After reading the responses to the previous topic on the merits of Joel Peter Witkin's methods and images, I would like to know what are some of your opinions and ideas as to what the difference is between obvious shock art and images that may contain shocking subject matter but in the context of news, science etc. Is purpose and context the only difference?
a couple of examples: Weegee made many images of victims of brutal violence that were extremely shocking for his day. I don't believe that his original purpose was art, yet today people collect his work. Another example, is the use of photographs of aborted fetuses by right to life groups. I would guess that many of the these images were made purely as documentation for educational purposes at one time and while shocking or disturbing to the lay person were made with objectivity in mind.
On NPR I heard a story about a medical museum that contains specimens and images of people who had suffered all kinds of horrible disfiguring birth defects and diseases. It was originally a research center afilliated with a university but when they realized that the public was fascinated by such "freaks", they opened as a museum to educate the public and collect a few bucks. Suddenly the images change from documentation of suffering for educational purposes to shocking pictures and specimens that appeal to a public fascinated by such things. It is amazing how the context in which a photograph is understood can change over time.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Jim68134 @ Feb 9 2003, 06:09 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>After reading the responses to the previous topic on the merits of Joel Peter Witkin's methods and images, I would like to know what are some of your opinions and ideas as to what the difference is between obvious shock art and images that may contain shocking subject matter but in the context of news, science etc. Is purpose and context the only difference?
I'm not sure I understand your question. Are the images produced for the purpose of changing our emotional state (a.k.a. "Art") and those intended for the sole purpose of recording fact different wholly due to their purpose and content?
My opinion: Yes they are. Or at least this could be fairly rational method of categorization.
One - "art" commonly uses shock - at some level or other - as a tool in its execution. Scientific or medical - or to a reduced level, news - is not really meant to change our emotional state, but to record and inform - without emotion.
I don't see an absolute separation between the two. Art can - and usually does - contain some record of what is happening at the time - and the others can have an emotional effect... intended or not.
Wouldn't it be fair to say that art makes you feel something...it communicates with you emotionally? Since that is what shocking pictures do, maybe it would quality them as art or more likely as a kind of art. There's impressionism, cubism, and goreism?
I do see a separation, since we stayed with Witkin I will use his work as example. In it he uses props etc, to adjust his "vision" a documentary photo lacks this. Usually is one where the subject if photographed with flat lighting to show maximum detail and there is no consideration to "artistic" merit.
There is no reason why a documentary photo cannot become an art photo but the intial intention is very clear and it shows in the print. For example I am sure all remember the photo of the vietnamese "spy" which was executed and the photographer took the shot right at the moment the person pulled the trigger. That is a documentary shot where the "shock" is secondary to the oeverall picture. In Witkins case, the shock is the priary purpose and the props and lighting are used to maximaze this effect.
As you stated in the case of the museum and the circus freaks, there is in all of us a morbid curiosity to see the unusual. I dont think this constitutes the basis for lasting art. In any case to each its own, personally I rather have nice things to look at hanging on my wall than mutilated and deformed bodies.
Maybe I look through rose-colored glasses or even worse maybe I am unenlightened, but good and lasting art to me conveys a positive feeling. Shock art is fun to look at sometimes, depending on the image; and documentary photography can open my eyes and maybe even change my ideas or ways of living. But I always go back to the image that I never tire of looking at, and uplifts my soul.
Or maybe I'm just lazy and like something easy to look at!!!
In my comments I was looking at the idea that photographs (as well as any work of art) may be produced with one set of values in mind, but used in a context that is opposite its original purpose. To clarify what I was trying to say, I don't think anyone will confuse Witkin's images for any other use than to shock, but their are many examples of art created with a noble purpose used out of context by others.
I have attempted to stay out of this thread but I have decided that I cannot keep myself out any longer.
For me, art can shock. It can shock to change one's perception, but it must change one's perception. Witkin, as I see it, is only interested in shocking and not changing the viewers perceptions. This, for me does not meet the smell test of "Is It Art". I don't like that in your face approach to art. Witkin offends me and I refuse to look at it at all.
the early guys di Vinci and the like did what they did to advance the understanding of the human being so that they could draw people better and more acurately. What they did elevates their drawings to art. Plus, this was a long time ago. Basically, in the dark ages.
Weegee was a paparazzi. His work did not gain real art standards until well after his death. He was a pretty crude guy and I thnik that also influenced his photography.
The estemed photographer said something to me in an email several years ago. It is something his ex-wife told him about art. I will have to paraphrase but i is something like this: "Art is about ideas and Illustraion is about things". I think that pretty well sums it up for me.
I need to clarify the post above. The esteemed photographer I referenced is Michael A. Smith.
Jorge (and others),
Just because you wouldn't put something on your wall doesn't make it Not Art, does it? I go back to what I said originally...isn't art supposed to make you feel something, as it evoked emotion for it's creator originally? Maybe not the same emotion or feeling, but emotion nonetheless?
If I step in dog doody, it evokes an emotion. There has to be more than that. Intent needs to be involved. I am not sure I can explain it but the intent is as important as emotion. Witkin, for me, displays none of that.