Friday, July 24, 2009

Pretty doesn't mean it is art...

Often we look at a pretty bright oil painting that looks well done. It might be a sunset or an old building overgrown with flowers or a beautiful landscape or sea scape and think how wonderful that is. The artist knows how to paint a pretty scene. And does it over and over until they can paint that scene without even thinking about it. You can look through stacks of these paintings at the "original" oil painting sales, and see the minor differences...sometimes there is a slight change in color tone. I remember when my mother and I, back in the early 1970s, looked through one of those "original" art sales. There were hundreds of paintings many the same scenes over and over. She called it quickie art. Hotels and Motels bought this stuff in bulk.

I saw some of this quickie art out in front of Wal Mart today, and I could see that it was pretty. I remembered Mama and that day so long ago, and I smiled. I think it is fine if someone likes one of these paintings and enjoys seeing it on the wall. Is it art? How can it be art when it is meaningless, emotionless, rote?

We can fall into this trap when we take photo after photo of pretty scenes just as every other person with a camera has already done before us. I like taking pretty pictures but that doesn't mean that I want to stay in that rut for the rest of my life and not stretch myself and learn to do more with my camera.

Digital photography is a whole new world. Taking photos for me in the past was about recording my growing family and the things we did and the places we went. That is important for me...not that the world cares a bit. We don't want to see someone else's family sitting around the table at Thanksgiving. We do want to look at those old photos of our own families. So I would never say that recording is not what photography is about, or that it isn't important. It just isn't art.

With our digital cameras we can do things we couldn't do before. Not because it was not possible, but because we were limited. We had 24 or 36 pictures on our roll of film and because we were not pros had to pay for printing. Polaroid excepted, we couldn't take a photo and then quickly see what we had done. We didn't want to make mistakes. With our digital cameras we can make mistakes until we learn. We can try new things and if they work, fine...if not we can try something else. We can spin the camera, move it to catch an impression of our subject, or change the aperture and shutter speed to catch effects we would not get with "normal" settings. We can create art.

Thank you Rod and Robin.

1 comment:

  1. Very, very well put Dorothy. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful message!


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