IS ART - OH, IS IT?
this article is written by a Structural Draughtsman with no perceivable
aptitude for Art, but with a proven ability to string words together
in a way which implies something entirely different to the reader
than was my intention. No criticism implied by any of the words is
intended of anyone other than myself.
concept of photography as "Art" is a beguiling one, particularly
to someone who cannot paint, draw, or produce any other form of what
is the normal plebeian interpretation of "Art". In these
terms, Art is what is "taught" at the average secondary
school for 30-minutes a week (or it was when I was there) Painting;
Drawing & if you were lucky, Sculpture. In its more general forms
Art can be said to be in anything. In recent times we have had piles
of bricks & ceramic urinals presented to us as art. More seriously,
art of a type is present in such diverse things as a type style, a
building, or the curve of a lacrosse racquet.
the "ART" which I believe we are referring to, is defined
in the dictionary as "creative activity resulting in visual representation".
This is a sufficiently loose form of words to enable any visual representation
to be classed as Art. However, when we consider the words more literally,
they tighten the classification considerably. Photography is a mixture
of mechanical, chemical & creative activity, the latter being
the only part included in the definition. The proportion of creative
activity required to produce a photographic image ranges from zero,
upwards. If we consider a landscape, what comparison is there between
the creative activity required to photograph it & that required
to paint it. Even considering "still-life" (whether you
like that term or not), it requires immeasurably more creative activity
to paint or draw, than to photograph. Does any proportion of creative
activity in the production of an image (say 1%) automatically class
it as "ART", if not, what proportion is required ? Is it
feasible to say that the only creative activity involved in producing
a visual representation is the "seeing"/"composition"
& that the application of paint onto canvas, or the forming of
a sculpture, is a purely mechanical skill ?
get me wrong, I would very much like to be able to describe my photography
as Art, but I regret that this simply seems pretentious. Am I to class
my photography in the same group as a Constable landscape, a Rodin
sculpture, a Van Gogh still-life, a Rembrandt portrait, or even a
Joe Bloggs water-colour. (Joe, if you are out there reading this,
SORRY!) The art critics amongst you will scoff at the plebeian choices,
but in the immortal words, "I know what I like". It has
been put to me that "if someone pays £800 to hang an image
on their wall it must possess something beyond its superficial content,
that perhaps is the Art", I must take exception to this, vast
sums have been paid on occasion to hang the most appalling rubbish
on walls, or floors, simply because of somebodys interpretation of
what Art is. This does not make it Art, except in that persons mind.
Perhaps if it is Art in one persons mind, that is sufficient, unfortunately,
despite my predilection to accept it, it does not convince me.
am left puzzling over the reasons for wanting to call Photography
"ART". I can see why I would like it to be so, never having
produced anything remotely artistic there is still a latent craving
to do so. I suppose that this comes down to a need to "create"
& not having the ability to do it. With photography I could pretend
that I am creating, in the way that Picasso created when painting
Guernica, somehow this does not ring true.
conclusion, a photographic image can have beauty & form, or simply
be evocative, if it portrays something which its viewer finds visually
acceptable, then it has succeeded. Calling it Art will have no effect
on this, except perhaps to increase its selling price. Why should
not Photography be Photography, simply an expression of human creativity
in its own right ?
Carter...........20/04/93 updated 17/03/98
comments would be appreciated