Tag archive for » internet «

Beware of the Shoulds

Sunday, 26. April 2020 22:53

So, you’re sheltering in place or you’re going to your essential job or you’re working from home or you’re passing the pandemic in some way or the other. Your situation likely is not like your neighbors’. As a matter of fact your situation is unique to you, and that’s why you ought to beware of the shoulds.

Every time you open an arts web site, some “authority” or the other is telling you what you should be doing during this time of international stress and disease. And many of them press the point so hard that if you were to take them seriously, you would feel guilty if you didn’t follow their advice. “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined; Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus while quarantined. You should do something equally spectacular.” “Make art, even if it’s bad art.” “Now that you have time on your hands, use it constructively.” “What a perfect opportunity to do research for that story you want to write.” “This could be the time for you to make your best art!” “It’s a perfect time to learn those dance steps you were talking about.” “Now you can set up that home studio.” “Now is the time to write that novel.” “This is a perfect opportunity to work on that difficult piece you want to play.” “Now you have all this time to edit that last photo shoot.” “Why don’t you work on that sculpture now that you have the time?”


They are not you and do not know what you are dealing with. You may feel like the world has changed completely; it has. You may feel that the rug has been pulled out from under your existence; it has. You may be spending so much time dealing with exigencies of doing your job on line that you don’t have time for anything resembling art-making. That’s okay. You may be dealing with the unbelievable stress of having to completely change your lifestyle just to survive. That’s okay too. You may just not feel like making any art today, or this week, or this month, much less attempting a masterpiece. And even that’s okay.

Those you-should-be-doings are other people’s; they are not yours. Only you know what is right for you at this particular moment in time, and, if you are anything like me, it changes from day to day. Some days you may be super-energetic about developing new ways to work from home or approaching some other project. Other days may be hum-drum. On yet other days you may be totally depressed. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. You have to take each day as it comes and deal with yourself and your situation on that day only.

And on some days you may make art, or you may not. Although it feels like we have been doing this forever, we are still just feeling our way along, trying to deal with the shock and grief and uncertainty as best as we can on a day-to-day basis. We have no idea where we’re going, but we keep inching forward. What we do NOT need to do is beat ourselves up for not being creative and productive every minute of our existence. What we are going through takes some time to come to terms with—if we ever can. Our minds will turn to art and making it when it is appropriate for us—as individuals—not according to an admonition by some smug Internet pundit.

Chapter 24 of Jerry Saltz’s How to Be an Artist, is entitled “There are no Wasted Days.” In this very brief chapter he says that “your artist’s mind is always working, even when you think it’s idling….You are your method; your life is part of your work.” And it’s true. All that time when you are trying to cope with the new reality, your creative mind is working, absorbing, combining, understanding. When it’s time for you to produce, you will produce. And just as each person’s art is unique, each artist’s method and timing is personal and distinctive.

You will make art when you feel it is time, and it will be as good as it can be. Until then, just keep living and learning—and ignoring the shoulds.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Autor:


Sunday, 15. September 2019 23:07

The subject matter of this post is a bit unusual. However, the topic is one that can impact anyone who works in the arts, whether commercially or not. In my experience, arts people, on the whole, are fairly honest and trusting. This can make them particularly vulnerable when it comes to the internet, where there are many people who are anything but honest and trusting. So, this cautionary tale; I hope you find it useful.

In addition to Unnatural Light, I have several other web sites. This week I received two emails in less than three hours through the contact form on one of those sites. The contact form is a favorite of spammers and phishing expeditions, but these were different. Both purported to be from content writers and demanded that I order some of their services. If I did not, they threatened to create thousands of backlinks from porn sites to my web site in order to hurt my rankings in search engines. One gave me two days to comply; the other vowed to remove the backlinks once I ordered their services. Interestingly, both had the same contact link although they allegedly came from different people. One, which Gmail had flagged as a probable phishing email, stated that it was the only way the writer had of getting work and asked me to not take it personally because it was “strictly business.” It was the first time that I have ever heard extortion referred to as “strictly business.”

