Blog #46 What Makes Art Worthy?
The topic of what makes art worthy, can be a controversial but relevant topic. Worthy of what you might ask? What makes art worthy of being art? This is a philosophical question and one that is as relevant to photography as it is for any other medium in which art can be expressed. The question of whether or not photography itself can be considered or viewed as art has been discussed in my previous Blog #11.
Of course photography is art! You don’t have to take my word for it, go look in a museum and if you find photographs there, then photography is art. I rest my case. Now that that issue is behind us, let’s dive into this week’s blog post.
In order for a photograph or any other piece of art to be considered worthy it could be said that it should have meaning. For art to have meaning, there are two ways that this may be accomplished. The first way that a photograph or piece of art can be described as having meaning is through its communication of something to the viewer. The experience or feeling of the photographer should come through in the image. The photograph should say something. The second way that a photograph can convey meaning is that it should contain a theme. Images that contain a theme are generally more universal and can connect to more viewers. I have expanded on this topic in Blog #33 here.
“Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art”, said the late great Susan Sontag.
Really? I agree with 99% of her brilliant commentary from On Photography but regarding this statement, I beg to differ.
Let’s pause for the cause. How do we describe art that is not worthy? Well, that too becomes a philosophical question. Art that attempts to be worthy, but falls short we might describe as being mere decoration. The world most definitely is improved and enhanced through decoration. This is a description and not intended to be an insult, per se. Some art is nice but is ineffective at satisfying one of the two conditions mentioned above. Namely, the photograph or painting, or sculpture communicates no meaning to the viewer nor does it contain a theme in that it fails to connect with the viewer. Art that is worthy usually has the qualities of being accepted, successful, and lasting. Art that is worthy contains value on an individual and cultural level. This is frequently the goal of the artist either on a conscience or unconscience level.
In my view, to produce photographs or any art for that matter, at some level, the artist strives to achieve worthiness. We want to share our art as an expression of our own thoughts and feelings. We want others to experience the joy or pain within contents of a photograph much as we have experienced that joy or pain.
The dictionary defines essay as an attempt. In this blog post, I submit a photo essay where I attempt to illustrate the concept of making photographs that contain meaning and themes. This, of course, is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, I offer a few examples. View these with an open mind and feel free to critique them any way that you feel comfortable. Good luck!
The light is always right.