Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are All Photographs Works of Art?

The images in this article are from the Ottawa 2009 Lumiere festival which I will be describing in the next article, as I will have too many images to show, I will therefore focus in this article on the some of people who help make this festival such a joyous event.

On first reflection I was going to say “yes”. It seemed easy to state with how I thought about art. Art being that ‘thing’ when something unique is created by any person. You will note that in the title there is no adjective describing whether the work of art is either good or bad. Value is different as those who would prescribe a monetary amount in order to preserve the artefact define this.

It seemed to apply to photography since it requires a person to make a conscious decision to capture a moment in time from a unique perspective. The person may not know it at the time of taking the image that they were even creating a piece of art. But I believe that even then there was some creative process that urged or guided the person to decide that the image now composed in the viewfinder is the ‘one’. The original intention, either as a memory aid or used with others to help tell a story or convey emotions about a specific place and time, is not important.

Some of you might debate there should be more than just the snapping of a photo to create works of art. I don’t think that’s the case. I know my own biases creep in from time to time and I think that there needs to be an artist, a person driven to create, to show the world a new way of looking.

We call cave paintings works of art and I think that at the time these were meant more as sign posts to show events of locations for food. But these people did create a unique way of looking at the life that unfolded from their daily lives. I wonder what the others thought when gazing at these paintings, as there were so few around. I think almost mystical.

When I started to think about some photographs that had no human intervention, I wondered whether this type of image would also be applicable. In our society there are many forms of surveillance and these, as a unique image or sequence (movie), are not in my opinion, works of art. It doesn’t mean that some person later may not go through a large database of images and from that set create a perspective that is somehow unique.

I think even photographers who, without looking at their viewfinders and walk through a market and snap images from their hips, as still creating works of art. Now some may be poorly framed, wrong focus and ill-defined subjects. But somehow a person is trying to capture fleeting events and in that process creates works of art. The process can become part of the how the work of art is defined.

It will be up to others to really define a value. You can set a price, but the real value is defined by individuals who collectively determine its worth.

So even if you decide to set up a camera at a spot to take images randomly or on intervals while you are not around, I still think these are works of art. Will I buy one? I don’t know but you never know, as one image might just impress enough that I feel a need to have it.

So in summary, I now think that not all photographs are works of art. There are times when the capture of the image is for the most part only being captured mechanically and the human touch, however light, is just not present. Now if a person were to sift through all the pile of images and select some for the telling of a story, then at that point those images would form a part of works of art.

Niels Henriksen

1 comment:

Primary Work at Home said...

Nice work! I like the pictures.


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