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Author Topic: What Is Art?  (Read 6423 times)
RSL
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« on: August 21, 2009, 02:47:30 PM »
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Okay, you can stop laughing and get up off the floor. I’m not really going to try to define “art.” In fact, I’ve almost reached the point where I dislike the word, “art,” because people use it without defining what they mean and have the chutzpa to assume that -- of course -- I know what they mean. Yes, art is in the eye of the beholder, but if you’re talking about gallery-style “fine art” it’s also often in the hope of the buyer for monetary appreciation and in the, well, sometimes, cupidity of the seller.

But I bring up the term, “art,” because, whatever it is, I think it’s something we’re all trying to produce if we post or critique on this forum.

I don’t know how many on the forum are interested in or familiar with the story of the birth of Impressionism, but it’s an interesting story. In the mid nineteenth century there was a place not far from Paris called La Grenouillère (The Frog Pond) where Monet and Renoir used to go to paint what I like to think of as “street paintings.” The Frog Pond was a very relaxed establishment and most of its patrons came there to drink, engage in bawdy exchanges with the girls, and, sometimes engage in activities best not mentioned in a family thread.

But Monet and Renoir came to La Grenouillère to produce art. They’d set up their easels side by side, paint, and critique each others’ work. But the work of Monet is very, very different from the work of Renoir, so the critiquing wasn’t the kind of thing where Renoir would say to Monet, “I think that would be much better if you’d crop out those two boats and maybe darken the sky a bit.” Instead, their critiques dealt with the extent to which the paintings reflected the soul of the scene they were painting. These guys learned from each other and both profited from the learning.

It seems to me that the people who take the trouble to post on this forum don’t come here to drink, engage in bawdy exchanges with the girls, or engage in activities best not mentioned in a family thread. I think we’re all trying to create art – whatever our personal definition of art happens to be.

I’m very sorry that the “What’s the Idea” thread got vandalized. It seemed to me we were getting closer and closer to a reasonable definition of what constitutes valid criticism. I especially liked Mike’s approach: “If the image doesn't appeal to me personally (and nowhere is it written that every image posted here must do that!), and if I have nothing constructive to add, i.e. 'have you considered...' or 'if it was my image...' then I keep my mouth shut and move on.” Keeping your mouth shut and moving on leads, finally, to Jason’s comment: “…sometimes ‘silence’ is the best critique of all, dreaded though it is.” Makes me wonder if I really need absolution and remission for failing to comment on posts I find of no value.

But I still think it’s fair to ask, “Why did you shoot that?” The question shouldn’t be interpreted as an insult.
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2009, 03:07:52 PM »
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Art is NOT an accident.

Art is NOT an afterthought.

You need to try to make art - it doesn't just happen.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2009, 03:15:01 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
...patrons came there to drink, engage in bawdy exchanges with the girls...
...people who take the trouble to post on this forum don’t come here to engage in bawdy exchanges with the girls...

Girls are a separate class somehow?  Where I grew up they were artists and photographers, just like the boys.
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2009, 03:16:48 PM »
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Nicely put, Russ.  I like it.
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jasonrandolph
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2009, 04:19:34 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
But I still think it’s fair to ask, “Why did you shoot that?” The question shouldn’t be interpreted as an insult.

Not only is it not an insult, but it cuts through all the fluff and gets right to the heart of what's important to the "artist," and whether or not they achieved their desired outcome.  In the end, whether or not others consider a piece to be "art" is irrelevant as long as the artist achieved his/her goal.  If it's a metaphor, great.  And if it's just a recording of a thing of beauty, that's great too.  The artist's intentions determine how successful the final print is, at least IMHO.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2009, 05:06:40 PM »
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Quote from: jasonrandolph
Not only is it not an insult, but it cuts through all the fluff and gets right to the heart of what's important to the "artist," and whether or not they achieved their desired outcome.  In the end, whether or not others consider a piece to be "art" is irrelevant as long as the artist achieved his/her goal.  If it's a metaphor, great.  And if it's just a recording of a thing of beauty, that's great too.  The artist's intentions determine how successful the final print is, at least IMHO.

Half right, half wrong.  Logically, it does not seem that it would be insulting in any case.  But that assumes that people are perfectly logical and emotionless, or at least they lack negative emotions.

Of course, you could minimize the friction by repeating the mantra ad nauseam until everyone is appropriately dulled by the constant repitition.

But you'll have more luck and get better responses if you word it better, couch it better, make sure in advance that your askee understands your intent.  There are a few people on several forums I can think of who would ask that question bluntly of someone they've had friction with, just because they think they can get away with it and look clean in doing so.
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2009, 05:39:20 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Instead, their critiques dealt with the extent to which the paintings reflected the soul of the scene they were painting. These guys learned from each other and both profited from the learning.

