Photography and Art

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by sjmurray, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. A theme that often appears in our various forum discussions is that there is a big difference between simply photographing things, and “creating art,” which is much more self-conscious, intentional, and involves taking into account the history of art and images, culture, etc. For example, I can simply take a picture of something because I, personally, thought it was interesting, or beautiful, or evoking a certain emotional response for me (I confess, this is basically my own approach). In contrast, there are artists who make photographs because they are following through with a well thought out idea relating to theories about art, the history of photography, and, they are trying to make an original personal statement in this context. The photographs that come out of this latter thought process are often pretty alien to the average viewer, who is not schooled in the history of art. Examples would be the photographs of William Eggleston, Sally Mann, or Andreas Gursky, to name a few.
    I think it is safe to say that most of the photographers here in photo.net are in the former category, and simply take pictures of things in which that they are interested. There are others though, who are definitely in the artist category, who are working much more conceptually, and whose comments relate more to the concepts of the art world.
    My observation and desire for comment is about this distinction, because often there is a lot of conflict in the forum discussions about the relative merit of certain images, or artists, which seems to come out of these basic differences in the approach to photography. Is there room for both points of view? Are the opinions of the “unwashed” simply too ignorant to be acknowledged by the cognoscenti? Conversely, are the opinions of the cognoscenti about photography just too specialized or intellectualized to have any meaning for the average viewer? What can we learn from each other?
     
  2. In many ways, this is the age old difference of a photograph being a "mirror" or a "window". Most photography falls in between these two extremes--window=pure documentary and mirror=pure personal expression(generally baffling anyone but the maker!).
    Art photography does tend to include a bit more "mirror" in it although I think that today's art photography has injected a third item that is less buried than in earlier days--concept. Concept has come out of the shadows and is now demanding that it be recognized as an equal and individual factor.
    Most of the issues I see between photographers on these pages has to do with individuals insisting that their way is the only way, that their way of thinking about photography is the only valid form of photography. Personally, I am just interested in the result and how it functions. Some very good images, in fact great images, are not really art but just really good photographs. They may elevate to art in some cases, but often they are just very good at what they were created to do which has nothing to do with "art". That is just as valid as a great piece of art photography, just different.
     
  3. Just to add, I think the last part of the OP here is really about sophistication or learning. We like Chinese food maybe, like sweet and sour, but if we really learn about it and have a desire to explore it more, maybe in time we crave 1000 year eggs. Most never get there and that is ok, but it doesn't make those that love them cognoscenti, does it? (I have no interest in trying one...)
    We have a tendency to denigrate what we don't understand and often have no interest in understanding--that is just ignorance, plain and simple. An opinion based on our knowledge is one thing and it is proper to acknowledge we don't get something. It is completely different to openly denigrate something we don't understand or haven't even tried to understand, which is what I see a lot in these sorts of situations.
     
  4. Is there room for both points of view?​
    There is room for both these points of view and many more. There is room for both these ways of creating photographs and many more.
    .
    In contrast, there are artists who make photographs because they are following through with a well thought out idea relating to theories about art, the history of photography, and, they are trying to make an original personal statement in this context.​
    Artists don't always proceed from well thought-out ideas and often don't necessarily consider art theories. Art theorists do that. For me, one of many things that helps define an artist is a level of transcendence they tap into. For instance when the subject is a subject and the photo is more than the subject or the subject becomes the photo itself. It's also about vision and voice.
     
  5. often there is a lot of conflict in the forum discussions about the relative merit of certain images, or artists, which seems to come out of these basic differences in the approach to photography​
    I think there's something else at play as well. Just as there are different skill and craft levels of photographers on PN and elsewhere (and I firmly believe skill and craft play a role, though certainly not the only one, in art) there are different levels of literacy in terms of viewers. Everyone is entitled to have opinions about art and everyone, including the most literate viewer, has their own taste. I love hearing articulate and serious/genuine statements from all kinds of viewers about my own photographs and the photographs of others, including the photographs of famous photographers. At the same time I recognize that viewing can be a honed activity. Education, attuneness, openness, experience . . . and a lot more . . . play a role in a viewer's level of viewing sensibility.
    Personally speaking, one of the things I've tried to do for a very long time is to challenge my own taste.
     
  6. A theme that often appears in our various forum discussions is that there is a big difference between simply photographing things, and “creating art,” which is much more self-conscious, intentional, and involves taking into account the history of art and images, culture, etc. For example, I can simply take a picture of something because I, personally, thought it was interesting, or beautiful, or evoking a certain emotional response for me (I confess, this is basically my own approach). In contrast, there are artists who make photographs because they are following through with a well thought out idea relating to theories about art, the history of photography, and, they are trying to make an original personal statement in this context.​
    Steve: I don't think you give yourself enough credit. If what you photograph has aesthetic value and gives pleasure to you and others, it is art. What other value does it have? What else would you call it? So go out there and continue to shoot your art. Alan.
     
  7. I think that what both sides of this divide aren't offering and aren't getting is proof.
    Proof of what? To whom?
    Newcomers in all valued or recognized or powerful kinds of activity have always had to "prove" themselves in some way or other. The elders or the establishment versus those who would displace or join them.
    For example, way back when, there used to be guilds for just about every kind of craft. For example cobblers -- shoemakers. You were not a shoemaker until and unless you met the training and test requirements set and administered by the existing elite/establishment of shoemakers. But then guilds were gotten rid of and the market determined when and if you were a shoemaker. If you made good shoes, people liked your shoes, bought your shoes, and you made more shoes. You were a shoemaker.
    In the one case, the elite establishment determined/controlled, was the source of the necessary proof; in the other case, the market, the public, the user was/is the source of the necessary proof.
    I'm not claiming that either system is without merit or advantages; I'm just saying that in any case, there is a need for proof before a claim is going to be accepted.
    Daddy doesn't believe in Junior until Junior shows what he's got. And/or Junior doesn't listen to Daddy until he's gotten his ass whupped by ignoring the sage advice of the elder.
    However, how would one "prove" claims about the art-ness of photography? It's probably the nature of the subject (art) to be ever elusive. To paraphrase Valéry, the trouble with the future is that it isn't what it used to be -- and art comes out of the future.
     
  8. Look at the pictures that people send to local news shows, or post to Flickr and similar. Pictures of things people see and think would make a good picture are very popular. More artistic pictures tend to leave most people wondering why the photographer even took the picture. Should their opinion or lack of matter to the photographer?
     
  9. Good craft, an idea, expressed in context of art present and past, original, an appreciative audience, experienced gate keepers. And a few keepers among many qualified competitors. And there are many audiences outside that art world with their own costs of admission where the photographer doesn't have to be able to do all that would qualifiy work for the art audience. It is as it should be.
     
  10. Julie, there are still a lot of areas where this system is still in place. Contractors, Doctors and nurses, barbers and hair stylists etc.--it all has to do with how powerful your union/trade organization is--well and maybe public safety in many cases. I believe there are countries, Germany maybe(?), where you can't be a professional photographer without having been an apprentice. This kind of system has absolutely no place in creative fields.
    Proof is really an individual thing but maybe it is more about insight than proof.
     
  11. I don't think this has anything to do with newcomers. I think Steve, for example, has been photographing for a long time and considers himself a certain type of photographer as compared to other photographers. Plenty of very experienced old-timers have a very different sensibility than do plenty of other experienced old timers. Experience and age does not make an artist. To me, the OP wasn't about anyone having to prove themselves. It was about how we see our work and the work of others.
    Reducing expertise in terms of craft to the "elite establishment" is just plain silly and intellectually dishonest. Sounds Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich-like.
     
  12. John A stated:
    An opinion based on our knowledge is one thing and it is proper to acknowledge we don't get something. It is completely different to openly denigrate something we don't understand or haven't even tried to understand, which is what I see a lot in these sorts of situations.​
    I do get this. I think maybe just one (of many) aspect that makes this topic more confusing is that we are talking about "photography," which does not take years of training to do, like painting, for instance. Because of that, anyone can press a shutter and, viola, becomes a "photographer." Many people see highly praised art photographs and recognize at once that "I can take those kind of photos," which is different from seeing a painting and realizing that painting is a highly trained skill that you can't just pick up a brush and do well. Perhaps this is what leads us to Pierre's observation:
    More artistic pictures tend to leave most people wondering why the photographer even took the picture.​
    What I'm getting from you, Fred, is that "its all good," in a sense, with all the different levels of craft and literacy there are going to be a lot of different opinions about any photograph. But you still acknowledge that "viewing can be a honed activity. Education, attuneness, openness, experience . . . and a lot more . . . play a role in a viewer's level of viewing sensibility." Meaning that there is a learned sophistication that can be achieved in understanding photographs. I agree with this too, that we do become more sophisticated the more we study something.
    Julie, I get your idea that there is a certain "gate keeping" involved with determining what is "art" which is very different from what sells in the marketplace. I see your point here. There is a much larger market for "sunset on the ocean" photos than an Eggleston photo of a dog drinking out of a puddle, for instance. Of course, the people who appreciate Eggleston will pay a lot more for that photo than the person buying a calendar with 12 ocean sunset photos.
    My own thoughts on this so far (and I may be very primitive in my understanding, so feel free to educate me!) are something like this: Some photography is intended to be, or just is, visually appreciated for its own sake, due to the various elements of composition, color, texture, expression (in a person), documentary significance, etc. These photos are immediately "understood" by the visual brain. Little verbal explanation, or thinking about, is required to be stimulated. Art (photography) seems to often require that other areas of the brain be activated to understand the concept, or meaning, or context in the larger scheme of art (historical and so forth) in order for the intended (by the artist) brain stimulation. In other words, one has to learn how to appreciate the work, which requires, like I said, other parts of the brain. It takes more work! Furthermore, some people are naturally more predisposed to do this type of analysis, and other people are more comfortable sticking in the more visual mode. It may well be more like a difference in personality type, or aptitude, which is genetic. I agree that learning is important, but at the same time, some people have a more genuine desire to do that. I do believe that certainly, some photographic artists are working in the more visual mode, but I can see that these artists often become very esoteric in their own vision, usually requiring the average viewer to ponder what is going on because they don't really understand it. Again, here, it begins to require verbal areas of the brain to "think" about what is being viewed. Am I making sense?
    Maybe what we can "learn from each other" is simply to accept that there are differences in our understandings and aptitudes, and to be OK with that.
    I do appreciate all the opinions expressed here and I thank everyone for taking a "stab" at it. I feel it is a rather difficult topic and I am personally trying to better understand this idea of "art" as it applies to photography.
     
