But is it art?

B&W ScarfThis morning, while making my rounds on the interwebs (you’d think there would be a method to the madness of posting to a blog…ha), I came across something that gave me pause.

It wasn’t a picture…it was a comment:

There’s no art here. This is photojournalism. Plain and simple, maybe brutal, but images look like it could be taken by anybody who was at the same place and at the same time. This “photographer” doesn’t deserve to be singled out.
May 15, 2011 4:47 AM

This was in reference to a posting on the 500 Photographers blog, (which if you haven’t seen it, or aren’t familiar with it…go there immediately!) which featured Photographer #290, Diego Levy. The images selected were both stark and brutal.

Diego Levy Photography

(C) Diego Levy via 500 Photographers

Diego Levy Photography

(c) Diego Levy via 500 Photographers

So according to the poster, another photographer, none of what you see above was art because as it put it, “[the picture] could be taken by anybody at the same place and at the same time.”

My initial reaction from such a statement was one of incredulity. Art is something that many of us believes is completely subjective, and as such, who is to say what can pass as art? Must art come as an independent creation? I don’t want to get too metaphysical or philosophical on the matter, but images such as these force a viewer to take something from it, and for that reason alone, an argument for art can be made. But then that is just another subjective opinion.

Tom HubbardFor another view on the idea of photojournalism as art, a 2005 Digital Journalist article written by Ohio State University professor emeritus Tom Hubbard, speaks clearly to the subject when he said:

“The essence of art is an individual work, not a formula. Art may react to an event or an entire age. When photojournalism escapes formula, its product is art. That’s where photojournalism overlaps art.”

One could certainly argue that this is where Diego Levy’s work lies. But then this is just an argument about photojournalism. If we are to take Hubbard’s words at face value, then the argument that anything could be art is strengthened.

Today’s image at the top is basically a black and white picture of feet. Is that art? By Hubbard’s standard, if it represents an individual work, and not formula, then it is the essence of art. You may think differently.


What then of the female nude? One could argue, and rather strongly, that the nude image to this point has become formulaic. So, if a person takes a picture of breasts, are they submitting to formula? And in that formula, no matter how well or poorly lit or composed, is there true artistic value anymore?

It really is all subjective.


3 responses

  1. Art, I believe, is a relative term. What one conceives as art is merely his perception and experience of it. I think one should be very open-minded when arguing what is and what isn’t. This is a good post and I like the feet!…it’s ART, I believe!:)

    May 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    • Thank you for the kind words. Art is almost completely perception and experience. Art is all around us, and I think in time everyone will make art in one way or another.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  2. I agree.:) Thanks for sharing.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm

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