mainly comfortable admiration.
     
  72. I agree much with Fred's underlining of the hard work and professionalism when discussing (and understanding) what is art.
     
  73. If the artists of the last few centuries had not stuck it out and defended their work (by persuing its exposure independently, or in groups, over extended periods) we would not have had the art of several movements from the time that art was no longer in the hands of patrons, as it had been prior to 1848. The experts are simply the groups of artists themselves; they advance or fall by their efforts of getting public viewings and selling their works to influential and intelligent buyers (example of Barnes, Max Aitkin, etc.). Their worth thereby gets recognised somewhat later (absence of patrons and an effectively immediate acceptance) and it is often necessary for it to be "taught" to the public before it is accepted, something not considered inescapable in the nobility or influential bourgeois patron period.
    The entitled to describe something as art still remain I believe the artists and their colleagues. The public gets it later, after their perceptionss and insight have been catalysed by the buyers-promoters and some academe or intersted parties (witness Bruno Walter, or was it Bernstein, rediscovery of Mahler and their presentation of it (him) to the larger public?). Delius has had few effective promoters, but his work is quite original. Britten faired somewhat better, as did Copeland.
    Intelligent analysis and criticism has always fallen to those who more profoundly understand the medium and can understand the particular artist's method and creation.
    How many of us can understand Rutherford or Heidelberg or Einstein or Stephen Hawking or the original works of other creative mathematical physicists. My courses in quantium mechanics allowed me a little bit of insight into the theories and their significance, but an admittedly very limited and not a cutting-edge one. Without any false modesty, I would think that my many years of reading and looking at art and architecture, often to the detriment of my main vocation, have given me more expertise in understanding art than an advanced course in quantum mechanics allowed my only limited understanding of atomic and sub particle physics.
    So I would dsay that it is mainly people who love and seriously study art, and accordingly understand the nature of its creations, or those who have done that and who seriously practiced it, are those who understand in some part what is art. For those of us who seek that knowledge and insight, and have climbed some rungs of that vertical ladder of understanding, the definitions of art developed they have developed =here and elsewhere, are probably sufficient to allow some recognition of what is art in photography, if at least only a part of the time, and in a personal and combined subjective-objective manner.
    What else do I, do we, need to aspire to in critically recognising and placing value on art when we happen to see it in the photography medium? The added education and experience at one point become simply an assurance in viewing and appraising as limited as that of "gilding the lily".
     
  74. Arthur, Fred, Anders,
    Please note that my post was one of searching and a bit shaking up, so sure it figures one would disagree with what I am posting. Your answers, however, to me, make the discussion go a step ahead (maybe only in my head):
    Arthur,
    I think that the differing competing movements that Anders mentions are not due to the art intelligentsia of the period (who were slow in transiting from one movement to the next) but innovated by the artists themselves​
    Maybe I misread it: the artist defining the art seems very logical; at the same time it seems to imply art for the sake of itself. But for a long long time, it was just a way to make a living. Now, maybe in the times of Bach, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, nobody was really occupied with things being art or not. This seems a more recent notion to me. Could it be based on the romantic ideal of the "suffering artist", that has put the artist in a somewhat unique position in society?
    Fred,
    I don't think experts deem themselves entitled to decide. I think it is often the public that deems the experts entitled, except for those who think they know what art is, and are often simply mistaking art for stuff they like.
    --------
    ... many works stand the test of time, which I don't think is a requirement for art. Much art is local and temporal and isn't made to last. It's why defining art is impossible. It's a fluid notion.
    --------
    Because they've studied it and worked hard at it, much like any other discipline.​
    I'm certainly not arguing with the last, and I did not mean to imply that experts are empty vessels of opinion. I know I am no expert, I just have my opinion which is largely based on my taste. As I said before, I agree that art is independent of individual taste. No arguments there either.
    The notion on fluidity is interesting. I agree, if only for the fact that I live in and near a lot of Baroque cities - and nowadays Baroque isn't all that loved, while back then they clearly must have liked it! But, then, does the fluidity make it impossible to define what art is, or could it mean there is some 'shared' characteristic that is not time-bound?
    Anders,
    Nothing is art in the emptiness. It is art in a context, just like it is creative in a context, that cannot be left out.
    ---------
    it needs personal engagement, mental efforts, guts and knowledge to answer the question : what is art?​
    The second quote: agreed, as said above; it was not my intent to nullify the expertise one can build up. I think the first quote continues a bit where I left my thoughts responding to Fred.
    The notion of time, context and how it changes over time with regards to the expertise is one that fascinates me. How does this work with avant garde? How can one see a fraction ahead to understand what will become of significance (for a period of time at least), and what not? Arguably, one could say that there are hypes which last very short, so where arguably the lasting power was minimal, but still somebody starts the motion and foresees how the time is right for this specific artist or movement. So, it seems there is also a significant understanding of the reaction of the audience.
    I hope my questions do not seem overly simplistic or silly, but well, this is an area where I can only claim interest, but hardly any knowledge. I much appreciate the answers, as they help me get a better grip on understanding the "process of things becoming art" a bit better, at the least bring more nuance and subtlety to my opinion about it.
    ___________________
    P.S., Arthur, it was mainly Bernstein who brought Mahler to a large audience; but personally, I take a Bruno Walter recording over Bernstein any day, I think his recordings show one much more insight in the inner world of Mahler.
     
  75. Mine is but a simple opinion...
    In my opinion, art is a creative expression in which it's mere presence creates a mood or reaction in those who are exposed to it.
    deb
     
  76. Deb, your definition, which takes the viewer's reaction into account, rather than the artist's raison d’être, or the critics appraisal, or the compositional analysis of the physical and emotional elements that contribute to making it art, is refreshing, and certainly a part of the equation. Of course, there are also many other things that can cause a mood change or personal reaction, including socio-political events and personal interactions that affect our everyday life.
    Wouter, I am also a simple but interested amateur when it comes to understanding art and how it operates in the mind of the viewer and over so many changes in artistic subjects and approaches, movements, aesthetics, and its relation to societies of the time. Just a guess as I have not read much on Baroque or Rococo embellishments but understand that in part it was aided by the reaction of the Catholic church to the Protestant reformation and the desire of the former to add drama and emotion into architecture and other art forms, later a manner of demonstrating one's wealth and opulence, before being supplanted by neoclassicism. I wish I had more than one Walter performance of Mahler on disk, but have to do with a few older Haitink and Solti, especially the former, that let his music breathe, a bit like Furtwangler does to Beethoven. There are no doubt some modern versions of Mahler that I should listen to, but disks are in one sense at least like camera tools, you can get carried away in having too many.
    Whatever art is, in all its forms, does it not all embrace common elements of creation, at least some of which are necessary in each work one can call art? If one or more of those attributes are present, it probably suffices for the work to pass the hurdle of a definition. I approach abstract art differently to photographic portraiture, as say that of Fred, as I am more inclined to look for chromatic interactions and balance of masses or forms (and sometimes emotional triggers like tension) in the former and more the elements of emotion, symbolism or tension or complicity of the photographer in the latter. The artist is in my mind he or she that defines what the art is, and there are many cases of those artists, individually or in groups, that have acted to establish their art in the mind of the public (and often, initially, some clued in promoter) over what is sometimes a long period of time. Much is a good example of this, as his art was not defined as acceptable art for a long period during his lifetime, although his persistence finally paid off. It had at least some of the various elements that are common in a work that can be defined as being in the realm of art.
     