  13. I have been a student of Minor White for maybe 30 years now, I have been able to appreciate his work visually as well as in a more studious way. I have read a lot of the material that influenced him. But recently, I read a piece written by Peter Bunnell in the book "Inside the Photograph". Bunnell is a photographic scholar and not only studies the photographer but also more deeply into it than most of, as photographers, generally do. In that piece, he analyzed one of the "sequences" of Minor's. I know those photos and love some and see others as pretty simplistic visually and maybe not too impressed by them. As Bunnell went through the work, with his own knowledge and research on what Minor's concerns and influences were at the time he made them, and came up with an analysis that took my own understanding of that work to another level. It brought a new awareness of what the work was about, even if it was just his conjecture, it made a lot of sense--and a sense that was beyond my awareness.
    My point is that we, as photographers, can't ever really spend the time to know as much as someone who studies the work of a particular artist, or art in general, for a living. Then, today, we see so much work that is so personal to the artist creating it. We see work that does have connections to art history and even if we do study it as a photographer, it is hard to get a grasp on all the work that is being created as those who study it as part of their living. We are going to miss things. It is easy to see what is before us but difficult to really "see" it because even if you are a diligent student of the medium, you just can't spend the time learning all of what others are doing and what has come before. We do our best and yet we have to also pay attention to what we are doing. Even Peter Galassi, the head curator at MOMA, admitted incomplete knowledge, at the time, of Jeff Wall's work when writing the critical essay for Wall's retrospective at the Museum (as presented in the catalog). Wall is much more complex than the average photographer, to say the least, and a scholar himself in art history.
    The rub, IMO, is that many more casual photographers don't understand the idea that they shouldn't be able to understand all that they see, that somehow just being able to see with our current knowledge is all that should be important. On some level, that is fine, but "I know what I like" isn't the end of it nor is it definitive beyond that person who ascribes to that point of view.
    As I said earlier, today concept is playing a much heavier role in work being done in all mediums. Pure visual aesthetics has been done to death, as it were, and I think the "art world" is looking for more than that and more so than ever before. There is always a hunger for something new and different, as it should be. What happens is that once you start to study this more "conceptual" work, it does become more aesthetically pleasing and challenging. Creating a body of work of images that "anyone could do that" is different than making an image that is similar here or there. The difference is intent and thought behind the work, what it represents and what it is about. Some of the new work is innovative and some becomes something more because of what went into creating it. Anyone can copy something but not everyone can put together a cohesive body of work that becomes something more than just a random image. That is where things break down and the "denigration" I mentioned above seems to emanate from-the lack of perspective as to what the work was about.
    Ansel Adams wasn't the greatest photographer but he was important not just because of his work, but because he introduced in a major way something that was different and new at the time he did it and it just happens to be fairly easy to embrace for the novice photographer. Replicating that work isn't really all that hard for a technically competent photographer but it doesn't make that photographer as important in the history of photography as Ansel is. In fact, it really doesn't mean too much, there are more than enough people with that skill level today to make it a rather cheap commodity. That isn't what art is about, but it often will sell well.
    The important thing, IMO, isn't that we get everything or that we understand everything, but that we do push ourselves to move beyond where we are. That we don't close off growth by boxing out what we don't understand but acknowledge that we don't understand it and may never do so. That doesn't make it bad or ivory tower, it just means we are more interested in something else, which is natural and appropriate. If we are interested, then we pursue further understanding.
     
  14. Steve, quoting your last post, you say, " Art (photography) seems to often require that other areas of the brain be activated to understand the concept, or meaning, or context in the larger scheme of art (historical and so forth) in order for the intended (by the artist) brain stimulation. "
    Both you and John A a starting from a point beyond where the novice user will start; you assume a known photographer. One who has already been validated; one who has a history, etc. You're assuming -- conceding -- proof to someone else. Therefore, the person (whether novice and/or skeptic) who doesn't make this concession; who arrives at a viewing with the option to doubt -- is in a different place from where Steve's quoted segment puts a viewer. They must/will first deal with their doubt, then they'll get to what Steve and John A are talking about. Why don't Steven and John A have (or have more of) these initial, founding doubts? Is the lack of doubt more reasonable, more learned than having doubt?
    As to how one should deal with such doubts, in a T.S. Eliot essay, 'The Modern Mind' he quotes this segment from a book by the critic I.A. Richards (this is Richards's text, first):
    "... When our response to a poem after our best efforts remains uncertain, when we are unsure whether the feelings it excites come from a deep source in our experience, whether our liking or disliking is genuine, is ours, or an accident of fashion, a response to surface details or the essentials, we may perhaps help ourselves by considering it in a frame of feelings whose sincerity is beyond our questioning. Sit by the fire (with eyes shut and fingers pressed firmly upon the eyeballs) and consider with as full "realisation" as possible -- "​
    Eliot then describes -- and thoroughly ridicules -- Richards's five points for achieving "realisation."
    After which he (Eliot) writes:
    "I am willing to admit that such an approach to poetry may help some people: my point is that Mr. Richards speaks as though it were good for everybody. I am perfectly ready to concede the existence of people who feel, think and believe as Mr. Richards does in these matters, if he will concede that there are some people who do not."​
     
  15. Julie, I am not sure how the novice viewer relates here. I think the process I have tried to suggest, and one we see occurring in many cases, is one of being more rational. At its most elemental, the novice looks at something and they respond to it or they don't. Often that can be an "I like it" or the converse or maybe an "I don't get it"--and certainly there are some other similar response. None of these reactions is any sort of problem and some will walk away and not think about it while others will be curious as to what makes the latter work interesting to others.
    But that is the rational person and often when people start to get more caught up or invested in things visual, the latter reaction turns a bit more nasty--the rational is slightly or radically compromised. Actually, it is probably more common with those things in our lives that rely on our basic senses where we somehow take on an ownership that what I like is good, what I don't like is crap--music, food, visual art etc.. For some reason, there are a lot of people who wont admit that they might not understand something that is visual, "I see therefore I know", and instead attack it. We see this in many areas of society where "differences" exist in other core properties of the human condition. The rational person either lets it go, accept it for what it is or decides to get more information and continues that process of decision making as they gain more information--determining how much they need or want to know to be satisfied.
     
  16. I think that a Photograph should have a strong visual impact...it should be talking to us on many many levels. If we have to write a story about it; have our hand grasped to be taken to a light of understanding...do we really need the Photograph in the first place? why not just create one out of words.
    Perhaps, and only, perhaps to study the history of Art, and sit by the feet of masters will we acheive a greater appreciation and let us see further. To a good degree that is true.
    But, and a big but, the Photograph needs to to working too. A Photograph of a wall is just a Photograph of a wall... boring.
    I don't really want to use one of my photos, there are better, but there are too few photos on this forum illustrating the posters thoughts.
    00aBg5-452889584.jpg
     
  17. there are too few photos on this forum illustrating the posters thoughts.​
    There are other forums, for example the Street and Documentary forum, where you can find a myriad of photos, if you prefer that type of forum. This is a Philosophy of Photography forum. It's set up to be a little different. Too many posted photos are frowned upon by the moderators. You would know that if you frequented this forum. I respectfully suggest that in Philosophy, words are important and this is a Philosophy forum. If words aren't important to you, well, there's an obvious solution.
     
  18. I suspect Allen Herbert understood Joyce and Shakespeare with no footnotes and no explanations, gets what Impressionism and Expressionism are about with no study of art history. He's the exception that proves the rule for everyone else in the world who's not Allen Herbert.
    Some of us want to explore deeper than the surface visual. Leave us be.
     
  19. Allen, I think your point of view is a bit limited when you suggest "A Photograph of a wall is just a Photograph of a wall... boring." You might want to look at my Main Street series. The odd thing about that work, which I was skeptical myself as to how it might be received although I thought it was important to do, is that I have had people from all over the country--and out of it-- contact me to talk about those shots, to tell me great stories of how they represent so many complex ideas for them. I have learned more about my own work listening to them. Everyone has different ideas of what is aesthetically pleasing and everyone has a different background and experience cache they bring to looking at images and that is what determines the impact of a visual, not a tight set of criteria overlaid on all work.
    Understanding visual media is far more complex than just looking. Sorry, I see you are getting dumped on a bit here and that isn't my intent, it is just that what you suggest is way too limited a view but certainly you are entitled to your own thoughts.
     
  20. I am a novice at both photography and art. In fact I am very analytical as opposed to arty. I think of art in two ways; first more like artisan and second more like creative. When I look at a piece of fine furniture I can appreciate the fine artisan look and technique applied. I see the overall structure for its shape and composition of all the individual elements. I see how well the joints are made or hidden. When I look at a pic, I see what elements the photographer chose to include and exclude and how each element is placed and each relates to the others. There is a craft to composing a photograph whether made in a studio or seen in nature and captured.
    There is also craft in using light, focus, DOF etc to create a feel or lead a viewer to the intended subject. The craft of photography has been captured in “rules” of what works – where you place a horizon, how to use lines etc. A photographer can analytically apply all these rules to help make some very interesting and pleasing photos. But it takes more than that for viewers to want to look at a pic. There is a human response to a photo that has been studied but I doubt ever fully understood. And in that sense creating such a photo is still an art. So to create a photo others want to view takes craft as well as applying something we can not yet fully analyze which we call art.
    When someone produces a photo that is unique – never seen before, there is some level of creative artistry being applied. That is another level of art. Seeing something in your mind that you have never seen before is a form of art. Or seeing an aspect in nature you have not seen others capture is likewise artful.
    There is still another level of art that is way out of my league. Creating that something that evokes a desired, strong, human response. To make another angry, or to make another rethink a position, or to make another see an idea for the first time is also art. Exploring the human condition via photography is a form of art which IMO fits this category. We all know a photo can just document some aspect of life. We also know there are photos that impact us with such strength that we change our thinking. I think we think of the latter as art and former as just another well crafted photo.
    As I said, I am a beginner in photography and a neophyte when it comes to understanding art. I just thought you may be interested in the perspective of someone at this level. Take it for what it is worth. I will close just by saying I really enjoy these discussions and enjoy seeing both the photographic craft and art on PN.
     
  21. [David, thank you for your self-description; I enjoyed it and it adds dimension to this thread.]
    John A -- I'm cherry-picking your post for just the part I'm interested in, which is this: " ... there are a lot of people who wont admit that they might not understand something that is visual, "I see therefore I know", and instead attack it."
    What I'm trying to get at is that, for me, art is like a drop of ink fallen into the water of my mind. It spreads, it stains, it coagulates, it's ... wonderful, horrible, insidious ... and the classic demonstration of chaos. Unpredictable but not indeterminate. What it does, how it works, how I experience it, is, for me, not "in common." It's that drop of ink into my liquid mind. Mine, not yours.
    The philosophising, the elaboration, the ability to learn about such inkiness refers (in my opinion) to everything that goes to that ink droplet before it's loosed. How it's prepared, how it's aimed, how it's flavored, colored, made, done, etc. etc. But the actual encounter is both *only* mine and is chaotic. It is not a billiard ball; it's not an arrow to a target; it's a small, silent explosion that is made out of what my mind and that ink droplet do to each other.
    Getting people to let their mind be exploded -- or admit, notice, realize, *feel* that this *is* what is happening, not indigestion or chiggers -- is a separate issue from theory and history. In the absence of the first, the second is just hand waving. The first is the "doubt" that I keep talking about. And I think it's quite reasonable for people to question whether mental ink stains are happy occasions or infections in need of sterilizing. Germs will grow.
     
  22. What it does, how it works, how I experience it, is, for me, not "in common." It's that drop of ink into my liquid mind. Mine, not yours. The philosophising, the elaboration, the ability to learn about such inkiness refers (in my opinion) to everything that goes to that ink droplet before it's loosed. How it's prepared, how it's aimed, how it's flavored, colored, made, done, etc. etc. But the actual encounter is both *only* mine and is chaotic.​
    Julie, I think this is the same thing I was saying except for one part that I think is key that isn't addressed here but is critical, that as a viewer, to get to your unique state of mind--yours not mine--you also have gone through a lifetime of "philosphising", etc and when the ink droplet hits, it isn't total chaos--although it can seem so--but channels into all of those things you prepared for it, your unique water as it were. Your experience of art is a mixture of what was put into the ink by the artist and what your receptor can interpret from what it receives based on how it was prepared by you over the years as well as, certainly, how your mind accepts and processes things it doesn't understand or can't identify-the chaos you describe. That, and the individual's disposition, yields what reaction comes out the other end of the process.
     
