What Makes it art, when it simply could be a snapshot?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by hoffy, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    I have been looking at a few images from Stephen Shore over the last few days. My wife was peaking over my shoulder this morning and comment "What makes these special? Aren't they just snapshots?" She was commenting on his shot US93, Kingman AZ - http://www.jacksonfineart.com/private_artist.php?id=53&imageid=154

    I have to admit, that his did start my own questioning on what is art and what is a snapshot? While I actually enjoy Shore's work (I like images that you must explore and not simply just look at), I do see my wifes point.

    So, who decides that imagery like this is art? Does it come down to the effort put in? Does it come down to the strength of previous work? Or are we like sheep - I.E., if someone says it's good we all then think it must be good? (I believe he had connections with Warhol)

    Just some random thoughts

    Cheers
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    For the stuff on the page you linked to I have to agree with your wife, those look like snapshots to me.

    "No acount'n for taste" as my dad used to say.
     
  3. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Your wife is right,these pictures are "Just snapshots" anyone can call their work "Art" and themselves "Fine Art Photographers" it's what's known as The Emperors New Clothes School Of Photography , it is really to impresses the uninitiated, the idea that the craft of photography is Art is a fairly recent one mainly since WW11 promoted by galleries and auction houses when trying to sell photographers work.
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I agree. A camera is a device which records the image in front of it when you press the shutter. I have a problem calling the process art if the photographer had little to do with arranging the subject matter. I prefer to call it a craft.

    As for the resultant image being artistic. Many are, many more are not but, for example, in the case of a fine landscape image, nature is the artist.

    EDIT: I have just had a look at the link. Total blandness. These are the shots I would have thrown away! I went to a local exhibition like this. Totally boring, bland shots with pastel colours and no idea of composition but they were printed big so they must have been artistic!


    Steve.
     
  5. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I see no real difference between a photo as 'art' and one as a 'snapshot'. It's a false dichotomy.
     
  6. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    In defence of the link I posted, the image I looked at is a lot more vibrant in colour.

    While I don't find the image technically appealing, I think I get what Shore was trying to achieve and this was to show in a weird sort of way, the beauty in the blandness of that part of the USA.

    Would I hang this one on my wall? No. Would I take an image of similar subject matter? Well, in a word, yes, but I have to admit, It would be composed a bit tighter. Maybe I AM his target audience after all :wink:
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    People will argue forever on the definition of 'art' but the thing to remember is that just like music, poetry (anything really) there is a full spectrum of quality. Just as there is good music and bad music, there can be (and is) good photography and bad photography, good art and bad art.

    Defining something as art doesn't automatically make it good.


    Steve.
     
  8. timparkin

    timparkin Member

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    I used to think that photos such as Stephen's were somehow 'boring' or 'untalented', however I'm starting to see that photographs needn't be read individually. You can read the photographs as a 'collection' where each photograph individually isn't saying anything but the collection allows the viewer to draw parallels between them and to build an emotional response as they browse through all of the photographs.

    For instance these glimpses of a world would be something many people had never considered before. Displaying them as an exhibition makes people pay attention to the banal - things they would pass by if glimpsed in a pile of family photographs.

    The similarities and differences between the photographs can be studied and these will inform the viewer of the 'message' that the photographer is trying to get across.

    Now I don't particularly like the picture, they don't do a lot for me, but this way of thinking about photography has allowed me to appreciate many photographers that I had shunned previously (e.g. Jem Southam).

    Tim
     
  9. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    To be art, it has to move you, it has to make you feel something, it should stir a passion in you. And no, you do not have to stage a photo for it to be art, waiting a month for the sun to be in the right place isn't really staging, but it can produce art, and lest we forget that the "Afgan Girl" was far from a professional model, but her photo shows unfathomable pain and suffering.

    A snapshot just makes you think, "oh yeah, that's Kingman alright".

    In the end, you have to decide if it is art.
     
  10. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Interesting pictures, could be fine art, but I perfer snapshots.

    Jeff
     
  11. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    It is what it is, the issues are if and how you appreciate it.."Art" is just a pompous label..EC
     
  12. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    Snapshots are art also. I suppose there are some scientific applications where photography is totally divorced from art, but outside of that narrow field, I think all photography involves some form of artistic decision.
     
  13. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I would define snapshots as documentation rather than art. Likewise, photographs illustrating a process or product would be illustration rather than art. I think it is entirely possible for documentation and illustration photographs to be artistic but I wouldn't automatically consider then to be art.


    Steve.
     
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  15. Lawrenceu

    Lawrenceu Member

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    As one of my art professors said in college, and he was a very good and sought after painter, 'Art is defined by how much someone unrelated to the artist will pay to take the piece home with them.'
     