I like this line, and I think it galvanizes some thoughts I've had lately about the critiquing process.  I'm trying to move away from "I'd do this or that" type replies, and rather offer interrogatives to challenge the poster to reconsider certain elements in his/her offering.  

That style, I think, accomplishes two things: it comes across as less heavy handed, and it (hopefully) creates an interaction with the OP, which, at its best, might inspire both the poster, myself, and anyone participating to make better photos next time.

John
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ognita
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2009, 05:51:56 PM »
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As a personal experience, when I was starting out, somebody posted a comment on my photo "so what?"
From where I came from, it can considered as offensive. I think "why did you shoot that?" would have been better.
Now, I would not want to assume that he is rude or he felt that he lost a minute of his life just looking at my garbage... so I did answer him as mush as I can.

From that point onwards, I was more careful. And after a few months I got a positive feedback from him. Gold.


We do not know how a person would react to a negative critique. Would he better himself or take it personally. In any case I believe it should be given specially when asked. Sugar coating it would depend on the person whose giving it.
Online, where we cannot see our faces and we are of different cultures, our written words should reflect our best intentions.

In the end, it is the artist own confidence in his works that will stand - it's just that critiques can give him some points that he might have missed.

ReD
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2009, 07:23:30 PM »
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I like the question "Why did you shoot that?" much better then the question "What's the idea?". "Idea" seems (to me) too much of an intellectual, "left-brain" concept, which may be applicable to some photos but not to many others. When judging my own photos, "Why did I take that?" is often a useful (and sometimes humbling question) to ask.

But as for, "What is Art?" I have to say "Art is the nickname of my friend Arthur.    

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RSL
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2009, 08:55:50 PM »
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Quote from: EricM
I like the question "Why did you shoot that?" much better then the question "What's the idea?". "Idea" seems (to me) too much of an intellectual, "left-brain" concept, which may be applicable to some photos but not to many others. When judging my own photos, "Why did I take that?" is often a useful (and sometimes humbling question) to ask.

But as for, "What is Art?" I have to say "Art is the nickname of my friend Arthur.  

Eric, I agree with you. I don't think Brooks Jensen picked the right word in that article. He's a good writer but sometimes he seems to shoot from the hip. Nevertheless I thought what he said was to the point.

I've been thinking about how to phrase the question, "Why did you shoot that?" so that it doesn't sound critical -- which it's not intended to be. "What did you visualize when you shot this picture that you wanted to convey to your viewers?" seems a more polite way to ask the question. Maybe others on the thread will have ideas about how to phrase the question.
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gcs
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2009, 09:02:31 PM »
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Basically in art as on many things and situations, YOU LIKE IT or YOU DON'T.

I love many Picasso paintings, but some I don't, and if I would have had the opportunity to be with him I would have told him so, but by saying this, he would not be offended (I hope), because its his LIKES against my DISLIKES.

In this regard, the photograph should convey the message the artists wants to give, with out having to give a tittle, and if given, it should only reaffirm its message.

Now going to the discussions that have gone back and forth: one thing is to give your opinion, that can be a negative/positive critique of a particular image, and if it stays only on the facts, no harm is made. We artists should be able to cope with this, but if the critique is offensive, goes on a discredit, its made personal or harms in any way, in my case, I just remove the offender from my mind and carry on. I will continue to see/like the image the same way as when I created it. Never the less, some times you also have to do more than that, if a discredit/harm was made.

Gonzalo
 


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John R
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2009, 10:31:06 PM »
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I don't think anyone is against valid criticism, but the fact is, some critiques are way over the top, and oriented towards technical matters and manipulating images. Aesthetics and the Art of seeing is just as important. And not every photo we take or post is going to evoke a comment that is worthy of more than a few words. Take this new person "Ognita", obviously a fine photographer, posting only his best. What are we to say, we like his photos because they are very good and because his work is more than a literal translation of the world. We could talk about his style and so on. Fine up to a point. But he is a very good photographer and he knows it and we know it. Why not just highlight his work. That seems more appropriate to me and we could probably learn a lot more this way. We all strive for this, but we take hundreds, if not thousands, of images and they are just not that profound. Should we post these or not? Of course not. We post only a few and what we wish commented on or displayed. Of these thousands, if we take a great image, can we say we were concious of its representation at the time? Maybe, more likely not. Do we have to defend every image we take? I think critiques should stick to basics, just like in a classroom. Good composition, strong lines and shapes, patterns, symbolism or representation, use of light, balance, etc. It gets pretty tiresome to read that someone does not like a certain crop, as if most images could not be cropped, seven ways to Sunday. It's one of the basic  things you learn in photography class. But if someone suggests a crop, not to "improve" the image as "we" would like it, but to better help the author convey what he wanted, that is good critique.