  23. John, I agree with you completely, but do you see the Catch-22?
     
  24. As I see it, experience is not like an Etch-A-Sketch. We don't consistently get to completely erase and draw anew with each artistic experience. My experiences are more like a river than a series of explosions, a continuum of overlapping and interwoven stuff, not one spontaneous generation after another. The occasional welcome explosion still has roots.
     
  25. Thanks again everybody for contributing to this discussion. I am doing a lot of thinking as a result.
    Julie, even your metaphors are much more "conceptual" than my simple ones, which makes my point that we definitely have different brains!
    I now have a slight refinement on my original idea about different areas of the brain required in how art photographs are understood. The conceptual photograph (John A's Main Street series is a great example) is a more of a visual "cue" or even "clue" for the intellectual mind to work on than a direct visual statement such as found in a purely graphic type photo. Some people love this and eagerly snatch up the clue and begin their search for the gold. Other folks simply say, "oh crap, another scavenger hunt, I hate scavenger hunts" and pack up and leave.
    Another metaphor for this is seeing the individual work of conceptual art as one piece of a much larger puzzle. Any individual piece might seem pretty dull or mysterious, but the more pieces you can put together you can begin to see the larger picture forming, the more you understand and appreciate the larger work of the artist, and you can better appreciate each individual piece as well.
    Again, I do believe there are different types of brains and this is why we see a division in reactions to conceptual art. Some of us are just not “wired” as strongly for the enjoyment of the “scavenger hunt,” or trying to understand the larger “puzzle.” As John A states, it seems the art world is much more focused on the conceptual, so people whose brains are wired to seek out the larger picture are more predisposed to enjoy conceptual art. For this reason, I believe we can’t really be judgmental and say one view is better than the other. I think it is important to understand and appreciate all points of view. As of today, when I see a photograph that seems to be more conceptual, I’m not going to denigrate it for lacking visual content or stimulation or whatever, and I now have a much better understanding of why other people do get excited about it. So, thanks again, everybody!
     
  26. Another metaphor for this is seeing the individual work of conceptual art as one piece of a much larger puzzle.​
    Steve, this is one reason a body of work is so significant.
     
  27. I'm seeing the usual misapprehensions and discomfort with talking about art. Accessibility is a term often used to distinguish art everybody gets from the rest. Find your comfort level and quit worrying that you don't get something. It isn't likely you have no feelings at all about why you are clicking the shutter. It has to matter to you.
    Photography is NOT art its a medium - comparisons to other media perceived to be difficult, like painting, is meaningless. Art comes out of your head and not your fingers.
    It isn't about originality or creativity - doing something nobody has done before. What you don't know about art doesn't prevent you from making art. Artists are not special kinds of people. I was just looking at a book I have about art by insane people called "Insania pingins" (I have no idea what pingins means! ) I find art of this type as rewarding to see as any other. These artists are exploring the limits of their personality not unlike we all did as children. Everything goes on the fridge and don't dare say it isn't art.
    00aByo-453203584.jpg
     
  28. Nice post, Alan Z., and an appropriate accompanying illustrative photo!
    We talk a lot about the importance of intention and sometimes deliberateness. And those can be very much part of the process. But art does not require them, as Alan suggests. There is plenty that can be art that was not intended to be art by the maker or the finder. I only depart from Alan's last statement, because to me it's the flip side of even unintended works being art. Which is that plenty of stuff, even stuff intended to be art, is not. (The intention to make art is neither necessary nor sufficient for something's being art.) So I would definitely dare say some stuff -- on the fridge, the wall, PN, anywhere in the world -- isn't art.
     
  29. If you pass out 100 pencils and paper to 100 people, and ask them to do something with it, you will get everything from accounting ledgers to Venn diagrams to paper airplanes, and a few people will make some spectacular drawings. Of the lot, we'd probably call the few drawings art by convention. But, and this is the amusing part, all 100 people could sit around having a conversation about pencils, leads, paper brightness, tooth, weight and so on. They would all be discussing "PencilPapering" exactly the way hundreds of people with cameras and papers talk about photography.
    The point of photography is darkening up some paper just like darkening it with a pencil. Do you sit in front of the building with ruler and T-square and make an architectural drawing of the building, or do you scribble a few gestures on the paper and voila! you have a drawing? Is the person interested in the architectural drawing the same one interested in the few squibbled lines you call a building?
    So, the defining characteristic of all people on this forum is - "they have a camera and some paper." The accountants will talk ledgers. The draftsmen will talk blueprints. The scribblers will talk art. And the only identification in common will be that darned camera. The camera then, is such a generic and meaningless identity, that it doesn't fine tune the crowd into the tribes that the OP has described. The drafter gets confused talking to the accountant, who is likewise confused talking to the artist, who is confused talking to the paper airplane maker.
    Having a camera is about as meaningful as saying, "I have a pencil."
     
  30. Having a gun is about as meaningful as saying, "I have a pencil."
     
  31. Having a camera is about as meaningful as saying, "I have a pencil."​
    I would agree with you, "m", but the fact is that the hundred people you started with, that now have got a camera and not a pencil in theirs hands, are all present here on Photonet and a few of them are trying to discuss, between themselves, the question of "photography and art".
    I could create my own small selection of the "few", and so can anyone else, and between us, then, agree on the question on "art" - or not !
    My approach to all this is to accept that out there in society, the question of: what is art and what is not ? is, at the least, murky. And yet at any given moment, collectors of "art" seem to convert towards certain works and less towards others. A good way in order to get a snapshot on what is up in the art world is to look at the art market, worldwide, and the best source is, without any doubt, Artprice, with their annual snapshot on the 500 best selling artists (where you find a dead American artist on top: Jean Michel Basquiat) followed by some Chinese and: Koons, Prince and Hirst). The interesting thing is of course is that what was art yesterday on the market, might, tomorrow, end up in the dustbin of rejected art. see here the case of Damien HIRST.
    So what ? Where does all this leave people like me. If I wished to invest in art, I would certainly carefully follow discussion related to the art marked in order to minimizing the risks of wasting my savings. On the other hand if I wished to know whether a work of mine is art or not (like this for example), I would do my utmost to forget about whatever is going on around and continue doing what my head, mind, guts and fingers invite me to do in the field - and leave to others to make up their mind if they find an interest.
     
  32. Anders Hingel,
    Yes, I think the few - based on whatever subject matter is of interest to them - have to self-identify around that specific interest with detailed acknowledgements of some criteria. "I have a camera," doesn't even begin to do that when it comes to art.
    I have an acquaintance with a camera. She takes thousands of pictures. I had won a a photo show last fall and she wanted to see the picture. When I showed it to her, she said, "That's it? I don't get it. Oh, it looks kinda interesting, but I can't imagine hanging it on my wall. What are the judges looking for?" Now, as I know her well, she shoots animals primarily. A prize would be a big stag looking into the camera, or a bird landing on the water, let's say. She would frame such a picture and hang it on her wall. I realized one day, that "would I hang it on the wall" is a common dividing line between what is art and what is not. Common, meaning, in common use.
    So, that demonstrates the difficulty regarding photographers discussing art. Even when they think they are on common ground - they may not be. But out of politeness and convention, continue the discourse as if they were.
    And working your way up, you can come across the idea that art is what sells at art auctions. In which case you'd have to conclude that the higher the price, the higher the art. But in fact we know art auctions are actually engaged in selling investments. Again, more difficulty.
    I would have to go with something simpler like, art is intentional self-expression made manifest. Except now, that competes with craft, which is about the same. What separates art and craft is ineffable, and that is the whole crux of the problem. Can you easily tell a craftsperson with a camera from an artist with a camera? So, in fact, where we end up is that something is art when it is declared so, and not a minute before. Maybe investment isn't such a bad criteria after all?
     
  33. m stephens said:
    I would have to go with something simpler like, art is intentional self-expression made manifest.​
    I agree and have said many times in the forums that I believe "art" is any persons's attempt at creative self-expression. Most of this self expression is not great art, obviously, but some is. Now we are arguing about which person's creative self expression is really good art or great art, and that's another thread, which is a very complex social issue.
    The theme I am trying to explore here in this thread is about a difference in how we "see" on the dichotomy of graphic/direct/immediate type images vs "conceptual" which seem to stand up better viewed as part of a larger whole body of work. As one who instinctively makes images in the former category, I do find it personally more difficult to understand and appreciate works from the latter category. I believe I have different brain "wiring" from say Julie H or John A here. Some people have stated that it seems the formal art world favors the conceptual type of work. It does seem to me the more immediate, graphic types of images fall more readily into professional categories such as advertising, journalism, portrait and wedding photography, calendar and illustration work and so on. Of course, some of this type of photography can transcend its own genre and be regarded as "art" as well. What are your thoughts on this? (anybody)
     
  34. I agree that the camera is not necessarily a tool for art, though it obviously can be, in the right hands. But I don't think those "right" hands have to have the intention to make art. Accidents happen. People working as craftsmen sometimes make art without intending it to be. People taking pictures, as Alan Z. suggested above, sometimes make pictures which are recognized as art. Art happens, sometimes.
    M, what your discussion with your friend shows is that not everyone who calls something art or who calls something not art is correct. Your friend might have told you your photos are not art and she could have been wrong.
    I think expertise often plays a role in art, though it doesn't have to. Some seem more capable of looking literately at, discussing it articulately, and identifying it than others.
     
  35. Maybe I should be asking a more direct question: If the more conceptual work (we're taking photography here) is more often placed in the "art" category, then what makes a purely graphic type image art or not? Literally none of my own photographs were created "conceptualy" at least not on purpose. Are some of my photos "art?" ("good" art that is beyond just simple personal creative expression) Or are none of them. If so, which ones and why?
    Fred, you are giving a very fuzzy definition here: "Some seem more capable of looking literately at, discussing it articulately, and identifying it than others." What is this "capability" that some people have that you are talking about?
     
  36. Steve J. Murray,
    Take writing. Some people love writing prose, others poetry. Think about that in relation to photography. Conceptual art of any kind would seem to imply the maker is trying to make the ineffable, manifest. Poetry and mythology are always about laboring to bring meaning (expression) where mere language and logic just don't seem to work.
    So, no one would say we should admire the poet more than the author or mythologist, right? One is not right to the other's wrong. The graphic photograph (sounds redundant, doesn't it?) you mention is a different pursuit than the conceptual photograph because of the intent behind it.
    Recently I was working on an idea based on what's not in the photograph. So perhaps just the edge of something was visible, as if to ask, can you imagine what that is? A fairly silly idea, but it meets the need of discussion something conceptual. Many of those photographs just looked awkward IF the normal standards of composition were applied. But, if I said explicitly to someone, "hey, I am playing with a concept of hinting at what is missing," they might suddenly have a new appreciation of that photograph. But notice, because I am unknown - just a guy with a camera - the normal pretext for viewing is, hey - he made a composition error!
    What happens in the world then, is that a big distinction is made between the discovered and appreciated artist, and the undiscovered and unappreciated ones. If I show a photograph of the inside of my fridge, it is rubbish. If Stephen Shore shows the inside of a fridge it is art. There is no difference really (significantly) between the photographs. The difference is between the standing of the photographers. Which is why I said, it is art when it is declared to be art by some authority. It doesn't actually matter who the authority is, it only matters that they are an authority on some basis.
    If there was no commercial angle to art, it would all be much simpler. Expressions which thrilled people inexplicably would be art, other expressions would be craft, and all would be easy. Adding commerciality utterly distorts all intentions, and material facts about personal expression. One of the only areas where you can legitimately ignore commerciality is graffiti. And this makes graffiti one of the most precious and endearing artforms in our society. It is the bleeding edge.
    Can I summarize? I guess it is this. When you want to talk to other folks with cameras about darkening up some paper, you better be very explicit about your goals, intentions, meanings, purposes and so on, otherwise you will be talking but not communicating.
     