These emails were, I think, delivered by bots. Evidently, these bots did not analyze the web site before posting their emails. Had they done so, they would have discovered that that particular web side uses no written content—it’s photos only. Thus there is no real market for written content, no matter who wrote it.

The second thing the extortionist(s) didn’t know is that this web site is not in competition with other web sites, so SEO (search engine optimization) is not a major concern. The web site was never intended to appear on page 1 of a Google search; it exists for people who already know it’s there. Thus the promise of dropping it in Google’s (or any search engine’s) rankings is not really a significant threat.

My first step was find the technology to prevent bots from sending me mail. Such technology exists, and does not seem all that difficult to implement. I am in the process of doing that; I suspect my volume of mail coming into that contact form will drop dramatically.

My second step was to learn something about malicious backlinks. Although I did not find mention of the sort of extortion I was facing, I found instances of unscrupulous site owners who used the technique against competitors. Evidently it is not terribly difficult or expensive—and it works. Some webmasters who depend upon search engine to drive traffic to their sites reported significant revenue loss after such attacks. Combine that with criminal intent and you have a virulent form of ransomware which targets your web site instead of your hard drive.

As of this writing I do not know whether the threat to my website was a bluff, a bit of phishing, or real. What I did discover is that Negative SEO is a thing and it impacts your search engine rankings. The good news is that there are tools to minimize the probability of such attacks and even ways of dealing with the situation if you have already been attacked. Just Google “malicious backlinks” or “negative SEO,” and you will find everything you need.

Well, everything except the time it takes to implement the tools. It turns out that website security is, in itself, almost a full-time job. You may not be able to protect your web site against all possibilities, but perhaps, armed with this information, you can at least improve the security of your web site.

Category:Technology | Comment (0) | Autor:

You Gotta Get Your Stuff Out There

Sunday, 4. August 2013 23:34

An artist I know has just begun to put some of her work on the web. There were two reasons for her hesitancy: (1) she makes some very complicated pieces and was, for a long time, concerned about having her ideas copied before she could get them fully developed.  (2) She was somewhat influenced by another artist who refuses share his work in any way on the internet due to fear of theft.

What finally convinced her to put work on the internet was the advice of a mutual acquaintance who said, “You just gotta get out there and shake your booty. You want people to know who you are, and the only way to do that is to show off a little, put your stuff out there and be ready to tell people why they need to take it home with them. ” Sound advice I think.

But there are some legitimate concerns associated with putting your work out there, the first and foremost being that people will steal it. There are many on the internet who know nothing of copyrights and others who simply do not care. If it’s out there, it’s free and available, so they take it.

The other side of the coin is that if you don’t put it out there, nobody knows that you have made it, and that means that nobody except those you show physically become at all familiar with your work. Now that may be fine with you. Many of us ultimately make art for ourselves, but most of us would be pleased to sell a piece once in a while. The odds of doing that are much better if you have a larger audience.

Sure people will pin your work and like your work and make desktop backgrounds of your work, all without your permission or supervision. But some of them may like your art enough to reach out to you and negotiate the purchase of an original piece. Again, the odds of that happening are far greater if more people are aware of your art. Several artists I know say that their goal is to sell art to people they don’t know—to make work that appeals to people who are not family or friends. That can’t happen if those strangers don’t know what you do, and as stimulating as showing your work physically might be, whether it’s in a group show, solo show, or gallery presentation, you cannot possibly reach as many people as you could with carefully placed postings to internet sites, including your own.

Now it becomes a question of how much of it you put out there, and how you represent yourself. Once we make that decision to put our stuff out there, we take responsibility for our internet presence: what we show, how we show, and where we show. There is certainly no requirement that we put everything we make on the web or provide unrestricted access to what we do publish electronically.