I really get the feeling that some people don't want to see certain people post their images. I think this is fair only if any one person posts too many, or is deliberately disruptive, but that is something that is self-evident and should be taken up with the moderator if it is a problem. What is ART? Callous as it may sound, I think it is what people are willing to buy or pay to see as art in a public exhibition. Few people can really call themselves artists or live by their art.

JMR
« Last Edit: August 21, 2009, 10:32:25 PM by John R » Logged
Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2009, 10:51:37 PM »
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Quote from: John R
What is ART? Callous as it may sound, I think it is what people are willing to buy or pay to see as art in a public exhibition. Few people can really call themselves artists or live by their art.

I don't think it is callous, just off the mark.  I couldn't disagree more.  Artists don't have to sell their work.  Many of the "greats" past, present and future didn't, don't and won't "live by their art".

Art and commerce certainly intersect, but they are wholly different animals, IMO.
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ognita
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2009, 11:33:47 PM »
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Quote from: John R
<snip> Take this new person "Ognita", obviously a fine photographer, posting only his best. What are we to say, we like his photos because they are very good and because his work is more than a literal translation of the world. We could talk about his style and so on. Fine up to a point. But he is a very good photographer and he knows it and we know it. Why not just highlight his work. <snip>

Hi John R,
Thank you for your kind words  if I may answer your question in regards to "why not just highlight his work"
Yes, I am pretty confident of my works but not to the extent that I'd to go in a new community and do so. Specially in a forum that is composed of respected professional photographers. I offered my images for critique to know what a seasoned eye would see - to learn. Varying opinions and tweaks on details was mentioned (thanks Jeremy)

With much respect,
ReD

Apologies for the short derail.
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bill t.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2009, 01:10:10 AM »
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Art is just a word we put on our desperate yearning to promote the non-utilitarian objects and actions we create to something far greater than mere craft.  To create a definition for art, we would first need to understand why we think there should be such a thing at all.  I have no real theory but it may have something to do with the little lump of gray matter that is large in people with strong spiritual inclinations.

I personally will consider calling something art if it absolutely rivets my attention and takes my breath away the moment I see it.  An Epiphany of perception that goes right to brain's basic wiring, that's what it takes.  All the rest is craft and decoration, which is what I mostly make and what we see a lot of here.
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Ed Blagden
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« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2009, 02:16:23 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
I especially liked Mike’s approach: “If the image doesn't appeal to me personally (and nowhere is it written that every image posted here must do that!), and if I have nothing constructive to add, i.e. 'have you considered...' or 'if it was my image...' then I keep my mouth shut and move on.” Keeping your mouth shut and moving on leads, finally, to Jason’s comment: “…sometimes ‘silence’ is the best critique of all, dreaded though it is.” Makes me wonder if I really need absolution and remission for failing to comment on posts I find of no value.

Russ,

I respect what you say, but I think we must allow room for the highly negative critique provided reasons are given.  When we get comments like "I don't like it" or "This image doesn't work for me" then yes, it is unhelpful, but if you add the word "because", followed by some explanation, to the end of those sentences then we get into a real discussion.  I can only speak for myself, but this is why I post here.  Getting good comments is nice, but the negative ones make me think about what I have done, and I hope guide me to improve as a photographer.

Of course, making a reasoned criticism requires some effort, and the poster has no moral right to demand that effort from others.  However, when someone does take the time to take my image apart and cut it to shreds, then I for one appreciate that.

Ed
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« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2009, 04:20:02 PM »
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Art is like pornography. I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.
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RSL
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« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2009, 11:42:58 AM »
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Quote from: Ed B
Russ,

I respect what you say, but I think we must allow room for the highly negative critique provided reasons are given.  When we get comments like "I don't like it" or "This image doesn't work for me" then yes, it is unhelpful, but if you add the word "because", followed by some explanation, to the end of those sentences then we get into a real discussion.  I can only speak for myself, but this is why I post here.  Getting good comments is nice, but the negative ones make me think about what I have done, and I hope guide me to improve as a photographer.

Of course, making a reasoned criticism requires some effort, and the poster has no moral right to demand that effort from others.  However, when someone does take the time to take my image apart and cut it to shreds, then I for one appreciate that.

Ed

Ed, I agree with everything you said, but I also know that there are some very tender selfs out there who haven't learned that the best criticism is direct and untrammeled criticism. Those selfs want a pat on the head to go along with the kick in the pants.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2009, 07:07:50 PM »
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First, art is not just about technique.  Good art implies good technique, but using good technique alone does not result in making art.  

Technical mastery results in making technically excellent photographs, but not in making art.

To be art a photograph has to be both technically excellent and artistically inspired and inspiring.  

Second, art cannot be documentation.  It has to be the expression of the artist's personality and inspiration.  In other words, the artist has to be "present" in the work by making his/her personality and style visible in the facture (rendering) of the piece.
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« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2009, 10:59:12 AM »
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Well said Alain.

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