by Stacy Mize on February 20, 2012

I was reading this article,  Is the Art of Photography Dying Due to Digitalization?,  and was quite surprised in the information given. Specifically I was surprised to see the quoted definition of art by someone named Tolstoy (Leo Tolstoy), in short being “Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by those feelings and experience them.” Leo Tolstoy had a very constricted view of art, even referring to Shakespeare as a bad dramatist and not a true artist. This very definition of art given was somewhat confusing to me in that it implied that the importance lies within the action of feelings passed on to others placing the emphasis of importance on the emotion that is received by the observer.

I remember back in college, some 15 years ago, when I was taught in my anthropology class that art was the actual process (that is the process in which the artist created art), the feelings and experiences of the artist himself…. that process WAS the art. Not the final outcome, not the feelings felt by the observers…

And so I began to question, was the anthropological view about art wrong? I live according to that view, so for me it is correct. As I am photographing a bride, lets say the first dance scenario at a reception, it is that feeling that I get, when I am in a zone of feeling at one with the moment, and photographing that moment, the goal for me is to photograph the perfect moment within that space and time. And there is the art for me.It is not the bride and the feelings she gets when looking at those images. It is nice when that happens, and for someone to have appreciation for the work I have done.

But my question comes from “where is the Art at?” It is my opinion that the art is in the moment of creation (which ironically is when the copyright comes into being as well). I think that this is an interesting perspective to consider, if a piece of art is created but no one sees it, was it still art? My answer is a resounding yes. It is the artist going through that art process that makes it so. However, to take the artist out of the picture, does it make that item still art, my answer to that is just as firm of a no. For example, anything within nature, while beautiful, is not art until someone interprets those items. Take a flower for example. A flower is not art until it is painted, sculpted, a poem wrote about it, a song created about it, etc. A machine that makes a copy or lithograph of an image is not art. A machine that paints something or sculpts something is not art. The art is within the human perceptualization something within a unique experience.

The other topic that surprised me in this article, which I have heard a lot of in the last ten years or so, is the idea that digital photography is somehow killing the art of photography. This is a ridiculous notion to me. It is an elitist view to stifle the artistic form from others. The reason I became a photographer was directly due to the availability of digital. Had it not been for digital I would have never wandered into this medium.

I have an artistic nature about me, but no innate talent or prodigy for anything. I have played musical instruments, dabbled in writing and poetry, as well as photography. I did have a draw to computers though, and it was through that interest, that digital photography came into my view. Digital photography changes the art of photography, i’ll grant you that, but it opens the doorway now to even broader realms, such as the digital image painting and manipulations. When large format cameras were prevalent, what did the photographers say when smaller medium format cameras (that were more compact) came about? When 35 millimeter cameras came along? When instamatic cameras entered the scene? Every time there was an advancement, the same arguments arose, that it was killing the art of photography… Because it got into the hands of the general population. Art isn’t some aristocratic thing, that only the elites within our society should only have access to. Art is something that is owned by humanity as a whole, it is one of the major things that separates us from the other animals in the animal kingdom.

If you look throughout human history, art has been something created and enjoyed by all. Sculpture, dance, painting, weaving, body modification, music, etc. Paint and paint brushes, something available to everyone, something that has changed over time, something that is said to have died as an art form specifically due to the advent of even photography. I don’t see great art being affected by technology or infiltration to the masses. When is the last time someone said… “That Monet, he sure was a good painter, too bad cameras were invented”? I have never heard such a silly thing. Studying the history of art is something we all should strive to do, for there we see past ourselves, and see art in its own right.

What do you think? Is digital killing the art of photography?  Is art a tangible thing? Where’s the art?

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