Photography is not art

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by charles_wood, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. Any one- or two-sentence definition of art, especially one from Wikipedia, should probably be approached with caution. While such definitions may seem declaratively simple and, therefore, attractive, they are far more likely to be simplistic and therefore worthy of the trash can ... or stool, as the case may be. ;)

    Since the first Wikipedia def leaves out ancient pottery, much or some of which was not intended “to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power,” it fails, IMO. Since the second definition is tautological/redundant, since it defines an art object as an “artistic creation,” I’d demote its author from fourth to third grade. ;)

    I think of definitions of art as a series of multi-layered Venn Diagrams where some of the circles are left unfinished, an open-ended dialogue with a multiplicity of clear and obscure overlapping ideas both vying with each other and clinging to each other, transmogrifying over time, and all that mumbo jumbo of words I just wrote being written on a child’s magic erasing slate, to be shook up at will.

    It’s not that art defies definition. It’s that it defies any one definition.

    It’s not that the “intention to ...” isn’t relevant and insightful. It’s that it’s not sufficient or necessary.
  2. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    Congratulations! You win the Talcott Parsons Bloviation Prize for Density in a Single Sentence! :rolleyes:

    The trouble with many disciplines is that the cadre insists on explaining things with only one or two theoretical lenses. We always seek the simpler answer or solution--we love our abductive heuristics--and use the razor to shave things a bit too thin. Art, like physics, seems to be a matter of where you are when observing the phenomena...

    Don't try to trick us with that tautological/redundant argument, as we know that the Wiki statement is either true or it's not. You may not agree, but I see the act of creation as different from the product of creation. We could talk to Schopenhauer about that, but Wittgenstein would accuse us of being obtuse, and you Kant transcend idealism by refusing to quantify the object.

    I seem to have lost my mind in conjuring fallacies fellating logical lollipops. Going now to look for it, I will return when I find it. BTW, watch out for that abyss over there...
  3. Yes, craft is necessary to express brilliant ideas coupled with a brilliant sensibility, although I don't consider craft paramount. I consider Edward Steichen a a great example of craft and sensibility. But there's also Miroslav Tichy, whose crude anti-craft approach became a kind of craft in itself, Both are brilliant artists. And I do consider photography an art-- when it's practiced by an artist. As I've said earlier, real artists are few and far between. You don't see many "artists" like Botticelli. That's why one of his portraits is selling for an estimated $80 million at auction next week.
  4. I don't either. But, you said ...
    ... and since you didn't include craft or the ultimate work of art, those are part of the rest which means, according to your statement, they're trivial. That's what I'm disagreeing with. Craft may not be paramount, but neither is it trivial.

    Additionally, I don't think good ideas and brilliant sensibility are what it's all about. As I said, there's nothing it's all about. Too declarative a statement. I am by no means putting down good ideas and brilliant sensibility when they're present, but those are far from being what art is all about.
  5. I prefer unreal artists but, then again, I've always been into the wonder of artifice. :cool:
  6. Amen. "Pedantic Boor-in-Residence" works for me, too.
    PapaTango likes this.
  7. It's not. It's bad because it insists on aesthetics. The Dadaists showed long ago, somewhat nihilistically, that any single definition can and should be obliterated, particularly one that included aesthetics. As a matter of fact, it was downright anti-aesthetic. I'm not, by any means, a "Dadaist." But Dadism tells an important part of the story.
    I do, too. But that doesn't change the fact that the Wiki definition is wanting.
    I'm less concerned with what the cadre says than with what you, who I'm talking to, says. It's you who chose statements that "seek the simpler answer or solution." Simple answers to what is art simply don't work for me.
  8. I do wonder why you left out the punch line of what you quoted. I guess it was convenient to do so and as a bonus it invited the tiresome mean tweet from c watson to boot ... who elicited a kindly towel slap on the butt from you.
    Anyway, I'll leave you boys to the fetiches of your locker room play and continue the discussion with the finer folk here.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
  9. Screen Shot.jpg
    Professional Bull Riding​
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Moderator Note -

    This conversation is getting too ripe:

    Everyone, please get back on track discussing the topic and discussing the commentary, without the personal name-calling at and innuendo directed toward the commentators.

    Not interested in who started it, or why, please, all just stop it.

    Thank you.

    Tony Parsons likes this.
  11. Do they have a filter labeled "Fine Art that Sells"?
  12. I'm not sure that evolving a rigorous definition of ART will enable us to discover whether photography is part of it or not. The galleries I worked with in the past approached the question like this:
    Photography is not art but rather it is a medium in which it is possible, but not guaranteed, to produce art.
    Similarly painting, drawing, etching, silkscreen, and so on, are also mediums (media?) by which art can be produced. But again, no guarantees.
  13. You address the question hanging over this thread: what do we mean with "photography"? Is it indeed the medium, or the result of using that medium, the photographic works, photographs?
    Indeed, similarly painting, dance, drawing, sculpture, etc. All are nouns as well as verbs. So though i understand they want to focus on the important bit, that gallery´s definition falls short.

    We have seen both meanings in this thread, and often the discussion was about the process. And though we have to keep the two apart, there are points to aise about the process and if and how that affects whether the result can be called art or not.
    But i think the question meant the result: photographs, and photography as the collection of photographs.