And, of course, there are those aspects we can’t control: who’s going to pin it, who’s going to like it, who’s going to link to it, who’s going to steal it. But there a significant number of aspects we can control, and there are many tools available to make this job easier.

What those of us who decide that we want to show and sell online have to do is balance our own comfort level with the necessity to publicize what we do. It’s not easy because there are opportunities—and scams—everywhere. Of course, there is still the bricks-and-mortar approach, but those opportunities are scarce and put our work in front of far fewer eyes. There is, however, no reason that we cannot use multiple venues and multiple strategies to offer our work. But regardless of the approaches we choose, we have to take the first step: we gotta get our stuff out there.

Category:Audience, Marketing | Comment (0) | Autor:

Want Art? The Gallery Will Come to You

Monday, 2. January 2012 0:19

Not long ago, Jason Wilson sent me a link to an article on The Bygone Bureau that proclaimed 2011 as “the year the art world went online.” The writer of the article, Kyle Chayka, noted a number of online art world activities that occurred during the year, including a couple of very high profile ones.

One of the projects noted in the Chayka article was the online VIP Art Fair, founded by James Cohan. The Fair hosted its first interactive art show in January, 2011, and plans a second show , which will represent over 2000 artists from 115 “carefully selected” galleries worldwide, for February 3-8, 2012. This event brings together galleries and collectors from all over the globe and allows the collector to see many works of art and have conversations with the dealers without leaving home.

The second project is Art.sy, which is backed by Larry Gagosian, Dasha Zhukova and others. The website, currently in “private beta,” is essentially a search engine of fine art from over 250 galleries and museums in over 40 different countries which “will analyze users’ taste in art and show them other works and artists that they might like.”

Not only can you buy physical art pieces through the internet buy you can now buy signed, authenticated, limited edition digital art by some very famous artists. In addition to works by Shephard Fairey, Isaac Julien, and others, you can purchase an original Damien Hirst for $12.00. Prices range from £5 to £500 and increase as editions sell out. There are even plans for a secondary market—handled by the same site, of course.

While these projects involve the most famous artists and the most prestigious galleries, there is art for the rest of us online. A number of artists, of course, maintain their own websites; on some of these, the art is displayed and the viewer directed to gallery representation for sales, and on others, the work can be purchased online. Then there are the online galleries that are not as new or exclusive as those discussed above. For example, both Zatista and 20×200 sell only original and limited edition art. Other sites, such as Art Gallery Worldwide, sell originals and open edition prints. Others sell only prints, although some deal in limited editions. Then there are the print-on-demand sites, which reproduce digital images in a number of media, ranging from “art prints” to tee shirts.

And we have not yet touched on the educational use of digital media in the art world. For example, there are a number of initiatives by museums to allow patrons to use their smartphones or computers to get more information about the artwork. There are already virtual tours of museums available online through various portals. The Google Art Project provides virtual access to 17 museums and expects to add many more. Gagosian Gallery has published an iPad app which is essentially a free digital version of a quarterly art magazine; there are also a number of other apps which provide art reference, generally for no monetary investment.

There are some of us, however, who have reservations about the digital rendering of visual art. The digitization of art is on the increase , even though color calibration is known only to artists who used digital production methods. From an educational and a sales point of view, digitization of physical art or original digital art itself makes a great deal of sense. Still, because of the differences between color rendition on various devices, you never know whether you are looking at what the artist intended or not. Because of economic and marketing requirements, art digitization is no longer optional; still, I wonder, aside from sales potential, what artists think about having their work represented in such an uncontrollable way.


Category:Audience, Education, Marketing, Technology | Comments (1) | Autor:

Art and the Potential of Technology

Monday, 31. October 2011 0:26

Make no mistake, I love traditional art forms—not necessarily traditional content—but the forms themselves: live theatre, dance, poetry, fiction, painting, film. And like everyone in the arts I have, for a long time, been aware of the impact of technology in the arts. Who can be involved in photography and not be aware of that? Most photography, however, just uses new technology to arrive at the same old place: a print on paper that can be put into an album or framed and hung on a wall. Much the same thing happens with other current uses of technology.

