What is Art?

What does the word “art” mean to you?

Traditionally, art was comprised of paintings, sculptures, and drawings.  And I think of the “Old Masters;” the fully trained painters prior to the 1800s.  But art forms have changed drastically over the years, and I’m sure all of us have questioned whether some of the modern forms are truly art – the giant badminton shuttlecocks strewn about the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery come to mind.

The reason I throw this question out there is, I’ve always wondered if people thought of photography as being true “art.”   You point a mechanical device at an object or landscape, push a button, and wallah, you have an image.  Not from your imagination or from an attempt to transform and express the external world by creating a new presentation through painting, drawing or sculpture – the actual use of the hands and the mind without mechanical assistance.  Isn’t nature the true artist here?

And if photography could be called an art, by observing the photographer does form a composition with what the lens will capture, and does make settings as to the shutter speed and aperture opening to regulate the amount of light and depth the image will reveal, what then of all the modern digital enhancements that can be made to an image once captured?  Clicking on more buttons on a computer screen.  Pre-programmed techno-algorithms that you can purchase in bulk.  Is thought and imagination even required for use of these programs?

Or, does altering the original photograph with all of the various mechanical features transform a simple image into a creative work of art?

While Merriam-Webster has a long list of definitions for the word “art,”  we can boil it down for purposes of this discussion to: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination” . . .  to produce “works as pictures, poems or songs” . . . and “creative visual works as painting, sculpting, and drawing.”  This definition certainly seems broad enough to encompass photography and all of its forms.

William Lesch - Light Storm Over Tucson

The feature image is a “photograph” by William Lesch called “Lightstorm over Tucson, Night and Day Thunderstorm Time (Montage).  My understanding is he uses time-lapse photography and color enhancements to produce his work, and I do think the picture is absolutely stunning.

But what do you think?  Is it “Art.”



35 thoughts on “What is Art?”

      1. Ah, excellent question. I think poetry and prose could be called art. I think of good storytelling is an “art” – the “art” of telling it – can the words evoke an image or feeling in the reader? That certainly takes talent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Touching a paintbrush to canvas is mechanical and itself it’s hardly art. Scribbling words on paper is hardly art. Pointing a camera and pushing a button is hardly art. Using a chisel and hammer, even a monkey can do that!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s the extra context and subtext that illuminates a piece of art by design. It involves intention to reveal something about your subject. And art seems to always involve a subject!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I think you’re right, there has to be a subtext that’s revealed about the subject – messages, feelings, emotions. And that can be sort of nebulous, because different people may see something different in the subject matter – maybe something the artist wasn’t even trying to convey :-0

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow you’ve got an interesting point there! I like it.

    Well personally i don’t think taking a picture whatsoever is an art. Nature itself is an art though.

    Now speaking about enhancing pictures like the one you’ve shown…. maybe. It’s. A kind of art after all, no?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I take lots of pictures of nature and I view it as me pushing a button, nature is the artist. But if you use other tools to alter the image in a creative fashion, maybe that is an artist at work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are a lot of perspectives and moments for a photographer to choose from. Photography as art doesn’t just happen, it’s a creation based on an instinct for what you want to capture and illustrate! It’s just as much art as a painting and of course some are good at it and others are not so good at it! 🤗

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yup and your subconscious mind is more involved than people know in choosing the instant and perspective to capture out of an infinity of them

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I’m pretty amateurish with my photos, but there is definitely something subconscious that draws you to a subject to want to try to capture it on film. Sometimes it comes out good, sometimes great, and other times not so good 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. You can guess my response! In some cases – certainly not all – the initial photograph simply captures a canvas – like a painter’s initial sketch. What the artist does with that canvas afterwards using computer tools, that’s the creative act. IMHO, creating great art using those tools takes just as fine an artistic eye as using a paint brush.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And here I was thinking it wasn’t a hard question, but then when you put it like that… I’m no longer so sure. I look at my random photos and consider some of them beautiful, but definitely not artsy (at least most of them).
    Yes, Nature (or whatever is the focus of the photograph) is art, but the ability of the photographer to take the right shot and consider all the variables requires a bit of feeling. Feeling is necessary for art.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s a great way to put it – feeling is required, and trying to relay that feeling to another person. There is a lot of amazing work out there. I am humbled by what I come across on social media. So much talent

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I once read a quote that went something like…….”Oh this is the most amazing food! You must have the best oven and stove!” Haha! If we gave 5 people a paintbrush or a camera, they would create something different. If 2 people go make dinner, the results will be different (most likely) I do believe photography is an art form! Its all about what catches your eye! And art by the way, I feel , is the best part of this human experience! I couldnt live without music, film, colors and creating!!!! Great post! 🌠

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This “photograph” is truly a representation of art! I believe art is not an object but art is the expression put in something by the one who is presenting a part of themselves to be viewed, better felt by others. Art can be any medium.

    Liked by 1 person

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