  77. Here's an excerpt from the very first book on esthetics I read back when I was a freshman in college. It's just another log on the fire. Certainly not meant as a complete definition. I also have a book, from the same period, called Modern Artists on Art. The interesting thing about that book is that all the definitions these artists give are skewed toward how they do art. That is likely as it should be. Why should an artist necessarily universalize his definition? Each artist seems more concerned with what he or she, in particular, is doing than with what the entirety of art is. So, though we may want to generalize "art" into a definition, we may have to see it, at least in part, as growing from a commitment to one's individual/personal/intimate vision even if that vision transcends itself and suggests universality, which it often does.
    From A Modern Book of Esthetics, edited by Melvin Rader:
    A natural object, such as the song of a meadowlark, has esthetic qualities; and therefore esthetics, which is the theory of esthetic objects and experiences, applies both to natural objects and to works of art. In appreciating the latter, we respond not only to sensuous qualities and forms but to technical, psychological, and cultural values -- to the human expressiveness of the works.​
    Maybe it's as simple as this: When a human makes (or in some cases like Duchamp, points to) something that reaches us like the song of the meadowlark, like the soft humming of a bee, like the power of an earthquake, like the fear of thunder and rain, we've got art.
     
  78. Sorry, in the fourth to last line of my post the intended word is Munch (Edvard), and not "Much".
     
  79. Fred with reference to your thumb rule on "when we have art", my immediate reaction is a reaction skepticism. I would quote again André Gide who wrote:
    Believe those that search for truth, distrust those that find it
    "Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouve"​
     
  80. Anders, I went out of my way to say it wasn't a thumb rule. I've spent the entire thread saying that there is no one definition and have thrown out several "different" approaches as "logs" on the fire, which I referred to in the post you're referencing. It's so disappointing now to read your reaction.
    _____________________
    I'd want to read the Gide quote in context to know more what he was talking about, but as an isolated quote, my response would be that I don't find or search for truth. It would be a waste of time since there is none. I do search, but not for truth.
    In photographs, I tend to search for new ways of seeing, new experiences, ways to express myself, empathy, sharing, understanding, . . . Truth, not so much.
     
  81. Let's imagine tomorrow Apple bring out the iArt-o-Meter. It is an app for your iPhone that takes a picture of any work, and tells you 1) If it is art , 2) How it would be rated on PN (such a program has been in existence for years for Flickr) or other sites. 3) On a 1-10 scale how it fares for a state/region/globally. 4) With your approval, it sends it to Heaven, er, I mean the Cloud where it will be placed according to its ranking.
    So, now you would have the answer to Luca's question, and an objective way to apply it to anyone else's work.
    How would it change the way you work?
     
  82. Fred, please believe me that I had no intention of disappointing you. I know perfectly well that you are not a person that looks for thumb-rules in this speciific case or in other cases. My remark was mainly directed towards readers that might take your qoute and run away with it.
    Concerning Gide, I can certainly recommend him although he is anything but a easy and comfortable partner to have around: bourgeois, rich, great mastrubator, homosexual, attracted to small boys, anti colonial militant, communist and then anti communist, highly spritual and anti religious (churches), anti family - type of person: "Religion and family are the worse enemies of progres".

    I can recommend his diaries (especially before the war) as a convenient entry into his novels - or read about him.

    To partly answer your question on the context of my qoute about finders of truth, I could mention that the quote continues with the following:
    "doutez de tous, mais ne doutez pas de vous même"
    doubt everyone, but don't doubt yourself​
    It should also be mentioned that he is considered, by the concerned persons ,as the spiritual father of both Sartre and Camus.
     
  83. "Doubt everything, but don't doubt yourself" - is a more correct translation. Sorry
     
  84. Can't you just love these conversations that so admire tangents from the main question, ending up in either belated mea culpas related to some statement concerning some small or secondary aspect of the question, or elaborated redefinitions of a point made in a phrase or word that had been employed, and/or spending enormous effort to make some point somewhat clearer. Like licking the icing instead of addressing the cake itself.
    Oh, how nice it might be to have a "debate overseer" who might occasionally keep some balance in regard to the input to the OP. As much as icing is pleasurable, it might be worthy to stay a bit on track so as to entertain some new thoughts when they appear amongst these other extended one-on-ones. Even the approval of some of these thoughts are rarely met with more than a line or two of analysis ("Julie, I agree that is a good point....", etc.), before the conversation reverts back to the tangential line, like a space vessel launched towards heavenly glory.
    Just a few rebellious observations for this open debate format. Voilà!
     
  85. Arthur, I'm sure we all consider parts of these threads tangents. A moderator might very well have considered your description of "Le Rossignol", down to the names of the producers, etc. tangential. Yet, it provides a nice flavor to what you were talking about, so I wouldn't have wanted it questioned by this moderator you are talking about. Likewise, your discussion of the recycling project you were involved with could be considered tangential, perhaps even extraneous, but the description helped you make a point, and make it personally. That's the spirit in which I would take the writings of others.
     
  86. Maybe we can relate this tangent business to art, and/or photography.
    Some of my photography happens when I'm on tangents. I'm focused on one thing, have a particular goal, and wind up involved with something loosely related and seemingly in sync but definitely off topic. Following those tentacles often leads to very creative explorations, though not really on point. I think viewers do this when they look at our work, and the work of others, as well.
    Then there's a matter of excess. There's a diversity of approach to making and even viewing photographs and other works of art that includes a certain kind of economy and then there is also excess, just for no particular reason. Often, photographs and other works of art have an overflowing quality and one just goes along for the ride. Just as often, it's like you're sitting still on a simple row boat surrounded by nothing but dark waters.
    LaChapelle can be deliciously excessive, IMO, and Callahan more economical.
    Or compare Cosindas and Sugimoto.
    I think the "no particular reason" can often be a significant (though certainly not necessary) aspect of art, one that allows the imagination to roam and the search for reasons to subside. It's that aspect known as "for its own sake." Of course, we want some balance and tension between asking ourselves why (wanting some coherence) but also not being a slave to that.
     