  37. What is this "capability" that some people have that you are talking about?​
    A knowledge of art, craft, art history. More importantly, knowing how to look carefully and with alacrity.
    ______________________________
    I should have added, as I did in one of my posts above, that just like someone can create art unintentionally, someone can intend to create art and not do so.
    Yes, stuff around art is, indeed, "fuzzy." These things get "defined" loosely, broadly, and with a variety of criteria, some which won't be present all the time. It's elusive, to say the least. Statements that claim what art is are usually off the mark. It's a matter for discussions like these, not pronouncements. And it evolves and is relative to context and era.
    _______________________________
    Steve, I think you're making a dichotomy where a continuum exists and where overlaps occur enough to even make the continuum confusing. Simple is not without concept and great concepts can include graphic simplicity. Art is not measured by the complexity of the concept employed or expressed. (I am much more comfortable talking about how NOT to restrict art and modes of art than I am asserting definitively what it is.)
     
  38. Anders, I'd hang 'em on my wall.
    One criteria for art is that it has authority in some form. Enduring historical or authorship benchmarks differ by region yet inform all art in our global civilization. Craft, and specific media have specialized authority with fine divisions. Part of the problem with art photography may be too many ways to do it. Various "isms" also are authorities - often ironically, rebelling against authority.
    Art closer in time may be assigned a tentative or probationary authority that is never resolved. Art movements declared by manifesto, or aggregated by critics, and fads may produce exceptional work. The notion of what is art and what is decoration is blurred and perplexing for everyone. Commerce and unsophisticated (vulgar) contemporary taste is a corrupting factor when assessing the merit of a work. Even great museums are subject to those sins.
     
  39. Steve, I can recommend a couple of books.
    A Modern Book of Esthetics, Rader and Holt.
    Contextualizing Aesthetics, Blocker and Jeffers.
    They cover ideas about art since Plato and before through the more or less contemporary era. The way I approach the matters you are bringing up is to understand (even devour) all the many different theories through the ages about what art is, including looking carefully at a lot of the art from different periods. I find that each theory (and there are many) has its positives and negatives, things that make sense and things that don't, things that have withstood the test of time and things that haven't. All of that swirls through my head and heart when considering questions about art. I don't ever come up with definitions, just multi-faceted ideas.
    You ask which of your own pictures would qualify as art. I don't like to approach these matters from a classificatory perspective. I usually find that getting into "Is this one art, is that one art?" gets us lost pretty easily from a more substantive discussion of what we're actually looking at and thinking about.
     
  40. I have always looked upon a camera as simply a means to an end, enhanced by some preoccupation with knowing and mastering the capabilities of the instrument and an artistic approach. Its particular characteristics that are invoked and manipulated in the process of transfering my thoughts and visual perception into an image (what I see in my mind, faced with specific subject matter) are of some importance to the nature of the result, and they act as either positive allies in that process, or limitations. The definition of art in photography is not different for me than that for art in poetry, in song, in instrumental music, in sculpture, in architecture, or in paintings. In addition to espousing known aesthetic criteria and principles, it is art when it combines some such aesthetic qualities with a communication with/response of the viewer that is of an emotional, intellectual and/or visually sensual nature.
     
  41. In addition to espousing known aesthetic criteria and principles, it is art when it combines some such aesthetic qualities with a communication with/response of the viewer that is of an emotional, intellectual and/or visually sensual nature.​
    Arthur, this makes sense. And it is the case that "a communication with/response of the viewer that is of an emotional, intellectual and/or visually sensual nature" is already an "espoused known aesthetic criteri[on]", espoused by several historical art theorists and philosophers through the ages.
     
  42. " ... is already an "espoused known aesthetic criteri[on]", espoused by several historical art theorists and philosophers through the ages."
    It's turtles all the way down!
     
  43. Alan Zinn,
    "One criteria for art is that it has authority in some form."
    I agree completely as it applies to contemporary definition. That's the rub here. Anonymous individuals are flailing about making art on their terms, but until someone or some authority confers the stamp of art on it, it's really just something else. Which is why the public is always asking, "What is art?" What they mean to ask is, "By what authority is that art?" An important impressario? A historian? Public approval? A collector? A fellow artist?
    Imagine the case of Virginia Meier. She shoots 100,000 photographs in total anonymity in a period when many people making those same images were major artists. Now her work is discovered posthumously. Will it be declared art of any importance? Will those in authority find it necessary (or advisable) to value this stuff? Had she been discovered during her life, would she have been as important as Bresson?
    A guy or gal then with a camera has a choice about art. A fork in the road. Make art and be happy with your own approval. Or, make art and seek out the stamp of approval, which is an activity of a specialized nature all by itself, isn't it? Perhaps it means going to the right cocktail parties where all the important celebrity artists and hangers on may discover you to be witty and fun and just the kind of person to promote? Was Warhol a good artist, or a good partier? (I don't know - that's kind of rhetorical.) What I do know is that once the authority says it is art, but God it is!
     
  44. Unlike language, tool making, and self-awareness, art may be a capacity exclusive to humans, distinguishing us from the merely practical world of animals. Art is something my dog can't do, good art is something I can't do.
     
  45. Fred, agreed. There is indeed overlap between the two expressions. By aesthetic criteria, I was thinking particularly in a more narrow sense of such things as visual balance of forms and their contrasts within the frame (or sensed even out of it), golden rule and other recognized aesthetic equilibria in two dimensions, chromatic harmonies and contrasts, point and line compositional strengths, and other visual forms and textures that can contribute to aesthetic appreciation. Some of these are of course also related to or invoke emotion (Ex. emotion symbolised by colours) or sensual perceptions, and responses, as well.
    "Turtles all the way down." Sounds a bit depressing in that grammatical context, Julie. I have no idea what that in-expression means. Can you elucidate? Is it because turtles are slow and art aesthetics are slow to evolve?
     
  46. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down
     
  47. Luis, I looked up the expression and saw the Wikipedia entry. I now understand the expression, though I don't see the relevance to the discussion, in terms of some sort of infinite regress Julie may have been aware of.
    All I was saying is that there are theorists who include viewer emotional response when speaking of criteria for art in addition to characteristics of the art objects themselves. In other words, some art theorists and philosophers have proposed criteria which are extrinsic to the photo, painting, or sculpture per se. Consider Danto's institutional theory, loosely summarized, that the art world determines what is art.
     
  48. How do you know Bach, Mozart, Shostakovich, et al were great musicians?
    When you go to a concert, how do you justify the difference between the $20 and $120 concerts?
    Between a $300 and a $3,000 camera?
    You trust the experts/cognoscenti, the reviews/critics, the institutions associated with the above kinds of things, and the market. The visual arts are no different.
    _______________________________________________
    Fred, maybe the turtle reference is a deterministic causal chain going back to the zero.
     
  49. How do you know (?).....You trust the experts/cognoscenti, the reviews/critics, the institutions associated with the above kinds of things, and the market. The visual arts are no different.​
    Or, you learn yourself (slowly over time and by hard work) to recognize the difference they announce and thereby to separate the serious experts from the charlatans. Only then will your feelings be a guide for seeing what is good and what is less good in terms of art - some of which will really be art. If you finally have got that feeling (supported by knowledge and lots of experience - and some science in terms of ancient art) you would be able even to make a living out of it. The rest is smalltalk.
     
  50. Anders - "Or, you learn yourself..."
    And thus become your own expert/cognoscento, but this happens through a dialogue with others, in terms of stored information or in person. In most cases, it begins with what Anders calls "small talk".
     
  51. I totally agree, Luis, when it comes to art it will be smalltalk between friends for a long time and maybe, one day, it starts going beyond.
     
  52. Art is something my dog can't do.​
    Oh YEA! Dogs live for art. My friend trained a Wabi Sabi poodle.
    00aCbS-453855584.jpg
     
  53. Imagine the case of Virginia Meier. She shoots 100,000 photographs in total anonymity in a period when many people making those same images were major artists.​
    That she wasn't a pro or not recognized or may not have self-identified as being an artist isn't important. She was informed by the authority of previous art and opinion. That circles back to the OP - not thinking about doing art doesn't prevent art from happening. Part of the myth in art and innovation is the notion of "original genius". Nobody works in a vacuum. Picasso saw the African masks, everybody saw Picasso. Stein collected and nurtured genius, and so on.
     
  54. Alan Zinn,
    Thanks - yes, I agree. That answers a different question than I posed about her. Yes, she surely was informed by all that happened before, as she performed her photography. You are quite right there.
    My question is what the authorities will think about her work in that it is discovered posthumously. In other words, her persona is not available to attach to the work. It must be judged then only on some partially arbitrary scale. The owners of her work - who might benefit from a pronouncement of major importance - are just guys who buy garage sale lots. Will the art community want to make them rich? I don't know.
     
  55. It must be judged then only on some partially arbitrary scale.​
    Good point. One of the beauties of art are that judgment scales, to at least some extent, all become arbitrary. Consider an exhaustive show of Francesca Woodman, who died at age 23, that I recently saw. I had first encountered some of her photos when a friend showed them to me reprinted in an article about the upcoming exhibit. I responded quite well to them. Upon seeing the show, I became a bit disappointed because there was a lot of repetition and a sort of bombardment of similar emotion and young student energy. Luis and a couple of others then pointed out that the curation did her no favors, in that a living artist likely would have edited through her work and the presentation might have been much more effective. It's also profound to consider the potential in her work, that will never get realized. All kinds of things influence our appraisal and response to art. And rating standards move, curve, genuflect, and, indeed, are often arbitrary. Makes it fun, challenging, and adds a bit of mystery.
     
  56. m stephens - Meier's work is hardly the first to be discovered posthumously, nor likely to be the last. You are giiving the artist's persona undue significance regarding the work,or the way it is judged and regarded by the art world. It might suprise you to know that some very well-known photographers were neither popular, nor endearing. In Meier, the question of gender enters into the equation, because SP has been mainly, but not entirely, the domain of male photographers. In other words, even if her work is not all-time great in SP, it could end up so for Women in SP.


    Just remember she can't edit her work now, talk with the curators, nor prepare it for exhibition.



