Day 323 – What makes a photo, art?

What makes a photo a piece of Art? What makes my photo stand out about anyone else’s, what would make it worthy to hang in a gallery in London (other than me being dead 🙂 ) What makes it more than a record shot,more than just am image …

Tate Modern

Art at the Tate Modern

I visited London – I discovered my wide angle lens converged the angles of buildings if I was not straight on at them, but the same applied to capturing record shots of art at the Tate modern. I photographed pieces that caught my eye, that interested me and although they may be created by famous artists … and it some cases worth millions…  but I don’t understand how they can be acknowledged as “art” either.

I explored…

I even took photos of people looking and interacting with the artworks… did that make the art more interesting? It made it more than a record shot of the image, it was a photo of people reacting with the art, and the scale of the building in which it was contained.

Tate Modern

Art at the Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Art at the Tate Modern

I think my favorite image was this one – this one is of a collection of photographs, but I choose to portray it as black and white with someone looking at the art. I feel this one has a story tell – but gallery worthy… I don’t think so – just a record of the event!

Tate Modern

Art at the Tate Modern

So back to my question? What makes a photo, art?

I am none the wiser, maybe if I has explored a photography exhibition I might have come to a conclusion, or maybe if I knew more about famous photographers, ones who have changed history, who developed new techniques, who captured thought provoking moments in time … but for me personally to like something enough to put it on a wall, it has to tell a story, evoke a memory or have meaning to me… the meaning is not always the one the created would have wanted it to be!

Will be pictures be considered Art … I don’t know but after reading this post on finding  and working with a mentor – at the very least I hope some of my images are inspiring!

15 replies
  1. mickey2travel
    mickey2travel says:

    Wow! Great question! I (personally) may think that a photo is considered “art” only by the individual photographer. Now, what might make it a “record shot” is a moment of *emotion* in history. Huh? By that, I mean, a record shot you might see, is that exact moment in time that strikes YOU! e.g. the Twin Towers falling on 9-11, or the bomb explosion which ended WWII, etc…. YOU may show your work as “art”, I would definitely appreciate your talent as art. However, what might seem like a record shot to me (because is touches my emotion) might not be a record shot to you. A matter of personal taste.

    Thank you for evoking this great question! I hope others respond. I would love to hear their perspective on this as well.

  2. Jayne Bond
    Jayne Bond says:

    Would you like an A4 essay or even a thesis!! ha ha
    Art is ‘usually’ a visual form which expresses or creates emotion. There are many forms of art from the classical realism to the expressive abstract. Art may also be created in a variety of media and genre – fine art, illustration, textiles, graphics, sculpture, photography …… So what makes a photo art – for me it’s the creative interpretation of the photographer …….

    • Helen
      Helen says:

      I love your summary that – the creative interpretation of the photographer … I can see a photo that that applies too being a piece of art!

  3. thinkingofyouandme
    thinkingofyouandme says:

    This is what I am hoping to understand more of as I progress, I agree with Jayne, it is the creative interpretation of the photographer, but also, how easy for difficult it can be for the viewer to understand and interpret correctly or incorrectly, according to their understanding of the image they see. You know yourself that we don’t always understand an image we are looking at, and as we learn more we try to deconstruct it using our knowledge of photography and post-editing. Then add in to that an understanding of symbolism and it becomes even more complicated. I enjoyed this blog, looking forward to some more comments

  4. Rus Turner
    Rus Turner says:

    I don’t like the expression “Art”. It seems as if anyone can pass off almost anything as art nowadays. Art has become a worthless phrase that anyone can place on anything in an attempt to give it value.
    But the problem is that art is subjective, everyone has a different idea as to what constitutes “Art”, based on their personal taste and therefore the phrase is probably worthless. I suppose like love, you could say that “Art” is in the eye of the beholder…or not.
    In part I agree with the previous post as “Art” being a “creative Interpretation”. A shot that is a snap taken on holiday is a “snapshot”, An image that is taken specifically to be an accurate rendition of a scene or to document is a “photographic record”. I think an image only crosses the threshold of “Art” where premeditated skill and intentional creative interpretation is employed during the capture, where there is a concept.