  87. Fred, that's all right. Forget it. I didn't expect you would consider the true sense of my comment.
     
  88. There have been a few helpful posts here.
    However, most is just treading water.
    Philosophy is a serious discipline, and one of its branches - aesthetics - specifically addresses the issues of our interest.
    Philosophy of photography - and aesthetics of photography - should give some answers.
    However, apparently it is very difficult to come to agreed answers here.
    It is also my opinion that discussing philosophy and aesthetics of photography requires some methodological rigour, starting from definitions. Seldom are definitions given. Agree on definitions was one of my purposes here. Apparently without success.
    Methodologically, examples are a double-edged sword. If in some - rare cases - they can exemplify, they more often impede a generally valid philosophical interpretation, lead to tangents or personal disputes. Often we get lost in examples.
    Only this methodological rigour can lead to answers which go beyond mere subjectivity, which is the opposite of philosophical reasoning.
     
  89. Seldom are definitions given. Agree on definitions was one of my purposes here. Apparently without success.​
    Money is valuable.I'm sure we'd all agree on that....?
    People only spend 'spare' money on things they consider worth spending money on. If they choose to spend their spare money on a photograph, that makes it 'valuable'. Some people consider that 'value' a sign that they have created art, and many others that they have purchased art.
    Anything else is, as Anders eloquently states above "mastrubation" which is what sailors do to prove that their mast is bigger than everybody else's, and there's a lot of seamen to testify to that.
     
  90. It is also my opinion that discussing philosophy and aesthetics of photography requires some methodological rigour, starting from definitions. Seldom are definitions given. Agree on definitions was one of my purposes here. Apparently without success.​
    Luca -- No argument with this. I don't think anyone would deny that a true philosophical dialogue requires methodological rigour, nor that many a circular or disjointed debate could benefit from agreeing on certain definitions beforehand. But what those might be in relation to the aesthetics of photography, I cannot tell. The question you have posed is "when is a photo a work of art"? Should we not then define both "photo" and "art"? I'm not going to attempt either. Not merely because I lack methodological rigour (if I have any, I expend it on my photography, my day job, and cleaning my house) but mainly because I do not believe it can be done. We probably end up with the exploration of tangents in these sorts of discussions because the main branch ("what is Art") is too complex and amorphous to be grasped. There is a mystical quality to art that goes beyond the empirical and the rational. There is no tome that can lead one to satori. So it is, I think with "art"...be it photograph, nude photograph, or painting. If it were subject to our intellect alone then Luis' Insta-Art App would already exist.
    But then, it wouldn't really be art, would it?
     
  91. John MacPherson
    Museums "buy" it = art?
    Art collectors "buy" it = art?
    Art galleries sell it = "art"?
    Auction houses sell it = "art"?
    Maybe an easy "acid test". Maybe not very philosophical.
     
  92. Steve,
    I do agree with you.
    But then, what are we talking about here? If it is intrinsically impossible to find answers here, we'd better go and practice our craft, as several suggest from time to time.
    Maybe photography is inherently a practical activity with an extremely high subjective connotation, accompanied by the fact that it is more pervasive than any other form of visual representation (there are photos by everyone everywhere).
    The craft in photography is not necessarily apparent or evident, or even necessary. The effort and work, the conscious creative effort may be not required at all.
    Any photography, any image, any visual effect may be due to mere chance, or automated technology relating on some obscure algorithm.
    Maybe Elliott Erwitt is right, in the end.
     
  93. Maybe an easy "acid test". Maybe not very philosophical.​
    Art buyers are not philosophers.
     
  94. Luca,
    Any photography, any image, any visual effect may be due to mere chance, or automated technology relating on some obscure algorithm.
    Maybe Elliott Erwitt is right, in the end.​
    I think you couldn't sound more disappointed without hearing an actual voice. And well, the discussion shouldn't end like that, I think. A lot of good thoughts went round, a lot of the 'process' in how things become art (or not). Sure, no clear-cut definition (the easy acid test sounds nice, but is only part of the story; Steve's "There is a mystical quality to art that goes beyond the empirical and the rational." is equally true to me, and sure you won't catch that with some simple test). Insight, food for better shaping a balanced opinion. Not fixed knowledge, but cornerstones to build upon further.
    Maybe it is by definition impossible to find why some things are art and others not, when there is no agreed definition of 'art'. Many discussions are difficult because we lack hard definitions. However, to me, philosophy has always been about the travel, never about the destination. Though for this, the actual question would be for each individually: do we look for understanding, or do we look for knowledge? I feel many of our discussion on this forum go wrong there: some look for the answers of knowledge, others for the peeling layer by layer through understanding. It's vastly different approaches, and different ways to discuss.
    So I sincerely hope I misread the disappointment; in my view this thread has been useful even if it did not deliver the end result you hoped for.
     
  95. Luca -- Had more quick thoughts on this. Can't elaborate now (work beckons) but thought I'd jot down and consider in more detail later?
    We may be able to get a bit closer, or narrow things down a bit. I don't want to just throw my hands in the air and say, "Impossible!".
    the difference between "art" and "artistic" (when talking about a particular photograph).
    If it is too difficult to begin with the "what is", is it possible, in a limited way, to say "what is NOT"? -- utilizing examples as an aid toward definition -- In the case of vernacular photography, as one example, can it ever be called art? Some may discard the notion that the unintended can be art (only, perhaps, artistic). By refining via elimination, individual positions become more defined.
    Other considerations --1st gen art v 2nd gen photographs (appropriations, collages, etc.)
    Just did not want to leave you with the impression that this is a pointless and barren thread. It has borne some interesting fruit already (tangents) though it may not be what you were striving toward.
     
  96. John MacPherson , Aug 12, 2011; 04:47 a.m.
    Art buyers are not philosophers.​
    And they don't write here.
     
  97. Wouter,
    So I sincerely hope I misread the disappointment; in my view this thread has been useful even if it did not deliver the end result you hoped for.​
    Thank you for your sympathetic post.
    It's not that I am disappointed. It's rather that I have the impression that everything and its complete contrary are always possible. In brief, subjectivity reigns.
    I fully agree with you that it is extremely difficult to agree on a definition, and that philosophy is more about the travel than the destination. The Socratic method is one of the approaches to proceed on this journey.
    My interest is more about the method to find answers, rather than the answers themselves. But sometimes the whole reasoning becomes erratic.
    Therefore my conclusion is not disappointed, but rather the recognition that, since everything is possible, no indication can be given to accumulate knowledge on these issues.
    ______________________________
    My "acid test" is more a provocation than anything. If we accept a money-related conceptualisation of art - which could be very much possible - we have to enter the domain of marketing. This is a very different skill than the artistic capability, more related to the ability to "sell" ones work.
    ______________________________
    Maybe more thoughts coming.
     
