1. Reminder: Please use our affiliate links for holiday shopping!

Technical aspects and opinions of art/photographs

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by Djarum, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    So I'm in a rather heated exchange over on dpreview regarding the technical aspects of not just photography, but art in general. The exchange deals with that if a photograph or piece of art doesn't meet some technical criteria, that the image can't be good. Keep in mind that the image(s) that are up for debate are not my own. I don't want to post the thread either because I want to discuss this in more general terms.

    I guess some questions that I'd like to ask are:

    Does a photograph have to be technically be good to be...good?

    Are opinions regarding the coherance to technical correctness always right? That technical correctness(or the opinion of conformity to) is right and a differing opinion is wrong?

    What makes a "rule" or "technical aspect" in photography just that? What makes that aspect of photography something that we as photographers should conform to? Is this something written in stone?

    There is a school of thought that says images that don't meet some technical criteria aren't good. This school of thought also says that this "opinion" on technical conformity is not up for discussion, that someone else's opinion on the image or opinion on technical conformity are wrong. This same school of thought says that since established artist, photographers, or those with doctorates create these "absolutes", that there are right and wrong opinions about a piece of work.

    Now, to my opinions on this.

    One of the reasons I like photography and art is that I always felt (according to above I am wrong) that there weren't absolutes. I'm a science and math guy, and I deal with absolutes everyday. Art and photography is a break away from absolutes. In my own humble opinion, art is always up for discussion. Art is always moving. The context of a photograph 50 years ago may have a different view today. I don't believe that there is some measuring stick we put art up against. Even in science, ideas are always out there and don't always follow the rules.

    I've always felt that photography was like cooking. There are recipes for a dish, just like there are rules to photography. Just because I used regular black pepper in a white cream sauce( most books say use white pepper in white sauces ) doesn't make the dish bad, does it? Does the failure of a technical aspect invalidate the art? Is the opinion of conformity to these aspects of art always right?


    Thoughts?
     
  2. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    I cannot help much - over on dpreview I was once told that an image cannot be good unless it was technically good - i.e. it would never wins any prizes if there were say, evidence on the image of marks on the sensor, etc.

    plus on M43, I remember a very good, (and wise), photographer saying

    "I have learned - "never to judge the judges"

    for me it is "all in the image" - nomatter how technically poor, (or good)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    I almost feel tempted to ask you for a link to this discussion, since it's hard to imagine someone being so daft to equate art to technical perfection, let alone the notion that art should conform to certain rule!

    Wikipedia defines art as:
    So generally, whether something is good art or bad, according to its current definition, will depend mainly on the extent to which it manages to stimulate our senses, thoughts or emotions. Following certain rules or standards might make it easier to produce a work of art that resonates with many people, since these rules are often developed over the years by experimenting with what "works" easily.

    Perhaps these standards can be compared to the economic concept of efficiency and the overall impact a piece of art has can be compared with effectiveness; both a "rule-conforming" piece of art (or collection) and a non-rule conforming piece or collection can have the same amount of impact (effectiveness), but a rule-conforming piece or collection will probably have a higher hit-rate per amount of effort, both by the artist and the public (efficiency).
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    If an image successfully conveys its message, anything else doesn't matter. It could be shot on a 0.3MP camera phone and it will still be art.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    I normally don't get too bothered by such exchanges over there, but I was defending the poor guy's image. I really liked it, and so did others. There was a member that was so adamant about the image needed to be "fixed" to be acceptable. Then an argument ensued about opinions and what is deemed as a correct opinion..etc.
     
  6. Grant

    Grant SC Veteran

    249
    Nov 12, 2010
    Lunenburg Nova Scotia
    Why even argue with people like that. They can't be convoked of the truth and in any case why would you want to? Best to spend your time making and enjoying art rather than replying.

    On a culinary note white pepper is used in a cream sauce because if not your Béchamel ends up looking like you have fly sh*t in it. Now if you want that look it can be a very dynamic artistic statement. :rolleyes:
     
  7. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    I don't think there is much that I can add to this that someone else either has mentioned or will mention, but I'd love to read that thread for a bit of light entertainment.
     
  8. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    Grant,

    I'm glad someone picked up my reference :)

    It still tastes just as good though, right?
     
  9. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Grant

    Grant SC Veteran

    249
    Nov 12, 2010
    Lunenburg Nova Scotia
    It is supposed to taste a bit harsher with black pepper but I can't taste the difference … of course I do wine with my meals so that may have an effect on my pallet! :smile:
     
  11. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    that's the discussion that I had - a guys image was very poor technically, (sensor marks, not too well focussed etc.,) but I liked it and said so - but a respondent said it was poor because it was not "well crafted"
     
  12. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    DPR is the last place where I would discuss art!!! In general, people there are technical absolutists or self-styled marketing geniuses who believe they can manage camera companies better than the companies themselves, but art critics they are not (there are exceptions of course).

    Technical precision may enhance the artwork, but it is not a requirement. The one thing I would say is that most artists work in series; they create multiple pieces of artwork. (In most cases) there needs to be consistency across each piece. To accomplish that requires some level of technical proficiency - you have to know your tools. There is also the commercial side of art that requires a certain level of technical precision in output and presentation.