    But however that may be, the answer to whether photography is art is of course the same as the one given by the gallery: it depends. No guarantee. It is a flawed question, because it focused not on the qualities of the result, but on the particular medium.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2021
  14. david_henderson


    Picking up from the above, its always interesting to see questions for which there is no answer, at least without qualification

    So if instead of

    "Photography is not art"

    you propose that

    "Photography can't be art"


    "Photography is (always) art"

    Then you can have a response that defies reasonable debate.

    But you still of course have the inevitable conflict over whether a particular work is art or not. Much of what I see in commercial art galleries I don't consider remotely artistic. But then I understand that some will disagree, the creator maybe ( notice I didn't use the term "artist") and even more likely the guy that owns the shop. There are people who set themselves up as having the skill to decide this for us all and I consider them pretty bogus. The answer is that I can decide, but only for me. No-one else can decide for me and I can't decide for anyone else, though I may seek to persuade/influence them. "Is it art" is a question that can only be answered in the context of a specific piece of work and a specific viewer, no matter what the medium.
  15. If a particular work can be art, and the work is a photograph, photography can be art. No matter whether it is the only photograph that qualifies or not.
    So yes, the statement opening this thread can be refuted by a single photographic work of art. Stated in the form of a question it could indeed be "Photography can't be art"

    Can this be the subject of a reasonable debate? Why would it not?
    It is not a thing that only a person can and has to decide for him- or herself. As if what i tell you depends entirely on what you think you hear. It does not. You're not alone in a conversation. You do not decide alone what it is you are considering. The maker of the thing is not just an inconsequential, accidental thingy. Nor are other people and their ideas about that same thing you think you alone can decide is or is not what you want it to be.
  16. To reiterate: Photography can be art but that requires an artist and they are few and far between.
  17. Contrary to popular belief, I think beauty is not in the eye of the beholder and art is not so subjective.

    These are shared phenomenon and as much biologically, culturally and community influenced as individually determined.

    Whether one likes what an individual curator chooses to display in an exhibition, that curator is often responsible for setting the terms of the debate. That curator filters what the general public gets to see. What the public does and doesn’t get to see has enormous influence. Whether an individual thinks much of curators may be relevant to that individual, but is also mostly irrelevant to the public awareness and dialogue about art, which then influences each individual whether Individual A realizes it or not. The curator has seen what is not ever going to meet the public eye and what is not going to play a role in the general perceptions about art and what counts as art.

    Most of us have had very little to do or say when it comes to who or what is beautiful, though the structures and functions of the human brain have. Sure, within a narrow range, we all may decide on preferences, but in addition to our brains, Madison Ave. and Hollywood and the history of magazine photos and painted nude studies hold sway over group, and therefore individual, notions of and expectations about beauty. Most individuals never give a thought to how much they’ve been “programmed” by their surroundings, their upbringings, their exposure, their cultural histories, let alone their genetic line.

    In our quest for personal freedom, we forget just how determined so many of these things are for us.

    In the long run, it’s not viewers who have much say in these matters, regardless of what they think or proclaim. It’s those viewers who transform themselves into artists (they all started out as viewers), who may have a bit of influence on what art is and what is beautiful. An artist may cause a turn or a disruption, or even go so far as to change the grammatical and syntactical structure of the conversation, but no artist voices a soliloquy and no artist has the final line of dialogue.

    We can discuss from here until doomsday what things qualify as art and what its definition is and that won’t amount to much more than a miniature hill of beans in the scheme of things. The few decent portfolios here are likely to have much more influence on those questions, small though that influence may be in the overall picture.

    The artist has much more a role to play than the viewer in setting the terms of the conversation. And the photograph, no matter what any viewer or potential buyer thinks is her role, will add more to the ever-elusive “definition” of photography and art than any one of its beholders.
  18. I think that the inability to lock in a definition of art is a good thing. To think that boundaries could corral and define art that would be deterimental and of course meaningless to most artists other than to provide a challenge. To the benefit of all the ever evolving nature & definition of what 'art is' is unavoidable and a necessity for art to keep moving on. Sure for practical purposes define the word art but always continue to question the exclusion of the label. Why can't a photograph or computer generated work be art? Because it can be as easy as point and shoot or mouse click... that would be wrong to persumpitively impose time or ease requirements upon others.
    art is not bound by required amounts of time or effort to create.

    ^ Sam, so much to digest for me. Thanks. I am searching my memory for milestones specifically in regards to the art of photography. Photograph(s)ers, curators, collaborations, cultural events, movements/periods, publications, ... so many influences that created a shift in what is Art now.
  19. What art is, or what qualifies? Definition or standards?

    I think the main shift is in appreciation, quite literally. A shift towards the price something might fetch.
    What art is, however, has remained largely unchanged. Though the word has been discredited.
  20. What art is can be looked at in different ways.

    So, for example, the overall role art plays in society has been more stable (though not static) than what individual works of art look and sound like or are motivated by. The individual work of art is what is art as much as the collective noun.

    In the visual arts, though what art, as art, is may be similar from one century to the next, there’s also a sense in which art is what it looks like, allowing for change as significant as going from the appearance of the Renaissance to the appearance of Cubism. And art that’s the product of the intention to represent is different in so many ways from art that’s the product of the intention to express or provoke or transgress.

    There’s a consistency in art’s adaptability and in its fulfilling a human need or desire. That exists alongside significantly different motivations for and appearances of works of art themselves, especially noticeable in changes of expressive and stylistic trends from historical period to period.

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