  98. Luca, this thread has far out-stripped the one I started. Congratulations to all of you on a great tour-de-force with this discussion. I have been more of a lurker than a contributor here, since it is my first week back at work, but it has been worthwhile to drop in from time to time.
    --Lannie
     
  99. It seems this discussion can bog down because people are attempting to define not what is art, but what is “important” art, or something to that effect. I said it before though, most broadly, the human species is endowed with enormous creativity and intelligence. Much of this goes into practical matters such as just solving problems in living, business, science, politics, and so on. But humans also simply enjoy expressing themselves creatively through a wide range of activities (including photography!). Most of the people I know have some kind of hobby that involves creative expression. It makes us feel good just to be able to express ourselves. What I am getting at is the result of this creative expression is “art.” As a culture we do notice when some people have created works of art that impress us for various reasons, such as uniqueness or innovativeness, speaking to our times, and so on. The defining of what puts art into this “exceptional” category is where it gets complicated. We know that people vary in abilities, and I would not doubt that people who become well known artists are often exceptionally creative, and necessarily very focused on promoting themselves as well. Luck and chance and being discovered are part of it too. But in general, I just think that broadly as a species we simply enjoy being able to express ourselves creatively regardless if it for the purpose of achieving fame, or money or notoriety, etc. It just feels good! As a therapist I would also add that creative expression does seem to have a therapeutic effect on people. It allows people to “connect” with the various levels of themselves, in my estimation. As many others have said in this thread: just enjoy yourself, get in touch with your “inner self” and don’t worry about being the best in the world.
     
  100. "If you do not change your mind about something when you confront a picture you have not seen before, you are either a stubborn fool or the painting is not very good." -- Robert Rauschenberg
     
  101. Steve,
    Just did not want to leave you with the impression that this is a pointless and barren thread. It has borne some interesting fruit already (tangents) though it may not be what you were striving toward.​
    As said, it's not about the thread.
    It's more generally related to how we proceed and to maintaining a direction along "the journey".
    Steve j Murray,
    As many others have said in this thread: just enjoy yourself, get in touch with your “inner self” and don’t worry about being the best in the world.​
    I do [But then, what are we talking about here? If it is intrinsically impossible to find answers here, we'd better go and practice our craft, as several suggest from time to time.]. Shall we also stop philosophical speculations? Can we exclude any spill-over from speculation to craft practice?
     
  102. Julie,
    I will test it.
     
  103. Luca, do you believe that everything can or could be made into art? If I pick any word or object, do you believe that it could be made into (all or part of) art? Or do you think that there are things that are incapable of being made into art? For me, it's unquestionably the former; if I pick any word, say for example, "sneeze," immediately my mind goes to work envisioning sneezing expressions and sounds, testing, turning, querying the subject. I probably won't actually make any art from this effort, but the belief, drive, the appetite is there -- absolutely there -- for me. Any word. Any thing, any noun, verb or adjective or any phenomenon simply indicated by a pointing finger. Set upon it, my mind goes to work like a pack of termites. All of this without looking back to see what "art" is -- what appetite motivates this pack of termites.
    Doesn't it motivate you that between the belief that everything could be something that is called art, and the fact that statistically, the amount of stuff that is or might be something that is called art is comparatively so small as to round to zero? Between all and nothing, all that mystery? [If you don't like calling it art, call it Bob.]
    Maybe I just need to call Terminex.
     
  104. Julie,
    Maybe I am not able to understand the full meaning of your post, but I can try to answer your question:
    do you believe that everything can or could be made into art? If I pick any word or object, do you believe that it could be made into (all or part of) art? Or do you think that there are things that are incapable of being made into art?​
    First of all, are we talking just about photographic art here? and thus are we considering whether the image of "everything" can be made into art?
    My answer is yes: probably more due to my experience (think of the works of Joseph Beuys, of Marcel Duchamp) than real ex-ante understanding of what art is.
    The more I think about it, the more I am sure that a work of art is the product of an artistic process of research and creativity and experimentation.
    The "path element" which relates the creative effort and the artistic result.
    In photography I don't really know. There are so many photos around and so many authors calling themselves "artists" that I don't really know what is art in photography.
    __________________________________
    My own photos are not art. I would like to think of my photography as craft with lots of trials and errors and a very small amount of viewable results. I don't pursue producing art, it's not my purpose. I rather prefer call my photos attempts to document.
     
  105. Luca, do you believe that everything can or could be made into art? If I pick any word or object, do you believe that it could be made into (all or part of) art? Or do you think that there are things that are incapable of being made into art? For me, it's unquestionably the former. . . .​
    Why not the former, indeed, Julie? I think that you are dead on correct here. Persons' subjective responses to photographic artifacts will continue to vary, but there can be no a priori claim that something must be out of bounds as art.
    No matter how disgusting (to some but obviously not to others), no matter how banal, there is nothing that can be ruled "ineligible" to be called art a priori, prior to experience. Whether persons will continue to call it "art" after seeing it is quite another thing, but so far we have seen no universal criterion or criteria trotted out to adjudge the issue a posteriori, either.
    Here is my own feeble attempt to create something artistic out of the totally banal:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13765192
    ('Twas just an out-of-focus fireplug in the rain, along with its reflection. Dogs like fireplugs, after all. Do their votes count? Is a plebiscite of either dogs or persons relevant a priori or a posteriori? I personally think not. In the example given, I could even ask whether it is more or less artistic from the larger version that it was cropped from, which is not to say that others are going to bother: http://www.photo.net/photo/13756652 )
    Where is Fred when we need him?
    --Lannie
     
  106. whether it is more or less artistic from​
    I meant to say "whether it is more or less artistic than."
    --Lannie
     