    The following statement is absurd: "Will the art community want to make them rich?"
    The art community couldn't care less about that either way. The market will decide. The story's drawn a lot of attention, she was an earnest photo-kamikaze in that she welded the cockpit shut and never looked back. She never sought to "make a name for herself" or to publicize her photos. Underfunded and with a full-time job, she was not just another weekend duffer taking vapid pictures. From the pictures, it is obvious she pushed herself relentlessly For her, photography and art were verbs. It was all in the doing, and like Winogrand, Wessel and many others, she didn't feel the need to develop & get printed everything right away.
    If you want to know about these things, learn by googling something like "Vivian Meier Print Sales", and you will see that she is represented by Howard Greenberg. Look at his list of artists, and you will see that it is 100% first-rate. Vivian's presence on that illustrious roster should tell anyone she is considered an artist. It's not in question any more. There are posthumous/estate prints being made and sold in editions of 15, plus vintage drugstore prints are being sold as well as those she printed. Initial prices went from $1.5k - 5k. Those prices have escalated by several times at the top end already. I'll bet Maloof and company deeply regret the initial sales of many of her negatives on Ebay, which went mostly below $80 each.
    And Meier is not alone. There are hundreds, possibly thousands like her, and better, assiduously working as total outsiders, possibly without a web presence, out there. Most of their work will end up as it nearly always has, at the landfill. A very few will not. In the digital age, the work is unlikely to fill trunks, but will probably be on a few hard drives.
     
  57. Fred G.,
    "All kinds of things influence our appraisal and response to art. And rating standards move, curve, genuflect, and, indeed, are often arbitrary. Makes it fun, challenging, and adds a bit of mystery."
    Yes. That is what makes it fascinating. I completely agree.
     
  58. Luis G,
    "The following statement is absurd: "Will the art community want to make them rich?" The art community couldn't care less about that either way. The market will decide."
    I didn't think it was absurd when I wrote it. . After reading your comments, I still don't think it is absurd. Markets for things like stocks and art, are emotional not utilitarian. This can be demonstrated and proven by the concept of market bubbles. Bubbles occur because buyers lose rationality. Once one acknowledges that bubbles happen, it is obvious that one can find forces driving those bubbles. Marketing then, is the art of overcoming rationality of the buyer. Someone - some group of important impresarios, dealers, movers and shakers, push the market around. Buy this, not that. Sell this, not that. This is hot, this is not. Not hard to see then, marketeers make markets. So, when you say, "the art community couldn't care less either way," that's false to the degree that art marketeers care dearly about what is moving and what is not.
    My point was probably too general, but not absurd. Marketeers can and do decide what they will push, who will get promoted.
     
  59. Fred said:
    Steve, I think you're making a dichotomy where a continuum exists and where overlaps occur enough to even make the continuum confusing. Simple is not without concept and great concepts can include graphic simplicity. Art is not measured by the complexity of the concept employed or expressed.​
    Thanks for this reminder, Fred. I have been rather focused on this dichotomy and it is good to take another view from time to time.
     
  60. On how personal art becomes elevated to recognized art, I have had a kind of epiphany which I will relate (hint, it has to do with "fairy dust"):
    I was riding my bike in the woods today with my dog Lily, as I do every day, and being in a nice spring day, just out of the corner of my eye I perchance spotted a fairy. Now, you can only see fairies with your peripheral vision, so I was lucky enough to briefly spot this one. As I did, I noticed a little bit of fairy dust spilling out of its bag, which is typically very full in the spring. Now I know that wherever that bit of fairy dust lands, a beautiful flower will blossom later when the weather warms up a little bit more. But, this also gave me the idea of how certain creative expressions become regarded as art.
    You see, I think it’s primarily due to fairy dust. As I stated before I do believe that any person’s individual creative expression is their art. However, the question becomes, how does some art become elevated to the stature of being good art, or fine art, or art that you see in museums or art galleries? Well, I am now pretty sure it has to do with fairy dust. I think fairies can usually sense when somebody has some special abilities and they will often drop a little bit of fairy dust on this person while they are still in the womb. Then as he or she develops and begins to express him or herself creatively, their art will also have a certain quantity of fairy dust already attached to it. Now the thing about fairy dust is that it is attracted to itself as well, and it can increase when stimulated by exposure to other fairy dust. This means that once this person’s art is exposed to other people in the world, the people that also have some fairy dust attached to them will be drawn to this particular piece of art. The other thing that happens is when a work of art is exposed to people with fairy dust it will become stimulated and its own fairy dust will increase from its exposure to these people. The more fairy dust the work of art has attached to it, the more attraction it has to the people with fairy dust and they will in turn be more drawn to it as well, which increases their fairy dust as well.
    However, even if a person is born with some fairy dust and creates some art but just keeps it in his or her house or basement, never exposing it to anyone else with fairy dust, nothing will happen. However, once the art is brought into the proximity of people that carry a lot of fairy dust, such as the people you’d find in art galleries and museums, that work of art will likely accumulate more and more fairy dust, thus attracting more and more people that have fairy dust. Being around a lot of art that has fairy dust will expose a person to it and they will begin to accumulate it themselves. People that have accumulated a lot of fairy dust are usually people who spend a lot of time in art galleries and art museums, particularly artists, the art museum curators, and other people who are involved in the field.
    So, getting a work of art into a gallery or museum will expose it to more and more fairy dust and it will then have a much better chance of drawing the attention of those people who possess a lot of fairy dust, thus increasing the amount of fairy dust for that piece of art. Here is the thing though, even if the artist didn’t start life with a fairy’s gift of fairy dust, his or her art can still begin to get attention, and thus begin to accrue fairy dust if it can gain the positive attention of the people that have a lot of fairy dust. So there you have it.
     
  61. Now, you can only see fairies with your peripheral vision​
    Now this is an untruth. I look them in the eye all the time. I even photograph a lot of them. They're very fabulous, you know.
     
  62. M wrote
    Markets for things like stocks and art, are emotional not utilitarian. This can be demonstrated and proven by the concept of market bubbles. Bubbles occur because buyers lose rationality. Once one acknowledges that bubbles happen, it is obvious that one can find forces driving those bubbles. Marketing then, is the art of overcoming rationality of the buyer.​
    There is a lot of truth in what you write and my small link to the article on Damien Hirst tells a story to which extremes such things can go.
    This being said, we should not forget that the art market is also a place of competition between authoritative "experts" and that any creator of what could become art bubbles, will be sure to be immediately contradicted by competing galleries, auction houses, museums and independent experts. Out all that noise comes, sometimes over time, a message on something that can be interpreted as art which has a greater chance then others of not ending up in the dustbin over time.
    The enormous prices payed for installation art could be a historical bubble in many cases, like the ones you refer to. Many museums have unsellable installations in their stocks, not knowing what to do with them.
     
  63. Geez, Louise, Steve. You've got it exactly backward. The fairy dust analogy could just as well apply to people who collect Swingline staplers (yes, they do ...). There is no "is" in what art is; there's only an "is not." Art is what is not not art. Art is what can't be reduced to something other than what it is (oops!) -- to something that is not art.
    Have you ever seen a dog (Lily?) when she smells something new/strange? The animation, the bodily reorientation, like the needle of a compass, the scrambled eyes ... She's running the mental Rolodex and not finding an address; it's something that can't be reduced to prior experience! This is a not not! Mind expansion is about to ensue!
    It's not that artist's have fairy dust; it's that they know when they don't have it, when it's not there, when nothing irreducible or unnameable is there. By definition, if you have a definition, then that definition does not apply to art.
     
  64. I very much agree with the sentiments and the thrust of Julie comments.
    My only nitpick would be with the statement "Art is what can't be reduced to something other than what it is (oops!) -- to something that is not art."
    I think art often does overlap with more practical endeavors, which is why so much good and important documentary photography is also, but not solely, art. And some very practical and well-defined and utilized architecture is art as well. (Other examples abound.)
    Steve, it's hard to read tone of voice on the Internet. It seems like you're being purposely tongue-in-cheek with your extended fairy dust metaphor, perhaps by way of knocking the idea that art is to a great extent determined by institutions and those associated with the art world. Please let me know if that is or isn't the case. I actually take this quite seriously, as I think both Luis and Alan do. I also think, and feel somewhat certain Luis and Alan would not disagree, that's only part of the story.
    There are plenty of artists working outside this art world, and we may never come to know them. IMO, art can very much be a lifestyle and an approach to being in this world. I know many artists who will be recognized (if at all) only within very small circles. And recognized or not, they will be compelled to write their poetry, paint their paintings, and make their photos even if it goes no further than their own studio walls. Art can be a very solitary thing, for some. It can create its own world as well as fitting into an existing community that will or will not accept it.
    I like the idea that's been introduced of the authority of art. It's not just that art authorities confer the label art onto works of art, it's that the art itself seems to confer some kind of authority on itself. I think this is related to the idea of commitment that we've discussed in previous threads. A lot of the best art feels committed to, by the artist . . . which often gets transferred to viewers or listeners in turn as a commitment to love it. Commitment and voice seem to go hand in hand. Artists give voice to stuff.
     
  65. The fairy dust analogy​



    Here in England there seems to be a craze amongst teenage girls to have car stickers stating 'Powered by Fairy Dust'.
    They usually look like they are powered by McDonald's and cake though.
     
  66. Fred G.,
    "And recognized or not, they will be compelled to write their poetry, paint their paintings, and make their photos even if it goes no further than their own studio walls. Art can be a very solitary thing, for some. It can create its own world as well as fitting into an existing community that will or will not accept it."
    Yes. I think that perfectly defines the minimum authority by which an arti-fact becomes art. Self declaration. A tiny stamp of authority. From there, authority builds. You get an agent. They make a sale. You get a show. Or, you get published, and so on. Interestingly, and almost too obvious to be worth noting, the art itself doesn't change. it only accumulates more authority.
    I am certain everyone possesses a million dollar photograph in their library of images - - if only. External authority is the bridge from your closet to some fame or another. "She was discovered just sitting there at the lunch counter at Schwab's Drug store."
    Then we have another dimension which is the commercial artist, or commercial photographer. If you get paid for photographs, (or paid for art?), you'd be commercial. If you do it for a vocation, you'd be a professional (regardless of qualifications). The authority there has been simplified to a simple purchase transaction.
    The Sami People have some hundred words for snow. I think we are a bit short in English for words for art. I know Thomas Kincaid is an artist (he wields a brush), therefore his output is art, but surely we need a word for it that doesn't mix it up with a Vermeer, right? Maybe all we have is a language problem?
     
  67. External authority is the bridge from your closet to some fame or another.​
    Sure, but of course fame is a very different matter from art. And, to be clear, I don't think one gets to declare themselves an artist and have it necessarily be true or stick. That an artist can work in isolation from the art community doesn't mean anyone who works in isolation from the community has to be right when declaring themselves an artist. I could declare myself a Siamese cat were I to live alone and be a bit daft. And there would be no one to set me straight, so the fantasy might continue. But that would in no way make me a Siamese cat. (Which doesn't mean I can't be catty sometimes . . . claw . . . claw.)
    That's why I believe strongly that other factors besides authority and conferment go into making art and artists. From Plato forward, ideas such as beauty (not in the sense of pretty), transcendence, the sublime, craft, expression, symbolic form, etc. have been offered and shouldn't be completely ignored, IMO. That's why, IMO, the artist who stays away from the art scene won't have much authority, but his paintings, sculptures, or photos might!
     
