Wow…long time no write. It has been almost a year (well, not really, but in about another 4 months) since my last post. I am a terrible blogger. Then again, the word blog is strange and I prefer to think of myself as a writer/contributor of my experiences to this operation when I actually have something to talk about. Luckily for the faithful readers of said blog (and those of you who are just stumbling upon this), I have something to talk about today…ART.
But not, like, in the sense of viewing art and admiring it, but rather looking at the following question:
What the crap is art, and what makes something a work of art?
I ask this for a reason. Feast your eyes upon the following:
This is my current profile picture on Facebook. The story behind the picture is simple: We had a spa night in my residence hall, and I got a manicure. I chose to have my nails painted “Electric Blue” and I have received numerous compliments for my color choice. I decided it would be cool to take a few pictures with this nail color and then isolate the color in Photoshop putting the rest of the picture in black and white. I then remembered the jacket I bought over the summer and put that on and then isolated the blue stripes as well. I thought it looked cool and uploaded it to Facebook as my profile picture. No big deal, right?
I was sadly mistaken.
Within a few minutes of posting the picture, the comments came flooding in about how much people liked the picture. Ok. Cool. I’m a photographer and love feedback, but this wasn’t my attempt at anything extremely special. I just thought it would look cool and that was all I was going for.
As the comments continued to come in, my best friend’s ex boyfriend from 5 years ago decided he was going to insert his two cents even though nobody asked for it. For the sake of his sorry self, I will spare him the embarrassment of revealing his identity. In a nutshell, he said my picture sucked because it was low in “composition, quality, and all around idea being reached.” Well, naturally I laughed out loud because this was certainly not the first time this guy had put in his two cents worth of asshole-ness about one of my posts. (He once got all pissed off because I complained about having trouble finding a cute pair of cheap rain boots in my size and said that I shouldn’t want them to be cute.)
After laughing at his ignorance for a moment, I decided to fight back by telling him that he should get a life because I wasn’t trying to do anything of high composition or quality. I also told him that he didn’t know what photography was all about if he thought it was all about technique. His response to that was something along the lines of my statement about photography being wrong. He claimed to be passionate about photography and said that when someone posts something with artistic intent, he views it as art and judges it accordingly.
Well, now we’re on a roll and I continue to argue with him saying that there was nothing wrong with my statement and that technique really is only a portion of photography. I, too, am passionate about photography and I am more than willing to admit that I don’t have amazing technique. However, some of the best photos can come by accident. (I would know. Two of my best photos of high quality and composition were complete accidents.) He did not seem to agree. He said that some photos come that way, but a photographer who relies on accidents will only have 4 or 5 pictures in their portfolio whereas someone with technique will have a bigger and better portfolio.
Ok, now he’s getting on my nerves. A friend of mine who had commented on the picture and was following this discussion the whole time put in his two cents about how everyone is a critic but that his view on photography was that photos are memories captured to be viewed over and over again. The he said (again) that he liked my picture. I agreed that there is nothing wrong with criticism as long as it is given in the right manner. I also had no hard feelings about this considering how the guy who did not like my picture was being outweighed by all the other positive comments I had received. But he was not satisfied and said that people “generally won’t know what to like until you tell them” (a statement that offended one of my friends) and then said that he would be willing to critique my work as long as I follow the first rule of photography:
“Leave your damn ego at the door.”
And then the tables turned and that boy got a piece of my mind and pieces of mind from a lot of my friends who thought this guy was a jackass for being jealous of my ability to effectively use Photoshop and present a picture that people thought was good. I will willingly admit that the picture was not high in quality. It was taken with my old school Olympus point-n-shoot camera. That thing is ancient in the realm of digital cameras. But no one else seemed to care that the picture was of low resolution and neither did I. Every comment after that led to his demise; people were not happy with this guy.
For the record, he never commented on the picture again.
But despite the hilarity of the comment train on this one photo, it made me think of a question that came up in my Theory of Knowledge class from senior year: What is art? I really want to know. Who gets to decide what is art and what isn’t? I mean, when you look at pieces of art that are put in museums like the Louvre, you see things that most people can’t do or things people simply choose not to do. But who decided that those paintings and photographs are art?
But the one thing that all of those artists have in common is that all of their masterpieces have something that this guy who argued with me lacked: true passion.
You can have all the technique in the world, but unless you can provoke emotion in yourself (the artist) and others (the viewers), then you just have a picture. True photography, and true art in general, captures moments that are meant to last a life time. There is subtle details and hidden meanings and cool effects and things that make you stop and stare and think about life. Sure technique is needed to accomplish that, but so is true passion which I think this guy lacked. Obviously all of my friends thought so. Long after this guy stopped commenting, my friends were still giving him a piece of their mind. And I can’t say that I wasn’t happy for them to do so because everyone, the jack ass included, helped me to realize that art is what you make it. To me, a stick figure drawn by a four year old and given to me means more than anything Picasso could ever conjure up, but at the same time, Picasso speaks to me because he had technique and passion and intentions and emotions and all of the things needed to make art.
So why can’t all of that exist together? We’re all artists of some sort, why do we have to be the best? My picture is not high in quality or composition, but it spoke to people and sure enough, I would call it art. And if anyone has a problem with that, then they should be prepared to be ambushed by my fans.