  107. Amidst all of this talk of criteria as to what is or is not art lies a potential dark side that we have not really addressed in depth--the ever-present threat of governmental repression.
    Governmental repression in all realms is never far from my mind. After posting a new question (on the BART cell phone shutdown) to the Off-Topic forum this morning, I was astonished at the knee-jerk conservative response in the name of "security." That impelled me to ask what The New York Times might have to say. I found only this:
    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/bay-area-authorities-cut-cell-coverage-to-thwart-protestors/?hp
    Now even a news article?? Just a blog?
    What has all this to do with art, you say? Everything. From allusions to Potter Stewart in this thread (or the first one--I forget) to other legal cases about defining pornography, some are quick to see the authoritarian implications of too glib a rationale for declaring something "lacking in artistic value" or being "without redeeming social value." I am used to being misunderstood on these matters, but let no one think that the topics are unrelated. When Hitler took over, not only was art regulated, but communications were totally controlled, gays were gassed along with Jews, etc. The list of horrors goes on and on.
    I offer opinions as to what I find artistic that others might find quaint, but I am am careful not to say that other things are not art. I only say what I like--I give my typical emotional preferences. I typically like what is wholesome and what seems to have been created out of a sense of "purity of motive." The point of so saying is never to justify repression, however. I impose no eligibility requirements as to what is entitled to be called"art."
    Just a few reflections and caveats on a bright Saturday morning over here on the East coast. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  108. Luca, what if I went all new age on you and claimed that these "things," all of which I just claimed can be made into art ("anything can be made into art"), don't really exist. That "things" are frozen and I'm already gone by the time you get there. That what's going on is all process and relationship and that art makes those "not-thing" processes and relationships apparent -- makes the latent not-thing fabric of living/lived process and relatioinship come to the mind like an image coming up in the developer. All things can be made into art by becoming not-things. By making the not-thing goings-on apparent in a not-thing kind of way (LOL! I don't think Luca likes this kind of talk ... ).
    [Lannie, the air in your rainy picture doesn't seem rainy enough to me. The picture should be more humid.]
     
  109. Julie, how can "not-things" be lacking in humidity?
    --Lannie
     
  110. The quickest way is to use a blow-torch.
     
  111. Julie,
    I read it 6-7 times and now I think I've got it!
    And
    All things can be made into art by becoming not-things.​
    I think this is very important and true.
    Photos which show us not-things are art. A photographer turning the things shown into not-things creates works of art.
    The more I think of it, the more I like it.
     
  112. Thanx for this thread, Luca.
    Due to the interesting geology of the region that I live in, nature tosses rocks out of my backyard that are 'unusual'. One rock looks like a turtle (presented), another like a helmet, another like a dinosaur's head. In the absence of an artist, is it art? Is the recognition of such pieces enough to make them art? Is their accurate portrayal art? What about a sunset? How much deviation does an accurate portrayal differ from an artistic interpretation for the latter to be considered art? Was Ansel Adams an artist or a very good photographic technician? Is a Robert Bateman an artist or a technician recording images using available means?
    Regards, John
    00ZBOA-389291684.jpg
     
  113. Luca said:
    My own photos are not art. I would like to think of my photography as craft with lots of trials and errors and a very small amount of viewable results. I don't pursue producing art, it's not my purpose. I rather prefer call my photos attempts to document.​
    Yeah, but why do you bother to "document" in the first place? Is it not creative expression on your part? How does it make you feel to get a "good one." And the other side of the coin is that even if you don't consider what you do art, you cannot prevent someone else from looking at it and thinking it is art. I learned this years ago when occasionally someone would pull one of my rejected darkroom prints out of the trash begging me to give it to them because they thought it was wonderful. It was art to them. I hope you can see what I am getting at.
     
  114. The more I think about it, the more I am sure that a work of art is the product of an artistic process of research and creativity and experimentation.
    The "path element" which relates the creative effort and the artistic result.​
    There's a brilliant example firing an arrow at a target and hitting yourself in the back.
    Want to define for me what an "artistic process of research and creativity and experimentation" actually is? As opposed to one that's just "a process of research and creativity and experimentation" ??
    Does one need to wear a beret and one of those natty aprons with smudges on it if doing the former? Does that make it 'artistic' and if not why not?
    Or does one require an easel to hold one's thoughts whilst engaged in this 'artistic' process.
    Mechanics and mechanical engineers (as an example) do this sort of 'research' using 'creativity' and 'experimentation' on their work all the time. Artist or craftsman?
     
  115. John MacPherson, the mechanical engineer is looking for "things" not "not-things."
    You're surely familiar with that old saw that goes something like "Give me a fish; feed me once. Teach me to fish, feed me forever."
    The engineer has a problem; he is looking for a solution. If successful, he gives us a useful end. The artist goes looking for problems. If/when he finds them, he studies the problem, works with the problem, clarifies the problem, makes it stand out. He's not looking for a solution; he's exploring the "problem" (which he does not call a problem at all; those bumps, skips, jags, blips in the detection chamber, those irregularities, those "problems" are where things are not quite right are where one notices what's all around us all the time).
    An engineer's solution to the "problem" of how to make a portrait is the WalMart studios or Olan Mills. You do this, you do that, a portrait is made (a fish is provided). An artist's approach to making a portrait is to see the "problems" presented by each person's face and make a picture OF those problems -- because that's where the particular person is apparent through the face. This doesn't get you "a" portrait; it turns you loose into the wide open terrain of who or what that person might be. (Teaching the viewer how to fish; opening the gates, rather than closing them.)
     
  116. John Rowsell - "Was Ansel Adams an artist or a very good photographic technician?"
    For his historical timespace coordinates, he was both. Ansel was a very good Modernist American West Coast landscape artist. Look at all the people who've learned how to slavishly replicate his technical choices (missing the point of the ZS, which was to enable photographers to make their own individual decisions in any direction). Most of them are mediocre to forgettable (if not painfully boring) as artists.
    ____________________________________
    Julie, kudos for carrying on. This made the thread for me:
    Landrum Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Aug 13, 2011; 02:35 p.m.
    Julie, how can "not-things" be lacking in humidity?
    --Lannie
    Julie Heyward [​IMG], Aug 13, 2011; 02:44 p.m.
    The quickest way is to use a blow-torch.
    Zen burn!
    ___________________________________________________
    John McPherson - "Mechanics and mechanical engineers (as an example) do this sort of 'research' using 'creativity' and 'experimentation' on their work all the time. Artist or craftsman?"
    Neither: Engineer/Mechanic. We have different words for specific reasons.
    Julie explained this to John brilliantly, and though I could add a few smidgeons, I won't bother. But I did love his ridiculizing the artist with this:
    "Does one need to wear a beret and one of those natty aprons with smudges on it if doing the former? Does that make it 'artistic' and if not why not?"
    Which would be like saying:
    Does one need to be the guy gazing at the engine room while his family is on deck enjoying their cruise, forget to get as haircut for months, think those yawning around them actually need more sleep, fix the electric chair before their own execution, the boss has several fail-safe firewalls between them and all clients, think that if it ain't broke it doesn't have enough features, etc. to be an engineer? Does that make it 'engineered" or not?
    (Thanks, Internerd)
    __________________________________________________________
    Luca, a dead-serious question: How do you know your pictures are documentary?
     
  117. Why are photographers so worried if their work is "Art", and seem to have such an inferiority complex about their photographs , the whole concept that photography is anything but craft is a relatively new concept originally promoted by photography galleries and photographers agents who were trying to sell their work and they have now begun to believe it themselves, even the Old Masters never considered themselves "Artists" in the modern sense but craftsmen like stone masons, wood carvers etc. were at that time.
    I often laugh to myself when I see people I know who are beginners who as soon as they can produce recognizable images of people and object call themselves "art photographers" and start growing goatee beards and I marvel at their capacity for self deception.
    I do however believe that some photographs can approach art in the conventional sense but very few and don't believe that any of mine in more than fifty years of photography have had that distinction.
     
