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civilized ku # 2142 ~ a coherent cultural consensus of history and aesthetic value

W25 Street ~ Chelsea / NYC, NY • click to embiggenAperture Foundation gallery~ Chelsea / NYC, NY • click to embiggenForm and Pressure ~ Stephen Shore / Aperture magazine On another blog which shall remain nameless because the subject of the following inane / ill-informed comment has been stated over and over again, ad nauseum, on many blogs/sites:

...I still contend that art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And your opinion of what is or isn’t art is no more or less valuable than anyone else’s opinion ...

I am sick to death of hearing / reading the zillions of equally stupid variations on this topic - especially prevalent on photo blogs/site. What surprised me, re: this specific comment, was the short but sweet (and amazingly cogent) response by Kirk Tuck:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But art is an entirely different matter. It's a coherent cultural consensus of history and aesthetic value. That's more objective than, "I like anchovies on pizza."

IMO, that response is right on the mark. Lasting meaningful Art, as opposed to Decorative Art, is indeed "a coherent cultural consensus of history and aesthetic value". What is considered Art is not determined by a bevy of twits texting / tweeting, American Idol style, to register their senseless eye-of-the-beholder votes/opinions. Sorry, it's a whole lot more involved than that.

That said, what Art, as determined by "a coherent cultural consensus of history and aesthetic value", one chooses to like or not like, is, of course, up to that person's individual taste and preferences. I certainly have no problem with that concept. The concept I do take issue with is the "eye of the beholder" nonsense which so many who, ignorant of historic consensus (sometimes referred to as "education") and devoid of any sense of aesthetic value beyond "wow", use it to mask their lack of any intellectual and emotional rigor, understanding Art wise.

In my experience, very few "serious" amateur picture makers (relatively speaking) devote any time reading / learning about the medium and its apparatus (apparatus = any system or systematic organization of activities, functions, processes, etc., directed toward a specific goal. In my use of the word, it most emphatically does not mean gear). On the other hand, they do spend a consider effort reading about and festering over hardware, i.e., the tools with which a picture is made. Again, I have no problem with this fact but, if one's intention is to make lasting and meaningful pictures, you're barking up the wrong tree.

In any event, where I am headed with all of this stems from my recent entry, civilized ku # 2110, and a recent issue of Aperture magazine.

Coincidentally, both my entry and an essay in Aperture features the same Stephen Shore picture. In fact, the essay in Aperture (Winter 2011), Form and Pressure (to read the essay, click on "inside" and then click through to the essay), is a brief look into the mind of Stephen Shore, in his own words, about the making of his picture, Beverly Boulevard and LaBrea Avenue - Los Angeles, California 1975. The essay is very interesting and contains a number of points I will refer to in entries to come. PS You should read the essay just to guard again becoming one of those dumbass medium-and-its-apparatus know nothings.

With that background stated, my point is this - if you can't write a simple essay (200-300 words?) about your own pictures (or any specific picture of your own making), without mentioning gear or using the phrase, "I like ...", you most likely don't understand what constitutes a lasting and meaningful picture. And, here's the crux of that matter, if you don't understand what constitutes a lasting and meaningful picture, coherent cultural consensus of history and aesthetic value wise, you'll probably never make a lasting and meaningful picture. Maybe by accident or happenstance you might, but, as to doing so as a matter of course, forget it.

BTW, if your interest in making pictures is not overly concerned with making lasting or meaningful pictures, that's perfectly OK - really, I sincerely mean that. However, in that case, you might want to consider ignoring the preceding. As the saying goes ... never try to teach a pig (even if you're the pig) to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.

Reader Comments (3)

I've never been convinced by this "beauty in the eye of holder" viewpoint. Over the last few years of reading about Art -- including articles by yourself, Kirk Tuck and Mike Johnston -- I've gotten a much better grasp of what Art is and isn't. Thanks.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSven W

I looked at my bookshelves the other day. Lots of photography technique books but none bought for quite some years and I must clear a lot of them out. Also, lots of books to do with my more recent projects, all of which continually give me reasons to go out with my camera. I also took a decision some time ago not to feel the need to mention gear/techniques on my blog as it is not what I am about(or ever really felt comfortable about). It doesn't attract many folk, but that's not what I'm about either. I do it for myself because it's my own personal passion and expression. The fact is that for me, gear/software is plenty good enough as it is these days and the really good thing about it is, that I no longer have to think much about anything other realizing my own photographic mission. I also have far less gear than I ever used to have but I have a much more rewarding life photographically speaking. It's been a very liberating experience but one that's taken a bit of retraining of my mind too.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColin Griffiths

Why would it surprise you that I made an amazingly cogent statement? :-)

Thanks for saying so...

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkirk tuck

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