    I recently saw the results of this years “Taylor Wessing” prize and was rendered speechless by both the winner and the second place finalists shot, Third place was not so bad and had an engaging quality, but the shot that won was a typical example of “Worthless” so called “art”, a snapshot with a “lamely convoluted” concept.

    In a world where so many photographers produce such beautiful thought provoking images it proved to me at least, that there are many in positions to “judge” Art, that actually show no evidence of understanding it whatsoever.

    “Art” is a concept that has been subverted and usurped by the talentless and pretentious and for me at least, has lost both it’s meaning and value.

  5. Henry Szwinto
    Henry Szwinto says:

    After visiting a modern art exhibition in Oslo I was shocked by what passed for art. I even found myself confusing a fire hydrant with one of the exhibits. I felt the greatest art possessed by the creators was the art of making gullible people part with lots of cash. The question applied to photography can equally be perplexing and I also find some so called great artistic photographers a bit lame. The art world also has a bit of “The Emperors New Clothes” syndrome going on.

    I guess for me a record shot is something where the viewer does not need to complete the image or story with their own imagination so you can have some beautiful and stunning record shots worthy of putting on your wall as well as what I call the “Observers Book of Birds” kind of photo.

    For me an artistic photo is going to require you to complete the image or story. This could be as simple as a silhouette or a bit of blur or selective focus which equally can be applied to subjects such as nature or landscape which traditionally attract record shots. It could be an expression or a glint in the eye or it could be a more complex composite photograph or costume that makes you ask and interpret what you think is going on.

    I personally want to try and develop in the fantasy area of photography but quite frankly my mind doesn’t work that way. I am more mathematical so tend to wander down the route of Escher. I always strive to show things differently and in some cases these efforts have produced shots I am proud of. Whether they are art or not I guess depends on who looks at them. One of the biggest failings of a most of us is we choose from our own images based on our emotions. The problem is that we took the photo and we were there or we know that person so already that image means more to us than any other viewer. If we can extract ourselves from the image taking process and we still love the photo as if we were complete strangers then it is a great photo and may ask enough of the mind to be classified as art.

    • Helen
      Helen says:

      Henry – thanks for taking the time to comment… I definitely agree with the “Emperors New Clothes” syndrome! Your last sentence “If we can extract ourselves from the image taking process and we still love the photo as if we were complete strangers then it is a great photo and may ask enough of the mind to be classified as art.” – I think is really though provoking… I also think sometimes this can apply to images we (the photographer) do not love (because we can see the flaws in the image and know what we inspired to create and it did not get quite where we imagined) but others love and taking on the comments and critiques of a selection of other people can be insightful to our end results!

      • Stephen G. Hipperson
        Stephen G. Hipperson says:

        It comes back to the definition of Art. There’s also the question whether Art can be produced by a machine. Is the Art that you photograph in front of the camera as a physical entity which you then record. If you create the physical entity, for instance a still life, and then photograph it, the Art is the still life. If we both photographed the same still life would both resulting photographs be considered Art? We can play with the ‘what ifs’ of your original question for hours …… what is Art? is the key.

  6. Henry Szwinto
    Henry Szwinto says:

    Stephen. I have noticed that when I leave my camera in my office, the machine doesn’t produce any photos at all. The machine or camera is only a tool in the same way that a paint brush, hammer and chisel, lathe or type writer are only tools. In the modern world renowned artists (painters) are using iPads to paint and are held up as leaders in their field. Does this make their modern work invalid as far as art goes? It is the human that uses the machine and uses the controls. It’s very similar to the concept of a dangerous weapon. I’ve never seen a dangerous knife however I do know of dangerous people with knives!

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