Our acceptance of technology is evolutionary. We adapt in order to do our jobs or our art and don’t think much about it. I sit here typing on one in a long line of successive keyboards; the hardware has changed, the operating systems have changed, the software has changed, but the keyboard is still the old qwerty design, albeit in a far more (for me) ergonomic package. So I don’t notice the changes so much.

We also don’t notice the evolution in publishing. Technology is what makes it possible for you to be reading this. Most of us don’t think what a recent innovation this is; we sit down at the keyboard, go online, read what we want, publish what we want. One of the ongoing themes of Seth Godin’s The Domino Project is the impact that technology can and is having on writing and publishing.

Despite our love for the feel of paper and page-turning and the physicality of books, many of us now read on mobile devices of some kind or another. It’s easier, more convenient, and (in most cases) cheaper. It also works better for publishers: same income, less investment, no inventory. So we download ebooks into our Kindles or Nooks or apps and read away.

None of this is big news. At least that’s what I thought until I was this week introduced to a “book” called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studios. It is really an iPad app that is designed to “revive a love of story in all.” The creators have used animation, words, voice, music and genuine interactivity to produce a work that is “old-fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.” It’s an amazing piece of work.

Then, all of a sudden, the capabilities of this technology hit me.

Now I have seen video and film in art exhibits and museums. I have played with “interactive” art pieces. Usually those pieces are unsatisfying. In many cases it is an issue of production or presentation values, a lack of understanding of interaction, or editing. Such work often engages one or two senses, but is not fully absorbing. This was the first instance where I have seen technology really used to its fullest. Morris not only engages all of the senses (except smell), but also activates the intellect and the imagination.

And it is not just the book, although it is truly delightful. What is really exciting the potential. This is finally immersive computer technology with a use other than gaming. This is technology used to create and present art, art which fully engages the viewer and is distributed via the internet. The possibilities are astounding.

At present, most, but not all, animated book apps seem to be geared toward children, and certainly they are appropriate to the young, but the implications of the technology are much bigger than that. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how this technology could be used to create all sorts of art projects. Yes, it requires a different sort of thinking: it is not applying paint to canvas, or even digital manipulation of captured images, or text-only story-telling. But it does allow artists to leap into what has become the mainstream of communication in this century.

Category:Creativity, Originality, Technology | Comment (0) | Autor:

Want to Sell Your Art? Invest in Yourself!

Monday, 11. July 2011 0:19

Like many artists, I am revamping my approach to getting my work out into the world. This is a multifaceted problem that seems to get bigger every day. Each facet has its own set of decisions to be made and then it has to be reconciled with the overall program.

My previous approach was to do things on the cheap and piecemeal. Each part was considered separately.  I would search for the online outlet with the lowest commissions or fees. I would do the coding for the website myself. This, of course, left me with very high-maintenance venues and very few sales.

This time out it’s different. I am determined that all of the elements should work together, so I have spent many hours researching, reading reviews and opinions, trying things out in my head and on paper.

During this research phase, I had a friend ask, “Are you interested in getting your stuff out there, or in making money?” I did not initially understand implications of the question. He said that if a financial return was the most important and immediate concern, I had the wrong product.  However, if I wanted to establish myself in the art marketplace, I should probably plan on losing money to begin with, while I made my presence known.

I listened. Even with all the commodification of art, it is hardly an impulse buy. Most people who are interested in purchasing a piece of original art are not going to drop that amount of money whimsically. They are going to look, take a business card, bookmark a web site, consider, weigh, come back, look again, talk, then purchase—much as my friend who was buying the sculpture did. (She did get the piece, by the way.)