  118. Whilst I enjoyed both of your eloquent responses, its interesting that neither of you addressed the point made by Luca I was seeking clarification of:
    The more I think about it, the more I am sure that a work of art is the product of an artistic process of research and creativity and experimentation.​
    Thats a real conundrum (in the proper sense of the word) for me. Who defines the process as 'artistic' with which we are then able to define that the 'processor' is an artist?
    There's an implicit acceptance in the statement made by Luca that I find remarkably naaive (for want of a better word), and somewhat at odds with his probing and questioning and stated demand that things be defined.
    Seldom are definitions given. Agree on definitions was one of my purposes here. Apparently without success.​
    So, what IS it that changes a "process of research and creativity" in to an "an artistic process of research and creativity"?
    Simply attitude, the beret and fancy smock?
    And I'm not entirely sure, but did I detect in both your responses a feeling that engineering and mechanics cannot be creative?
     
  119. Luca, you have been documenting what you decided to see.
    --Lannie
     
  120. Julie, I was hoping for a somewhat warmer approach to solving deficiencies of moisture than a mere blowtorch could possibly provide.
    --Lannie
     
  121. VARIATIONS IN CONNOTATIONS OF THE WORD "JUST," VOL. LXVIII, no. 23
    I would just like to document that I just discovered this work which someone else just simply created!
    http://www.photo.net/photo/13830574&size=md
    --Lannie
     
  122. So, what IS it that changes a "process of research and creativity" in to an "an artistic process of research and creativity"?
    When it has no utilitarian purpose. Engineers develop machines to help solve the practical problems that mankind has. Artists do not seek to solve a practical problem.
     
  123. Maybe artists do seek to solve practical problems when they try to figure out how to achieve a result. I remember reading about how Graham Nash and his collaborators worked on a printing process so they could express themselves the way that they wanted to. That solution was to a very practical problem. Also, is a theoretical physicist working on the origins of the Universe an artist? It isn't a practical problem but it involves creativity and imagination.
     
  124. Artists have to solve practical problems every time they work, and if they did not do so, not much art would be created.
     
  125. Jumping right in to the perennial "what is art" jamboree - there are no essential qualities that make art art. Period. Aesthetics is the ultimate philosophical tail chase. There are no "definitions" and I wish people would stop asking for them. They have missed the point altogether. Photography is NOT art it is a medium. Get over it!
    The properties of art have to do completely with current understanding of specific works-at-hand based on informed discussion among scholars, collectors and other biased gate-keepers. What is the work's authority, influence, take-home effect on the viewer? Things like that. Art is an additive experience.
    Footnote:
    The widely popular Chihuly show just closed here in Boston. Now the MFA is raising funds to purchase the Huge Green Glass Thing (not really called that). There are a lot of rotten things I could say to lampoon this type of art. If it makes people happy and garners huge bucks for the arts I'm all for it. Museum directors have always modeled themselves after P.T. Barnum.


    00ZBcF-389579584.jpg
     
  126. John and John, you're confusing grammar with meaning. And if the theoretical physicist can find a way to share the experience of his conception, then he's in danger of making art (the experience of the origins of the Universe; I'd buy a ticket to that show).
     
  127. Photography is NOT art it is a medium.​
    The most sensible statement in this thread.
     
  128. "If the theoretical physicist can find a way to share the experience of his conception, then he's in danger of making art"
    In this context, is not the conception itself the experience and potentially art, and like any other expressive form, it is there to be appreciated as art or not by the witness (viewer, reader, analyst). Practical ends drive many artists, as well as engineers and physicists (all are dealing with things or concepts that may have no immediate utility). The creation speaks for itself. Some creative engineeering surprises the witness and some painted, sculpted or written art does not at all. I see few boundaries within disciplines or media and human expression. If art is the unexpected and the moving, then it itself has few limits on the different vehiciles of human expression.
     
  129. John Rowsell[​IMG][​IMG], Aug 13, 2011; 04:40 p.m. Thanx for this thread, Luca.​
    John,
    Honestly, I don't know. My main focus was photography, and my ideas on that are confused enough.
     
  130. Duchamp was happy to allow the 'engineers' to 'create' then misappropriate their work for his own portfolio, so even less evidence of creativity in his case I'd say. But I like what he said:

    "The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act."

    Marcel Duchamp, from Session on the Creative Act, Convention of the American Federation of Arts, Houston, Texas, April 1957.

     
  131. Steve,
    I do not think that only the artistic expression is creative. Every activity has or can have a creative content or purpose.
    Of course I cannot prevent the viewer to consider my output as art. And of course I see your point.
    Btw, this thread is not about what I do, but to reason in general on art and photography.
     
  132. John MacPherson,
    • as mentioned, creativity is not only related to art;
    • I qualified the process as artistic simply because it's art we are (trying) to talk about here.
    With the term "process" I think of a set of steps which make the evolution of the creative path of an artist. Joseph Beuys assembled fat, nails, debris, wood to produce art (and it is said that a museum cleaner threw it away as garbage). Can we follow the path of the different creative steps of Beuys, until he produced those assemblies to demonstrate that there is an artistic creative path, using fat, nails, debris, wood?
    There are other artists exhibiting melted plastic of cut canvas in museums.
    How important is the path these artists have walked to conceive these works to qualify them as artists?
    And what about photography? How, if at all, does this apply to images?
    Is there such a process producing images?
     
  133. Luis G , Aug 14, 2011; 09:07 a.m.
    Luca, a dead-serious question: How do you know your pictures are documentary?​
    Luis, I don't know.
    The only thing I know is that my intent is to document, influencing the scene as little as possible. I am aware that I may completely fail and influence what I try to document, just by the mere fact that I'm there and I photograph it.
    As Lannie puts it, "I could document what I decide to see" and as well "I try to document what I manage to see".
    Whether I succeed is open to questioning.
     
  134. Ilkka, John Rowsell, John MacPherson,
    There are cases where artists solve major engineering problems. And they need profound engineering skills: for example Bliss Dance by Marco Cochrane.
    We won't solve the issue relating or unrelating the reasoning to practical output.
    Also creativity, as said, can be practical, theoretical, artistic.
    Alan Zinn,
    Photography is NOT art it is a medium.​
    Is a very important statement.
    Also "Aesthetics is the ultimate philosophical tail chase." is an important statement. Can we agree that it is impossible to identify distinctive features of art in photography?
    Perfectly all-right for me.
     