  16. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Irresispective of any merit attributable to the linked images, the idea that photography does not have the potential to be considered as fine art in its varying formats is completely ludicrous; and from another point of view, just because someone takes up oil painting does not mean the results can necessarily be thought of as "art" purely due to the medium.

    Tom
     
  17. Voyager

    Voyager Subscriber

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    Well now, wait a minute...

    I'm no artist, but I've bummed around art museums a lot...here's what I see:

    Starting at the bottom of the photograph we have three small rectangles laid on two larger squares of different tones--somewhat like modern artists do to introduce tension...

    That fence is angled across the frame, adding a little uneaseiness (he could have repositioned himself to get it flat, but chose not to).

    The road to the right leads the eye to that prominent structure (signs?) in the town; a town which is laid out on one plane and which the eye absorbs in one sweep. There's almost nothing to keep the eye from sliding out of the right side of the frame.

    The mountains are jagged. He couldn't alter that. But it does add tension; it does argue with the expanse of flat-toned sky above it.

    And look at the wires on top. A snapshooter might have repositioned to eliminate them, and a lesser photographer might have cropped them out, but there they are, angled across the image, interfering with the sky space. And if you eye picks up both the fence and the wires at the right side of the composition, your brain might say they will meet sometime in the distance (or future).

    I like it. It's ominous. It's desolate. I feel a chill.
     
  18. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    My Grandmother takes snapshots: one roll of 24exp lasts a year. She makes some artistic decisions along the way: should she point the camera here or there, that flower or this one, is the scene worthy of a photograph? She decides based on what looks best; then when she takes the film to the chemist to be printed, the assistant asks her: matt or gloss? When she chooses she makes another artistic decision based on what looks best.
     
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I don't think anyone is suggesting that it doesn't have the potential, just that it isn't automatically art (or fine art) just because it's a photograph.


    Steve.
     
  20. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    The x-ray photograph my dentist took of my teeth last year is definitely not art. There are photographs which are incredibly good art. Somewhere between the two is a point at which it becomes art. The problem is that I don't know where there point is and most other people don't either. Of those that do know where that point is, all of their points will be in different places.


    Steve.
     
  21. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    This is true. Outside of these scientific applications (another example would be speed cameras), all photography involves some sort of thought into how it is to be created. I see that thought process as the definition of art.
     
  22. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Art is not a level of quality nor is it for others to proclaim real or not real. If an artist is working with his own concept and his own aesthetic and says it is his art then it is. You don't have to like it but you can't tell an artist that his art isn't art. I didn't read where he said it was art because it was photography. I think I see what this guy is trying to do and I think it is mixing abstract expressionist concepts with bland views of bland places. Doesn't appeal to me and doesn't particularly inspire me but if he is showing it, it must be to some degree successful for him.
     
  23. nhemann

    nhemann Member

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    In my head the one aspect that distinguishes "snapshots" from "art" is the amount of thought and planning that is happening before the shutter gets pulled. I think we can all agree that nobody drags out an 8x10 around and goes around willy-nilly burning through film. Whether it is good or bad is an entirely different arguement. You may not agree with it, you may not like it but there is no denying that some significant thought took place with regards to why that particular door frame, particular stop light was included or excluded from the frame. Even in my own work, I never just put the camera to my face and snap, I think about it - any of us that care about what we do will -unless your entire concept was to not think about it - but Oops! you just did. lol

    Also, I think its especially important to not isolate one photo and view it as an solitary piece, but rather understand the overall concept that the artist/photographer was exploring and how that photo fits into it. I'm not terribly familiar with this particular series but I would be willing to bet my paycheck that Stephen had a very distinct idea that he was going after.

    Finally, I went through this very discussion ("why is this art") myself with Stephen's work a few years back -though with a differnt set of images. I remember being distinctly annoyed that he was famous for this? But after reading more into his work - working in color (Gasp!) and very consciously working with "non-artistic" subjects and just in general bucking tradition. I soon found myself viewing parking lots and gas stations and other distinctly plain things in a completely different way. I don't like all of his work but I have an enormous amount of respect for what he did and what it has done to me as a "see-er." I think if any artist, regardless of media, can get you to change the way you look at or think about something, then the effort was enormously successful.

    Sorry if thats long - I love to discuss these philosophy of art issues :smile:
     
  24. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Regardless of media, regardless of price tags, and regardless of artists' names, ART, to me, inspire me, make me think, and give something beyond what's clearly shown.

    There are many pieces internationally recognized as fine art and shown through out the world that aren't art to me. On the other hand, I create art that no one wants to see.... :blink:

    The pieces on posted link aren't art TO ME.
     
  25. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    It is art when you call it art. It is all a matter of taste.
     
  26. alapin

    alapin Subscriber

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    Whether a photo or anything is art or a snapshot is in the eye of the beholder. We all decide for ourselves, whether it's art or a snapshot, including the person taking the photo.