  68. That's why I believe strongly that other factors besides authority and conferment go into making art and artists. From Plato forward, ideas such as beauty (not in the sense of pretty), transcendence, the sublime, craft, expression, symbolic form, etc. have been offered and shouldn't be completely ignored, IMO.​
    Sounds plausible Fred. The problem of your argument is however that "authority and conferment" target "beauty (not in the sense of pretty), transcendence, the sublime, craft, expression, symbolic form, etc." even faster than we the possible laymen in arts are able to do.
     
  69. The problem of your argument is however that "authority and conferment" target "beauty (not in the sense of pretty), transcendence, the sublime, craft, expression, symbolic form, etc." even faster than we the possible laymen in arts are able to do.​
    I don't see that as a problem and don't agree with your premise that authorities target those things faster than the rest of us. First off, we may be authorities by virtue of being experts to at least some degree. We may not have public or far-reaching clout, but we can still have a great deal of authority. Secondly, authorities are sometimes if not often wrong. I'm a child of the 60s and 70s and have always kept in mind to "question authority." When it comes to art, I am especially mindful of that, even while being able to respect it as well. As a matter of fact I think we can show our respect to experts and/or authorities precisely by questioning them.
     
  70. I know Thomas Kincaid is an artist (he wields a brush), therefore his output is art, but surely we need a word for it that doesn't mix it up with a Vermeer, right? Maybe all we have is a language problem?"​
    We have the word - it is "KITCH"!
    Here's a story: The family of a deceased relative had a collection of his long career's worth of paintings. They were of a type practiced by hobbyists for centuries and made with sincere dedication to the craft and genre and with the very best museum-quality, materials. They asked the gallery I was associated with to sponsor a show of the person's work. We declined, saying we didn't feel it fit in with our mission. Mostly we thought the work wasn't THAT good. A few years later a prestigious university museum put up the show with a lot of expert curatorial support. The work was clearly hobby-level by any measure. One can view this type of a show at most museums. They are a local or regional artist that "studied-with " some famous artist or someone who's career was overshadowed by fate.
    Art museums and art galleries have different missions . Museums offer a look at representative types of work for educational purposes. Although most public museums have a disturbing similarity in what they collect, it is not because they conspire to make an artist famous or increase the value of their collection. They reflect their times, politics, and public taste just like every other institution. The best museums have top scholars and knowledgeable people advising them.
     
  71. A while back (above), Fred wrote: "I don't think one gets to declare themselves an artist and have it necessarily be true or stick. That an artist can work in isolation from the art community doesn't mean anyone who works in isolation from the community has to be right when declaring themselves an artist. I could declare myself a Siamese cat were I to live alone and be a bit daft."
    I disagree with that, completely. Again. First, the artist/cat claim/analogy is false. The one is internal; the other a physical manifestation.
    To me, the claim of being an artist is a claim of internal desire not unlike claims of love. One does not have to perform to some external standard to "prove" that one has such feelings (or preferences). Being an incompetent lover or suppressing all outward expression of love does not mean that one "is not" a lover. If someone admits or confesses or claims to feel love, I don't think I'm entitled to say that that person does not have, or should not claim to have such feelings until they make some physical demonstration of their ability that meets some standards by which they can then be permitted to call themselves "a lover."
    I will agree that there are liars, and I agree that I can withhold agreement to the claim of artist-ness, but I don't agree that I have the right to positively deny a sincere claim just because I am not offered "enough" proof.
    Bad art is still art; bad artists are still artists.
     
  72. Bad art is still art; bad artists are still artists.​
    Absolutely. I think it's important that not all art is good. But I think it's also important that not all stuff claimed to be art is art. I think people can, in fact, be mistaken about love. Often it's infatuation, even obsession, masquerading as love. And I don't think art is just a feeling. I think art demands manifestation, not proof.
     
  73. [Addition] I'm not even so sure art is so different than love in terms of manifestation. How do we know what love is other than by observing what love is? You don't magically get some kind of feeling and, as a matter of coincidence with the rest of the world, call it love. You learn what love is. Sometimes, you think it's love and it turns out to be indigestion, which is sometimes a heart attack.
     
  74. m stephens - " External authority is the bridge from your closet to some fame or another. "She was discovered just sitting there at the lunch counter at Schwab's Drug store."
    Ms. Turner still had to act when the time came, and had she not been able to do so, she would have never approached the status of fame. It's not just external authority, or fairy dust as we keep hearing on this thread. The work matters.
    _______________________________________________
    Museums make their money via charging admission, and I would put forth the idea that only a tiny minority of their paying audience is there for education. I believe the majority are there for art-entainment. Galleriespay the bills by selling work. The artentainment and/or (self) education are free. These are very different things. Museums worry about the market during acquisitions or decommissions. Galleries confront the market on a sale-by-sale basis.
    _______________________________________________
     
  75. "I suspect Allen Herbert understood Joyce and Shakespeare with no footnotes and no explanations, gets what Impressionism and Expressionism are about with no study of art history. He's the exception that proves the rule for everyone else in the world who's not Allen Herbert."
     
    You are right,Fred. I used to find the works of Shakespeare and Joyce very boring and really could not wait for the lesson to be ended. However, later in life I read these works on my own without the need for footnotes, explanations, or, having my hand held. I partly worked it out all on my own and then read what others had to say.I can't remember ever saying that the study of art or art history was not helpful...please refrain from such silly school boy comments.
     
    " He's the exception that proves the rule for everyone else in the world who's not Allen Herbert"
     
    Yes, I'm very wicked,Fred.
     
    'Some of us want to explore deeper than the surface visual. Leave us be."
    Me,to,Fred. It would be nice if you let me be.
     
  76. "You might want to look at my Main Street series" John A.
    I have, and there's no rule on this forum that you cannot use your photos to illustrate your thoughts. Indeed they can be very helpful in clarifying your ideas for others.
    To be honest I find your "main street series" to be more of a project/documentry with the photographs just as an illustration. However, I did find the project, imaginative ,and very much of the wall..
    So, in that sense I will follow your work as it is very different.
     
  77. When it comes to art, I am especially mindful of that, even while being able to respect it as well. As a matter of fact I think we can show our respect to experts and/or authorities precisely by questioning them.​
    I agree. That is exactly also what professional experts do among each other so intensively to render their work extremely difficult especially if we are referring to experts on contemporary art.
     
  78. Art isn’t until produced. An artist isn’t defined by whether their product, art, is done well or badly. Art is an activity. We can all do it. Art is not defined by value judgments that we attach to art, though many kinds of judgments help differentiate art from all the other products of human activity. For bad art: writer Natalie Goldberg has said her writing suffered when she didn’t also paint regularly. Good writer, or bad, by external measures (sales to name one) her writing is better than her painting. Her writing is better for the fact that she badly painted, making her painting good by some vague standard rooted in a creative process that makes us capable of living something other than, as do ‘mere’ animals, a strictly biological life. Ideally a museum is where we would see the best examples art as an activity has to offer. To claim to be an artist is from my point of view a claim of one’s own humanity, redundant. To claim one’s art belongs in a museum, well, that is an extraordinary claim for an artist, a human, to make. To say something doesn’t belong in a museum is commonplace, not extraordinary at all. Someone decides, someone has to assess the merit of either claim. Interesting to get insights here into that process.
     
  79. Fred said:
    Steve, it's hard to read tone of voice on the Internet. It seems like you're being purposely tongue-in-cheek with your extended fairy dust metaphor, perhaps by way of knocking the idea that art is to a great extent determined by institutions and those associated with the art world. Please let me know if that is or isn't the case. I actually take this quite seriously, as I think both Luis and Alan do.​
    Fred, I actually was for me creating a metaphor for the "hypothetical construct" we seem to dance around called art. I was dead serious and not making fun of anybody or anything. The metaphor is of the power of creativity, the energy of life (hence,the flower growing in the forest where the fairy dust falls), and even the shared component of such a force through exposure to people with common interest in this creativity. I think it is quite true that art starts with the individual creatively expressing him or her self. But art that is recognized by the larger community needs exposure to those people who are involved in the art community, who track it, write books about it, revel in it, buy it and sell it, and who really enjoy it, etc. The power of the "fairy dust" can only grow in its exposure to those forces that value it and give it power.
     
  80. Steve Murray - " But art that is recognized by the larger community needs exposure to those people who are involved in the art community, who track it, write books about it, revel in it, buy it and sell it, and who really enjoy it, etc. The power of the "fairy dust" can only grow in its exposure to those forces that value it and give it power."
    Who brings it to the 'larger' community? The art community. Still, you seem to place a lot of emphasis on the community and very little on the work, without which, fairy dust is no more valuable than that in your vacuum cleaner bag. Do not forget that the art itself confers a lot more than simple enjoyment to those who come in contact with it.
     
  81. I think it is quite true that art starts with the individual creatively expressing him or her self. But art that is recognized by the larger community needs exposure to those people who are involved in the art community, who track it, write books about it, revel in it, buy it and sell it, and who really enjoy it, etc.​
    I totally agree with Steve on this formulation. I would however add that the art community is a community of controversy and disagreements. This is what makes it worthwhile following what happens in that worldwide community.
    All these considerations should not make the individual's experiences with creativity of artists less important. I would never see the experience and feelings of any individual, including my own, as of less value. The fact is however that whatever happens when an individual contemplating a photography, a painting or a sculpture, it is not at that moment, and by that interaction, that "art" is defined. More is needed, and Steve describes well the additional process.
     
  82. The comment of Anders and Steve's statement resonate with me. I hope to re-open my seasonal gallery this summer, if I can get third party insurance (problem of an old and difficultly insurable property) and interest some of the better artists I've had in continuing to exhibit with their newer work. The gallery experience is quite interesting, including the observation of whom among many visitors responds to the art, and why. The specificity of the response is of course related to the types of work (abstract, figurative, painting, sculpture or photography) and their content, but it is no doubt related to the prior education and experience of the viewer, some of which comes out in discussion, when the latter occurs.
     
  83. Either we're talking about the business of art or we're talking about art. There are surely overlaps and influences but there are, to me, many more differences. In that sense, we're talking past each other here by conflating the two. When I think of art, I think of what I do, how I act, how what I make influences how I live and how I live influences what I make, how what I make brings me into relationships with those I shoot and those who view my work. How it opens a door to my own being. I think about galleries, museums, sales, and other commercial stuff as a very related but very different matter. YMMV.
     
  84. Either we're talking about the business of art or we're talking about art.​
    There are surely many more talks around art than those two Fred proposes (if they are meaningful as alternatives??). I could rephrase it as: Either we talk about my relation to art or we talk about what art critics and art experts have to say on the subject. I would however rather say that we should always remember to talk about the two. They are both enlightening to our understanding about art, as they are to our artistic works and creativity.
     
  85. Anders, here's what motivated my last post. It is by no means directed to you, but to many of these discussions as a whole . . .
    What I notice in many of these threads is a disagreeableness to art. If it can't be defined and if I can't be sure what art is or is not and I can't be sure if this thing is art or that thing is art, I will drop out and move to the commercial side of it, where it is defined and determined for me by someone else, where someone else carries and sprinkles the fairy dust. What I'd like is to see us all have the guts to be fairies ourselves.
    Create art if you like. Start by living it. It's not just one activity out of many. It pervades. It seeps.
    It won't answer our questions and that doesn't mean we have to pawn those questions off on the gallery owners and people with money who buy art, often not having a clue what they're looking at.
    I bet we can't define love any more succinctly or absolutely than we can define art and I hope that doesn't prevent any of us from loving or experiencing the love of others genuinely, without asking someone else to authorize our love or sprinkle dust so we know what we're looking at.
    Art is broad. It does transverse the commercial and the spiritual. In that I agree with Anders. It remains a puzzlement and a challenge, which doesn't mean it's nothing or everything or purely a personal matter. And it surely doesn't mean we have to ruin it by completely deferring to authority and forgetting that it has manifested not (only) in the behavior or look of the artist (who, like a cat, has a variety of traits), but in the work of art itself. No, art is not just a feeling and it's certainly not just a feeling inside. It is made. It is created for anyone to see and share.
     