  135. If I may, this is my perspective.
    A police officer may take photographs of a car crash that are presented as forensic evidence. The same images may surface as 'art'. God forbid, the shots of your mouth taken by your dentist may appear somewhere as art.
    IMHO an image is art if it is presented for artistic values or is interpreted for artistic values. So what are the artistic values? To me these are aesthetics and emotion. Take emotion out as an intent or result.....it's not art to me.
    If I take a photo of Harry (my dog) and it doesn't make you either aspire to his form or make you love him (which you will), it is not art. Is it advertising? What says that art and advertising are mutually exclusive? Have you seen the Mona Lisa lately? Where?
    Regards, John
     
  136. What's wrong with the dictionary definitions? Why are they rejected for art and accepted for other things? I asked the question that if there was a litmus test via which one could say something was art/not art, and how good it was, how would it change your work?
    No one responded. It wasn't a joke, it was a simple question about if we achieved the (non-existent) answer to Lucas' question, what difference would it make? Apparently none.
    ________________________________________________
    Luca, I asked about your pictures and how you knew they were documentary, and I think your answer points in the direction of many when asked how do they know theirs are art.
    _______________________________________________
    John Mac Pherson you are wrong if you think Julie or I think mechanics and engineers are somehow lacking or inferior to anyone. I simply gave you back a good taste of your own ridicule, which I see you're still engaged in -- all in good humor, of course. Who decides? Very simple: Those with education and experience. Those who know, as in mechanics, engineering, art, and every other field of human endeavor.
    The antagonistic keyword in your mention of Du Champ is "misappropriation". The thinly disguised bit of contempt clarifies your position on the subject.
    _______________________________________________
     
  137. John Mac Pherson you are wrong if you think Julie or I think mechanics and engineers are somehow lacking or inferior to anyone.​
    Now thats really creative sir! I've not in any post suggested that either of you held mechanics or engineers as being inferior. Nice try at bear baiting though, but it's not working. If I actually thought either of you held that belief I'd be ignoring you. What I did question was your apparent suggestion that mechanics or engineering were not creative, which is a wholly different thing altogether and perfectly acceptable to do in a thread of this nature.
    The antagonistic keyword in your mention of Du Champ is "misappropriation". The thinly disguised bit of contempt clarifies your position on the subject.​
    And does your use of the word 'antagonistic' clarify your position on the subject? Probably not - your position is likely far more complex. As is mine.
    In the context that I've used 'misappropriation' - to describe the 'work' of people who 'take' the work of others and label it 'art' - I think its a perfectly valid word. Duchamp did it with a urinal, Richard Prince does it with others people's photographs.
    But there is a difference. Duchamp used the work of the (apparently uncreative) toilet engineer, whereas Prince does at least do some 'added value' stuff before claiming it as his art.
    (Misappropriation 'dictionary definition': the appropriation (of ideas or words etc) from another source; misuse, plagiarism, (as well as a lot of other stuff)).
     
  138. "In the context that I've used 'misappropriation' - to describe the 'work' of people who 'take' the work of others and label it 'art' - I think its a perfectly valid word. Duchamp did it with a urinal."
    Wrong. Art is I think a way of seeing and interpreting or re-interpreting matter and thoughts. If Edison (an engineer in the real sense of the term) had not used his imagination, we might be without his many creations. Duchamp too was a person of imagimation. If we insist only on the expected, we have less chance to witness art.
     
  139. Luca, you began by stating:
    When is a photograph art? and: there is the need to find a philosophical method (rooted in aesthetics), to understand if I am in front of a piece of art or not.​
    A lot of interesting discussion has resulted from your query. Many of us are offering our own answer to these questions. I can simplify my own answers to single primary concept: anytime a person acts to express him or herself creatively is art in the broadest sense. I think we do it because there is a sense of satisfaction in the act. It is an expression of our uniqueness, perhaps. When I look at the photographs posted by all the people here on pnet, I see art. Period. That is why we are posting our photos, to share a bit of ourselves and our creations. I don't believe it is "rooted in aesthetics" but instead rooted in our need to be expressive. Aesthetics, value, cultural importance, etc. all come after the act.
     
  140. Let me try a synthesis of the statements I would like to take away from this thread:
    • Julie's concept of not-things: I like the idea that art is the representation of such objects;
    • The creative component, which is not exclusive of art, but is part of it
    • Arthur's "seeing and interpreting or re-interpreting matter and thoughts"
    • Photography is only a medium, from Alan.
    I'm struck by Steve's statement:
    It is an expression of our uniqueness, perhaps. When I look at the photographs posted by all the people here on pnet, I see art. Period. That is why we are posting our photos, to share a bit of ourselves and our creations. I don't believe it is "rooted in aesthetics" but instead rooted in our need to be expressive. Aesthetics, value, cultural importance, etc. all come after the act.
    Which can be paired with mine (sorry for the self quote)
    The only thing I know is that my intent is to document, influencing the scene as little as possible. I am aware that I may completely fail and influence what I try to document, just by the mere fact that I'm there and I photograph it.
    As Lannie puts it, "I could document what I decide to see" and as well "I try to document what I manage to see".
    Whether I succeed is open to questioning.
    This can be very well the response.
    Art is in the intention, as creation is in the intention. When the creation is shown, other people can say whether they agree.
    Any further consideration may not relate to the essence of art but rather to the success of marketing.
    And then I "found" Jonathan's post again, which in my opinion fits:
    Jonathan Charles , Aug 08, 2011; 04:26 p.m.
    I think it's important to distinguish what is art by intention and what is art in the eye of the viewer.

    Ideally you should aim to achieve both.
     
  141. "The sun never knew how great it was till it struck the side of a building." -- Lou Kahn
    [Luca, your thoughtful summations, and particularly your comfortable willingness to say, where necessary, "I don't know," is exemplary (I would say "delightful" but I think maybe guys don't like that -- but I *am* delighted by it).]
     

  142. Luca, your topic is inspiring insightful comments. Thanks. Among them from Steve (I hope!):
    anytime a person acts to express him or herself creatively is
    art in the broadest sense.
    Isn't this too easy? But then the word "parsimony" comes to mind.
    Wiki Occam's Razor. "One important contribution that he (Occam) made to modern science and modern intellectual culture was through the principle of parsimony… . …one should always opt for an explanation in terms of the fewest possible number of causes, factors, or variables. "
    00ZBsR-389933584.jpg
     
  143. This has definitely been one of the best threads that I have seen in a very long time.
    --Lannie
     
  144. Alan Zinn , Aug 15, 2011; 10:31 a.m.
    But then the word "parsimony" comes to mind.
    This is extremely important. What would be our reaction to hundreds of copies, or even versions of works, or repetitions of the same?
    We have to bring this in somehow. I will give it a thought.
     