Art has to be presented. To do that requires a continuing presence and some level of reputation; that’s really what sells art (again, we are not talking about those who are purchasing investments so much as those who are purchasing art to enjoy).

Now there are numerous ways to establish a presence and build a reputation, but one of the ways is to present your work in a way that lets your potential patrons know that your work is desirable and available. This means an easily-navigable, attractive web site. It means representation that is reliable and reputable (even if you are representing yourself). It means building a public profile that will (hopefully) precede sales. It means being willing to lose a little money at the front end in order to establish yourself. It means investing.

So this time I am not doing things on the cheap. Instead of coding myself, I have obtained some professional help. It costs more money, but the result is far easier to maintain, so the cost in terms of time and effort is actually less. I am evaluating online outlets, not so much on the basis of fees and commissions, but on the balance of those fees against probable sales, given the sites’ traffic and sales figures. I am also examining possibilities of brick-and-mortar venues. I am listening to the advice of others.

I don’t know yet that this will work, but I have learned from my past mistakes and have a much higher level of confidence in this approach than I have had in any of my other attempts.

And while I would not necessarily recommend my plan for all artists, I would recommend the approach. The art that you create comes from the most intimate part of you; you want others to see and understand your vision. You have to put some time and effort, and, yes, money, into making that happen. You have to invest in yourself.





Category:Audience, Marketing, Presentation | Comment (0) | Autor:

The Downside of Arts Competition

Monday, 27. June 2011 0:20

This could be considered a clarification of the last post, or perhaps a continuation of some of the thoughts that were presented there. As I stated in that post, one of my objections to highly publicized awards is that they turn their arts into contests, which I think is contrary to the whole idea of art.

There are many definitions of art, but in none of them do you find the idea of competition. Of course there is some, but one would hope that when an artist sets out to create a piece, he/she does not do so with the idea of besting another artist, but with the idea of creating a piece that says what he/she wants to say and of doing so to the best of his/her ability.

Some arts have a built-in competition, for example, the audition process for actors and dancers. This is supposed to ensure that the best person for the part gets the role. (Although we find that in many situations, the audition is replaced by negotiation.) Once the process of putting performers in roles is done, competition is set aside in favor of creating the vision of the producer/director, in other words, creating the best possible performance.

Of course there is the question of arts contests. There are, for example, numerous photography contests, many of which offer prize money. Such contests seem to create competitiveness where none exists naturally; how do you compare an abstract photograph to a conflict photograph? In the world of commercial photography, competition certainly exists, and it may be well to know who is the best wedding photographer or the best advertising photographer. But in the world of fine art photography, this sort of competition makes no sense. With whom is Miru Kim competing?

Even the art contest that gives the largest cash award in the world claims to be about more than the competition. That contest is ArtPrize, and it tries to be more than just a contest among artists: “Part arts festival, part social experiment–this international contest …. is designed for you to take it into your own hands and make it what you want it to be. The outcomes of ArtPrize are infinite… ArtPrize is a platform for creation.

The emphasis on competition that one finds in arts contests also exists in some arts education. Texas, for example, has a one-act play competition among “similarly-sized” high schools to discover who has, in any given year, created the best play. The University Interscholastic League, which sponsors the contest, says that “it continues to be a major factor motivating increasing numbers of schools to offer theatre arts as an academic subject.” This, of course, suggests that Texas secondary schools are academically motivated by competitive triumphs. Texas theatre students learn that what is important is beating the other companies.

Compare the North Carolina Theatre Conference’s High School Play Festival which provides “an opportunity for students at NCTC member schools to showcase their work, learn from others, make new theatre friends and celebrate their achievements. Schools present 45 minute shows to adjudicators, who provide knowledgeable and encouraging feedback.” North Carolina theatre students learn to do good work.

Secondary school systems are not the only organizations that foster the competition in the arts. This competitive aspect was one (but only one) of the problems with Bravo TV’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” This aspect so colored the shows that it led some to say that the series became more of a design competition than a show about art.