  86. Fred, I hope you don't interpret my attempts at understanding art as negative. I really believe it starts with creative energy, uniqueness, life force (fairy dust, juju, power, glow, whatever). I am a creative person and I really love my creating my own art, and I greatly enjoy other people's art.
    My understanding so far has lead me to believe that what makes some art more valued in the eyes of the larger human community is the value (fairy dust, juju, power, glow, whatever) that it further accretes from exposure and acceptance of the larger human community. What makes one work of art gain this acceptance over another is a more complex question altogether and I think has to do with shared beliefs, sensitivities, awareness, emotions, and a whole lot of factors. Its all amazing and wonderful in my mind. Its one of the things that makes us human.
     
  87. Beer is the key to art.

    I wrote a bit about this on my photo humor blog TravelThroughPictures.com. Since there was so much seriousness, albeit really good stuff, I feel I must comment from the bent part of our Internet. IMHO, art can only be created with courage, freedom of thought, and....by its enabler, beer. Yes, beer. From my blog: "Beer gives you the courage. Beer puts you in that creative mind."

    For my blog post about the beer requirement, click here: http://travelthroughpictures.com/photo-items/beer-camera-manual-making-art-courage/



    Bruce......(burp.)
     
  88. Bruce, there is some truth in that. We don't talk much about beer or wine and the artistic approach, but perhaps the capacity of alcohol (in moderate quantities) to loosen up some of our mental inhbitions, may help us in our artistic approach.
    Fred, my comment on galleries was in the sense of the perception of art by the viewer, who I feel is an important link in the chain of photography and art. The creative process of the photographer is the other part. I think that a communication between the viewer and the artist is important. It doesn't create art as such, but it gives some human feedback on the effect of his art to the artist. The commercial aspect is another game, one which I personally, as a photographer, put little emphasis on (I accept, humbly, that my ability to become rich in doing something I love to do is not essential. To each his own, in that regard).
    In understanding and provoking one's instincts in creating art, I think that one exercise is worthwhile. I was going through my black and white negatives tonight, some I hadn't printed, others I hadn't seen for some time. I was glad to renew with what I had attempted before and the more I looked at the negatives the more I saw a current running through many of them. I saw what I had done badly (not technically, but in terms of concept and perception), others that have renewed interest and that I intend to print in coming weeks. Are these definitions of art, at least for me? I think so, and I would recommend a similar review by other photographers of their former work and how it relates to their present artistic approach or just what is important to them.
     
  89. Arthur, just to be clear, I wasn't responding to your particular post about the gallery experience. As I said in my post, it wasn't specifically meant to respond to any one person but to the tone of this and other threads in general. That communication you talk about is very important to some, including me. To others, I don't think it matters. I think many artists express themselves and whoever responds responds and if no one does, that's OK with them too. They do it either because they want to or have to. The communication of lack of communication will sometimes be out of their hands, and even take place out of their own century.
     
  90. "I saw ploughers very busy, a sand cart, a shepherd, roadmenders, dung carts. Horses and men seemed no larger than fleas. In a little inn on the road I drew an old woman at the spinning-wheel, a dark little silhouette as from a fairy tale.
    "And then twilight fell! Imagine a broad muddy road, all black mud, with an infinite heath to the right, and an endless heath to the left, and a few black triangular silhouettes of turf huts, through the little windows of which shines the red light of the little fires; imagine this puddle in the evening twilight, with a white sky over it, everywhere the contrast of black and white, and in the puddle a rough figure, the shepherd; a heap of oval masses, half wool, half mud, that jostle each other -- the flock. You see them coming, you find yourself in the middle of them, you turn round and follow them. Slowly and reluctantly they trudge along the muddy road. However, there looms in the distance the farm.
    "The sheepfold is also like the silhouette of a triangle -- dark. The door is wide open, like the entrance to a dark cave. Through the chinks of the boards at the back gleams the light of the sky. The whole caravan disappears in this cave; the shepherd and a woman with a lantern shut the doors behind them.
    "That coming home of the flock in the twilight was the finale of the symphony I heard yesterday. The day passed like a dream; I had been so absorbed in that pathetic music that I had literally forgotten even food and drink; I had taken a piece of brown bread and a cup of coffee in the little inn where I drew the spinning wheel. From dawn till twilight, or rather from one night till the other, I had forgotten myself in that symphony.
    "I came home, and sitting near the fire I felt I was hungry -- yes, very hungry. But now you see how it is here. What does one bring home from such a day? Only a number of scratches. Yet there is another thing one brings home -- an ardour for work."​
    An ardour for work. Ardour. Period. Full stop.
    [The quote is from Dear Theo]
     
  91. Period. Full stop.​
    Never. "Period Full stop" is death. It has nothing to do with art. Or the art of discussion.
    We've talked about authority. Now we glimpse authoritarianism.
     
  92. Fred G.,
    "Either we're talking about the business of art or we're talking about art."
    It's hard not to mix the two. We are, after all, raised to be cogs of commerce. My friend called yesterday to complain of his troubles in the studio. "I just don't know if I am making anything useful up there - it's so frustrating. I'm really down on my ability right now." Of course, in the end it turned out his concern was whether or not his work had any commercial value to anyone. He had sabotaged himself unwittingly by mixing those two elements. He really knows better than that, but even at his age (more than mine!) the conflict between commerce and art was still worming it's way through his soul.
     
  93. And I know a photographer/artist who has never worried about sales in his life. Anecdotal evidence is rarely that persuasive. As a matter of fact, I have plenty of artist friends who disdain the art marketplace and really don't give the commercial side any thought at all. They do what they do. They make money other ways.
     
  94. That's fabulous Fred. I have noticed though that in most discussions (many?) about art, something of the commerce of art is inevitably attached almost as though art doesn't exist without commercial value.
    But it is at it's best - I agree - when that can be ignored.
     
  95. I have noticed though that in most discussions (many?) about art, something of the commerce of art is inevitably attached almost as though art doesn't exist without commercial value.​
    I agree, m, and as I said above I think some of that can be attributed to a discomfort with there being no universal answer to what is art and to what is good art. More answers are provided by the marketplace so it becomes a comfort zone for discussion. I also think we can draw a distinction between some art institutions and others. IMO, some institutions (and I consider art history and even art criticism a part of the institution of art) are more commercial and more a matter of the marketplace than others. (I think the way Arthur talked about his gallery experience was less from a commercial standpoint and more from an art observer and observer of viewer dynamics.)
    I'm also not sure the marketplace has to be ignored. I think the artist who is authentic can keep it in mind and not deny it while still staying true to his own creativity. He can achieve some sort of relationship to it that acknowledges it, even uses it, may sometimes play to it in order to be heard, but all while perhaps simultaneously flouting and rebelling against it. Commercial communities in all walks of life have been mocked by many who have made money from them. That can sometimes be hypocrisy and other times it is rather savvy, sometimes both.
     
  96. Fred G.,
    "Commercial communities in all walks of life have been mocked by many who have made money from them."
    Now that was spit-my-coffee-out-my-nose funny. Very true. It's especially easy to mock them after one HAS the money!
     
  97. Arthur said:
    Fred, my comment on galleries was in the sense of the perception of art by the viewer, who I feel is an important link in the chain of photography and art. The creative process of the photographer is the other part. I think that a communication between the viewer and the artist is important. It doesn't create art as such, but it gives some human feedback on the effect of his art to the artist.​
    Yah, this is pretty much what I've been getting at all along. Too bad my fairy dust metaphor fell flat! Lots of people create art, most without concern about making money. Once there is a "viewing audience" a person's art is now communicating with an audience, and value and momentum is created. Of course, once value is created, the desire to collect and sell will soon follow.
     
  98. Fred said, "Now we glimpse authoritarianism."
    Yup. Exactly. You want to be an artist, you'll submit to its demands.
    If you want to be an artist but don't want to submit, you can always be an imitation artist; a poseur.
     
  99. I don't mind submitting to art's demands at all. It's your demands I'm less interested in, including the hand-me-down demands of those you read.
     
  100. Tonight 60 minutes did a segment on the commerce of high end art:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57407319/even-in-tough-times-contemporary-art-sells/?tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel
    Lots of expensive pixie/fairy dust attached to that art!!!!
     
  101. Julie said:
    Geez, Louise, Steve. You've got it exactly backward. The fairy dust analogy could just as well apply to people who collect Swingline staplers (yes, they do ...).​
    I don't think backward. People who collect staplers are not the same audience who collect art (maybe a few in both camps). Its all about audience and the dialog between the art and the larger audience for art (not staplers, or old corvettes, or coins, etc., etc., etc.
     
  102. "Dialogue." Sure, that must be what Vincent experiencing all day in the quote I gave, above.
    If love at first sight is "dialog"; if getting hit in the head from behind by a baseball is "dialog"; if getting shot by a drive-by shooter is "dialog"; if watching the birth of your child is "dialog"; if encountering great art is "dialog"; then, sure, it's "all about audience and the dialog."
     
  103. If love at first sight is mediated through another's expressions of love, if the baseball first ricochets off someone else's head, if the drive-by shooter actually hits your friend and it's really referred pain that hurts you, if the child that's supposedly yours turns out not to have your own DNA, what is that? We all have our crosses to bear.
     
  104. Tonight 60 minutes did a segment on the commerce of high end art:...Lots of expensive pixie/fairy dust attached to that art!!!!​
    Yes you are right Steve. The art market can be compared to the financial market with its excesses, speculators, black markets, fraud and unbelievable profits. Values of art on that market increased by more than eight times between 2003 and 2008. Bubbles have bursted something like every ten years in that market during the last forty years period - but in each case, like presently prices increases to catch to previous levels within a few years in most fields.
    So why refer to the market at all in a discussion on art (and photography) ? My main reason for referring to the market and what happens around it, is that the alternative (the ultra narcissist view of art - "if I believe it is art, it is art and noone can tell me it is not" - is even less attractive, in my eyes.
    If we did not have the "market" we would have to invent somewhere else for the "others", the viewers, (general public, general specialized public, experts etc) to express their unvested appreciation of a pretended work art. If these "others" are people with experience and knowledge in the field, people with the capacity to appreciated creativity in all its known or new forms, some of whom are even maybe educated in the field, they can play a central role in guiding towards discovering the sublime not only for the individual, but sublime in "our time", in human and historical terms - with en ever repeated right to be dead wrong.
    These are the authoritative appreciation on what is art and what is not, at a given time in a given place and ever contradicted by other authoritative judgements. Many of these authoritative voices on art are related to the "market", to galeries, fairs, auction houses, and their voices should always be listened to with scepticism. Others are independent critics working and publishing in periodicals like the Art Form or Frieze and should be read with a critical eye. Yet others are researchers in the field providing scientific, historical, philosophical analyses of art movements and individual artist and should mostly be read in attention.
    However all together out of all these often divergent voices comes, some times, an often vague understanding of what is art; what is not so much art or maybe not art at all. Mostly is will be the latter.
     