  145. In art we call that an edition. It is widely accepted, and as they sell out they get more expensive. The idea of multiples in photography is at its core. Some prints, like Ansel Adams' "Moonrise over Hernandez" are quite numerous.
     
  146. There is two kinds of Art in my opinion. Short term & long term!
    Most of us are involved in short term Art during our lives.
    HOwever we all contribute to long-term "Art" (I'm sure the word itself had quite different meanings 100 years ago, more-so 1000 years ago...like the concept of "culture" which is a Western idea/word from the 17th~18th century onwards..) in some form more or less.
    In the end though time is the judge and the only artist that remain ackknowledge after 100 years are the ones that have transcended human emotion, vision, memory for permanence in this world through their crafting skills.
    Hence a photo to be a work of true "Art" it must endure through decades of either criticism, awe, hatred, banality, trend, etc... without being forgotten by a MAJORITY of human beings.
    Something extremely difficult to achieve for the medium of photography I would imagine due to it's recent beginnings. Maybe I'm wrong there.
     
  147. Parsimony seems to me, is also about differentiation.
    As Luis says, we can have multiple copies of the same work (photo).
    But we also can have a multiplicity of similar works (photos).
    A brief look at Ansel Adam's website clearly related types of prints and quantities of prints to their price.
    A single photo of a beautiful flower can definitely be art. What happens when tens, hundreds or maybe thousands of images of the same flower are proposed?



    In this respect Iwao's idea is interesting, introducing the concept of passing time as an element of "distillation" of art.
     
  148. My problems with Iwao's idea of "true art" (and therefore untrue art as well), based on time is this: First, permanence. Leonardo appears to have deliberately designed his frescoes to degrade over time. Using Iawo's criteria, they'd not be "true art". Second, take the Jewish art that the Nazis labeled "Degenerate Art". Historically, it was saved to be shown as a lesser form of art. Imagine that the cave it was stored in towards the end of WWII had been hit directly by a bomb and the art destroyed forever and lost. Would that make it untrue art? Not to me. Are doodles on the underside of a rock face that have lasted thousands of years "true art" because of the duration involved? Not to me. If a crazy woman attacks a Matisse in a museum and were to destroy it, would it make it a lesser artwork?
    _______________________________________________
    Luca - "A brief look at Ansel Adam's website clearly related types of prints and quantities of prints to their price."
    True, but remember that Moonrise holds its price well, and it is in an unlimited edition.
    Luca - "A single photo of a beautiful flower can definitely be art. What happens when tens, hundreds or maybe thousands of images of the same flower are proposed?"
    It depends. Forget the flower, and let's take something like....Havana, Cuba (or Paris, or Daytona Bike Week, or...). Everyone, even most of Photonet has been there. As a photo-destination it is one of the greatest cliche's of our day. Does that make all the photographs of it (which largely look the same) the same price? No. Does it debase the price of every picture taken there because there's so many of them? Hardly. The cold, hard truth is that all artists are not equal. So even though there are innumerable photos of Havana, Cuba, and the huge majority are the same visual/conceptual generic & boring cliche's seen in the same way.
     
  149. Thank you Luis,
    apart from a brief stint into marketing upon John MacPherson's posts, I deliberately skipped this specific aspect of art creation.
    Simply because it is a completely different type of skill in respect to artistic creation, to creativity and ingenuity.
    There are some artists which heavily relate on marketing. I don't want to say that marketing prevails.
    On the other hand, if an artist does not know, or care, about marketing skills, it will be very difficult for him to become known.
    It's true that all artist are not equal, there are differences in skills, capabilities, creativity, which determine the artistic output.
    To paraphrase: "the artistic purpose may be equal, but there is artistic output that is more equal than other work".
    That's the real issue in my view.
    ______________________________________
    Back on the issue of quantity vs. parsimony, there is an elementary economic rule which relates quantity and price (value, if we want).
    The higher the quantity, the lower the value, and the price.
    High value - as a general rule - needs to be rare, parsimonious.
    In photography, the output probably needs to be rare to be valued, and since the technique is quite simple to handle, it's the output which needs to be rare to be valued.
    I was talking to a wedding photographer, he told me that the "wedding photography output is unique" and therefore a good wedding photographer can have an excellent demand.
    On the other hand, any wealthy hobbyist can buy a 15.000 Euro equipment, go to the stadium and photograph the event just for fun and offer, and sell, his pictures for a couple of hundred Euros, killing the competition with professional photographers who need to make a living out of it.
     
  150. Luca - "Simply because it is a completely different type of skill in respect to artistic creation, to creativity and ingenuity."
    It's worse than that, far more direct and personal, because the artist is present in the work as an individual. Ever notice how most artists seem eccentric/wild/unusual/etc? This fuses into the work.I should not have used the word "price", because it automatically links to marketing in people's minds, but I meant the quality of the art itself, whether it sells or not, although there is a connection between the two.
    I mentioned Moonrise because it shows the fallacy of thinking that value and rarity are always connected. There's a lot of Moonrises, but the demand far exceeds the supply. Demand matters. It's not the rarity per se, but the availability in relation to the demand. As it is in any market. Most artists could be producing photographs in editions of two (2) prints and it wouldn't matter.
     
  151. Perhaps we can consider the question in terms that are a bit far from marketing, or accessibility, or rarity. The following quote (posthumous apologies to M-A, if I have translated it badly) regarding an artist and his canvas, not remote in kind from the photographic print, does relate in a way to rarity, but not just rarity for rarity's sake:
    "The ability to fix a silent poem onto canvas is a heavenly gift" (Marc-Aurèle Fortin)
    ("Pouvoir fixer sur une toile une poésie, c'est une possession céleste").
    Fortin was like an untamed eagle, a passionate poet, who asked directions from no one.
    In addition to a perception of the unexpected, fixing a silent poem onto a two dimensional surface is much of what I also think when I see a photograph as art.
     
  152. It is for me too, Arthur.
    I would like to say that this post, like most long-lived ones here, has covered a lot of ground, and some of the sideboards directly from the OP. On the web or in real life, a large per cent of all non-family/friends' photographs are seen in a market context, even if not viewed with intent to purchase. Desire motivates many a transaction.
     
  153. "when is a photo a work of art?"
    A work of Art is very subjective to the viewers tastes and mores. But if pressed to give an answer....

    I often think a Photograph can take on a life of its own trancsending the mere Photographer and in a sense transcends to another place. That moment captured before the before and before the after...in that moment when revealed frozen in time something unforseen happens not noticed . A story unfolds which captures imaginations and has a sublime effect on both the conscious and unconcious; when you see them you just know a special story is being told. It is like looking around a corner and getting a small glimpse of another place you did not know was there.
     

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