These lessons should not be lost on us.  Art is not football. The social aspect of the internet has facilitated a lot of sharing of art. There seems to be little in the way of competition, even among the pieces that are for sale. Art is offered for comment and evaluation, for possible purchase, not to challenge another artist. This is as it should be.


Category:Education, Photography, Theatre | Comments (1) | Autor:

The Medium is Not the Message…But It’s a Big Chunk of the Experience

Monday, 23. May 2011 1:37

In his book Beauty, Roger Scruton maintains that meaning in a piece of art is “bound up with, inseparable from” the medium through which that meaning is presented. This means, of course, that the art cannot be reproduced in another medium and have the same meaning.

Although I have already discussed the difficulties I have with art reproduction here and here, two relatively new forms of art have been on my mind recently. These forms really seem to make the case for Scruton’s ideas even stronger.

The first is the lenticular image. For those who do not know, a lenticular is a fairly obscure medium (in which I work from time to time). Lenticulars can be based on photographs or other media; multiple images are interlaced and fused to a lenticular lens to create the illusion of movement or three-dimensionality as the viewer approaches the work. While the lenticular is not new technology, it is a relatively new art form. Many people have never seen one that was not an advertising piece.

The problem with lenticulars is that there is no way to reproduce the image electronically, so they cannot, for example, be viewed on the web. A simulation can be made with an animated gif file, but it is only a simulation and cannot reproduce the experience of walking past an image in a gallery that appears to move or to come out of the frame.

Interestingly, the animated gif is the vehicle for the second form. It is the cinemagraph, and its foremost practitioners are a team, Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg. You can see these images, which have been hailed by The Atlantic, Huffington Post and many others, on Beck’s From Me To You Tumblr. These images are essentially still photographs with movement added in isolated segments.

Despite the artistry involved with cinemagraphs and the stories they tell, they also have a problem. Cinemagraphs require an electronic device capable of displaying animated gifs. They can never hang in galleries unless those galleries are appropriately equipped.

These are just two instances where the art work seems completely inseparable from the medium; there are many.  For example, there are images etched in metal. A photograph of the etched image can be made, but that is a weak representation of the real thing. The same can be said for images printed on glass, another medium that cannot be adequately reproduced.

And there are others: physical collage only works if you can really see the texture of the items being collaged. Paint buildup is an integral part of many paintings that simply does not show up or certainly has less impact in a photograph of the painting. Sculpture defies reproduction in any kind of meaningful way except perhaps as a series of images or a video, which still falls far short of adequate reproduction. The same is true of dance or any other live performance art.

Actually, the same is true for all works of art. We can photograph them, we can describe them, but we cannot fully express the experience of them without reference to the media in which they were originally created.

Scruton, it seems, is correct: the content of a work of art is not really translatable to another medium; the medium is an essential part of the experience of the art work. And with these newer forms that union seems even stronger.

One can only wonder what the future holds.

Category:Aesthetics, Communication, Photography | Comments (2) | Autor:

Uncomfortable with Self-Promotion? Take Baby Steps

Monday, 18. April 2011 0:05

One of the things there is no shortage of is advice on how to be a “successful” artist. Make no mistake; in this context “successful” means “an artist who sells.” Sometimes it means “an artist who makes his/her living from his/her art.” In any case, it’s all about marketing and sales. And why not? Being a starving artist may sound like a romantic idea, but it’s only that. We can all point to artists who were successes only after they were dead, but is that the model you really want to follow?

The fact is, whether we are painters, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists, or writers, we want people to see our art, and hopefully be impacted by it. So we have two choices: give it away or sell it. The second alternative seems to be the better of the two, at least to me.

We are told that we must self-promote, and the implication is that we should model ourselves after the most financially successful self-promoting artists. We are encouraged to follow the examples of those who promote shamelessly and/or exploit the internet. We are advised to spend every minute that we are not actually producing art interacting on Twitter or Facebook or our blogs and websites or engaging in some other form of marketing and sales.