  105. In this forum it needs to be said that Art Basel and its rivals are to the art world as the Octomom is to childbirth.
    People here give every indication of pushing the extremes of the art world, the spectacular, grandiose and ridiculous to further their agenda, in adoration or disdain for the art world. Anyone with a smattering of knowledge is well aware of how 99.9% of the art world really works, and it is nothing like that. Not a peep about this here, save for a few comments from Arthur.
    The 'market' does a lot more than traffic in artworks: It is where the majority of those interested in art get to see work in person. If it wasn't for museums and galleries, it would be happening as it did during the height of the Soviet era: People putting up tiny shows in cramped apartments.
    This is not to say I have anything against Art Basel. I've attended the Miami one several times and gotten to see a lot of (mostly lesser) works, a few extraordinary ones, by very famous artists. I am also grateful to AB and other fairs for kindly demanding their exhibitors maintain a physical gallery. If it wasn't for this proviso, about 5-15% of the better galleries in major American cities would vanish in an instant. I have personally been told this by two of the largest gallery owners where I live. Both go to several art fairs, including AB Miami, and have said they would close immediately if the requirement was lifted.
     
  106. Anders, why is the alternative to the market the view that whatever anyone believes is art is art. I agree with you that the latter is a very unattractive, although a way-too-often-expressed, view.
    How about we have a discussion among ourselves and don't worry about other authorities for the moment. When someone calls Elvis on black velvet art, we simply respond by saying it's not. And we can talk about it. We can discuss the difference between art and kitsch. We can talk about its lack of authenticity and its base move toward cheap imitation. We can talk about the lack of quality or craft and the way it uses a popular icon in a mass-produced and almost mindless fashion. There are many other things we can talk about.
    If someone insists on calling the black velvet Elvis art, we can say that person is wrong, as wrong as the person who says 2+2=5. We don't have to question his liking of the black velvet Elvis. We accept that, with misgivings, of course. But we don't accept an assertion that it's art any more than we accept the assertion that a tulip is a homo sapien. If he claims that what he believes is art is art, we tell him he's wrong. If he's insistent, well, we do what we would do with anyone who's out of touch with language. We either try to convince him further or we drop it. But we don't give up a meaningful use of language and the significant place of art in our lives because there's a popular assertion going around, especially on the pages of PN, that art is subjective and art is whatever you think is art.
    Taste plays its role in art. But it doesn't determine art.
     
  107. I would love to have that discussion with you Fred and I have a feeling that we would agree on most subjects in the field although it does not often come out like that in our writings here around !
    Luis, you can surely continue the list of fairs, Art Basel just being the biggest and most important when it comes to contemporary art, the role Maastricht fair play in ancient art. I was thinking of going to the Miami fair, but if "mostly lesser works" are shown, I will keep away. I just came back from this year's "Art Paris/Art Fair" and was personally very impressed by the quality of works shown.
    How these numerous art fairs work (each bigger city seems to have their own!) and the role the play on the market, I think has been told in so many books and articles and gallery owners love to tell the story. The fact is that they exist and grow ever bigger and more influenceable. What is shown there influences not only prices on the market, but also, to the better and the worse, they mark and influence new generations of artists, whether we like it or not.
     
  108. I would love to have that discussion with you Fred and I have a feeling that we would agree on most subjects in the field although it does not often come out like that in our writings here around !​
    I will start another thread about it later and hope that you and others will offer your thoughts on the subject. Thanks. And, if it turns out we disagree, that's OK, too. We will learn from any of it.
     
  109. Julie said:
    "Dialogue." Sure, that must be what Vincent experiencing all day in the quote I gave, above.
    If love at first sight is "dialog"; if getting hit in the head from behind by a baseball is "dialog"; if getting shot by a drive-by shooter is "dialog"; if watching the birth of your child is "dialog"; if encountering great art is "dialog"; then, sure, it's "all about audience and the dialog."​
    Dear Julie, I am considered by most of my friends and co-workers a very creative person. I have created computer programs, written original material for patients I work with, I am a musician, I use my creative abilities daily in my work with patients in group and individual work. I also consider my photography my art as well. I don't believe one has to be in a trance or reverie like Vincent to create art or be creative. For me, creativity is spontaneous, it flows without effort. When I look at art I get a certain feel about it and it moves me one way or another, sometimes emotionally. Maybe "dialog" is too small a word to use here. Lets use "flow of energy" or something like that to describe the relationship between art and viewer. BTW I have been hit by baseballs, experienced love at first sight, watched the birth of both my children (no drive by shooting thank goodness).
     
  110. Hmm, most Artists are following their own vision and do not care a monkeys about what others may or not think.
    If they thought otherwise they would join the commercial world and produce the usual banal crap.
    In the commercial world its about who you know...it is as simple as that.
     
  111. Lets be honest you could paint a lettuce leaf silver and with the backing of the Arty world it becomes a masterpiece.
    They would write a thousand words about it... and more...and on and on until you belief.
     
  112. Allen, can you give two examples where this so-called Arty world has backed the equivalent of a silver-painted lettuce leaf? Better to talk in specifics than hypotheticals, no?
    Be sure to include which specific people in the Arty world backed the pieces you're referring to, how they influenced the rest of the Arty world (or maybe all of the Arty world backed these things at once) and which specific pieces they are.
    Thanks.
     
  113. How about a can of soup,Fred;)
     
  114. A reasonable example Allen, and an enjoyable if "mildly" satirical presentation of the specifics of its acceptance and by whom (MOMA, etc.).
     
  115. Thanks, Allen, glad to know where you're coming from. Puts your ideas very much in context.
     
  116. I want to thank Allen as well. The way he thinks is a lot clearer now.
     
  117. I'm pleased that you folks see where i'm coming from gives clarity to our chats.
     
  118. Make images ... from the heart ... keep it fun ... and interesting .... capture emotion ... create images people long to revisit.
     
  119. Since I first came to the realization I could never draw or paint my way out of a wet paper bag I have always looked at my camera as my paint brush, be it the old Kodak Instamatic I kept in my fishing tackle box as a kid trying to get vast landscapes of the eastern Sierra and having no clue as to who Ansel Adams was at the time or my current cameras both digital and film.
    I like to think each and every picture I take is a potential piece of art. Others may not see it but in my mind I do and I think that is what is important.
     
  120. I have taught photography and art for close to 12 years now.
    In that time I have come to realize there is nothing wrong with photographing for the simple joy of the activity. Often I find the resulting images from such an approach as informative and pleasing to ME the MAKER. Often though this type of work is just that. It has an appeal to me because I am the one who has had an insight into the scene/object and much like a vacation photograph the image is a "trigger" to that emotion or insight that I had. In essence the photograph is a document that triggers a response in me because I was the one who had the experience of making the image. But just like a vacation photograph when shown to other people they have a lack luster interest in the image because nothing in the image "triggers" any of the same emotions or insights that I felt or had when taking the image. Conversely if I am an artist who uses photography as a means of "communication" I am most certainly NOT photographing for the pure pleasure of the activity. I am consciously trying to craft a statement with a visual image. Is there anything wrong with either NO. Both are useful and beneficial, one to the individual and one to the culture. To expand also on another topic within the OP I think the general public's definition of art does not sync up with the art world's definition of art. The general public often deems art that is beautiful and technically proficient as "Good" art. Statements like "I wish I could draw that well" and "oh those colors are pretty" etc... quantify this. While the art world is primarily concerned with the artist's intent and voice. This is why we have Andy Warhol and Campbell soup cans as art. Its not because the "image" is necessarily beautiful its the CONCEPT behind the work that is seen as beautiful. The art world moved well beyond the common notions of technically perfect and aesthetically beautiful IMAGES a long time ago. And it will continue to evolve from there. Why? Because culture continues to evolve. The definition of art changes from era to era, and a study of art history (hint hint) would allow anyone to see that. Campbell's soup cans can be drawn by a ten year old, what makes them art is the voice behind why there are so many of them represented. What I mean by this is Warhol was making a STATEMENT about popular culture and our MASS PRODUCED society. The beauty is in the concept and not in the particular beauty or construction of a soup can. How does this pertain to photography today, most anyone with a decent camera today can take technically "good" images. So just crafting a technically "good" image is seen by many in the art world as insufficient. If you want to add to the cultural dialog with your images "have something to say". This type of work is work that is collected by Museums and Galleries. Now does everyone need or want to make that type of work? No. If you are content to make images that the general public is pleased with and are satisfied with that then by all means let people appreciate them. There will always be differences in opinion about what is good and what is bad, why? because everyone is different and we pull from our own set of experiences and worldviews in forming those ideas.
     
  121. Like the first responder, John A, Blake has given a good analysis of the role of photography, whether inside or outside the sector of art. Very often attempts at either art or non-art photography are criticised (perhaps "questioned" is a better term) because they represent previously seen themes or approaches that are somewhat cliché. The entry of concept into art (which really isn't new to art, but is of more importance today) also has its limitations, primarily because there are only so many concepts ("mass production", "alienation", etc.) that seem to preoccupy the photographer/artist and viewer. Of course, aesthetics and composition also have some limits. In any case, art is by its nature not something that can, or should, be constrained to a singular approach, concept or expression.
    Communication is the bridge that unites for me non-art photography and art photography. As someone who has spent many hours designing things that are or might be useful for some part of society, the communication with others (the eventual user) has often been subdued compared to the personal preoccupation with the design or the prototype itself. Rarely does the activity communicate directly with the user. Therefore, I find photography to be an excellent form for both personal creativity (or not, depending upon the objective) and at the same time, communication. This can be very direct communication, as with family and friends, or more downstream, timewise, as the product of our lens and mind is then diffused to others.
    It is interesting in this sense that one often sees comments on photographs that appear many years after the photo.netter has posted the image in his or her PN portfolio. The interaction then involves communication, and I give credit to the PN adminstration in adding the small images of posters at the bottom of each forum page. If they catch our attention, that sometimes is a first step in communication of something more.
    So, photography and art, yes both are important in their different personal expressions, and personal communication to another, attached to the pleasure of some form of creation, is what links them together.
     
  122. I think in many cases, art is in the eyes of the beholder. We all have different opinions on what does and does not constitute art. Something I may see as art another may see quite differently.
     
  123. Impact is thee arbiter of triumph. Technical fundamentals and equipment play a part, certainly, and manipulating them to achieve a desired result is creative. But they are, after all, a means to an end. And occasionally fortuitous accidents produce unexpected pleasant surprises. In any event, the viewer responds to what they see, not how it got there. Photographer Yun-Fei Tou who produced MEMENTO MORI said, "I believe something should not be told but should be felt." Emotion!
    Elements found to be in normal relationships typically evoke straightforward reactions while those presented in a surreal, abstract, unnatural manner can be intriguing. Either way it’s my gut, not my head that delivers honest decisions. Occasionally I’m not sure how to react to an image. I suspect I should be impressed but instead I’m bemused. Rather than dismiss it out of hand, bewilderment follows as I find myself just not getting it. The more I have to think about whether I’m impressed, the less likely that I am. I freely admit I’m not sophisticated enough to appreciate everything I see, that a piece of art may be trying to communicate something I do not understand. My loss.
     

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