    But... does the artwork move you, make you think, challenge your ways of thinking, tell you something, show you something new, appeal to you in some way, simply make you happy or sad or anxious? Then it has served its purpose (not that art needs a purpose - it is simply expression - though I've been reading about environmental landscape artists who combined beauty with purpose/intent).

    Is a blurry, grainy Daido Moriyama photograph art? To me, it is. Would it pass the DPR test? Not for a second.
     
  13. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Jason,
    Whenever someone starts getting heated about art and technique.....
    Tell them to read and study Marcel Duchamp. Then, after they realize that there are rules only to be broken or stretched, drink some coffee.
    I hope my writing technique is up to par, it's not at DPR.
    Don
     
  14. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Some people on DPR will look at a photograph and see the technical aspects of it while being completely oblivious to the content, composition, meaning, etc. And on DPR you can find many, many examples of technically perfect pictures that really suck from an art perspective.

    I may and do technically critique my own photographs, but with anyone else's work I ignore those factors. I simply enjoy the picture (or drawing or sculpture or whatever).
     
  15. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Cheers, I will peruse that whilst supping a glass of my finest cheap wine.

    I remember reading a page once where they'd passed off some famous images as the work of amateurs posted for critique on the internet. Predictably there were some humourous responses relating to not following "the rules" of photography, but it does show that any image can be judged as "right" or "wrong" depending on who you show it to.

    EDIT: Just skimmed through the thread. I don't think that I am cut out for how things work over there.
     
  16. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I'm with the DPR position ... I mean, look at this picture, the guy can't even get half of it in focus properly ... sheesh ...

    Henri-Cartier-Bresson_Valencia_1933.
     
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Jason,

    I followed that thread for a little while and then stopped. After going back and having a look, I'm not quite sure WHERE he's coming from. On the one had, he seems to accept that technically inaccurate photographs CAN be preferable to technically accurate ones (Sam's concert shots, for example), but he doesn't seem to accept a level of subjectivity in determining when it works and when it doesn't work. It one thing to disagree with someone, but its really frustrating as hell when you can't even figure out their position to know whether you agree with it or not. My bottom line conclusions is the same as yours - he was being thoroughly ridiculous. And condescending.

    Can't waste time with folks like that once you realize how they see things. Which is why I almost never engage with one well known PIA over there who's name starts with a T. :cool: And on the rare occasion that I do, I just go until he starts turning it into a discussion about himself, at which point I deprive him of oxygen.

    -Ray
     
  18. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Well, I don't think that art and craftsmanship are completely independent from each other. Michelangelo's David would not be that great masterpiece, if his craftsmanship were not as perfect as it was. He would not have been able to create David at all otherwise. In my opinion all great masterpieces are also examples of great craftsmanship, no matter if it's a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn or by Vincent Willem van Gogh. Consequently, I don't think, that a reference to art can be an excuse for bad craftsmanship, because it is one of the prerequisites for making art.

    I don't think that the picture shown in the mentioned thread of Digital Photography Review is an example of bad craftsmanship. For the people over there, who don't understand anything about art, the technical imperfections (or what they see as such) lower the value of that picture significantly. The more knowing among us see a very beautiful picture made with respectable craftsmanship.

    Andrew mentioned Daido Moriyama. I own a book by Daido Moriyama and I don't think that his photographs are examples of bad craftsmanship, either. There are, of course, "technical imperfections" being seen in his photographs. However, these are not caused by poor craftsmanship, but are part of Moriyama's visual language and emphasize the artistic content of his photographs. That's why I put "technical imperfections" in quotation marks regarding Daido Moriyama.
     
  19. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Don, there are more examples and all of them I know of learned to master the craftsmanship of their art and only then broke rules with good reason. Breaking rules or bad craftsmanship alone does not make anybody an artist.

    Edit: Well, I might have misunderstood your message.
     
  20. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    I really appreciate the comments.

    Keep in mind, this thread was not directed at what goes on at DPR. I started the thread as a general discussion toward Art, technique, and whether or not good technique is a requirement of good art. I just got back from visiting an art museum. For the most part, the pieces there wouldn't be there if they weren't significant or valued at least by someone. Much of the art I really liked, much of it I didn't. When it comes to other forms of art and mediums, I am pretty ignorant about what it takes to make that sort of art(or the craft of making it).

    Pictor, getting to your point about the craft, I'm going to disagree a bit. I don't like most of Van Gogh's work. I don't know if he was a master of his craft or not, but that sure doesn't change my opinion of his work. Whether the photographer is a good craftsman or not, all we have is an image to view. If I like it we like it, if we don't we don't. If rules are broken and its a bad image, fine. If rules are broken and it's a good image, fine. I know that if I see an image, I'm not looking at the technical aspects of an image. To me, art is about how a piece makes me feel, not analyzing it to see how technically correct it is. I'd almost argue that is someone is analyzing the piece from a technical stance, they are missing the point of viewing art in the first place. Is art something to be moved by or is it something to be analyzed and scrutinized?