This can be a difficulty for those of us who do not have art factories or assistants or those of us who do not believe that we are temperamentally suited for marketing. Some would say that we had better find a way to make the time and become suited or resign ourselves to giving our art away, or, like Emily Dickenson or Vivian Maier, having it found and made public after we’re gone.

There is no question that marketing and sales are necessary if we want to succeed in terms of putting our work out there into the world. We must promote our own work and we must figure out ways to become comfortable doing that.

This means researching and exploring the many different venues and approaches to art marketing and sales. Spend some time analyzing tweets, exploring Facebook, reading blogs, examining web sites. You will find that there are innumerable approaches and a variety of styles. And there are more all the time. According to Barney Davey, how artists promote themselves is constantly evolving, and one of the challenges is to try to keep methodology current.

Not every successful artist is a completely shameless self-promoter. Some promote better than others. Study them; see what works and why. See what appeals to you and why. See what fits you and why.

Then try some of those methods out. Take baby steps. Move out of your comfort zone a little at a time. As you build up your courage and your repertoire of possibilities, you can begin to see what works for you. And that, finally, is the most important thing, to find the methods or combination of methods that work for you.

Category:Audience, Communication, Social Media | Comments (2) | Autor:

Fine Art Photography: the Search for a Definition

Sunday, 23. January 2011 23:57

In talking about Vivian Maier last week, I quoted Kevin Moloney as saying “I believe Maier’s work is art because of its absolute purity.” There is no question that Kevin Moloney thinks that Maier is an artist. That would, of course, make her work fine art photography. That is where I got to in my thinking before I decided that I needed to have a working definition of fine art photography. Like any 21st century person, I turned to Wikipedia. The answer is “photographs that are created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer as artist.”

That definition was unsatisfying. It seemed too broad. It seemed to encompass things that I would not necessarily have considered fine art, so I looked further. Everywhere I looked I found the same definition, or one so similar that they were indistinguishable. Some web sites noted that defining fine art photography was confusing or difficult. That seemed to be true, but not at all helpful. Some said that the subjects of fine art photography were supposed to be beautiful. This I rejected almost immediately. The notion that any sort of fine art was meant simply to be beautiful was ludicrous. Art can be defined any number of ways, but beauty is not a defining characteristic, so it could not be for fine art photography.  I should have realized at this point that some of my biases were getting in the way, but I didn’t; I went on with my search.

Some sites acknowledged difficulty in defining, and then went on to hedge their definitions. Not satisfactory. Some, like the one on ehow.com were more comprehensive, stating the basic definition and then going on to provide detailed examples and discussion of the topic.

The ehow article pointed out my problem, which was, of course, was that I wanted the definition to say something about the value of such art, and it did not. I had wanted a definition that excluded those things that I did not consider to worthy and include all those things that were up to my mark. My mark! How arrogant could I possibly be—demanding that a definition include my personal values?

I started to wonder if there were reasons other than the lack of inclusion of value that I found the definition hard to accept. And, of course, there were.  First, a disclaimer: I love fine art photography. I love to look at it, study it. I love to make it. And it seemed impossible to me that the definition of an art form that I hold in such high regard could be so simple and inclusive. I had been expecting something more on the order of the definition of abstract expressionism. The long time I have spent in academia also prepared me for a complex definition, but I got something that was, to me, amazingly simple and comprehensive.

The exercise also reminded me of something I have long known and even written about: that taste is individual and is connected to a great number of things and has nothing to do with the genre of art under consideration.  Within this very general definition of fine art photography is room for all sorts of subject matter and all sorts of taste, some of which will appeal to me, or you, or whomever, and some of which will not. Just as some paintings are trite or ill-conceived, some fine art photography will be too. But that’s a topic for another time.

It’s a good lesson to have re-learned.

Category:Aesthetics, Photography | Comment (0) | Autor: