What is art?

In New York City, everyone has an opinion. Ask someone where to get the best slice of pizza and you may have inadvertently started a street debate on it. This is an important subject for New Yorkers.

What is art falls into the same category. Good luck getting much in the way of a universal definition or agreement on this subject. The history of art is filled with comments and scholarly writing on it.

For some, it is their career. They get paid for their opinions on art. They probably have advanced degrees in art history and write columns in the media as well as books.

So they are “art experts” They base their opinions on many different things including their personal tastes, even when they don’t acknowledge that point.

Monochrome Street Photography
Park, New York City, May 2012

But mostly, when art critics write about art they are writing about the state of art, different schools of art, particular artists, etc. Their writing has an understood aspect to it. They don’t often feel the need to explain why something can be considered art.

Maybe it’s really a good thing that there isn’t one gospel definition of what art is. Yes, art is very much subjective. It IS in the eye of the beholder! Your feeling about it is all that really matters when observing a piece.

The fact that there is no single definition means that we also have a wide variety of artistic styles. It is not necessary for a work of art to have only one definition.

We should celebrate that art doesn’t fit neatly into one category. And yes, photography is also art so long as you view that way. I do! Just because someone calls it art doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Do you know of a universal definition of art?

Breaking Down Boundaries

Photography, like the arts, is amazing in its ability to break down boundaries across languages and ethnicity. So long as you have sight you can view photos made by people from around the world.

It is possible that the only things that you have in common are human existence and a camera of some sort. Photography allows us to share our vision of the world we live in and how we experience it.

While looking at photos of a city that I haven’t been to before isn’t the same as being there and experiencing it firsthand, it does allow the mind to attempt to fill in the blanks about what it would be like to be there.

Monochrome New York City
One Way One Way, New York City, September 2019

Can you imagine telling someone the raw details of the place that you live and thinking that they may find it interesting without them being able to see images? That of course also assumes that you speak the same language.

There are of course certain authors that are able to write in a language that creates images in the mind. And of course there’s always painting. But perhaps you don’t find the picture postcard photos appealing.

Do picture postcards ever really reveal the things about the city that you would find appealing? Perhaps if your main interest is architecture.

I am always wondering what the world is because of photography and what it would be without it. Certainly it would have a major effect on the travel industry. But also on the way that we view the parts of the world that we haven’t seen.

Is photography a bit like magic? And have we ceased to wonder how important it has been on how we think and live? Sorry to leave you with so many questions. If I discover the answers I will write the book. Thanks for reading. Your responses are always welcome.

Every Picture Tells a Story

I don’t imagine that a day will ever occur when I tire of shooting in New York City. I have no interest in taking photos of nature and landscapes that aren’t urban.

New York City is a perfect environment for photography that illustrates the condition of humanity in the world that it has created.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 2009
Entrance, Coney Island, September 2009

Whether it’s seeing people who are comfortable in their environment or those that are disturbed by it, the human condition is reflected in street photography.

I like photography that tells a story and especially when it is open to interpretation by the viewer. You can’t plan it. This is the beauty of street photography.

It is, when done well, like poetry. The activity of photography is satisfying all by itself. Discovering at the end of the day you were able to obtain photos that capture a story is like icing on the cake.

Photography is a Reflection

Photography is a reflection of life and the world that we live in. It is a small piece of the larger whole. It is an opportunity to stop and examine those things that we may overlook in our hurried lives.

You could say that I’m rather obsessed with photographing reflections of all kinds. The same is true of reflecting on what photography is and how it affects us. Even the word reflection gives us much to reflect upon.

Puddle reflection of the Manhattan Bridge
Street of Gold, New York City, July 2012

If photography is already once removed from ‘reality,’ then perhaps reflection photography can be thought of as something almost magical. Sometimes reflection photos are even more appealing than the so-called real thing.

To find and see reflections to photograph you already need to slow down and be more observant of your surroundings. It is rather easy to pass by reflections without realizing that they are there.

When was the last time that you reflected on a photo?